In life, there are things that are true and there are things that are not true. In between those things are things that could be true and things that could not be true. To figure out where things gall on that spectrum, we have science.
Science is not an abstract concept that is hard to understand. When you look at how science works, it’s a pretty simple thing. You probably do quite a bit of science every day and don’t even know it. Science begins with a question, then a period of gathering of evidence, then the formulation of a theory on what the answer might be, a series of experiments to confirm that theory, and then a period of analysis to confirm those findings. Very rarely will we scientists accept something as true based on one study or one set of data.
Question: Do vaccines work? Answer: Yes. But that answer is not written blindly and with no thought behind it. I don’t write it with passion or because I have a personal stake in the answer. I write it because there is a wealth of evidence that shows that vaccines work, and they work wonderfully. It wasn’t until the introduction of the MMR vaccine in the 1960s that cases and deaths from measles truly started to come down. The introduction of other vaccines has done the same for some other very deadly diseases.
It’s human nature to cling on to something we believe in and refuse to let it go no matter what the evidence. Just look at all the abusive relationships where either party (or both) think that they can change themselves or change each other. Even with beatings and arrests, they cling to each other in the hopes that they’re wrong and that they truly will live happily ever after. Anti-vaccine activists do the same thing. They hope against all odds that they are correct, even when children die from vaccine-preventable diseases, even when mothers lose pregnancies to Rubella. They pray to God (or their version of a god) that they are correct and that all this science, all this research done by devoted and hard-working people, is wrong. They pray to be correct.
With something as serious as people’s lives, I like to go with the evidence. I throw away any and all personal beliefs and gut feelings and go with what works. It’s not only in my nature as a scientist, but it should be in my nature as a “thinking ape.” Our brains should be in the business of allowing us to think and allowing us to let go of gut instincts whenever we can.