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Submitted on
April 23, 2013


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Recently, right-wing conservatives jumped on what they thought was a juicy, hilarious story of government waste - that "$400,000 in tax money" went to "measuring duck penises."

Meanwhile, record numbers of people are choosing not to vaccinate their children, convinced that vaccines either do little to help or are even responsible for rising frequencies of autism.

You may have also noticed my back-and-forth with someone who actually believes that the whole of human industry and technology - which has changed our planet more severely than any natural process ever documented - has no noticeable impact on atmospheric conditions and climate as a whole.

What do all of these things have in common?

They're all symptoms of the same petty defiance disorder and gross misunderstanding of the scientific world.

The average person has positively no clue what the very word "science" truly even stands for, what "scientific community" refers to, how peer review works, how research is conducted, how most research is really funded, even what a typical "scientist" is like. In the back of their heads, when most people hear "science" they envision a bunch of stuffy eggheads in lab coats, using government funding to torture rats and making up wild theories for free government money.

These are people to whom "facts" and "evidence" are nothing but words. If they don't like something, they feel safe to expunge it from their personal head-canon of life. They don't care how strong the science is. Heck, they don't even understand it, and it's a lot easier for them to dismiss it as meaningless drivel. They may not even realize it, but their highest priority is ultimately to feel special, to feel like they're part of some underground movement with a more tangible, more relevant understanding of the world than a homogeneous entity known only as "they."

They say species evolve from a common ancestor? They say herbal remedies don't work? They wasted a bunch of time looking at bugs under a microscope for how much money? Who do They even think They are!?

The human mind, by its very evolution, is driven to categorize other humans into groups, and a group you're not a part of is often judged by your subconscious the same way it would judge a single individual - especially when they do something threatening, like demonstrating superior knowledge of a subject. When science has become another "They" in someone's mind, a single mistake by a single researcher can shatter their trust - or reaffirm their mistrust - in an entire scientific principle, almost as though everyone involved in similar research is just one person; one person who said they knew what they were doing, but got "caught" in a "lie."

"AHA! I knew They were full of shit! I don't have to believe ANYTHING They say anymore!"

Real scientists are people just like everyone else. People from every walk of life, from virtually every country and culture on our planet. Right-wing and left-wing, religious and non-religious. There's no one "agenda" or "plot" that could ever connect even a tenth of them, let alone anything approaching a majority, and they suffer through the same struggles as everyone else. Of the millions of people who conduct scientific work, only a couple thousand work for government pay, and few of those ever see a dime of grant money go into their own bank account.

Scientists have little to no incentive to lie and swindle; how many famous, wealthy scientists can you even name? Most of them live paycheck to paycheck like anyone else, and they don't make discoveries to make more money. The vast, vast majority of scientific research is conducted only to expand human knowledge, not to come up with a "product" to profit from, and even when the latter happens, the men and women who performed the original studies see little to none of that profit. The only thing a scientist normally has to strive for is the esteem of their fellow scientists, which will all come crashing down should anyone repeat their experiments and turn up empty handed every time.

That 400k "duck penis" study? It paid several people over the course of several years - below average work wages - to collect specimens from multiple sources and carefully analyze every aspect of their reproductive physiology and behavior. The study furthers our understanding of population dynamics, wetland ecology, and how competition between males can perpetuate adaptations which harm females, to name just a few of its discoveries. It was hard work, its findings priceless to several different scientific fields, and to put the cost into perspective, a single Tomahawk missile costs our government $560,000 and provides data only applicable to developing ever deadlier, more expensive missiles.…

The anti-vaccine movement? Surprise, record numbers of children are now contracting measles, whooping cough and other diseases almost unheard of in recent decades; diseases that are deadly to infants and toddlers. The entire notion that vaccines can be linked to autism comes from "research" published by a single person whose methods were both inaccurate and unethical.…………

Global Warming? Well, you can read my last four or five journals.
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DrKaleidoscope Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I think I love you
Neurovore Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2013
Oh, where do I begin?

Magical thinking and other forms of anti-scientific nonsense are as pervasive in the developed world as ever and they show no signs of abating. In recent decades, these attitudes have become established in everything ranging from the prevalence of "organic" foods in grocery stores, the popularity of alternative "medicine", anti-vaccination movements, and errant fears over genetically engineered foods to name a few. The anti-nuclear hysteria that has re-arisen in the aftermath of Fukushima Daiichi is just the tip of the iceberg.

Although on the surface, most woo appears harmless, it can have very disastrous consequences for some people. This is because it can distort the process of scientific research, or cause the results of a legitimate study to be highly politicized by people who are not familiar with the field in question, or who are willfully trying to distort and mislead in order to fit an ideological agenda. In political terms; the "left" has become immersed in a strange mixture of naturalistic fallacies and neoluddism while the "right" (In the US at least) has been taken over by religious fundamentalism which makes a point of promoting young earth creationism and other Christian mythology. Unfortunately the war against science has gone mainstream as is under continual attack from political movements on all sides of the aisle. These are just a few areas where politics have trumped science

-Fears of radio frequency radiation have been around for years, despite there being no evidence for any of these concerns being justified. However, the World Health Organization recently issued a report two years ago that radiation from cellular telephones may cause cancer.

