This blog originally was called “Science Vs. Pseudoscience”, and began as part of a class I was teaching with the same name. I haven’t done as much debunking of pseudoscience since changing the blog’s name and focus, but that doesn’t mean I care less about the issue. Others are doing a better job of it than I can anyway, especially with regard to health-related pseudoscience—which is one of the big issues in our world today. With the rise of the modern anti-vaccination movement, many preventable infectious diseases are again active in places where they were once rare. Take, for example, measles: around 450 people die every day from measles, most of them children—yet a significant number of people choose not to vaccinate their children or themselves against measles.
So, let me add my voice to Dr. Rubidium and my compatriots at Double X Science and ask you to consider giving a donation of vaccines this holiday season. (I contributed, and I’m unemployed! If that doesn’t guilt you into action, I’m calling your momma.) By donating vaccines in your friends’ and family’s names, you can help stop the spread of preventable infectious disease in the third world and in poor parts of the United States. By vaccinating large parts of the population, we can provide what is known as “herd immunity”: the fewer people carrying a disease, the less likely it is to be spread to infants too young for the vaccine themselves, who are at the greatest risk of death.
Part of the problem in the United States is that a lot of misconceptions about vaccines still exist. Many people have heard trusted sources (including guests on Oprah and other TV programs) say that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent. However, this is simply not true: the following links go into varying degrees of detail about why vaccines are safe for nearly everyone, why they do not cause autism, and why it is important to vaccinate yourself and your children:
Related to this issue, though more general: how can you tell good science from bad science? Emily Willingham has written a great primer, including a checklist. It can be painful to discover someone you trust is spreading misinformation, which is not always the same as lying, of course—someone may be propagating something they’ve heard out of the best intentions. However, it’s more important to know the truth and act on correct information.