This round of "vaccine debate" is more interesting to me.  Just one informational comment on Michael last intervention about "liberals" in Marin and Sonoma counties.  

I do not known about Marin County--but I think I might have a clue about resistance to vaccines in Sonoma County where I have lived since August 2011.  Most of the people I have met--many old timers--are New Age type folks. They vote Democratic. The do not belong to an organized religion. They are also heavily into "buy local" and against big corporations.  But they are heavily into "alternative realities" and conspiracy theories.  

Just to give two examples. Someone I befriended who is an older woman, a painter and poet with strong sense of belonging to the Native American culture, explained to me that my feeling of being short of time is based on the "reality" of time becoming more scarce.  She pulled me to a side to tell me that time is made by trees in the forests and as humans have been cutting the forests time is becoming more scarce for everybody, not just for me (she cited a few other people who recently complained to her for being short of time).  She is totally sane and in fact one of the elder people of the town I live nearby as people go to her for advice on even political matters.  She just has fantastical views (or as she likes to put it magical views) of reality.  

My conga teacher who is in his 50s told me one day that his current interest in percussion instruments is because of the "dimension of reality" he live on now. He affirmed that in his next life when he lives in another dimension of reality he will have other interests. He is against vaccinations (he is a good conga teacher though). 

These mind magical mind sets in Sonoma County make it easy to believe that vaccines are bad for us.  I do not think science-based rational argument will make a lot of impact among this group--not because they are "liberals" but because they believe in a magical existence and because they dislike corporate capitalism (but not necessary capitalism). 

Thank you all for your contributions. 


On Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 6:03 PM, Michael H Goldhaber <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Hi Sigrid et al.,

I was struck by the fact that parents with advanced degrees are prominent among vaccine refusers, and I wonder why the correlation. In California, the largest group of non-vaccinators appears to be in Orange County a center of libertarianism, but other centers are the much more liberal counties of Marin and Sonoma.  I agree that more science education would be unlikely to change this. In addition to trying to explain herd immunity, perhaps better reporting of the dire consequences of various childhood diseases before vaccinations existed would help. 

Also, more nuanced  consideration of government (or state power)   in capitalist societies seems important.  Government does lots of bad things,  some closely tied to  aiding capitalism, some more distant, such as nuclear weapons upgrading. But government also does act in the public interest at times, such as sometimes offering  health insurance, sponsoring health related-research and so on. Promoting of vaccines is an example, I think. 

Liberating science from capitalism is a longterm goal, though the question remains not only how but to what? And how that would change science, which began with and grew up under capitalism, remains an open question. Meanwhile, though, we do need to support acceptance of vaccination, the need to combat global warming and many other science-based projects. 



On Jan 26, 2015, at 3:28 AM, Sigrid Schmalzer <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hello. I am pro-vaccine for all the reasons that Michael and others have been emphasizing. However, I have many friends who do not vaccinate. I cannot consider them "fools" and I know them to be political allies on virtually every other issue. Their opposition to vaccines comes from the same kind of critical concern about capitalism, state power, etc. that leads them to embrace environmentalist, anti-racist, and other important social movements.

So, assuming Michael, Carol, Herb, and many others including myself on this list are right about vaccines, what has gone wrong? Two possibilities occur to me. One is that their understanding of science is poor. That's definitely part of it, but honestly I'm not sure that more science education would change things that much. It's not easy even for people with good college-level science to sort through the scientific arguments on this and many other issues. Arguments like the ones that Mitchel is raising can sound like good, rational arguments, especially if we don't know whose data to trust. At the end of the day, a lot of what people know about science is based on whom they trust (see Shapin's A Social History of Truth for a nice class-based analysis of this).

I think focusing more attention on the political analysis might be a better angle to take. Herd immunity, for example, has a scientific aspect that we should be hammering away at, but it also has a political aspect. We should be asking how progressive movements (especially around food and medicine) have taken on highly individualist values (protecting "my" family) that are in fact not in concert with the deeper social values that most of these folks (at least the people I know) hold dear. And, having succeeded in encouraging people to be skeptical about the power structures that push science in anti-social directions, we should work to refine that analysis to capture more of the nuances so that people don't end up rejecting science that is in fact working for people despite the fact that it's embedded in capitalist structures.

And of course we should always be keeping our sights on capitalism. People are right to suspect that medical knowledge is rigged in favor of power holders and that it fails to serve women, poor people, people of color, people in the global south, etc. equally. If we could liberate science from capitalism, we would be far better able to encourage people to place their trust in vaccines and other important life-saving technologies.

