Red herrings have no place in discussion

Red herrings have no place in discussion

I’ve been shocked (well, disgusted) to read about the recent trend towards people being “anti-vaccination”.

A discussion thread came up in my Facebook newsfeed and as I was reading it I kept noticing that the arguments were full of red herrings. For example:
Person A: “Vaccines are toxic”
Person B: “What are these toxin you are talking about?”
Person A: “My mom, who is pretty pro vax won’t even vaccinate my 15 year old sister”
Person B: “Why won’t she vaccinate her?”
Person B: “You’re just a big pharma troll!”

I’d love it if there were a rule of nature that people had to stay on topic, and even better state their position before a discussion (e.g. if Person A’s position was “I choose not to vaccinate my child with the MMR vaccine because I heard that there is toxic doses of thimerosal in it” then Person B could calm their fears by mentioning that study was withdrawn due to forgery, thimerosal was tested and shown not to be toxic and also that the MMR vaccine no longer contains thimerosal).

One Reply to “Red herrings have no place in discussion”

  1. I carefully crafted a post so that I could understand specifically what exactly about vaccines they are against, I even showed them how to break it down into individual propositions, they shot me down and didn’t answer:

    You keep mentioning that vaccines are “toxic”. What specific toxins are you referring to? Which vaccines are they in? In what doses are they present in those vaccines? Would you accept that vaccines without these “toxins” are safe or are you just opposed to the idea of preventing disease by the method of priming the immune system?

    The only way of actually making any kind of progress in a discussion for or against vaccines is for people to clearly state their positions and what things they are contesting. This avoids the discussion devolving into red herrings, non sequiturs and ad hominem attacks.

    For example. Here is my position:
    1) Safety: My default assumption is that by the time vaccines reach the general public they have been heavily tested. Therefore until proven otherwise for any specific vaccine I will take the risk (however small) to gain the benefit.
    2) Mechanism: Vaccines work by using our amazingly adaptive naturally evolved immune system to build up immunity to threats before we are exposed to them. This works by giving people a dead/similar/weak strain of the disease-causing microorganism (agent) that the immune system can easily handle and become familiar with. The agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and “remember” it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters.
    3) Efficacy: (a) Vaccines do not guarantee complete protection from a disease. There are a variety of reasons for this, that is why herd immunity is important.
    3) Efficacy: (b) However, history, clinical trials and epidemiology shows that vaccination programs work. Since the early 1800s they have been one of the single greatest public health initiatives saving more lives than almost anything else (if not saving THE most lives).
    4) Herd Immunity: This exists and it is important. I will get a flu shot because I do not want to be a carrier that could infect my aging grandparents or newborn niece/nephew. As a fit adult I could handle the flu, the flu shot has a lower efficiency (due to its high mutation rate), however I choose to do this to help those around me.
    5) Vaccine Toxicity: I would happily accept that any specific vaccine may have ingredients which are toxic to humans at certain levels. However, first I need to see sufficient high quality evidence.
    6) Conspiracy: I think that it is both implausible and irrational to think that there is a government/Big Pharma conspiracy to kill/hurt its population nor a cover up.

    I am happy to discuss any one of these points or if you feel like I have missed some category of discussion that you would like me to state my position on so that we can discuss I would be happy to.

    Basically they told me that they they disagree with all of my points and don’t have to justify why.

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