Crisis of faith

I’ve been away from the blog for a little bit because I had to take care of some stuff at home, at work, and everywhere in between. That, and I had a little bit of a crisis of faith. Not “Faith” faith, but just faith. I started questioning whether or not it was worthwhile to keep up this blog, keep working on “The Poxes”, and keep up my other extracurricular activities regarding combating anti-vaccine and anti-science forces.

After all, only two kinds of people show up on this blog: those who agree with science and those who vehemently oppose it. There are very few, if any, people who are in between visiting this blog. Alright, there are very few, if any, people who are in between telling me that they have been visiting this blog. I call them the “silent in-betweeners”.

These silent folk are those who have a hint that vaccines (and other scientific principles) work the way, but they are not quite convinced just yet. At the same time, they see rabid anti-science people as unreliable or willing to twist facts to fit their agendas. These silent folk probably don’t have any scientific training, or their science background is a basic level, one you find in a high school or entry-level college stuff. No hard sciences. Math is addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Math is not algebra or trigonometry. Biology is cells and “King Phillip Came Over For Great Spaghetti”. It’s not microbiology or virology. Organic chemistry is probably not something they think about when it comes to organic molecules.

Frankly, I don’t know why they stay silent. I want them to be vocal and ask us — the scientists — all about what troubles their minds. Why are vaccines safe, even when they’re not 100% safe? Why is organic mercury not the same as inorganic mercury, when both of them are mercury? Why does fluoride in the water not cause all those horrible things associated to it? Are you really pharma shills?

I mean, I try to answer these questions as much as I can, but I’m going on what I think the questions are and against what the anti-science forces have said. Because they — the anti-science — are surely filling someone’s mind with all sorts of [expletive] lies. And that irritates the hell out of me, because people who should know better, and many times do, are misinforming people out of things like chemotherapy for cancer, vaccines for vaccine-preventable diseases, and even antibiotics for infections.

Anyway, I’ll continue my sojourn for a couple of more days, maybe until the weekend. Maybe something will happen to make me understand what my purpose in all this is.

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25 thoughts on “Crisis of faith

  1. Please keep up your informative posts on these vital topics. The more information that is out there the better, so as to dilute the woo spouting out the quackos' propaganda sites.Now I have found you I will be a regular reader!

  2. Aww…Catherina, you "outed me". (I made a veiled reference to an "unknown" science blog's blog feed and now you have revealed how I got here).While you and Science Mom were busy blogging, Reuben and I had a meet-up on this blog…bashing the latest D-List celebrity about vaccines. Great fun!

  3. Did not need Orac to see your post, since you are on the blog feed on our blog. Yes, I know the "is it any use" thing, but then you see a post linked, or you get a great comment and you know you reach people. You do reach people. Don't stop!

  4. I read this blog regularly but haven't commented before (not that I can remember, anyway). Your posts are so useful (I've used the VAERS one over and over again too). You've provided me with so much ammo against silliness and wrong. I understand how you're feeling but, being the entirely selfish person that I am I hope you keep at it xx

  5. Keep going. This sort of blogging saves lives. You're performing a valuable service, and along with the others above me, I use your blog with others to blow out the dim flames of woo, before they burn up everything in. their path.

  6. Just because the in-betweeners are silent, that doesn't mean they aren't taking away something very useful from your writing. The ratio of total readers to commenters is always very high on just about any blog, it's just the nature of things that most people won't comment. But just because they didn't comment, that doesn't mean they weren't educated in the process.

  7. Directed here from Orac.You said:"To be honest, I shouldn't take it so personal when close friends mock my stance on global warming or vaccine policies."Ah, yes. I know this one. It could be really frustrating when someone you care for seems unconcerned or adverse to something which is really important to you.A saying in my country is "never discuss politics or religion with friends". It's wise, but once you remove all the polarizing or controversial topics, it doesn't left much to talk about…And sometimes people don't give you a choice.Um, I don't know if this applies in your case, but some "friends" which are baiting me on global warming or some other controversy are clearly in for the love of irking me. Real life trolls, if you prefer.That doesn't mean they are necessarily bad friends. But I learned to ignore them whenever they are fishing for a fight.From Grant:"particularly as noisome types are inclined to "jump in" and once they do other more timid souls feel reluctant to."Oh yes, that's completely true. Very recently, Phil Plait published an amazing patchwork picture of a glacier. On cue, some global warming denialist showed up and monopolized the comment section. Me being mean and shallow, I left a snarky comment before leaving, but I have no trouble imagining a timid passerby sticking to lurking instead of writing a small on-topic comment on, say, the technology behind the picture, or simply the beauty of the glacier.

