The Myth of Equal Sides
The vaccine “debate” has been heating up lately due, I think, to the outbreak of Measles at Disneyland. As many people have pointed out the fallacious reasoning that makes up the anti-vaxx position, others have righteously defended their right to make health decisions for their own children. Even when those health decisions fly in the face of scientific evidence.
I’ve seen far too many friends getting upset over the debate and trying to play the peacemaker middle sibling. Can’t we respect “both sides” of the argument they ask? Can we all play nice?
The problem with this position is the simple fact that the sides are not equal. Just as the vast majority of scientists agree on global climate change and evolution, the vast majority of medical professionals and scientists agree on vaccines.
It is as if we are putting a feather on one side of a scale and a neutron star on the other side and then asking people to consider both sides equally.
One side of the argument uses bad science, conjecture and fear mongering to convince people their children are more at risk from the vaccines than they are from the diseases those vaccines prevent.
They pull out accurate, but misleading, statistics about the minimal risk of complications from vaccination.
Sure, your kid might have very severe side effects. Your kid will also be protected against potentially debilitating or deadly diseases. But those diseases have been all but eradicated so they can’t come back, right? Why vaccinate anymore – especially in light of all those minimal risks?
Sure, vaccines are not 100% effective. Neither is birth control. So forget birth control and just make babies, right?
There is a creation of a false equivalence as people are saying “getting my kid vaccinated is just as much of a risk as not.”
Except the two risks are not equal. They are not even close to equal.
To stand in the middle of those two positions and say “you’re both pretty” is to turn a blind eye to the facts that stand entirely in support of one side.
I think that in arguments like this, it is important to point out when one position is completely unsupported. When someone says the Earth is 6000 years old, they stand in complete opposition to the whole of scientific evidence but at least they are honest about it. They say that it is their faith that compels them to believe a book that isn’t about science in the face of the evidence.
When someone claims they oppose vaccination because it causes autism, they do so in the face of overwhelming evidence they are wrong. The only study that supports their point of view is a proven fake. There is no faith behind the idea that vaccines cause autism. Only a crazy conspiracy theory.
When someone talks about the toxins that vaccines introduce into their children, they do so while feeding their kids canned tuna and other products known to contain more of the same toxins but at levels that are still considered safe.
There is a cognitive dissonance in those people and you can’t get past it. Ever.
But what concerns me more is the people who think that both sides have merit. People who are so concerned with civil discourse or being “fair” that they feel the need to judge both sides equally.
You are not being “fair” when you judge objective facts versus subjective superstition and misinformation. Fair would be to read 80 articles about the benefits of vaccines and one article about the risks.
We don’t move past this pointless debate until we stop giving the people who are spreading bad information a seat at the table out of respect for their point of view. Their point of view doesn’t deserve respect.
This isn’t a political debate between two parties with opposing ideologies. It is a matter of public health and the matter is settled.