For New GOP: Ignorance Trumps Science

December 1, 2016

Can Witch Burning be far behind?


As president-elect Donald Trump carries on with his transition to the White House, our country waits to see which parts of his campaign rhetoric were the swirly-twirly ideas of a callow populist, and which parts were substantial and considered enough to evolve into actual policy.

Among the big ideas many of us hope remain in the first category is Trump’s position on vaccinations. The president-elect has a long history of vaccine misinformation; he first began to express his beliefs that there might be a relationship between vaccines and autism nearly a decade ago—years after this association was scientifically discredited. He’s repeated these ideas over the years, and he never found it necessary to correct or refine his position during the election. As such, he’s left the door open for vaccine skeptics and more extreme anti-vaxxers to see his victory as one of their own.

This sort of excitement for Trump’s win appeared in a recent Facebook post by Jennifer Larson, CEO of the autism-focused Holland Center, in which she explained that she and other vaccination skeptics discussed their concerns with Trump at a donor event in August. According to her account, Trump assured them that he’s on their side.

Now that Trump won, we can all feel safe in sharing that Mr. Trump met with autism advocates in August. He gave us 45 minutes and was extremely educated on our issues. Mark stated ‘You can’t make America great with all these sick children and more coming’. Trump shook his head and agreed. He heard my son’s vaccine injury story. Andy told him about Thompson and gave him Vaxxed. Dr Gary ended the meeting by saying ‘Donald, you are the only one who can fix this’. He said ‘I will’. We left hopeful. Lots of work left to do.

Larson’s post was republished on the site Age of Autism. (While the link on the Age of Autism story doesn’t connect to an original source, Larson confirmed in an email that she posted this message on Facebook.)

The meeting Larson described was a donor event in Florida. Also in attendance was anti-vaxx advocate Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor whose discredited research incorrectly suggested vaccines cause autism. As is common with such events, attendees were given a time to speak and the vaccination skeptics used it an opportunity to draw Trump’s attention to the documentary Vaxxed and allegations that the CDC has discovered, and denied, a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, according to both Larson and Mark Blaxill, editor-at-large of the Age of Autism website. The interaction was first reported on by Zack Kopplin for Science magazine.

Science Blogs:

So why did Tom Price catch my attention more than other Trump cabinet picks? Yes, he detests Obamacare and is likely to be fully enthusiastic about gutting it, but pretty much anyone Trump picked would have been expected to hold that view. It’s pretty much par for the course for the Republican Party these days. I would have been more surprised if Trump had picked someone who was was relatively neutral on the Affordable Care Act. No, what caught my eye was that I learned that Tom Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), and that told me a lot about him, none of it good. For instance, in 2015 Charles Pierce referred to Price as “one of Georgia’s wingnut sawbones” (Price is an orthopedic surgeon), and noted an article by Stephanie Mencimer, The Tea Party’s Favorite Doctors, which included this description of the AAPS:

Yet despite the lab coats and the official-sounding name, the docs of the AAPS are hardly part of mainstream medical society. Think Glenn Beck with an MD. The group (which did not return calls for comment for this story) has been around since 1943. Some of its former leaders were John Birchers, and its political philosophy comes straight out of Ayn Rand. Its general counsel is Andrew Schlafly, son of the legendary conservative activist Phyllis. The AAPS statement of principles declares that it is “evil” and “immoral” for physicians to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, and its journal is a repository for quackery. Its website features claims that tobacco taxes harm public health and electronic medical records are a form of “data control” like that employed by the East German secret police. An article on the AAPS website speculated that Barack Obama may have won the presidency by hypnotizing voters, especially cohorts known to be susceptible to “neurolinguistic programming”—that is, according to the writer, young people, educated people, and possibly Jews.

