Four vaccine myths and where they came from

One of the many problems with science denial is figuring out where the rumors started.

In terms of the war on vaccination, Science has nicely provided a list of claims and where they originated. Read it here.

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Also as a bonus, see this pediatrician’s response to parents that don’t want to vaccinate their children. His post has recently gone viral (even though it’s been around for awhile), and is worth reading. He especially emphasizes that he is willing to answer every question that parents have about vaccines, but he’s just not willing to make exceptions.

Seismic Disruption in Medical and Science Research

What is the role of government? Above all, I think this question has been driving the political divide that has occurred since the election last November. It affects whether you think everyone should have healthcare, whether jobs should be brought back, and importantly for us, whether science should be funded.

It’s well-known within scientific communities that governments (This is universally true) are the major source of funding for all academic scientific research. And basic research is important because it expands our knowledge. Science builds on previous science, so there is no way to tell what the work we are doing now will lead to in the future. It doesn’t have to be applicable, it might become applicable in the future, or lay the foundation for applicable research. And because of this lack of immediate profitability, basic science is often not funded by for-profit companies.

So, is it the role of the government to fund science? I think so, because of the argument laid out above. But the Trump administration apparently does not share my sentiments, as their budget drastically cuts science research across all fields of research. Read about it here, or feel free to weigh in on my argument above.

Also, please note, this is why the march for science is so important. It’s not just our livelihoods that are on the line. It’s our future and the future of the next generation.

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Talking with whales

While captive in a Navy program, a beluga whale named Noc began to mimic human speech.

Since the early 1960s the United States had been deploying marine mammals, beginning with dolphins, for tasks including mine detection and recovery of test torpedoes. By the mid-1970s, the locus of the naval cold war had shifted to the Arctic, where the latest Soviet submarines were secreting themselves under the ice cap, an environment off-limits to animals including dolphins and sea lions used in the Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP). Experiments commenced on weaponry that could function in such extreme conditions. The Navy needed marine mammals with built-in sonar, capable of locating and retrieving sunken experimental torpedoes in the frigid waters and low visibility of the Arctic, and they landed on beluga whales.

Due to his close work with his trainers, Noc began to mimic human speech in an attempt to communicate, work that is presented in “Spontaneous Human Speech Mimicry by a Cetacean,” in the October 23, 2012, edition of the journal Current Biology. Or read about it over at the Smithsonian!

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This post originally appeared at The Macroscope.

Make no mistake: There is a War on Science in America.

The White House not only denies obvious, empirical facts on a regular basis, but they have invented the Orwellian concept of “alternative facts.” In the past, we simply called them “lies,” but now they are used in the world’s most powerful office. And that should scare all of us.

This attack on science, and on knowledge itself, goes beyond anything we have seen in America before. And it is not only dangerous to science, it is dangerous to our nation and the world.

What’s worse is that the White House and many members of Congress aren’t just anti-fact, they are against the pursuit of facts, and have tried to place draconian restrictions on what federal scientists can research, publish and even discuss. And god knows what will happen to our nation’s long-standing investments in research and science education.

This attack on science, and on knowledge itself, goes beyond anything we have seen in America before. And it is not only dangerous to science, it is dangerous to our nation and the world.

But the War on Science has inspired a mighty backlash. Scientists are standing up against politicians. We’ve seen rogue Twitter accounts, hundreds of op-eds and scientists announcing they are running for office. There will even be a March for Science on April 22. It’s a popular uprising, complete with heroes in white lab coats and park ranger uniforms.

But when I see these signs of protest, I feel worried. Is this the right approach? Are we truly connecting with the American people?

Sure, people are taking a stand against “alternative facts,” cuts to research and muzzling scientists. But what are we for?

To truly connect with people, I think scientists and their supporters need to paint a positive vision of the future, where science reaffirms its moral authority, articulates how it will help us and advances a noble cause.

In other words: What is the higher purpose of American science? And what will scientists work for, live for and fight for?

I can’t answer for other scientists, but here’s what I will fight for.

1. Keeping America Great, as It’s Always Been. Until recently, science has enjoyed deep, bipartisan support from elected officials. Thoughtful leaders on both sides of the aisle — from Teddy Roosevelt to Truman, Kennedy to Nixon, George H.W. Bush to Obama — have used science to guide our country forward.

And those leaders knew what I know: America is at its best when science is accepted and helps us do great things. Science helped us defeat fascism, win the Cold War, end polio, feed the world, land on the moon and crack the code of life. What could it do next?

The greatness of America is strengthened by science — it helps us lift people up, improve the human condition and build a better world.

Our future is dependent on science. Will we embrace science again, solve the challenges of our time and thrive? Or will we turn our backs on science and fail being a great nation, dooming our future?

The greatness of America is strengthened by science — it helps us lift people up, improve the human condition, and build a better world.

