Thursday, January 29, 2015

The High Cost of Dissing Science

The Curmudgeon finds himself very busy these days with a variety of activities that keep him away from the Macbook Air keyboard a lot, so the frequency of posts is down significantly. Consider yourself blessed: a lower volume of his high-volume rants!

The two top stories on last night's news:
  • A winter hurricane batters New England, causing untold millions in damage and crippling many cities
  • Measles, once thought to be eradicated, is now spreading through the United States
What do these stories have in common? Both are the end result of a refusal on the part of the paranoid and paid-for politicians to accept the consensus of scientific experts.
We begin with the winter hurricane. I don't ever remember hearing about one, let alone seeing it on the nightly news. But it is here.
Climate scientists (or, as I like to call them, experts) have been telling us for two decades that the heating of our planet will inevitably result in greater and sometimes catastrophic weather anomalies.
No single weather event is proof that climate change is severely altering weather patterns. But the pattern is clear: droughts, record-setting temperature extremes, record-setting storms ... they are before more and more frequent, and the costs add up to untold BILLIONS of dollars.
2014 was the warmest year in recorded history. Nine of the 10 warmest years in recorded history came in the last decade.
Yet we have a majority of members of the United States Senate who refuse to accept the idea that pouring tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has something to do with this. We have a Senate majority leader whose political existence depends, in large part, on protecting one of the two greatest sources of greenhouse gases, coal. They all begin their objections to getting serious about carbon emissions with the phrase "I'm not a scientist" as if that is a badge of honor. They get their talking points from the Koch brothers whose massive fortune is built around the largest privately held oil company in the world.
Many of these same folks also are not doctors who ignore the consensus of the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Health and every professional medical organization on the planet. Instead, they take their cues from actress Jenny McCarthy who has learned through Google that vaccinating children against diseases is bad bad bad.
Larry Wilmore (the successor to Stephen Colbert in Comedy Central's 11:30 p.m. slot) summed it up well in his opening monologue on The Nightly Show earlier this week.

Parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit. But there is also a responsibility, recognized by all civilizations, to protect their children from harm. You have to use a car seat for infants and toddlers, you have to insure they get an education, you have to feed them. If you fail to provide your child with a safe environment, society will take them away from you.
In the view of The Curmudgeon, parents who intentionally fail to vaccinate their children because they think Jenny McCarthy knows more about autism than every doctor on the planet should be branded child abusers.
It is especially insane when you consider the use of vaccines has led to the eradication of small pox and soon will lead to the eradication of polio. (The latter victory is being delayed, ironically, by just three countries which apparently believe in Jenny McCarthy: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, where the disease remains endemic.)
Not only are they endangering their own children, they endanger others. Thankfully, rational people are fighting back. Some school districts now will not admit kids who haven't been vaccinated for dangerous contagious diseases like measles, whooping cough, mumps. In San Francisco the father of a boy with leukemia is fighting back against those who would unnecessarily expose his son to the risk of a potentially fatal disease.
The paranoia about "the government" and total distrust of anyone with a degree is costing us huge amounts of money and putting lives in jeopardy. (It also is fueling the epidemic of firearms sales in the United States, but that's a story for a different rant.)
To everyone who says "I'm not a scientist" or "I'm not a doctor" and then makes scientific or medical judgements contrary to the consensus of experts, The Curmudgeon suggests you instead just say "I'm a gullible idiot."


  1. The problem comedian and Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore fails to address is that it hasn't been all that long (i.e., within MY memory) since mainstream medical doctors were assuring the public that cigarettes were "perfectly safe"...and that, in fact, smoking a pack a day was "healthy," when (it has since been proven) they had massive evidence to the contrary. "Research grants" from R.J.Reynolds made it unprofitable to tell the truth.

    Vaccines DO have obvious, serious, unacknowledged side effects; autism IS now at the level of 1 in 100 people affected, where it was 1 in 100,000 during my childhood, before the current generation of vaccines.

    Altogether too many doctors today are lazy, corrupt, venal and mendacious. Demonstrably they don't want a nation of healthy people, they want a nation of sickly cash cows they can "milk" continually for big money. It is unsurprising that the public is more likely to trust someone like Jenny McCarthy, the mother of an autistic child, than the AMA.

    1. The other side of the vaccination coin is that we do know what happens when we don't vaccinate. Diseases that we once thought eradicated are rearing their ugly heads once again already. Another thing is why have we not looked at other probable causes such as the huge amount of pollutants and the additives we are putting in everything . These seem like much more likely suspects to me . Sorry but I am going to go with trusting my doctor over trusting Jenny McCarthy, a mother looking to blame someone for her own childs autism and who cites a doctor who has been proven to have " fabricated his research as part of a scheme that promised him millions of dollars."
      Here is a credible journalist article on the subject.

  2. We must all do what we think is best, Pauline. I am skeptical of the modern cult of science-worship, but I don't recommend people automatically throw the entire program out. I also don't recommend people automatically buy into everything they are told by medical science. I've seen and heard of too many horrible results obtained by all too faulty practitioners who did not do their homework as it were.

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