Jul 11, 2015
Science denial. It’s nothing new. Pope Urban VIII imprisoned Galileo out of anger and fear; a denial of the truth. Two and a half centuries later Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species and the fundamentalist shit hits the biblical fan. One-hundred fifty years later there are still those who deny the scientifically undisputed fact of biological evolution.
There are many other examples, but let me get to the big one.
That seems to be the denial du jour. In the face of a near unanimous worldwide consensus among climate scientists the denialists are stalwart. Hands over ears and screaming la-la-la-la-la.
And that leads me to what all of these instances of science denial have in common. A challenge to a strongly held belief, or worldview. These beliefs were once the only way of coming to terms with nature and the universe. But then science came along and ruined everything.
As a valid way of looking at nature these beliefs are dead. They have ceased to be! Bereft of life, they rest in peace.
And what happens when someone or something dear to you dies. You mourn it. It’s a natural human reaction. We then go through the five stages of grief until we come to terms with the new reality. What’s the first stage of grief? Yep, denial. “No, no, my mother didn’t just run off to Tahiti with the postman!” No. We reject the idea. We find alternatives. “Oh, she’s at the grocery store…she’s been gored by a bull in Pamplona”. Anything other than the unacceptable truth.
See the parallel?
The global warming denialists are going ape-shit. They can’t accept the truth. So they are coming up with crazy, insane ideas like, “ooh, it’s a big conspiracy by lefty climate scientists all over the world to destroy America,” or “Al Gore is a commie pinko and this is an evil plot to take away our freedom...and our guns!” Anything but the reality that upsets their long-held belief.
But just like someone who is mourning the death of a loved one, they know. They know deep inside that they have to face a new reality. It’s too painful, so no justification is too insane for them to grasp on to.
Then they’ll vacillate between anger and denial for a while before moving on to bargaining. “If only I hadn’t put the recyclables into the trash," or “If only I had listened to the Blue Streak Science Podcast and sent them lots of money, the polar bears would be saved!”
When the climate denialists see the futility of bargaining they will get depressed. Who the hell wouldn’t?
In a journal article this week a group of scientists warned that because of global warming, sea levels will rise so much that parts of Florida will be under water. The bad news? Parts of Florida won't be under water.
As all of us know who’ve ever experienced a tragedy or major setback in life there comes a point of acceptance.
Don’t expect the deniers to join Greenpeace, buy a Prius, or even sort their recycling. Acceptance of an inconvenient truth is often a quiet and personal realization.
Canadian-American actor and comedian and one of the most popular comic actors today is the recipient of Blue Streak Science Asshole of the Week award.
I first noticed Jim Carrey in the 1988 film "Earth Girls Are Easy" in which he and Damon Wayans had relatively minor roles.
Jim Carrey's resume includes:
Mr. Carrey was in a relationship with the infamous anti-science, anti-vaccination celebrity Jenny McCarthy from 2006 until 2010.
Celebrities like Jim Carrey often use their visibility and high profile to push their causes. Right or wrong, they have influence on legions of fans.
In response to epidemics of measles and whooping cough the California state assembly put together a bill that makes vaccinations mandatory for all school children, public and private. The "personal belief" exemption was eliminated.
Last week Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, and Jim Carrey has taken Twitter to vent his anger regarding these new protections for California's children, uninformed as it may be.
The star of the Dumb and Dumber films has been a vocal opponent of vaccinations since his relationship with Jenny McCarthy. In spite of overwhelming scientific evidence against it Carrey and McCarthy believe her son developed autism from vaccinations.
On 30 June Carrey proved that he's still talking out of his ass when he wrote on Twitter:
"California Gov says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in manditory [sic] vaccines. This corporate fascist must be stopped." He followed up with "they say mercury in fish is dangerous but forcing all of our children to be injected with mercury in thimerosol [sic] is no risk. Make sense?"
Firstly, according to the Centers for Disease Control: Since 2001, no new vaccine licensed by FDA for use in children has contained thimerosal as a preservative.
Exercising an abundance of caution, the FDA eliminated Thimerosal as a vaccine preservative based on methylmercury studies. However, upon injection Thimerosal is metabolized into ethylmercury. It has since been found that ethylmercury is eliminated from the body and the brain significantly faster than methylmercury, so the late-1990s risk assessments turned out to be overly cautious.
These are biochemical details that seem lost on the anti-science celebrities and those who give credence to what they have to say. Unfortunately, there's no vaccine for stupidity.
Carrey's Twitter invective continued and we finally got to the real motivation behind it. In one of the tweets Mr. Carrey promoted a 2014 anti-vaccination movie, which will remain unnamed. It seems the producers of the film have taken advantage of the publicity surrounding the signing of the vaccination law to do some promotion. They've targeted celebrities like Jim Carrey who were more than willing to go along with it.
Let's say you're a comic actor and a celebrity whose best years are behind you. You desperately want to stay relevant. So you reprise a film role from more than 20 years ago. You keep yourself in the public eye by going on social media diatribes with an anti-science rant.
No more Golden Globes. An Oscar? You can forget about that now.
Let me show ya somethin', Jim Carrey. Here is an award you can place on your mantle. For you've won the yet-to-be designed statuette for being the Blue Streak Science Asshole of the Week!
Sophie: We have an up-and-coming writer called Ivy Shih, a virology Ph.D. student here in Sydney, and should see a post we wrote get published on Amphibians.org later this month! We've begun writing again after a busy few weeks, so watch this space!
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And that concludes this episode of the Blue Streak Science Podcast.
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And our hosts today were Sophie McManus, Kellie Vinal, and JD Goodwin.
This week's Blue Streak Science Podcast comes to you from Sydney, Australia; Atlanta, Georgia, and Sonoma County, California!
Thank you for joining us.
And remember...follow the science!