Penn And Teller Explain Why Anti-Vaccination Is Bullshit In 90 Seconds

If you've got any common sense, you'll be rightly annoyed by the building wave of parents refusing to vaccinate their kids at the moment. So far it has caused an outbreak of measles at Disneyland and it's likely to cause more outbreaks as rates of vaccination in kids continues to fall. Magicians, comedians and champions of common sense, Penn and Teller, decided enough was enough, and will now show you why the theories behind anti-vaccination are bullshit.

The theory that forms the backbone of the anti-vaccination movement is that vaccines can cause autism. A 1998 study published in a medical journal "found" a link between vaccines and autism, saying that 1-in-100 children were at risk. The journal later retracted that information after it was found to have been falsified. The author of the study was reportedly set to benefit from lawsuits that relied on his data, but the damage was already done: the "anti-vaxxer" movement was in full swing.

In Penn and Teller's 2010 show Bullshit! the pair debunk myths that seem to weave their way in and out of mainstream thinking. The above clip sees them take the theory of anti-vaccination, and say that even if vaccinations do cause autism in 1-in-100 kids (which they obviously don't), vaccination is still necessary to protect kids from a whole bunch of other awful things that modern medicine cured ages ago.

Please. Don't be an idiot. Vaccinate your kids.

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    This is one of my favourite videos of all time. Anti Vaccer on FB had issues with the language and said it was useless because the death rates are from in the past and medicine is better now. No, it's because they didn't have vaccines for those diseases yet.

    Later, his whole family had to go into isolation because they were possibly exposed to someone with whooping cough. Sucks for the 5 or so kids they have but haha.

      He is right though. The death rates ARE in the past, and MEDICINE is much better now. He just explained what a fucking vaccine is lol.

        Immunisation is the Medicine which improved. Not a mystical force.

          Yes. I am aware. Because I'm not a 5 year old, nor am I Amish.

        Yes they have much better medicine now. They are called vaccines.

    Great video. I just don't get why you wouldn't immunize your child.

    Last edited 06/02/15 9:21 am

    It's sad that videos like this need to exist. If people understood the most basic principals of science, they would realize how ignorant they are being in regards to vaccination, climate change etc. Numbers talk, bullshit walks, but it seems some people find bullshit really appealing.

    I don't understand how anyone can consciously choose a potential sickness and death of their child and other children over a minor potential (*non-existent) chance of autism. Are they actually of the mindset that autism is worse than death?

    So the CDC says that 1 in 68 kids are somewhere on the autism spectrum. We have to remember that Autism isn't a Boolean argument. So somehow linking children with vacinations to autism actually makes no sense when the ratio is 'apparently' higher in kids with vaccinations. So one could argue that you're less likely to get autism if you are vaccinated.


      That's like saying people with 6 fingers are less likely to get cancer cause more people with five fingers get cancer...

    If only we could vaccinate against stupidity.

      They still wouldn't get the vaccinations though.

    Do people still believe it can cause autism? I thought they were passed that.

      See Jenny McCarthy.... What a great prophet for human annihilation she is.

        Hmm I remember reading a year or so ago she kind of backpeddled on her beliefs a bit... Not totally, but a bit. Can't remember where I read it though :/

          I think she found out her son didn't actually have autism and was misdiagnosed. I can't remember what the new, corrected diagnosis was, however.


              Stupid-Motherism. Jenny is a big disappointment because it would please me greatly if someone could do the naked thing and still be shown to be intelligent. And she probably is but on this one issue she is a complete moron and doing great harm. She should just go back to being naked and stop the pretext.

      How retarded are the people who think that vaccines cause a genetic condition?

      You're either born with autism or you are not, its not something you can "catch".

        I recently read of a study where they identified kids that may have it early (you can't really diagnose it for sure early on) and the parents were taught specific exercises to go through with their kids that helped them focus on people when they were being talked to and heaps of other stuff. Apparently they are doing really great compared to other autistic kids.

    The Anti- Vax people are probably too stupid to realise that maybe they are still alive due to parents, grand-parents and great-grandparents receiving vaccinations.
    The other stupidity is from a religious group that disagrees with blood transfusions.

      I do see the religious groups point though. Last time I received a vaccine it came with 3 quartz of someone else's blood... wait....

