Whenever the subject of GMOs or vaccines come up, there's always a small cadre that urges us "not to fear science" and not-so-subtly sneers at those with concerns about either or both for "fearing science".
But we should fear science. Science is dangerous.
Many would like to believe that science is merely a benign, if not benevolent, pursuit of knowledge, and a tool to test hypotheses. Science is that, but science has also given us:
- the hydrogen bomb
- the atomic bomb
- nuclear reactors that leak radiation into the Pacific when damaged
- the propellants in bullet cartridges that cops use to kill unarmed teens, and kids use to accidentally shoot their parents
- drones, and the explosives they deliver
- cruise missiles, and the explosives they deliver
- the ability to make depleted uranium ordinance
- internal combustion engines and jet engines that spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, bringing about climate change and global warming
- the ability to factory farm chickens, turkeys and hogs, which turns the surrounding countryside into a shithole
- an IL-4 - expressing mousepox which is astoundingly lethal (courtesy of Australian scientists who debated whether or not to publish this finding, then decided it wasn't a problem), which can be used as a model for a similar smallpox bioweapon
- the plastics that go into the billions of disposable water bottles that now pollute practically every corner of the country, and a large area in the central Pacific
- oil drilling rigs that explode and dump millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, not to mention the toxic dispersants used to try to hide the extend of the spill
- sarin gas
- bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides
I could go on, but I'll stop there. Science has given us plenty of the worst our current world has to offer us, as well as some of the best. My point is that, like fire or a loaded gun, science can be used for great harm as well as great benefit, and it therefore should be feared.
The worst, though, in my mind, are those who blindly stumble forward using science as if it could never be of harm to anyone. All of you who support GMOs - and you are apparently legion - how are you so sure GMOs are absolutely safe? As far as I've seen, you have none, except to sneer at those of us who have concerns. The most basic rule is, if something is working - don't fuck it up! No one has convinced me that GMOs wouldn't end up fucking things in the surrounding ecosystem up because, frankly, science hasn't asked the right questions. And now there is a diary in the Recommended section that basically says GMO trees are OK, what's the big deal (as far as the diarist knows, that's it, which he's indicated is not much) - how the hell do we know that? As it stands, it seems that question will be left up to companies that will profit from those trees; they sure as hell won't ask the right questions. Just enough science to cause trouble, not enough to know what the hell they're doing.
On the anti-vax front, science still hasn't asked the right questions there, either. Sure, there's no demonstrated connection between vaccinations and autism, but has there ever been a search for potentially susceptible subpopulations of kids who might be more susceptible to a (hypothetical) vaccine-caused autism than the remainder of the population? As far as I know, no such question has been asked, let alone answered. What we have are only correlation studies that look at an entire population, not the susceptibilities of subpopulations. In such studies, if there is a real effect on such a subpopulation, we'd never know because data from that subpopulation would be confounded by data from the general population.
My basic point is this: Don't tell me not to fear science, because science (1) frequently provides incomplete answers, so its practitioners (and business) don't have a full appreciation of what the hell they're doing, and (2) has given us some truly fearsome things.
UPDATE: First, thanks to all who approached this diary in the spirit of legitimate debate. I appreciate it.
At least one commenter has referred to this diary as "anti-vax apologia". This statement is garbage. What I said is that science hasn't yet asked the right questions.
For the record (and please pay attention): Parents who don't vaccinate their kids are idiots. The benefits clearly outweigh the (known) risks.
However, science has not asked the question as to whether there might be one or more discrete subpopulations that might be more susceptible than the general population, with respect to the development of autism. What autism is, and what causes it, are still being parsed out, and it makes no sense to discount any potential cause at this time. If there is such a subpopulation, wouldn't you want to know? Wouldn't members of that subpopulation be entitled to know? It's a question--a hypothesis--worth digging more deeply into. In the meantime, however, since the consensus is that there is no correlation between vaccination and autism, vaccination is the way to go.
Oh, and also for the record, no, I didn't add a "Recommended" tag.