Articles Explore Debate on Science Denialism

Two interesting articles have been written in the past several weeks regarding the refusal by some people to accept the benefits of vaccines and other accepted scientific realities.

Robin Lloyd at Scientific American thinks the “war on science” meme doesn’t quite fit when we’re talking about people who are just scared of things beyond their control:

For several years now the popular media has run headlines about “a war on science.” Reporters note that federal funding for research is down, campaigns to undermine climate science attract hundreds of millions of dollars and politicians routinely reject findings that are uniformly accepted by scientists. But a panel of scholars last weekend argued for the most part against calling these aversive movements a war, with two historians even scolding scientists who embrace the idea as out of touch with public concerns.

Keep reading here.

Meanwhile, Maggie Koerth-Baker at Aeon sees the “rationality” of a parent who just wants to protect their kid from what they see as dangerous vaccines, even at the expense of other people:

I don’t think experts intend to ignore what the debate over vaccines is really about. They care deeply about the public health implications of vaccine refusal. They’re worried about the health of their individual patients. But they personally think the trade-off between the small risks of side effects and the big benefit of herd immunity is a fair one. They decided this long ago, and that belief is built into every aspect of their work. For a lot of them – a lot of us, if I’m honest – it’s easy to forget that our perspective on the trade-off is a belief, and not a provable fact. We are uncomfortable with the idea that opinions on scientific topics could be influenced by philosophy, politics and other things that aren’t easily quantifiable.

That’s not surprising. But it is something that has to be acknowledged. If we don’t do that, we can’t ever resolve the conflict.

Keep reading here.