This is a short post. I promise.
My training as an epidemiologist included biostatistics, and a lot of them. As one of my readers has pointed out, biostatistics is a bit of a dark art. You really need to be comfortable with it to get through it. Like a friend of ours is doing now, I had a bit of a rough time getting through statistics in college and biostatistics for my master’s degree. Epidemiologists use biostatistics to make sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the observations and associations you are making are not happening by chance.
People who deny things that don’t happen by chance and embrace things that do are a drag on us all. Of course, I’m talking about anti-vaccine activists. Who else?
Yet, statistics and physics dictates that there is a chance that anti-vaccine types are right, and that the rest of us who look at rational and reasonable explanations for the associations between vaccines and a host of diseases and conditions are wrong. However, it is a small chance. How small? Well, have you ever heard of the infinite monkey theorem?
The theorem states that the universe is so vast and infinite (or that time is infinite) that a monkey randomly hitting the keys of a typewriter will surely, eventually, write the complete works of Shakespeare. Coming up to this conclusion requires some math and some imagination, a bit of a thought experiment, if you will. Just imagine the monkey typing away furiously, forever. It will type out all of the words in the English language, then it will type them in order, and then that order will eventually be the works of Shakespeare.
The same can be said of anti-vaccine activists and their blogs and pamphlets, their meetings in the Cayman Islands and their books about “the truth”, and their accusations aimed at anyone who has even a small hint of an association with anyone who has a thread of a connection to anyone who lives in the vicinity of anyone who works for a pharmaceutical company and dares to vaccinate. They’re bound to get a fact right here and there, as long as they keep at it.
And, trust me, they’ll keep at it.