“It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts
because they are not to our taste.”
prominent 19th century physicist, John Tyndall
(2 August 1820 – 4 December 1893)
Over the years, I have seen, heard and read quite a bit about Autism Spectrum Disorders and more recently about Myasthenia Gravis. What I have noticed is that the fringe groups are quite polarized in their approach to scientific fact and reputable studies.
Recently, the case of Andrew Wakefield was addressed by the General Medical Council. For many years now and across numerous studies conducted by reputable medical and research scientists, Wakefield’s famous study that incorrectly linked Autism to the MMR vaccine, mercury and/or thimerosal has been disproven.
And yet, in the twelve years that have passed between Andrew Wakefield’s announcement to the world and the General Medical Council’s recent ruling on the matter, a faction of radical anti-vaccine supporters have disregarded the facts because it wasn’t to their taste. It would appear that this group of individuals needed to have someone or something to blame for their child’s Autism Spectrum Disorder and Wakefield’s findings provided them with an outlet for their frustration and anger.
“To believe is very dull. To doubt is intensely engrossing.
To be on the alert is to live, to be lulled into security is to die.”
Irish writer and poet, Oscar Wilde
(16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900)
No matter how much proof is provided to some individuals, they will choose to believe what their feelings tell them to believe even when the facts are completely different from their beliefs.
I am not saying that one has to doubt everything a professional presents as correct but rather it’s the responsibility of the person – or in the case of minor children, the responsibility of the parent, guardian or caregiver – to be alert to discrepancies and contradictions. When studies are published, rather than just accept the findings, it’s important to understand what the study is saying and to understand how the study was conducted.
A study that is conducted with insufficient or flawed controls will yield a flawed end result. We have seen this with Wakefield’s study and had the radical anti-vaccine segment of the population invested the time into researching the manner in which Wakefield’s study was conducted, it would have become obvious in short order that the study was flawed from the start.
“The creative person pays close attention to
what appears discordant and contradictory …
and is challenged by such irregularities.”
world renowned civil engineer, Frank Barron
(7 July 1914 – 17 October 1994)
And so it is with life in general. There is nothing wrong with calling into question what is put forth as facts or truth especially when those facts and truth are ‘discordant and contradictory.’
While it’s true that we are led to believe from very early in life that an authoritative voice and a few white coats implies that the information we are hearing or reading is accurate, this sometimes is not right. And just because many people say something more often or more loudly than another group of people does not make the information accurate.
Accuracy and correctness lies in whether the end results can be replicated by others using the original researcher’s methods and only once the methods used have been identified as being reliable measurements.
“The most erroneous stories are those we think we know
best and therefore never scrutinize or question.’”
American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist
and historian of science, Stephen Jay Gould
(September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002)
It’s not just medical or scientific research that benefits from scrutiny and questions. Anything in life that is of importance to the individual benefits from scrutiny and questions. If the situation can stand up under scrutiny, then the answers to the questions will be forthcoming and free of inconsistency and incongruity.
While Jenny McCarthy’s son Evan may actually have Landau-Kleffner Syndrome rather than Autism, her stand against the MMR vaccine remains a prime example of an individual blinking facts in favour of what was more acceptable to her.
One good thing that has come of the most recent news that Ms. McCarthy’s son may have Landau-Kleffner Syndrome instead of Autism is that Ms. McCarthy has reversed her initial position on MMR vaccines. Rather than promoting that we be rid of all childhood vaccines, Jenny now says she wants vaccines to be better researched.
It’s a small victory that Ms. McCarthy is publicly changing her stand on vaccines and Autism. That being said, perhaps now she will stop blinking facts and start challenging obvious, as well as less obvious, irregularities.