Now this lent an air of undeserved credibility to RF-phobes without any studies pinpointing a definite link between cellular telephone exposure and what constitutes an unsafe dose, and other necessary details. Hypothetically, something may cause a condition, but until there is solid evidence that it does, the empirical assumption is that such a claim is invalid.

There is a five-part lecture on this topic given by Professor Christopher Davis who has a background in electrical and computer engineering. It is well worth listening to the whole thing on YouTube.

-Anti-vaccination activists such as Jenny McCarthy and Viera Sheibner and the rest of their ilk have been whipping parents up into a frenzy over vaccines, citing fears over mercury, and formaldehyde; or for fears that they might be responsible over conditions such as childhood cancer and autism, when the only report that they are using as the basis for these claims has been the infamous Wakefield study which has since been retracted by the General Medical Council as being fraudulent and Andrew Wakefield was stripped of his medical license three years ago.

However, the damage has been done as the anti-vaccine movement continues to distort information and spread misinformation to suit its needs, out of some misguided idea that they are doing it in the name of public health. Many of these diseases such as diphtheria, polio, and whooping cough were deadly for children before the vaccines against them were available, and while other illnesses like measles and mumps were mostly benign, they could cause permanent sensory impairment in some cases. Because of vaccines, these diseases are no longer a common occurrence. Unfortunately, this has lead society to forget the havoc these pathogens could cause, especially in newborn infants.

There was a case two years ago in the UK about a child's brush with death from a measles infection and she had permanent deafness as a side-effect. It could have been prevented if her mother had given her the MMR vaccine like her physician recommended. Her daughter is now paying the price. Even as we speak there is an outbreak of measles that is happening in the US that has in no doubt been helped along by public fears against vaccination. There is no reason why anybody should suffer from these preventable illnesses in the 21st century yet they are making a comeback. The anti-vaccination movement is responsible for the deaths or permanent disability of people around the world because whenever vaccination rates go down, herd immunity also goes down, making it more likely that diseases can find carriers. Nobody is going to be championing the resurgence of polio if and when it returns at this rate, and I doubt that pressure ventilation systems would become a fashion statement.

-Alternative medicine is a catch-all phrase for medical treatment using folk remedies, traditional practices, or supernaturally-based therapy rather than modern medical science. Alternative medicine has not been shown to be supported by scientific evidence, and the only benefit that anybody seems to derive from it is the placebo effect. While the placebo effect can be beneficial, it often means that people who suffer from serious medical conditions often put off real medical treatment which can cause their illnesses to worsen.

The motivation for this movement is somewhat understandable, as many people in the US cannot afford access to medical treatment as medical insurance companies here are notorious for their dysfunctional practices. The US medical system is in need of a serious overhaul. But this is from an administrative and financial standpoint as modern medicine has been proven to work and therefore the issues behind the broken American medical system ARE mostly administrative and financial. The issue is one of access rather than the effectivity of modern medical treatment.

Because many people lack access to basic medical care, they turn to whatever options are open to them. Although homeopathy, ear candling, and faith healing and the like have not been proven to be effective, an entire industry has sprung up to cater to the alternative medicine movement and play on people's feelings, even though alternative medicine accomplishes nothing other than fooling people into paying for things that do not work rather than seeing a real medical professional.

Unfortunately, the alternative medicine movement is growing, and it is showing no signs of stopping. The NHS in the UK has even started allocating funding for treatment to visit alternative medicine practitioners, yet none of these treatments have ever been shown to work. Quackery exists in many forms and now it seems that many people are supporting it and encouraging it. Speaking of "quackery", there is an in-depth discussion on the subject by pathologist, Dr. Ed Uthman on YouTube in four parts. I recommend watching it in its entirety.

-It has become fashionable to deride foods produced on "factory farms" in favor of "organic foods". Promoters of organic foods claim that they are safer to eat, contain more nutrients, are better for the environment, or have benefits that are not found in foods produced by conventional farming techniques. Organic foods have become a huge industry in the past twenty-years as it is marketed brilliantly by its producers. As growers of organic foods cannot compete in cost or quantity of foods grown using conventional means, they justify the higher prices of their products based on their own moral or environmental superiority.

This is largely false, because "organic" foods are often worse for the environment. Organic produce uses more land to grow while generating lower yields, ultimately leading more land to be converted into farmland. Chemical fertilizers are not allowed, so growers of organic foods must resort to using animal manure. Bacterial contamination from manure has led to outbreaks of food poisoning across the world because it is difficult to wash off pathogens using water alone. While organic food growers claim that they do not use pesticides, this is not true as "natural" pesticides such as rotenone and nicotine are permitted under the "organic" label. Although the judicial application of pesticides is a necessary evil when growing any food on a large scale, "organic" pesticides have not been specially formulated in a laboratory to meet certain standards and are often just as dangerous if not worse than their manmade counterparts.

In regards to other labels such as "free range", chickens in an outdoor environment are often subject to many parasites that cause the birds suffering such as gapeworm in addition to preventing them from reaching a desirable weight as a result of increased parasite loads. Predation is also an issue from prowling animals, and this raises the question on whether or not "free range" actually brings any sort of tangible benefit to the animals at all.

