MMR and MRSA – health scares and bowel movements

My children are of such an age that they were due to get the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine in 1998 (just when Andrew Wakefield first got his research published). I am very glad we ignored the fuss and concluded it was best to get our children immunised. With regards to the MRSA (superbug) health scare (and E. Coli and Legionalla, etc.), I can vividly remember being absolutely petrified every time anyone I knew went into hospital. Therefore, having lived through both of these health scares, imagine my surprise to read in the final chapters of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science that both the MMR and the MRSA health scares were entirely manufactured by journalists whose sole aim was to increase their readership! This is the scale of Goldacre’s claim and, as with everything else in his book, he backs it up with great wit and style (oh, and a lot of logic and evidence too). Of course, once it became clear that the MMR game was up, the very same journalists then tried to blame the entire media circus on Wakefield. With regards to MRSA, it is very regrettable that the late Christopher Malyszewicz , the man responsible for obtaining all the false positive results in Chemsol Consulting’s laboratory (i.e. his garden-shed), was killed in an apparently-genuine car accident soon after his lack of suitable qualifications and methods came to light. However, what can or should we learn from all this? Perhaps, we should not believe everything we read in the newspapers? May be. Personally-speaking, since I have never had the kind of job that requires me to commute into a large city on public transport, I gave up reading newspapers (if ever I did it at all) with the advent of Breakfast TV (and that’s mostly visual chewing-gum too)! I think the really scary thing about all of this is the realisation of just how much psychological power and influence these journalists have; and even more scary, I think they know it. That is why so many of them are so very arrogant. Unfortunately, as Goldacre points out, those that are often the most arrogant are also the least well-qualified to comment. Although withdrawal and/or cynicism is an understandable response, it would be far more constructive to develop the ability to critically assess all truth claims yourself. This is what studying science teaches you to do. The only problem with this idea is that we are all not scientists and, boy, are we paying a heavy price for the consequences! I guess that we must hope that, emboldened by the evidence which continues to pour in – and by the pleas of people like the Government’s Chief Scientist Professor Sir John Beddington that we should be grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method — scientists will now stand up and make their voices heard… Why am I saying all this? Well it is because of the nature of the people that many of these foolish journalists listen to: The same people that tried to tell us that smoking, organic pesticides, CFCs, and acid rain were not dangerous have, since at least 1992, been trying to tell the world that environmental concern is misplaced, misanthropic, anti-libertarian, and/or anti-progress. Therefore, I will never apologise for getting worked-up about this; because the future of billions of people depends on us all now deciding to pull our heads out of the sand; and take the issue of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) seriously.

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About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Climate Science, Environment, Maketplace of Ideas, Populism, Pseudo science, Scepticism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to MMR and MRSA – health scares and bowel movements

  1. Hello Rick… I flew in via Paul Handovers Blog Learning from Dogs I think most is manufactured by journalists and the media is one of the worse fear mongers going… and over the years if you see how they alter whats Good for you and whats bad for you.. I find that you have to do your own researching.. and come to your own conclusions on things.. for if we believed everything the Press said.. we would all be pushing daisies up .. I think though in my next life.. I may choose to come back as a Scientist as they can say what ever they want.. and we all seem to believe them.. Great Post.. and Blog..

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    • Rick_Altman says:

      Hi Sue, Thank you for dropping-in; and for your kind words. I have decided to pursue this journalistic theme (i.e. in my next post tomorrow). I think that in widespread cynicism we are paying a heavy price for the fact that people have become aware that they have often been misled. However, as I said, the main problem is that they (people in general) extend this cynicism to genuine authority figures like scientists and, for some reason, believe the journalists instead. I think it has a lot to do with presentation.

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  2. pendantry says:

    Rick — may I recommend Greg Craven’s What’s the Worst That Could Happen? It’s essentially a primer in the art of critical thinking, a subject you appear (with good reason) to be advocating.

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