I realize that just because Tom Price is a member of the AAPS doesn’t necessarily mean that he subscribes to all its views—or even most of them. Maybe he’s like the Trump voters who were attracted by other things about him or hated Hillary Clinton more than they were disturbed by his racism, embrace of the alt right white supremacist movement, misogyny, and conspiracy mongering. Maybe Price was attracted by the AAPS world view that rejects nearly all restrictions on physicians’ practice of medicine, purportedly for the good of the patient; its support of private practice and dislike of government involvement in medicine, either financially or regulatory; and its embrace of an Ayn Rand-style view of doctors as supermen and women whose unfettered judgment results in what’s best for patients and medicine. Perhaps he was so attracted to the AAPS vision of doctors as special and “outside of the herd” to the point that he ignored its simultaneous promotion of dangerous medical quackery, such as antivaccine pseudoscience blaming vaccines for autism, including a view that is extreme even among antivaccine activists, namely that the “shaken baby syndrome” is a “misdiagnosis” for vaccine injury; its HIV/AIDS denialism; its blaming immigrants for crime and disease; its promotion of the pseudoscience claiming that abortion causes breast cancer using some of the most execrable “science” ever; its rejection of evidence-based guidelines as an unacceptable affront on the godlike autonomy of physicians; or the way the AAPS rejects even the concept of a scientific consensus about anything. Let’s just put it this way. The AAPS has featured publications by antivaccine mercury militia “scientists” Mark and David Geier. Even so, the very fact that Price was attracted enough to this organization and liked it enough to actually join it should raise a number of red flags. It certainly did with me, because I know the AAPS all too well.


Washington Post:

As soon as the election result became clear — Donald Trump would be America’s next president — ecologist Kelly Ramirez began reaching out to friends and female colleagues. Over email, the scientists anxiously discussed what the election would mean for scientific research and for the diverse group of people who conduct it.

“The hateful [campaign] rhetoric towards minorities, women, LBGTQIA, immigrants, and people with disabilities, coupled with the barrage of anti-science and anti-knowledge sentiment was difficult to take,” Ramirez wrote in a blog post for Scientific American. “Especially alone.”

By the weekend, the email group had grown to 100 women. Then 200. They drafted an open letter in defense of inclusivity and the scientific process — including the need to fight climate change — and posted it online nine days after the election. As of Tuesday night, more than 10,500 people have signed it.



15 Responses to “For New GOP: Ignorance Trumps Science”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Although witch burning (and waterboarding) are likely to become popular spectator events in the Mad Max world of President Pussy Grabber, the autism issue is far more complex. There has been speculation that his son Barron may be autistic, and Trump did first became interested in autism around the time Barron was born.

    A well-meaning individual posted a Youtube video that he says was meant to get people to stop “bullying” Barron for his behavior, pointing out that he might be on the spectrum. Under threat of a suit by an army of Trump lawyers speakinf gor Melania, it has been taken down, and the poster has apologized. As with all things web, it lives on—-if this version gets taken down too, just google “Barron Trump autism” and look for a clip that’s ~7 minutes long.

    Don’t forget too that one of the areas of cognitive dissonance for many folks on the left is the vaccine/autism controversy (along with GMO and nuclear power and misunderstanding fracking). So, Trump and some pretty far to the lefties are in agreement. Yep, complicated.

    • webej Says:

      No expert, but the video has not convinced me that Barron is positively autistic, although he is possibly somewhere on the spectrum. That the maker of the video is trying to stop people from “bullying” the kid is a thin veneer of deniability for using him to make spectacular claims about Trump’s anti-vaxx sympathies. The connection is not made here, but there is perhaps a connection to Melania staying in New York rather than moving to Washington.
      Although intriguing, Barron as the genesis for Trump’s view would be a lot more convincing if this were the only area where Trump sides against received wisdom without knowing a whole lot himself — it’s hardly an anomaly.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        You are obviously “no expert”, since you made the statement that “the video has not convinced me that Barron is positively autistic, although he is possibly somewhere on the spectrum”, which is a bit oxymoronic. Possibly? There IS a “spectrum” for autism, and one who displays certain symptoms IS autistic—-it’s just a matter of to what degree. We will find out over the next few years whether or not Barron was just a tired 10-year-old who was a bit overwhelmed by the event or is actually “on the spectrum”.

        I’m no expert either, but I do have some relevant training and experience, and what I saw in the video concerns me. The decision for Melania and Barron to stay in NY, live in Trump Tower, and finish out the year in the same school is consistent with what any loving and concerned parents would do to meet the needs of an autistic child—-maintain a familiar and stable environment. More than a “perhaps” connection there, IMO.

