The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Typhoid Mary and the Anti-Vaxxers

    The measles outbreak in Southern California has been generously made possible by California law's "personal belief exemption," which allows adults to refuse vaccinations for their children or themselves based on their so-called "personal belief" that vaccines cause autism. Here "personal belief" is extended to include not simply religious and moral teachings -- the question here isn't that religion teaches that vaccination is morally wrong -- but factual errors. This allows people in Orange County, to construe medical fallacies as "belief." So it's time for a short history lesson about Mary Mallon, who went down in history as Typhoid Mary, and her commitment to her personal medical beliefs.

    About a hundred years ago, some doctors told Mary Mallon that she was carrying the germs that cause typhoid fever. She had no symptoms, because she herself was immune to the disease (she might have had it when young and survived). But, the doctors told Mary she was a typhoid carrier, one of the first ever discovered,who was infected with the disease and could infect others, even if she never felt sick herself. Mary didn't believe them.

    After all, she wasn't sick. She was never sick. She certainly didn't have typhoid fever. So how could other people get typhoid fever, which she didn't have, from her? It made no sense. She preferred that the doctors go about their own business and let Mary get back to her own. Mary didn't believe in the idea of a "disease carrier." More broadly, she didn't really accept the whole germ theory of disease. It just didn't make sense to her.

    So Mary just kept on doing what she was doing. Which was working as a cook.

    Of course, everywhere Mary worked, numbers of people who'd eaten her food began coming down with life-threatening cases of typhoid, and a few of them actually died. This was how the doctors had originally found Mary and diagnosed her as a disease carrier: she was the one person who had worked in every kitchen involved in a mysterious string of dangerous typhoid outbreaks. But what could Mary do? She didn't understand why this kept happening, but it clearly wasn't her. She was healthy as a horse. She just needed to keep looking for another kitchen job. She kept finding them.

    Did I mention that Mary didn't believe in washing her hands before preparing food? Mary didn't see the point. She wasn't sick, so what could happen?

    Eventually, Mary was put in enforced medical isolation; the legal mechanism might have been a little hinky, but eventually the authorities couldn't let her keep going from cooking job to cooking job and infecting people. (At least three people Mary cooked for over the course of her career died; there may have been more.) They finally decided that Mary Mallon did not have the freedom to disbelieve the doctors if she was putting public health at risk. Her personal belief that she was not infectious was outweighed by the fact that she kept infecting people.

    After a few years of forced isolation, they let Mary out. They had trained her for a new job, as a laundress, which was basically safe. As long as Mary didn't prepare food for people, everything would be okay.

    But Mary preferred cooking, and it paid better than the laundry did. So after a while she took an assumed name and began hiring herself out as a cook.

    After continued outbreaks, they put Mary back in isolation for the rest of her life. Was this an infringement of her liberty? Certainly. Her liberty was taken away from her entirely, because she insisted on endangering other people. What Mary believed, or refused to believe, was ultimately not the point.

    I've been thinking about Mary a lot lately, because of the anti-vaccine movement. Our culture gives a lot of deference and liberty to people's beliefs, and rightly so. But refusal to believe a scientific or medical fact is not a belief. You can believe that God loves everyone, or that the good in human nature outweighs the bad. You can believe that God doesn't want you to eat cheeseburgers or shellfish. But you are not free to believe that mental illness is caused by sleeping in the moonlight. You are not free to believe that eating pork causes leprosy, or that fluoride in the municipal water supply is a mind-control drug. You are not free to treat your child's case of flu with bleeding or leeches. These are not beliefs. These are mistakes. They might be harmless mistakes. But if they grow to the point that they endanger others around you, you lose any right to them.You are not free to smoke in an enclosed public space because you believe that smoking has nothing to do with cancer. You are not free to have unprotected sex after an AIDS diagnosis because you don't believe that AIDS is sexually transmitted. You are not free to drive your infant around in a car without a car seat; medical evidence has accumulated to the point where that decision has been legally taken out of parents' hands.

    There is a deep American conviction that we are entitled to our beliefs. But this is true for things that are ultimately beliefs because they cannot be tested for truth or falsehood. "Jesus loves me" or "Our people were singled out by God" are not testable beliefs in the conventional sense. They are choices of perspective. "MMR vaccine causes autism" is not a belief of this kind. It is a claim of fact that can be tested. And those tests have proved it false. We are entitled to our own values. We are not entitled to simply make things up. That was Typhoid Mary's mistake.


    Good post and analogy. The reality is, it's not what anti-vaxers believe in, it's what they don't believe in.

    They don't believe in (1) government, (2) science, or (3) that they have any responsibility to vaccinate to reduce the risk of serious, life threatening disease to others in the community (who may be pregnant, immune compromised or more at risk for adverse consequences from communicable disease).

    Honestly I did not know where to put this thought.

    My son has been plagued with asthma his entire life and I feel so damn guilty about my smoking.

    But his first daughter encountered all these virises.

    And he takes his babies to the MD all the time.

    And they make sure everyone has vaccinations.

    My son and his bride use all measures available.

    And it seems to work.

    This newbe 'left wing' puritanism is nuts.

    Of course, if the kids are/were all right, who would bitch?

    I dunno the answer.

    But I will tell you that when things look wrong, my son takes his daughters to the doctors. And he pays a lot to do that.

    In the olden days, a woman might have twelve kids and three would survive.

    This is not an easy issue.



    I knew these people (cue "Paris Texas") who did everything for a perfect birth - all the right foods, exercise, supplements, etc. - and had 2 babies, one perfect or even more than perfect, and one with a dozen issues that kept them jumping & crazy for years and years.

