Wednesday, February 17, 2016

It is not war. It is dirty, rotten politics!

I have blogged enough about the anti-GMO people who are invariably climate change activists.  About how some of the liberals are also passionate anti-vaccination folks.  Even though the scientific  community's confidence in GMO is no different from its confidence in the climate change issues which is no different from the scientific confidence in the power of vaccination.

Which means, the opposition is not really against the science.

We quickly jump to thinking that they are anti-science, and that it is a war on science.  Right?
When anti-vaxxers mount massive protests against immunization laws, as they did recently in California, it’s an easy out to characterize their motives as a lack of intelligence or a generalized hostility toward science. 
But, it is not that way, says Mark Largent, a professor at Michigan State University and the author of Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America.
On average, immunization opponents are relatively well-educated, upper middle class, Protestant, and married. Protests and public opposition tend to be led by mothers, rather than fathers. And they’re often relatively older parents—those over 40 tend to be particularly concerned about the possible effects of vaccines, according to Largent.
It comes down to a simple question of 'who you gonna trust?'
research, along with rhetoric from recent political fights, suggests some parents may feel uncertain about vaccines partly because they’re skeptical of pharmaceutical companies, whose profit motives mix with their vaccine-promotion campaigns. And while state governments can mandate immunization, this may end up pushing parents away from the public-school system if they feel that regulations are forcing them to make certain decisions about their children’s health.
So, if that's the case with the anti-vax crowd, why should the dynamics be any different with the anti-GMO crowd, for instance?  The anti-vax people think that the pharma companies are up to something, and the GMO folks believe that Monsanto is up to something.
The disagreement can come in the interpretation of the significance of specific findings, events or risk statements. In other cases, people opposed to a scientifically sound position might feel unheard, and inviting them to air their grievances can defuse a pitched battle. “You can’t just throw more data and information at people,” Millstein said. “It doesn’t work. You’re not addressing people where they are. There’s a disconnect.”
Millstein as in "science historian and philosopher Roberta Millstein of the University of California, Davis."

Which means, it is useless to throw scientific logic and evidence at the opposition.  It has to be treated as a political fight--not a scientific argument.  Politics is not always about logic and evidence--Al Gore knows that really, really well.  Any suggestions here, Professor Largent?
Scientists and policy-makers in general should seek workable compromises, he advised. “Stop with the hubris and stop with the bold confidence that everything you say and do is right,” he said. That just acts to polarize disagreement. Drawing perhaps on the words of Martin Luther King, Largent added, “politics is the work of the possible.”
But, politicking to win the hearts and minds of people does not come naturally to scientists.  I doubt whether even Neil deGrasse Tyson can take up this political responsibility!


Anne in Salem said...

Throwing data at people won't work because the people with assume the data are flawed, biased or wrong. For every piece of data given, a counter piece can be found. Numbers don't lie, but they can be skewed and can be interpreted differently, depending on one's bias.

Political fight? That won't convince anyone either.

Sriram Khé said...

"a counter piece can be found"
That has been the emotional approach to scientific debates, unfortunately. Thus, some wacko produces "a counter piece" on autism and the anti-vaxxers cling to that as their god-given data. Another wacko floats "a counter piece" refuting the ... and the beat goes on.

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