That’s the message from two actual scientists, who are taking on the fake science and science reporting that’s come to dominate much of our national discussion.
Dr. Alex B. Berezow is a microbiologist. Hank Campbell is a journalist and policy expert. Their book, “Science Left Behind: Feel-good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left,” has been unfavorably reviewed, mostly by the anti-scientific left.
Of course, the right also has been accused of being anti-science. That’s why “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science — and Reality,” by Chris Mooney (not a scientist) has been roundly praised (except by Republicans).
Berezow confronts his critics in a recent essay in the journal Pacific Standard.
“Our book makes the point — among many others — that such politicization of science illustrates everything that is wrong with modern science journalism,” he wrote. “In our chapter ‘The Death of Science Journalism,’ we discuss how too many science writers have morphed into cheerleaders who uncritically embrace progressive political causes at the expense of good science.”
That’s partially due to training, but mostly due to partisan leanings.
“For these writers, science isn’t about uncovering the wonders of the natural world; instead, it’s just another platform from which to bash and demonize political opponents,” Berezow writes. “We believe such journalistic malpractice epitomizes science writing at its absolute worst.”
“In 2005, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. infamously wrote an article for Rolling Stone and Salon (retracted in 2011) that erroneously linked vaccines to autism, a claim that, even then, had been thoroughly debunked by the scientific establishment,” he writes. “In 2008, while on the campaign trail, Sen. Barack Obama repeated the myth, and as president in 2009, his administration’s pandering to the anti-vaccine crowd was partially to blame for the H1N1 influenza vaccine shortage that occurred later that year.”
As for genetically modified foods, he adds, “The California Democratic Party, in direct opposition to the American Medical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, endorsed that state’s Proposition 37, a referendum that would have unscientifically required the labeling of genetically modified food.”
Such food has never been shown to be harmful, and could save lives and improve the health of millions of people.
Science is important, and shouldn’t be subject to bad reporting and partisan skewing.
“Anyone who is willing to take off his partisan glasses will quickly come to the conclusion that both sides of the political spectrum — conservatives and progressives — are willing to throw science under the bus whenever it is politically expedient,” Berezow contends.
It’s to be expected that some celebrities will get the science wrong. But that’s unacceptable for science writers in respectable publicans and media outlets.