Sunday, January 13, 2013

Why do some atheists have to be such hard headed “Believers”?

In one chapter of my first book I criticized certain atheists for what I describe as their anal retentive trait for dissecting everything ad nauseum - you know like if you were to greet them with "Nice day, huh?” they’d reply "Oh? Define ‘day’!"   Words mean things and we want to be sure we are on the same wave length lest we be talking at cross purposes or using inappropriate and inaccurate terminology. But there comes a point where it becomes an obsession among some atheists. All in all it’s a largely harmless, if a little frustrating, idiosyncrasy.

More recently I noticed another peculiarity that, while not the sole purview of atheists, certainly seems to be deeply engrained among some of our number. I’m referring to a rabid distrust of things that would appear benign to most people. Recently this manifested itself in a discussion on the current flu epidemic and flu shots.

I mentioned on my facebook page that the flu has killed twenty people in New Hampshire thus far this season. Given that the season started early this year, it is expected we will have the highest death rate in over a decade from the disease. Nationally as of this writing 47% of the states are reporting high admissions to hospitals, overwhelming some ERs. The rate of infection has caused the Center for Disease Control to classify it as an epidemic. Boston’s mayor declared a “health emergency.”

Imagine my surprise when my suggestion to my facebook friends that they protect themselves and loved ones and get their flu shots, as my wife and I did back in October, was met with outright indignation by perhaps a third of respondents to the comment. I was accused of having “drunk the Kool Aid.” handed to me by some Jim Jonesish consortium of the pharmaceutical industry, health care experts, and the government. Although not clearly defined by these skeptical folks, they seemed to imply it was a money making scheme at best, or an attempt to infect us with some “live virus” for an obscure and unnamed purpose at worst. I was waiting for but mercifully never heard the theory that this flu hype was a way for the government to obtain and file our DNA, although I suspect some number of them did harbor that meme.

If these weren’t atheists, one and all, I’d have half expected one of them to declare that Big Brother wanted to steal their soul, or mark them with the sign of the Beast.

It gets worse. Although zero evidence exists for it, and it has been debunked universally by medical science, I’ve repeatedly seen otherwise reasoned atheists say that childhood inoculations (i.e. smallpox, polio, whooping cough, et al) are the cause of autism. One of my fb contacts said she won’t get a tetanus shot and won’t let them inoculate her children. I consider that almost as bad as a faith healer or Christian Scientist who would refuse state of the art medical care in favor of faith. Both are delusional.

Skepticism is a good thing, it’s what makes atheists freethinkers; what separates us from the religionists and the woo-woo New Agers. But once we get hooked on some kind of irrational suspicion of medical science, ignoring history and fact, preferring to embrace some unsupportable conspiracy theory or a manufactured plot with no supporting evidence, we are no better than the religious who embrace blind belief over reason. And like fundamentalist blind belief, it’s no longer just a harmless idiosyncrasy; it becomes dangerous, potentially for everyone.

Go get your damn flu shot. It’s 62% effective, and even if you are among those who contract a strain of the flu after the inoculation your symptoms would be greatly reduced. If not for yourself… do it for your family and friends you’re liable to infect.   Besides, the government needs some of your life force for a very special ...OOPs... nevermind that last part!


tiNstAg said...

Well put indeed. As a scientist I couldn't agree more. Get the damn shot; vaccinations work, just as Edward Jenner predicted and proved (although one could argue his ethics) over 200 years ago. It really pisses me off that some easily debunked circumstantial evidence still prevails regarding the link between vaccinations and the over-diagnosed condition of autism. Gee - thanks, "popular (ignorant) press".
Also it is interesting that a greater than 60% chance of success in many other scenarios would be seen as a no-brainer choice, sp where'e the beef?

Carl said...

Yes I get my flu shot and have been surprised why so many atheists fall for woo woo like religionists do. But that goes to show you have to be a skeptic and a critical thinker and know the science facts in order not to be duped by the alternative new agers. I think Bill Maher falls for the woo woo crap which does have an influance with atheist cummunity which is sad.

Den!s said...

I was going to send you a pvt email concerning this Hump, after the eruption on FB. I felt your revulsion at the anti-science attitude, it was truly amazing. Just wondering if you follow Orac ... , a blog on mostly medical woo. Orac has blogged many times about vaccines and the movement opposed to it. He also links to a network of woo highlighted by web sites like "natural news dot com" and "mercola dot com", both hives of anti science and anti-vaccination. I spelled the names out so you wouldn't go there, but you actually should go there if you've never seen them. These are the cranks that are responsible for increases in preventable diseases worldwide.

no need to publish this Hump

Anonymous said...

