Outdated beliefs are halting social progress

By JONATHAN PATTERSON | March 1, 2018

Anytime someone announces that they believe the earth is flat, they are met with immediate dismay, criticism or even mockery. Now I am not saying that it is not warranted, but I wonder why such a reaction is not the standard response to scientific ignorance. 

Society today readily dismisses Flat-Earthers as delusional, but what about climate deniers, anti-vaxxers or young-earth creationists? 

Those that deny the reality of climate change, the benefits of vaccination or the true age of the earth are just as misinformed as Flat-Earthers. 

Although thinking the earth is flat or less than 10,000 years old can be seen as absurd, at the very least this belief does not embody any harmful effects; however, ignoring the power of vaccination or climate change can open a pandora of consequences. 

When parents elect to forgo vaccines for their children and send them out into the world unprotected, they are directly exposing their children, and the children of many others, to contagious diseases that could possibly lead to outbreaks. 

That being said, most people would argue that the dangers of climate change are even more severe. With rising seas, superstorms, habitat loss and water scarcity, climate change could potentially have broad and irreversible effects on society. 

America, being the democracy that it is, has a history that is built upon a strong foundation of free speech, open debate and individual liberty. 

Although these are central American values and unquestionably some of the strengths of our country, they at times become weaknesses when they find themselves pitted against facts. 

When religious beliefs attempt to taint our school’s science curriculum, parental rights cause public health risks or “alternative facts” are given the same legitimacy as scientific data, core American tenets tend to normalize the very dangerous trend of scientific ignorance present in our country. 

Debate is crucial for America to thrive, but we must recognize that when it comes to science, such debate must be limited to actual scientists. 

“A subject is scientifically controversial when actively debated by legions of scientists, not when actively debated by the public, the press, or by politicians,” Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist, author and science communicator, wrote on Twitter.

When scientists gather the facts through proven scientific means and reach a consensus, we as a country must accept that conclusion. 

An issue like climate change has already been discovered, tested and proven among the scientific community for years. The debate regarding its existence is over, and now we are faced with solving the taxing problem unfolding before us. 

Combating climate change involves time sensitive decisions, and the consequences it brings grow worse with each passing day of passiveness and inaction. We do not have time for politicians or voters to slowly accept the harsh reality of climate change. 

Nor can we afford for any child to fall victim to a preventable disease like measles, endangering their well-being and the well-being of any child around them, all because their parents do not believe in vaccines. 

I suppose, however, that our society’s relationship with science would not improve in the future if people want to teach topics like creationism (or intelligent design as some ironically call it) to children under the guise of science. 

Some people in America view scientific facts with an outright dismissiveness, and that is an alarming trend which is potentially detrimental to our society. 

Creationism, the anti-vaccination movement and climate deniers have no factual leg to stand on. They are misinformed, inaccurate and sometimes downright foolish. 

That being said, since we live in America, anyone is rightfully entitled to profess such beliefs if they choose to. 

But to be clear, they are nothing more than beliefs — and flawed ones at that. Such beliefs should never be confused with reasoned thoughts or scientifically supported facts. They are not based in reality and should be seen in the same light as the belief in a flat Earth, as they share the same level of factual legitimacy. 

I am not certain as to why creationist, climate denying and anti-vaccination stances are shielded from the social criticism that rightly bashes Flat-Earthers. 

Nonetheless, in my eyes, they are all equally ridiculous, and America would be better served if more people started to meet all these anti-science, reality-devoid beliefs with the proper response: dismay, criticism or even mockery. 

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