I have long beaten the drum against the antivaxxers: people who falsely claim that vaccines cause autism, or are loaded with toxins. These groups are loud, in many cases vicious, and all have one thing in common: they are wrong, wrong, wrong. The evidence is overwhelming that vaccines don’t cause autism, for example. We know they don’t.
Despite that, it’s clear that the emotional arguments of antivax groups have some traction among people, especially new parents who are understandably concerned and nervous about their children’s health. We here on the reality side of things can talk facts, statistics, and evidence all we want, but to penetrate through to reason we sometimes have to make our arguments more visceral. More demonstrative.
And that’s why I loved the recent episode of Penn & Teller’s show about vaccines. They used facts and figures, but they also use humor and emotion, and it’s really effective. In a brilliant move, they opened their show with a fantastic demonstration of just why we need to vaccinate our kids [very NSFW language]:
I love it! That is precisely right: even if vaccines caused the woes antivaxxers claim — and as Penn says clearly, they don’t — by sheer numbers it’s clear that vaccinations are still critical.
It is pretty difficult to convince people that have retreated into their own Cargo Cult World to change their minds and re-enter the real world. But there are lots of people that can be reached and we must do that.
Because we are not just fighting this battle against one group. We can not solve the difficult problems facing us by retreating into Cargo Cult Worlds. All of us that believe in understanding the world around us are fighting a wide range of Cargo Cult Worlds, from anti-vaxxers to creationists to climate skeptics to truthers to birthers and many others.
Cargo Cult Worlds allow people to hide from the real world. But they also provide a place for people to launch attacks against our attempts to solve difficult problems, such as human health, energy usage, ecological damage, or economical failures.
We need to realize that these groups are actually just different aspects of the same foe – ignorance And we need to unite to battle them all.
Because they will not be any help as we act to solve our problems and will do their best to prevent us from achieving success.