I equate these vaccination conspiracy nuts with those who still believe that the moon landing was a hoax. It is surprising that some of this is coming from atheists, but just as every single xtian is not a complete moron - you're not gonna find every single atheist as highly intelligent and completely reasonable.

There's also the people (who are generally rational) that hear one blurb from one friend (who heard it on Facebook) about vaccinations causing autism or something akin to that and then that rumor suddenly becomes solid, indisputable, scientific fact in their minds.

The scary fact about all this is that today's bugs are tougher than they were just 3 years ago. More people are getting sick, more often, and for a longer duration. I personally had a virus this year that filled my lungs with mucus for 5 weeks. I've NEVER been sick that long...ever. Too many people are way too quick to jump to antibiotics and reach for their hand sanitizer. The bacteria and virus are quickly evolving and adapting to this. Many of the old-standby antibiotics are becoming ineffective.

People shouldn't be looking to the heavens for the "end of days". All you have to do is look into the mist of a sneeze.

Carissa said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Sadly, I've learned that lack of god belief is not a harbinger of critical thought in other areas. Nor is political persuasion.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks all for your comments.

Den!s..I'll check that site out. Thanks!

Carissa... that blog post is right in synch with my toughts. thank you.

Interestingly: I re'cd an email from a reader who insists that people can catch the flu from the injection of dead virus. I gave him an authoritative link which clearly debunks that. He also said the calculation of the 62% effectiveness this year is in itself a woo number. I gave him another link to the CDC that explains exactly how that stat is derived..quite scientifically and to within 95% certainty. Finally he proffered why bother since the vacine is only effective for 3 months and is needed every year. I didn't bother to respond to that.

And so it goes on. Rational non-believers who for so many things demand evidence and do research, but who themselves fall victim to popular myth and a skepticism that can not be justfied but easily rebutted.

Jim Hudlow said...

Hump…I saw that FB fiasco. I remember you made the statement that you wished you had never made that post. Well big guy I am so glad you did. The only way to get the point across that rational thought requires investigation on all topics and not just the ones that confirm your biases is to put stuff like this out there and then call the idiots out that fail to do their actual research. If they did not research this then I suspect their atheism is also just a convenient niche that confirms their bias rather than being the result of true personal research. Exposing these people for the woo woo sippers they are in public is pry the only way to make them reassess their point of view and how they arrive at their views. Or they will just go away and keep doing damage to their friends by perpetuating dangerous nonsense. Great rant and I am glad you decided to revisit this rather than ignore it. Also Den!s and others who posted relevant web sites thank you!! I am glad Hump did not take your advice Den!s and not publish your comment…it was quite valuable.

David said...

The idea that ALL atheists are reasoned and rational is simply false. There are atheist anti vaccination nutballs, just like there are atheist homophobes, atheist racists and atheists that believe a woman's place is in the kitchen.

Dromedary Hump said...

There is a tendency to attribute to atheists a higher degree of rationality than your common Joe Six Pack because of a generally higher degree of intelligence than your common religionist.

But yes, i agree that intellect is not a guarentee of rationality. While atheists are skeptics by definition ( I think), one could also proffer that people with an extreme degree of skepticism become fanatical to the the point that everything becomes suspect.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks for that.

Yes, my regret in starting that fb discussion thread was because I was disappointed in the unexpected woo woo knee jerk nuttiness by fellow free thinkers.Shame on me for assuming too much.

Like David said.. being a non-believer is no guarantee of rationality. I just hated to be reminded of that by the foolish concepts of people on whom I mistakenly projected a higher degree of ratioality.

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Hump,
I want to pass on that I have been working a LOT of hours starting at the first of the year (60 ½ hours just this week alone) and to include that the battery on my laptop is slowing dying. Where I have not commented much I do want to pass on that I try to read your postings everyday.

Now with that being said, I too find it puzzling that Dick Cheney and his organ grinding monkey G. Bush both swore in on this same Bible but no sooner than they did; the lies, removing the regulations to make legal what was once illegal, and the plundering of the working middle class started. Now I know you can find all of these examples within the Bible…..but are these the scenarios of Jesus’ teachings would want you to follow? I’m sure Jesus never said, “Try to screw your neighbor out of as much of his money by making laws to making it legal.” I am also sure Jesus never said, “Lie to the masses if it promotes your viewpoint; because it does not matter if it is truthfully accurate or not.”

So to close, you will hear too many today say that Cheney and his pet monkey were GOOD CHRISTIAN MEN. My own self respect and conscience would not let me be part of that club.

Today given the choice of the two today, I would rather swear in on Tom Wolfe’s book, “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test!” :-) Even this would be better than what Dick Cheney and George the Monkey promoted.