This is me, reacting to the spate of anti-science news that is hitting us in America these days:
Truly, I am not sure I can take reading one more article that suggests that deciding not to vaccinate your children is a reasonable parental move or that creationists should get to debate their views on science with actual scientists or that birth control and pregnancy tests have some bearing on fetal alcohol syndrome. It blows my mind that there are people out there who are thrilled to ignore the entire branch of study known as science. I cannot wrap my brain around that (figuratively speaking, that is. I know thanks to science that brains don’t actually wrap).
I used to just shrug this stuff off as the ravings of people who (a) had some sort of religious blind spot, (b) were engaging in a shady and/or cynical political ploy, or (c) were actually crazy. But over the years I have realized the real-world consequences of saying, “Meh.” Choosing to ignore proven scientific facts has ramifications that can ripple throughout a community, often in ways that make people’s lives demonstrably worse. Let’s take vaccination. Contrary to the stance of the anti-vaccine folks who claim that all they’re trying to do is protect their own special snowflakes, they are actively hurting other people’s special snowflakes. As most of us recognize, herd immunity only works when enough people are vaccinated, and thinking that you and your family are too special or important for medicine, or are somehow beyond the reach of horrible illnesses such as measles, is irresponsible and false. Sure, you are more important TO YOURSELF. But the universe doesn’t give a shit about YOU. Haven’t you been watching Cosmos?
And this leads us right into creationism. The creationists hate Cosmos and evolution and climate change and numerous other things that I’m too weary to list. Oddly, they do want the opportunity to engage in a debate about these things, however – perhaps they think they might be able to sway folks to their way of thinking. So, you can believe in something that has absolutely no reality-based evidence of any kind to support it (i.e., the existence of God), and yet you want to go around questioning Darwin, whose work yielded actual solid proof of its accuracy? It’s not that I have a problem with believing in God and having faith, and I also recognize that those who believe have no need to prove that God exists to non-believers. But why does it follow that so many believers write off science, or explain it away by saying “God did it”? That is not an acceptable explanation for anything because, well, it doesn’t actually explain a single thing.
As for the multiple logical fallacies going on in the argument of Senator Pete Kelly, the Alaska legislator equating pregnancy tests, birth control, and fetal alcohol syndrome, let’s just say his grasp of medicine and of addiction is incomplete. Shocking, I realize, in this day and age where so many of our political figures seem to know more about medicine than women’s doctors do (though men’s doctors are apparently doing all right without any help from the government).
Personally, I find it comforting in a very vague sort of way that when I die, I will turn back into stardust. I don’t know what’s beyond that, and I don’t know how I feel about not knowing. I can understand the desire to know that leads religions to put forth specific ideas about an afterlife. I used to be sure about one myself, and perhaps I will be again some future day. But for right now, I have more of a solid belief in science and the wonder of science all on its own than I do in a God that is supposedly out there, omniscient and watching out for us, interceding when He thinks it’s a good idea, leaving us out to dry the rest of the time. And I find it very difficult to understand people who want to actively put other people, the world we live in, and our futures at risk because they are unwilling or unable to extend their minds beyond their own lives. Face it, your life is ephemeral. So is the life of every person you love. This fact is painful, of course, but it is still reality. It’s not helpful or kind to the rest of the humans and animals on the planet to pretend that it’s not. And whether you do or don’t ascribe to a particular religion, isn’t being good to each other what it’s all about?
When I began writing this post, I came across this transcript of David Foster Wallace’s speech, “This Is Water.” In it, he talks about education teaching you how to think and what to think about, and about choosing what to worship, and about how to be aware in life, and about what is “capital-T True”. He talks brilliantly about a lot of things, but the idea of empiric Truth really struck me as applicable here, at this moment in time when multiple people seem to be embracing willful ignorance over proven fact. If God is True for you, that’s fine. But it doesn’t negate Science.