    When people would confront Job with all his afflictions, they were assured he had done something evil to deserve all his suffering. It's a story believed to precede the Old Testament - the temptation to judge the unknowingness of God/nature in all his/her/its fickleness and vicariousness, the folly of thinking everything is causative and deserved. What looks smart today stands a good chance of looking bat shit crazy in 100 years. Our age of science with Pasteur and Darwin and Mendel and Jules Verne gave way to the brutality of WWI & WWII. We've been here before.

    When I first read about the possible autism link with vaccines I considered it possible. After all wide spread use of vaccines is relatively new, less than a hundred years. But its been studied to death and no link has been found. And its been proven that Andrew Wakefield falsified the data in his study.

    While there're some religious nuts that are antivax it's mostly the hippie left. I'm a hippie too and I'm all for a more natural life. But that doesn't mean I reject science. It's time to put this antivax nonsense behind us before we face a real epidemic and children and adults start to die of preventable diseases in significant numbers.

    Michelle Bachmann and the current measles zone in the GOP stronghold of Orange County California are not 'hippies' or hippies territory.

    ...children attend Waldorf School of Orange County where 41% of the kindergartners were unvaccinated when they entered kindergarten this year,

    The anti-government anti-science me first and only the hell with everyone else GOP and tea party is the major hotbed of anti-vaxers.

    Yeah, ocean-kat. Exactly.

    I'm not saying that there aren't differences of medical opinion, or that doctors are infallible.

    What I am saying is that there are ways of answering theses questions, and sometimes we have solid answers. Do vaccines cause autism? We can test that question. We did test that question, repeatedly. The answer is no.

    This country hasn't given the support and help needed to family with autistic children.  It can be brutal on a family who is trying to raise a child with it.  Some parents are really afraid of it and can be easily misled by charlatans. 

    I had both types of measles before I started school in 1953. I later remember lining up for the shots at school.  The measles gave me a inner ear infection and penicillin was new then.  Since I was a small child they wanted to hospitalize me to give me penicillin so they could watch for reactions.  My parents didn't have hospitalization or much money then so the doctor gave it to me early in the morning in his office and I had to stay there all day.  I was given pain medication so I slept all day.  He came by the house later that night and then a few day later gave me a second dose. Today we have run out of antibiotics that work except for a few.  We are walking a dangerous fine line here with anti-vaxers.   

    I think you're reminding us that a bout with measles, while a pain, is nothing compared to autism.some people find it hard to believe others do things for rational reasons.

    You're absolutely right. A family has to deal with the problems of autism for the whole life of the child even into adulthood. While In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. In 2013, there were 145 700 measles deaths globally – about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour.  Yeah, the kids died and that's tragic, but It's a one time thing for the parents. But if that kid had been autistic think of the lifetime of anguish that death spared the parents. Measles, while a pain, is nothing compared to autism.

    Around 1960 there were about 430 measles deaths per year in the US This number has of course greatly decrease. Outside of America, especially in Africa, my response to disease and vaccines would be quite different. Prevalence of autism has rapidly increased to 1-2 per 1000, or from 1 in 150 in kids in 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2013. Say we're talking about a bracket of 10 million kids, that's about 130,000 with autism and another 400,000 with ASD. So the concern (in the US) about autism vs measles doesn't feel so petty or anti-science when you look at the numbers.

    The autism figures are US CDC. Elsewhere numbers are much lower. Even in the US prevalence among Hispanics is much lower.

    in the late 1950s, serious complications due to measles remained frequent and costly. As a result of measles virus infections, an average of 150,000 patients had respiratory complications and 4000 patients had encephalitis each year; the latter was associated with a high risk of neurological sequelae and death. These complications and others resulted in an estimated 48,000 persons with measles being hospitalized every year

    There's a lot of controversy about the numbers for prevalence of autism. Severity is also an issue as some/many diagnosed have mild symptoms that don't meaningfully affect their life. I had a friend who worked with autistic children who told me that if I was going to school today I would have been diagnosed with autism. Sure I'm extremely introverted and have severe difficulties in social situations. It's almost impossible for me to work in an office setting where I'd have to constantly interact with the other employees. That has made it difficult for me to make the kind of income my intellect and education normally would garner. But I don't think that's a huge problem for me or a societal problem. I'm not trying to downplay autism in it's more severe forms. Just that the story is more complex and nuanced than most articles state.

    Which makes a recent report from England especially surprising. In a careful epidemiological study based on a national sample (n = 7,461 adults) from 2007, Brugha and colleagues did careful diagnostic assessments based on standardized interviews. They found that familiar rate of about 1 percent in adults across the entire age range without a significant reduction in the older part of the sample as one would expect if the prevalence had increased in recent years.5

    This takes us back to the central question: has the number of children with ASD increased or not? Total population epidemiological studies suggest much or all of the increase is due to better and wider detection.



    Agree the numbers are confusing, the issues are more subtle & complex, etc.

    Was typing on a mobile phone so couldn't go into this.

    Frankly the adult discussion of real numbers, historical trends, successes, uncertainties, etc. produces much more clarity around the issue for me than the lock-step declarations that there are no real side-effects and everything's perfectly safe.

    I was reminded of the "crack baby" epidemic that was actually Fetal Alcohol Syndrome when the parent was black - a major misdiagnosis failure and misuse of our health system for political attacks on "welfare mothers" that creates mistrust in CDC and other institutions.

    Seeing how Big Pharma shoved their $80 billion handout into ACA, I've no doubt they are able to use fairly small amounts of money to influence drug studies, the approval process, and drug damage actions & penalties. Yes, this is a paranoia, but one founded in how US politics & influence works.

    Labeling people "irrational" for a particular stance may be accurate, or it may be overreach - often times people do stupid things for good reasons. Public policy includes educating people in a way that's effective - not just a dogmatic poster that the "sheeple" should accept or be labeled stupid. We have a public policy crisis over vaccines that wasn't just created in a vacuum. Even the partially political controversy over live vs. dead polio vaccine creates some uncertainty from the 50's/60's great-success-of-vaccination period, as did thalidomyde, the flawed Swine Flu Vaccine, the complex progression of HIV/AIDS diagnosis & treatment, etc.

