The Sciences

Penn and Teller take on vaccines

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitAug 30, 2010 12:23 PM


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I have long beaten the drum against the antivaxxers: people who falsely claim that vaccines cause autism, or are loaded with toxins. These groups are loud, in many cases vicious, and all have one thing in common: they are wrong, wrong, wrong. The evidence is overwhelming that vaccines don't cause autism, for example. We know they don't. Despite that, it's clear that the emotional arguments of antivax groups have some traction among people, especially new parents who are understandably concerned and nervous about their children's health. We here on the reality side of things can talk facts, statistics, and evidence all we want, but to penetrate through to reason we sometimes have to make our arguments more visceral. More demonstrative. And that's why I loved the recent episode of Penn & Teller's show about vaccines. They used facts and figures, but they also use humor and emotion, and it's really effective. In a brilliant move, they opened their show with a fantastic demonstration of just why we need to vaccinate our kids [very NSFW language]: I love it! That is precisely right: even if vaccines caused the woes antivaxxers claim -- and as Penn says clearly, they don't -- by sheer numbers it's clear that vaccinations are still critical. I can't stop people from listening to the nonsense the antivaxxers spew, but I can hope that the more we talk about it -- and the more we show it -- the more people will realize that the antivaxxers are not just wrong, but doing something unconscionable: putting our children's lives at risk.

Related posts: - Immunization FAQ and some nice stories - How safe is Gardasil, and a new antivax FAQ - Antivaxxers take note: vaccines stop polio outbreak in Tajikistan - BREAKING: Australian antivax group slammed for "misleading and inaccurate information" - The vaccine song

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