The Growing Politicization of Science

I want to preface this by saying in no uncertain terms, that I know that this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that science has been married to politics in such a way. However, recently it seems that the politics have become more important than the actual data itself. People have always cherry picked their beliefs to an extent but since the Renaissance, data had been held to a higher standard than non-empirical beliefs. That seems to be changing rapidly.

In 2000, according to the CDC, measles was declared eliminated as an active disease in the United States. Less than twenty years later we are in the midst of a new expanding measles threat. In the past decade the rise of the so called anti-vaccine movement coupled with mass migration from the global south worldwide has led to more and more unvaccinated people coming in contact with the highly contagious disease. How did this happen?

The basis of the anti-vaxxer movement as I understand it, is based on a lack of faith in the science behind it. They think that the perceived underlying risk is greater than the perscribed benefits. Therefore, they chose to forego vaccines and risk disease rather than other negative benefits. Problem is, the established science makes no mention of the negative side affects that anti-vaxxers claim exist.

This is not unique in and of itself. People have been questioning established science since there was such a thing, what’s weird is the science they choose to push and the science they reject.

For example, for decades now many people have decided that global warming is real and man made. Politicians have staked their flag on this claim, people have changed their lifestyles on this claim even though the science and the relationship between climate and man is murky. But this science is paraded as fact, a crisis of epic proportions while vaccines are treated as pseudoscience.

It gets weirder than that even. Recently more and more people from academia, media and pop culture have been claiming that gender and biology are not linked. They say that people’s biology has nothing to do with their gender, even though until recently sex and gender were interchangable terms. They say that the established fields of medicine and biology are simply wrong. On the other side, in 2019, if you challenge the ideas of evolution you will be labeled a reactionary or fundamentals who simply can’t get with the times.

Global warming will kill us all in 10 years they say, not for the first time, yet vaccines which eradicated measles and polio are suspect. A child can be born a male and yet not one but single celled organisms turned into dinosaurs, then whales then something else. Their choice of good science versus bad science has made their logic seem shaky at best.

To be fair not everyone holds these beliefs simultaneously but if you believe in non binary gender science chances are you believe in global warming too. These beliefs flow together in certain ideological groups. The inverse is also true, if someone doesn’t believe in evolution chances are they don’t believe in climate change either.

It is just odd that so many people will push unfounded science and reject data driven science in a proclaimed age of reason. Once again, as in the past, it seems like people to feel right rather than actually be right. If I can guess your scientific beliefs based on your political beliefs then there is something wrong with the science, the politics or both. Data and science should be fairly objective but it seems that that is becoming less the case.

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