Creative Writing: Vaccines and the Great Denial

Pages: 5 (1524 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Medicine  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Vaccines and the Great Denial," provides a variety of scientific research that effectively dispels the claim that there is any link between early childhood vaccinations and incurring autism. Despite all of this evidence, the author cites a number of examples of people who still deny these facts and continue to believe that there is a fundamental link between vaccinations and autism. The general populace's disbelief is actually indicative of a wider problem in today's society, and pertains to the phenomenon of denial that has gained prevalence throughout much of the world and America. Washington and Cook define denial as "a refusal to believe something no matter what the evidence (7). The phenomenon of denial as related to the erroneous belief that vaccinations cause autism is attributed to the fact that people continue to distrust scientific evidence because of pervasive denial arguments, motivated reasoning, and denial movements.

Denial arguments play a powerful role in the general public's instances of disbelief that Scepter discusses regarding the supposed link between vaccinations and autism. In order to understand how these arguments play a part in propagating a culture of denial around this issue, it is necessary to define the term denial arguments. Essentially, denial arguments are "rhetorical arguments that give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none" (Washington and Cook 10). Washington and Cook denote several of these types of arguments in explaining why some people persist in the belief that human-related global warming is a myth. However, these points also pertain to the arguments Scepter illustrates for why people continue to deny the fact that there is no relationship between vaccinations and autism. The denial argument known as cherry-picking, in which proponents for a certain cause selectively choose evidence to further their cause without examining its validity in a larger scientific context, certain explains the continued belief in the link between vaccinations and autism (Washington and Cook 12). For instance, Robert Kennedy Jr. publicly proclaimed that research from government entities repudiated the link between vaccinations and autism to support the medical industry -- in 'proving his point' he only focused on one of many studies that disavowed this connection, which (of course) was conducted by a federal entity (Kennedy Jr. 17). All of the other non-governmental entities, however, came to the same conclusion. Other examples of denial argument include utilizing fake experts to further a particular cause (Washington and Cook 10). Virtually all of the people that Scepter discusses as continuing the notion that vaccinations cause autism fit into this category, since they have largely been able to attract media attention and public notice due to their celebrity status. The author's example of public crusades taken on by Kennedy Jr. And other Congressmen, as well as television and film personalities like Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy (Scepter 17) -- people who have a reputation and who can garner a following despite having no scientific expertise on the subject, are instances of the rhetoric device of utilizing fake experts to further a cause.

Other reasons for the persistent belief that vaccinations actually do result in autism, despite the fact that they do not, are related to the concept of motivated reasoning. This concept is defined by Prasad et al. As a psychological model in which people are "processing and responding to information defensively, accepting and seeking out confirming information, while ignoring, discrediting the source of, or arguing against the substance of contrary information" (P1). Kennedy Jr.'s selective, 'cherry-picking' focus on the lone government -- conducted study while ignoring the plethora of other studies that confirmed the fact that there is no relationship between vaccinations and autism serves as an example of "ignoring" information contrary to his viewpoint. Motivated reasoning also applies to some of the logic and behavior by other public figures who deny the existence of scientific research on this issue, such as Jenny McCarthy. The voluptuous bombshell readily admitted that her information on the subject was obtained via internet searches and the personal experience of her own son, which effectively led her to believe that there was no need to consider information from the viewpoint that opposed hers (Scepter 17). Motivated reasoning also plays a part in the continued denial on the part of politicians regarding this particular subject. According to a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director Anthony S. Fauci, some politicians feel compelled to take the side of parents and deny scientific research to the contrary simply to show compassion for a serious condition that is affecting families (Scepter 18). Therefore, they "argue substantively against the challenge" (Prasade et al. 2) that scientific research presents that there is no relationship between vaccinations and autism, and engage in definitive behavior that is part of motivated reasoning

Additionally, the role of a denial movement factors considerably into the reasons why individuals and organizations within the U.S. continue to deny scientific evidence disputing the claim that autism is incurred by vaccinations. The term denial movement is used within Washington and Cook's work of literature to deny the response to scientific evidence regarding global warming. The concept essentially alludes to the fact that public response can become so pervasive that there are campaigns put together to sustain the belief in something that is not empirically possible (Washington and Cook 12). There are a number of tangible indicators of such movements and campaigns pertaining to parents afraid of vaccinating their child because doing so may result in autism. Ultimately, fear is the chief catalyst in this movement. According to J.B. Handley, who is "founder of Generation Rescue, an organization of parents who remain strongly committed to the idea that vaccines cause autism" fear is a definite factor in the denial movement about this subject. Handley stated that "fear of a common disease like autism will almost always outrank a fear about something like measles that people no longer take seriously (Scepter 19). The role of fear in this issue is fairly prominent: politicians are fearful of alienating voters and appearing unsympathetic to parents, who in turn are fearful of their children becoming impaired for life by autism. Thus, the denial movement regarding the alleged causal relationship between vaccines and autism readily continues.

One of the most influential ways in which a culture of denial has persisted regarding the link between vaccines and autism has to do with logical fallacies. Logical fallacies and misrepresentations are alluded to by Washington and Cook as common denial arguments, and are also referenced by Prasad et al. As a strategy for disputing information known as disputing rationality. The former explain that logical fallacies are drawing parallels between events whose relationship is tenuous at best, and perhaps even unrelated (Washington and Cook 11). An excellent example of this denial argument related to the topic of vaccinations and autism is seen in the erroneous logic of a member of a n anti-vaccine group, which posits the viewpoint that "evidence that any pharmaceutical company has engaged in venal behavior means that they all have" (Scepter 15). The faulty logic demonstrated within this statement is that if one medical company has committed an act of impropriety regarding vaccines and autism, that all of them have. The first event (the initial act of impropriety) certainly cannot wholly indict the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. Yet it is quite natural for people to make these sort of illogical comparisons, which is also akin to another denial argument, conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories contend that if there is one instance of wrongdoing, there is then a "vast conspiracy to deceive" (Washington and Cook 10) on the part of all those aligned on the side of that one instance of wrongdoing. Prasad et al. allude to conception of illogical reasoning in their strategies for resisting information known as disputing rationalist, in which people… [END OF PREVIEW]

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