        I'm guessing you mean 3 quarts. Or to the rest of the world that use a measurement system that does not breath though its mouth 2.839L

        So that's a blood transfusion.... I'm guessing you are quoting something the idiot anti-vax people say... if not that was not a Vaccine.

          Yes, it was some forced stupidity. I am Australian, and use the metric scale. And if I received a vaccine that contained any blood at all, then it wouldn't be a vaccine, but probably a shared needle in a crack house....

      Interestingly, one big religion that is against blood transfusions only made up that rule awhile ago. You can find early copies of their magazine and there was an interesting news section marveling about the modern miracles of blood transfusions. Since the whole religion is organised top down, they can't really denounce it as some crazy off shoot either.
      Internet archives are great for when they come to your door. They don't know what to say.

    Love how scientific arguments are made by people with no degree in microbiology, biochemistry or gene therapy. Considering these guys are comedians I find their analysis scientifically baseless regardless where you stand on the matter. What scares me more is that people watch stuff like this and believe it without doing any research themselves. Who is the stupid one now?

      The people putting there kid lives and the lives of children who cant get a vaccine at risky by not following what doctors are and the medical community advise?

      So, you're saying you can't trust people with no degree in microbiology, biochemistry or gene therapy (not that vaccines are gene therapy, but we'll put that aside for the moment) with respect to the vaccines.

      Next you're suggesting that people (general people, who I assume are more that likely not to have a degree in microbiology, biochemistry or gene therapy) should do research themselves.

      So which is it? I'll save you the time. The people in the video have the same opinion as the *overwhelming* majority of people with degrees in microbiology, biochemistry and yes, even gene therapy. The "doctors" that tend to disagree with this viewpoint are doctors in the same sense as Dr Pepper is a doctor.

      You'd be surprised how many people actually share your mindset and then go do "research" in journals like "Women's Weekly" and random websites. These people then tend to have rock-solid conviction in the "facts" they find because they think they're smart.

      That would be you. You're the stupid one now.

      You realise that your GP in Australia (most likely, there is always the odd exception) doesn't have one of those degrees either right? The nurse that gives the vaccine, they might not even have a degree at all. When discussing these matters you don't need a degree in a biotech specialty to be capable of critical thought, or to help provide suitable education to others.

      This comment is so far past stupid that, "me thinks I smell Troll"!

    Great throwback friday post. Such an old video.

    Penn and Teller tackle this with a clarity like nobody else ever has. This video should be shown on every TV channel once a week forever as a community service announcement.

    Easily the best explanation for why anti-vax arguments are plain dumb.

    That being said, the pro-vax and anti-vax camps are just vitriolic echo chambers now. Each side is dominated by righteous anger and belief, and will cede no ground to "the enemy". You either think that a bunch of children are going to unecessarily develop serious and potentially deadly illneses for no scientifically valid reason, or that a bunch of children are going to develop autism for reasons that are ... I dunno - aliens?

    ummm sure, vaccination technology is great... but, how about it's up to the individual? Penn is meant to be a libertarian - I mean doctors can advise parents all day long, but you can't mandate things like vaccinations or we all lose our personal freedom.

    saying that "children all need to be vaccinated because measles broke out once in Disneyland" is the hegelian dialectic in full swing.

      If a parent decides not to vaccinate their child, who then contracts an illness and dies, the fault lies with the parents choice and they will have to deal with the consequences. But if an unvaccinated child is a vector to a child or adult that for any reason cannot be vaccinated (a newborn for example, or a cancer patient with a compromised immune system), the fault still lies with the parent who chose incorrectly for their own child. Without a community immunity to diseases the innocent will be the ones to suffer, that also includes the poor children of idiots.

      I would fully support mandatory vaccinations, if it came down to it.

    you can't force medication on people, it violates common law.

    we are in a nanny state as it is, we don't need more of this crap... we need to be moving towards liberty, not more tyranny in Australia.

    I have a skin condition that only UV rays from the solarium has helped with. and as of this year the government has decided that I no longer have the right to be able to treat myself with something that is proven to be beneficial in small doses; simply because a few people went overboard with them. This has taken away my personal freedom.. it should have nothing to do with the government.

    same goes for vaccinations. leave it up to the individual... education is the key, not force.

      If you're talking about psoriasis, you should probably get UV therapy at a proper dermatology clinic. If it's really so bad that over-the-counter topicals won't help, there are plenty of medicines that can be prescribed.

