The extraordinary conceit of being an anti-vaxxer

Arrogant man

In the past week readers of this blog have been treated to a display of mindblowing egotism on the part of anti-vaxxers.

A comment thread on a post dating back to 2009 blew up (1800 comments and counting) when anti-vaxxers invaded, and it’s hard to imagine a crew of people displaying a greater level of stupidity and ignorance than those who have parachuted in to share their “wisdom” with the rest of us.

That led me to the following reflection:

When it comes to anti-vax advocacy, I understand the lack of basic knowledge of immunology, science and statistics.

I understand the impact of the Dunning Kruger effect whereby the incompetent are unable to recognize their own incompetence.

I even understand the outsize fear of corporate terrorism.

But what I don’t understand it the gargantuan conceit of people who imagine they know more than all the immunologists, pediatricians and public health officials in THE WORLD.

When it comes to the benefits of vaccination, there is rare unanimity across scientific disciplines and across national borders. Nearly every immunologist in every country promotes vaccination as life saving and safe; nearly every pediatrician in every country recommends vaccination as the best, most effective form of preventive care in existence; nearly every epidemiologist in every government and health organization views vaccination as one of the greatest public health victories of all time.

How conceited do you have to be to imagine that you, a lay antivaxxer, know better?

Very, very, very conceited.

Let’s review the history of laypeople making great scientific discoveries that overturn existing knowledge.

How many times has that happened in the 20th and 21st Centuries? Zero, zip, nada. As far as I know, there has never been even a single incidence of a layperson overturning widely accepted scientific consensus.

Let’s review the history of laypeople negating the discovery of a Nobel prize winner?

That’s never happened, either.

Let’s review the 200+ year history of anti-vaccine advocacy.

Anti-vaxxers have a perfect record! They’ve never been correct even once.

How arrogant do you have to be imagine that, despite the fact that you and your anti-vax colleagues have never been right about anything, suddenly you’re right about vaccine additives, or purported lack of benefits, or purported side effects.

Very, very arrogant indeed.

I’ve written before about the egotism of anti-vaxxers:

This is what is comes down to for most anti-vax parents: it’s a source of self-esteem for them. In their minds, they have “educated” themselves. How do they know they are “educated”? Because they’ve chosen to disregard experts (who appear to them as authority figures) in favor of quacks and charlatans, whom they admire for their own defiance of authority. The combination of self-education and defiance of authority is viewed by anti-vax parents as an empowering form of rugged individualism, marking out their own superiority from those pathetic “sheeple” who aren’t self-educated and who follow authority.

But it’s one thing to imagine that you’re smarter than other parents; it’s another thing entirely to imagine that you’re smarter than MDs and PhDs. The former is narcissistic but possible; the latter is so egotistical as to defy belief.

I have a pro-tip for anti-vaxxers:

I am a medical professional. I have a college degree in biochemistry, a medical degree, have completed 4 years of internship and residency and cared for thousands of patients. Yet when I don’t understand a medical recommendation outside my specialty, my first assumption is that it is my understanding that is faulty, not the recommendation. I search the primary scientific literature for the latest studies and scour the relevant textbooks and professional society guidelines for the rationale. Invariably my understanding of the subject is deepened. I learn something new.

That goes double for you.

When you don’t understand a medical recommendation, it’s YOUR understanding that’s faulty, not the medical recommendation.

To imagine otherwise is to display stupendous conceit.