Penn & Teller - Anti-Vaccine Campaigns Are Bullshit!

One of the problems with irrational beliefs is that they don't exist in a vacuum of ideas: they have consequences in the real world, and are bound to affect someone in a real way. Take the case of vaccines. There is a growing number of concerned parents who suspect a causal link between them and the incidence of autism, and who are consequently choosing not to vaccinate their children. At first glance, one could make the case that this belief is based on an article published in the well-respected medical journal The Lancet a few years ago.

The problem, of course, is that even though Andrew Wakefield (the research who wrote the article) has been found guilty of professional misconduct and has lost his medical license as a result of the shady, unethical and questionable research published in said journal (now officially retracted), and despite the fact that not a single reputable scientific study has been able to even suggest a possible causal link between vaccines and autism, many people still believe in said non-existent link, and are now exposing their children to the real danger of debilitating diseases that could easily be prevented with a single shot.

Part of this irrationality comes from the fact that a) we are easily persuaded by anecdotal evidence (instead of the rigor of well-conducted statistical analysis), b) we are prone to believe the vociferous ranting of mad celebrities (instead of the cool deliberation of research professionals), and c) we are sometimes more likely to be persuaded by fear-mongering and emotional appeals than by real evidence.

Fortunately, there are antidotes to this irrationality. One of them is the Penn & Teller duo, who, in the following episode of Bullshit, and even before getting into the meat of the 'controversy', manage to beautifully debunk the misguided fear-mongering with a fun statistics lesson :)


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