For the odd times you may be listening to devious anti-vaccine pundits, here is a tool to evaluate exactly how and where they intentionally hoodwink a public that is sadly lacking in critical thinking skills. It is not hard to get to a “Gotcha!” when these forked-tongue con artists craftily weave their web of lies. It is actually fun and may help you enlighten a friend or family member who is about to make a harmful decision. Fallacies are basic errors in reasoning that make an argument unsound. Below are eight common ones, with more at the Sources link below.
This bias closes its eyes and blocks its ears and does not want to hear anything from the opposing point of view, only information supporting their opinion.
Example: Web sites and social media accounts that advocate the deception that vaccines are harmful never grapple with the overwhelming evidence that undermine their views.
Reality check: The literally crushing data of vaccine safety and efficacy speaks for itself. Anti-Vaccine con artists prey on people’s fears and make good money selling sham products.
AD HOMINEM ATTACK
Ad hominem attacks criticize the messenger in the absence of counter-arguments related to the facts being discussed.
Example: When vaccines are suggested to be unsafe because of a conspiracy between government officials and pharmaceutical companies, this is an example of an ad hominem attack because it does not address vaccine safety but rather groups that state vaccines are safe.
Reality check: Vaccine safety is not established by who says vaccines are safe, but rather the result of thousands of studies and years of experience.
Circular arguments use the preliminary assumption as the basis for arriving at the same conclusion.
Example: When someone says MMR vaccine causes autism and their child got autism because he got the MMR vaccine, this is an example of a circular argument.
Reality check: Multiple well-controlled studies on several continents involving hundreds of thousands of children have not identified a link between the development of autism and receipt of the MMR vaccine. Likewise, the notion that a child is harmed by receiving too many vaccines has also been studied and is not supported by the findings.
A slippery slope fallacy argues against a fact or situation by suggesting unlikely, extreme outcomes.
Example: When someone suggests that a vaccine mandate will lead to a state takeover of parental rights, this is an example of a slippery slope fallacy.
Reality check: Vaccine mandates are not an attempt by the government to control parental decision-making but rather to keep communities safe by ensuring that more people are vaccinated. Mandates increase immunization rates and ensure a vaccine supply for those who couldn’t otherwise afford vaccinations.
Hasty generalizations involve jumping to conclusions without reviewing all available evidence.
Example: When someone uses anecdotes of a small group of individuals as evidence for a link between vaccines and autism, this is an example of a hasty generalization.
Reality check: It is reasonable to observe a group of individuals who got vaccinated and were subsequently diagnosed with autism and hypothesize that a causal relationship could exist. However, it is not enough to stop with the observation. To know if there is a causal relationship, controlled studies need to compare people who did and did not get vaccinated to see if those who got vaccinated were more likely to be diagnosed with autism. The good news is this has been done — repeatedly — and no causal relationship has been found.
The bandwagon approach suggests something is true because it is a popular belief; it is accepted by authorities or large numbers of people; or because someone specific, based on their reputation, agrees.
Example: Suggesting many parents are concerned about vaccine safety so vaccines must be unsafe is an example of using the bandwagon approach.
Reality check: While it is reasonable to be concerned about vaccines safety, concern doesn’t mean that vaccines are unsafe. Scientific studies determine vaccine safety, not the number of people who believe something might be a problem.
EQUIVOCATION OR AMBIGUITY
Equivocation occurs when someone takes advantage of the fact that a word has more than one meaning to mislead.
Example: When someone claims that vaccines are not safe because they are not “natural,” it is an example of equivocation.
Reality check: The use of the word “natural” in this manner implies that vaccines are not safe because they are manmade or because they are introduced in a way that is different from exposure in the community. However, vaccines actually protect us from pathogens, which are not manmade and can cause severe disease and death. Vaccines are typically made from disease-causing agents, so that our immune systems can recognize an exposure if it occurs in nature. Further, the manner by which our immune systems are exposed to any foreign agent does not alter its ability to respond. So suggesting that when it comes to vaccines, natural is better is not only misleading, it is dangerous.
A red herring fallacy uses a parallel or seemingly relevant argument to distract from the original point being discussed.
