The Sciences

How to be inoculated against antivax conventions

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJun 10, 2011 11:00 AM

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There's a grand irony about skepticism and alt-med groups that I suspect most people don't know. Skeptics are commonly seen as curmudgeonly cynics, poopooing new ideas and excluding anyone not in their club. Alt-med people are seen as warm, open, willing to try new things, and welcoming anyone to their group. But that's not the way it really works. In fact, skeptical groups welcome people who believe in various things we don't (we've had them come to various TAMs; the effort we make in outreach could be improved, of course, but we certainly don't turn them away -- an important point, as you'll see in a moment), and alt-med groups... well, they talk a good game, but when it comes down to a skeptic actually showing up at their meetings, their actions speak much louder than words.

But don't take my word for it. You can read all about what happened to my pal and active supporter of real medicine Jamie Bernstein when she attended the antivax Autism One convention. She wrote up her experience in two parts: the first on Skepchick, and the second on Friendly Atheist. The upshot? Despite behaving herself, obeying the rules, and being very polite, she was escorted out of the meeting by three security guards and four armed police officers, ejected on clearly trumped-up charges. As Orac points out, does this sound like an open and honest movement? Or does it sound like people who are terrified of different opinions and quash dissent, even before it happens?

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