Sunday, December 4, 2016

People Who Believe in Facts Need to Stand Up

"There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts." 
- Scottie Nell Hughes on NPR*

A few weeks ago the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language announced that "post-truth" was the word of the year 2016. Post-Truth, defined as an adjective "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief" has been increasingly paired with politics in recent years. In this context, Barack Obama, a Kenyan-born and therefore fraudulently elected (or not) president has not improved the US economy that he inherited from George W. Bush in 2008 at all, nor has our unemployment rate decreased. The Affordable Care Act is the worst thing ever and there are no pros. Crooked Hillary Clinton, as we all know, is to be blamed for creating ISIS

When I think about facts, of far greater concern is the post-truth idea that Global Warming is evidently a Chinese hoax (It's a joke, people. Mostly. Maybe.) or that Anthony Wakefield, a thoroughly discredited researcher, and a group of fellow anti-vaxxers, met with President-Elect Trump for 45 minutes on the campaign trail right here in my own little state of Florida. Trump tweeted, in 2014, 

Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!”  ~ @realDonaldTrump

There has been recent, and what I consider out-of-bounds, furor over whether Trump's youngest child, Barron, is autistic and whether that has driven Trump's interest in questioning vaccines. (See video from 2015 Republican debate and his discussion of vaccines here) I should note that I refuse, on principle, to post any of the links about Barron Trump here and think it's the Trump family's right to keep the health status of their child private. What I can say is that there is certainly far more credible evidence (see here, here and here, with several more laymen friendly and non-academic-library accessible-summaries herehere and here) that advanced paternal age and epigenetic changes in paternal DNA are associated with autism than are vaccines. (I would note that Mr. Trump was 60 when his child was born.) Is blaming vaccines, which have been ruled safe again and again, scientific? What are the facts? And that leads us back to the whole point of this post: What happens when we ignore the facts of things like global warming or the efficacy and safety of vaccines?

Earlier this week, Trump supporter and sometime CNN commentator Scottie Nell Hughes said,* on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, that facts are no more. Glenn Thrush, senior political correspondent at Politico responded, "First, I've got to pick my jaw up off the floor here. There are no objective facts? I mean, that is -- that is an absolutely outrageous assertion. Of course there are facts." While many references about this exchange have, in recent days, alluded to Orwell's 1984, it also reminded me of Neil de Grasse Tyson's famous quote about science:

Yes, facts and science are like the arrow of time. They march inexorably forward, whether we believe in them or not. But the consequences of disbelieving in facts and science can be terrible. Ignorance is not Strength. Ignorance can be fatal. And so, readers, we must STAND UP. That means speaking out, participating in the demand for facts instead of mere belief. For me, it means blogging again. But what does it mean for you, Reader?

What facts, what science, do you want to see discussed here? I'm all for global warming and am going to try to see if I can garner an interview with Dr. Hal Wanless, about sea level rise, for this blog. But what ideas do you have for discussion in this space? Vaccines? Race? Gender? Orientation? Let's look at facts and science, shall we? 

Comment or send me an email at 

* You can mosey on ahead to 10:23:00 in the transcript or audio, where Ms. Hughes hold forth on the fate of facts in the Post-Truth world.

ad capere scientiam © 2017

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Be the Change

The ambitious goal of this blog is to help promote facts, science, knowledge, inquiry, and curiosity in the post-truth world. Let's see where we go together.