It's not stupidity, it's the way we are.

It's not stupidity, it's the way we are.

As a rule I do not think that those involved in the anti-vaccine world or alternative medicine are stupid. They are wrong, but not stupid. Nor do I think they have nefarious motives or agendas. Most people are doing the best they can.

So I can't really get behind a headline that says Is there a vaccine for idiocy? since idiocy is not the root cause of anti-vaccination beliefs.

Celebrities may be the dull end of the spear for anti-vaccine propaganda, but neither them nor their followers are necessarily stupid.

Anti-vaccine ideas have more to do with the pernicious effects of confirmation bias (aka myside bias), not intelligence.

studies have shown that myside bias can be more influenced by ability to rationally think as opposed to amount of intelligence. Myside bias can cause an inability to effectively and logically evaluate the opposite side of an argument. Studies have stated that myside bias is an absence of "active open-mindedness," meaning the active search for why an initial idea may be wrong.

A good example is found in Take Vaccination panel leads to spirited debate, which has a most curious paragraph:

O'Kelly said he believed that the very diseases the vaccinations were supposed to prevent don't exist, and vaccinations are unnecessary.

Despite the false balance, even the News-Sentinal evidently knows enough not to quote a germ denier at length, the above being the only mention in the article. 

Who is O'Kelly? It is Jim O'Kelly of the new Anti-vaccination League of America.

And the Anti-vaccination League of America? The organization sounds like it belongs in a DC Comic, probably a collection of second string rogues who couldn’t make it in the Evil League of Evil. There was an Anti-vaccination League of America in the late 1800's, but I cannot find a modern incarnation on Google. It must be that new, perhaps with a membership of one?

As an infectious disease doctor it flabbers my gaster that anyone can maintain that infections do not even exist. As of today there are 1,261,356 citations on PubMed for the search term 'infection'. That must make germ theory the most massive conspiracy in the history of the world. If each citation has 6 authors, there must be at least 6 million people in on the false doctrine of germs.  Sufficient payment to insure our complicity would bankrupt even Big Pharma.

Germ deniers do exist and they apply the concept tp deny the utility of vaccines as well. It is not stupidity however, as the causes of such fantastical beliefs are much deeper and are part of our often flawed psychology.

Denialism is always fascinating – the bald-faced denial of facts that are fully in evidence and easily verifiable. It is a testament to the profound psychological effect that ideology can have on the human brain, and the mechanisms by which it is maintained. And before we wax too self-righteous as skeptics in this regard, we must always remember that we are all susceptible to these psychological mechanisms. We are all human. That is precisely why we need the rigorous, transparent, and self-critical process of science to sort through complex questions such as disease and immunity.

So often the narrative determines perceived reality rather than reality determining the narrative. Confirmation bias appears to be the default mode of the brain and it is at its extreme in the germ denier.

But it is not stupidity, it is the way we are.  

Points of Interest 8/29/2014
Legislating Science. That's Going to Turn Out Wel...