One of the many gifts I have been given as an educator and edu-carer for other peoples children is the gift of perspective. There is very little about child development and the educational process which I believe is set in stone. Furthermore, when you toss family dynamics and cultural, religious or moral values into the mix - Well. You have a billion right ways to raise a child.
One of the gifts I have been given as a Researcher and Academic is skepticism. Not disbelief, but skepticism. Until I have done my own research, I rarely assume what someone else has done meets my standards of academic rigor. That doesn't mean that I have to re-do Piaget's conservation experiments to believe his results. (Although, as an aside, these are Fascinating things to do with your own child - like a living textbook in action) Furthermore as a researcher, I have been taught to Look at any data or study and SEE if the data stands up. Who paid for the study? Was it purely an academic study or grant-funded by a specific group? Is the Primary Researcher a true "expert" in his/her field? And most importantly - Who will gain and who will lose with this study?
In every research project lies the very real possibility that harm can come from your results. Intentional or not. The researcher should be vetted and held accountable for the results of the data AND the interpretation of the data.
This is why - as a whole - Ethical, conscientious researchers are careful...very,very careful about making broad statements. If I say, for instance, that car seats Kill infants and every parent who places their baby in a car seat is taking a 50-50% chance with the life of their child - you would assume that I had a whole hell of a lot of data from which to extrapolate these claims, right?
What if I failed to mention - or failed to highlight - that the data I collected was of infants whose parents were drunk at the time of the accident? That My data Set was of 10 babies...5 of whom died in the crashes, and five of whom did not.
In truth, it IS 50%. And In truth, all babies were in Car seats when they died.
Now, what if I failed to mention that I did this research after getting a grant by the anti-car seat lobby? People who were trying to get laws passed, or repealed so that they would monetarily benefit from babies not being in car seats? Perhaps they are auto makers and the harnesses cost an extra 10 dollars per car to install. If you project to manufacture a million cars at 10 dollars saving per car ... Well, it is cost effective for me to give you 4 Million dollars for a study to save a net gain of 6 Million for Myself, isn't it?
But of course, the news that CAR SEATS KILL BABIES is sexy. Sexy in that news business kind of way. Sexy in that "I bet we can really crank up our viewer or readership by printing/reporting this" kind of way. And really sexy in that "We can prey on the deep fears of every parent that they are doing it WRONG" kind of way. Sexy in the "Maybe we can even try to tie it into the unease of a post-Watergate and Vietnam generation that corporations lie and governments and authority are not to be trusted" kind of way.
Oh, yeah. This becomes big news. People split on this issue. Friends split into car seat versus non-car seat people. Mothers have out and out arguments with other mothers. Parental Judgments reign supreme. Maybe even Oprah does a whole Show about the dangers of car seats!
But I - the researcher - knew that this was all bullshit. I knew how to conduct a proper experiment. I knew I was being paid and continued to be paid to be the front line Expert for a specific point of view. I knew my study could not be replicated because the results were...well, kind of made Up or at the very least Badly mangled as to skew them. However, for 12 years, parents held up my study as the reason - the EVIDENCE for why they didn't use car seats. In those 12 years, the rates of children dying in car crashes has indeed risen, but I mean - who is to say that this wasn't just an unfortunate side effect? In fact, I bet the government and manufacturers of car seats manipulate the data to make it seem more than it really is.... And anyway, my lawyers have told me not to comment, and my bank account is safe - so really, what is to be done?
I knew that this MMR link to autism study had been discredited ages ago. I mentioned the flaws in the data methodology and design to hard core true believers who preached to me about the chances I took with Emily. I also pointed out that the reason vaccinations had been discovered was because Millions of children DIED from these diseases. Walk into any old Boston cemetery and find the gravestone of a mother - now find how many of her children lived Past the age of 5. Odds weren't good.
I explained the concept of "herd immunity" - how these diseases were now re-emerging and were becoming more dangerous to the people least able to manage the disease - Pregnant women, Infants too young to be immunized, elderly and immuno-suppressed people (Why yes, children on chronic asthma medication, I am talking about you!).
Did it matter? Did logic and common sense and the history or human kind mean anything to the true believers? Hell No. Did the fact that their decision was putting MY child and the general population that much more at risk mean anything? Nah. They had their parental rights and they were doing what THEY thought was best.
But now? The research is False. The doctor Lied. For his own personal profit and gain. Not because he cared so deeply about children with autism or any link between a vaccine and the (most likely genetically based) disorder. He - and the others who have profited by propagating a lie ( Um, Jenny McCarthy? Totally looking at You) - are going to defend themselves with silence. After preying on ANY parents worst fears - the ones around taking care of our children , of doing the best for them - and perverting them into profit while both actively selling a lie - Or not being intelligent enough to educate yourself about the philosophy you espouse?
My contempt is not great enough.