While delivering a presentation on clinical pharmaceutical trials I came face to face with what is known to the scientific community as an ‘Anti-Vaxer’.
If you have not heard of this term before you may be forgiven for thinking that I’d had an encounter with some kind of malevolent demonic entity.
No an anti-vaxer is not an evil being from an alternative hellish dimension, it is a person who, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, jeopardizes public heath by refusing to have their child vaccinated for a whole load of reasons. Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting vaccination as an effective way to save lives and improve the health and well-being of the human population there is a significant amount of people who reject it.
The anti vaccination movement is not alone in their point-blank refusal to reject overwhelming evidence, there are lots of examples of groups of people who reject the scientific evidence over their unwavering belief in their cause. Maybe the best example of this is the Flat Earth society.
Yes that’s right, there are people who are still adamant that the earth is flat, despite an inordinate amount of scientific to confirm that it is an oblate spheroid. Including actual pictures of the earth taken from space by Apollo 17.
Looks pretty fucking round to me.
Here is a link to the Flat earth society podcast if you feel like adding a bit of bat shit crazy to your day.
And here is a link to buy a Flat earth society t-shirt if you feel like looking bat shit crazy.
Anyway, back to the anti vaxer. As my mind was puzzling with frustration as to how this individual can justify their position I started to think back to one of my first year lectures at university; and in doing this I may have stumbled upon a possible logical explanation for this seemingly stupid phenomenon.
Human beings come in all shapes and sizes, even the way our brains work varies from person to person. The reason for this is that because we reproduce sexually, we create genetic diversity. This diversity makes us less likely to become extinct as it creates a population with a whole range of strengths and weakness and we are therefore able to adapt to our environment.
The abiotic (non-living) environment is incredibly random, some days nothing happens and other days it throws a gigantic fucking 10 meter high tsunami wave at you. A population with a range of abilities is more likely to survive random changes in its environment; in short – Genetic diversity in both behavioural and physiological traits is a vital characteristic for populations of species to survive in this crazy world.
What does this have to do with anti-vaccination and flat earth society people?
I propose that these seemly illogical beliefs are the manifestation of an evolutionary fail safe that prevents all human beings in a population agreeing with each other 100% despite overwhelming support from evidence for them to do so. Just like genetic variation, a disparity in opinion, beliefs and therefore physical practice means a population is more likely to survive.
Vaccination is a safe procedure; however if it wasn’t and it turned out to be fatal (it isn’t but lets just say it was) not all of the human population would die because of the people who rejected the practice.
Maybe I am just trying to hard to find some sense in the arguments of these movements but I think its possible that there might be some logic in acting illogically.
I prefer the old school Spock.