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The Terrible Logic of Supposedly Smart People

BusinessDunce By Julie Obradovic

More and more lately I have read articles and editorials that call for stricter vaccine mandates using the same analogies. It's almost as if someone issued talking points to the all-vaccines-are-always-good-for-everyone-at-all-times-no-exceptions brigade and unleashed them on the media. Maybe you have seen them too.

There's the car seat analogy. We have never done a double blind placebo study on car seats, and yet, we know they are safe and save lives. This is why we mandate them and why we should mandate vaccines too. 

There's the smoking analogy. People can no longer smoke in public because it endangers the lives of others, ergo vaccines should be mandated too.

And there's the drinking and driving analogy. For similar reasons as smoking, we have strict laws about drinking and then driving, and we have very serious consequences (like jail time) for those who disobey them. Ergo again, vaccines should be mandated (and if not accepted, punishable by jail time).

Interestingly, I have seen all three of these analogies touted by people who boast their Harvard education. Harvard, we all know, is reserved for the elite, the best of the best; therefore, the label implies, if a Harvard graduate says it, it must have merit. 

To be sure, I agree Harvard is an impressive institution. You do have to be pretty intelligent to go there, of that I have no doubt. But it is precisely for that reason that I am left wondering how these supposedly smart people do not recognize the error of their logic. Contrary to what they would like to believe, car seat mandates, public smoking bans, and drinking and driving laws are not analogous with vaccine mandates. Here's why.

When crafting legislation a law may fit into one of the following categories: 

1. A law that forces an individual to take action to protect themselves or their children that has no impact on someone else and that has no potential to harm the individual by doing it. 

An example of this would be mandating the use of motorcycle helmets, seat belts, or car seats. (A person may not like being forced to wear a helmet or use a seat belt or car seat, but no physical harm will come to them from doing so.) 

2. A law that forces an individual to protect themselves or their children that could have an impact on someone else, but still has no potential to harm the individual by doing it. 

An example of this would be establishing a minimum driving age. (A person may not like being forced to wait until they are 16 to be able to legally drive, but no physical harm will come to them from not driving until then, and more so, no physical harm can come to society by the delay. In fact, it likely prevents harm to the driver and others given the immaturity and lack of experience of a 16 year old.)

3. A law that prevents an individual from taking action that could harm themselves or their children that has no impact on someone else and that has no potential to harm the individual by not doing the activity.

An example of this would be the prohibition of recreational drug use in a contained setting. (A person may not like not being able to get high in their own home, but no physical harm will come to them from not getting high.)

4. A law that prevents an individual from taking action that could harm themselves or their children that could have an impact on someone else, but still has no potential to harm the individual by not doing it.

Examples of this would be the prohibition of smoking in public places and drinking and driving. (A person may not like being not being able to smoke in their favorite restaurant anymore, or that they can't get drunk and drive home, but no physical harm will come to them or others from them not doing these acts. In fact, direct physical harm is actually likely if they do.)

In all of this legislation, careful consideration has been paid to the potential for physical harm to an individual and others, either by enforcing or preventing an action. To reiterate, mandating the use of a car seat, wearing a seat belt, or wearing a helmet are proactive measures that have no potential in and of themselves to physically harm anyone, not the individual or society at large. Likewise, banning drinking and driving, banning smoking in public places, and banning the use of recreational drugs are preventative measures that have no potential in and of themselves to physically harm to anyone, not the individual or society at large, and furthermore, by not banning them, actually increases the likelihood of harm.

But given VACCINES DO CARRY THE POTENTIAL TO PHYSICALLY HARM AN INDIVIDUAL, they are not analogous with any of the aforementioned topics. With vaccine mandates, lawmakers have actually created a new category of law:

5. A law that forces an individual to potentially harm themselves or their children for the sake of someone else. (Or stated another way, a law that prevents an individual from protecting themselves or their children for the sake of someone else.)

In reality, perhaps the only appropriate analogy for vaccine mandates is that of the military draft, and even then not quite. For at no point have we drafted children or put parents in the position to enlist them in the armed services or be shunned from society. At no point have we denied that wars are dangerous, that there is a very real risk of injury or death, or that the effects of war can be life long. Nor do we ignore the efforts of our fallen soldiers, but rather, honor them and call them heroes. Vaccine victims, however, are considered rare, unfortunate, acceptable collateral damage. Gosh, we don't even allow them a traditional day in court.

