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Vaccinations -- An Epidemic of Misinformation

9/25/2014

Huffington Post Blog
By Jeff Schweitzer

Would you have your plumber perform brain surgery on your wife? Or have an accomplished Shakespearean actor with no flight training pilot the Boeing 747 you are taking across the Pacific? How about hiring a shark biologist to design and build your house? These suggestions are absurd because we all know that being qualified and competent in one area of expertise does not transfer to all others. But we seem to routinely forget this simple truth.

That is why those who oppose climate change become authorities in meteorology and climatology, suddenly endowed with more expertise than a scientist who has devoted her life to the subjects. The deniers magically know more than thousands of qualified scientists from nearly 200 countries. This faux-expertise brings with it a deep irony as well. Many doubters cite the Earth's past cycles of glaciation and warming to discount what we are seeing today as nothing but natural variation. How do the skeptics know of that climate history? From the very scientists whose conclusions they now doubt! As if the scientists themselves are unaware of their own conclusions about the earth's past, or if they are aware, did not take that history into account. Deniers preferentially believe one set of facts from those scientists but dismiss other facts as liberal nonsense. I could not make this stuff up.

False claim to expertise is why actors feel qualified as authorities on various matters unrelated to the film industry. Standing in front of a camera does not confer any special expertise on anything other than reading lines, but that stops few from venturing farther afield. The problem with claiming expertise outside one's true competency is that the ensuring claims are often ridiculous, misinformed, ignorant or downright dumb.

The latest eruption of star-studded stupidity comes from comedian Rob Schneider (whose comedy I much enjoy). Schneider opposes mandatory vaccination, using the patently incorrect and absurd argument that "the efficacy of these shots has not been proven." He added, "And the toxicity of these things -- we're having more and more side effects. We're having more and more autism."

I just want to scream in frustration.

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