I realise that a topic like “Vaccine Myths” is something that might seem out of place on a finance/economics blog.


I think that this story is an important example of the power of narratives, and the very real economic incentives that exist for the storytellers that spin them.

Vaccine Myths and the uncertainty of knowledge

Here’s the trouble:

  1. The field of human knowledge is vast.
  2. Because of this, it is impossible for every individual to empirically prove, for him or her self, every important fact in the world to be true.
  3. Instead, we are forced to trust in the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of specialists and experts, and their own interpretations of their own findings that they put out into the world.
  4. So we tread a very thin line between fact and fiction, without any real way to tell the difference.

For most of us, this can be quite disturbing. We prefer naive but concrete (even divinely-ordained) versions of reality, with all the clarity and certainty that accompany it. But a world of human narratives is the antithesis of that, where almost nothing is certain and almost everything is murky.

And this tension seems to leave us paranoid. On one side, we continuously attempt to create a world of certainty, with our scientific evidence, think pieces and peer-reviews. On the other side, we inherently distrust the system that tries to create this certainty, because it’s taking narratives and using them to create certainty.

This is fertile ground for story-tellers. They can play up that fear (not necessarily consciously – they may well be crusaders and true believers themselves), and then use it to their advantage.

The peddlers of Vaccine Myths

Here is this great infographic from Futurism.com:

vaccine myths

And this is just vaccinations.

How many other rumours are affecting the way that we see the world?

Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha. Or both.