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Anti-science movements in America aren’t that surprising

The public doesn't know who to trust anymore – and have good reason to be skeptical.

Science and the scientific method are among humanity’s highest achievements.

Through it, we’ve saved millions of lives, learned about the universe, and unlocked new potential.

In it’s purest form, it’s among the noblest pursuits.

Science’s missing integrity

But it has become corrupted, oftentimes by the very people who purport to be its stewards.

In fact, many ‘paper’ scientists contributed significantly to the massive societal problems we face today – from health issues to civil unrest.

It has come to Upside Chronicles’ attention that scientific institutions themselves are so fraught with entrenched world-views and ego that good science gets overlooked regularly.

Meanwhile, bad science, funded by corporate dollars, is championed and promoted.

Scientific findings have been publicly questioned by just about everyone – even other scientists.

Data can be twisted; experiments can be set up to produce certain results. All things considered, it’s not too surprisingly that scientific facts have become political issues, confused with opinions.

statistics regarding the public's trust in science or belief that sciene is a partisan issue
Statista

Big scientific egos

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges the scientific community must reckon with is ego.

Science’s incredible contributions have made scientists revered in our society – for good reason.

For a while there, scientists had status, not unlike priests in Old World Europe.

For some ‘scientists,’ free thought became blasphemy. They dismissed those with questions and offered little explanation.

It was as though many scientists put on their “white coat of objectivity,” not unlike an priest’s vestment, and acted as though they could walk on water.

We’re not just talking about non-doctors giving medical advice.

A lot of the science that lends the non-doctors any degree of credibility comes from the poor actors that are supposedly of the highest scientific achievement.

Big egos make bad mentors

The field of science has a long and embarrassing history of racism and sexism.

With prestige comes pompousness, arrogance. Big-name supervisors are often power-drunkenly abusive toward their students. This creates a fear dynamic that suppresses diversity of thought.

Ph.D students are expected to work long hours, all hours, for minimal pay, for a decade of their working life. The person they work under has the power to make or break their career, so they must fall in line accept abuse, and keep quiet. That includes when abusive supervisors plagiarize – or outright steal credit for – their work.

Stealing credit for work is depressingly commonplace in the world of science, dissuading real contributors from the field in defeat.

Even after patterns of abuse emerge, universities often do nothing.

Every female post-grad student he supervised that I know about asked for a new supervisor, including myself, and yet the department just gave us new supervisors and did nothing.
–anonymous Ph.D student on a Tumblr of academia horror stories entitled ‘academiaiskillingmyfriends’

Ph.D students report severe depression and anxiety symptoms at three times the rate of the general population.

Quality scientific research is often suppressed

For one, good research is often rejected for bad reasons.

In one particularly appalling case, a fellow at a prestigious university (with an impressive track record) presented data from the discipline’s agreed-upon common database.

The data, verifiable by any board member, suggested that a specific, economically disadvantaged group received treatment a statistically significant, lesser amount of the time compared to the control group. This was despite similar rates of diagnosis of the condition requiring treatment.

The paper only pointed out this statistical difference – without speculating why such a difference existed.

The field’s professional journals rejected this study all around.

Most didn’t give feedback. Those that did asked questions like “Why were these statistics even pulled?”

Rather than look at the scientific evidence, they went into defense mode.

It begs the question: How much quality research is rejected on meaningless metrics like resume credentials, or worse still, because it doesn’t suite the worldview of the gatekeepers?

First-hand

In early May, the Upside Chronicles submitted a research paper to every major media outlet in the country.

The researchers analyzed vast amounts of data, sourced from publicly available records from the WHO, the NIH, and the CDC.

The reporter came to the conclusion that COVID-19 was more of a blood-based illness . (Originally published on Medium in early May).

The paper analyzed data from numerous dimensions: Gender outcomes, the kinds of underlying conditions that worsened COVID-19 outcomes, the impact on smokers, treatment success rates, and various reports from hospital workers.

That research was rejected everywhere. The limited feedback it received was that ‘correlation does not mean causation’ – which is true, except that it can very well point to causation. Any worthwhile scienctist knows that strong correlations warrant further investigation.

Big news

Five months later, every media outlet in the country had a story about blood type’s influence on COVID patient outcontes. The research piece even specified that AB types were more likely to have averse outcomes, while O types were more likely to have better outcomes, a point that was parroted by many of the latecomers.

