Science denial

Over at Peaceful Science, I have been labelled by one poster as a “climate change denialist,” which is more interesting for the way the diagnosis – or actually, slogan – is used to foreclose discussion of a factual story I cited, rather than anything else. “Denialism” is one of those many Newspeak words designed specifically as a demonization-label. It’s used primarily of climate change science (where the “science-deniers” are often scientists doing the wrong research or declining to doctor their data to fit the consensus), and of “creationism” so called, where it may label, once more, qualified scientists proposing “the wrong kind of theory,” or those supporting more obviously unlikely explanations, indiscrimately.

In other words, the “denialist” words are descriptively useless. The lesson is to refuse to use such words at all, and be highly suspicious when anybody else does. Unfortunately that means living in a constant state of suspicion, nowadays.

But I don’t want to talk about those usages here, the second involving origins sciences with little real import to daily affairs, and the first a situation that is potentially threatening, but so scientifically complex and entirely politicized that it’s the economics that have more impact than the science.

What’s more significant and dangerous, I think, is the “science denial” that is overturning our whole society – including our historical freedoms. And that is because it is a denial involving not only our politicians, our press, our mass-media and our social policy, but the academy itself – including the very bodies set up to give scientific advice and impose professional standards.

This is mainly, though not exclusively, within the field of sexual and family matters. Exceptions would include the increasing progressive emphasis on the complete separation of races (“Stop speaking if you’re white”, etc), just at the time when science has pretty much debunked the validity of “race” in any human context.

Examples in the more personal realm are legion… to be succinct, nearly all the changes in society’s morality have been carried through in spite of, not on the basis of, rigorous science. I have space only to mention a few examples.

During my long medical career, for example, I watched the number of cases of sexually transmitted disease increase exponentially. At the same time, new varieties of disease became widespread, the most famous being AIDS, but other examples being genital herpes, orofacial carcinoma caused by “unusual practices” and the papilloma virus that underlies Ca cervix (which would also be increasing exponentially were not for an effective screening programme), and Chlamidia. When I started as a GP there was a walk-in STD clinic locally, which by the time I retired had acquired a dangerously long waiting-list. From time to time I read the latest trends in epidemiological research, and the global-warming type exponential graphs (only this time measuring raw data rather than model projections), and I worried over the increasing drug-resistance of the common infections, and the lack of any awareness of a problem by the vast majority of “well-educated” patients.

Yet, amidst the toll of infertility, abdominal infections, painful symptoms, social stigma and escalating requirements for increasingly ineffective antibiotics, not to mention mushrooming teenage pregnancies and abortions, neither policy-makers in government nor leaders of the professions ever suggested that we should tell young people any other message than an ironic “have a healthy sex life.” Oh yes, when AIDS became a panic, it’s true the message became “Have a healthy sex life with condoms.” All this with no evidence that pre-marital sex is “healthy” in any sense.


Transsexuality, and the legal commandment to affirm it with all your heart, soul and mind,  is a very recent trend in what had been called “liquid modernity,” but I dealt with my first case back in 1981 when it still had 0.07% incidence (that is before it became a Hollywood fashion accessory). Then, as now, pretty much the only centre dealing with it was the Tavistock Clinic in London, from which, according to a news report this week, increasing numbers of staff are either resigning, or afraid to speak out, because of the now vastly greater workload, and the decreasing age of referrals (as young as 3) which, their medical policy dictates, should be treated as truly transsexual and encouraged in re-assignment.

But this policy has not changed, and even a decade or two ago, my anxious queries about whether a psychological disorder was really best treated by major, irreversible surgery, hormone treament, speech therapy to train patients to speak and walk like their chosen gender, and so on, was really the most sensible way to go, were ignored. We don’t change reality to suit any other condition, after all. When my even more urgent inquiries about a transitioned patient of theirs, with multiple suicide attempts, seeking (impossibly, from the surgical point of view) to be re-transitioned, received no reply, I confess the experience dissuaded me from support for the whole diagnosis and treatment paradigm.

