In Modern Science, We Do Not Tolerate Dissent!

Rachael Dunlop, consensus scientist!

A recent study reports that stories about vaccines that include false balance are actually more dangerous than those that are purely anti-vaccine.

Yes, you read that correctly. Stories that offer both sides of the coin can have a greater negative influence on people’s decision to not vaccinate than those that are purely anti-vaccine.

Well, yes. A well-argued back-and-forth does, it seems, persuade people that the two opponents have at least put in some effort, and so holds more weight than a one-sided polemic…

Let’s drill down on it a little further. In the study, 320 undergraduate students were assigned a news item presenting either claims both for and against a vaccine/autism link (false balance), a purely anti-vax “vaccines-definitely-cause-autism” article and a “there is no link” article.

Unsurprisingly, the participants who read the article saying vaccines cause autism indicated they would be less likely to have their children vaccinated in the future. But what was surprising was those who read the false balance article were even less confident about the safety of vaccines than the “vaccines-definitely-cause-autism” article.

The authors suggested the reasons for this may be that false balance elicits a stronger perception that experts are divided, or that experts truly are uncertain whether vaccines cause autism (let me make this crystal clear, there is no good evidence to support a link between vaccines and autism, but as an urban myth it is an unsinkable rubber duck).

God help us if we ever think that experts might be divided or uncertain!

And have we considered trying to repeat the experiment using, in place of the 320 undergraduate students, a very different group? Say, a bunch of building workers?

I now know of a couple of mainstream media outlets who have policies of not speaking to anti-vaxers at all when they do science based vaccine stories, which is a fantastic result.

Yes, hiding the counter-evidence worked so well for the AGW alarmists, didn’t it?

Whilst no one gets hurt if you ask a flying carpet salesman questions about commercial flight, the consequences of people not vaccinating are real and potentially tragic. With vaccination, there is not debate. The science is in and the benefits far outweigh the risks. No balance required.

The fact that there are risks means it is. As far as the parents are concerned. They are the ones you have to persuade, and if you don’t discuss the issue honestly, how can you expect them to trust you?

6 comments for “In Modern Science, We Do Not Tolerate Dissent!

  1. November 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    If both sides are presented, a rare thing, then yes, people might do that dastardly thing of deciding on the available evidence.

    • November 9, 2013 at 7:34 am

      And we can’t have that! 😈

  2. john in cheshire
    November 4, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    That Ms Dunlop holds to her views is, of course, her choice. What is not tolerable, to me, is that she is afforded a platform whereby she can spout her nonsense as though it has some value to it. When people like her are either ignored or at best given no more attention than any other person with weird views, the sooner we will move to restoring normality in our country.

  3. November 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Hey look you boyo (or girlyo), if Rachael with an ‘a’ from the Guardian says so, it must be so. I mean, it wouldn’t get printed if it weren’t so, now would it. 95% of Guardian Journos would agree with that. (the other 5% are all females who hate her cuz she wears funny shoes but she has a RIGHT to, so there)

  4. Voice of Reason
    November 5, 2013 at 1:49 am

    Actually, in regards to vaccination, the anti- crowd are generally more educated.

  5. Furor Teutonicus
    November 5, 2013 at 9:39 am

    XX The science is in ….XX

    Arseholing stupid cow. 👿

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