At the time, the perspective was outside of what we ‘knew’ about the virus. We were certain it was respiratory – and the scientific community wasn’t open to other modes of thought, despite hard, deep, and multi-dimensional data to back it up.

It’s understandable that not every paper submitted to every journal can be properly reviewed. But many of the ‘gatekeepers’ of the scientific community focus too much on titles while discrediting diversity of thought.

Falsifying the facts

This false sense of scientific value has led to some tragic outcomes. It’s fairly common.

Many paper scientists are part of a corporate interest propaganda web, and every study they publish tarnishes science’s good name and the public’s faith.

In a recent paper, Jonathan Marks, the director of Bioethics at Pennsylvania State University outlines these corrosive relationships:

These webs involve health professionals, patient advocacy groups, medical professional societies, research universities, teaching hospitals, public health agencies, policymakers, and legislators.

Marks was commenting on the confluence of events that enabled the opioid epidemic to rage on, killing thousands of people in the process.

“Governments, the academy, and civil society need to develop counterstrategies to insulate themselves from corporate influence and to preserve their integrity and public trust,” he adds.

When questions regarding opioids’ high fatality rates were raised, pharmaceutical makers Johnson & Johnson and Purdue funded ‘studies’ that conveniently found opioids were ‘not addictive.’

It doesn’t take a fancy degree or a scientist to be able to see that, well, that was straight up incorrect.

Similarly, meatpacking plants across the U.S. are funding studies that suggest that conditions have improved for meatpacking working in relation to COVID-19.

According to a very compelling study reported on by beefmagazine.com (you can’t make this stuff up), meatpacking workers are actually safer than the general population from contracting COVID.

The study comes from an ‘independent’ third-party organization, who’s website’s homepage features articles such as “Are Democrats missing a fundamental issue for rural voters?”

This comes right on the heels of the CDC recommending meatpacking workers be prioritized for vaccination due to infection rates of 50-80% in multiple locations (higher than any other industry by a lot), and China questioning meat imports.

Bad institutions

Sadly, ‘scientific’ institutions and universities are part of the problem too.

Take the International Life Sciences Institute. Sounds pretty official – and scientific – doesn’t it?

It’s funded by a board that includes executives from Coca-Cola, Monsanto, McDonald’s and Nestle.

This think-tank of ‘world class scientists’ have published ‘research’ papers on:

These studies convolute real evidence – and lead to real deaths.

Of course, when scientists go rogue, they are discredited and exiled from the scientific community…right?

Not really. A ‘lead’ ILSI ‘scientists’ accepted a professorship at UCSD’s School of Medicine in 2016. He is now teaching the next generation of medical hopefuls how to create doubt around whether a product causes public harm.

If he were to ever read this, he would almost certainly tout his credentials and degree as his ‘cloak of objectivity’ – his soapbox.

He is a “scientist” after all – and you can’t question science.

Quality researchers are shut out, and bad actors are sealed in.

Saving science

But science – and the public’s faith in it – is worth fighting for.

Many scientists do brilliant, noble work. They are generally aware of the problems science’s credibility faces, especially in recent years.

With universities becoming increasingly expensive, science is headed down a slippery slope. Unchecked, it could become a reinforcement of the upper-class status and little else.

It’s reminiscent of high priests of the Dark Ages. Only they had the ‘power’ to read the word of Word of God to the feeble-minded masses.

We already see this happening in the form of good research being rejected for dumb reasons, reasons that don’t jibe with personal biases or the political positions of gatekeepers.

In order to bring it back to form, some serious work needs to be done.

  • We need to focus on what people are saying, not what university they came from. Credentials are given too much weight.
  • We need to prize results, not letters behind a name
  • Every study should be legally required to disclose its funding sources. Proactive attempts to hide funding sources should be against the law with severe fines.
  • Scientists need to keep an open mind, especially as they gain positions of power within the scientific hierarchy.

Only then will we restore the public’s faith in science and unlock its promise.

Until then, we shouldn’t be surprised by anti-science movements like flat Earthers, anti-vaxxers. These movements are born of distrust. Until the scientific community cleans up its act, there’s almost certainly more to come.

Jack Tazman is a Baltimore, Maryland native. He attended Washington University where he studied political science.

Since then, he worked as a writer for various national news organizations specializing in politics and policy.

He now resides in New York City as a freelance writer and political consultant.

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