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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