October 25, 2012

Personal Experience vs. Science

ScienceGiven the choice between one person's experience (including my own) and scientific consensus, I tend to go with science. I received an email in response to a recent post about the influenza vaccine in which a reader suggested that I was "falling for Big Pharma's shit just like the religious folks fall for the Bible's shit." The author, presumably an atheist, went on to use the argument from personal experience to dismiss my suggestion that I'd prefer to rely on science over superstition when it comes to my health. Specifically, she wrote that her two children "have never had a vaccine of any sort" and have never been sick with anything worse than a typical cold.

I know I should not be surprised to hear something like this from an atheist. We atheists can still accept conspiracy theories, support the type of pseudoscience in which the Huffington Post traffics, or prefer not to exercise reason at all outside of the question of gods. We can be irrational, especially when we've managed to convince ourselves that we are right and others are wrong. And I suppose we can even dismiss science when it suits us.

This particular email explained, "Mostly it's healthy, educated freethinkers who can see through the drug BS." Perhaps I'm just not healthy enough or educated enough, but I typically put far more stock in science - including the findings of medical science - than personal opinion and anecdote.