Public slow to disbelieve science mistakes

The Great Unwashed are quick to believe scientific nonsense but slow to disbelieve it when it is proved wrong.

According to Scientific American last month’s retraction of a key paper proposing a link between childhoodvaccines and autism has not made the slightest difference in the minds of the public.

Andrew Wakefield – then of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Study Group at the Royal Free Hospital in London – and 12 co-authors published February 28, 1998, in the well-regarded UK medical journal The Lancet described gastrointestinal problems in children with developmental regression—and suggested a possible link with inoculation of the combination measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Parents seized on the paper and refused to immunise their kiddies. The result was that ere was an increase in measles, mumps and rubella.

However despite all the evidence, a survey conducted in 2009, published online March 1, 2010 in Pediatrics, found that about a quarter of the 1,552 parents surveyed thought that vaccines can cause autism in some children. And 12 percent of parents had declined at least one recommended vaccine for their children.

Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, pointed out “It’s very hard to un-scare people once you’ve scared them.”

What is worrying is that the number of scientific papers being rattled off by boffins and later retracted is increasing. Scientific papers are fast being used by politicians and religious nuts who are trying to force the world to believe in their ideas.

For example, in 2002 a primate study, published in the September 27 issue of Science, reported the drug ecstasy was neurotoxic was accepted by those who wanted a reason to stop kids having fun at raves. Unfortunately it turned out that the lab’s supplier had accidentally botched the labels so that, instead of giving the monkeys ecstasy, the researchers gave them methamphetamine. However, the label has stuck and still gets quoted.