Over at HuffPo, Jeff Schweitzer serves up a cri de couer against religion. He writes:
Many factors have brought us to this sad state of affairs, but we can no longer ignore the 600 pound gorilla and trumpeting elephants in the room: religion is killing us. While our kids are being taught that god created gravity, children in Zaire are learning about Newton and Einstein. As children in Lichtenstein are being taught about the warping of space-time, American kids are learning that “people who do not believe in god” are incapable of understanding gravity.
American religiosity has become an existential threat, undermining the foundation of our future prosperity by contaminating our educational system with superstition, fable and myth. We see this with evolution, vaccines, climate change, energy policy and a host of critical issues that should be based in science but instead are hijacked by ignorance. We are 17th in the world in science, but instead of improving our education, we continue to fight battles more appropriate to the 16th century. Let’s look at a few specific and tragic examples in which religion has triumphed at the expense of our educational system and with great harm to society.
Oddly, many accept the link between autism and vaccinations with no proof, but when it comes to climate change, the demand for proof is never satisfied no matter how convincing such proof may be. Many accept the existence of ghosts with no evidence, but deny the reality of a changing climate with proof before their eyes. This differential deference to evidence is clear indicator that much of the American public lacks the tools to evaluate issues rationally. Without science, reality becomes just an option to be rejected whenever the real world gives us inconvenient truths. In this frightening environment in which fiction becomes fact, the conclusions from years of careful research, scrutinized by competing scientists and published in peer reviewed journals now carry no more weight with the public than the random thoughts of a bloated pundit. Talking heads with no training now have the same authority as highly qualified experts. So global warming is dismissed as a liberal hoax in spite of a preponderance of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. Climate and weather are mistakenly thought to be the same. So with every cold snap in winter we hear, “See, it snowed – I told you climate change was a joke.”
Now we’re cooking with gas!
Riveting stuff, but I’m less sure about this:
And let’s be brutally honest; we can lay the death of every child who dies of this preventable disease directly at the feet of all the parents who chose not to vaccinate their children. Unlike most diseases that require only 85% vaccination to create herd immunity, Whooping Cough, and measles, requires 94% immunization to protect the public. Ignorance, the willingness to dismiss hard evidence when inconvenient, or inversely the readiness to reach a conclusion in the complete absence of evidence are all symptoms of scientific illiteracy growing in the nutritive soup of religiosity.
Religion is certainly a contributing factor behind anti-vaccination hysteria, but it is hardly the only one. There’s a fair amount of crunchy, New Agey, left-wingery going on too. And the libertarians sometimes chime in, outraged that the government would require the to get a shot.
Schweitzer is identified as a “Scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology.” I’m assuming that was the Obama White House. If I’m right, then my opinion of Obama just went up.