The Evidence Is Overwhelming—Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism
Anti-vaxxers may have a friend coming into the White House, and medical experts are worried.
A small but tenacious group of parents and others who are against vaccines may soon enjoy support from the White House, a fact that is causing health experts alarm. Since 2000, a small but tenacious group of parents have refused to vaccinate their children and advocate against it, believing that the contents cause autism. Because of this, cases of measles, whooping cough, and mumps have increased dramatically, illnesses which medical science was thought to have under control, and in the case of measles, nearly wiped out.
Now they’re back with a vengeance, as a 2015 outbreak of measles at Disney World suggests, and anti-vaccinators may be to blame. Not only does the trend hurt individual children, but it weakens herd immunity effect. There will always be those with compromised immune systems and other natural impediments to vaccination. But if everyone around them is vaccinated, they are by default protected. The herd immunity effect weakens however with each child left unvaccinated.
Recently, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who is a known vaccination skeptic, met with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Kennedy suggested that Trump tapped him to lead a panel on vaccines. Quizzically, just after this meeting, a spokesperson for Trump assured the press that no one had been selected for the position just yet.
Meanwhile, Kennedy told reporters he had been offered and accepted the position. In the past, Kennedy has supported an exemption for parents against vaccination, as it’s illegal in most states not to vaccinate your kids. According to Kennedy, mercury additives in vaccines cause autism, and big pharma, the government, and the media have all conspired to keep this from the public.
Robert Kennedy, Jr. talks to reporters outside of Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Not only have vaccine myths been debunked, backing an anti-vaccine agenda runs counter to the government’s own stance, as well as that of the medical establishment. There already exists a federal advisory committee on immunization. These are medical experts and public health professionals who weigh in on vaccine-related issues from time to time.
Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Peter Hotez, told The Washington Post that few could be less qualified than Kennedy for a vaccine commissionership. Hotez also said that there is overwhelming evidence that no link between autism and vaccinations exists. There isn’t “…even any plausibility for a link,” he said. Daniel Salmon is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He's also the deputy director of the school’s Institute for Vaccine Safety.
Salmon said that, “Vaccines are very safe and very effective.” They offer a high level of protection. Most are “80-99% effective.” Meanwhile, according to Salmon, negative effects are very rare. Because of this, vaccinating children should be one of the simplest decisions parents make, not only to protect the child but other vulnerable people in society.
Newborns and small children can get up to 200 vaccines. But the advantages far outweigh the risks.
In the case of an adverse reaction, the most common side effects are soreness at the injection area, a lack of energy and in some cases, a low-grade fever. In very, very rare cases, a febrile seizure can occur. These may look worrisome, but they do not cause any long-term effects. As for a connection with autism itself, 13 studies of the highest caliber have been conducted. All turned up bupkis. The CDC, Institute of Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other esteemed medical organizations regularly assess such studies. Hotez called the pile of evidence against vaccines causing autism “massive.”
Kennedy is hardly the only celebrity anti-vaxxer out there. Count Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey among them. And Trump himself has made statements supporting the movement. During the 2015 Republican Presidential Debate, Trump said he witnessed it himself. “We had so many instances,” he said, “people that work for me, just the other day, two years old, a beautiful child, went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”
Oddly enough, former neurosurgeon and housing and urban development (HUD) nominee, Dr. Benjamin Carson, on that very same stage, noted the overwhelming evidence against vaccines causing autism. So what is the fear, if anti-vaxxers grow in number or are allowed more leeway? It could increase the infection and transmission of diseases such as the flu, pertussis or whooping cough, measles, and many others.
To hear what geneticist Michael Wigler thinks of vaccines causing autism, click here:
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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.
It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.
Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.
Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.
The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.
It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.
In their findings the authors state:
"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence
to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like
violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students
do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones,
speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment
to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on
controversial issues is "always acceptable."
With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
- Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
- Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
- We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
- If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.
There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:
"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.
This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.
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