I am alive today, and you probably are as well, because of antibiotics, vaccines, and an infrastructure that is unparalleled in history. As a percentage, fewer people die from communicable disease and starvation than at any time in history. And many of those contemporary deaths are due to lack of proper water and sewage treatment. In other words, they are preventable. This gift of life is due to the work of scientists and politicians who implemented scientific recommendations. A good example is how Rockefeller pushed Southerners to build outhouses instead of defecating in the fields and woods. This reduced hookworms and other parasites and led to increased productivity in his factories. Ayn Rand devotees think this is a bad thing because they believe in social Darwinism. I believe that genetic diversity is a strength, not a weakness. And I’m getting pretty ticked off about the constant attacks on science.
Maybe it’s all just a matter of following the corporate money. Why should the public, who gets their science information from popular media, trust what science has to say about anything? One day, certain media figures tout a scientific study which claims that drinking too much coffee will cause a third ear to grow out of your belly button. Then a few weeks later, they cite a study that claims coffee is the cure for cancer, albinism, and tripping over the cat. The primary goal of today’s media is selling ads, not conveying accurate information. The science for tobacco related-illnesses and ozone depletion were both established many years before the public accepted the facts and forced government to act. Corporate greed and media complicity played major roles in these delays.
But the real problem is that scientists are too confined by their need for logic and rational discourse. They dismiss creationists, antivaxxers, and climate deniers as crazy and irrational. While this may be true, many politicians are ready and willing to accept private and corporate donations in exchange for claiming they are not scientists while pushing legislation that is anti-science. The science community gave Bill Nye a hard time for debating Ken Hamm about evolution. They want to just ignore creationists. I understand the sentiment, but bullies are best confronted, not ignored. Ignoring creationism has led to widespread teaching of religion at the expense of biology in public schools in Louisiana, for example. Science wants reason and evidence to make its case. But it is emotion, especially fear, that drives majority rule. And scientists do not want to lower themselves to name calling.
I disagree and say enough is enough, and social media is just the place to turn things around. Lovers of reason need a word that will go viral and makes fun of people who believe that humans rode dinosaurs, vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent, and snowballs prove that global warming is the greatest hoax in history. Nothing takes the power away from irrational arguments faster than finding a way to make fun of them. And laughter is the one thing the rich and powerful fear besides losing their money and power.
I’ve given this problem a lot of thought without definitive success. Obviously, use of a name associated with anti-science would be good. Anti-tech people are “Luddites,” for example. So antivaxxers could be “wakefielders.” Pope Urban jailed Galileo, so anti-science people could be “urbanites.” Simplicio was a leading figure opposed to Copernicus, so “simpleton” might also work. But these words already have meanings. And they just don’t have the power of “lamestream media” as a shorthand way to categorize and denigrate the opposition.
So what we need is the right phrase to label these enemies of progress and humanity. We need something to convey their ignorance and provoke laughter at the same time. I’m positive that somebody can invent the right word or phrase for these retrograde thinkers.
What I propose is a hashtag campaign to create the word or phrase that best describes people who choose self-interest, belief, and superstition over science. Something to sum up the proper response to those who have created an environment in which 25% of Americans think the sun goes around the earth, 40% believe that the Earth is 10,00o years old, and 41% think astrology is real.
So, find us on Twitter by clicking on this link: #namethesciencedeniers. Then, give your suggestion and retweet. Fun, right?! We’ll all get to share what we think are some of the best suggestions, but social media will have the last word. Ultimately, the best example will get picked up by the online community and work its way into common usage. That’s the power of the Internet and social media. Yet another example of why “Science Rules!”