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Monday, April 20, 2015

Q is for Quackery



Every scientific field seems to have a quack or two. They are on the fringe of what has become scientifically proven or accepted. They have crazy theories which they are desperate to hold on to. They are probably the 6% (yes, 6%) of American scientists who identify themselves as Republicans. The scientists who listen to repeated dismissals of their research and findings have lost all regard for those who lack the moral depth to accept truths when they counter what their constituency and, more importantly, their donors, want to hear.

The quacks are the doctors our 'representatives' on the right like to find and give an opportunity to offer a different perspective on things. It is as if a person has a title, Americans should just accept that whatever they say is true. They know that by the time it is researched and proven false, the majority of the country will have moved on to paying attention to something else. The GOP faithful will believe it as if God himself came down to proclaim its truth. Again, they have been very well conditioned.

There are two issues that the right are very adamant about reporting false information on. They are, of course, choice and climate change. Because Republicans only objective is to appease their base and their donors, they often rely on information that is blatantly false. Completely false. The kind of false that you literally pay for. The kind of false that you find a scientist, tell him what you need the theory and the outcome to be, and then pay that scientist to give you that answer. This is always most important to their issues of the environment. Several of their biggest donors are from industries that are decimating the environment. But they would really rather we not focus on that. So they just say "nu'huh" and America is supposed to then agree that climate change is a hoax. Senator Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate floor, after all.

A favorite scientist for the GOP to cite and hear testimony from is Wei-Hock Soon. He is a solar physicist and, per the New York Times, he has been repeatedly discredited for having violated the ethical guidelines of the journals he was publishing to. What types of violations? The kinds where they have to disclose where the funding came from to bankroll their research. It seems he has earned over $1.2 million from the fossil fuel industry and left this out of most of his reports. His reports have literally identified themselves as "deliverables" when submitted to corporations, to include Koch holdings, and Congress. What a glorious country we live in when a person can be completely discredited in his own field and ostracized by his contemporaries, but still manage to make a good living working for the government. I wonder if they would like for me to help them out with anything on Department of Education studies? I did aspire to be a teacher when I was a kid. That should certainly count for something.

In 2012, Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) was being interviewed by a local news station and they asked if he supported abortion rights for victims of rape. What should've been a pretty common, if not nonsensical, answer, ruined his career. Thankfully. He answered, “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down." This sounds pretty ludicrous, but, like he said, he had heard it from doctors. John C Willke, a General Practitioner and former president of the National Right to Life Movement, said "[Rape] is a traumatic thing - she's, shall we say, she's uptight. She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic." During Akin's tenure in Congress, he was on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Considering his fantastical ideas of how a woman's body works, its probably a good thing he isn't there making decisions on scientific endeavors anymore.

Fortunately, sometimes it is only the representatives who are quacks. Sometimes they invite doctors for testimony who can set them straight. In February of this year, during a hearing on an Idaho bill to stop doctors from using telemedicine, allowing women in rural areas to teleconference with a doctor while sitting with a nurse to explain her situation, from being allowed to prescribe abortion medications. During the hearing, testimony was provided by Dr. Julie Madsen who suggested that telemedicine is a rather useful resource for many types of procedures where the patient would be far from their doctor. She explained that a patient could swallow a pill and it could have a small camera in it to allow a doctor from thousands of miles away to upload pictures for a colonoscopy. Vito Barbieri, Republican State Representative, then asked Dr. Madsen, “Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?” The doctor replied, “It cannot be done in pregnancy, simply because when you swallow a pill it would not end up in the vagina.” Well, thank goodness that's settled. But it should give us pause about which people we are allowing to legislate regarding our health.

As with all opportunities afforded the right in matters of caring for our country or its people, it seems they will continue to only care about protecting those who send them to Washington. The word "representative" offers a much narrower definition than our forefathers initially intended. As long as we don't ask for something better in our government, we will continue to ask America to be led by those who truly have no interest in her well being or her future.





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