    I'm convinced that eating fat doesn't cause you to get fat, but that's been the accepted take by doctors for a few decades now, even though some heretics point to the more specific danger of transfats combined with carbohydrate diets like lots of bread that easily turns to sugars & fats while leaving us feeling hungrier in short order, ready for another fix. That's of course simplistic, as there are a lot of issues with metabolism & possibly environment....

    Anyway, enough - if there's a problem with vaccination acceptance, government & health professionals need to find a better approach to laying out the need and effectiveness and address people's concerns better - sorry if it's tough, but that's the nature of mass persuasion. The way leaders like FDR & MLK addressed the people was much more persuasive and inspiring than the platitudes and simplistic self-serving reasoning we get from most leaders today.

    We have a public policy crisis over vaccines that wasn't just created in a vacuum.

    No, not a vacuum. It was mostly created by Wakefield who was a doctor and a medical researcher. When he first published his "findings" it had some credibility. Given my predilection against chemicals I thought it possible, even likely. Mercury is a powerful poison and could have unusual effects on very young children. But when it was discovered that he falsified data and his report was fraudulent it should have ended there, or at least after numerous studies looked for but could find no link. But no one knows why some children are autistic and there's a lot of fear. Fearful people latched onto the idea that vaccines were the cause and wouldn't let go.

    Your point is salient - first opinion sticks hardest, as the Tea Party/Republican machine knows.

    I saw one psychological study that showed that people would adjust for later information, but over time the 2nd, 3rd, 4th pieces faded so that the first piece of info would stay more in our conscious & subconsious even if the other info had debunked it. Staying power.

    Of course if we knew what caused autism, it might be easier to get rid of the MMR, tylenol or other suspicions.

    I think there would be less anti-vaxers if we had a better health care system. It is hard to find a good therapist and when you do it is a financial drain on the family. So much of it isn't covered by insurance or Medicaid.  If you are wealthy you can hire the people you need to help you, but everyone else is on their own with the everyday care and therapy for that child. 

    I spent 18 months taking my oldest grandson, who is ADHD, to therapy once a week and met other moms who had children with autism. I would here stories about how the child would only sleep a few hours and then become over tired and scream and cry for hours.  I would hear about how hard it was to get the right set of meds to work for the child.  I would hear how hard it was to get a few moments to be a mom to the other kids in the household and how much it effected them.  There was always a feeling that they felt so guilty because they had this child and could not do better for them. These were very tired moms and dads. 

    Fear is not always rational.  You can get as much information out about the false study on the cause of autism but with out making these families lives better who have to live with autism, you will still get people clinging to this idea the vaccinations cause this. 

    But you are not free to believe that mental illness is caused by sleeping in the moonlight.


    True, the State has to be able to override a citizen's beliefs when they are endangering others. But there's a corollary: it should  only do that when they are endangering others.

    Not because of some mystical limit to the"rights"on either side.. Purely utilitarian.

    .A directive from dot gov requiring Joe Lunchpail to wear his underware on top of his trousers just brings closer the day when Joe will defy it..Perhaps by believing mental illness is caused by sleeping in the moonlight.

    Or by "forgetting" to bring Joe Junior in for his MMR shot..  . 




    Let me rephrase that, Flavius. Sure, you're free to believe that. But the rest of us don't owe that belief any deference.

    You want to believe that Haile Selassie was a living god, the Omnipotent Jah Rastafari, I am going to be polite about that, because it is part of a complex set of religious ideas. And many people have specific religious beliefs that I don't share but are otherwise perfectly reasonable.

    If you believe that sleeping in the moonlight causes insanity, you're just a goofball. And that's how I'll treat you.

    It must be pleasing to believe so hard in the medical community, but from lobotomies to Thalydomide babies to Swine Flu deaths, along with gross treatment of the mentally ill (both despicable incarceration under horrendous conditions or Reagan's putting the mentally ill out on the street without needed treatment), the health care community combined with public officials has not always acted beyond repute, and the firm wall of lock-step agreement can provoke more skepticism than allowed in polite public debate. The recent US screwups re: Ebola, including a Texas hospital that exposed unprotected nurses to a suspected infectee, and the quarantining of a social worker returning from Africa who'd been cleared of infection, much because of typical Tea Party-ism know-nothing bravado and typical political posturing, should give an idea why people have trouble believing the government. The drug review process is also highly political & polluted with big money, and Congress has several times been called in to protect the pharmaceutical industry.

    The "MMR caused autism" has moved to a "Tylenol (Acetaminophen) given after MMR" debate. That supposition came out in 2008, and I didn't find any decent studies on it (with a very minimal search), but there's a related statistical one for Tylenol and ADHD . It's of course not conclusive, but the availability of internet and access to information creates a whole new dynamic for parents and sufferers of diseases & afflictions, rather than patients going like cattle to overworked practitioners who know half their knowledge about drugs from pharma marketers and have little time to dig into side effects or past histories.

    (I've dealt with closeby's who had loads of pills prescribed, especially in the 70's, with no thought of what interaction the different pills could have, and the patient herself had been a nurse decades before so thought she was okay - having a gnat hair's sense of addiction & completely outdated drug info and attitudes. But I've also had close ones help self-diagnose very serious diseases and treatments and by being involved either made better decisions than a disinterested practitioner might have or at least knew much better what the risks and outcomes were, so could deal with choices like incontinence & risk of relapse vs. permanent impotence.  One friend was diagnosed with a fatal time-consuming disease and then dismissed to go home by himself, leaving him in tears and a shaky mess rather than calling the Missus. Another seemed to have an arthritis side-effect of a hepatitis vaccination - listed on the package as a possible side-effect but still ignored by the doctor & nurse as something to worry about or later a cause of the arthritis. That many involved in searching out connections to rises in Autism & ADHD are doing so because of afflicted family members shouldn't be lost in this bit of self-diagnose contempt ).

