Thursday, March 26, 2015

German Measles Denier Ordered to Pay $106,000

Stefan Lanker - the man who claims the measles virus does not exist. Was anti-vaccination too mainstream for him?
[Source: "Question Everything" Youtube channel]

It all started with a challenge. Stefan Lanka, a German biologist known for promoting pseudoscientific theories such as HIV denialism and anti-vaccination, insisted that the measles virus did not exist. He claimed that measles is caused by a “psychosomatic illness” because of “traumatic separation.” And, to put his money where his theory is, he offered 100,000 euros (roughly $106,000 USD) to anyone who could prove that measles is viral in origin. 

David Bardens, a German doctor, responded by compiling evidence from multiple medical journals that measles is indeed caused by a virus. Of course, Lanka refused to actually pay, so Bardens sued. A German court recently ruled that Bardens’s proof was sufficient and that Lanka must pay. Lanka says that he plans to appeal.

When I first read about this case, I thought it was a hilarious publicity stunt. Then I realized that Lanka represents an all too common refusal to believe scientific evidence. He is a so-called scientist who took anti-vaccination one step farther and started going anti-virus. Such beliefs have led to precipitous declines in vaccination rates, especially for childhood diseases such as measles. Serious measles epidemics have swept the US and Europe. As herd immunity declines, innocent children, even those who have been vaccinated, may die of entirely preventable diseases. And that’s not funny at all.


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