Tag Archives: scientific thinking

Vaccinations, global warming, and the fork in the canning jar

Images: Global Warming Predictions Map, Robert Rohde, CC BY-SA 3.0 via commons.wikimedia.org and http://www.globalwarmingart.com/ (Business-as-usual projection, 3ºC average warming. Jars of mango chutney: Photo (and chutney) by Stephen Heard.

Do you cringe when someone asserts that vaccines cause autism, or that global warming isn’t happening? I do. I’m a scientist, and like most of my colleagues, I think of this not just as a 9-to-5 job but also as a way of thinking about the world around me. So, at least in my mental picture of myself, when I have a choice to make, I quantify and tot up advantages and disadvantages of each option* and come to a reasoned decision. When I don’t know something, I look for answers in the scientific literature. When it turns out that nobody knows that something, I have a set of approaches to fill the gap – experiments and models and statistics and the rest (and I can deploy this scientific toolkit in writing and cooking and doing laundry every bit as much as I can in matters more traditionally scientific). In short, I picture myself as a rational being – and this is probably why antivaxxers, climate-change denialists, and their irrational brethren drive me bananas.

But. Continue reading