    It's also interesting reading Mary Mallon's letter, as it feels like it could have been written yesterday rather than 100 years ago, and it's interesting to see that the doctor's suggestion in this case, removing the gallblader, might have been correct, but also the dehumanizing of the woman involved. The health worker dealing with her return after the Ebola flareup probably would sympathize with the patient though, along with those who misstated the danger.

    So get a good laugh in at the regressive antivax gang, but there's a bit more to the story than this clean-cut version presents.

    Most of what you've described here has nothing to do with vaccinations.  Despite the few problems--even deaths--that may have been caused by vaccinations, millions of people live lives without fear of terrible diseases because we've developed life-saving vaccines.

    When the polio vaccines first came out there were vaccination centers set up in schools on Saturdays and we stood in a long line to get ourselves and our children immunized.  When we were kids we got our shots in school, again standing in long lines, dreading the needle.   My own kids couldn't start school without an up-to-date vaccination record.  At no time did I ever even consider not having our children vaccinated.  Our grandchildren have all been vaccinated and are up to date, I'm happy to say.

    On the other hand, My husband's uncle didn't believe in immunizations and paid for it by having a child die of diphtheria.  His aunt never forgave herself for not fighting harder for it and made sure everyone knew what could happen without them.

    I have no sympathy for anti-vaxxers.  None at all.  The fact that we're having measles outbreaks in the US again is outrageous.  What's next.. .polio?

    Well stated Ramona.

    The fact is the anti-vaxers, by and large the GOP right wing as I stated and linked above, are consumed and driven by an IDEOLOGY......they do not use, and are incapable of exercising objective reasoning when it comes to making a decision where ideology has been injected into it.

    Ideologies are not self correcting, facts have little or no impact on changing it.

    Be it vaccines, climate change, age of the earth or voting back into power the Party that gave us the Iraq War fiasco and the 2008 economic collapse, the true believers will seize quasi-facts or opinions that support the ideology, while excusing it's obvious failings as caused by insufficient adherence to it, therefore releasing it from accountability.

    It's comforting to blame the right for this but the vast majority of the reporting I've read on this issue claims it's mostly driven by the left. It's mostly those who also are affiliated with the natural food movement, the anti food  additives movement, the anti chemical movement, all of which I support. We have to face the reality that occasionally those on the left succumb to fear based irrational behavior. Not nearly as often as the right, but sometimes.

    No Democrats in Congress have spread anti-vax rumors like Michelle Bachmann, see link above.

    Those in the 'natural food movement' are just as likely to be Libertarians or Republicans as Democrats.

    The 'pure food movement' isn't a political Party, and it doesn't control Congress.  The GOP is and does. There is no comfort in that fact.

    It is by no means 'comforting' that the GOP rejects the science of climate change, evolution and vaccines, so much so vaccinations even come up in Republican Presidential candidate forums.

    Numbers wise the link above says a school in rock solid Orange County has a 41% rate of non-vaccination, this link says a school in liberal Marin county is at 7%.


    Florida and Ohio requires children to have vaccinations up to date in order to attend school. Is California different?  I thought all states required this.  I know parents that homeschool because they don't want to comply. 

    What's the rationale for refusing to vaccinate school-age kids? Do these parents think their healthy five-year-olds will suddenly become autistic if they get vaccinated?

    Yes, some do.

    While autism can be detected earlier, not always, and those with more variable widespread Autism Spectrum Disorder symptoms are often not detected until later.

    Did these disorders all exist at birth, or are some caused from postnatal environmental factors? one at Autism Speaks talks about "autistic regression, in which a young child seems to be developing normally, only to lose abilities, or regress, into autism."

    Perhaps forgive parents for wondering if its not "regression" but a newly appearing factor that causes this. It may just be we're focusing more on autism & our detection methods are improving, or we may be discovering something we didn't understand before.

    Regressive autism generally occurs by age 2 and never after age 3

    I ran across 2 cases where the kids ran down in the 3-5 range, which produced a lot of questioning in the parents about what they might have done wrong - no silver bullet, but yes, almost all regressive appears to be by 3, with median 21 months.

    When these infectious diseases were part of everyone's memory states enacted stringent rules requiring vaccines. Some allowed some people to opt out, usually for religious reasons. As the public, including public officials, forgot how horrible these diseases were there has been some relaxation of the rules. I think California has the easiest opt out policy. Mostly because some progressives pushed for it.

    Ocean-kat, If it comforts you blame the hippies.

    But they aren't running Congress and hold no seats in Congress.

    There is no hippie Party. They are all over the place ideologically and politically. Each one of them probably differs some from the next in quirkiness or views of politics, if they give a damn about politics at all. RFK Jr being an example.

    RFK Jr. is a fringe borderline nutcase, he is not and never has been a candidate for President like Michelle Bachmann was for the GOP.

    Ocean-kat recognize the Republican Party for what it is.

    A ideological juggernaut that, as I said 3 or more times, rejects science, objective reasoning, uses fear, lies and misinformation as campaign strategy. The GOP cynically uses anti-vax propaganda to further erode faith in government and science among it's ideological Base. Suppressing or denying facts is an absolute necessity to perpetuating a failed ideology.

    The GOP is, by their intention, a huge obstacle to moving the nation forward on everything from infrastructure repair, foreign policy, Wall Street regulation, tax policy, energy, climate change etc


    whatever Republicans are, OK's right that there's as much antivax on the left as there is on the right, and it doesn't serve anyone to pretend otherwise.

