In the latest of a series of appointments that are poised to contravene scientific and medical consensus, Donald Trump met with anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for the purpose of forming a commission on “vaccine safety.” On The Pump Handle, Kim Krisberg says “Kennedy is a lawyer — not a scientist, doctor, child health expert or public health practitioner” yet Trump wants to charge him with “reviewing the safety of one of the greatest life-saving tools of the 20th century.” Like Kennedy, Trump says that vaccines can cause autism, and as Orac notes on Respectful Insolence, “compared to the flip-flops Trump has pulled off regarding beliefs in a variety of areas, Trump’s views on vaccines and autism have been remarkably consistent.” Meanwhile, on Confessions of a Science Librarian, John Dupuis picks up on an article that jokes Trump “will require all reviewers for all journals and grant agencies to end all reviews with the word ‘Sad!'” and may even “Make Astrophysics Great Again.” John says “One word peer review is going to be Huuuuugggggggeeeeee!”
Inauguration day: How President Trump could undermine trust in vaccines
on Respectful Insolence
Despite a greater percentage of people knowing about (and agreeing with) scientific issues, denialism remains a powerful political and psychological force that threatens to have its heyday under President Trump. As Peter Gleick writes on Significant Figures, “good policy without good science is difficult; good policy with bad science is impossible.” Peter asks: what is the best way for scientists to engage the republic? Through testimony? Social media? Pop star status like Sagan, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson? Or is the open letter an effective form of public outreach? Meanwhile, on Starts With a Bang, Ethan Siegel says “Scientific truths may not necessarily have a one-to-one correspondence with policy,” but until we can agree on some facts, “we’re going to have a very hard time moving forward together in this world.” Orac offers additional advice for battling conspiracy theories and denialism on Respectful Insolence: “It’s not enough to know the science (or history). You have to know the pseudoscience (or pseudohistory) inside and out.” Orac also considers a study on the best way to argue with conspiracy theorists, which suggests that showing empathy is not an effective approach. Instead, “a combination of rational argument and targeted ridicule can be effective.”
2016: The year bullshit was weaponized on Respectful Insolence
5 scientific myths you probably believe about the Universe on Starts With a Bang!
Serving as an immediate prelude to the very first Star Wars film (A New Hope), Rogue One restores a measure of gravitas to the Star Wars canon that was seriously undermined by the goofiness of 2015’s The Force Awakens. Rogue One is still a remarkable nostalgia trip, thanks to the digital recreation of familiar Rebel and Imperial hardware along with the likenesses of actors who first appeared in the original 1977 film. But without the need to consider future franchise opportunities for its stars, Rogue One is free to kill off all of its major characters, marking a narrative structure that is unprecedented for blockbusters in general and Disney piffle in particular. Self-sacrifice inspires a strong emotional response from the audience—see, for example, Obi-Wan Kenobi posing peacefully in A New Hope before Darth Vader strikes him down. The several heroes in Rogue One sacrifice themselves one by one until all that’s left is a floppy disk in the hands of a princess. This is powerful plotting, and all credit to the film’s writers. Perhaps there is hope for the fictional far-far-away galaxy after all.
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