Attention, Science! Fans: People are Complicated

 

Over the past few election cycles, it’s become standard practice to ask the Republican candidates whether or not they “believe” in evolution, and to use their answers as a test to determine the candidates’ piety, critical thinking skills, and cultural values. I find the evidence for common descent and change over time to be incredibly compelling, so I think the question is useful, but its heuristic value as a shorthand for whether one “accepts science” is wildly overrated. People are complicated, and it’s generally foolhardy to evaluate someone’s thinking on a single metric.

As a case in point, consider the exchange last night over vaccines. Over the last decade — and again in the debate — Trump has repeatedly claimed that vaccines are the source of the “autism epidemic.” This is demonstrably false. The rise in autism diagnoses is overwhelmingly the result of broadening its definition and greater public concern and awareness. Moreover, the study that initially started the scare has been retracted by its publisher, and the ingredient (thimerosal) most commonly alleged to be the culprit hasn’t been in the standard childhood vaccination schedule* since around 2002. Diagnoses have continued to rise, regardless.

And who answered correctly? None other than creationist Ben Carson — albeit in a way-too-nice way. Most of the Science! fanboys would evict him from polite society without a second’s thought about anything else he might say or his being a pioneering and innovative neurosurgeon.

Just as the the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, so too does the struggle for critical thinking play out within each person’s mind. Our candidates’ factual claims — on science, history, and all other matters — should be scrutinized, evaluated, and judged. When they’re wrong, they should be told so; and if their comments consistently indicate major blind spots, they should be disqualified.

But enough of the all-or-nothing nonsense.

* Editors’ note: The original version incorrectly stated that thimerosal was no longer used “at all” in vaccines. Though it has been removed from vaccines used in the common childhood schedule, it is still used in some flu vaccines, though non-thimerosal options are generally available as well. Regardless, there’s no reason to suspect it to be harmful.

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  1. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    I really wish Carson had slammed the door on Trump.  His unwillingness to do so gives me more reason to believe that he is not temperamentally suited to being President.  The man is just too nice.

    On the topic of the Science-y stuff, these things need to be placed in context.  Carson’s understanding of the statistics on vaccination doesn’t grant him a pass on his YEC advocacy, and having read the man’s book the thought that I had was that he is either a) a true believer, or b) being mendacious in order to pander to a certain constituency of Christian Fundamentalists.

    I don’t find either situation to be all that appealing.  Ben Carson rose to prominence by essentially shaming President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast if I’m not mistaken, and while I’m no fan of Obama’s, I thought his actions were the equivalent of letting loose flatulence in church.  I wouldn’t look forward to being hectored in that fashion about Jesus or any of his other hobby-horses, no matter how soft-spoken he is about it.

    That would be unbecoming of a man who occupies the highest office in the land to proselytize in that fashion, and I think we’d see plenty of it from Dr. Ben.

    • #1
  2. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    As heuristics go, the leftist belief that driving a Prius, composting your trash, and using squiggly light bulbs that give people headaches is going to save the Earth is a pretty good indicator that (1) you don’t believe in science; (2) you don’t believe in common sense; and (3) you’re a moron.  Let’s see if that question gets asked in the Democratic debates.

    • #2
  3. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Having vaccines spread out due to negative reactions given dosage sizes is not unwise advice.

    I personally had negative reactions and had my dosages spread out.

    • #3
  4. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Majestyk: I don’t find either situation to be all that appealing.  Ben Carson rose to prominence by essentially shaming President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast if I’m not mistaken, and while I’m no fan of Obama’s, I thought his actions were the equivalent of letting loose flatulence in church.

    I confess I’ve long had the same feeling, which is odd, given that Carson is — as we agree — usually an insufferably nice guy.

    We usually gripe when Leftists hijack non-political venues that way and I think Carson deserved more push back on that.

