There’s been a lot of buzz in the news over the past couple of days regarding measles and vaccines. After both Rand Paul and Chris Christie each stumbled on the subject, I was please to see Hillary Clinton weigh in on Twitter with an almost perfect tweet:
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 3, 2015
Yes, the science is very clear. Vaccines work. And they are safe. Much safer than not using them. And yes, let’s protect our kids. Had she left it at that, it would have been a perfect tweet.
But then there’s that ridiculous hashtag: #GrandmothersKnowBest
Admittedly, the hashtag does not diminish the truth of the preceding statements. And no doubt, her intent was to remind people that she is a grandmother who cares for children and grandchildren. Unfortunately though, the hashtag is reminiscent of Jenny McCarthy’s idiotic claim to knowledge via her “mommy instinct.”
Being a “mommy” or a “grandmother” (or a “dad”, or an “uncle”, etc.) does not offer a mystical path to scientific knowledge. Science does. Scientific knowledge is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of consensus, provisionally held, arrived at by way of the process of science.
One does not have to be a scientist to appreciate (and benefit from) the incredible benefits of science. In fact, the benefits of science touch each and every one of us countless times each day. But, for a variety of reasons–partisanship, religiosity, etc.–a disturbing number of people look distrustfully, even disdainfully, at science. My friend, Ben Kunz, captured this idea quite eloquently in a recent discussion:
This is why I get mad at people who selectively believe in science, like it’s an optional cafeteria menu: Aerodynamics make super-heavy things fly through the air? OK, I’ll believe, I need to take a plane. Pocket computers can magically connect invisibly to anyone in the world? Sure, I love mobile Facebook! Vaccines are safe because they’ve been tested in hundreds of studies? Naw, scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.
So, overall, kudos to Hillary Clinton for standing up for science in general and standing up for vaccines specifically. Her vaccine tweet was almost perfect.