It should be clear by now to readers of this blog that pseudoscience is not a problem of just the right. The left wing areas of pseudoscience are just as cranky, just as wrong-headed about science, just as likely to use the tactics of denialism to advance a non-scientific agenda. We have been dealing with the denialism of the right more because they’ve been in control. Now is the time to nip the denialism of the left in the bud so it doesn’t take root in this new administration.
RFK Jr. is a crank (Orac for more), and one of the problems with cranks is Crank Magnetism. When people have one type of pseudoscientific belief it tends not to be isolated. Instead it reflects a general incompetence in understanding science, evaluating the quality of evidence, and what constitutes good science. RFK Jr.’s crankery will not be limited to vaccines and autism. He will undoubtably become the poster boy for all sorts of left wing crankery – be it environmental extremism, toxin/radiation paranoia (we’ll never get public wifi), or his already well known anti-vax crankery.
My letter to the transition team is below the fold. Please join me in trying to prevent this terrible error on the part of the Obama campaign.
I’m a Physician/Scientist in training at the University of Virginia who supported this campaign, the Democratic party, and environmental issues. I also write one of the top scienceblogs in the country for the scienceblogs network.
RFK Jr. must NOT be appointed as head of the EPA. He is NOT a scientist. He does NOT understand science. He does NOT respect science. He is, in fact, a crank, who believes in pseudoscientific nonsense like vaccines causing autism. And when people are cranky and unscientific in one area of belief, it is never restricted to just that area. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of science and an incompetence in evaluating the quality of data and scientific information. This is not remotely a partisan letter, this is a plea for your administration not to make a horrible error.
This is a BAD choice. Do not do this or you will alienate scientists from your campaign very early on, not to mention doctors and especially pediatricians. This man is a crackpot, and I simply can not condone his presence anywhere in government.
Mark Hoofnagle, PhD