Well, one of the most obnoxious anti-vaccine, right-wing, science denying MDs, Jane Orient, is back in the limelight. And she’s pushing the same old pseudoscience about climate change as she has about vaccines, HIV, and other sciences.
I hang around Quora, where people ask questions about just about anything, hoping experts will answer. I’ve ended up focusing on vaccines (of course) and cancer questions, both of which are so frustrating. The most annoying question that I answer is a form of the old trope “Is Big Pharma hiding a secret cancer cure just to make tons of money?” Seriously, I think a see a variation of that question every day.
Since I end up answering this question every day, I thought maybe I should put down my thoughts in an article here. Maybe some of you can find it useful.
I disappeared for a few days after the election of a man who espoused racism, xenophobia and misogyny as the reasons to vote for him. His actual policy proposals were threadbare and, if he really believed them, we are looking a historical dismantling of all that is special about the USA. It’s hard to choose what scares me most about this sexual predator’s policies, but the antiscience Donald Trump ranks pretty much at or near the top.
On a broader level, a Trump administration will probably gut science research by cutting funding to National Institutes of Health and NASA programs in basic scientific research. There are probably areas, where Trump will appoint directors who are opposed to the years of science that form a basis of policy.
Despite the press tacitly being in bed with Trump, never really investigating him, Hillary Clinton won the election based on the popular vote, with a several hundred thousand vote lead over Trump. I think most Americans wanted a President who supported science. Sadly, Trump won the election because the USA uses an antiquated and anachronistic method to actually choose the president. A method that is based on needs of 250 years ago and on the negotiations required to get slave holding states to agree to the new Union. But, I’m not a political scientist, and the arguments for and against the Electoral College system of voting would be far beyond what are topics for this website.
Let’s just look at the antiscience Donald Trump, sticking to the key issues of climate change, evolution, and vaccines.
Deplorable Donald Trump, for those who are living in a log cabin off the grid, is a wealthy (according to him) white guy running for President of the United States. Deplorable does not begin to define all that Trump embodies – ignorance of the constitution, sexism, racism, misogyny, white privilege, xenophobia, and institutionalized lying. And since this is a pro-science website, Trump’s anti-science beliefs fall far below the low bar I set for your average Republican.
But his anti-vaccine rants are particularly loathsome. As I’ve written before, Trump is completely wrong about vaccines by claiming that the “massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism.” Wrong Donald Trump, there is no scientific evidence that vaccines are related to autism. It’s hard to choose which of his hatreds are most dangerous, but I would nominate his anti-vaccine stance, because vaccines prevent diseases which can harm children, and protecting children has got to be society’s most important goal.
A little less than 2 years ago, a Huffington Post/YouGov poll found only a modest ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans regarding the science of vaccines – in fact, the difference was 1 percentage point, or essentially, vaccine support was the same between adherents of both political parties.
Unfortunately, the basket of deplorables hang on to every word uttered by the King of Deplorables himself, so one has to wonder if that difference has grown at all over the past couple of years as a result of Trump’s ignorant statements about vaccines. Lucky for us, we’ve got some data.
For those of you returning from an outing to the Andromeda Galaxy, Donald Trump is the Republican candidate for President of the USA. And Dr. Oz is the medical quack who pushes pseudoscience and junk medicine. Yesterday, Dr. Oz and Donald Trump met on Oz’s TV show to talk about Trump’s health record. If you think this showed us anything useful, I’ve got some weed that will cure every cancer.
I was not surprised when, earlier this week, someone announced that Trump would discuss his health with Dr. Oz. My first thoughts were, “of course he would.” If I wanted anyone to do the least critical questioning of Trump, I’d choose Matt Lauer to ask Trump about international affairs, and Dr. Oz to ask him about medical issues.
Since I am a political geek as much as a biomedical geek, I love it when the two occasionally intersect. If you haven’t kept up, some right-wing websites, like Breitbart, are pushing a trope that claims that a medically unfit Hillary Clinton is incapable of becoming President of the US.
I couldn’t resist commenting on this, because there’s really so much to say. Let’s start with the basics – Breitbart is a right-wing website that seems to use the Natural News method of facts. You know, invent facts out of thin air.
If you think that Breitbart is anything but a right-wing nut job website who’s in bed with Trump, you should disabuse yourself of those notions quickly. It is a right wing nut job website in bed with Trump
But back to the “medically unfit Hillary Clinton” trope. Let’s see where Breitbart got this “fact.” Because it has something to do with Gardasil – maybe not directly, but I’m having fun here. Just go with it.
The focus of this blog is science, though I occasionally wander into other topics. But in today’s world science and politics intersects a lot – and mostly politics comes up woefully short on science. Case in point, the Green Party in the USA has a candidate for President of the US, Jill Stein, who may deny more science than your standard Republican. For example, the Jill Stein anti vaccine message should make every progressive run away.
Before I delve into Dr. Stein’s anti-vaccine beliefs, I want to point out why I think that both those on the left and right need to be taken to task for their beliefs trumping science. If a politician denies scientific evidence to come to their own personal conclusions, then how can they be trusted to use real evidence to come to conclusions about anything else?
There are many reasons why scientific facts shouldn’t be a political volleyball, but they are, with people bouncing it back and forth until someone gets exhausted. To be fair, science isn’t a volleyball. To most of us, it’s a mountain that can only be moved with higher quality and quantity of evidence, not by badly done metaphors from the science deniers.
Let’s take some time to examine the Jill Stein anti vaccine belief – it makes her really the same as your every day science denying Republican.
I admit that I judge politicians on their science credibility. And I’m rather black and white about it – politicians don’t get to pick and choose what science they “believe” or not. How Bernie Sanders views biotechnology seems irresponsible. And that it’s aligned with Republican anti-science viewpoints is unacceptable.
For me, the litmus tests for science in our politicians are evolution, climate change, GMOs, vaccines, and cloning/stem cell research. There are a few other science policy issues that are abeyond the scope of this website – fracking (limited science available at this time) and nuclear power. I haven’t the time or the desire to review the consensus on either, but for many people they are also litmus tests for science credibility of politicians – and not in the way you think it would be.
Recently, a journalist took a look at how Bernie Sanders views biotechnology – especially in comparison to Hillary Clinton. And Sanders comes up short in this key area of science. In fact, he has previously aligned himself with right wing Republicans on some scientific issues, something that should cause any pro-science progressive some pause.
Senator Sanders is a self-proclaimed “socialist” or social democrat, although I doubt he would compare economically to real socialists or social democrats in Europe. His brother, a Green Party politician in the UK, probably would make a real socialist. He fits the crunchy liberalism of the state he represents, Vermont. These are generally the progressives I criticize the most – generally anti-vaccine, anti-GMO and pro-alternative medicine.