    Actually it hurts us, because Republicans often use a % of Democrats to get a majority on controversial issues, while Democrats almost never get a % of Repubs for controversial or non-controversial things. If we can't figure that out...

    That's the "both sides do it" baloney.

    When the ideology of one of our 2 major Partys has been shown to be a total failure over and over, 'both siderism' and denial of that reality is necessary to perpetuate the status quo, and prevent any change in course for the nation.

    Driftglass blogs on it's presence in the MSM regularly:

    Both Siderism is uniformly everywhere. It's like the Beltway's own Iridium Layer.
    It's continued existence is why it is impossible to have a reasonable debate about anything ever.
    It's constant maintenance is our media elite's prime directive.

    No, that's the "ignoring our own behavior" baloney - yes, there are *MANY* people on the left who are anti-vaccination. This isn't just a few, such as pretending the Tea Party appeals to both parties.

    The federal government has almost nothing to do with people opting out of vaccinations. State law regulates that. Bachman was just pandering to a small segment of fundamentalist. The right always panders to the crazies in their party. But the majority of anti-vaxxers are not christian fundametalists. The majority are upper middle class to rich democrats. If you don't like the term hippie call them New Agers. Now most progressives aren't anti-vax and most hippies aren't antivax and most New Agers aren't antivax. But most antivaxers are New Age progressive democrats. The problem isn't that a majority of any subgroup is antivax. The problem is that the small but increasing minority of some subgroups are negatively affecting herd immunity. I am a hippie and I proudly identify with that subgroup. I support organic foods and most of the hippie goals. But a small minority of that subgroup are leading the antivax movement.

    I don't need you to tell me to recognize the republicans for what they are. I agree with 99% of what you're saying. But in this one case and somewhat in the case of GMO's it's a small faction of the progressive left that's fueling the ignorance of science.

    That the majority of antivaxers are progressive is well enough known that Samantha Bee did a Daily Show segment on it.

    Ocean-kat It is the very large Republican right that is "fueling the ignorance of science" relating to almost every thing to do with science, including vaccines which Republicans have been shown to not get in the heavily red counties like Orange County and which GOP candidates for President have questioned as I stated, but, I will grant you,  the GOP has not attacked genetically modified organisms. Why?

    Big corporations make big $$$$ off GMO, and Republican politicians are the Party of big Wall Street money and deregulation, the GOP is unlikely to ever add GMO to the list of things it uses to exploit ignorance at election time. Be well and have a great weekend.

    Just because the republicans fuel 98% of the ignorance of science doesn't mean the democrats don't do it 2% of the time. Just because the media engages in a lot of false equivalencies doesn't mean all equivalencies are false. For example imo what you're doing now is very similar to what some republican did with his "unskewed polls" site. The fact that republicans ignore data dozens of times doesn't prove that you're not doing it once, right now.

    You are right, there are fruitcake Americans of all types. Some could be called 'the left'.

    Try organizing them politically, it would be like herding cats. They would be all over the place if they vote at all.

    Not so the Republican Party, and the faithful manipulated Base.

    There is no fear the GOP would not exploit (Ebola...) , no ignorance they would not nurture (climate change a hoax-Imhofe (R-OK)), no facts they would not deny and no skullduggery they would not engage in, all in a unified and concerted way to win an election. Regardless of the damage to the nation.

    The GOP has been pushing this stuff for years as part of it's anti-gov't, anti-science ideology, the message: gov't and science are tools of liberals, and facts are irrelevant if they contradict GOP ideology..

    An ideology far more dangerous to this nation than 'natural life' anti-vax hippies living in the woods, or in the expensive environs of Santa Barbara.

    Vaccine 'Choice' in Texas Republican Platform.

    Republican Donald Trump anti-vaccines theories

    Tea Party fights pro-vaccine legislation

    Bill Posey (R_Fl) HR 1757 Vaccine Safety Study Act

    Dan Burton (R-IN) Held hearings on vaccines, talks of criminal charges for safety

    Sarah Palin and vaccine freedom

    Republican Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann questions vaccines

    Darrell Issa's antivax hearing and his 40k anti-vax contributor


    It has a lot to do with vaccination - the US put spies in with health professionals in Pakistan dealing with vaccinations, and when people found out, naturally vaccination rates went down - they felt the vaccinations weren't needed but just another US spy program.

    As perspective, in 1958-1962 US deaths from Measles before widespread vaccination were avg 430 per year - a lot less than say 40,000 yearly traffic deaths (especially before seatbelts) or current US child deaths of 2000 per year, 250,000 injured.

    3.5 million sports injuries for kids per year - over 20,000 emergency room visits just for cheerleaders. Our attitudes towards football and Traumatic Brain Injury is slowly changing - I quite organized football decades ago after 2 days of practice because of the real danger I felt, but maybe I'm not so uniquely sensible as others are towards different real dangers.

    Unlike the slight inconvenience and great danger of not wearing a seatbelt, people dealing with vaccination decisions are usually trying to do the right thing and often go to much more effort and trouble avoiding them  than just giving in - but they tend to do so for a reason. Like all tough decisions, we often pick badly - we pays our nickel and takes our chances, as a teacher used to tell me. Like the decision of whether to buy insurance and what level, you don't find out if your gamble was correct until the catastrophe hits. In the case of vaccination benefits and vaccination damage, we get a good roll of the dice. Were there other complications involved to change the odds of the bet?

    The problem is that a decision not to vaccinate impacts the entire community. To really be effective, vaccination rates of up to 95% are required. There are children too young to be vaccinated because of immature immune systems. Other children have suppressed immune systems be use of genetic causes or as the after effects of chemotherapy for diseases like leukemia. Additionally, there are people who do not generate an effective immune response despite being vaccinated. The end question is if , barring reasons, not to be vaccinated, vaccinations should be required of all children. Is it selfish not to vaccinate your children?

