Over the last few decades, there’s been a consistent campaign to sow confusion around evolution, vaccines and climate change.
In all three areas, we all have access to far more data, far more certainty and endless amounts of proof that the original theories have held up. The data is more accurate than it’s ever been. Evolution is the best way to explain and predict the origin and change of species. Vaccines are not the cause of autism and save millions of kids’ (and parents’) lives. And the world is, in fact, getting dangerously warmer.
Poll after poll in many parts of the world show that people are equivocating or outright denying all three. Unlike the increasingly asymptotic consistency in scientific explanations, the deniers have an endless list of reasons for their confusion, many of which contradict each other. Confusion doesn’t need to be right to be confusing.
Worth noting that this response doesn’t happen around things that are far more complicated or scientifically controversial (like gravity and dark matter). It’s the combination of visceral impact and tribal cohesion that drives the desire to deny.
Cigarette companies were among the original denialists (they claimed that cigarettes were unrelated to lung cancer, but that didn’t work out very well for them), and much of their confusion playbook is being used on these new topics..
To what end? Confusion might help some industries or causes in the short run, but where does it lead? Working to turn facts into political issues doesn’t make them any less true.
If this growing cohort ‘wins’, what do they get? In a post-science world, where physics and testable facts are always open to the layman’s opinion in the moment, how are things better? How does one develop a new antibiotic without an understanding of speciation and disease resistance?
I know what the science p.o.v. gets us if it prevails, if evolution is taught in schools, if vaccines become ever safer and widespread, if governments and corporations begin to ameliorate and prepare for worldwide weather change.
What’s a mystery is what the anti-science confusors get if they prevail. What happens when we don’t raise the next generation of scientists, when vaccines become politically and economically untenable, when we close our eyes and simply rebuild houses on the floodplain again? Gravity doesn’t care if you believe in it, neither does lung cancer.
Ask a confusor that the next time he offers a short term smoke screen. If this is a race to be the most uninformed, and the most passive, what if we win?