Ideas are like a virus

Ideas are like a virus. They seem to come out of nowhere and spread like wildfire before something bring them under control, especially the bad ones. Take, for example, the idea that vaccines cause autism. We had heard before that vaccines could cause this or that, but it wasn’t until something sent the idea over the critical threshold and into the minds of anyone willing to accept the idea. Was it Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’s sham paper-not-a-study in 98? Was it Jenny McCarthy’s entrance into the vaccines-cause-autism debate? Who knows for sure, but I do know that the idea that vaccines caused autism acted very much like a virus and only a deep understanding of biology and virology/immunology (or just blind trust in the medical establishment) were necessary to counteract the effects.

Still, enough people have been infected with that idea to really cause us some problems. The Wakefields and McCarthys of the world are mere vectors for this contagion, as are others. Some are willing vectors who have been taken over by the idea to such a degree that they are willing to say or do anything to spread the pathogen to the four corners of this round planet. Others are ignorant and perhaps even unwilling participants in this plot to take over the world by the idea that vaccines are evil.

From my epidemiological analysis (on the back of a piece of paper while sitting under a shade and drinking a daiquiri), I’ve come to conclude that the idea that vaccines are evil seems to strike a certain group within the general population and that some people seem to be naturally immune to it. Then there are others who only get infected a little bit, and their disease seems to be sub-clinical. These are the people who are okay with some vaccines but not others, or who will vaccinate under protest, many times praying to their god(s) that nothing bad happens.

Yet all ideas are like viruses, and there are good ideas out there. It wasn’t until the idea that washing your hands hit its critical point that gastrointestinal diseases associated with handling food came under control. The spread of the idea that germs could be killed by heat correlates very, very well with the increase in overall survival of many populations around the world. And the idea that board-certified, licensed healthcare providers know just a little bit more than celebrities has probably prevented quite the number of deaths.

I’m hopeful about the idea that vaccines are safe becoming permanently predominant over the idea that vaccines are not safe. Certainly, premature babies and old folks would benefit greatly from the former and by the eradication of the latter. But I’m sure that there will always be some natural host for anti-vaccine ideas, someone out there in the wild that will come into contact with our collective consciousness from time to time and trigger epidemics of ideas that will, in turn, trigger epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases.

So we must keep ourselves healthy and ready to repel such bad ideas with a strict diet of science and healthy skepticism. We must eat and drink plenty of knowledge and practice daily critical confirmation of the things we are taught by looking at all the evidence, especially the evidence coming from people and institutions that know what they’re doing, that have been accredited by reputable organisations to do what they do.

Lastly, when someone spills the bad virus all over you, wash it off with some facts and bathe it in reason. And wash your hands as well.

Ideas have consequences

Tell any reasonable person out there that there are some ideas that should be controlled, and they will likely have some sort of an opposing reaction to your statement. Especially here in the West, we detest the idea of controlling who says what and where. There is the cliché of not yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, of course. But, for pretty much other ideas and forms of speech, we very much like it when the government stays out of our way. I certainly would not like it if they shut down this blog.

But being free from government interference does not mean that you are free from the consequences of your thoughts and actions. For example, the idea that a child is “lost” or “dead” due to autism can and has had serious consequences. When a mother and a caretaker viciously murdered an autistic boy, they were defended by certain individuals to the point where the murder was whitewashed. They tried to reason that the mother and the caretaker had no choice but to, in a sense, put the boy out of his misery. Only that, it wasn’t the boy that was in misery, per se. It was the mother and caretaker. They couldn’t take the hand that they were dealt and they committed a most brutal act of savagery. Who knows if they thought their actions were justified because, hey, the autistic boy was already “good as dead”.

Today I read yet another story where someone was fed an idea and they acted on it:

“An Oregon mom has been accused of beating her 4-year-old son until his intestines ripped in two places — just because she thought he was gay.

Prosecutors say Jessica Dutro, 25, repeatedly subjected three of her children to traumatic beatings at the Washington County homeless shelter where they lived. But little Zachary Dutro-Boggess bore the brunt of his mom’s volatile temper, Oregon Live reports.

