Politicians throw out a lot of anecdotes, especially if it is one told by a constituent or potential voter, so Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann throwing forth a story told to her that the HPV vaccine caused a child's retardation would be just that, a story. Even it if is a just-so story.
Except she's a Republican. And so academics have offered $10,000 for the source of that story.
A few days ago, New Scientist issued forth a story about anti-science efforts in U.S. politics. The only three they were able to find were, of course, global warming, evolution and hESC research, though even that last one has not been a topic since 2006. To New Scientist, all were safely perceived as Republican issues(1) even though Republicans were the first to fund stem cells in the 1960s and the first to fund human embryonic stem cell research. They're not only in carefully picking their 'anti-science politics' stories. In 2008, ScienceDebate2008, for example, did not ask about evolution or vaccines and autism - fish hatcheries was one of their '14 most important science issues' but not evolution. Why? Because a Democrat was not enraging his religious constituency denying God and ScienceDebate2008 was solely a way to promote a Democratic candidate - Obama's anti-science beliefs on vaccines causing autism would also have put his science contingent in a pickle, so it was better not to ask.
I'm no fan of the HPV vaccine but not because I am anti-vaccine - I'm not for it because companies like Merck are exploiting the goodwill of vaccines to recover the money they keep losing for dangerous drugs pulled from the market and are trumping up the benefit of a vaccine that covers a narrow range of viruses - a third of women who will get cervical cancer are going to get it regardless of the vaccine and the rest will need to get vaccinated again. The problem is partisan kooks on the left shout 'holocaust denier' and anti-vaxxer at everyone skeptical of Big Pharm while they claim to be skeptical. And people on the left rarely look to their own anti-science positions, like discrimination in science, anti-agriculture beliefs and having overwhelmingly anti-vaccine people in their camp. Yet if Bachmann says something stupid, out come the 'Republicans are anti-science' arguments despite the fact the the anti-vaccine community is Democrats, not Republicans. The vaccination rate in conservative southern states is far ahead of progressive Washington State.
When presidential candidate Barack Obama said he believed vaccines might cause autism it got no notice from the mass media nor the overwhelmingly partisan science media. Did any professors offer him $10,000 for his evidence?
They're right in going after Bachmann, of course, it would just be nice if someone (well, besides me) would go after the anti-science positions of both sides instead of rationalizing one side and harping on the other.
The GOP front-runners are a festival of idiots seemingly picked by the news media - there is no winner for Republicans in Texas Gov. Rick Perry mandating a vaccine or Bachmann claiming anecdotal evidence the HPV vaccine caused retardation. It may end up being goverment-mandated corporate welfare for rich companies but it isn't causing retardation. To someone in the middle, it's actually fun to see progressives endorsing Big Pharm. Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman of Utah got dismissed by MSNBC progressive political commentator Rachel Maddow as being a non-entity even while virtually every Republican said he was a great candidate, which tells you he is the guy Democrats are worried about.
As national Democrats recently learned in New York, where what should have been an easy win for Democrats, who have a 3-1 ratio registration advantage in the congressional district they lost, turned out to be not so easy when voters have more sources than corporate media for their information. Even the New York Times was not able to win that one for them. So it goes with Bachmann. Likewise in science, it is no longer possible to pretend only one side manipulates science for its own gain - or that Democrats are not anti-science in just as many ways as Republicans are.
(1) And I will give $10,000 to any mainstream Democratic presidential candidate who proclaims his atheism.
Professors Offer $10K For Story That HPV Vaccine Caused Retardation
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