Moving forward, I implore the vaccine defenders of the world to correct themselves. Car seats and smoking bans don't work as arguments to justify their call for tougher mandates, nor do they accurately reflect the issue. And unless and until we are ready to have an elevated debate in this country about the true issue at hand...Do we believe our body is the property of our the government and society or ourselves?...this important conversation is destined to be stifled by elementary thinking on the part of the so called educated elite.

Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.


Shiny Happy Person

I think I've commented in the past about the hypocrisy around the focus on vaccinations as a "public duty", almost to the exclusion of all other individual activities / human rights vs "the herd".

Here's a thought:

In Ontario, Canada, a signed consent is required before a person's organs can be used (for research or medical i.e. transplants). I believe this is the case elsewhere. The insert provided with an Ontario driver's license renewal states that 3 lives can be saved if a donor signs up. Yet unfortunately, "...4,529 Canadians remained on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant, and 247 patients died while waiting" [Source: e-Statistics Report on Transplant, Waiting List and Donor Statistics, Canadian Institute for Health Information: 2010 Summary Statistics ]

They can drag my dead body off the sidewalk, but nobody can touch any of my organs without my prior written consent. My neighbors kid can die in critical care, while I rot in the ground. maybe because I just didn't bother taking the 60 seconds to fill in a form, stick it in a postage paid envelope, and drop it in the mailbox. But while I'm alive, I refuse a shot, which carries a risk of injury, and I'm a selfish parasite.

So how many of the herd has signed up? Approx 14% of Canadians (just over 20% of Americans) were organ donors in 1020, according to the above source. How many donate blood? How many skip the morning brew and drop a dollar in someone's tin cup? How many skip the drive to work and walk / bike / take public transit (large studies show car smog as the biggest contributor to fatal lung disease - 2nd only to smoking). How many sponsor a kid in Somalia or similar, especially now (where drought and famine are ravaging the masses to an even greater degree)? How many of us collectively do any of these simple, painless, completely risk free and non-invasive things?

There are those of us that say "f$ck society" - and generally don't give a rat's ass about anyone. Sociopaths. Then there are those of us that say "screw the individual - the herd comes first". Fascists. They may say it more politely (gotta break some eggs, dontcha know..), but under the covers, it's still an ugly ideology.

Then there are the rest of us desperately seeking a balance. No shotgun approach, and no disposable kids. Informed consent. Primum non nocere. I think, in my very humble opinion, that those who push for mandates are just to morally and / or intellectually bankrupt / lazy / afraid to take the real high road (to find a better way). Because it's really really hard. And it's expensive. And it takes tremendous courage. Maybe it seems almost impossible, from a "little guy" bottom up point of view. Almost. Kinda in the same way that "safe" = "relatively safe". We settle for a few casualties, and instead, we let "science" become the blunt instrument weapon of choice, and then we use the statistical fuzziness around it to take the edge off if/when another parent talks about another kid that went down.

Even if Julie did not beat these analogies to death, an additional related point, IMHO, is that vaccines, good or bad, are not "special", and those who believe otherwise are living in glass houses.


CT Teacher,the world is a very difficult place once you truly open your third eye(brain)and connect the dots. It is
always easier to go with the flow and not to question anything.Knowledge,research and digging up data and truth
takes a lot of energy.Not everybody is interested in the
truth iether.You are one of those who can put this difficult
puzzle together and see the the picture/the truth/the lies.
This site will give you a chance to connect with people with
similar mindset and understandings as yours.Educate friends,
ask them to look into things.Change happens very slowly.


Supposedly Smart People often use a combination of things to maintain their power and money supply.

One is often called "shrug and play stupid." This can go on for years and years on even a simple issue... which then always requires more research and funding.

The second very effective procedure involves a massive "witch-hunt" with all their friends and usually with the help of the media.

Jenny Allan

Harvard gets an F in ethics!!

"The students argue, for example, that Harvard should be embarrassed by the F grade it recently received from the American Medical Student Association, a national group that rates how well medical schools monitor and control drug industry money."

CT teacher

Oops. I left out the "not" in most older people do NOT want to open their minds.