The vaccine debate is one of the most obvious issues today where the rubber meets the road for Science for the People, since we've got people questioning authority (which we want) but doing it in a way that many of us think is counter-productive and even hazardous. It's an opportunity for us to hone the analysis... and given all the other equally important, scary issues out there, it's not surprising that it should be such a frustrating high-stakes problem.


Sigrid Schmalzer
Associate Professor, History Department
Director, Social Thought & Political Economy Program
UMass Amherst
On 1/25/2015 5:27 PM, Michael H Goldhaber wrote:
Vaccines are anti-capitalist, on the whole. Any self-interested drug company or hospital corporation far prefers diseases that can be managed at great expense but not cured and certainly not prevented. Public health workers, overwhelmingly pro-vaccines, are mostly on the left for obvious reasons.  Parents who decide their child shouldn't be vaccinated are hardly good examples of the socially concerned.



Sent from my iPhone

On Jan 25, 2015, at 10:28 AM, Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Well, all your arguments have not convinced me, because there is little real science in them. You argue hyperbolically.

I've tried to point out any number of issues, which you have not addressed, including serious problems with the composition of the vaccines themselves. You ignore all of that, as though it's inconsequential.

You say: "Here's a question for you: If a baby too young to be vaccinated dies of the measles because the unvaccinated destroyed the herd immunity, will you take any responsibility? After all, you've been repeating this sort of remark re vaccines for years, presumably with some effect on the badly educated."

OK, here's one right back at you: "If a baby IS vaccinated and dies because of an adverse effect (or becomes lifetime disabled), will you take any responsibility? After all, you’ve been repeating this sort of remark re vaccines for years, presumably with some effect on the badly educated."

If I conflated your remarks with Herb's, sorry 'bout that. I don't remember seeing any remarks by Herb, except his sending of the Washington Post story.

Here's on radio show to listen to and comment upon with David Crowe, Suzanne Humphries MD (anti-vax) and Jennifer Raff (pro vax).
Both at:

By the way, it might interest you to know that I am not against vaccines, per se. I understand the scientific principles underlying them. (We can argue over whether those principles are aided or thwarted by injection of all sorts of chemicals directly into the bloodstream, the marketing, the orchestrated hysteria, the failure to deal with contamination, and so-called "environmental" causes, and so forth.) What I have seen here, however, is all the worst capitalist propaganda for mandatory injection of little children -- I think they're up over 48 different vaccines in the infant's first few months, before their immune systems are even half-way developed -- which betrays the real science, in the name of profits. And you fall for it every time. You're unable to bring your critique of capitalism into a critique of science, and science as practiced. Repeatedly. Amazing.


At 01:06 PM 1/25/2015, you wrote:
Mitchel, it's interesting that you don't bother to reply to my question about taking responsibility. Don't you even read what you reply to?

You obviously don't  even have the time or interest to distinguish my remarks from Herb's. Nor apparently the willingness to follow major trends on the news. Currently, there's a substantial measles outbreak that has been spread from Disneyland. As I said, a large majority of the children infected were unvaccinated. Orange County, where Disneyland is, is a center of the anti- vaccination movement.

Mitchel, instead of reading the news or looking up even approximately authoritative medical sources, relies on an acquaintance who strings together a list of outlandish claims. In fact, measles is most dangerous to children. It results in fatalities quite commonly, as I mentioned. In this country, those have been ended by the vaccine.

We've had numerous discussions over the years on this list relating to vaccination in general, and the unreliability of arguments against them. Did Mitchel ever alter his general position as a result? I think not. He just moves on to new outlandish arguments rather than ever conceding on anything. This method in general, as I said resembles the methods used by deniers of other well-established knowledge.

Mitchel, I do know you're not a Holocaust denier and assumed you're not a climate-change denier, which is exactly why I used those examples to point out the flawed way you argue, hoping to shock you into reconsidering. Let me reiterate: you argue just like them!!!

Of course, it's foolish of me to believe Mitchel will change his ways, or even consider the gist of any reply with enough care to come close to doing so. So henceforth I'll refrain from replying to him unless, amazingly, I do note such a change.


On Jan 25, 2015, at 7:52 AM, [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Without getting into the other items being discussed, I want to respond to one issue Mitchell raises.

He says:
"Do you really think that graph from the Washington Post proves anything at all other than there are more cases of measles this year than in years past? It shows a sudden leap, actually, and not the gradual or even exponential leaps from year to year that one would expect in claiming a "trend"."

In infectious diseases like measles, there is often a pattern of sudden outbreaks where a virus gets into a pool of susceptibles and runs through them rapidly.  This can easily produce leaps rather than gradual increases.

(Mitchell may or may not be acknowledging this in his/your rather cryptic phrase about "even exponential leaps" which has many, many possible meanings.)