    • #4
  5. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Majestyk: Carson’s understanding of the statistics on vaccination doesn’t grant him a pass on his YEC advocacy…

    I basically agree, though I find Trump’s comments more worrying, especially as they’re much more indicative of a pattern of shooting from the hip and running with anecdotes.

    I’d handicap an otherwise solid candidate who believed in and advocated for YEC, but I could still vote for them; not all flawed thinking it indicative of a pattern and there are plenty of YECs on Ricochet whose intelligence and judgement are clearly sound.

    • #5
  6. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: This is demonstrably false. The rise in autism diagnoses is overwhelmingly the result of broadening its definition and greater public concern and awareness.

    You cite an article posted in the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science from 2010.  Not sophomoric—as they include no information about the author, so I won’t make that claim—but not a great source.

    Here’s a much better source, an actual study, from the British Medical Journal in 2015 that examined a huge cohort of autistic kids in Sweden.

    Moreover, the study that initially started the scare has been retracted by its publisher, and the ingredient (thimerosal) most commonly alleged to be the culprit hasn’t been in vaccines since around 2002.

    The doctor who did the study had his medical license yanked, it wasn’t just “retracted”.

    Yeah, this should be as dead as a dodo…

    • #6
  7. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    Larry3435:As heuristics go, the leftist belief that driving a Prius, composting your trash, and using squiggly light bulbs that give people headaches is going to save the Earth is a pretty good indicator that (1) you don’t believe in science; (2) you don’t believe in common sense; and (3) you’re a moron. Let’s see if that question gets asked in the Democratic debates.

    Yes, Environmentalism is a religion, so is veganism, feminism. These are merely replacments for people searching for meaning in their lives, for a cause to fight for. I hate the term anti-science, it’s ridiculous especially when you show these people the flaws in their data and they refuse to acknowlege it. Which is why it is a religion, if it was about science then they would go where the data leads them, even if it challenges their preconcieved notions.

    • #7
  8. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Majestyk: Carson’s understanding of the statistics on vaccination doesn’t grant him a pass on his YEC advocacy…

    I basically agree, though I find Trump’s comments more worrying, especially as they’re much more indicative of a pattern of shooting from the hip and running with anecdotes.

    I’d handicap an otherwise solid candidate who believed in and advocated for YEC, but I could still vote for them; not all flawed thinking it indicative of a pattern and there are plenty of YECs on Ricochet whose intelligence and judgement are clearly sound.

    Given the embarrassment of riches that we have before us, we have the right and ability to be slightly more picky than we otherwise might.

    In the case of Trump, this is merely log number 2,567 in the cord of reasons why he ought not be President.

    I would handicap Mitt Romney similarly in this field given his religious beliefs as well.  The relevant comparison is almost never between a particular candidate and our ideal, but between that candidate and the available, credible options – with which we are flooded.

    • #8
  9. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Larry3435:As heuristics go, the leftist belief that driving a Prius, composting your trash, and using squiggly light bulbs that give people headaches is going to save the Earth is a pretty good indicator that (1) you don’t believe in science; (2) you don’t believe in common sense; and (3) you’re a moron. Let’s see if that question gets asked in the Democratic debates.

    It’s a religion.  Those are all signs of devoutness.  South Park nailed it when they nicknamed the Prius the Pious.

    • #9
  10. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    Tuck:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: This is demonstrably false. The rise in autism diagnoses is overwhelmingly the result of broadening its definition and greater public concern and awareness.

    You cite an article posted in the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science from 2010. Not sophomoric—as they include no information about the author, so I won’t make that claim—but not a great source.

    Here’s a much better source, an actual study, from the British Medical Journal in 2015 that examined a huge cohort of autistic kids in Sweden.

    Moreover, the study that initially started the scare has been retracted by its publisher, and the ingredient (thimerosal) most commonly alleged to be the culprit hasn’t been in vaccines since around 2002.

    The doctor who did the study had his medical license yanked, it wasn’t just “retracted”.

