How homebirth advocates do research on the internet

A little more than a year ago I wrote a piece entitled Attachment parenting causes autism. The purpose was to demonstrate the faulty reasoning skills of vaccine rejectionists and explain how the same reasons offered to “prove” that vaccines cause autism could also prove that attachment parenting causes autism.

The piece has been extremely popular and a lot of people understood the point, but I’ve been surprised by a completely unforeseen response: some people actually came away from it believing that attachment parenting could cause autism!

I’ve seen a variety of discussions on a number of different parenting message boards; in fact there is one going on at the moment. It usually takes only 10 back and forth posts on a thread for someone to come along and put everyone out of their misery by pointing out that it is a satire on the faulty reasoning of vaccine rejectionists. After which, predictably, the usual arguments are trotted out about how they “know” that vaccines cause autism.

What’s most interesting to me is the insight these discussions offer into the way that homebirth advocates (and vaccine rejectionists) “educate” themselves about health issues.

1. They are unbelievably gullible.

When I wrote the original piece I thought long and hard about an example that was so incredibly outrageous that readers would immediately understand that the piece is a satire. Who could possibly take seriously the claim that attachment parenting causes autism? Evidently, the same people who think homebirth is safe or vaccines cause autism.

2. They don’t actual read an article; they simply accept the title.

I am hopeful that the main reason that some readers don’t understand the piece is satire is because they don’t actually read or even effectively skim the article which clearly states:

Those who have read this far have probably figured out that this is a satire.

3. They don’t understand what they read, and make no effort to understand it.

The alternative, of course, is that there are people who read the beginning of the article, don’t finish it and are left with the impression that attachment parenting does cause autism. What’s remarkable is that it never occurs to them that they may have misunderstood and that they should read the rest of the article to find out.

4. They completely and utterly miss the point.

When it is eventually pointed out to them that the piece is a satire on what passes for “reasoning” among homebirth advocates and vaccine rejectionists, it never occurs to them that they have been duped precisely because they don’t understand logic. They fail to draw the obvious conclusion that if they can be tricked into believing that attachment parenting causes autism, they can be tricked into believing that vaccines cause autism.

These factors go a long way toward explaining how people are so easily fooled by the websites and publications of professional homebirth advocates and vaccine rejectionists. Those who think they can “educate” themselves on the internet are gullible; don’t actually read the books and websites, merely skim the titles; if they read the books and websites, they don’t make an effort to understand what is written; and, of course, they have no idea about even the most basic elements of logical thought.

I never meant to trick people into believing that attachment parenting causes autism. The fact that I could do so inadvertently tells us a great deal about how homebirth midwives, childbirth educators, professional homebirth advocates and professional vaccine rejectionists can convince their gullible readers of just about anything, no matter how ridiculous.