Helpful dude at the hardware store (immigrant status 2 years+?) said: "Yeah, no way is our doc putting anything in my kids body. My cousin is on the spectrum and my wife is tuned in to all that talk -daily. My kid has zero chance of any shots before 2."

Although the educated need convincing, all the logic arguments are crap compared to the word on the street. Keep it going everyone and thanks Julie!


You're missing the point. These Harvard grads ARE smart. They are very smart. They know that the rest of those non-ivy-league-schooled folk will believe whatever they spew, if only because they have Harvard in their credentials. They also know that when it comes to money, nothing is sacred. Not their honor, and certainly not our children.


The carseat analogy is one that I see over and over and over more than the others... It idiotic, at best! I always respond this way: "Car seats are good. They keep children safe in case of an accident and they keep them contained so that they can't roam all over a vehicle while it is in motion. I do agree that car seat use should be mandated. HOWEVER, if you try to inject that car seat into the body of my child, you WILL have a fight on your hands!"

CT teacher

I am not an Ivy League grad, but I am an independent thinker. I wasn't always. I have to say that thinking outside of the box has placed me in an uncomfortable position with friends and colleagues. As my friends all talk about getting the latest flu shot, or the shingles shot or the pneumonia shot and their latest prescription meds and I try to warn them of the dangers, they look at me like I am crazy. Some of them have begun to make snide remarks to me. My husband wants to muzzle me because he does think I am crazy. We are in our late 60's and I don't know anyone who does not swallow the party line....hook, line and sinker. All vaccinations are good, doctors and hospitals are wonderful, prescription meds and major surgeries save lives, etc.,etc. One friend, who is a nurse, actually got very angry at me over my position on childhood vaccines. It feels lonely to me to be an independent thinker. You see things that others cannot and will not see. Once you open up your mind, you can't go back. Most older people do want to open their minds. They do not want their world view upset. It is too frightening to think that the medical profession is corrupt, and that science has tricked us. I don't know that I am smarter than my friends and colleagues, many of whom are PhD's and MD's, and most of whom hold MA's, but I can't figure out their thinking. It is so illogical. Then again, maybe I am smarter.

Theresa O

I don't think it's a distinction between "smart" and "not smart." Rather, I think it's the difference between questioning authority and doing what you're told.

I find myself saying "Who told you that herbicide was safe around kids? The lawn guy?" as often to my Harvard classmates as to my classmates from my small-town Catholic high school--and I probably know about as many truly independent thinkers from each place.

I don't know whether you're more likely to encounter a white-coat-follower at an Ivy League school or a state university. I've certainly heard "but the doctor told me" from people of all educational levels... and at least a few AoA regular contributors and friends (like Dan, Mark, and Mary Holland) have Ivy League degrees... so maybe there is hope for Harvard yet.

Thanks for calling BS on those ridiculous analogies, Julie. I'm pretty tired of the car seat one, myself. (In what crazy world would car seats be mandatory in order to protect *someone else's kid*? Or a condition for receiving a free and appropriate public education?)

Anne McElroy Dachel

Forced compliance will backfire on these people. Every time this issue comes up in news reports it gives us another opportunity to object to their simplistic "vaccines are safe, vaccines save lives" mantra. We can present the facts.

There is no oversight when it comes to vaccines. CDC employees have long put the interest of the drug industry ahead of the health and safety of our children. More and more parents are afraid of vaccine side effects. Making exemptions harder to come by will only increase these fears. For years they've said that studies show no link, but the controversy only gets worse.

Anne Dachel Media

Cynthia Cournoyer

The "greater good" argument always falls short with vaccines because we vaccinate for more diseases and give more doses than any other country in the world. If vaccinating is for the greater good, then wouldn't these other countries (in Europe for example) have more epidemics than we do? They WOULD if the greater good argument worked. Wouldn't we have less disease if the argument worked? We are the most unhealthy country. Many public health policies designed to increase vaccination rates are made out of convenience and efficiency to get the most coverage in the shortest amount of time. As we increase vaccines and increase doses, this is becoming increasingly more difficult to accomplish. We are not 100% vaccinated against all recommended vaccines and doses, yet by using the greater good logic, we should be overwhelmed with epidemics of many diseases, until and unless we achieve this. But we are not.

