How Tribalism Fuels Scientific Denial



Our choice of media consumption is often based on our choice of in-group or tribe. Denial of science is often fueled by our group identity.

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HPV, or human papillomavirus, can be a huge disappointment for both women and men. More so for women. When I was 18, precancerous cervical cells were detected during a routine cancer screening. I had the cells removed and was informed that the problem was probably caused by the HPV virus. It wasn’t a big deal, although of course at the time it seemed like it, because I was still a teenager and everything was a big deal. So naturally, a few precancerous cells removed in an inpatient clinic meant that I had just narrowly escaped my untimely death.

A quick thank you to Planned Parenthood, for diagnosing and treating it long before it turned into cancer. I had no health insurance and went to them for a birth control prescription. So thank you, PP.

When my son turned 11 and showed up for his annual checkup, his doctor asked me if I wanted him vaccinated against HPV. Because it wasn’t something included in the regular vaccine schedule, I checked it out, finding that it would not only prevent him from passing the virus on to anyone else, but also reduce his risk. genital warts and testicular cancer, among other nasty things. . The vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective, like all other vaccines.

It looks great.

But it was optional, and he was not a fan of injections, so I asked his doctor to explain the potential benefits and risks to me. He agreed and rolled up his sleeve, but on the condition that he get a donut for his cooperation.

But being the stubbornly curious person that I am, I wondered why this fabulous vaccine was optional. HPV has significantly reduced the number of cases of cervical cancer in women. And that probably would have prevented my overly dramatic panic when I was 18, too. Not to mention the wart.

So what is it ?

It turns out that some of the opposition to the vaccine comes from the religious crowd. Not your blind generic vaccine deniers, although they have problems with that too, but your sex-obsessed purity culture types.

HPV is transmitted through sex, but also through contact with all types of bodily fluids. Sex is just the fun way to get it. So naturally, they freaked out about it. The general idea was that kids wouldn’t be so scared to have sex. And so they won’t. And earlier.

Why teach children about safer sex when you can just scare them and threaten them with disease?

But when I heard about the HPV vaccine, I heard about another vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease. This one is in the regular schedule of mandatory vaccines, but he did not face the same problem.

Expect, what?

Hepatitis B doesn’t sound like much fun at all. It is also transmitted by the horizontal mambo. But the ladies of the church are not mad at that one. What better way to terrify children and teens about sex than long-term liver damage, jaundice, and death! Even my Catholic mother wanted me to be safe and educated in sexual ways and had no objection to the hepatitis vaccine.

The difference?

People learned about the hepatitis B vaccine from their doctors. It is recommended by the same person who prescribed his antibiotics and Viagra.

People learned about the HPV vaccine through the news and social media. And depending on your favorite flavor, either you’ve heard it’s safe and effective in preventing cervical cancer and other nasties, or you’ve heard your 12-year-old might be encouraged to start her own escort services for her peers.

The HPV vaccine has been weaponized by the conservative media while it has been hailed by the liberal side. Today, rather than a wonderful medical advance, the HPV vaccine has become a victim of political tribalism.

I will add a caveat here. Questioning the safety of something you are about to inject your child with is not a stupid thing to do. I did it. The problem is that we don’t all receive the answers in the same way.

There is a long list of generally accepted scientific problems that are now filtered through a tribal lens. Climate change, evolution and stem cell research are just a few.

But the Liberals are not off the hook either. The irrational fear of GMOs falls mostly on the left. Same with the weird obsession with essential oils and vaginal steam.

No matter how smart or pretty Gwyneth Paltrow seems to be, steaming her vagina is a bad move.

As trust in our public institutions fades, our lizard brains take over and seek confirmation from our inner groups. Or our tribes.

The less we understand about science and the method it uses to reach its conclusions, the more we turn to our cable television and online tribal representatives.

For my part, I know that my child will not transmit HPV to anyone. But it wasn’t a sure thing. It was optional, and I might as well have assumed that was reason enough not to vaccinate against it.

HPV is actually a bummer. But the bigger problem is that much of the scientific denial is fueled by tribalism, which means there are children whose cancer could have been prevented if only their parents watched a news program. different or trusted their doctors more than their moms groups on Facebook.


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