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Richard Dawkins’ painfully simplistic take on measles among Orthodox Jews: “Religion poisons everything.”

Richard Dawkins saw the measles outbreaks among the Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn and Rockland County, and Tweeted, “Religion poisons everything.” Unfortunately for him, it’s way more complicated than that.

Last month, I wrote about the measles outbreak going on among the Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County, NY. It is, of course just one of the many measles outbreaks currently ongoing in the US that have led to more measles cases in 2019 than in a generation, 839 cases thus far, and the year is only a little more than a third over. I didn’t think I’d be revisiting this story for a while, specifically the outbreaks among Orthodox Jews in New York, but then I saw this Tweet by Richard Dawkins:t

Yep, it’s Richard Dawkins seizing on the outbreak to attack religion. However, that wasn’t so much what interested me. (Well, actually it did, but not initially.) Rather, it was the New York Times story to which he had linked. Now, to be honest, I had been aware of this story since Tuesday, when I started seeing flyers like this one being spread around on social media:

I first saw this flyer on Tuesday morning, but had learned that it had been circulating at least since Sunday night, advertised to the Orthodox Jewish community through robocalls and WhatsApp groups. Notice that there’s no date on the flyer. (There are also, hilariously, a number of misspellings.) The date got communicated through other means. In any event, after the event on Tuesday night I waited for reports. I didn’t have any soon enough on Tuesday night to produce a post for Wednesday; so I just continued to wait. I did, however, see this thread:


Unfortunately, there were a lot of Orthodox Jews in attendance. Fortunately, there were also a number of reporters in attendance as well, leading to the aforementioned NYT story:

An ultra-Orthodox rabbi falsely described the measles outbreak among Jews as part of an elaborate plan concocted by Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York to deflect attention from “more serious” diseases brought by Central American migrants.

A pediatrician questioned whether Jews were being intentionally given “bad lots” of vaccines that ended up giving children a new strain of the virus. And Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor whose study linking measles vaccines with autism was widely discredited and condemned, appeared via Skype to offer an almost apocalyptic vision of a world in which vaccines were giving rise to deadlier immunization-resistant diseases.

“We Hasidim have been chosen as the target,” said the rabbi, Hillel Handler. “The campaign against us has been successful.”

I had never heard of Rabbi Hillel Handler, but he sure is antivaccine. He’s woven together a particularly vile set of conspiracy theories as well. Notice how he’s simultaneously taken on the role of victim, with outside forces persecuting his people, while redirecting exactly the same accusation that according to him is being leveled at his people towards Central American migrants. It’s the age-old smear that’s been directed at every group of immigrants who’s ever come to America, namely that they bring and spread disease, and Rabbi Handler did it completely without irony.

He’s also spreading antivaccine misinformation:

No, measles mumps and chicken pox don’t decrease your chances of getting cancer, heart disease, or strokes, certainly not by 60 percent. No, measles does not prevent cancer or heart disease. There is one study finding that measles and mumps in childhood is associated with lower mortality from cardiovascular disease, but the study has a number of problems and has not been confirmed.

Of course, Rabbi Hillel is a rabbi, not a scientist or physician. He can blather away, spouting all the conspiracy theories and pseudoscience that he wants, and his word is no better than anyone else’s. At least, so one would wish. Of course, because he is a rabbi and thus a leader of his religious community, unfortunately his word carries a lot of weight in Rockland County, even though he is clearly an antivaccine crank. Indeed, he has a long history of saying outrageously ridiculous things, such as that parents who placate the gods of vaccination” are engaging in “child sacrifice,” and at this event claimed that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is a German and a “very, very sneaky fellow.”

Rabbi Hillel drew an immediate rebuke from one of his fellow rabbis:

According to the NY Times, the event was denounced by local elected officials, health authorities and even some Haredi rabbis, who warned against the anti-vaccination propaganda spewed by the speakers which is risking the community’s health.

