Amy Tuteur has a great post about “Pseudo-knowledge” up on her blog. She goes to town on vaccine rejectionists, alternative medicine advocates, and home birth advocates for getting their information on the internet but having no actual medical knowledge.
It is certainly true that advocates of alternative health have often done a great deal of reading. And it is true that they have learned lots of new things. But what they fail to understand is that they have acquired pseudo-knowledge. It has the appearance of real knowledge; it uses lots of big words, and it often includes a list of scientific citations. There’s just one teensy problem; it’s not true.
The appearance of real knowledge is what can trip a lot of us up. It’s what made me consider the alternate vaccine schedule at one point. Since none of us on this blog are scientists or doctors, it is obviously somewhat ironic to post this next quote from Amy’s article here, but here goes:
The truth about health education is both simple and stark. You cannot be educated about any aspect of health without reading and understanding scientific textbooks and the scientific literature. Period!
Don’t waste your time perusing the internet. Unless you are willing to confirm what you read on the internet by reading the scientific literature, you can’t be sure you’ve learned anything.
So, yeah, it’s sort of funny that Dr. Amy is telling people to stop wasting time reading health advice on the internet…but she’s giving this advice on the internet.
Don’t bother to tell the rest of us that you are “educated” because you’ve demonstrated nothing more than your gullibility. You haven’t acquired knowledge, you’ve acquired pseudo-knowledge, and it marks you as a fool.
While I love this statement, I also don’t quite think that believing these kinds of things marks you as a “fool.” Gullible, maybe, but it’s easy to be fooled. It is embarrassing to hear anti-vaccine folks talk and repeat the same misguided statements. Sadly, I hear this kind of talk too often where I live, and now our pertussis epidemic may be the outcome of this ignorance, which continues to be passed on through the grapevine and on the internet and in the parks in my neighborhood.
But I do remember being fooled and scared by this kind of talk. The vaccination rates are most down in LA among people just like me–the well educated and slightly suspicious of authority. We’re the target audience for the anti-vaxers. The pseudo-knowledge sounds pretty impressive to us, and that is the problem.