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.www.slate.com/articles/health_…phenomena.nationalgeographic.c…thebillfold.com/2013/04/the-st…www.slate.com/articles/health_…
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.www.theatlanticwire.com/nation…scienceblogs.com/insolence/201…thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03…www.guardian.co.uk/society/201…
Global Warming? Well, you can read my last four or five journals.