Rabbi Moshe Tendler, son-in-law of the Rabbi Moshe Feisntein ztz’l and the posek for the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, an expert on medical ethics and one of the leaders of YU, who lives in and is the head of a synagogue in Monsey, in 2014 condemned the anti-vaccination rabbis, saying: “This is an area in which medicine has made such tremendous progress for the benefit of humanity. […] I believe that [these rabbis] are not speaking under their authority as rabbis, they are speaking simply as uninformed laymen.”

Indeed they are.

More damaging than someone like Rabbi Hillel is someone like Dr. Larry Palevsky, an antivaccine pediatrician whom I’ve discussed before in the context of his appearing in an antivaccine documentary disguised as a documentary other than VAXXED, whose producer and director were at this vaccine symposium, namely Del Bigtree and Andrew Wakefield, respectively. I’m referring, of course, to The Greater Good, which predated VAXXED by five years. Reviewing that, using his “whole child” wellness philosophy, Dr. Palevsky recommends and incorporates the teachings and therapies of nutritional science, acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, chiropractic, osteopathy, cranial-sacral therapy, environmental medicine, homeopathy, and essential oils, along with natural healing modalities such as aromatherapy, yoga, Reiki, meditation, reflexology, and mindfulness. This led me to ask at the time: Is it any surprise that Dr. Palevsky comes across as being “anti-vaccine”? Nope. It definitely is not. In the movie, he was also shown shown speaking to the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) and using the most brain dead of anti-vaccine gambits, namely claiming that because mortality from various infectious diseases was falling before vaccines for those diseases were introduced it must mean that vaccines are useless; i.e., the “vaccines didn’t save us” gambit, one of the most intellectually dishonest antivaccine tropes there is.

Let’s just say that eight years have not increased Dr. Palevsky’s intellectual honesty. If anything, he’s even more intellectually dishonest:

The pediatrician who spoke on Monday night, Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, is regularly cited in pamphlets circulated in New York City that urge women not to get their children vaccinated. His views have no basis in science, experts said.

At the rally, he talked at length about mutating viruses and falsely claimed that failed vaccines were producing a new strain of measles. Women scribbled into notepads as he spoke. Others filmed his comments, sending them to their contacts on WhatsApp. Essentially, he said, there were no studies available to show how the vaccine affects the human body.

“Is it possible that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine that is somehow being given in this lot to communities in Williamsburg and Lakewood and Monsey, maybe in Borough Park, is it possible that these lots are bad?” he asked, referring to areas in New York and New Jersey with large ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

“It’s fascinating because we’re told how contagious the disease is, but somehow it’s centered in the Jewish community.”

No studies available to show how the vaccine affects the human body? Can’t this guy read PubMed? Mutated viruses creating a new strain of measles? He said these things with a straight face without citing any evidence? (Of course, there is none.) A pediatrician said this? I’m with one of my pediatrician readers on this one. Someone like Dr. Palevsky should have his license stripped away.

And, of course, Andrew Wakefield wallowed in his usual self-pity and victim-messiah complex:

“I wanted to reassure you that I have never been involved in scientific fraud,” he said via Skype from a darkened room, his face appearing eerily white as it was projected onto two large overhead screens. “What happened to me is what happens to doctors who threatened the bottom line of the pharmaceutical companies.”

Yep. That’s our Andy. His partner in film crime, Del Bigtree, was also in rare form:

“This could destroy our species…They wanna talk about the measles,” Bigtree shouted to the exuberant crowd. “I wanna talk about autism, I want to talk about the greatest epidemic of our lifetime and all the other chronic illnesses that are skyrocketing in this country.”

Autism is going to “destroy the species”? Give me a break, Del. Even if there were a link between vaccines and autism (which, science has shown time and time again, there isn’t), there isn’t a facepalm big enough for this one.

Here’s the real reason behind the season of antivaccine misinformation, though:

Attendees watched the symposium patiently and with fixed attention past midnight, with mothers in the audience hushing young babies and children scrambling anxiously through the aisles. Pamphlets were passed out for a brand of health supplements called “Nature’s Cure,” and a complimentary bottle of the brand’s “constipation care” was provided in goodie bags, for a suggested donation of $12.

