To give you some background, Mukherjee is talking about how rare cancers sometimes become associated with things we’re all exposed to (like cell phones), and he offers another example of a dubious link between problem and cause:
… when patients with brain tumors happen to share a common exposure — in this case, cellphones — the line between cause and coincidence begins to blur. The association does not stand out nor does it disappear into statistical white noise. Instead, it remains suspended, like some sort of peculiar optical illusion that is blurry to some and all too clear to others. (A similarly corrosive intersection of a rare illness, a common exposure and the desperate search for a cause occurred recently in the saga of autism and vaccination. Vaccines are nearly universal, and autism is relatively rare — and many parents, searching to explain why their children became autistic, lunged toward a common culprit: childhood vaccination. An avalanche of panic ensued. It took years of carefully performed clinical trials to finally disprove the link.)
I realize I’m making a big deal about what’s really just an aside, but I read that passage and I was amazed by the simplicity of those last couple sentences. There’s no link between vaccines and autism, but some parents are just looking for something to blame.
I’ve read so many articles and blog posts where the focus is on the “debate” — Do vaccines cause autism? Can vaccines cause autism? Why is all the misinformation out there?
And Mukherjee just says, “There’s no link,” and moves on.
Think about all the stories you’ve read about evolution and how they always seem to talk about Creationism, Intelligent Design, the people who challenge the facts, the question of whether religion is compatible with evolution, etc. As if any of those things actually matter when it comes to the overwhelming evidence in favor of evolution.
And then you read articles by Carl Zimmer or science books by Richard Dawkins and it’s just a breath of fresh air. They stick to the science without wasting time on silly arguments from people who just don’t get it. They explain the science in an incredibly lucid way for those of us who actually want to learn more. They’re educated people talking to people who want to become educated… without focusing on irrelevant nonsense.
Maybe it’s because I write a blog that frequently discusses these issues, but I don’t see nearly enough of that: Just stating the facts as we know them, giving no regard to what the ignorant opposition has to say.
More of that, please.