Vaccination and Causes of Nepal Earthquake

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There was an earthquake in Nepal several weeks ago. 

Most would probably agree that earthquakes are caused by sudden movements in the earth’s crust and are satisfied with a scientific explanation.

However, some are not satisfied with that and turn to more creative interpretations of the ground shaking phenomenon.  One man, an Iranian cleric, claimed earthquake is linked to promiscuous women and gave Islam as the solution.  Another woman, a Hindu, offered this explanation: “Rahul Gandhi eats beef and goes to the holy shrine without purifying himself, the earthquake was bound to happen.”  And, finally, a US pastor, wrote linking topic of pagan shrines and the earthquake. 

So, three different people representing three different religions and three different reasons why the earthquake happened.  However, all three have in common a similar logic.  They share an idea that one thing was happening (promiscuity or meat eating or paganism) and therefore the next thing (an earthquake) thing happened.  It is the logic of correlation implying causation.

Those who study logic recognize the potential logical fallacy.  The correlation does not imply causation in this case nor does it in others like it.  It is completely possible that the earthquake would have happened regardless of what people did or did not do.

And, until a person can provide good research that links one to the other, it is not reasonable to conclude a link exists between earthquakes and immorality.

Blaming Vaccines For Childhood Developmental Problems

Vaccines have become fodder for the same type of thinking that blames immorality for geological phenomenon.  If a child is vaccinated and later a disability or medical condition arises some parents will attribute it to the vaccines. 

Parents trust their own perception.  From what they can recall the problems did not begin until after the vaccination and therefore must be somehow linked to the vaccine.  In their search for a link many will take anecdotes as evidence and proof of a link.  Unfortunately, even a hundred anecdotes showing one thing happened after another is proof of nothing besides sequence of events and not even suggestive of a causal link. 

It would be no different from me telling a story of how a friend changed the oil in his car and two weeks later the engine blew up.  Sure, there could be a link between an oil change and problems that develop later in a few cases.  For example, if the mechanic left the oil plug loose, the plug fell out, the oil drained and without lubrication the bearings seized. 

However, that doesn’t mean a recent oil change caused the headlights burn out in your own car.  Even if a dozen other people had mechanical breakdowns happen within weeks of an oil change there’s still no proof of link.  And the same is true of vaccines and disabilities or medical conditions that develop later on.  The link we make between two events is not proof that one caused the other. 

Yes, there is a possibility vaccines have sides-effects or unintended consequences, but that doesn’t justify the assumption that anything that happens after a vaccination is caused by the vaccination.  A link needs to be established that explains step by step how one leads to the other or it is nothing but speculation. 

A Desperate Search for Explanation Leads Misattributed Blame

It is understandable that a parent would blame something like vaccines for anything bad that happens afterwards.  The idea of sticking a child with a needle seems unpleasant and unnatural to begin with.  Add to that the general mistrust of educated people and profitable endeavors in some circles.  But, be that as it is, sometimes seemingly healthy children hide problems that would develop later on whether they vaccinate or not. 

I know a family who had a child that appeared healthy and later died after a series of seizures.  Since the problems started some time after being vaccinated they decided not to vaccinate their future children.  Their unvaccinated second child was completely healthy.  If I stopped there that could be mistaken as evidence.  But, sadly, it wasn’t that simple, their next two unvaccinated children developed the similar problems to the first vaccinated child.

Most of us probably understand the absurdity of trying to pin blame for an earthquake on eating meat or unislamic behavior or pagan shrines.  But many do make the mistake of confusing correlation with causation in other areas.  We need to be aware of our own vulnerability to this type of thinking and be on the look out for the fallacy: Correlation does not imply causation.

As enticing as an explanation is, bad logic does not trump good science, and we need to know the difference or we will be blown about by the winds of our feelings and intuitions.

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4 thoughts on “Vaccination and Causes of Nepal Earthquake

    • Thanks. I would add that healthy skepticism is good. Vaccines and other medical treatments are not beyond questioning. However, using bad arguments does do a disservice to legitimate concerns. And poor logic used by people of faith has a risk of being a stumbling block.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. thebylog

    Re: relationship between sins and earthquakes. Not only is there not evidence of a causal relationship here, I don’t even see correlations. To take the Christian example, is it true that more non-Christian countries (however you would measure that!) are associated with more earthquakes? I’m going to guess not!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. A detailed statistical analysis would likely reveal that earthquakes are indiscriminate.

      According to the book of Matthew (5:45) Jesus said, that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” He is describing, in spiritual terms, a reality that natural phenomena are indiscriminate and in the hands of God. It is in the context of his telling followers to show grace to even their enemies. It goes completely against an idea that God uses nature to punish sin.

      Now, if every home built from a certain material collapses and only those constructed from another stand, assuming all other factors the same, that is a case of correlation being causation.

      Like

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