Although I’m interested in skepticism in general, I have a tendency to gravitate towards one particular form of pseudoscience (alternative medicine) and, in particular, a certain kind of that particular form of pseudoscience, namely antivaccine quackery. However, as much as I keep returning to the antivaccine movement, I keep noticing just how much it shares with other forms of science denialism and pseudoscientific thinking. I was reminded of this when one of my readers e-mailed me a link to a Facebook group, Pro-Vax Quacks. I have no idea who’s behind the group, but what I do know is that there’s a doozy of a post there that demonstrates one aspect of denialism that I’ve seen again and again and again, and that’s the desire to label science as a religion. I’ve seen it when creationists try to paint evolutionary biology as a religion. I’ve seen it when Holocaust deniers refer to “Holocaustianity.” And, of course, I’ve seen antivaccinationists do it by referring to “Vaccinianity,” even though I caution them about such terms.
The Pro-Vax Quacks group does it in spades:
Since the belief in vaccines is more like faith and religion than it is science, we thought we’d present the Vaccinology 10 Commandments as we see them:
- Correlation doth not equal Causation (unless it defends the Sacred and Holy Vaccine).
- It is NEVER the Sacred and Holy Vaccine. Any injuries associated with the Sacred and Holy Vaccine must be coincidence, or a lie.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Holy Vaccine in vain. Thou shalt not question the Holy Writings that defend the Sacred Vaccine.
- Thou shalt not hold any medical procedure above the Sacred and Holy Vaccine. Only the Sacred and Holy Vaccine can perform the miracles claimed.
- Thou must always follow the Vaccine Schedule, for the Sacred Vaccine is a jealous God.
- Honor thy Offit and thy Salk, for they are the prophets of the Sacred and Holy Vaccine.
- Thou must always trust all studies that are done by the makers of the Sacred and Holy Vaccine. They have no interest in profit, only in the health and livelihood of their congregation.
- Thou must always take the holy sacrament of Vaccination. Any who does not Vaccinate, or who question the holy sacrament, must be called heretic.
- Diseases that were once benign must become deadly once a Sacred Vaccine is made for them.
- The Sacred and Holy Vaccine is always safe and effective.
Why are denialists so eager to label the science they hate as a religion? The reason is simple: They can’t win on evidence, and, at some level, I think they know it. More importantly, because they didn’t use science and reason to come to their views on vaccines, as much as they claim they did and delude themselves into believing that they did, they presume that scientists didn’t come to their views on science, be it vaccines, science-based medicine, anthropogenic global warming, evolution, or whatever science is being denied. Besides, it’s much easier to dismiss something if you can convince yourself that it’s just another belief, rather than being rooted in science, reason, and evidence, as the safety and efficacy of vaccines are. So that’s what vaccine denialists do.
I realize it’s a really, really obvious thing to do, but I can’t resist meeting a set of Ten Commandments with a set of Ten Commandments. So, here for you are the Antivaccinationist Ten Commandments:
- Correlation is the LORD Thy God, who brought you out of the depths of despair and provided you with something to blame for your child’s autism even though it is no one’s fault. Thou shalt have no other gods before it and accept correlation as always being vaccine injury.
- Thou shalt make unto thee a graven image that is Satan, and that graven image shall be in the shape of a syringe. For vaccines are evil, and any health problem your child has will always be the fault of the vaccine. Always.
- Thou shalt always take the name of vaccines in vain, because vaccines are evil and detested of God.
- Remember the day of “too many, too soon” and keep it holy, so holy that you give no vaccines ever unless forced to by evil pharmaceutical companies.
- Honor Jenny McCarthy and Joe Mercola, so that pathogenic bacteria may live long in the babies’ bodies the LORD thy God giveth thee, at least until some of them start dropping dead.
- You shall murder by increasing the number of unvaccinated.
- Thou art married to “biomed” quackery forever. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt steal denialist tactics and use them to denigrate the evil vaccines.
- Thou shalt bear false witness against vaccines as often and outrageously as possible.
- Thou shalt not covet the real science, because you can never have it as long as you blame vaccines for conditions for which there is no evidence of causation by vaccines.
OK, perhaps it’s not my greatest work ever, but it’s not too shabby and it fits. It should also be noted that I did a much better job of sticking to the actual Ten Commandments than whoever the owner of the Pro-Vax Quacks Facebook page did. In any case, there’s no doubt that antivaccine beliefs are far more akin to religion than supporting science-based medicine. Those of us who support the science of vaccines rely on science and evidence to come to our conclusions, not fear, pseudoscience, and denialism.
Finally, if you think you can do better than I (and I bet some of you can), show me your stuff in the comments! Maybe I’ll collate the best of them into an “official” Antivax Ten Commandments list.