GP Dr Ben Goldacre's ongoing challenge to bad science – to the innumerate, the illiterate and the just plain bonkers – hit a new high this week with a nice lawsuit from a broadcaster for breach of copyright.
Not – you'll notice for challenging his assertions about the mad and dangerous broadcast on MMR and Autism by Jeni Barnett – but for reproducing the offending chunk of the transmission without permission.
When I say mad and dangerous I mean this: anti-MMR folk (like their hero Andrew "change the facts to fit the theory" Wakefield) put the entire population of children at risk by suggesting that the evidence on the safety of the combined MMR vaccination is anything less than clear and overwhelmingly positive.
As I've noted before, vaccination is a HERD thing: its real power works at a population level. If that falls below a certain level, then diseases that used to cause significant damage can become prevalent again. Fuelling the conversation that suggests that there are risks or any evidence of risks leads to the lower level of compliance with the vaccination programme and creates the opportunity for the resurgance of once almost unknown childhood diseases. Particularly when the science is so damn clear.
BTW, I love the inventiveness of critical commenters on Jeni's blog (after anything at all critical in earlier comments got deleted). Interesting to consider how Ben's communities rallied round and made things happen.
Makes the silliness of folk making up how influence really works in marketing seem quite unimportant, doesn't it? Although I wish they'd look beyond individual case studies too?