In recent months it has become popular to proclaim that an “anti-science” climate has taken over the United States, but is there any truth to these claims?
You don’t have to look hard to find headlines and media pundits declaring the end of rationality as America has apparently fallen prey to “anti-science” rhetoric. In this worldview, Americans are now overwhelmingly stupid and incapable of understanding scientific concepts or interpreting scientific research. Recently, these alarmists point to the resistance to the mainstream COVID-19 narrative as the latest in the anti-science trend. Prior to covid, vaccine hesitancy was seen as the main driver of this anti-science sentiment.
How much truth can be found when investigating these claims? Is America really in the throes of an anti-science “infodemic“? What does it even mean to be anti-science? Finally, if an anti-science mentality is indeed growing in popularity, why?
When I search “Anti-Science America” the results produce the following headlines:
-Anti-Science Attitudes are Killing Americans
-How Do We Reverse the Tide of an Anti-Science America?
-Anthony Fauci warns of ‘anti-science bias’ being a problem
-Years of anti-science sentiment has left America in a terrifying predicament
I also found the paper, Combating antiscience: Are we preparing for the 2020s?, by Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine. He is also Director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.
“I loosely define an “antiscience movement” as an organized and funded rejection of science and scientific principles and methods in factor of alternative views, often linked to the targeting or harassment of individual scientists,” Hotez writes.
Hotez’s definition describes a very specific group that he says is organized and funded that rejects the scientific method and principles. This group, apparently, also likes to harass scientists. Wikipedia defines anti-science as “a philosophy or way of understanding the world that rejects science and the scientific method.” Further, wiki says science deniers “do not accept science as an objective method that can generate universal knowledge.”
So, according to Dr. Peter Hotez and Wikipedia (sourced from media reports and research), to be considered anti-science one would need to reject the scientific method and principles, and science altogether. Also, rejecting objective knowledge and harassing scientists is a must.
Vaccine Hesitancy Is Not Inherently ‘Anti-Science’
Unfortunately, there is a problem with this narrative. For example, over the years all the individuals I have interviewed who reject or question vaccines do not reject science or the scientific method. In fact, these parents and activists who have been labeled “anti-vaxx” are often some of the most well-researched and up to date individuals. Sure, this group is capable of confirmation bias and baseless speculation like any other, but in general this community tends to adamantly support the scientific method and the scientists who raise legitimate questions about the safety of vaccinations.
One of the scientists revered by the vaccine skeptic community is Dr. William Thompson. Thompson was a senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and had been with the agency since 1998. In August 2014, Dr. Thompson released a statement, in response to media coverage, that he and co-authors from a 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics omitted important information from a study on the link between vaccines and autism. Thompson admitted that the CDC did in fact intentionally omit data that demonstrated a connection between an increased risk of autism in African American males who were giving the MMR vaccine before 36 months of age.
Subsequently, Congressman William Posey was provided hundreds of thousands of documents in relation to the investigation into Dr. Thompson. A year later, Posey took to the floor of the House to discuss Dr. William Thompson and his documents. “In August 2014 Dr. William Thompson a senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worked with a whistleblower attorney to provide my office with documents related to a 2004 CDC study that examined the possibility of a relationship between mumps, measles, rubella vaccines and autism,” Posey stated.
Congressman Posey went on to quote a statement from Dr. Thompson that was provided to his office:
“All the authors and I met and decided sometime between August and September ’02 not to report any race effects for the paper. Sometime soon after the meeting we decided to exclude reporting any race effects, the co-authors scheduled a meeting to destroy documents related to the study. The remaining four co-authors all met and brought a big garbage can into the meeting room and reviewed and went through all the hard copy documents that we had thought we should discard and put them in a huge garbage can. However, because I assumed it was illegal and would violate both FOIA and DOJ requests, I kept hard copies of all documents in my office, and I retained all associated computer files. I believe we intentionally withheld controversial findings from the final draft of the Pediatrics paper.”
Unfortunately, in the 5 years since Congressman Posey’s statements, there has been no call from Congress to investigate the claims of Dr. William Thompson. The only people who are even calling attention to this testimony are the “anti-science” “anti-vaxxers”. The rest of the corporate media and scientific community seem unaware or uninterested in an honest investigation into Dr. Thompson’s statements.
It is this silence on stories like the CDC whistleblower which encourages everyday Americans to go from generally trusting of the government and scientific and medical establishment to staying up all night watching documentaries and researching medical papers. For many, it’s not about being anti-science so much as being skeptical of corporate science and mainstream reporting (or lack of) on topics that do not fit a predetermined narrative.