Maurine Meleck

Air bags are illegal for children even--if they are under a certain age. But then what do you expect from an airhead like Mnookin? He has been hit by an airbag one too many times and it accidentally inflated his ego. Maurine


One nasty repress-the-masses blog is called Moms Who Vax, where irrational fear trumps science, common sense, and individual rights. The contributors view the rest of humanity as threatening disease vectors, and fail to see how closely their rhetoric teeters toward political oppression.

I hope everyone's seen the critique of vaccine manufacturer mouthpiece David Ropeik, who leverages his Harvard connection when brokering media attention. Check out "Selling Drugs as Scholarly Opinion" by Nancy T. Banks, MD and Clark Baker of the Office of Medical and Scientific Justice.

John Stone

As ever phoney rationalism: the label standing in for the real thing, and loads and loads of prejudice.

The reality is not only that all vaccines are not always safer than nothing, it is that if it does go wrong you don't stand a cat's chance in hell, and by now there a rather a lot of them: not all the diseases are so dangerous and not all so common that the trade-off of risk is so simple even if you believe half what they say. There are two things which are simple: taking the money and doing as you are told. However, the consequences may not be.

Terri Lewis

Go, Tracy!

My children will also take a backseat to further vaccines.

The ones who don't want to make them utterly mandatory will come up with stuff like, "Great, but you can't send your child to school with mine."

They'll try (harder) to keep unvaccinated kids out of school, then any public areas, etc.

My answer to that?

Your kids are a greater risk that my kids if you:

a. Travel outside of the country
b. Feed them a bunch of junk, overvaccinate, and leave them more susceptible to diseases for which there is no vaccine and/or
c. Send them to school with "just a little fever" so you can go to your job!

I won't have my kids vaccinated by force, and I won't have their right to be in public schools taken away, either.


Tara Marshall

My comment is okay, let's vaccinate in droves. But before we vaccinate, why don't we do simple blood tests to check for a healthy immune system and autoimmune factors? If these are present before ANY vaccination, the parent should then be advised NOT to have that vaccine administered to the child.

It's simple, it's easy, and it should satisfy the wants of those medical professionals who believe in theories like "herd immunity"... while protecting at least a large percentage of children who are vulnerable to damage from vaccinations from that damage.



You nailed what everyone was thinking, Julie-- thanks.

I think Mnookin originally flubbed the analogy by saying parents would be remiss by not using airbags when driving their newborn home from the hospital. Great way to decapitate your baby.

Once all the Tweedledums and Tweedledees in the press had settled on the car seat analogy after a few false starts, one of the supporters of compulsory vaccination tried to do a lock-down on this car seat analogy by saying yes, in fact using child car seats do carry a risk: in the case of a fiery crash and the parent can't undo the straps and get the child free before the car explodes. Point being that mandatory car seats provide a legal precedent to forcing the public to incur a certain risk because overall, injuries and deaths are reduced by a far greater degree than the infinitesimal chance of a child being stuck in a car seat. Ergo, vaccines should be compulsory.

Never mind that the risk of vaccine injuries is much, much higher than the chance of a child's straps getting stuck, the analogy still fails miserably and here's why: because of the risk of sticking buckles, school bus drivers carry box cutters or scissors in immediate reach while driving-- to cut kids loose in the case of fire or accident if necessary.

There is absolutely no parallel universal "salvation" device in case an individual child has an adverse vaccine reaction. Often with vaccine reactions, no one knows the "car" is "on fire" for several weeks or months. Even if a child has a reaction within hours or minutes, there is no reliable way to undo the damage.

The analogies basically bomb and have to be categorized as PR, not scientific logic. If Harvard weren't just a brand these days, it should be taking back degrees: they released graduates who are using their certifications to endanger the public by industry-PR-ing while they were supposed to be science-ing or journalism-ing.


Failing to take the long view always has consequences.

The same "logic" that supports forced vaccinations for the common good also supports forced abortions when the food supply gets scarce.

jersey joe

Hey, I'm smart too--several Ivy League degrees and they were way easier to get than it is to deal with this illness. Smart people have got to stop being so stupid. They have got to open their minds up and really look at what is happening. Anyway, most advances in both art and science have come from outsiders, so maybe not having a Harvard degree is a good thing.

