Nothing frustrates me more than when people misuse science to construct so-called "logical" responses to questions. Whether it be people using science to assert a reasoned truth to a religious conviction, or people advocating deleterious behaviors resulting from pushing pseudo-science, the misuse of science has no place in our public discourse.
I give an example of the first violation. In defense of the assertion that human embryos are as "alive" as adult humans, one of my college friends cited that both possess 46 chromosomes as "scientific fact" of the claim. Other than the actuality that such a "scientific" claim is invalid - tissue cultures of human somatic cells also possess 46 chromosomes, but I find it hard pressed to presume the same individual would claim those cells to be as "alive" as a full human being - there is an underlying philosophical fallacy in my friend's argument.
My friend, a self-proclaimed Catholic, doesn't base his belief that human embryos are as "alive" as adult humans on science, he bases it on his faith. Yet in arguing his position, he includes some "scientific facts" as if they are supposed to impress scientists like myself; a sophomoric "ooh, look at me, I used science in my argument so it is correct!" ploy.
The problem with that notion is that it is intellectually dishonest. Overall, for the aforementioned individual, the notion of religious morality is the focal point for the debate on when "life" begins. Those who are anti-abortion should not try to use science to defend their ideals, because their ideals are not ordained by science in the first place.
I transition to Jenny McCarthy, famous actress and infamous pseudo-science peddler. In the years since her child was diagnosed with autism, she has made it her personal crusade to impart her non-scientific information on some of the most vulnerable of our society (and rightly so) - new parents. It is no surprise that new parents are extremely protective of their newborn children, as there are chemicals that can cause harm, such as lead paint and overdoses of certain childhood medications. However, those harmful effects have been confirmed after years of peer-reviewed scientific studies.
Ms. McCarthy's mission to indoctrinate new parents with garbage stems from her belief that her child contracted autism from a vaccination for measles/mumps/rubella (MMR). The first claim of such a connection comes from Dr. Andrew Wakefield from his 1998 paper in the British medical journal, The Lancet. However, it was revealed that Dr. Wakefield received funding for his study from trial lawyers seeking evidence against vaccine manufacturers, after which 10 of the 12 co-authors retracted their support for the paper. Additionally, the same newspaper reported that Dr. Wakefield manipulated his study's results. Not to mention that a 2005 peer-reviewed meta-study showed no statistically significant correlation between the rise in autism cases and MRR. Instead, the study asserted "the increase is largely a consequence of improved ascertainment and a considerable broadening of the diagnostic concept." And finally, twin studies find heritability of autism to be as high as 90%.
Despite the overwhelming evidence against Ms. McCarthy's claims, she continues to get face-time in a variety of media, including magazines and even an hour-special on Oprah. Her latest step in advancing her pseudo-science is an interview in Cookie Magazine, as featured on Yahoo!'s homepage. Just reading the comments allows one to get an idea of how her inaccurate and dangerous accusations are being taken as truth by new parents and anyone susceptible to a good 'ole fashioned tin-foil conspiracy theory.
Head on over to Ms. McCarthy's own website and you will find yourself access to seemingly limitless amounts of bullshit. Click on the "Biomedical Treatment" section and you'll find some new methods to "recover" your child from autism. Most insane is the "Methyl B12 and Valtrex" method, developed by none other than proud parent Stan Kurtz, who decided that spending 6+ years on getting a Ph.D. was a waste of time, and instead thought his Yahoo! Groups Message Board would be an acceptable substitute for a peer-review board. (Can't you just feel the sarcasm...)
Not to mention that while you're saving your child from pending doom, you can shop til you drop at Ms. McCarthy's online boutique.
Nothing protects your child from evil
vaccines more than buying Jenny's new book!
This episode can be related to our society's scientific acumen (or rather lack of). People like Jenny McCarthy are why it is imperative that we ensure that all children have access to educational opportunities that teach science, but most importantly, the basis of the scientific method - critical thinking.