Thursday, January 26, 2017

Our Post-Fact, Fake News, Alternative-Truth Era

"Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth." Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. 

Get our facts from a man who has repeatedly, contrary to the large body of scientific evidence, blamed autism on vaccines? This is not special advisor Kellyann Conway talking there, the women who coined alternative facts - but the guy who heads the House science committee.

I do not often talk politics in this space but it has come to this. The president has spread not just the totally inaccurate, totally debunked theory that vaccines trigger autism - but invited Robert F. Kennedy, a well-known anti-vaccine advocate to chair a special panel on vaccine safety. As if all the national and international studies and experts have not spent enough time and valuable research dollars investigating this already. 

I should point out, that when the RKF, Jr. news broke. The media jumped on it. Thank you to the The New York Times, NPR, Reuters, CNN and all the other media who quickly and directly responded. Plus they did a fine job of disputing so many wrong claims. I don't often congratulate the media, so thank you. I should go back and count how many claims each disputed in a single article - and did so within hours of the news. Inspirational. Heartwarming!

From Washington Post (photo credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)


But I'm also aware that reading news reports that dispute misinformation reinforces the beliefs of people biased to still believe it. So those who firmly believe vaccines cause autism will only be further convinced by DJT's behavior. In fact people cling to erroneous beliefs until they have a new explanation. In the case of autism, we don't have a full understanding of the actual triggers, the causal factors behind it. All the more reason to have rigorous scientific investigations into the origins of autism.

I would also like to point out that it looks like a lot of issues are going to be treated like parents and children have been for so long now. That is, treated to a heap of misinformation and unsupported claims. Welcome to our post-fact, fake news, alternative facts society. 

FYI: Most media did not mention two rather important facts. One, the significant changes by the 1990s to diagnostic criteria for autism that likely contributed to rising rates of autism. Two, recent research supports following the recommended schedule and not spacing out vaccines which puts young children at more risk for illness. 


So are you coming to the March for Science D.C

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