The Science of False Equivalency

The last couple of days has personally given me tremendous hope. #MarchforScience and collective mobilization of people marching for Science (LINK) is so encouraging to see. In addition to the usual slogans, I especially loved the ones that people held up impromptu, such as:

  • Fund Science because Science funds us
  • Hate Global Warming, at least Mar-a-Lago will be gone
  • The oceans are rising and so are we

and my personal favorite……………

I said it before and I will say it again, Trump has been really really good for Science. There has been a grassroots rejuvenation of protests for Science awareness in the recent past and we have to thank our resident Orange Crush for this. Let us do a quick summary of what he has accomplished in his nearly 100 days:

  • His Appointees – Not sure if these were meant to be ironic or just obtuse but his appointments to head the Department of Energy; EPA and Secretary of State are nothing short of incredulous. Pruitt went up against the EPA as Oklahoma Attorney General and has been said to view the agency with contempt and now he runs it. Perry wasn’t even aware that the DoE managed our country’s nuclear arsenal and Tillerson continues to deny that climate change research was not objectively presented to Exxon’s shareholders during his watch.
  • His Budget – his budget proposals are set to:
    • eliminate DoE’s cutting edge and high potential, ARPA-E research program
    • Double-digit cuts to the National Institute of Health (NIH) which needs the funds to study infectious diseases, cancers, and public health issues.
    • Chemical Safety Board – eliminated
    • Sea Grant Program – that supports study of ecology; coastal ecosystems and communities – eliminated
  • His Executive Orders (LINK):
    • An order initiating a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricted greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.
    • Two orders reviving the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access pipelines.

And the list goes on and on. Also, add the fact that there are so many science-related positions in the Government that has not been staffed (or may never be). He is the most anti-scientific President period! case closed!

While it is easy to blame our Leader we must also look at the vast swath of our populace that actually shares a lot of these principles including the other branches of our government. Here are two examples to illustrate this:

Example – 1: In the 2012 primaries, Governor Rick Perry of Texas said this when asked whether climate change was man-made – (Link) “The science is not settled on this.  The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense,” Perry said.  “Just because you have a group of scientists who stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell,” he said.

Example – 2: Science journalism is being replaced by science blogs. This is an excerpt from the book The War on Science – From 1989 to 2005 the number of major newspapers with weekly science sections fell from 95 to 34. By 2005, just 7% of the approximately 2400 members of the US National Association of Science Writers had full-time positions at media outlets that reached the general public.

And as mentioned earlier, Perry is now in a position to make significant impacts to our Science and Technology policy.

Let us come to the crux of the issue – False Equivalency.

In my opinion that is what has dumbed down our country over the past 35-40 years. What do I mean by that? It is the ability to present a fact and an alternate fact together as SIMILAR VIEWS and let the consumer of the information consider both these with EQUAL merit.

Suppose I had an opinion news show and told the viewers – ‘yes folks gravity works as we can see outside but we must also keep in mind that there could be a possibility that gravity doesn’t work and hence it is still called ” the theory of gravity”……see the problem of false equivalency? -Creationism cannot be compared as an alternative to Evolution. What happens is you have people now thinking hmm….evolution is just a theory right????? And this extends to:

  • Climate Science
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Vaccinations
  • Stem cell research

400+ years ago Galileo had to fight against the Catholic Church (a point that was completely missed by Rick Perry in the above quote) and the reasons were that he had the evidence and facts to disprove truths that were held sacred for centuries.  Compare that today where evidence and facts are presented BUT any two-bit idiot with a “Reverend” title can simply say that the evidence merits more study and our media presents these two views as equal, to the consumer, for consideration.

We must STOP this false equivalency, else we are doomed:

  • No! Dinosaurs did not live together with early humans and they sure did not get to ride them like horses
  • No! Evolution is not a theory. It is a fact has been proved. There is scientific disagreement on some of the finer details but not Evolution in general
  • No! Climate change is not a hoax – the scientific evidence and consensus are overwhelming.
  • And Yes! as new evidence is presented Science has the humility to actually revise prior positions – We now know that there are 8 planets and we are all originally from Africa

And as I had stated in a previous post we must NOT have our eminent scientists debate religious nutjobs (I am referencing the Bill Nye vs Ken Hamm debate) cause that really is FALSE EQUIVALENCY. We are encouraging batshit ideas based on bronze age books, as having an equal standing to concepts and hypothesis that have been tested via the Scientific Method and that is simply not right!