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Member since: Thu Oct 9, 2014, 01:38 PM
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The real debate over vaccinations concerns whom one is going to trust

By way of explanation, my wife is (or used to be) a fan of Oprah Winfrey and tells me that Oprah at one point featured Jenny McCarthy (spouse of Jim Carrey) who popularized anti-vaccination ideas for a broad audience. (As far as my wife knows, although McCarthy has apparently recanted somewhat, Oprah never repudiated McCarthy.) But a lot of people trusted (and still trust) Oprah, maybe as many or more than trust official U.S. government pronouncements. So when Oprah gave a broad platform to an anti-vaccination stand put forward by someone with credibility our celebrity culture confers, it struck at the heart of established science.

I was also reminded yesterday that various demographics in the U.S. may have much legitimate reason to be suspicious of official government pronouncements about the public health. I'm referring to the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, carried out by the U.S. Public Health Service from 1932-72 on an unsuspecting and trusting population of black men.

The Tuskegee syphilis experiment (/tʌsˈkiːɡiː/) was an infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African American men who thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government.


I know that the U.S. has since recognized the wrong it propagated at Tuskegee and attempted to do some acts of penance for it, but I mention it because it seems to me that the vaccination problem being seen in the measles outbreak is as much a matter of trust or loss thereof as it is of willful evil or selfishness.

Government officials should be concerned with trying to restore the public trust in science and scientists and not so much with trying to debate the merits of the science of vaccines. Once trust has been violated or the public's doubt has been engineered, the first order of business I think is not going full-tilt Spock in reaction but instead engaging in non-judgmental dialogue with the objective to restore trust. The people need to be able to trust their government and trust their public officials. Without trust, the land is made fertile for doubt and for the types of behaviors that are now manifesting with the measles outbreak.

Here's my bottom line: the Scientific Method -- observation, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion, new hypothesis -- is the best way to determine scientific truth. The Scientific Method does not observe politics. The Scientific Method has conclusively proven the indisputable values of vaccination for the public. So the government and all scientists should be attempting to educate the people about the non-partisan quality of the Scientific Method and how powerful and rigorous a tool it is and not screeching at people about how stupid or uneducated they are. The first thing that needs to happen is a broad rebirth of trust in science and the scientific community. This may be a tall order for a culture that has given us Tuskegee, 3 Mile Island and Love Canal, but I think it is really important.
Posted by KingCharlemagne | Tue Feb 3, 2015, 10:58 AM (21 replies)
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