    Oh, whatever. Was suggesting gall bladder removal "dehumanizing?" What a shame.

    That totally makes it okay that those people got sick and died. Totally not Mary Mallon's fault there.

    And how dare they remove Mallon's gall bladder against her wishes? Oh, what's that? They didn't. That's right. She was allowed to turn down the invasive surgery, and that was of course her right.

    And that gall bladder was still seething with typhoid bacteria when they autopsied her.

    But what is unreasonable about asking someone who is infectious and refuses surgery to stop cooking food for people? What is unreasonable about asking that after many people she cooked for become deathly ill and some people she cooked for died?

    And as for the Tylenol + MMR causing autism argument ... that's just silly. I mean, really silly.

    Actually I think it was Tylenol causing autism in some infant cases, just happened to be correlated with MMR because it would often be used to bring fever down post-vaccine.

    Why this is "silly" to you, I have trouble grokking. Many common medicines are unsafe for infants & have side effects.

    Norwegian study linking Tylenol & ADHD + other development disorders (summarized by Reuters - notes small difference between safe dose and dangerous dose - unlike Ibuprofen & similar alternates - and discusses ASD ties)

    Danish study linking Tylenol & ADHD + other development disorders (summarized by Time)

    Comparative analysis of conditions in US & Cuba (where Tylenol not used and autism much lower)

    MIT entropy/word association study for CDC articles linking Autism with Alumnium and Tylenol (acetaminphen)

    Very silly, no?

    Lo, we've circled back to the initial blog which was, in effect, have we as a country drifted to the point of now needing a more serious government address of the antivaxxer movement in the context of its endangerment to innocent bystanders---in which case the original example of Typhoid Mary stands up very well.

    I am, BTW, better informed on the liberal left's part in this movement. But to compare vaccination rates and exemptions to state wide voting patterns is a stretch. It seems that one could by the same method prove that those blue states export more fruit cakes than red states and therefore that liberals like fruit cakes.

    Marin county is the only example which surprises me. A lot of the other examples, Oregon, Vermont and Colorado have that libertarian/survivalist strain---which could, could, be operative.


    I think there is a mistake in the construction of the argument although I mostly agree with where it goes.

    You are not free to believe that eating pork causes leprosy ... ...  or that fluoride in the municipal water supply is a mind-control drug. These are not beliefs.

    Yes, they are beliefs whether correct reflections of reality or not. I would say that a person has every right to believe what they do and also that they cannot help but believe what they believe, although their beliefs can be mistaken and can change. What people should not be free to do and are not free to do, in some cases, is act on their beliefs.
     The other thing I would say is that Typhoid Mary's case is not quite analogous to refusing a measles vaccination. Mary was potentially deadly to anyone she was near and the government had every right to restrict her further contact with others after she had demonstrated that she would not properly control her actions. A person who chose to not get vaccinated for measles, on the other hand, is only dangerous if they get measles, which is seldom fatal, while in a population that is mostly vaccinated against that disease. And then is only dangerous to others who have made the same choice to take the same chance. I of coarse recognize that young children do not make this choice for themselves but I don't always feel like I know what choices about children should be co-opted by the government.

    Well, using seat belts and child seats only matter if there is a sudden stop in a car, and they REALLY matter if there is an accident. If I as a parent, believe that my little Jimmy should be free to move around the car, because to restrain him is harmful to his self-expression and ego, why and how can the state tell me otherwise?  Why?   Because the consequences are so serious, and there is a very effective and reasonable solution (to anyone who is at all logical).  Stopping at a red light or stop sign only really matters if another car is coming. Examples like this sound absurd, but so does the anti-vax argument.  Sometimes people can be so open-minded that their brains fall out. 

    During the the incubation period of Measles (the time between exposure and the development of symptoms) the infected (and therefore infectious) people are not aware that they can hurt others, some of whom may be innocently vulnerable for reasons mentioned in several entries above.  Keep in mind that this discussion has only been about Measles because of the current outbreak, (which has now spread to Arizona).  Diphtheria, Pertussis (whooping cough), polio, and hepatitis B are all transmissible to others.  The long-term consequences of refusing these life-saving treatments could be catastrophic. I wouldn't be surprised if insurance companies declined coverage for those who refused immunizations (for philosophical reasons) and then developed any of the above diseases. Imagine dealing with polio sequelae out of pocket!!!!

    Public Health policies will always reflect the greater good, and that is a fact that people who want to live in a civilized society must accept.   There is a fund in place to care for any children who have untoward reactions to immunizations. There should be no opt-outs for immunizations except for documented medical reasons period


    Exactly, Cville.  Thank you.

    Sometimes people can be so open-minded that their brains fall out. 

    Richard  Yooooou Whooooooo!

    I nominate this for a daily line award. LMAO..... 

    That line says it all. 

    I humbly accept this GREAT honor!!!

    Repub's are backing up pedo clinics in Maricopa County Az (kids up to 14 yr) for mealses vax now.

    Reminds me of the old SNL skit wherre Belushi plays a brain damaged biker who accidentally  cracked his helmetless noggin in a biker rally against helmet laws.

    If you want to call those dumbass ideas beliefs, and that makes you happy, that's fine. But that doesn't mean there isn't a real distinction here.

    There are beliefs that not testable in straightforward ways, or at all, and ultimately they deserve deference. These tend to be religious, moral, philosophical, and political ideas. I believe democracy is inherently good. That premise is totally untestable.

    That is different from believing propositions that can easily be tested, and have been, and are simply wrong. If you believe pork is ritually unclean, that's a belief. (How could we construct an experiment to determine whether or not pork is ritually unclean? It's not a testable hypothesis.) If you believe pork carries leprosy, you're just being a dumbass.