2. The Future of Our Planet. Science shows us the magnificence of our world. Our oceans hold beautiful coral reefs, bursting with life, gleaming through azure waters. Tropical rainforests teem with creatures, sights and sounds. Here in California, we have giant redwoods, reaching skyward, drenched in mist. And off our shores, there are colossal whales, drifting in rich waters, raising their young and singing their ethereal songs.

Through the lens of science, these wonders stir the mind, inspiring awe and wonder. They awaken our hearts and souls. We instinctively want to share them with the people we love. And preserving them is the greatest gift we can give our children.

But science also tells us that these wonders are at risk from widespread habitat loss, pollution and climate change. Science shows us the planet is in trouble, even if many politicians ignore the evidence.

But all is not lost. Science shows us ways of building a sustainable future — by reinventing our energy system, agriculture and cities. Science can build a future where people and nature thrive together, for generations to come. Ignoring science will doom us to an impoverished, degraded world. Our children deserve better than that, and only science points the way forward.

Through the lens of science, these wonders stir the mind, inspiring awe and wonder. They awaken our hearts and souls.

3. The Human Family. Science also tells us that we are all part of the same species, a single human family. While some try to divide us along national, gender, racial and ethnic lines, science shows us that this is folly.

Science teaches us that national boundaries mean nothing. They are arbitrary lines etched into maps by people in power. But the Earth doesn’t care. The air, the oceans and the species we share this planet with need no passports. Only humans worry about that. Frank Borman, an Apollo astronaut, said it well: “When you’re…looking back on Earth…you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.”

Science also tells us that our old ideas about gender, sexuality and race are wrong. We should love who we want, the way we want. This is normal. What’s not is homophobia and racism. Science teaches us that these are small-minded prejudices, not worthy of our species.

While some try to divide us along national, gender, racial and ethnic lines, science shows us that this is folly.

4. The People I Love. If we live long enough, many of the people we love will fall ill and some will die. Science may not always offer a cure, but it offers a chance. Or a way to manage pain. Or the hope that, someday, others won’t have to face such a fate.

This is personal for me. It probably is for you.

When I was a teenager, my mother died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a truly terrible disease. Science didn’t give her a cure, or even a treatment, but I am hopeful that, someday, science will help another family.

And we all know people who are battling cancer. For me, a dearest friend, a valued co-worker and a young niece are facing the disease and an uncertain future. But science is giving them the tools to fight — including the latest in laser surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Science is giving the people I love a fighting chance, and I will always be grateful to the scientists who gave them this gift.

Let’s be clear: those who conduct a War on Science are also declaring war on the people we love. If they get their way, people will die. And I’m going to fight to make sure that doesn’t happen. You should too.

It’s easy to think that the War on Science is a secondary concern in our unfolding political crisis. After all, the very fabric of American democracy is unraveling, and it might seem we don’t have time to worry about science.

But the War on Science affects all of us, and the things we hold most dear — including the greatness of America, the future of our planet, the decency of our society and the people we love. Without unbiased facts, an informed citizenry and the free and open pursuit of truth, we cannot be the America we want to be.

The pursuit of science offers us hope — hope that we will be a great nation, living on a thriving world, as decent, kind people, with the people we love.

That is a cause I’m willing to work for, live for, fight for and yes, even die for. And I know I’m not alone.

Why don’t people believe climate change is real? Too good a problem

Of all the science denial out there, denying that climate change occurring blows my mind. The data is overwhelmingly compelling, and excessive.

So a recent article over at the American Conservative really struck me:

“A lot of it comes down to the fact that, from a conservative point of view, climate change looks like too good a problem for liberals. Everything liberals want, or that conservatives think liberals want—more regulation, more control of the economy, more redistribution of wealth, skepticism or hostility towards capitalism and of America’s status as an affluent superpower—are suggested or required by the reality of climate change. The conservative sees liberals rubbing their hands together at the prospect of a problem that needs such solutions, and he thinks, “No, such a perfect problem couldn’t ‘just happen’ to arise—it must be invented or massively overstated.””

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Fact Check

“Alternate facts” are not a thing. The great thing about facts is that they are true regardless of whether you choose to believe them or not.

So let’s take a moment to check some facts about science that are being “altered” under the Trump administration.

Luckily, NPR has already done that for us, thanks NPR! Some of them are old, some of them are recent, all of them are problems.

But it’s important to first understand the facts. And here they are. 

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If the children are the future, the future might be very ill-informed

A new study out of Stanford evaluated students ability to assess information sources and described the results with words ranging from “dismaying” to “bleak”

Middle school, high school and college students were asked to evaluate the information presented in tweets, comments and articles. They were consistently unable to effectively evaluate the credibility of that information.

In fact, most middle school students couldn’t even distinguish ads from articles.

As I’ve spoken about before, I refuse to believe that we live in a fact-free world, or post fact world, or any of that non-sense. But this kind of study is disheartening.

But I’m choosing to think that knowing this information should be a call to educators (like me) to redouble our efforts rather than give up! I’m also open to suggestions about how to combat this alarming trend.

Read about it here! 

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