I’d rather be mentioning her in a positive light. She’s a bit of a geek icon, and as I said, I’d really love to adore her. In many ways I still do, but I’m disappointed in her irrational fear of vaccines. Her book implies that choosing not to vaccinate is equally acceptable as vaccinating. She goes on to say that she’s happy not vaccinating, and the books she recommends parents use for research play up vaccine fears and do not reflect mainstream medical views. She may not see that as directly telling other parents what to do, but I and many others see it as influencing parents on what to do.
I, too, want to love Mayim. What’s not to love? She’s talented, smart, and Jewish. From all accounts, she’s a wonderful mother, a talented writer, and an engaging speaker. So what’s the problem?
Apparently, Mayim has fallen victim to the hubris that an advanced scientific degree in any given field immediately makes you an unqualified expert in everything “science”. Sadly, because of human nature, virtually the opposite is true. Highly educated, intelligent people are far more likely to fall for pseudoscience in fields outside their own, especially with emotionally charged topics. I know chemists who believe in astrology, astronomers who swear by homeopathy, cardiothoracic surgeons who believe in acupuncture…the list goes on. Surely Mayim, with her PhD in neuroscience, would easily see through someone pushing phrenology. Why she is so quick to fall for junk science in other areas is equal parts sad and puzzling.
Mayim went ahead and responded to the above post. Sort of. Actually, she said she wasn’t responding, but then she did (just a little):
Here’s a nibble, though (sigh): Children today get about four times as many vaccines as the average 35-year-old did when we were kids. Besides visiting the CDC website and finding out who gets diseases the medical establishment vaccinates for (and why and where and when), here are the books we used to research each vaccine and discuss each with several doctors before deciding what was right for our family.
The Parents’ Concise Guide to Childhood Vaccinations: Practical Medical and Natural Ways to Protect Your Child, by Lauren Feder. Hatherleigh Press, 2007.
The Vaccine Book: Making The Right Decision for Your Child, by Robert Sears. Little Brown, 2011.
That’s right: sources by known antivaccine advocates. You say you don’t want to discuss it, Mayim, but you give yourself away by the sources you cite. It’s like responding to accusations of antisemitism by saying, “I’m not going to bite. We’ve done lots of research on the subject. You can decide for yourself. Here are the books we’ve used,” and then referencing Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf.
Children today may get four times as many vaccines as did their parents 35 years ago, but millions fewer of them die of Hib meningitis, become sterile due to mumps orchitis, have febrile reactions or seizures because of acellular pertussis vaccines, or suffer the sequelae of invasive pneumococcal disease. Vaccines are the victim of their own success. It’s impossible to see things that don’t happen, but make no mistake: children today are significantly less likely to die of vaccine-preventable illnesses than they were before, well, vaccines.
As a mother, Mayim, you entitled to your own opinions. But as a scientist, you are not entitled to your own facts. I don’t hate you. I’m just disappointed. Please do some further research — real research, from reliable sources (the reading list on the post you refused to respond to is a good place to start) — and reconsider your public stance on the subject of vaccines.