A research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association “Internal Medicine” this month reveals that over half of Americans either believe doctors and the government still want to vaccinate children even though they know these vaccines cause autism and other psychological disorders or are undecided on the question. 69% of the 1361 participants had heard of this issue before. 20% believe it, 36% were undecided [neither agreed nor disagreed] and 44% disagreed.
If the letter were written in the early 1950s, before it was established smoking causes lung cancer, the authors of this letter would have dismissed that claim as a conspiracy theory, but it was later shown to be true.
The authors of the letter dismiss these beliefs as “conspiracism” and identify them as:
markers for greater use of alternative medicine and the avoidance of traditional medicine. High conspiracists were more likely to buy farm stand or organic foods and use herbal supplements; conversely, they were less likely to use sunscreen or get influenza shots or annual checkups. For example , whereas 20% of the total sample reported using herbal supplements, 35% of high conspiracists do. And whereas 45% of the total sample reported getting annual physical examinations, only 37% of the high conspiracists do. Subsequent multivariate analysis that controls for socio economic status, paranoia, and general social estrangement indicates that medical conspiracism remains a robust predictor of these health behaviors.“
In other words, ignore the fact these consumers of medical services don’t believe you. Just look out for the symptoms so you can concentrate on the people who do believe you and/or contain the “problem” when you get those who don’t.
A mark of the academic standing of the authors of the letter is that a search of common formal online dictionaries reveals there is no such commonly accepted word “conspiracism“. Thus, instead of appropriately describing these kinds of beliefs as indicating a serious public problem of distrust of government health officials, agencies and medical professionals, the authors of the letter Professor J. Eric Oliver and graduate student Thomas Wood of the University of Chicago use an invented word to describe it.
How bad is this and how badly does it reflect on these researchers and on the University of Chicago and on the supposed discipline of “Political Science“? It means even when they have under their noses clear evidence of the true problem – a lack of belief and trust in government and medicine – they choose a perverse interpretation so others can cite their research as evidence of wide “conspiracism” in the USA.
The use of the invented word “conspiracism” is a reflection of the fact it was not possible to describe respondents as “conspiracists“. They clearly were not. By far the largest group of respondents to all the questions had no overall view, responding that they neither agreed nor disagreed. And this was in answer to questions which were clearly phrased to sound implausible conspiracist theories like “Health officials know that cellphones cause cancer but are doing nothing to stop it because large corporations won’t let them.”
There could be many reasons why anyone might answer they “neither agreed nor disagreed” with that proposition. So these respondents may not have agreed with the question and the way it was phrased but they may have agreed there is a problem.
For example, the debate of smoking causing lung cancer raged for years with the tobacco industry funding study after study to contradict and dispute the claim. It was eventually demonstrated that there is a link.
So how might people respond to a survey question implying nothing was being done because it was a conspiracy between government and industry? Well they might not agree it was a conspiracy but they might agree they believed there was a link and nothing was being done. So they might answer they neither agree nor disagree with a question phrased as a conspiracy but might agree it was a result of something else.
And other respondents even if they did not agree with the question as it was put might believe by answering in the affirmative that the outcome of the survey itself might have a beneficial effect in addressing something they consider a problem. So they may also not have agreed with the question as put.
And the 36% who disagreed? Did they disagree with the way the question was put but agreed there was a problem? No one will know because it seems no one asked them.
Now, of course any real scientist will address all possible explanations before jumping off with some junk science ideas. But then is “political science” science at all? One might confidently answer, not in the University of Chicago Department of Political Science.
Anyone interested in looking at more of the “research by ” Professor J. Eric Oliver and graduate student Thomas Wood of the University of Chicago Department of Political Science might want to look at more drivel by them: CONSPIRACY THEORIES, MAGICAL THINKING, AND THE PARANOID STYLE(S) OF MASS OPINION J. Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood The University of Chicago.
Q. Why do they write crap? A. Its a conspiracy, innit.
Maybe someone should tell their Head of Department. [Nah, no point. Its all a conspiracy.]
Don’t forget, when someone starts claiming its all “just a conspiracy theory“, to suggest there is no truth to something and suggest therefore that it is all just an irrational belief by large numbers of the voting American tax dollar paying public, it means they have lost the argument. If there is no evidence then that would be demonstrable and only cranks might believe.
As the smoking/lung cancer issue demonstrated, when there is evidence of something, it is not a belief in a conspiracy, but a belief in a problem not being properly addressed. But these University of Chicago political scientists spend their time trying to prove its all irrational and the American public are conspiracists. That tells you more about the state of political science in University of Chicago than anything else.
As for the American Medical Association and its journals, they published the letter. They are not experts in political science – far from it. But this letter went through their peer review process and was published. Clearly, that was not because of its academic merit but because they wanted to put this message out. So Professor Oliver and his protege Thomas Wood, know there is a market for their drivel and this is one way of advertising they are there ready and willing to provide it.
It is particularly interesting that those who describe themselves as political “scientists” write research as if they the authors of the US constitution were conspiracists. The founding fathers were instead realistic about power and the inevitability of its abuse if unchecked, and with that in mind the US constitution was framed with an eye to curbing abuse of power and protecting the rights of US citizens.
And what does all of this do for belief in the medical profession and in the output of researchers in US Universities who want to establish their credentials with the public? Well for one thing, they sure are establishing the kind of credentials they carry.
Filed under: ADHD, Aspergers, autism, Child Health Safety, MMR, vaccination, vaccine, vaccine court, Vaccine Damage, Vaccines | Tagged: conspiracism, conspiracy theory, political science, University of Chicago | 5 Comments »