The third attack on conventional foods comes from people who are wary of genetically engineered plants and animals in our food supply. Humans have been "genetically" engineering their produce and livestock for thousands of years. By all accounts, there is nothing "natural" about modern day corn or the Holstein cow as they have both been bred by humans to produce higher yields of a desirable product in a shorter period of time than their wild ancestors. Their very existence depends on humans to raise and care for them. With genetic engineering, it will enable humanity to select for desirable traits in a shorter period of time using less money rather than running selective breeding experiments over several years. Eating further "genetically modified" food would be no more or less dangerous than eating food that has been modified for humans since its domestication by humanity. While I do not excuse the business practices of Mosanto, that is a legal and political issue and it has nothing to do with the application and implementation of genetic engineering technology.

-Religious fundamentalism has been fighting back against the encroachment of science upon its perceived domains in the modern world. Politicians of both the left and right pay homage to imaginary beings to increase their chances of getting elected, while science in public school curriculums is being subverted by groups trying to sneak in creationism under the guise of intelligent design or claim that Noah's ark was indisputable fact. Faith-based initiatives continue to receive funding from the US federal government despite there being a codified separation of church and state within the law of my country and it is considered politically acceptable for presidents to publicly claim that they were told to launch military campaigns against foreign nations by their god. Both men and women continue to have their genitals butchered for religious reasons worldwide, and suicide bombers have blown themselves up and the surrounding area under the illusion that doing so will allow them to enter some sort of erotopian afterlife.

While the attacks from science from groups typically associated with religious fundamentalism has always been a danger, their agendas are easier to spot and prevent. I think the more insidious war on science has been coming from groups that are associated with the political left, particularly since the growth and appearance of various neo-luddite, and bio-luddite groups in recent years has been exponential, and there seems to be an infatuation with the whole idea of the noble savage and the portrayal of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle as being some sort of carefree existence free of the worries and troubles of modern life. The movie "Avatar" was a prime example of this growing zeitgeist. To these people science=evil corporations and big government trying to control nature. I need not point out that since "nature" is constantly trying to kill us, it should not be used as a source of moral guidance.
Lilfut Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2013
Can I have a memorizable, sound-bytey rebuttal to the "duck penis" thing?
TheLazyWriter Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2013
I agree with you for the most part, except for the two scientific fields I despise and disrespect.

I despise Economics, or rather; the currently overly-popular Friedmanomics/Reganomics/Ayn Randonomics that dominates the field, because they seem to be one of those rare scientific fields that actually acts like your stereotypical mad scientist, i.e. caring more about their hypotheses and being right than their science's actual effect on people. Except for their hypotheses have been proven wrong time and time again by a little thing known as "abject failure when applied to reality."

And Paul Krugman (One of the few modern economists I respect) and his Keyneseyan ilk are like that one scientist we're supposed to like who says "You Fools! Mankind was not meant to tamper in God's domain!" (Or rather "Not meant to tamper in God's domain so selfishly and stupidly"). But, as in the movies, we never heed that guy's warnings, and meet our doom by releasing the Bearachnid/Sharkbees/Pellicannon of deregulation.

The other science I despise is marketing, namely because at best they're a necessary evil, at lower grades they can completely misrepresent what it is they're selling to try and sell it better, and at their worst they have actively caused societal harm (Encouraging body image issues in women, promoting obesity via their relentless marketing of unhealthy crap) or made the product they're promoting actively shittier to appeal to morons (Changing the endings of "Little Shop of Horrors" and "I Am Legend" due to immensely stupid test audiences, keeping women and people of color out of leading roles because "DEMOGRAPHICS!", the infamous "Loudness War" of radio, the list goes on).
DrKaleidoscope Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
actually, is economics even considered a science? It's really more of a pseudoscience, what with the Reaganomics/ trickle down/voodoo economics the Republicans keep pushing even though it's had its' fucking chance and in 30 years it hasn't one been successful. If economics was real science, they would have thrown out this hypothesis a long ass time ago
Cosmic--Chaos Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Sorry for such a late response, I just saw this comment ^^;
But economics IS considered a science because there are measurable variables such as values of currency and/or GDP, and the effects they have on the other variables.
DrKaleidoscope Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
I know that (well, at least a rudimentary knowledge of a subject, I'm not like a science expert by any means) I was just taking an opportunity to rip on the Republicans (like I do pretty much everyday, now that I think about it)

sorry if you thought I was being serious

I know that it's really hard to tell on the internet when a person is being sarcastic

 but I was
Cosmic--Chaos Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, I see. ^^; Don't worry, I get the joke.
And yes, I still have occasional trouble telling if someone is sarcastic (or not) online.
DrKaleidoscope Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
if only there was a "sarcastic font"

though the British do have this symbol: (!) that they put at the end  of a sentence when they're being facetious
ratravarman Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
C. Nortcote Parkinson, who researched organizational dysfunction and coined the truism "work expands to fulfill the time required to do it," once opined in so many words that economics may have been created to make astrology look reasonable in comparison.
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