Example: When someone is discussing genetic mutations, such as the MTHFR mutation, and then describes how the “poisons” in vaccines provoke an immune response in genetically susceptible children, this is an example of a red herring because the original point related to the mutation, but moved to a discussion of vaccine ingredients as the problem rather than explaining why the genetic mutation is problematic.
Reality check: People with the MTHFR mutation can be vaccinated since the mutation has not been found to be problematic when it comes to vaccinations. Likewise, vaccine ingredients have been studied and are safe in the quantities presented in vaccinations.
Source (includes seven more fallacies)
Logical fallacies and vaccines https://media.chop.edu/data/files/pdfs/vaccine-education-center-logical-fallacies.pdf
More To Know
Evaluating information: what you should know https://media.chop.edu/data/files/pdfs/vaccine-education-center-evaluating-info-qa.pdf
Anti-Vaxxers Misuse Federal Data to Falsely Claim COVID Vaccines Are Dangerous https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjpmp7/anti-vaxxers-misuse-federal-data-to-falsely-claim-covid-vaccines-are-dangerous
Conspiracies Grow As COVID Spreads https://centerforinquiry.org/blog/conspiracies-grow-as-covid-spreads/
An incomplete list of COVID-19 quackery https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/an-incomplete-list-of-covid-19-quackery/
Red-Rated Sites With False Claims About The Coronavirus: 427 And Counting https://www.newsguardtech.com/coronavirus-misinformation-tracking-center/
How to read coronavirus news and learn what you actually need to know about staying safe in the pandemic https://theconversation.com/how-to-read-coronavirus-news-and-learn-what-you-actually-need-to-know-about-staying-safe-in-the-pandemic-144261
Myth Busters: Dietary Supplements and COVID-19 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1060028020928052
Vaccine Refusal and Measles Outbreaks in the US https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2769677
Christian Vaccination information and Recommendations https://cmda.org/article/vaccination-information-and-recommendations/
Red Alert: Anti-Vaccination in the Age of COVID-19 https://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/red-alert-anti-vaccination-in-the-age-of-covid-19/
Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe? https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/is-the-covid19-vaccine-safe
Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html
How Speaking Creates Droplets That May Spread COVID-19 https://physics.aps.org/articles/v13/157
Latest Coronavirus News - Articles Written by Scientists https://theconversation.com/us/covid-19
CDC COVID-19 Websites https://www.cdc.gov/library/researchguides/2019novelcoronavirus/websites.html
16 Quick Tips To Enhance Clarity Of Thought https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2019/05/16-quick-tips-to-enhance-clarity-of.html
30 Prying and Probing Questions To Bolster Critical Thinking http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/10/30-prying-and-probing-questions-to.html
The Case For Shaming Those Who Spread Covid-19 https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2021/04/the-case-for-shaming-those-who-spread.html
Con Man Pillow Guy Has The “Cure” For The Coronavirus https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2021/03/con-man-pillow-guy-has-cure-for.html
Coronavirus: 7 Hidden Motives Behind Conspiracy Belief https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2020/04/coronavirus-7-hidden-motives-behind.html
9 Coronavirus Scams Exposed https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2020/03/8-coronavirus-scams-exposed.html
Exposing the Deniers: 10 Quick Points On The Psychology of Vaccine Denial https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2020/04/exposing-deniers-10-quick-points-on.html
Risk Perception: Six Fatal Flaws of the Anti-Vaccine Movement http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2018/03/risk-perception-six-fatal-flaws-of-anti.html
The Amish & Autism: Latest Anti-Vax Lie http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2017/08/the-amish-autism-latest-anti-vax-lie.html
Kids & Autism: Peer-Reviewed Studies That Make Anti-Vaxxers Squirm http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/07/kids-autism-peer-reviewed-studies-that.html
Anti-Vaccine: Fraud, Paranoia & Vulnerable Children at Risk http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2014/12/anti-vaccine-fraud-paranoia-vulnerable.html
How To Avoid Bad Medical Advice: A Basic Guideline http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/05/how-to-avoid-bad-medical-advice-basic.html
Well-Meaning Parents Placing Their Children At Risk http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2017/01/well-meaning-parents-placing-their.html
It’s Complicated! How Apathy Leads To Risky Medical Decisions http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2017/02/its-complicated-how-apathy-leads-to.html