    Sorry, Doc.  Believe it or not, my confusion started with my belief that the word "belief" referred to what a person actually  believed even if what they believed was incorrect. Now I am happy to believe that I have no reason to believe that my belief about what a person is saying I should believe about what they believe can be believed just because I believe that I understand the meaning of a common English language word. Thanks .

    Well, let's stick to the common meanings of words, then.

    We call people who believe pork is ritually unclean "Jews" or "Muslims."

    We call people who believe pork causes leprosy "boneheads."

    Jews and Muslims are owed a certain amount of respect for their beliefs.

    Boneheads are owed nothing.

    If you want to say that your idiotic ideas about fluoridation, crystals, blackstrap molasses, or four-leafed clovers deserve the same respect and civic protections that religions and philosophies do, that is also a boneheaded belief on your part.

    I do not see why my comment has apparently angered you unless it is that I pointed out a silly mistake and you want to talk around it rather than acknowledge it. I did say in affect that the mistake was one which was inconsequential to the validity of the point you were trying to make and that it was a point that I largely agreed with.

    If we are going to stick to the common meaning of words as you suggest then lets start with the common meaning of the word that you denied the meaning of. That word is "belief". You said in so many words that if a person claimed to believe something which commonly accepted authority believed to be obviously wrong then what that person believes is actually not even a belief. I will stick to my assertion, one which I believe was clearly expressed. I said n that a belief is a belief whether correct or wrong or even obviously and provably wrong, and a belief is a belief even if a person reveals them self to be a bonehead by revealing what it is that they believe. I believe that assertion is correct by the word's definition, by its connotation, and is in complete agreement with the common usage of the word "belief".  I will add that I don't think that you could point to any intelligent person that ever reached adulthood without changing at least one of their beliefs to some other belief which contradicts the first in a way such that neither one could not be correct unless the other is wrong. Has every belief you ever had stayed a belief until now?  Your assertion which I objected to, would, in order to be correct, require that what that person originally thought to be correct before experience or education or some other influence changed their mind, was not actually a belief when it was held as such. I am beginning to feel silly to even go to the effort to re-argue something so obvious.

    If you want to say that your idiotic ideas about fluoridation, crystals, blackstrap molasses, or four-leafed clovers deserve the same respect and civic protections that religions and philosophies do, that is also a boneheaded belief on your part.

     MY idiotic ideas about fluoridation, crystals, blackstrap molasses, or four-leafed clovers.

    Do you consider that to be an intellectually honest form of argument? You suggest a bunch of straw man ideas which I have not expressed any belief in or addressed in any way, you imply they are idiotic in the same way that some unidentified idea I did express was idiotic. You go on to say that if I believe ideas like those which you bring up as examples of idiocy, that that would ALSO demonstrate a boneheaded belief on my part? Tell me please, what is the boneheaded belief on my part' which I have expressed in my comments on this topic? What is the belief that the "also" refers to in your comment? And, while I clearly said that some beliefs were wrong, where did I suggest that, just because someone believed something, that that belief deserved respect?


    It might be some confusion between "Anonymous" and "Anonymous PP", which are 2 different people - who knows.

    I had possible links between Tylenol and ADHD & ASD called "silly" despite reputable studies supporting this. Sooner or later everything becomes a flame war.

    [and yeah, I assumed you were trying to interject some humor]

    Thanks, you might be right. Didn't intend to be anonymous beyond the normal.  I am traveling and this computer doesn't remember my password and neither do I. Once I have signed on as anonymous LULU it usually remembers that and identifies me. I sometimes fail to notice when it only shows anonymous like this time and a few times in the past. I will be more careful in the future.


    Common meanings of words: the general "you." For example, "your average anti-vaxxer," or "your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."

    Secondly, again about the common meanings of words: lots of common words cover several meanings, sometimes in slippery ways that aren't easily disentangled. (One of the reasons philosophy has turned into a huge pain in the ass to read  is that it has to avoid all of those slippery common words which have many definitions, and so has to use lots of dry jargon instead.) See, for example, the way we use the pronoun you both as a second person, about the person being addressed, and colloquially as an indefinite third-person (like "one" or sometimes "they.")

    For example, we use "love" to cover many things. I hear there are people, for example, who love soup. Just taking the common meaning of that word, soup-lovers are obviously weird sexual fetishists. Love soup? That's sick! And don't say I'm getting it wrong. That's the common meaning of the word!

    Or we can say that "love" just means "enjoy eating." Which means people who love their wives should be arrested and put in jail. Marital cannibals! Disgusting!

    Yes, we use "belief" to cover a wide range of things, from simple misimpressions ("I believed he had already left the building") to acts of religious or political faith ("I believe in America"), with a lot of things in between. But treating all the uses of that word as the same quickly becomes unworkable. ("I believed that John had already left the building, and I have a right to that belief! You can say this is John here in the room with us, but I believe what I believe!") Using a one-size-fits-all definition of belief leads us to absurdities.

    But if "I am entitled to my beliefs" goes for every possible gut feeling, mistake, factual error, or misimpression, in exactly the same way it goes for protected political religious beliefs, then we got into nonsense country quickly. You might believe you left your wallet in your other pants, but you can't say that you need an exemption from a law based on that belief.

    In related news, here's a doctor writing a letter to the editor about this issue today:

    As a family physician, I daily observe faulty reasoning underlying vaccine refusals. As in the article’s examples, my patients offer nonsense like “I’ve never had the flu before” (like rolling double sixes, past event patterns do not predict future events); “I’m generally pretty healthy” (right, and the goal is to keep you that way); and my favorite, “I don’t believe in vaccines” (it’s not a religion).

    The letter-writer's point here is that declaring your belief in some non-fact shouldn't give it the default deference we extend to religious beliefs. Couldn't agree more.

    As a kid, if anyone were to say something like, “I love this cinnamon roll,” someone else would inevitably and hilariously rejoin, “Well, why don’t you marry it then?”

