Why “Believe” is not the right word to use.

One of my flatmates is doing a professional health course, and as such has to regularly get some kind of immunity test or vaccination or the like. Tonight at dinner, she was having a bit of a moan about an injection she has to get tomorrow. In the middle of her little speil, she popped in the phrase “What if I didn’t believe in injections?”.

Believe. As though the effectiveness of modern medical science that has saved, oh, I don’t know probably thousands and thousands of lives since they were first invented, is up for some kind of debate.

I can’t remember exactly how the conversation progressed, but she continued and continued to use the word believe.

And here’s the thing. Believe really isn’t the word she should have been using.


1. something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.
2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.
3. confidence; faith; trust: a child’s belief in his parents.

See that second one? Here it is again: Confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof.

So no, she didn’t mean believe. Because vaccines are readily susceptible to rigorous proof. Their effectiveness has been proven.

This is a phrase I hear pretty often with evolution, too. “Oh, I don’t believe in evolution”. Oh that’s cool, you’re right you know. You don’t “Believe” in evolution. You deny evolution. Something which is scientific fact.

Anyhow, my friend ended up digging herself a little bit of a hole, when she happened to reference some family friends who don’t believe in vaccinations and whose child had contracted whooping cough, and that was their way of…you know…

‘You know…’ what?” I said. Her reply? “Getting immunity”.


That child could have died.

I should mention now that I have more than a passing skeptical knowledge of this. My Mum works in child well-health care, and part of her job is to educate parents on vaccinations. I always think it is sad to hear that people don’t trust health-care professionals such as my Mum enough that they will endanger the lives of their kids.

And when I happened to mention this (in a calm and conversational tone of voice), that kids die because they don’t get vaccinations, that that kid my flatmate knows could have died from whooping cough, the response I got was this: A little tsk, a head tilt, and a hasty change of conversation.

Because I’m the heartless one for not having the compassion to see that, you know what, some parents just care about their kids too much to let them have nasty chemicals pumped into their bodies.

Ah, the joys of living in a flat full of “believers”.

P.S. Need evidence that vaccines save lives? Of course you do, you’re a skeptic. Start here and here.

Image: Here

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Lauren is a Maths and Physics student from somewhere in the southern hemisphere. She has an affinity for reality, and you can find her on twitter @lolrj, or Google+.


  1. May 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm —

    This is the reason why I always try to use the word “accept” when I talk to people about evolution. It isn’t a matter of belief it’s a matter of evidence and whether you accept the reality of that evidence.

  2. May 17, 2011 at 11:59 pm —

    Agree entirely. Also, agree with seadeatea: I say “accept as true”.

    As in:
    “I will accept as true your god exists if your provide evidence”
    “if you do not accept as true the scientific theories that are backed by so much evidence (and refuted by none), you are not being reasonable.”

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