Bias + Superstition = Measles in Disneyland

Measles Resurgent“Measles in Disneyland” is a sufficiently jarring headline to make us wonder: how do we find ourselves here? Not so many years ago, CDC told us that measles had been eliminated from the U.S.

What happened was a noxious mixture of superstition and bias that has led clusters of families — especially in California — to avoid the vaccines that had eliminated  measles and some other viral diseases. The bias is that all things pharmaceutical are bad. Certainly, when it comes to drugs and vaccines, caution is wise. Rational consideration of risks and benefits makes the FDA approval process tedious and sometimes frustrating. But taken to an extreme, this bias leads people to avoid evidence-based treatment and prevention for serious diseases.

Add to that bias a particular set of superstitions about vaccines and you get measles in Disneyland. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, clusters of people continue to believe that vaccines will cause a range of maladies that we cannot bring ourselves to repeat. The Washington Post charitably concedes that philosophical or religious reasons may explain some of the reluctance to vaccinate.

But philosophy concerns itself with the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. It’s a means to understand reality, not deny it. Religion is a systematic faith in the transcendent, not superstitious denial of observable facts.

The sad thing is that superstition and bias are hurting innocents by fueling a resurgence of preventable diseases.

Click here to read more from the Washington Post.

Disneyland, photograph © Tom.Bricker / flickr

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