    I believe that I've heard that.

    I'll try to put my idea in different words so that I don't need to use the word "believe" as part of its definition. I see belief as when the mind is asked a question about some thing or some conception or some circumstance, for instance, and the answer the mind gives, if it thinks it knows the answer, is the mind holder's belief. For them to express that answer out loud is to say what they believe to be true. I believe that that idea of what is correctly called 'belief' belief holds true in application regardless the import or triviality of the belief or of the result of acting on that belief.  Yes, speech inflections can turn "I believe so" into 'maybe' or 'probably', but then the inflection reveals that different usage.  But, when a belief is honestly expressed as a belief, as what the person thinks to be true, I think that that expression is of something of the same nature as any other kind of belief regardless whether it is about a question either big or small and regardless how they came to believe as they do and regardless the result of holding that belief.

      You talk of the right to believe anything as a ridiculous position. I said a person is entitled to his beliefs in context with some other thoughts and I admit that out of the context I placed it in, and without some expansion, it sounds a bit facile, But, quoting myself, here is the relevant statement in context. Quoting myself:
    "I would say that a person has every right to believe what they do and also that they cannot help but believe what they believe, although their beliefs can be mistaken and can change. What people should not be free to do and are not free to do, in some cases, is act on their beliefs."

    What is the alternative? If a person is not entitled to his thoughts, then doesn't that mean that there could be legitimate "thought crime" laws intended to prevent a person having some thought? It would mean that we could make a value judgment that a persons thoughts were of a nature that, based on our way of thinking, he must cease having. And how would we even know what that person's thoughts were short of him acting on them, water board him maybe? Just in case he had some bad ones? Then is there anything reasonable we could do to make him stop having them? How? And why? Any place, any time, that government can legitimately jump into action with any kind of compulsory edict directed at that person is after that person has acted on his thoughts. But that reasoning was included in the context of the singular statement you argued against. I said that actions, as opposed to thoughts, may justify reactions.
     The second part of that context is one I am more happy to defend after noting that the context of the first remark also contained my statement, " What people should not be free to do and are not free to do, in some cases, is act on their beliefs.". Again, quoting myself:

    "... and also that they cannot help but believe what they believe, although their beliefs can be mistaken and can change."

    I think that the nature of a mind is formed by many factors including our experiences. Some we choose, some are chosen for us, some are random happenstance etc, etc, ...
     I will use things I can guess about your life as an example. Your life, your pursuit of knowledge, both as a vocation and avocation, and your choice to specialize as a Shakespeare scholar, layered over your own inbred mental tendencies and other inputs, some of them random and not consciously intended by anyone but just part of the flow of life, have brought you to a point where you have some very clear beliefs about what can be known for sure about Shakespeare as well as some unproven ideas about him that you would bet on, ideas that make most sense, to you.  There are things that you believe about the man. The thing is, you didn't go for your education for the purpose of gaining the the particular beliefs in the  things you ultimately came to believe, you didn't delve deeply into your career subject for the purpose of coming to those beliefs that you did come to, it was just your life experiences that formed them. That life has created your particular beliefs. The beliefs you hold as beliefs came to you as the only beliefs that those combinations of factors could produce in your mind.  Your particular self, and then your particular life, given the path it took, could not believe that anyone but Shakespeare wrote the works of Shakespeare. In that sense, you didn't have any choice, I believe, except to believe what the totality of your experience has brought you to believe and only powerful and conflicting experiences might make you change your mind and believe differently. Other people have had different lives with different inputs that created different beliefs in some cases.
     I believe that people do in fact merit some deference for their ideas about what is best for their own children even if it is also true that their wishes must sometimes be overridden, just like the deference to religious beliefs must sometimes be overridden. And, I think that equating the case of Typhoid Mary which which had an obvious and obviously justifiable remedy with that of the anti-vaccine crowd is weak.

    But Lulu, the post starts with anti-vaxxers getting an exemption from California law for their "personal belief."

    That's what the whole post is about.

    Yes, and the whole post is to convince how unsupportable that position is. From a comment you made on another blog where the danger is pointed out to be to children too young to be vaccinated:
    "Which is why all the other children in the day care who are old enough to be vaccinated need to be vaccinated."

    I agree, that is a compelling reason to require almost everybody to get this particular vaccine. I want to point out that I said in my initial comment that I agreed with where your argument meant to go, I just picked at the ways you made that argument. I'll add now that I would bet that I have more vaccinations than most people at this site because of the foreign countries that I have traveled to and also that I have benefited greatly in other ways from modern medicine which by extension is one of the many ways I and everyone else in this country have benefited from science. I certainly recognize that and also appreciate it.
      So, all that said, you made a distinction between believing in ideas that have been disproved by science and other types of 'belief' such as religious ones which also cannot be proven but deserve some deference. Now I have seen on the news that a California lawmaker is pushing for mandatory vaccination with the only exceptions being for  medical reasons which are considered to be scientifically valid or else  based on [I assume some but not just any] religious beliefs. It seems to me that a religious exemption is the weakest possible reason to allow an exemption to a mandate that is justified by scientific proof, to be necessary for the greater common good. Religious beliefs, like you say, are completely unprovable and therefore cannot refute science any more than they can prove a science they happen to agree with. The fundamental faith based dogma that different religions are based on is of a nature that if any of a particular religion could be shown to be correct, then much of the faith based dogma of others must be wrong. So, by the same standards that we use to justify coercive vaccinations, is there any valid justification for religious exemption? Should we be just as adamant in our demands that faith based objections should be over-ruled and should we even resort to ridiculing the faith based beliefs on which which a person based their decision in order to sway public opinion and that of the lawmakers?
     I am not saying that you think there is a justification for faith based exemptions, it is unclear to me whether your deference to religious belief extends to this question, but I would like to hear your views on this point.  




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