The digital age has been a big win-loss for the world’s collective intelligence. It’s put an unquantifiable amount knowledge at the tip of our fingers, but it has also hastened the spread of misinformation like wildfire.
The anti-vaccination movement is one of the most dangerous results of the age of misinformation. Anti-vaxxers commonly believe that vaccines are dangerous and a major cause of autism in children.
There is zero scientific evidence for this belief.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is a big reason why people believe mistruths about vaccinations. This psychological theory suggests that an individual’s lack of knowledge about a particular subject leads them to inaccurately gauge their expertise on the topic.
A study published in the Social Science & Medicine found that those who knew little about the causes autism were more likely to think they know as much or more than both doctors and scientists about its causes.
Which brings us to a story that recently went viral on Reddit.
A Navy-enlisted man with a newborn child asked his supervisor if he could skip the flu vaccine. His superior responded with an exasperated and sarcastic letter that essentially called him dumb for not wanting a flu shot.
The man’s “disgusted” spouse posted the email interaction on social media thinking they were being unfairly treated by the Navy. When, in reality, the problem was that they were putting their newborn at risk.
Here’s a transcription:
The Navy’s response:
In the spouse’s letter, he or she unknowingly admits their ignorance on the matter by asking for “any links to prove he’s wrong (or right if he happens to be)?”
Asking for more information on the subject clearly shows how poorly informed they are on the vaccination issue. It’s astonishing that the family would take such a hard stance that could endanger their child without doing any research.
But for those who aren’t sure, the Centers for Disease Control backs up the Navy’s claim. According to a 2013 CDC report, “about 90 percent” of pediatric flu deaths that year were “occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination…”
The CDC also recommends that anyone coming into contact with a newborn be up-to-date on their flu shots:
This email interaction between the spouse and the Navy went viral after appearing on the /r/MurderedByWords subreddit.
The people of Reddit overwhelmingly took the Navy’s side in the disagreement.
“The lady is not just anti-vaxx dumb she’s-I-know-I-have-to-do-this-but-I’m-still-going-to-complain-about-it dumb,” — A_Wild_VelociFaptor
“Someone posted this letter thinking they still had the righteous high ground after reading it,” — rareas
“People who look for information don’t ask the question she asked,” — fedja
“There are parents in third world countries that walk extremely long distances with their children, usually to their financial detriment because they can’t work those days, to get their kids vaccinated. They suffer hardships and grueling trips because they know their children’s lives are worth the effort … worth the sacrifices. Most of them have already lost a relative or a previous child to something easily preventable with a vaccine.
And then we come to the western world where we have parents like this.” — Quinnley1
“To be honest her asking for links pissed me off even more than if she had posted her own shitty links.
At least then she could fall into the ‘dumb and believes everything she reads/scientifically illiterate’.
But the fact that she can’t even produce her own false links when challenged means she is an anti-vaxxer blindly, following nothing. Like for the sake of it?
I’m starting to think there is something psychologically wrong with these people. That they are desperately lonely and enjoy the sense of ‘community’, but are also bored and want to be contrarian and argumentative for something to do, but are also angry about their lives and want someone to fight and be offended at.
I don’t think they actually believe or care about their own (wrong) scientific arguments. Flat-earthers too. We need to tackle the social issues they clearly have to beat them, rather than with scientific evidence which they clearly ignore. They’re just spoiling for a fight, nothing more,” — Adam657
“It’s more than just weird. It is irresponsible in the extreme and very inconsiderate of other people.
“It is it’s own type of disease – a magical thinking virus. Lots of people are very prone to this type of ‘thought virus.’ I strongly believe that much of this is due to life being so safe now that those impulses towards ‘flight or fight’ get channeled into this type of twisted anxiety and concern. Ironically, this type of anxiety almost entirely makes people less safe – through avoiding things like vaccines that increase safety to disinfecting everything providing more space for pathogenic bacteria to simply being stressed and weakening yourself mentally and physically through worry.
I like to call this class of mind virus a “ZuckerVirus.’ ” — AFreshTramontana
Share image via Daan Stevens / Unsplash.