Motivation Check

Thirty minutes ago, CNN Breaking News released the following headline.

A now-retracted UK study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an “elaborate fraud,” a medical journal reports.

It’s hard to think of an issue that is not more emotional than autism. It involves children and parental responsibility. Love, guilt, shame, anger, and fear all played a role in a few parents and doctors taking 2 co-occurring events–the appearance of autism and vaccination–and running the notion past science before science had time to react. The the return to truth has now been much more painful than necessary due to the emotions of so many who hold to this myth. []

We can say that this emotional reaction is very human. But this does not mean the emotions validate the belief. Emotions may serve us well to provide an initial unreasoned but useful response when a reasoned response would take too long. However, any intuition we have normally needs to be passed through the filter of science for it to be taken seriously. Mere correlation is not causation, and the added factor of fear does not make it so, not even if the fear is a mother’s.

No one is exempt from falling prey to their emotions. I happen to be atheistic in respect to the god of the bible. Theists often accuse me of having left christianity out of an emotional desire to break away from the restraints christianity imposes. It is a healthy reminder for me to regularly question my motivations.

Keep in mind that wrong motivations do not invalidate the position, but they do often lead to an incorrect disposition towards that position such as being more confident than is warranted. For this reason, I carefully present a nuanced description of my atheism.

The Abrahamic god is illogical, a personal god improbable, and an Einsteinian god not certain.

I have less certainty about the absence of an Einsteinian god than I do a personal god, and I have to revisit my motivation and reasons behind my position regularly. It is like holding onto a ball with your palm down rather than up; if you release the ball, it will fall away from your hand. Beliefs ought to be held in such a way. And take your hand out of the cage of the emotional monkey, and put it into the cage of the rational monkey, and let him try to wrench your beliefs from you with proper evidence and argumentation.

There is one concept that we should not relinquish if we want to maintain an approximation to truth; our degree of certainty should correspond to the degree of evidence. If there is insufficient evidence, say “I don’t know.” If the evidence leans in a particular direction, say “I tend to believe…” Unreasoned certainty has not served humanity very well. Myths and stories that have been generated and propagated through emotions have been the cause of far too many conflicts.

So, let’s regularly revisit our motivations from time to time. Remove the pull of emotions, reassess the arguments, and follow those arguments wherever they may lead, even if that may be somewhere unpleasant. I’ve found that unpleasant soil often yields the sweetest fruit.


9 thoughts on “Motivation Check

  1. Paul says:

    I think you have a perfectly good argument. I’ve done a little research on these new “Flu Vaccines”, however, and I think there might be an ulterior motive behind this new campaign against vaccines causing autism. If people think that vaccines are going to cause Autism, they wont want to give them to their kids. Publications that support such a viewpoint are creating bad PR for the companies that make these vaccines. What matters most to vaccine makers and people involved in the sale of these vaccines is that people think of their product in a positive light. So what do they do? They pay for a massive campaign smearing people that say vaccines cause autism, thereby causing a large group of people to think neutral or positive thoughts about them.
    I have done a tiny bit of research on these Flu vaccines. It didn’t take me a long time to find out that these products aren’t entirely safe. One of the most popular ones is Fluzone. The one that Kmart sells is a double dose vaccine. The vaccine seems fine until you read the ingredients. One ingredient, “thimerosal”, actually contains Organic Mercury! This ingredient is a preservative in Fluzone. Why would anyone want to PAY for something that is HARMFUL to them? They wouldn’t, but PR paid for by these companies are causing people to overlook such protective measures as looking at the ingredients. The vaccine business is a BUSINESS and businesses only look out for one thing: their own interests.

  2. Paul says: Theres plenty of evidence supporting both sides. This link has some Drs. talking about it. I don’t completely trust this source.

    The Negative health effects of Mercury are well documented.

    This is along the same lines as water fluoridation. For nearly 70 years it has been hailed as one of the greatest acheivements in modern medical history. Just recently, however, the US government has recommended reducing the amount that they put in water because the current level is NOT SAFE! What took them so long to figure that out? Conflict of interest.

    I’ll tell you! They don’t want people to know that they have been getting their fluoride from China. They also don’t want you to know that it is a poison on the level with lead. Please put vitamins in our water, not poison. It is helpful to know the history of such practices.

    Seeing some of these sites makes me realize why I stopped paying attention to this stuff. Its a defense mechanism to search out tragedies.

    This girl got “Dystonia”

    Vaccinations are just like ANYTHING else. Somebody is going to be allergic to it.

    • Paul,

      You’re making a major blunder when you point to wikipedia’s article on mercury poisoning without telling us how much mercury is toxic and how much mercury is found in vaccinations.

      Here’s a wikipedia article on manganese, which is both essential to human physiological processes, yet toxic in high concentrations.

      This is a dishonest removal of semantic resolution I see far too often among the fear-mongering conspiracy theorists. Even salt is toxic at a certain concentration. So is water. The proper 1st question is how much of what kind of mercury is in vaccinations, and to what degree is this level and kind toxic? We then assess whether the damaged caused by vaccinations is less than the lives lost to the diseases those vaccinations prevent. This is the full semantic resolution that merely pointing to mercury toxicity removes. Anyone who pixelizes the actual resolution of the problem does not deserve a hearing.

  3. Paul says:

    Ok, but is the risk worth the benefit? Even the makers of the flu vaccines say that people that take the flu vaccine have a 50 percent chance of getting the flu that year!

  4. Paul says:

    I am talking about one specific Flu Vaccine. You know, I don’t know how much mercury is good for me, but I know that my mom told me not to touch the stuff if a thermometer broke.

    Phil, do you get the flu shot? Are you saying that you would PAY for a FLU SHOT? I’m not dogging people that take vaccines. I love the fact that I had vaccines as a kid. I wouldn’t want tetanus. I’m just saying that not all vaccines are created equal. And this flu shot is like the Mariah Carey of Vaccines. It’s what Adderall is to ADHD!

    What happened to great things like natural selection and survival of the fittest?!

    Look. You are right in saying that I’m a conspiracy theorist. But what is a conspiracy theorist? Someone that theorizes that people make conspiracies. If you don’t think so, then you believe in god…. LOL

  5. Paul says:

    After reviewing my own, obviously banal, comment, I have decided to concede your point, humbly bow out of this argument, and leave you to your own devices in your internet “Forum”.

    I would like to refer you to my first sentence in response to this post.

  6. Paul says:

    One sentence I forgot to leave out of my first comment was “However, I’d like to present this case as a tangent.”

    • The interesting thing is, I haven’t had a shot in 25 years. I rarely take medicine. I believe that the body can take care of itself for the most part. But when there is good evidence that some particular medicinal whatever works, I have to concede that and would be irrational not to be a participant.

      If I were in a situation to vaccinate children, I would go over the research again, then probably follow that the majority opinion of the medical profession believed since the medical profession has a strong (though not perfect) track record of getting it right.

      The thing I don’t like, however, is when emotionally salient anecdotal evidence is proffered against the statistical evidence of scientific studies. It removes the objectivity from the process, the very objectivity that has made science successful.

      Thanks for your comments, Paul.

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