But that was before the study of all Swedish treated transsexuals, which has shown, long-term, not only that the suicide rate is twenty times higher than the national baseline, but that (tragically) even the pattern of self-harm matches the birth sex of the victims, not the “preferred gender.” That has not, for some reason, prevented the Royal Colleges here, and the US and Canadian equivalents, from stating as firm policy that those with gender dysphoria (the replacement term for “gender dysmorphia,” coined in order to change a disease into an environmental problem) must be treated in this way. Those who do not do so risk losing their registration.

In a similar way, although the scientific evidence uniformly shows that there is no hormonal, genetic, or other physical correlation with transsexualism, and that in fact to the contrary there is a biological match in every respect with birth sex, I heard only this week a video of a young American complaining of being taught in college that “Science shows chemical abnormalities are to blame.” That is crude science denial (though understandable, because the medical establishment denies the same science in its policies, as well as the teaching syllabi), but ironically it led to the worst possible effect in this young, black, Christian YouTuber: being taught that this nonsense is scientifically proven, he reasonably concluded that science is not to be trusted, rather than the more accurate, but worrying, conclusion that both teachers and scientists lie about the science.

Lastly, in these example, in a video featuring Olympian athlete Ana Paula Henkel, she discusses her research that, despite the Olympic Committee knowing the scientific evidence that sex differences are real, and that therefore male transsexuals have a massive inbuilt physical advantage over true females, and that female transsexuals dope with testosterone in a way outlawed amongst female and male athletes, their policies ignore the science. Worse, though, the medical and scientific authorities on which the Olympic Committee relies collude in this denial of science, in favour of… well, what is it? Ideology? Or maybe just cowardice in the face of ideology.

Either way, when the science-denial of scientists keeps them from speaking out against laws that result in the irreversible physical abuse of infants, and the prosecution of their parents for protesting, and the destruction of female sporting careers, and the sacking of government employees, and the shaming of church pastors, and the alienation of young students from science… I think the scientific community should stop beefing about creationism and big-oil, and start waving the flag for the destruction occurring through ignoring more immediately important science.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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3 Responses to Science denial

  1. GD GD says:

    Hi Jon,

    The ‘denial syndrome’ is found in many areas – take for example, GHG emissions and climate change. We have activists promoting solar and wind as the solution, while totally ignoring the constant emissions from old fossil fuelled power that should have closed down over the last two decades. Meanwhile the cost of power has gone through the roof to sustain solar and wind, and the old crappy power stations are making more money than ever – surely the worst of all outcomes – but try and convince the ideologically driven twits who have conned themselves into believing they will save the planet.

    If these idiots had remained quite, we would have affordable power using modern plant, with about 40% reduction in GHG emissions (figures on new efficiency from IEA). Instead GHG are rising, cost of power is rising, and the idiots become more politically active – such beastly outcome make me think I should quote from the book of revelations, me thinks.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      GD

      Knowing your professional field, I know you have knowledge of what you speak.
      But I wouldn’t mind betting that, if you’ve even entered a discussion on this on a site like BioLogos, some geneticist or teacher will have told you that you’re not a climatologist (and probably that you’re a “denialist”), and nearly everyone would join the chorus.

      Certainly that happened to a very level-headed physicist who used to post there, and had studied the subject, but had “Al Gore” thrown back in his face by someone with no scientific training whatsoever!

      And that’s less worrying than the same response from people running the UN, or G7, or various professional scientific bodies (the main subject of the OP).

  2. Robert Byers says:

    No one agrees they deny science but only conclusions claimed to be from science.
    I am creationist and think global warming from man’s efforts is crazy untrue. I think its upper middle class/upper class folks who want a cleaner, greener, world and are arraid of the third worlds hugh populations gaining cars in the next decades.
    not a conspiracy or lies but more hunch then fact.
    Its about conclusions claimed to be from authority of smart people doing the research. HMMM.
    Who decides who proved their case?
    Some higher judge or the people.
    anyways its reallt small groups of forceful people that impose thier will.
    any agreement with a majority is coincidence.

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