Same as it ever was. It’s all about the quack grift, which was my reaction to Richard Dawkins’ painfully ignorant Tweet. Indeed, The Orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland County and Brooklyn have been targeted a long time by antivaxers. A shadowy group called PEACH has been spreading antivax misinformation for at least 5 years, targeting this insular group. Indeed, PEACH has been targeting Orthodox Jews with antivaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories using mass texts, conference calls with antivax “experts,” and a slick glossy pamphlet. The conference Tuesday night was just another example of this.

Now let’s look at how the Orthodox Jewish community in the Detroit area reacted when a traveler inadvertently brought measles to southeast Michigan. The Michigan Orthodox Jewish community rallied behind health authorities. They immediately got the word out in the communities to get vaccinated. Members of the Orthodox Jewish Community turned out in droves to be vaccinated. In just three days, the health division administered 970 MMR vaccinations, and in one week the health department gave over 2,000 doses of MMR, not counting the hundreds of doses administered in private doctors’ offices and in pharmacies. I also note that Hatzalah, the ultra-Orthodox community’s emergency medical response group, rapidly mobilized to track patient zero down. Meanwhile, The Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit issued a statement strongly urging vaccination and that Jews showing signs of illness stay home and contact their doctors. It isn’t just in Detroit, either. In Rockland County, Orthodox Jewish nurses are fighting the antivaccine misinformation.

There was another wrinkle. Unlike the case in Brooklyn, in Detroit the measles spread mostly among older adults. Many members in the community in their 50s thought they’d been vaccinated but hadn’t been. This resulted in an unexpectedly large pool of adults who were, through no fault of their own, susceptible to measles, either due to not knowing they hadn’t been vaccinated or to waning immunity. There was no large pool of unvaccinated children because the Orthodox Jewish community vaccinates.

Of course, I’m a heathen too, or, as I jokingly like to describe myself, about as lapsed a Catholic as you can be. I’m not defending religion, particularly fundamentalist religion. I’ve been refuting religion-inspired antiscience since at least 2004, including creationism and other forms of evolution denial. Dawkins’ hot take is wrong, though. It doesn’t just fail to tell the whole story. It leaves out so much that it does a disservice to so many Orthodox Jews whose prompt and enthusiastic cooperation with authorities in Michigan limited the spread of the measles outbreak. These Jews were motivated by their religion. So are the Orthodox Jewish nurses in Rockland County and Brooklyn on the ground fighting for the health of their communities. In other words, the situation is far more complicated than Dawkins’ easy anti-religion sloganeering would lead you to believe. Unless we understand this, we can’t make progress against the spread of antivax misinformation. Worse, it risks feeding the anti-Semitism that the measles outbreak among the Orthodox Jews has provoked and that several of them interviewed in various news stories complained about.

In reality, the situation in NY is more akin to that of the Somali immigrant community. Antivaxers took advantage of them by peddling antivax misinformation, and the result was two large measles outbreaks. Repeatedly. Basically, I think what bugged me about Richard Dawkins’ hot take on this is that it isn’t really so much religion that is the main contributor to this outbreak. It’s an insular community that doesn’t trust outsiders targeted by quacks. Religion was helpful, but not necessary, to facilitating the spread of antivaccine misinformation. After all, the affluent suburbanites eschewing vaccines don’t do it because of religion, although they frequently try to co-opt religion to justify their antivaccine beliefs. You don’t need religion to be an antivaxer. It might help. It might not. People are messy, and things aren’t as simple as Dawkins’ simplistic broadside.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

44 replies on “Richard Dawkins’ painfully simplistic take on measles among Orthodox Jews: “Religion poisons everything.””

Dawkins keeps making an empirical claim (that religious beliefs cause the believers to behave, overall, even worse than they would behave without the beliefs). But he seems remarkably uninterested in empirical evidence. Just confirmation bias, which he would happily point out in other people.

There are some good, thoughtful atheists out there whose opinions I value. Dawkins ain’t one of them.

He’s good friends with the anti-vax, HIV-denialist, GMO-fearmongering Bill Maher, too, so he’s got an up close and personal view of how anti-scientific sentiment can find fertile ground among the nonreligious.

