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The Anti-Vax Anecdote (continued)

I have posted before about the dangers of accepting an anti-vax anecdote at face value. Anti-vaxxers will lie about anything, from how to get around state laws, to how to avoid telling doctors their children are unvaccinated. Even when children are in the hospital, staunchly anti-vax parents will lie to doctors, delaying treatment and degrading patient care.

The whopper of a lie I’m sharing today comes from Things Anti-Vaxxer’s Say, one of my favorite facebook pages.

This woman said she taught at a specific middle school.

teacher caught in a lie 1

She claims she converted all but one of her students to be anti-vax, and laughs while she does it. As a science-minded person, this is horrifying to me. She may permanently damage the basic understanding of science for those children.

How did she manage to get 7th graders to completely turn on reputable research with the common trope, “It’s biased!”

Did she not explain to them how to identify a reputable source?

Did she prime them with her own opinion first?

So what do you do when you see something that seems horrifying, as well as inappropriate? (Teachers should not be pushing pseudoscience in schools.)

One brave science-minded person contacted the school for more information.

 

teacher caught in a lie
Pink is the anti-vaxxer’s name. Red is the school’s name. Gold is the school administrator posting. Green is our pro-science hero.

 

So what do we have here? As it turns out, our anti-vax “teacher” was never a teacher at this school. She was employed, before being fired on very poor terms.

This entire story was a lie.

One thing I’ve learned about anti-vaxxers is that you can’t win when you’re arguing against a lie. In this case, there was nothing you could have said to change any minds: why should anyone believe you when you say this seems crazy?

Your best bet is to take one of two approaches:

  1. Argue the facts included in the lie. In this case, that would mean arguing that the government funding does not bias a study. Alternatively, you could argue that scientists should have been consulted in teaching children to research.
  2. Do what you can to fact check. This is what our pro-vax hero did. They went back to the school to see what the school thought of a teacher converting a group of kids. Now they have proof the “teacher” was lying.

Here is another example of a conversation I joined today.

autistic adults
Anti-vaxxers routinely say that autism is an epidemic, and cite the lack of autistic adults. Of course, we know autism is not an epidemic, and that there are many autistic adults. But one commenter says he got autism from vaccines, so he won’t vaccinate his children. How do you respond to that?

This gem comes from Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes, another great facebook page. Our options are to either prove that he is not autistic and thus lying, or we can disprove the facts involved in his lie, that vaccines gave him autism.

In this case, it is much easier to argue the facts of his lie. We know that vaccines don’t cause autism. We have hundreds of studies to prove it. So post your list of studies and prove that vaccines do not increase the risk of autism.

When fighting the anti-vax movement, it isn’t just knowing which battles to fight, it is knowing how to fight them.

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