Just today I saw a headline that a baby died due to whooping-cough (pertussis), a highly contagious bacterial disease. The parents refused to vaccinate the child.
We have had vaccines for whooping-cough for about 100 years, saving millions of people. Parents refuse vaccinations based on the pseudoscientific notion raised fairly recently by a flawed study that vaccines cause autism. By not vaccinating their children, parents not only jeopardize the lives of their own children, but since this particular disease is wildly contagious, they are endangering the lives of all others that come in contact with their possibly infected children.
This can happen because strong denial of science permeates our society, partly due to religious fervor, partly due to ignorance, and mostly due to the targeted, planned and well-funded obfuscation campaigns by corporations that have something to gain, and individuals and politicians who are whores to their causes.
I read the book Denying Science, by John Grant, which raises many questions about the subject.
Is evolution just a theory?
Does it make sense to cut off the external genitals of baby girls in Africa to protect them from evil?
Do vaccinations cause autism?
Does homosexuality cause AIDS?
Science is complicated, science is hard. You have to pass calculus before they even let you in. You can’t take Physics 101 until you take at least two semesters of calculus, and many people never even come near any calculus in all their lives.
Science is hard, and therefore most people know little or nothing about it. So when some “learned” priest comes around and tells us that the earth is really only 6000 years old – he must know, and we believe. If a congressman who is also a medical doctor spouts off that “evolution is lies from the pits of hell” his Texas constituents cheer.
The fact is, most of us don’t have enough qualifications to argue these points, and it’s difficult to have command of the information required to debate any of these subjects convincingly. Many of us feel ill-equipped, or plain stupid.
John Grant, in Denying Science, gives us facts, background, common sense and political insight into a variety of topics that our leaders and politicians purposely obfuscate – first to keep us stupid and confused, and second to keep making money. The book is full of valuable information, the bibliography alone is seven pages long, providing a reading list for a lifetime.
Anyone with a scientific mind but not enough time to learn about evolution, medicine, history, climatology, vitamins, smoking, human sexuality can read Denying Science for assistance.
Here is a random excerpt from page 263:
Nuclear power’s risks also seem trivial when set alongside the annual casualties incurred by coal mining. More than half of the world’s mining deaths occur in China; in recent years the figure for that country alone has been running into the thousands, according to official figures that may well be underestimates. (Some reckonings put China’s annual death toll from mining accidents as high as 10,000.) Also capable of taking a huge toll are sludge spills. The sludge or slurry is liquid coal waste left over after mined coal has been washed to remove impurities; these impurities typically include mercury, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, thallium, nickel, and selenium. The usual method of dealing with the sludge is to dam it into reservoirs while someone tries to think of a way of dealing with it. When the dams burst the results can be horrific. In one famous incident in 1966 a sludge spill at Aberfan, Wales, killed 144 people, including 116 children who’d been in classes at the local school.
Ask the Koch brothers what they think about the mercury, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, thallium, nickel, and selenium floating around in our environment, seeping into our water tables, and they’ll tell you, often through their congressmen marionettes that those things occur naturally in our world – we got it out of the earth, didn’t we? – and therefore we should not worry about them.
But here I go spouting off, rather than sticking to my book review.