Utilitarianism, Science, and Public Policy

One of the things that you hear over and over again from the anti-science crowd is that public policy should not “sacrifice” the life of one person for the good of the population. In the case of vaccines, many of the people who are convinced that vaccines cause autism will tell you that we should not “sacrifice” a child to autism even if it means preventing a whole lot of death and disability from vaccine-preventable diseases. Mind you, autism does not equal death for a child. But such is the mentality of the fanatic.

I wish that I could live in a fantasy world where there were no sacrifices for the good of the population, where no one in the absolute would have a reaction to a vaccine (no matter how mild). Unfortunately, such a world does not exist. However, there is this thing called science, and it prescribes the tools we can use to minimize the amount of suffering in humanity. With it, we’ve been able to cure diseases that used to kill people by the thousands (maybe millions) in centuries past. Sadly, there are those who have not benefited from the science and may have even been hurt by it. But such is life. Continue reading

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Contributors to society

If you don’t do so already, I highly suggest that you read the daily postings by Orac over at Respectful Insolence and by his “friend” over at Science Based Medicine. You’ll learn a lot about critical thinking and how it can be applied to the anti-science movement. Today’s post at RI was a rough one to read. It had to do with the death of a child with autism at the hands of his mother and of his caretaker. The long and short of it is that the mother and the caretaker of the child could not deal with his autism (and the behavior resulting from the autism) and so decided to kill him. His murder was appalling in itself, but the way they went about it was brutal.

Within the comments section of that blog post was this comment (with my emphases in bold):

“i agree with t’s comment.

i understand the opinion isn’t popular with people who have severely autistic/disabled children – but the only responses those people have provided to t’s logical post, are purely emotion-based.

lilady – i’m very sorry for your loss, but even you can’t provide any way that society benefited from pouring resources into keeping your severely disabled child alive for 28 years – only that you loved him and were happy to have him in *your* life for that time.

the money put into those services doesn’t magically appear – it comes from tax-paying citizens and their businesses, and it is a finite resource. the money spent on severely disabled people – who, without sugar-coating, are of absolutely no benefit to society as a whole – would be better spent improving education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc… for those who are able to put back into the system.”

Yes, that’s our “lilady” that he is addressing. And, if I may be “emotional” for a second, I would slap him across the face for talking to her that way. But I digress… Continue reading