“Facts are stubborn things.”
[dropcap size=small]O[/dropcap]n the whole, Americans are just generally bad at science. But there has been some debate on whether or not certain political affiliations are worse than others. Libertarians are not immune to this shortcoming, though we are certainly more scientifically literate (on average) than those who identify as conservative. However, if the distinction is made between social conservatives and voting Republicans, recent surveys have shown that the latter group actually competes with those on the left for general scientific literacy (though, as expected, some issues are more or less accepted than others depending on one’s personal politics). Democrats do make up the most scientifically literate group when counted among scientists exclusively (only 6% of scientists are Republicans, while 55% are Democrats and the rest are either independent or “don’t know”), but that is a superfluous distinction when taking the voting public into account.
Why, then, do so many liberals and Democrats claim to have the high ground on this matter? Do they actually have a right to? It should really come as no surprise that smart people at large, regardless of political affiliation, just typically trust the experts in respected academic fields – specifically the sciences. What’s perhaps a bit more shocking, however, is how many self-proclaimed “smart” people will buy into bad science or pseudoscience to justify a political agenda – and the liberals are not immune to this. In fact, liberals seem to more often than not stumble in an area that I consider an absolute scourge upon thinking people – the so-called “new age” movement.
New Age involves anything from the belief that smoking pot can just outright cure cancer entirely on its own (only a myth someone without proper understanding of how markets work would believe, I might add), to the claim that organic food is somehow intrinsically healthier than the larger crops modern science has helped perfect, or even the postulation that cutting down trees – a literally self-replicating resource – will somehow make them go extinct. This is all nonsense, of course, but arguably the most dangerous of all these woo beliefs in and around the movement is that vaccinations somehow cause autism.
This is an issue that has been dealt with many times by now by many sharp writers elsewhere, but in light of a recent story on its front lines, I wanted to take the time acknowledge that the best way to deal with anti-vaxxers is to beat them at their own game and force them to acknowledge the science for themselves in such a way that they aren’t able to deny it. Such an event has indeed happened not so long ago, as an anti-vaccination group has seen very inauspicious returns from a huge financial investment made with the intention of finding a causal link between vaccines and autism.
The group, named SafeMinds, put $250,000 into a new study to search for said link, and that effort backfired “in spectacular fashion,” writes Addicting Info.
According to the report:
“Over a ten year period, SafeMinds funneled money into research done at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine, the University of Washington, and several premiere medical research institutions. The resultant paper, born out of a decade of anti-vaxxer paid-for research, was published this year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It revealed that there was no link between autism and vaccinations.
Things get even worse for the anti-vaxxer group. Much of the movement is based around the faulty premise that vaccines contain mercury-based ingredients that damage the brain. In actuality, nearly every vaccine now on the market contains zero mercury. However, the scientists ran a version of the study that used vaccines that included mercury, just to see what would happen. The answer was: Nothing. The vaccines with the mercury-based antifungal preservative caused no more harm than the ones without it – absolutely none.”
So, even when the scientists tried to rig the study in SafeMinds’ favor, the results still contradicted the premise. What a disaster.
Not to be outshone by their own silliness, SafeMinds then embarked upon a new, new effort – debunking their own study so as to keep their pet agenda untarnished. Writes Newsweek:
“SafeMinds … believes that the research team behind the new PNAS study may have cherry-picked their data. SafeMinds Director Lyn Redwood, a registered nurse, says she received an email in 2013 from the researchers reporting a “statistically significant” 11 percent reduction in certain types of hippocampal cells in the vaccine groups. But she says the authors did not include these findings in the new paper.”
Yeah. Good luck with that.
As it currently stands, the scientific evidence points so far in the contrary direction of SafeMind’s claim that it’s nearing the realm of absurd to question it any more – even for the anti-vaccination community. Meta data collection and analysis involving every major study on the subject thus far – amounting to over a million children – has already concluded that there is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism. Yet the agenda continues to get pushed, and the “smart” political demographic continues to largely bear the cross of such nonsensical martyrdom. Nobody who really understands this stuff cares about this superfluous crusade against these phantom threats in a syringe. It’s time to put down your copies of The Secret and face the music, liberals – science has no political preference, and you are not immune.