8-1-15 Hodgepodge

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Vaccination: A Victim of Its Own Success?

Amesh Adalja considers the possible role a common mental shortcut might have in the rise of the anti-vaccination movement:

I find it hard to fathom that while a glass ingestion is correctly thought of as a clear and present danger to her child, vaccine-preventable illnesses--which kill incalculably more children than glass ingestions ever could--doesn't register the same sense of alarm in this mother.

The only explanation I can come up with is a serious threat misperception akin to fearing shark attacks but not drowning in the neighborhood pool--something that has to do with what is known as an availability heuristic coupled with the ability to imagine a horrible outcome. In this example, it is not hard for a mother to imagine her child ingesting glass and having a horrible outcome while it may be harder for her to imagine her child contracting a disease made rare because of the success of vaccines.
On top of this, plenty of anti-vaxxers will be happy to help such parents imagine terrible outcomes and that these are "linked" to vaccination.

Weekend Reading

"Such freedom can be daunting -- but it's far better than having no real choices at all." -- Paul Hsieh, in "In Praise of the Market Economy" at PJ Media

"Confidence doesn't mean knowing everything, but it does mean trusting your reasoning." -- Michael Hurd, in "How to Take Criticism Rationally" at The Delaware Wave

"Most of the time, you can still like and respect someone with whom you disagree, especially if your relationship with them is worth more to you than winning the argument." -- Michael Hurd, in "The Perils and Positives of 'Agreeing to Disagree" at The Delaware Coast Press

"If one person's 'need' does not generate an 'entitlement' in the realm of bodily autonomy, why does it do so in the realm of economics?" -- Paul Hsieh, in "Genuine Charity Requires Freedom" at Forbes

"Such burdens trample physician autonomy along with women's individual rights on the road to foisting a religiously derived view of fetal rights onto the entire populace." -- Amesh Adalja, in "Innovation at Risk as States Ban Telemedicine for Medical Abortions" at The Pittsburgh City Paper

Saletan on GMOs

Writing at Slate, William Saletan takes a look at the debate on genetically modified organisms used in agriculture and finds the following:
The USDA's catalog of recently engineered plants shows plenty of worthwhile options. The list includes drought-tolerant corn, virus-resistant plums, non-browning apples, potatoes with fewer natural toxins, and soybeans that produce less saturated fat. A recent global inventory by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization discusses other projects in the pipeline: virus-resistant beans, heat-tolerant sugarcane, salt-tolerant wheat, disease-resistant cassava, high-iron rice, and cotton that requires less nitrogen fertilizer. Skim the news, and you'll find scientists at work on more ambitious ideas: high-calcium carrots, antioxidant tomatoes, nonallergenic nuts, bacteria-resistant oranges, water-conserving wheat, corn and cassava loaded with extra nutrients, and a flaxlike plant that produces the healthy oil formerly available only in fish.

That's what genetic engineering can do for health ... The reason it hasn't is that we've been stuck in a stupid, wasteful fight over GMOs. On one side is an army of quacks and pseudo-environmentalists waging a leftist war on science. On the other side are corporate cowards who would rather stick to profitable weed-killing than invest in products that might offend a suspicious public. The only way to end this fight is to educate ourselves and make it clear to everyone -- European governments, trend-setting grocers, fad-hopping restaurant chains, research universities, and biotechnology investors -- that we're ready, as voters and consumers, to embrace nutritious ... food, no matter where it got its genes. We want our GMOs. Now, show us what you can do. [links dropped]
This long article is worth reading not just for the information it imparts about GMOs, but also for the snapshot it provides of the thought processes of anti-GMO activists. No amount of scientific rigor in favor of GMOs is enough for them, and yet it's deuces wild when it comes to imagining reasons to frighten the public about them.

-- CAV

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