Recently, Kevin Geary posted a horrifyingly muddled, cynically manipulative article on the rhetoric of “both sides” of the so-called “vaccine debate.” (Like the “debate” over evolution, this isn’t a debate: it’s an extended performance of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, wherein people who cannot think logically sit around patting themselves on the back for being more logical than the people who actually can think logically.)
Since I wish to deprive Geary of hits benefit — for reasons I’ll mention in more detail below — here’s a donotlink-shielded link to the article, in all its horrendously ignorantist glory: Bringing Much-Needed Sanity to the Vaccine Debate:
I normally would shrug and dismiss it as internet junk, which it obviously is… except that where I saw it posted, I also saw people commenting positively on it. So I went and read some of it, then looked at the comments again. They were all positive. That kind of shocked me, because while people were daying it was a great article, it really isn’t great. Not at all. It’s actually kind of terrible.
And by reflex, I posted some comments, but decided that I wouldn’t waste too much time on them, hoping on the off-chance he’d publish them, since he has complete control of which comments go public and which go unseen.
But I did read the whole piece, marveling at how bad it is. It’s muddled, wilfully misleading, and deceitful in its claim to neutrality. (In the comments, Geary essentially betrays at least a partial ideological approval of the anti-vaccine movement.) It’s so misleading, so self-contradictory and so illogical — using such skewed evidence — that I thought Geary was actually just Trojan-horsing. (And the weakness of his criticisms of anti-vaxxers suggests he actually may be, despite all his claims to neutrality.)
Yet that got me thinking: why is it so thoroughly illogical? Why does he muddle pretty much everything he can? Is he just unable (ie. too stupid) to see where he self-contradicts? That’s not how it feels to me: rather, it feels like this piece is almost designed to confuse its readers, to leave them feeling as there are more questions than answers, as if there is no scientific consensus when it comes to vaccines (despite the fact there is), or that nothing has been eradicated by vaccines (er, polio). It’s almost as if Geary were trying to muddle the discussion as a whole, to leave all his readers on both sides with a sense of uncertainty, and muddy the water… but why would he want to do that, while claiming to be someone advocating for “sanity” from a neutral position? Why not present answers to the questions he raises? Why not, you know, help people toward resolving the so-called “debate”?
Aha, bingo. Ask the right questions, you get the right answers. Resolving the debate is the opposite of what he wants.