A recent article in Nature News In Focus about Zika virus and evidence linking it to a spike in microcephaly in Brazil is a very interesting read. Reading news about Zika in media or blogs brings one to the conclusion that people have already accepted as fact that Zika is causally associated with birth defects even though the evidence supporting this proposition is scant. Rather than presenting differing expert opinions for the increase in microcephaly in Brazil, media outlets fan the flames and throw fuel on the pandemic fire. The World Health Organization is little better, saying “a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven”.
A media example is found in a recent WaPo article, in which I found this nugget: “Two U.S. women who contracted the Zika virus while traveling out of the country miscarried after returning home, and the virus was found in their placentas, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Federal health officials have not previously reported miscarriages in American travelers infected with the mosquito-borne virus while abroad. But there have been miscarriages reported in Brazil, the epicenter of a Zika epidemic that now spans nearly three dozen countries.” In all fairness this article goes on and urges some amount of caution about linking these two. But come on man! You’re reporting to me that there have been miscarriages in Brazil. Wow?
In complete contrast to this, the Nature blurb points out what kind of evidence would be needed to establish the claim that Zika causes birth defects and how this could be done.
Just another real life example of how scientific thinking is uncommon among us and certainly only acquired by reprogramming our default mode of reasoning.