-----Original Message-----
From: Mitchel Cohen < [log in to unmask]>
To: SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE < [log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sun, Jan 25, 2015 8:13 am
Subject: Re: The devastating impact of vaccine deniers, in one measles chart from The Washington Post

Let's go through this slowly.

1) If you can't convince me, you should ask yourself "why not?", instead of calling folks like me "holocaust denyers" and "climate change denyers" -- neither of which category is applicable, and you know it.

So you should also ask yourself why you need to disparage people in that way, even when you know it not to be true.

2) Do you really think that graph from the Washington Post proves anything at all other than there are more cases of measles this year than in years past? It shows a sudden leap, actually, and not the gradual or even exponential leaps from year to year that one would expect in claiming a "trend".

So why do you use such a graph to bolster your claims? Don't you see how that makes your arguments suspect, untrustworthy, and even frivolous?

I will look at the CDC data a little bit later, to give you time to consider these.


At 03:51 AM 1/25/2015, you wrote:

It’s not only insulting but indication of a poor memory for you to suggest I haven’t been listening to and rebutting the fools as well as you on this subject for years.

I have in fact heard a great deal from the fools over the years. They will not listen to reason. Measles vaccine is highly effective, with rare, far-from-fatal side effects. On the other hand, measles (the disease, not the vaccine) kills one in a thousand, and does serious permanent damage to several more.

With optional vaccination, herd immunity is lost. Those who have an immuno-compromised status and can’t be vaccinated are therefore in far more danger. In the current outbreak, almost all the victims are apparently un-vaccinated. It is not part of a cycle. It goes along with the rise in whooping cough. Nothing worrisome is in the vaccines.

The reasoning you indicate, Mitchel, by your list of questions, resembles that of deniers of well established truths of all sorts, from climate-change deniers to Holocaust deniers and many others. Ignoring that there is well-known and readily available evidence that deals with most of their questions, as with yours, they all adopt an unwarranted  attitude of ignorance and mistrust of all painstakingly verified studies and careful analysis. Another similarity is each time new evidence is presented against them they act as if nothing has ever been argued or rebutted before.

Why you choose to take the side of such people the kind of questions you seemingly reflexively ask here I don’t know. It doesn’t redound to your credit.

Here’s a question for you: If a baby too young to be vaccinated dies of the measles because the unvaccinated destroyed the herd immunity, will you take any responsibility? After all, you’ve been repeating this sort of remark re vaccines for years, presumably with some effect on the badly educated.


On Jan 24, 2015, at 5:00 PM, Mitchel Cohen < [log in to unmask]> wrote:

At 06:25 PM 1/24/2015, you wrote:
According to a program on KQED yesterday, one of the groups with a large number of vaccine refusers are holders of advanced degrees. What is the process of educating fools?

First step is to listen to what those so-called "fools" are saying, and see if you can successfully rebutt their concerns and understand them even if you disagree.

There are actually several issues rolled into one:

1) Mandatory vs. Optional vaccination

2) What else is in the vaccines?

3) Effectiveness of different types of vaccines

4) Is this spike representative of a general "comeback" of measles in the U.S. or of a longterm cycle?

5) The history of measles vaccine in the U.S.

More later.


> On Jan 24, 2015, at 1:49 PM, herb fox < [log in to unmask]> wrote:

Mitchel Cohen's book, "
What Is Direct Action? Lessons from (and to) Occupy Wall Street" (foreword by Richard Wolff) (596 pages). Get it now!

Check out
  • PROTESTERS, COPS & THE MAYOR -- the movement to end violence by police sweeps across the country (Mitchel Cohen, Dave Zirin, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Black Agenda Report’s Dr. R. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Glen Ford, Bruce Dixon; CommonDreams’ Abby Zimet; Max Blumenthal, Sam Mintrani); Hey, Guess what? Another FOX-News Twistory: No one ever said 'Kill a Cop!'
  • WHY I HATE THANKSGIVING by Mitchel Cohen
  • AUDIO: Listen to poems by Mitchel Cohen: "The Permanent Carnival," and "In Memoriam: For Fallen Comrades"
  • IS VIOLENCE IN YOUR GENES? Genetic Racism & Biological Determinism, by Mitchel Cohen
Ring the bells that still can ring,  Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in. 
~ Leonard Cohen

Realize that little things lead to bigger things ... And there’s a wonderful parable in the New Testament: The sower scatters seeds. Some seeds fall in the pathway and get stamped on, and they don’t grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don’t grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground, and they grow and multiply a thousandfold. Who knows where some good little thing that you’ve done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of.
~ Pete Seeger