Theodore Van Oosbree

Logic is no longer a school subject (even at universities) so it is no surprise that the Harvardians are not acquainted with it (and it IS such a pestiferous subject - "you mean we can't just emote, we have to think?")


I don't know if I would ever call these "educated elites", wise; book sense doesn't always equal common sense. Wise and smart are both ways of saying someone knows what to do. The difference is that wise means one has a higher than average outcome across all situations, and smart means one does spectacularly well in a few subjects. Once in a while, you come across someone who has both qualities; both smart and wise.

The almost total denial of vaccine risks for the past three decades by these so called "academic elites", doesn't make them very wise in my humble opinion. Can they not see that we are not all immune-compromised carbon copies of one another, that not all illnesses are caused by a poor-functioning immune system? The truth is vaccines have side affects, like all medical products; for some that risk is greater, than for others. Just as individuals can react differently to prescription drugs, some people are at greater risk than others for adverse responses to vaccination that can lead to chronic illness and disability, or even death. One size does not fit all and it never will.

Tracy McDermott

I recently explained not continuing to vaccinate my children with an "air bag" example. We know they were installed in cars to prevent a more serious injury...however, people can also sustain injury by the device itself. For that reason, the manufacturer clarified a subset of the population that could reasonably withstand the safety and efficacy of a deployed airbag - hence, do not put children in harms way in the front seat.

When my sons became ill with vaccinations, that was my "warning" that they could no longer reasonably withstand the safety and efficacy of the intended use of the vaccine. Even the airbag manufacturers gave the option to turn off the passenger side airbag so that the vehicle owner could bypass this well documented safety option. While under my care, my children will take a backseat to further vaccines.


You can also sue the car seat or bike helmet manufacturer in traditional court of law should said car seat or bike helmet be defectively designed and consequently result in harm to your child.

This is what bothered Justice Sotomayor in "Bruesewitz" - parents can't even sue for defective design!

Jenny Allan

Thank God for this reply from the UK Department of Health, (in response to my sending them a copy of another letter sent to the Science & Technology Government Committee.)

"In the UK immunisation, along with most healthcare, is voluntary and is a system built on informed consent and patient autonomy. A parent cannot be forced to have their child immunised and there are currently no plans to introduce compulsory immunisation in the UK and to sanction parents who choose not to immunise their child."

Amen to that!!


This is brilliant. Thank you for taking time to make this careful distinction.

I believe these academics are people who truly wish to live in a scient-ocracy - they see themselves as the only legitimate source of truth and believe they should be empowered to compel action from others to protect the public health.

They see themselves as a body capable of rendering unassailable truth as opposed to a conflicted, and deeply flawed group of people with all sorts of institutional, economic and cultural biases.

Forcing an entire population to take the Hep B vaccine at birth - when there is little justification for doing so - will be a tremendous victory for the scientocracy.

When my daughter was born under stress, prematurely, I rejected the vaccine out of hand simply on the basis that I knew both parents were negative and the baby didn't seem like she needed another stressor. Oh how glorious it would be for the Offits of the world to have the POWER to look me in the eye and tell me that they were administering that vaccine, whether I liked it or not. Does that sound like the liberty your founding fathers envisioned?

I can only imagine what comes next.

Bob Moffitt

Of all the arguments regarding vaccines .. the dumbest is the argument comparing "vaccines to car seats or bike helmets".

Trust me .. if the government issued a "one size fits all car seat or bike helmet" .. parents would .. rightfully so .. opt out in droves.

Why? Because each individual child is of different height, weight, age, head size, body structure, etc.

In most cases, parents can't even hand down one bike helmet to another child because it won't fit properly on the second child's head.

Indeed, were car seats not "adjustable" to fit each individual child .. they couldn't be handed down either.

I suspect it would be more dangerous for the child if they were required to wear a bike helmet or sit in a car seat that does not fit them properly.

In other words .. there is no such thing as a "one size fits all vaccine" .. just as there is no such thing as a "one size fits all car seat or bike helmet".


There is another distinction between those examples (car belt, public places without smoking etc). Whenever you don't agree with the rules you can stop using them without any personal risk (e.g. take train), all of those were created by our civilization. With infectious diseases it is different, they were created by evolution and there is no possibility of quitting it without personal risk.

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