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‘Stupidest’ anti-science words and actions of 2014 listed by Mother Jones

REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Protestor Jeff Hulbert of Annapolis, Maryland, demonstrating in favor of a travel ban to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, in front of the White House on Oct. 16, 2014.

Mother Jones’ “Climate Desk” editor, Tim McDonnell, recently summarized some of the “stupidest” anti-science nonsense spieled by politicians and other high-profile people during 2014 (although he used a more colorful word than nonsense).

It’s a troubling list of scientific ignorance — mostly because the people involved should know better. We can laugh (and do) at many of the statements (such as Donald Trump’s declaration to Fox News that global warming is a “hoax” perpetrated by scientists “having a lot of fun”), but, as McDonnell rightly points out, such statements often have serious consequences for public policy — and that’s no laughing matter.

Most of the items on McDonnell’s list involve climate change denial, but several also deal more directly with health-related issues:

And then there is the disturbing effort by some members of Congress to control what kind of scientific research gets federal funding. These efforts will have a profound impact not just on climate change research, but also on research related to health. Writes McDonnell:

Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas took his opposition to basic science straight to the source: The grant-writing archives of the National Science Foundation. In an unprecedented violation of the historic firewall between the lawmakers who set the NSF’s budget and the top scientists who decide where to direct it, Smith’s researchers pulled the files on at least 47 grants that they believed were not in the “public interest.” Some of the biggest-ticket projects they took issue with related to climate change research; the committee apparently intended to single out these projects as examples of the NSF frittering money away on research that won’t come back to benefit taxpayers. The investigation is ongoing, and the precedent it sets — that scientific research projects are only worthwhile if they directly benefit the American economy — is unsettling.

You can read McDonnell’s entire list on the Mother Jones website.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 01/05/2015 - 10:28 am.

    “If fertilization does occur, Plan B One-Step may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.”

    http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/features/plan-b-11-questions-11-answers

    You may not like it, but there is no scientific consensus as to when human life begins. Thus, people that believe it begins at fertilization have just as much scientific consensus to warrant them to label pro-abortionists “anti-science” as visa-versa.

    Conversely, AGW skeptics can laugh (and do) at many of the statements Al Gore & his ilk makes, but record cold, growing ice packs and a complete lack of evidence of any of the disasters Gore & ilk have promised don’t hold any more weight on the truth than the piles of discredited research financially invested scientists have produced. We just don’t know.

    Seems to me this article isn’t much more than another opportunity for fringe elements to vent their spleens.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/05/2015 - 12:33 pm.

    Welcome to the year 1715

    As is often the case, Mr. Swift knows not whereof he speaks.

    “…there is no scientific consensus as to when human life begins. Thus, people that believe it begins at fertilization have just as much scientific consensus to warrant them to label pro-abortionists “anti-science” as visa-versa.”

    That statement is, of course, completely untrue unless the only scientists consulted are those of the far right wing persuasion. When Mr. Swift can cite examples of zygotes that – outside the human body – have survived to adulthood, THEN we can have a debate about when human life beginning at fertilization. Until that point, it’s Mr. Swift and ideology versus the vast majority – meaning 95% or better – of scientists and OB/GYN practitioners.

    But what he’s presenting is just a side show to get attention for discredited viewpoints in a debate pitting philosophy against actual science. Minnesota may be experiencing its usual cold winter, but for the rest of the planet, 2014 was the warmest year on record. I’ve no idea where those ice packs are that Mr. Swift cites as “growing,” but the Antarctic, Greenland and North Pole ice packs are all shrinking, as are most of the glaciers on the planet.

    In most cases, whether the case involves birth control or climate change, we DO know. It’s just that what we know is inconveniently at odds with Mr. Swift’s ideology. As Jonathan Ecklund points out, “the list gets longer.”

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/06/2015 - 03:50 pm.

      From a scientific point of view

      human life began several -billion- years ago with the formation of the first living cell. All subsequent cells have been continuously derived from that one; including the ones that make up our bodies. No living human cell has been created from an inert substance; just from other living cells.
      So, to talk about the beginning of a specific individual human life one needs some other basis than a cellular one.
      On the level of religion, we can (with the Pope) talk about ‘ensoulment’, when a living but non-human organism acquires the status of a human being (an argue about when in the above continuous process that event takes place).
      Or, we can talk about when a particular human body acquires enough individual characteristics to be regarded as an individual person. Obviously this is more than just a physiological process, since two completely identical twins would be regarded as two separate individuals (even in those rare instances where they are conjoined and share vital organs).

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