Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oprah, Jenny, Jimmy, Swine, Austism, False Prophets, and Reality

With the Swine Flu on every one's mind, one would think the Oprah, Jenny and her ilk would pause to speak. Pause to think. Pause to consider. The attachment to a belief system is dangerous when it becomes so entangled in emotion. When belief allows zero room for evidence, refutes consensus, or when belief disregards the greater good not because of observation or any particular understanding, but because of rigid belief. Throughout history individuals who cling to rigid positions have demonstrated how dangerous they can be. Indeed, when you have someone committed to an idea, you cannot convince them of an alternative based on logic or reason. You cannot suggest examples. You cannot ask for evidence. However, that does not mean a reasonable person is compelled to provide an audience.

Case in point from Slate:

Her boyfriend, actor Jim Carrey, is even more clueless. At the rally last year, I asked Carrey to give an example of a childhood vaccine we could dispense with. Tetanus, he said. That answer did not reflect a strong—or any, really—grasp of infectious diseases. Children who get tetanus—fortunately, it has been extremely rare in the United States since tetanus vaccination began in the 1920s—suffer horrendous pain, arch their backs, and go into terrible spasms before dying. It's a very natural disease, to be sure, because the germ causing tetanus lives in dirt. It's a germ that will be with us forever, and the only way to prevent it is through vaccination.

Slate, goes on to offer a healthy dose of reason:
McCarthy's popularity has created a lot of anger and disbelief in that tiny sliver of society that believes in evidence-based medicine. One person who's feeling particularly frustrated is David T. Tayloe, president of the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatricians. (Remember them? A pediatrician is a person with a medical degree who takes care of children. Some of them are said to trust science more than celebrities when it comes to health care.)"I think show business crosses the line when they give contracts to people like Jenny McCarthy," Tayloe says. "If you give her a bully pulpit, McCarthy is going to make people hesitate to vaccinate their children. She has no medical or scientific credentials. It disturbs us that she's given all these opportunities to make her pitch about vaccines on Oprah or Larry King or U.S. News or whatever. We have to scramble to get equal time—and who wants to see a gray-haired pediatrician talking about a serious topic like childhood vaccines when she's out there blasting the academy and blasting the federal government?"

Hurrah! for the dumbing down of America. Oh, and thanks Oprah for giving a platform to ignorance.

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