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America’s pseudo-science problem

Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 03:02

I chose to sit at home last week and watch the “debate” over evolution between scientist Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham. It was particularly illuminating the way that Ham, by the end of the debate, essentially just admits that his Young Earth Creationist beliefs are not based on traditional scientific observations.

These types of pseudo-sciences are, unfortunately, common with individuals across the political spectrum and are certainly not confined only to conservative Christians. Many of the most liberal and conservative individuals across the American political spectrum spend a lot of time fighting against programs, technologies and beliefs that are no longer considered controversial, to society’s detriment.

Conservatives continue to attack concepts that are well supported through scientific research, such as climate change. Between November 2012 and December 2013, geochemist James Powell found that out of 2,258 peer-reviewed climate articles from 9,136 authors, only one rejected man-made global warming. One would think that since the scientific community is so sure that man-made global warming is happening, there would be a consensus among political parties, but there isn’t.

Many Republican leaders, along with think tanks like the Heartland Institute and Heritage Foundation, push an ideology that fossil fuel industries support, which states that global warming either does not exist or is exaggerated by scientists for funding. Both of which have been proven to be incorrect and cause the U.S. to continue to refuse to take action against global warming.

Many liberals have pushed heavily against this anti-science political stance, but many of these same liberals who are attempting to help protect the earth believe in pseudo-scientific ideas as well. Environmental activists have gone out of their way to attack genetically modified foods.

Rather than criticize herbicide and pesticide use common in modern farming or the patent right problems with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), they support the idea that GMOs are going to cause consumers to get cancer and other diseases. This is despite broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from genetically modified crops poses no greater risk than conventional food.

One of the most potentially harmful medical pseudo-scientific beliefs is that vaccines cause autism or other developmental disorders. Once again, there is a broad scientific consensus that there is no link between vaccines and autism or other developmental disorders. Despite that, anti-vaccine campaigners such as Jenny McCarthy and blogs on sites such as Huffington Post spread these ideas.

The result of the spread of this pseudo-science is that since June 3, 2007, there have been 1,324 vaccine-preventable deaths in the United States. Additionally, the herd immunities in many communities have decreased, putting the vulnerable, such as children and the elderly, at risk.

It’s important that we have debates and investigations into the effectiveness of technologies and programs to make our government more effective, but these debates must be founded on the evidence that studies give us. Other non-scientific ideas that continue to be pushed into the public forum include homeopathy, creation science, faith healing and the belief that homosexuality is a choice.

If we are going to continue to move forward as a society, we need to push back against these ideas, which are in some cases dangerous, and instead focus our debates on objective and positive goals.

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