Well, two things: As many of his friends have advised him, he should quit tweeting. And he should stay within his area of expertise.

Sadly, Dawkins has as much of a one track mind and a lack of nuance of many of the people we critique. I found his first couple of books, interesting and entertaining, but I no longer have any time for him. The useful things he writes/says are drowned out by the complete nonsense.

And what Smut Clyde wrote. That annoys me about Dawkins as well.

All his books on evolution are interesting and valuable reads. Let’s not paint with a broad brush here.

Sadly, Dawkins has as much of a one track mind and a lack of nuance of many of the people we critique.

Yep. He has his hobby horse (‘religion is bad’) and, for all I know, may have some good points about it, but I remember reading more a few occurrences where he dismissed other social concerns as not as important or, worse, seemed blind to behaviors in the atheist community similar to those he would blame among religious people.
Uh, flamewar bait material, so I will stop right here.

Not just religion–thank you for clearly showing this.

Good to see Rabbi Hillel Handler got rebuked. I’m not holding my breath to see if anyone of authority in the medical community can find the spine to rebuke Palevsky who has contributed to the outbreaks in Brooklyn and Rockland County given his name is on the anti-vaccine pamphlet (“The Vaccine Safety Handbook) and he’s been the doctor of choice for anti-vax seminars hosted by the group “Enriched Parenting” which also put out “The Vaccine Safety Handbook. And look at the flier for this anti-vax rally–Palevsky is at the top. He’s a linchpin to the anti-vax movement in NY that caused these outbreaks (again, a large number of these outbreaks have an anti-vax physician, often a pediatrician, nearby).

Bigtree is speaking here in AZ in 2 days at “The Arizona March for Medical Freedom” (ought to be called “March for More Measles”). Lucky no outbreaks here, so I suspect BigTree will be trying to get more support for the anti-vaccine legislation that could have really made a mess here had the Governor not come out bluntly to say he would veto anything anti-vax.

“I have never been involved in scientific fraud,” quoth the Sainted Andrew.

Technically true. No science was involved.

I think Orac’s conclusion is correct–insular communities are vulnerable to this kind of nonsense, whether the ties between members be religious, ethnic, or of another kind. My past church had a member who worked for the U.S.’s vaccine courts, and fellowship lunches occasionally included cheerful discussions of the misguided fears of vaccines.

My current church is in the same denomination and 40 minutes away from the previous one. It is, however, quite a different culture–very natural-is-best, very suspicious of the government. We have a number of antivaxxers.

I wonder if this dog and pony show of Bigtree’s is just doubling down on the mess his ilk has created or part of their scheme to continue the FUD when the inevitable occurred. The lot of them are vile cranks.

The sense here in AZ is AVers truly believe they can rally more support to get their anti-vax legislation through next year. They are in a offensive, not defensive mode. They have three loony legislators fully on their sides, 1 being a chair of a health committee.

Eh, hasn’t one of these legislators just called vaccines ‘sorcery’? Orac posted about it the other day.
I’m on the other side of the Atlantic, I shouldn’t feel concerned by whatever a wacko politician is saying, but, for FSM sake, the US are a top-tier industrialized country, supposedly leading in many scientific fields.
‘Sorcery’. I can’t even.

Oh, my bad, ‘sorcery’ was Jonathan Stickland from Texas.
I should have read downthread before posting.

I suppose anti-vaxxers just use religion, to cater the people sensitive for that argument. Just like they do with other minorities. It’s a bit the same as quacks using traditional as an argument to sell cancer-treatments to first nations people, even if the treatment they are selling has nothing to do with the traditional medicine of the group they are aiming at. I remember Orac once wrote something about a case, a few years ago I think.

I think that that was Brian Clement ( Florida) selling cancer “cures” to First Nations girls ( Canada).

Since the vast majority of Rabbis are calling to vaccinate, and there have been several Psaks – religious rulings – for vaccines, the influence of religion here is being pulled the other way. The scary misinformation is having an impact in spite of religion.

Especially in this context, of this particular kind of community, making it about religion is problematic and concerning.

