The claims made by the opinion writers of Murdoch’s News Limited about climate change normally follow a predictable script: there has been a “pause in warming”; climate change is a hoax; it was slightly chilly this morning, ergo climate change is not real.
Barely a day goes by without these myths being repeated within the pages of The Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph and The Australian or the blogs of News Limited journalists.
However there are times when the conservative culture warriors of News Limited not merely get the science wrong, but create an entire parallel universe of facts.
Case in point, a recent article by Miranda Devine of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.
In it she claims climate scientists are directly responsible for parents refusing to vaccinate their children:
ONE of the consequences of the bastardisation of climate science has been the damage to the credibility of science across the board.
the general public has watched scientists being co-opted by the climate industry, as money and perks flow to those who toe the alarmist line.
Having been frightened by the doomsday predictions that drove political action when Australia was gripped by drought, people then saw that the warnings were bogus and pushed by green authoritarians….
Which of course means people have stopped vaccinating their children:
In Vaucluse and Mosman, among the very people who drank most heartily of the climate Kool-Aid, are parents who reject the evidence that vaccination saves lives. They prefer to believe hocus pocus claims that immunisation against once-lethal childhood diseases leads to autism or brain damage.
And they are so selfish that they don’t think they have any responsibility to contribute to the “herd immunity” that keeps the whole community safe.
So now, when we had all but eradicated scourges like measles and whooping cough, they are making a comeback.
By all means we should do as the Australian Medical Association suggests, and ban unvaccinated children from attending school.
But we should also sheet blame for the rise of irrational beliefs where it belongs, to those who corrupted science for ideological purposes.
If I understand correctly, Miranda’s logic runs like this:
Preposition A: Scientists claim the planet is warming due to increased greenhouse gases released through are industrial activity.
Preposition B: Scientists also claim vaccination is safe and will prevent the spread of diseases.
Conclusion: Therefore people do not trust science and have stopped vaccinating their children.
However, the people of Mosman and Vaucluse accept the science of climate change. Would that not make them more predisposed to accept science’s claims about vaccination? Has any climate scientist cast doubt on the effectiveness of vaccination? Did I miss that story?
Help me out guys, but I’m struggling with Ms. Devine’s tour-de-force of reasoning?
Looking at the first and second prepositions, one has to ask how she make the astonishing leap to the conclusion “climate scientists stopped parents vaccinating their children”?
Look I get it – climate scepticism is waning. Indeed, it is pretty much a spent force. Thus the claims of sceptics are getting more and more ridiculous as they desperately try to garner attention.
Of course her claims having nothing to do with reality.
How sections of the population came to fear a link between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism is actually well documented. Indeed, it is a text-book example of zealous anti-science activists and a partisan media undermining the public’s confidence in science.
For those not familiar the history of the MMR controversy it is worth revisiting. Just over a decade ago, a researcher by the name of Andrew Wakefield published a study claiming a link between autism and the MMR vaccine in the Lancet. However it turned out Wakefield faked his results. Since then his research has been retracted and he lost his medical license.
It was the conservative tabloid press in the United Kingdom, in particular The Daily Mail and not climate scientists, that spread the lie that a “link” between MMR and autism existed.
As Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal wrote of the whole sorry saga:
“The original paper has received so much media attention, with such potential to damage public health, that it is hard to find a parallel in the history of medical science. Many other medical frauds have been exposed but usually more quickly after publication and on less important health issues.”
As evidence see this:
Following these and other articles, the rate of vaccination fell in the UK and across the developed world. This of course lead to an increase in diseases such as measles. Children died. Their deaths were preventable.
So Ms. Devine, can we really hold climate scientists responsible for a drop in vaccination?
What we actually have is the spectacle of a tabloid press casting doubt on science, championing the claims of cranks and misinforming the public.