She thought her 4 year-old was gay, so she killed him? Yes, and she left plenty of evidence:

“In a Facebook message that is now being used as evidence against her, Dutro reportedly told her 24-year-old boyfriend Brian Canady that Zachary had made her mad. The boy was “facing the wall” as punishment.

Using a slur, Dutro wrote that her son was going to be gay.

“He walks and talks like it. Ugh,” the mom wrote.”

Now, where would someone get an idea like that? An idea that states that a child of that age could display homosexual tendencies? An idea that states that a homosexual person is less of a human being than the rest of us and, thus, killing them is justified?

Well, unfortunately for us as a society, those ideas are out there, and they’re loud and well-propagated. James Dobson, a so-called “Christian”, has pushed the idea that children can display homosexual tendencies at a young age:

“In one study of sixty effeminate boys aged four to eleven, 98 percent of them engaged in cross-dressing, and 83 percent said they wished they had been born a girl.
The fact is, there is a high correlation between feminine behavior in boyhood and adult homosexuality. There are telltale signs of discomfort with . . . boys and deep-seated and disturbing feelings that they [are] different and somehow inferior. And yet parents often miss the warning signs and wait too long to seek help for their children. One reason for this is that they are not being told the truth about their children’s gender confusion, and they have no idea what to do about it.

Perhaps you are concerned about your child and his or her “sexual development.” Maybe your son or daughter is saying things like, “I must be gay,” or “I’m bisexual.” You’ve found same-sex porn in his room or evidence that he has accessed it on the Internet. You’ve found intimate journal entries about another girl in her diary. The most important message I can offer to you is that there is no such thing as a “gay child” or a “gay teen.” [But] left untreated, studies show these boys have a 75 percent chance of becoming homosexual or bisexual.”

Ah, my bad. There is no such thing as a “gay child” in this man’s understanding, but children who act “that way” have a high chance of being homosexual or bisexual when they grow up. Maybe the mother in question feared for her child’s future? Because, you know, being gay is a horrible, horrible thing:

These kids often recognize very early in life that they are “different” from other boys. They may cry easily, be less athletic, have an artistic temperament and dislike the roughhousing that their friends enjoy. Some of them prefer the company of girls, and they may walk, talk, dress and even “think” effeminately. This, of course, brings rejection and ridicule from the “real boys,” who tease them unmercifully and call them “queer,” “fag,” and “gay.” Even when parents are aware of the situation, they typically have no idea how to help. By the time the adolescent hormones kick in during early adolescence, a full-blown gender-identity crisis threatens to overwhelm the teenager. This is what Mark was experiencing when he wrote. And it illustrates why even boys with normal heterosexual tendencies are often terrified that they will somehow “turn gay.””

Could they be terrified because people like Dobson (and his “Focus on the Family” group) have made homosexuality sound like a curse, a disease? Could it be because there are others who say things like:

I’m guessing the majority of American parents don’t want their little boys turning into sodomites, at this point. if you were to interview, stick a microphone in front of most parents dropping their kids off at the average K-6 school in Colorado where they’re sporting their GLSEN signs everywhere, but if you just interview them and you ask them: “Is your vision for this little 6-year-old boy, 8-year-old boy, 9-year-old, 10-year-old boy that he turn into a sodomite?” My guess is that 60 to 70 percent of them would say, “that would be my worst nightmare.””

That would be their worst nightmare? Not that their child may be dragged away and beaten to a pulp in a field because of something they cannot control? If that’s the case, then I don’t want to live in that society.

Thankfully, we don’t live in that society much anymore. People in the United States are coming around and accepting of people who are not completely heterosexual. Unfortunately, homophobia is on the rise in other parts of the world like Russia and in some countries in the African continent. And for what? What is the fear? That we’ll all turn gay?

We’re all a little gay:

I hope that Pedro (not her real name) and I are the kinds of parents who would not be “shocked and depressed” if one of our children turned out to be gay, because real parents don’t do that. Real parents make the home the safest place for their children, a place where their children can be anything and anyone and not have to fear the big bad world out there. It’s already a scary world as it is.