  8. I read this post yesterday, but had no time to comment until now (a day and a half later). I will admit to fact that Orac's nod to you today reminded me to do this.I hope you do keep going – but regardless, thank you for all the clear, easy-to-read posts you've put out so far. Again, THANK YOU.Chemmomo

  9. @ Reuben: I'm a newbie who posts consistently on some of the other science blogs. I found those blogs because the science bloggers are a collegial group, who link to other blogs. Look at Kate B's post upthread to learn the benefit of reaching out to people who are uncertain about vaccines, cancer miracle "cures" and a whole slew of complementary "treatments".I had the benefit of speaking to parents who had concerns, or were fence sitters, directly when I worked as a public health nurse. During my tenure at a large suburban health department the Thimerisol controversy and Wakefield's research threatened the very core of public health. I know I had an impact on these concerned parents/fence sitters. Those parent contacts provided me with a huge sense of satisfaction and I miss them immensely since I retired seven years ago (sigh).That's my story Reuben. That's why I rely on all the great science bloggers to do the "heavy lifting" now, which allows me as a commenter to assist in small ways to be a part of the internet science community.

  10. Thank you all for your supportive comments. I've been burning the candle at both ends and feeling frustrated with the state of things at my job and in my town. There is a growing political and anti-science group at each place, respectively. I'm trying to fight them both, and it takes its toll on the mind.I am very humbled and inspired by your support, including Orac. You're all good people, so I hope to keep brining you a more rational point of view on some of the obvious and insidious bullshit in the world.To be honest, I shouldn't take it so personal when close friends mock my stance on global warming or vaccine policies.

  11. I think in writing for polarised topics, you have to keep reminding yourself that your real audience are the fence-sitting lurkers who will rarely speak up, particularly as noisome types are inclined to "jump in" and once they do other more timid souls feel reluctant to. (That's my guess anyway.)My blog gets something similar to what you experience. (Having said that, right now I have a rare exception of someone trying to defend an iridologist who did not refer on a patient with a large cancerous tumour on her skull; it eventually ate through her skull… it's a long and horrific story.)Regards: “Frankly, I don't know why they stay silent. I want them to be vocal and ask us — the scientists — all about what troubles their minds. Why are vaccines safe, even when they're not 100% safe? Why is organic mercury not the same as inorganic mercury, when both of them are mercury? Why does fluoride in the water not cause all those horrible things associated to it? Are you really pharma shills?”I wrote a blog suggesting that people do something similar: http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/2012/05/20/thoughts-on-and-for-those-trying-to-choose-to-vaccinate-or-not/(re the comments: PaulS is a sock-puppet of a previously banned troll, who I eventually banned again as he returned to, um, "form". Does this ring a bell?!)Just a thought – take a few days away writing about some other science, say some developments in epidemiology, public health or some outbreaks that you don't usual cover but you'd like to learn for your own interest. It'll still be relevant.(Way off-topic, but I'd love to read more about the Ebola story in Uganda – Tara Smith (Aetiology, scienceblogs) clearly hasn't time to keep writing about it.)

  12. @ Kate B.If this blog had a "fanned and faved" feature, I'd "click" it, for your excellent post.It is the vast number of "fence sitters" that science bloggers are trying to reach.

  13. I hope my story makes you feel a little better.I used to be one of those 'in-betweeners'.All my friends when I was growing up were hippies. They practiced alternative medicine, described themselves as pagans, were involved in environmental and animal rights protests. I had children very young, and got into the whole 'crunchy' attachment parenting thing big style.Even though I liked the idea of spirituality and respecting nature, and I felt angry with what I considered to be conventional thinking and authority; I could see problems with the anti-vax, naturopathic mindset. However hard I tried to understand things like spiritual healing and paganism, there was a little voice in the back of my head saying 'c'mon…this is stupid!'.When talking to my crunchy friends, I constantly questioned things – as I can't formulate an opinion until I know something stands up to scrutiny and criticism – but this didn't go down well with my them who I thought I was 'negative'. I started to get a feeling that what they believed in was as repressive and faith-based as the religious ideas they railed against.This was the point that I started reading blogs like yours. I had sympathy for alternative medicine and anti-vaccination ideas but was also able to see a lot of inconsistencies and factual errors in their arguments.It's a cliche, but reading blogs like yours really opened my eyes. All the reservations I'd had about vaccinations and conventional medicine were addressed, and the explanations really made sense to me. I learnt how to think critically, spot logical fallacies, research properly and formulate arguments.I have no scientific background; in fact, I really didn't get on with science and maths in school.But thanks to my involvement with the skeptical community, I've developed a passion for science. I've done lots of home study and have now started higher level qualifications in statistics, chemistry and biology.So please, keep it up.You really are making a difference.

  14. I enjoy your blog muchly. However, as another blogger I can fully understand the effort it takes and am not unfamiliar with the concept of "why am I doing this?". Thanks for what you do, and I support you no matter what.

  15. Even those of us on the "pro" side can learn a thing or two from what you write. I know I've learned a bit more about chemistry and biology from you.

  16. I concur with what Peter O stated. You do have an excellent blog.Why haven't you been posting lately on some of the blogs listed under "worth reading"…with your URL link? We have some newbies on some of those blogs and I have found some great blogs, including yours, through URL links.

  17. When we "the converted" read your blog we can learn of the nonsense that is out there and the arguments that rebut the nonsense. When we encounter in-betweeners who have heard an antiscience position, thanks to you, we can counter the antisci argument. Thanks for your past posts and thanks if you can keep going a little way further.

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