Do the American People Need to Become Re-introduced to Science?

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Seth Mnookin: The Autism Vaccine Controversy and the Need for Responsible Science Journalism

Last January, Andrew Wakefield, the discredited British gastroenterologist whose 1998 paper sparked the first wave of fears that vaccines might be causally connected to autism, was further disgraced when the editors of the British Medical Journal declared his work “an elaborate fraud.” (By that point, Wakefield had already forfeited his medical license for a litany of moral, ethical, and professional misdeeds — including an incident where he paid children at his young son’s birthday party to donate their blood for his experiments.) With little left to lose, Wakefield seemed to fully embrace the fringe: In June, he headlined a rally titled “The Masterplan: The Hidden Agenda for a Global Scientific Dictatorship” with a cohort of 9/11 Truthers, One World Government conspiracists, and anti-fluoridationists.

So, how are the mighty fallen. This is one of the slender reeds upon with the anti-vaccination movement rests? Has the movement slidden into Internet Conspiracy Theory? (JP)

Seth Mnookin: The Autism Vaccine Controversy and the Need for Responsible Science Journalism

 

Do the American People Need to Become Re-introduced to Science

I’m beginning to wonder.

Last winter, I was getting my haircut during a snow fall and one of the clients said “I guess that global warming is going to get us all; the he hee-hawed like a jackass.

Didn’t hear quite so many jokes during the drought last summer when in the eight county Houston area, 66 million trees are dying roughly 10% of all trees in the area.

The evidence is clear. Get some bad research, a couple of bogus think tanks and compliant media with give you equal credit with internationally renowned scientists. Using this tool, you can confuse enough of the population to keep necessary legislation or in the case in the article above vaccinations from taking place.

I’ve been in college with students studying to be scientists. (My degree is in criminal justice and speech, and I have a law degree.) I was always amazed at how hard they worked to be precise in their conclusions. Their dedication was amazing. For many it was a love of learning, of discovering, and of making a difference. That’s why they became scientists.

Hearing and reading them described as some kind of international plot to disdain God and make people give up their cars is a pretty miserable experience. It’s like hearing a good friend maligned.

Let me tell you something. I was raised in a fundamentalist church. Do you know how many times I was lied to in their literature; how often the material was simply made up whole cloth? Do you know how often when I went and studied history and science and discovered that the things they told me were non-existent or distortions of the facts? It was a regular experience.

When I compare that to the number of times that scientists have deliberately misled me in my lifetime, there is simply no contest.

You make better decisions with facts and science than you do with wishful thinking. Whether it be secondhand smoke or global warming, I’ll line up with the best knowledge available.

James Pilant

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7 thoughts on “Do the American People Need to Become Re-introduced to Science?

  1. The problem with people in general not only Americans is that they want to defy the laws of nature thru science in the effect that it is massive and destructive. We as humans must know our boundaries and never cross them.

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  2. Yes! I am sure I sound like a broken record – but once again, public funding for science needs to be increased, prospective science/engineering PhD students need to be told that they are unlikely to land assistant professor positions upon study completion, and working conditions for PhDs also need to improve drastically. Universities need to cut the administrative fat, cease functioning like corporation and put the focus on the purpose of university; getting research and teaching done.

    I will also argue that the United States should improve its immigration policies and procedures to make it easier to attract and retain talented foreign scientists. Many are unhappy with the American immigration and education system, which does not make it easy for PhDs/post-docs to balance their professional and personal lives.

    Canada, which is a resource rich country, needs to spend a larger percentage of its GDP on more scientific research and development, to align itself with the spending of other wealthy countries. The current and recent governments have had dismal records in this regard.

    Finally, in Canada/US there are too many PhD scientists working on either post-doctoral salaries — or not in their fields at all.

    If we continue down this path there will be fewer and fewer good scientists to learn from – and we will continue to carry out research which is only in the interest of corporations and not the public good.

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  3. Pingback: Public Funding and Science | Pilant's Business Ethics Blog

  4. Pingback: Public Funding and Science | Pilant's Business Ethics

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