Point of View Columns

More Science. Less Fear

Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City is one of the most outstanding medical institutions in the world. Its cancer treatment programs are globally recognized for excellence. MSKH has as its motto, “More Science, Less Fear”. These are words that the anti-vaccine lunatics and the climate change deniers would do well to heed – before they mindlessly degrade the planet in the name of……..well, nothing.

We can begin with the recent attention that the anti-vaccine mob has garnered, primarily because of the national outbreak of measles. Measles is a disease that had been virtually eradicated in the United States due to……………….you guessed it….universal vaccinations. But, due to a mindless public health decision, the state of California has given parents the right to opt out of mandatory vaccination regimens.

This anti-vaccination turmoil gained momentum when that world renowned scientist, Jenny McCarthy, started making the talk circuit spewing discredited theories regarding the connection between vaccinations and autism. Ms. McCarthy cited an Englishman by the name of Andrew Wakefield and his “studies” on this non-existent connection. Wakefield’s “studies” were revealed to be bogus and he has been barred from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom – hopefully for the rest of his life.

Somehow, the complete devastation of any logical, statistical or factual basis to claim that vaccinations are a public health hazard, much less that they are connected to autism, has not been enough to deter Jenny McCarthy or her followers. Although one would think that we have progressed from the times when scientists risked being burned at the stake for articulating scientific principles that we now take for granted (see the near death experience of Galileo, for example), it is clear that there remains a deep seated distrust of science, even when it saves lives.

We see the same distrust virus ravaging the logic and thought processes of the deniers of climate change. Presumptive presidential heir Jeb Bush pronounces himself as to being “skeptical” as to the impact of human activity on climate change. And he is not alone. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney and seemingly any aspiring Teapublican candidate has drunk the Koch brothers Kool-Aid and not only denied climate change, but they have also denied the melting polar ice caps, the rising sea levels and the weirdest weather patterns in the history of mankind.

Presumably, the climate change deniers adhere to this madness because to admit that climate change exists and is the result of human activity would require inconvenient modifications of human conduct. Alternative energy sources, conservation and respect for the environment would deny some people the enjoyment of the planet to which they feel absolutely entitled.

But we also know that the purveyors of fossil fuels understand quite clearly that the modifications of human conduct will lessen their bloated profits. And they are quite ready to sacrifice the future (as well as the present), on the altar of their profit and loss statements. And so it is important for climate change deniers to substitute fear for science, in this instance, fear of the change of lifestyle that would accompany the intelligent acknowledgement of the science that supports climate change.

More science and less fear should be our guide in these twenty first century debates that should not even be debates. Science has made undeniable progress in understanding diseases and how to prevent them, making the entire planet safe in the process. Science has helped us to understand how industrial and technological progress could destroy this planet as well as how to escape those consequences through scientifically-based strategies.

There are really no scientific rationales to oppose vaccinations or strategies to offset climate change. The proponents of fear tactics endanger not only themselves, but you and me and everyone we love.

More Science. Less Fear.

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