      Your issue with your skin is a different thing entirely. Kids need to be immunised. It's not a matter of freedom. It's the same as not being allowed to beat your children doesn't impact your civil liberties, as a community we have certain regulations that need to be adhered to for all of us and vaccination is one of them.

      And if the only people harmed were the ones making stupid decisions about vaccines I'd agree with you but 1. it's their children who are harmed not themselves 2. society is harmed due to the damage they're doing to herd immunity. Some people can't get vaccinated, those that can have a duty to be vaccinated in order to protect them.

      Also, everyone should be allowed to drink as much as they want then drive there car. Stupid nanny state rules.

    I am with critical thinker on this. I think people should vaccinate, and you're probably a paranoid idiot if you don't but I don't think it should be law. Vaccinations are not 100 % effective and the number of people who chose not to vaccinate won't be effecting the outcomes significantly. For some illnesses humans are not the only reservoir - therefore the argument about herd immunity to protect those who cannot immunise is somewhat disingenuous.

      Actually it is affecting the outcome significantly, see measles outbreak in the US. vaccination rates in some wealthy Melbourne suburbs are dropping to dangerous levels. I think it should absolutely be law for the good of society.

      What commonly vaccinated diseases are spread by non humans?

      And several areas have already dropped below the threshhold. That is why people are getting these diseases. Because they are SPREADING. Herd immunity requires a certain percent to be vaccinated. We've fallen below that.

    Leaving vaccination up to the individual would be OK if adults were making decisions about themselves but not if they are making decisions about their kids. We don't let adults physically abuse their kids, we don't let them neglect them and we shouldn't let them not vaccinate.

    Last edited 09/02/15 6:56 am

    All I know is I have been vaccinated and am not dead from those awful diseases. I hear everyone else vaccinated is too. So yay for being alive instead of dead

    I'm normally a big fan of Penn & Teller's show Bullshit, but this bit didn't live up to their normally high standards. The first was the use of a Straw Man argument that claims Anti-Vax parents universally want zero vaccinations. In fact, the huge majority of parents concerned with vaccinations are worried about the dramatic increase in the number of vaccinations before the age of 2. Children today receive over 2 times the number they did in 1980. They advocate a less aggressive vaccination schedule lasting until the age of 4, not zero vaccinations for their child. Furthermore, ever since British research Dr. Andrew Wakefield linked the relatively new measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) combination vaccine with intestinal problems that he believed led to autism in 1998, the pro-vaccination argument seems to be based on the two prong argument "we need vaccines because they are better than a world in which no children get vaccinated" and unsupported blanket statements such as "vaccines do not cause autism". Most anti-vac parents do want their kids to get vaccinations. The scientific community has not presented a credible alternative explanation behind the explosion in the number of children with autism - 600% in the last 2 decades. Even allowing for some of that increase being explained by better reporting mechanisms, autism has increased 6-15% a year between 2000 (1 in 150) and 2010 (1 in 68). The pro vaccination advocates should spend more time and energy on identifying the causes of autism rather than on ad hominem attacks on people questioning the aggressive vaccination schedule.

      At least as an anti-vaccer you came in treading a little more lightly than the guy above. Your post is still full of more wrong than a Gina Rineheart/Clive Palmer porno.

      This is one of the dumbest things I have recently read.

      Let me get this straight:

      We don't yet know what causes autism.

      A doctor (was was later discredited) comes out and says they are caused by vaccines. He is wrong.

      Now the scientific community needs to find out what causes autism.

      Also pro vaccination people (rational human beings) also need to find out what causes autism. Because that's not better left to researchers and it doesn't matter if kids get preventable diseases and possibly die?

      No thankyou.

      unsupported blanket statements such as "vaccines do not cause autism"Wikipedia lists nine separate reviews of medical studies that concluded that "There is strong evidence that MMR vaccine is not associated with autism", that Wakefield's results were "fatally flawed due to contamination", and that the increased in diagnosed autism cases was "largely attributable to changes in diagnostic practices".

      the huge majority of parents concerned with vaccinations are worried about the dramatic increase in the number of vaccinations before the age of 2Can you provide evidence for that "unsupported blanket statement"?

      It's also worth noting that McCarthy's own child was diagnosed with autism after being vaccinated at age 3.

      Last edited 10/02/15 4:01 pm

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