Is no national organization able to speak out against rabbi Handler’s poisonous nonsense? The national rabbinical council, maybe?

Perhaps Handler can get together with Texas State Rep. Jonathan Stickland to denounce vaccine “sorcery”.

Stickland had this to say to Dr. Peter Hotez on Twitter:

Make the case for your sorcery to consumers on your own dime. Like every other business. Quit using the heavy hand of government to make your business profitable through mandates and immunity. It’s disgusting.

— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) May 7, 2019

There is a value to naming your enemy that the the OU and Rabbinical Council of America failed to do. Same as the AAP with anti-vax peds like Palevsky and Sears and Gordon. Enough cheer leading from the sidelines already.

I still read Dawson, but I think he should abandon Twitter and stick to books and formats that don’t reduce big ideas to blurbs. The tweet does not suit his writing style and causes him to insert foot into mouth. I doubt he would disagree with this criticism by ORAC, et al.

How’s this for irony for you?

One of the reasons the antivaxxers are able to get so much traction is because they are able to feed into the anti-government fears of this group. The end result will be to make this community even more insular and mistrustful. Either they’ll realize they’ve been had, and will trust less, or they won’t realize it but will still trust less because of outsiders attempting to get them to change their views.

It’s lose lose for public health.

Dawkin’s insensitive and wrong comments add fuel to that fire.

I’ve been reading a lot of similar comments in forums and discussion threads on news stories related to the measles outbreak in New York that put forth the same kind of nonsense. It’s not helpful and actually makes the situation worse. I don’t give a rat’s ass what Dawkins or any other militant atheist thinks about religion . . . how does bashing it do anything to combat antivax pseudoscience or encourage people to get vaccinated?

Answer: It doesn’t do a damn thing that’s constructive. These people (Dawkins et al) just need to STFU and let the medical professionals who know what they’re doing deal with the problem.

I have always found the term militant atheist problematic. I know that Dawkins wears it like a badge of honour, but really. A militant religious person is one that takes up arms and fights for the religion, sometimes as a terrorist. In comparison, a militant atheist is somebody that challenges religion verbally in an aggressive way maybe, but surely unarmed.

I disagree with Dawkins approach, but at the heart of all major religions is the demand that the disciples unquestioningly accept the teachings in the holy books and as laid out by the clergy, and that I do consider a negative.

In short, militant atheist is really a stupid term

The term “militant” is figurative, not literal, in both cases (Dawkins and fundies). The #1 definition of the adjective at
“vigorously active and aggressive, especially in support of a cause.”

Danish, the issue of what either of us believe about religion really isn’t the point.

The point is I run into two kinds of atheists: those who simply don’t believe in the divine, and those who have to rub their view on their view in everyone’s faces, and make a big deal of painting everyone of faith with the same broad brush of intolerance, hatred, and violence based on the actions of others. And they usually make these assumptions of people they don’t even know or whose real actions they don’t even see.

It’s intellectually dishonest, and they are no better than the bible beaters who go around trying to enforce their world view on everyone else. Both groups as as obnoxious as hell, and militant is absolutely the correct term to apply to them.

“The point is I run into two kinds of atheists: those who simply don’t believe in the divine, and those who have to rub their view on their view in everyone’s faces, and make a big deal of painting everyone of faith with the same broad brush of intolerance, hatred, and violence based on the actions of others.”

Well, don’t know where I fall… I clearly have more extreme views on religion than Dawkins (I think he engages religion on the grounds of “false balance” – yes, I know, I’m deep in my rabbit hole, doubling down and I keep digging…), but I do not exactly rub my opinions on the matter in everyone’s face. I know for instance how vital it is to meet religious people on their grounds when it comes to medical ethics. Cannot do away with the likes of Josef Seifert, even if we wanted to.

So while I do believe that religion poisons everything, I really do thank Orac for calling skeptics out on their bullshit.

Everyone spouts bullshit from time to time. Whether Dawkins or Maher. I’ll still like them both, but they nevertheless need to be called out of their bullshit.

Thanks again, Orac.

