Measles Are the New Black

February 3, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Everything is coming up measles! Measles are busting out all over! Measles are the new black! Point of Inquiry this week has the one and only Paul Offit to talk about the measles crisis and the anti-vax movement that fanned its flames. 

So, you’re looking at the field of potential 2016 presidential candidates, and you think, well the first criteria should be that the person I support is not, like, entirely wrong about something as serious and indeed obvious as the necessity of vaccines. And then you see, wow, Chris Christie is hedging on vaccines, and we learn that in 2009 he said he “stands with” anti-vax parents afraid that vaccines cause autism. And then you lookie over here, and here’s Rand Paul — physician, mind you — saying he’s “heard” that vaccines cause “mental disorders.” Wow! 

So you think, well, at least the current crop of leaders is on board with reality. Obama was very clear on this just the other day. But then the wavy lines of a flashback swirl about you, and you find yourself in the magic era of 2008, via Brendan Nyhan:

“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”

–Barack Obama, Pennsylvania Rally, April 21, 2008.

“It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise among children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

–John McCain, Texas town hall meeting, February 29, 2008. 

Well at least Hillary Clinton is fully on board! She just tweeted:

The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest

At least that’s settled. <listens to imaginary earpiece> What’s that? Hold on. I’m being told we have some additional information…

Ah. Here’s then-Senator Clinton in 2008:

I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines. 

Oh forget it. 

Ann Bauer at Slate urges a little sympathy for the vaccine-denying parents who are really just scared:

Sure, the autism-vaccine link has been debunked now. But as recently as when my son went through a nightmarish lost year of bad meds, catatonia, seizures, and anger, I was waking up at night, breathless, remembering the needle going into his arm and wondering if I’d just said “No,” could I have prevented it all? Anti-vax may sound insane to you. But damn, it was convincing then.

But still, this New Yorker cartoon is pretty dead-on funny. 

CFI joins Amnesty International and other groups urging the Saudis to free Waleed Abu al-Khair and Raif Badawi. Raif’s wife Ensaf Haidar says, “Raif’s health condition is bad and it’s getting worse and worse.” Meanwhile, the co-founder of Badawi’s website, Souad al-Shammari, is released.

The bravest filmmakers in history? These Syrians are bringing a powerful and dangerous strategy to bear in fight against the Islamic State: they’re making fun of them. Of course retaliations have been threatened.

David Brooks has a whoooole list of things secularists “have to” do in order to live the kind of moral lives we aspire to. I guess we have to because he says so? I mean, he does write for the New York Times. Anyway, he says:

An age of mass secularization is an age in which millions of people have put unprecedented moral burdens upon themselves. People who don’t know how to take up these burdens don’t turn bad, but they drift. They suffer from a loss of meaning and an unconscious boredom with their own lives. 

Our Office of Public Policy sends out its monthly Advocacy Update. It was a busy January. 

Iceland is going to build its first temple for Norse gods in 1000 years. Thor is the new black!  

Rep. Jim Himes introduces a Darwin Day resolution to the House. 

Val Kilmer is in the hospital, and relying on “Christian Science practitioners” to help him. 

Bjorn Lomborg, straddling the
line between science-denial and reality, cautions against climate change “alarmism” in, yes, the Wall Street Journal.

We will indeed be the pirate twins again, as NASA announces it will send a probe to Europa

Minnesota Public Radio apologizes for blasphemy. Wait, what? 

The Communist Party in China’s Zhejiang Province declares that no one who is a religious believer can be a party member. There’s a Groucho joke there somewhere.   

When it comes to predicting the Superbowl’s outcome, actual sportswriters did a better job than psychics. Meaning, I guess, that the sportswriters are the psychics and the psychics are…not?

Quote of the Day

Tania Lombrozo has an interesting short post on “the pseudoscience of self”:

When it comes to our personal narratives about how we came to be the people we are today, we never get a control group. And without a control group, we should be wary of making causal claims — the kinds of claims that so often form the basis for those narratives and for our sense of self.


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Original image by Shutterstock

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

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