    Yeah, this should be as dead as a dodo…

    The FDA went after the doctor’s license who first argued that some or even most gastric ulcers have a bacterial etiology rather than caused by peptic acid. The FDA was wrong about the science, an almost everyday occurrence

    • #10
  11. S Inactive
    S
    @S

    A young earth creationist who believes in free markets, gun rights, and is pro-life, is preferable to someone with a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology who believes in Keynesian economics. These questions are stupid and are asked only to derail Republicans. Never in my life has someone’s view on evolution impacted me in any way. I bet if you profiled every young earth creationist on their policy views the answers would likely be agreeable to most of Ricochet.

    • #11
  12. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    If your sole criterion were “belief” in the theory of evolution, and if your choice for your family’s physician were between Ben Carson and Kermit Gosnell, you would choose the latter.

    I’m thrilled that Trump made his feeble case for a connection between his acquaintance’s child’s vaccination, “fever,” and autism.  The more extreme claims that he makes may shake the faith of at least some of the Trumpkins.

    • #12
  13. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    Larry3435:As heuristics go, the leftist belief that driving a Prius, composting your trash, and using squiggly light bulbs that give people headaches is going to save the Earth is a pretty good indicator that (1) you don’t believe in science; (2) you don’t believe in common sense; and (3) you’re a moron. Let’s see if that question gets asked in the Democratic debates.

    I despise the way phrases such as “save the planet” and “believe in science” are deployed by the left.

    The idea that the Earth could be destroyed by anything other than an exogenous cataclysmic event is absurd.  The Earth is akin to a stubborn weed, or to the wisteria vine that grows in my yard.  It simply will not be denied – it will not be destroyed.

    True, the planet could be made unpleasant for human habitation.  But if mankind were to die off, life and evolution would continue, plates would continue to be subducted, the magnetic poles would continue to reverse themselves periodically, the climate would continue to vacillate, etc.

    Of course, the best way to “save the planet” – in the sense of keeping it pleasant for human habitation – is through the wealth that economic development brings.  But progressives see the activities that would “save the planet” to be akin to a cancer upon it.

    • #13
  14. katievs Inactive
    katievs
    @katievs

    It’s bad to rely on discredited science. It’s bad to scare monger, or insinuate links without citing evidence.

    It’s not bad to doubt a scientific consensus on scientific grounds, since they are subject to revision as new evidence appears.

    It IS bad to be absolutist about empirical claims and theories. It’s likewise bad to think that scientific evidence can disprove the existence of God or the creation accounts of the Bible, as some scientists ridiculously pretend.

    • #14
  15. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Majestyk: On the topic of the Science-y stuff, these things need to be placed in context.  Carson’s understanding of the statistics on vaccination doesn’t grant him a pass on his YEC advocacy, and having read the man’s book the thought that I had was that he is either a) a true believer, or b) being mendacious in order to pander to a certain constituency of Christian Fundamentalists.

    I guess I have a separate category for areas where religion and science contradict each other. Neither you or I may agree with YEC. But when I disagree with someone on the age of the earth or evolution, why we disagree seems important.  I guess I see it differently if they have a religious reason than simply stupidity or ignorance. At least I understand where they are coming from.

    I am sure that Dr. Carson is a smart man. He very likely understands the science behind evolution and the age of the earth. I think you can down grade a candidate for theses religious beliefs but that they are not automatic disqualifies.

    Further I am hard pressed to see how YEC or evolution would ever effect the issues I think are important or what I want a future President to work on.

    • #15
  16. Tim H. Member
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    People are complicated.  Often, the science-promoting liberals mocking belief in a young earth do themselves believe that vaccines cause autism, or that genetically-modified crops are a threat, or that there’s something to their daily horoscope.  People don’t always hold to a very consistent philosophy.

    There’s something else we should teach the Science! crowd.  Science is a way of learning how the natural world works.  It is incapable of telling us what to do with the knowledge we gain by it, even if that knowledge were firm (and it often isn’t).  Any sentence using the phrase “Science tells us that we should…” is false.  Scientific investigations can inform our decisions on issues, but they cannot decide them.