The Public’s Ignorance Feeds the Corporate Science Machine
One example is the topic of water fluoridation. For years, anyone who chose to write about or talk about potential harmful effects of public water fluoridation programs has been derided as a tin-foil hat wearing wackjob. As a journalist, reporting on the problems associated with water fluoridation is a shortcut to losing credibility in the eyes of the mainstream journalism cartel.
Regardless of the push back, the facts are the facts. Water fluoridation has proven to be detrimental to human health in high enough doses. This is a non-controversial fact. Or it should be. Unfortunately, the lack of reporting from the corporate media and a lack of education in public schooling means that the average American is woefully ignorant on the topic. Even worse, some people have been propagandized to think there is nothing wrong with water fluoridation and that only “anti-science” conspiracy theorists believe so.
This crowd is likely not familiar with the recent federal lawsuit unfolding in response to numerous studies detailing the neurotoxicant effects of fluoride. Beginning in June, attorneys representing the Fluoride Action Network and other advocacy groups battled attorneys representing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The plaintiffs argued that water fluoridation violated the Toxic Substances Abuse Act because fluoride has been found to cause a number of health issues at the levels allowed by the U.S. government.
During this trial, Danish environmental epidemiologist Dr. Phillip Grandjean, known for his work on the neurotoxicity of mercury, stated that he had been threatened or coerced by a colleague at the Harvard Dental School after one of his studies concluded that fluoride was a neurotoxin. When Department of Justice lawyer Debra Carfora asked Grandjean about a statement he signed downplaying the significance of the results, Grandjean stated that the Harvard press department put the statement together and added his name to it. The statement said the researchers still agreed with the CDC position that water fluoridation is safe. Dr. Grandjean did not elaborate upon who threatened him or how often such threats may happen in his field. He also stated that the “fluoride lobby” infiltrated a World Health Organization committee seeking to exclude any mention of harmful effects of fluoride.
On the specific harmful effects of fluoride, Dr. Grandjean stated in his deposition that, “the weight of epidemiological evidence leaves no reasonable doubt that developmental neurotoxicity is a serious human health risk associated with elevated fluoride exposure.” Dr. Grandjean has also stated that efforts to control human fluoride exposure need to focus on pregnant women and small children. (For more on the #FluorideTrial read this)
Despite this respected and credentialed scientist’s admission that he had been threatened for reporting on the effects of fluoride – as well as his work explaining the serious neurotoxicity associated with fluoride – the media continues to label opponents of water fluoridation as conspiracy theorists. And, as a result of the lack of reporting, most Americans continue to parrot the same erroneous line of thinking.
Again, it is the silence from the media and the attacking or labeling of anyone who questions this narrative that is driving people towards skepticism of official proclamations from men and women in lab coats. For better or worse, the more the mainstream world ignores the science that doesn’t fit their narrative, the more Americans question the validity of corporate journalism and the scientific community.
Are “COVID-Deniers” Anti-Science?
Of course, the anti-science label has been used to describe the critics of the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. TLAV has extensively documented problems with the COVID-19 case numbers, the PCR test, the lockdowns, and the masks. I won’t rehash what we have already covered, but it’s clear that the skeptics of the WHO, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health England and other international health organizations are not simply “anti-science”.
If anything, vaccine skeptics, water fluoridation opponents, and COVID-19 truthers (for lack of a better term) are pushing for more science, not less. Additionally, many of the biggest critics of the COVID-19 lockdowns, masks, etc are scientists themselves. These individuals work at universities, write for medical and scientific journals, and respect the scientific method. Surely, they cannot be dismissed as anti-science yahoos.
A 2017 blog on Scientific American pointed to some of the problems with the label anti-science. “People’s relationship with science is much more complex and nuanced than “pro-science” or “anti-science.” We need to correct some of the misconceptions we have and show that what is often labeled as “anti-science” or “science denial” is often better understood as isolated incidents of motivated bias,” the blog states.
While the blog pushes vaccine skeptics as examples of people who are simply falling prey to bias, it does illustrate the fact that not everyone who questions conclusions made by scientific journals or organizations is against science or the scientific method. Many of the people I have interviewed who question vaccines, water fluoridation, and COVID-19 embrace science and the scientific method. What they question is corporate-funded science, conflicts of interest, and scientism – an almost religious reverence for science which views the field as incapable of corruption.
So if the people being labeled anti-science are the ones actually calling for more science, what does this say about the crowd that is warning of an “anti-science” infodemic? It appears that the detractors – the ones making the accusations of wrongthink – are the real “anti-science” crowd.