I see you have bought into the “militant atheist” trope. Dawkins is wrong because he is not across that facts. That’s all. Just as it is not religion that is to blame here, it is not atheism that is the problem with Dawkins’ take on this (“militant” or otherwise).

One of the reasons the antivaxxers are able to get so much traction is because they are able to feed into the anti-government fears of this group.

What, the haredim? The most pressing thing to fear in Brooklyn is a late government check. I really don’t think that goes to the heart of the matter.

Oh crap, now I’m sorry I didn’t go ( it WAS a major rain storm but it’s quite close by car- 20 minutes?)

— Dawkins cites this to bash religion. Since when have anti-vaxxers like Andy and Del been using religion as a major reason to avoid vaccination? It’s more corrupt science and government and contamination . Amongst the woo-meisters I survey, it’s only lately that Adams has gone on about foetal tissue as a blood sacrifice to the devil etc. Null and most of the AoA/ TMR creatures are against toxins and governmental/ corporate malfeasance..
I say this as a heathen as well.
— a minor correction but I think that Rabbi Handler is from Brooklyn.
— it’s a shame because there are so many young Orthodox mothers being misled. I feel for them although I am not religious. When these communities are mentioned, unlike most other readers, these are places I am very familiar with because of proximity to family and travel / shopping/ dining out- I’ve spent a lot of time in Rockland. ( also Brooklyn, Lakewood, smaller enclaves in North Jersey and Orange County)
— and as Science Mom says, might this be a response, “doubling down” because of the outbreaks? I notice that Null & co have been discussing vaccines even more than usually. They may be trying to hold on to the faithful anti-vaxxers.

A while back, Dr Teuter did a post on the similarities between alt-med and religion, and speculated that alt-med might provide a similar experience to religion for the otherwise nonreligious. I found it rather convincing, as a cradle atheist with no interest in woo who has noted, with despair, how many atheists and nonreligious folk have a woo-streak in them.

So, I have yet one more reason to dislike Richard Dawson. Thank you…I think.

Please check your aim when you decide to hate on someone. Richard Dawson (deceased) was one of Hogan’s Heroes.

There doesn’t appear to be any way to edit, and I noticed it as soon as I hit “post comment.” Apologies to Richard Dawson. BTW, I said “dislike,” not “hate.”

Not that it makes any difference, but I believe the “religion poisons everything” quote is originally from the late Christopher Hitchins.

Oh for pity’s sake Dawkins: not helping! Hardliners (of all stripes) are really freaking annoying to work with, ugh.

In related news: 4 more cases of measles in Western Washington state, including multiple exposures at SeaTac airport and two high schools (the infected all appear to be adults).

The recent cases seem to be mostly the airport (!) and schools/places of work. Back at the end of April there was a tourist who went to all the touristy places, but so far no one seems to have gotten sick from that.

So, adults: you need to get your shots now because either 1) that wasn’t the measles you had as a kid, 2) the shot you got as a kid isn’t as effective as what we’ve got now, or 3) you didn’t actually ever get that shot.

To paraphrase a classic, there is no God and Dawkins is his prophet.

Religion isn’t entirely off the hook. Clannishness, which is to say epistemic closure, has a been a major factor in recent outbreaks in the U.S., including Somalis in Minneapolis and Slavs in Washington state, tight communities in which neighbors are more trusted more than expert opinion. The same dynamic can be seen in polio vaccine refusal in northern Nigeria, based on conspiratorial imaginings with religious overtones, which, to be fair, were overcome by more practical religious authorities, and in objections to the measles vaccine in Indonesia due to the porcine origins of some of the enzymes involved, to which, to be fair, most religious authorities offer no objection, and in rare domestic cases of objection to rubella and varicella vaccines cultured in cell lines derived from fetal tissue. Efforts to eradicate polio in Africa and Southern Asia continue to face religiously motivated armed resistance which, while not explicitly pro-virus or anti-vaccine, tends to have that effect.

Dawkins would have been on less shaky ground in this instance if he’d paraphrased Lord Acton, and said “Religion tends to pollute rational thought, and extreme religious fervor poisons it absolutely.” 🙂

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