    Making decisions, especially policy decisions, is a matter of taking several pieces of knowledge and weighing the outcomes of different choices.  It means balancing competing interests.  It means, for example, that even if you believe that there is significant man-made global warming, you might reasonably choose not to limit carbon dioxide, because you believe the economic harm outweighs the environmental harm.  And someone else could reasonably come to the opposite conclusion.

    People are complicated, and they have different priorities.  It’s a philosophical error to believe that science can tell us which decision is right.

    • #16
  17. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Blood tests have consistently revealed extremely high levels of dihydrogen monoxide in the bodies of autistic children.

    • #17
  18. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    In Carson’s case it is doubly confounding. If we were saying this about Mike Huckabee it almost wouldn’t merit comment, as he’s an evangelical preacher. Carson’s position seems… Opportunistic. I don’t dig pandering.

    • #18
  19. Ralphie Inactive
    Ralphie
    @Ralphie

    S:A young earth creationist who believes in free markets, gun rights, and is pro-life, is preferable to someone with a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology who believes in Keynesian economics. These questions are stupid and are asked only to derail Republicans. Never in my life has someone’s view on evolution impacted me in any way. I bet if you profiled every young earth creationist on their policy views the answers would likely be agreeable to most of Ricochet.

    Amen.  Why were they debating vaccines anyway?  Or Carly’s face, or who to put on a $10.00 bill, etc.  Most of the debate was frivolous.  The earlier debate was the winner, the big debate the loser.  I listened to both.

    • #19
  20. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    jetstream:

    The FDA went after the doctor’s license who first argued that some or even most gastric ulcers have a bacterial etiology rather than caused by peptic acid. The FDA was wrong about the science, an almost everyday occurrence

    Wow.

    1. The FDA doesn’t have anything to do with licensing doctors.  It’s done at the state level.

    2. Barry Marshall practiced medicine in Australia.

    So even if the FDA had something to do with this, they couldn’t have touch him.

    The medical biz pooh-poohed him until he produced some proof, by infecting himself with the bacteria.  That’s how it should work.

    Claims need proof.

    • #20
  21. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    katievs:

     It’s likewise bad to think that scientific evidence can disprove the existence of God or the creation accounts of the Bible, as some scientists ridiculously pretend.

    Anyone who claims that science can “disprove the existence of God” isn’t a scientist and doesn’t understand science. That isn’t how it works.

    Science evaluates claims based on the evidence presented to support them. If a claim has no supporting evidence (which, by definition, would be the case for any faith-based belief), science simply isn’t interested. “There is no evidence for X” does not mean the same thing as “X does not exist.”

    • #21
  22. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Misthiocracy:Blood tests have consistently revealed extremely high rates of dihydrogen monoxide in the bodies of autistic children.

    I also hear those kids tested positive for having chemicals in their bodies.

    • #22
  23. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    When will the Dems be asked if they believe in the ENTIRELY atheistic, materialistic, random theory of origins that they REQUIRE be taught in the public schools?

    [excuse the all caps emphasis, Silk browser does not support Ricochets bold or itallics font features]

    • #23
  24. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Misthiocracy:Blood tests have consistently revealed extremely high rates of dihydrogen monoxide in the bodies of autistic children.

    I also hear those kids tested positive for having chemicals in their bodies.

    Get the terminology right. It is properly called Oxidane.

    • #24
  25. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    Tuck:

    jetstream:

    The FDA went after the doctor’s license who first argued that some or even most gastric ulcers have a bacterial etiology rather than caused by peptic acid. The FDA was wrong about the science, an almost everyday occurrence

    Wow.

    1. The FDA doesn’t have anything to do with licensing doctors. It’s done at the state level.

    2. Barry Marshall practiced medicine in Australia.

    So even if the FDA had something to do with this, they couldn’t have touch him.

