Tweet of the week: Dan Rather on science literacy

This week for the second time since the global AIDS epidemic broke out in the 1980s, a patient appears to have been cured of infection with H.I.V. (the infection which leads to AIDS). As the New York Times reported, the news comes nearly 12 years to the day after the first patient known to be cured, a feat that researchers have long tried, and failed, to duplicate. The surprise success now confirms that a cure for H.I.V. infection is possible, if difficult, researchers said. Additionally, in the same week as the public health success of the H.I.V. cure, counties across the country are reporting an uptick in measles cases: at least 206 in 11 states, per the latest count by CNN. As a result, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are discussing what they’re calling “a growing public health threat.”

CNN also explained that “on social media, platforms such as Facebook and YouTube are facing pressure to crack down on conspiracy theories and misinformation about vaccines.

But in state after state, legislators are introducing bills that make it easier for people to opt out of vaccinations.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, at least 20 states have introduced bills this year that would:
  • broaden the reasons why parents can exempt kids from getting vaccines even if there isn’t a medical need
  • require doctors to provide more information on the risks of vaccines”

 

Why This Matters: Dan Rather’s tweet states perfectly that we cannot pick and choose the aspects of science we deem acceptable–we have to respect and listen to scientists and what their data tells us. The problem is that science is complicated and science literacy is low in America which is a recipe for people being vulnerable to propaganda on the internet. This is a really good example of when people ask why they have to learn something in school that “they will never use” that the answer is scientific literacy is a life skill. The internet allows us to build our own echo chambers that validate our world view but this can also ensure that we’re sacrificing critical thinking and spreading the narrative that science is subjective. If you have kids, talk to them and read to them about science. If you have adults in your life that deny climate change or think that vaccines cause autism, push them on their beliefs and help them determine if their sources of information are reliable. We have to do better as a nation of talking about science and denouncing fake news and sensationalism otherwise we let internet trolls win out on topics that determine the fate of our planet and our public health.

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