academic environmental studies   macalester college

Environmental Studies

Losing faith in science: the rhetoric of denialism in the autism/vaccines debate

Introduction

Background

Controversy

Present day

Conclusion
References & Links


   Comments & questions to:
   guytona@gmail.com



Losing faith in science: the rhetoric of denialism in the autism/vaccines debate

Controversy status

    In the anti-vaccine community, the level of sheer belief that vaccines are directly linked to ASD is enormous.  Some groups go even beyond that, tying the global ubiquity of vaccines to some grand One World Government/mind control/GPS tracking conspiracy theories.  Certainly, these are incredibly far-fetched, but they have gained enough mindshare in those online venues where such discussion takes place that continued belief in them is likely to survive as long as such conspiracy theorists still exist. 

   This controversy shows no signs of being capable of being resolved at any point in the next half-century.  Both sides remain completely and utterly convinced of their correctness and infallibility, and no amount of argument, discussion, or evidence one way or the other is going to change this.  In other words, for better or for worse, the debate over vaccine safety and its possible link to ASD is going to continue for the foreseeable future.

 

Predictions for the future

    In the future, it is likely that whatever is currently responsible for the very real increase in ASD will continue.  Until such time as the genuine cause is actually discovered, anti-vaccine groups will continue to believe that vaccinations are the root cause, and even then, it might take some convincing.

    In the future, parents of children with ASD will continue to look for answers as to why this is happening to their family.  As parents do, they will do their best to look out for the well-being of their children, with most cases of witholding vaccinations coming from a place of genuine concern and precaution. 

    In the future, vaccine proponents will realize that they need to take one last try at convincing the more reasonable members of current anti-vaccine groups.  In an attempt to do this, they will commission a verifiably independent research study that examines every imaginable aspect of current vaccine usage: how common vaccines react in combination with one another, an in-depth look at the safety of the chemicals involved, and other such focused components.  It will not change the minds of the anti-vaccine groups.

    In the future, new evidence will emerge regarding previous ostensibly-scientific studies that claimed to prove the lack of safety surrounding vaccines.  Results will have been tampered with, medical professionals will prove to have acted inappropriately in obtaining/recording the results of their research, or something else might happen entirely.  It will not change the minds of the anti-vaccine groups.

    In the future, a small but significant number of children will continue to be denied early vaccinations by their family members.  These children will go on to live a life with a greater risk of contracting any number of increasingly-rare diseases, and their quality of life will suffer for it.

    In the future, the status of this debate will likely continue to be the same as it is in the year 2010.  Considering the level of entrenchment on the part of both sides, it would take a truly shocking event to shift the debate one way or the other.  Obviously, there is no way of knowing if or when such an event might happen, but based on the events of the last twelve years, such a shift seems rather unlikely.



Getting rid of swine flu
"Getting rid of swine flu", by Stéfan

Last updated:  5/3/2010

 


Macalester College · 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105  USA · 651-696-6000
Comments and questions to guytona@gmail.com