Here’s an example of when it really doesn’t pay to be ignorant of science.
A vocal (and apparently very wealthy) biologist and outspoken “vaccination skeptic” was so confident that not only do vaccinations not work, but the measles wasn’t even real, that he made a public bet with the world’s scientists that if they could prove the measles virus exists, he’d pay them. Hilariously, one medical doctor obliged.
Stefan Lanka, a German biologist (we should probably use that term loosely) who believes the measles are “psychosomatic” and therefore exist only in a person’s head, made the bet on his anti-vaxxer website in 2011. Lanka’s bet is full of bizarre misunderstandings of science, medicine, and even common sense. German newspaper The Local translated the following passage:
“Because we know that the ‘measles virus’ doesn’t exist, and according to biology and medical science can’t exist, and because we know the real cause of measles, we want the reward to get people to enlighten themselves, for the enlightened to help the less enlightened and for the enlightened to influence those in power.”
Calling his bluff, a German doctor David Barden gathered the most up-to-date and comprehensive research on the study of the measles virus and sent the evidence to Lanka’s house.
Predictably, Lanka took one look at the combined effort of thousands of scientists, decades of research and the reams of data compiled and declared none of it valid. He reportedly refused to pay Dr. Barden – who then took the biologist to court.
Unfortunately for our intrepid anti-vaxxer, a German judge reviewed the research and – like most rational people – decided that the existence of the measles was fairly obvious. The doctor had fulfilled all the requirements Lanka had demanded (which in this case was probably not that difficult). Lanka was ordered by law to pay out the $106,000 he had promised.
In an ironic twist, Lanka probably did achieve his goal of “enlightening” people about the measles. Having become an international laughingstock, he further discredits an anti-vaccination movement that is built on quackery, dodgy sources, and an ignorance of science. The result of this has been a resurgence in the measles across the world – including in countries which had at one point largely eradicated the disease completely like the United States and Germany.
Feature image via YouTube