I miss regular religion.
It was so simple then. There is a magical, thumb all knowing entity with a magical offspring who does magical things and if you believe the story to be real (wink, wink) there is no doubt what happens to you when you die.
If someone was religious, you automatically knew quite a bit about them. You knew that, if you only used it a couple of hours, you could “borrow” their car Sunday mornings.
The good part of people figuring out that belief in a fairy tale is silly is, well, fewer people living as if a fairy tale is real.
The bad part is that there is stuff taking its place that is more difficult to define as religion.
I give you: political extremism, homeopathy, acupuncture, environmentalism, vegetarianism, veganism, animal rights and…
With fatherhood looming (no, but we’re trying), knowing other people with kids, being a part of the “skeptic movement” and being a fan of the Skeptics Guide To The Universe podcast, I’ve become all too aware of the new anti-vaccination religion.
As Michael Goudeau says, “Everybody gots their gris-gris”, and I certainly have my share of it (hi,
global warming climate change doubts!) but the anti-vaccine position is one of those complete and utterly ignorant positions that is embraced by people who think they are being smart.
Last night the bride and I were talking about the possible psychology of what may drive the show-biz anti-vaccine movement and this is what we came up with. It is very broad stroke generalization (hey, that’s redundant redundancy!) but maybe it will make sense.
We’re all guilty of wanting to be special. I don’t know that guilty is a pejorative… wanting to be special is good. Special people do special things that sometimes help other people. (Special people even have their own olympics!) But, because of the desire to be special, we are susceptible to one of the ways people sell stuff: flattery… appeal to the ego. “Oh, you’re much too discerning for a regular t.v., you need this special Gizmotron 9000!”
I give you the following monologue:
“We have beaten the odds: It is impossible to succeed in showbiz and yet, here we are… we are special. We are different. Because of this, we have access to special, inside information. We have a very exclusive doctor. He costs more. It’s difficult to get in and see him. Other doctors hate him. People told us that we were crazy to try to be in movies and t.v. But who’s crazy now? We have special diets. We know that our organic, natural, gluten-free, prius driving lifestyle makes us better. We buy only “organic” foods. Only the best for us. We are different from everyone else.
Since we have all of this exclusivity, pure food and information, it follows that our child must be exclusive and special as well. There is no way that something that comes from our special purity could manifest disease naturally. On the contrary, if we do the things that everyone else does; if we use the things that everyone else uses, it will actually contaminate our child. Doesn’t it make sense that if we only have pure things that the thing we make will be pure?”
The answer to the final straw man question is, obviously, no. Nature wants us dead. I don’t mean “wants” as if there is a design or nature has a soul. Death and disease are nature. Cancer is more organic than a banana from the health food store. Even the special health food stores no one knows about. Disease, tumors, predators, violence… Never get out of the boat. If you or someone you know has ever been to the hospital, it’s quite probable that 100 years ago, they would be dead.
The ironic thing about the anti-vaccine people being “rebels” is the same thing I find funny about rebellious teenagers (I used to be one, so I know)… they’re all listening to the same music, wearing the same clothes and reading the same stuff. There was a review of a Rage Against The Machine concert where the critic mentioned how the entire crowd at the Forum was being led by the singer to chant “FUCK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TOLD ME!!!”
There’s a similarity with the Creationists. They both throw science out with the bathwater. There’s one thing that doesn’t add up, so it all must be false. And yet, I find the pseudo-science crowd to be more dangerous than creationists. Pseudo-science cuts across party and economic lines more easily and faster than creationism. Generally, there must be some other specific stuff prior to embracing creationism like christianity. Creationists are following a small group of people who are getting rich off of them. But, celebrities and sports heroes go to chiropractors and acupuncturists. They talk about homeopathy on talk shows. Jim Carrey and Milfy McCarthy aren’t speaking at creationist rallies, y’know? Mainly, Big Pharma is a much sexier villian than Big Science.
And yeah, since I’m a SAG member and don’t know science so much, my only real ability is to question the thought process and motivation.
What I do know is this: Measles rates have gone up. It correlates with fewer measles vaccinations. It seems like a very solid correlation.
We hope to have a little munchkin next year (I want to name it “Tourette”.) We’ll vaccinate. I don’t like being part of the crowd, though. I’d rather know some special thing that makes little Tourette stand out (besides the screaming obscenities, of course).
Yes, I understand that the skeptics can be thought of as a religion (man, that’s funny) except…
Religion doesn’t change with new information. Science does. I’m happy to change my mind when presented with new and better information. It’s fun but annoying. It means I was wrong… which I hate because I’m perfect. But yeah, it’s fun.