White Coat Underground

It’s generally a bad idea to assault the religious beliefs of your friends, neighbors, and relatives. That being said, sometimes it’s unavoidable. My being Jewish is hard for some people, who feel that just by being me, I am denying their Lord and delaying His return (and before you start tossing No True Scotsmans at me, this has indeed happened more than once). Still, unless someone is directly pestering me with their religion (you know, by posthumously baptizing my grandma or something), I leave them be.

But what about quasi-religious beliefs? A great deal of alternative medicine is “cult medicine”, in that it relies on faith instead of evidence. I spend a great deal of time calling people out on this one, despite its religious quality. And there is one more area in which we must confront our neighbors, no matter how painful it may be.

Vaccine-denial cultism isn’t just a wacky idea—it’s a dangerous one. We must find respectful ways to ask everyone—everyone—we know why they would put their kids and others at risk by their decisions. We must ask them to justify their anti-social behavior. We must push them back to the fringe, so that the most rational of them will come back to society.

Those who won’t should not be allowed to hide behind “philosophical” or “religious” exemptions. If parents have no valid medical reasons for avoiding vaccination, fine, there should be no legal penalty. But if they wish to violate the social contract in such a profound way, they should not be allowed to make use of public schools, an act which endangers everyone involved.

This is serious stuff. Let’s act like we understand that.

Comments

  1. #1 Strider
    February 8, 2009

    OT. Listening to the live stream before MN Atheists I heard an infomercial wherein the host and his guest were extolling the virtues of the Omega 3 super pill “enhanced with Co-Q10 and the cholesterol reducing power of plant sterols”. Beautiful woo-rific sounding testimony! In addition, my woophilic sister also claims how great fish oil is and my woo klaxons are braying. Do you have any information on this? Searching the intertubes was not so fruitful. Love to hear a podcast on this.

  2. #2 bob koepp
    February 8, 2009

    I agree this is serious stuff. And I agree that we, as a society, have an obvious interest in protecting ourselves from the public health threat posed by non-vaccinators. If we do take the path of prohibiting them from making use of public schools, however, we probably ought to recuse them from paying the portion of their taxes that would go to support those public schools. After all, being required to pay for services that one is barred from using smacks of “legal penalty”.

  3. #3 Lilian Nattel
    February 8, 2009

    Perhaps before refusing vaccination, all those parents ought to be required to watch a documentary from the days when polio was rampant. Something like A Paralyzing Fear.

  4. #4 Denice Walter
    February 8, 2009

    Right now ,my state (NJ) is a target for the anti-vaccination movement because we’ve had more mandated vaccines recently(influenza,Gardisil)and the “highest rate of autism in the US”(sic). Thus, out-of-state activists have held demonstrations outside Governor Corzine’s office,flooded him with e-mail and phone calls,lobbied for a “philosophical exemption” law,held “conferences” at a local hospital,and other inanities.I think they want to make us some kind of example.Perhaps those of us who support vaccination should also reach out across state lines (e-mail?) whenever one of these onslaughts occurs.

  5. #5 leigh
    February 8, 2009

    i recently smacked someone down for saying that we should cut funding for community vaccination programs- because if you’re too stupid to come up with your own money for vaccinations, that’s just darwinism anyway. [sic]

    aside from the total WTF reaction that evokes, i pointed out that vaccinating everyone is in EVERYONE’s best interest and talked about the whole herd immunity issue. funny, there was no further debate…

  6. #6 The Perky Skeptic
    February 8, 2009

    People being religious is not at all a problem for me. A lot of religious observances are really cultural observances, anyway, and people in America aren’t being stoned for eating pork on a Tuesday or whatever. I think cultural observances are neat, and I’ve participated in many a religious service, myself, with belief or lack thereof not being a problem for anyone.

    These quasi-religious beliefs like antivaccinationism and many, many of the alternative health movements, well, they do harm people. Innocents. They have killed babies with their ideologies, and they will continue to do so the more they get their way.

  7. #7 khan
    February 8, 2009

    If we do take the path of prohibiting them from making use of public schools, however, we probably ought to recuse them from paying the portion of their taxes that would go to support those public schools.

    Should all people who never reproduced also be exempt from supporting public schools?

  8. #8 Donna B.
    February 8, 2009

    Is there any research being done to isolate the gene that switches basic logic on/off? I’m just partially joking.

  9. #9 DrBadger
    February 8, 2009

    @bob

    If we do take the path of prohibiting them from making use of public schools, however, we probably ought to recuse them from paying the portion of their taxes that would go to support those public schools. After all, being required to pay for services that one is barred from using smacks of “legal penalty”.

    There are thousands of things (i.e. war, faith-based initiatives, complimentary medicine research, etc.) that I don’t want my taxes going to (and make no use of)… so by your logic, I shouldn’t have to pay taxes for it.

  10. #10 Donna B.
    February 8, 2009

    I sent my children to private schools when we lived where an affordable one available. They went to public high schools. The last one graduated in 2000. Should I get a refund for the last nine years, or any of the years I did not have a child enrolled in public school?

    Of course not. Education is for the common good and it is in my best interest that everyone get one, even if it’s not a perfect one.

    It’s my choice to pay extra for a better one for my children, but I would not send them to a school that didn’t require vaccinations, public or private.

  11. #11 Cannonball Jones
    February 9, 2009

    If we do take the path of prohibiting them from making use of public schools, however, we probably ought to recuse them from paying the portion of their taxes that would go to support those public schools.

    Couldn’t disagree more Bob. These people are willing choosing to put their children in such a situation that it makes it unsafe for them to be allowed to use these schools. Are you suggesting that people who use private schools shouldn’t have to pay that portion of their taxes? What if you promise never to call the cops, does that exempt you as well?

    We can’t start making exceptions for people because of their stupidity, if we start doing so we legitimise their actions and make them appear somehow acceptable. Risking the health of other peoples’ children is utterly unacceptable and as such we should make no concessions at all to people who do so.

  12. #12 bob koepp
    February 9, 2009

    It wasn’t my intention to launch a digressionary discussion. I’ll just point out that the remark attracting attention was made in the context of Pal’s suggestion that failure to vaccinate shouldn’t result in a “legal penalty”. Well, if there was a law barring unvaccinated people from public schools…. etc, etc.

    Is this a problem with reading comprehension, or what?

  13. #13 Avi Steiner
    February 9, 2009

    “If parents have no valid medical reasons for avoiding vaccination, fine, there should be no legal penalty…they should not be allowed to make use of public schools”

    Just a technicality, but isn’t the act of disallowing someone the use of public schools a legal penalty?

  14. #14 Chuck
    February 9, 2009

    “We must find respectful ways to ask everyone—everyone—we know why they would put their kids and others at risk by their decisions. We must ask them to justify their anti-social behavior.

    What other rights of citizens and legal precedents do you want to toss aside for the greater good and safety of every citizen?

  15. #15 PalMD
    February 9, 2009

    Chuck, where then hell have you been all these months!

    Well, since you ask, i don’t think anyone who can’t pass a driving test should be allowed to drive.

  16. #16 Chuck
    February 9, 2009

    “Driving test” is a little vague. But going with that, everyone should have to pass a written, vision, sobriety (alcohol and substance) test before their car would start and they would be allowed to drive it? Did I misinterpret your definition of “Driving test”?

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