    The medical biz pooh-poohed him until he produced some proof, by infecting himself with the bacteria. That’s how it should work.

    Claims need proof.

    The FDA doesn’t license but they went after his license, I watched their effort I think it was in the WSJ. Don’t remember the doctors name, maybe more than one doctor in the debate.

    As a matter of fact, I think the FDA was successful. I didn’t follow it closely, it was just another dumb FDA prank.

    • #25
  26. Tim H. Member
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    katievs:

    It’s likewise bad to think that scientific evidence can disprove the existence of God or the creation accounts of the Bible, as some scientists ridiculously pretend.

    Right.  I’ll go farther:  Science uses metaphysical assumptions, and one of the most useful and powerful of these is that the laws of nature are constant in time and space.  Or, to take it one step deeper, that the most fundamental laws of the universe are fixed.  That gives rise to the more commonplace assumption of the repeatability of experiments, which is needed for testing a scientific conclusion.

    Therefore, when scientists look at the fossil record and biology and geology and physics and conclude that there has been a slow but large-scale process of evolution, and that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, they—we—are putting that into a framework where we assume that the processes we see now worked the same over time, without discontinuities in the laws of nature.

    But we can’t prove that those laws did act in a constant way.  What I mean is, that if God decides to intervene directly in the world, to make changes that wouldn’t occur through the normal laws of nature, we wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell.

    For that matter, if God created the world 6,000 years ago but placed fossils and radioactive decay products, etc. that were consistent with a 4.5 billion year old earth, we couldn’t tell, either.

    • #26
  27. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    The King Prawn:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Misthiocracy:Blood tests have consistently revealed extremely high rates of dihydrogen monoxide in the bodies of autistic children.

    I also hear those kids tested positive for having chemicals in their bodies.

    Get the terminology right. It is properly called Oxidane.

    Wake-up, Sheeple!

    wake_up_sheeple

    • #27
  28. Tim H. Member
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    [Con’t]

    I say this as a theistic believer in an old earth and in evolution.  But I have to point out that Young Earth Creationism sometimes uses different metaphysical assumptions (divine intervention and occasional discontinuity of natural laws) than science (continuity of natural laws).  You cannot work within the latter framework and disprove conclusions made using the former framework.  (I’m not sure if you can go the other way; I haven’t thought that through as much.)

    I think this is related to Godel’s Theorem in mathematics.

    • #28
  29. katievs Inactive
    katievs
    @katievs

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.:

    katievs:

    It’s likewise bad to think that scientific evidence can disprove the existence of God or the creation accounts of the Bible, as some scientists ridiculously pretend.

    Anyone who claims that science can “disprove the existence of God” isn’t a scientist and doesn’t understand science. That isn’t how it works.

    Science evaluates claims based on the evidence presented to support them. If a claim has no supporting evidence (which, by definition, would be the case for any faith-based belief), science simply isn’t interested. “There is no evidence for X” does not mean the same thing as “X does not exist.”

    I wish all scientists were so modest and restrained in their claims.

    And shouldn’t “there is no evidence for X” be amended to “there is no empirical evidence for X”? since, after all, empirical evidence isn’t the only kind out there. It’s the kind least relevant to religious faith.

    • #29
  30. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tuck:

    jetstream:

    The FDA went after the doctor’s license who first argued that some or even most gastric ulcers have a bacterial etiology rather than caused by peptic acid. The FDA was wrong about the science, an almost everyday occurrence

    Wow.

    1. The FDA doesn’t have anything to do with licensing doctors. It’s done at the state level.

    2. Barry Marshall practiced medicine in Australia.

    So even if the FDA had something to do with this, they couldn’t have touch him.

    The medical biz pooh-poohed him until he produced some proof, by infecting himself with the bacteria. That’s how it should work.

    Claims need proof.

    People should have to inject themselves with diseases to prove diseases exist?

    • #30
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