        Except for the fact that Barron has a whole floor to himself at Trump Tower and moving to the White House would be like moving into his closet, I would think most 10-year-old boys would consider moving into the WH to be an adventure. TR’s boys sure did. (Heard the joke? Melania to Michelle after being shown the Lincoln Bedroom—“Nice closet”)

        (And I seriously doubt that the maker of the video’s stated intent was to put up “a thin veneer of deniability for using him to make spectacular claims about Trump’s anti-vaxx sympathies”. There are far bigger things to raise hell about with Triup than his anti-vaxx ignorance, and using a 10-year-old kid is not a winning strategy).

  2. Tom Bates Says:

    You people sure like to foam at the mouth. Apparently that is the only responsive you have to anybody who disagrees with your latest PC line. No wonder Pol Pot had to murder all those people in cambodia, they actually thought he was nuts, cannot allow that.

    Trump has simply said he would require science to support the government position on anything. How is that bad? The Obama opposition to the pipeline, for example, is not based on science but on politics. The Obama opposition to arctic drilling is not based on science, but on politics. The NOAA state of the climate report for last year was not based on science but politics and when an insider told congress the report was cooked all the science types in NOAA refused to turn over their government emails to congress so congress could do what it is supposed to do monitor the executive branch spending. That refusal was supported by Obama even though the government emails are owned by the people so off to the courts for a stalling action has occurred which of course had nothing to do with the elections.

    If you look at the actual science, NASA has the planet warming from solar gain increases due to changes in earths tilt and orbit 340 times actual measured changes due to increased CO2 in the atmosphere of 2/10ths of a watt when solar gain is 1360 watts per square meter. Trump simply notes the influence of man created CO2 on the climate is pretty small in comparison to other factors, nevermind it was warmer in 1000 AD than today with half the CO2.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Is it time to play the “Mars Attacks” video again? I get the feeling that Tommy’s head is about to explode. And he can’t say we didn’t warn him about the bad effects of all that mental onanism that he was overdoing—-like hair and acne on the brain, which can lead to cranial explosions. One good thing—-if he keeps it up, he will go blind and that should slow his depredations on Crock (he’s already insane).

  3. Tom Bates Says:

    If you want science than lets take an example not climate related to see how the PC line influences what the government actually spends on science. Hydrogen fusion has been hyped for decades since at least the 1950’s as the way to go. The science types have requested and gotten tens of billions to supposedly solve the problem yet while they have gotten research centers, all kinds of fancy machines as well as houses in the Hamptons from the grant money, the taxpayers have never gotten an actual fusion reactor much less one which produces power to run our TV sets.

    The PC line in physics is the tokamak and the inertial reactor for fusion which have a whole bunch of variants. None of them work to produce more power than comes in The fusor idea which would cost a lot less to build, was pushed by a scientist working for the defense department who died has been ignored. It would supposedly cost 200 million to build a power producing fusion machine which is peanuts in comparison to the others. How many other ideas which have been ignored are out there is unknown. What is obvious is science is all about politics, you have to get the others with you by offering a piece of the pie. All the machines costing billions do that, they offer a whole bunch of people a piece of the pie so everybody climes on board.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Yep, insane is the operative word. “The science types have gotten houses in the Hamptons from the grant money”???????, VERY juicy news, Tommy? Link, please?

      And thank you for this—-“How many other ideas which have been ignored are out there is unknown”. Omnologos couldn’t have said it better. (Where is the chubby-cheeked little guy anyway? Is he mad at us?)

    • “The science types have gotten houses in the Hamptons from the grant money”


      You, Mr. Bates, have NO integrity.

  4. earlosatrun Says:

    I’m sure the parents will be happy with his work to end vaccination.

    And the funeral homes will be hiring again.

    I had a relative who died a decade or so ago, Coogie he was called. He caught polio in the 1930s and spent time in an iron lung. Had the complications later in life that some got from surviving the disease.

    It’s a loathsome disavowal of history, science and basic humanity.

    A few weeks ago, I returned to posting here. I want to apologize for disagreeing about Trump being a reincarnation of Hitler/Franco/Mussolini. I was wrong.

  5. indy222 Says:

    Bates: “Trump has simply said he would require science to support the government position on anything. How is that bad?”

    And Bates said it sincerely!

    So how did this happen? Is he just brain-deficient as so many conservatives are? Those who understand the meaning of science need to understand the phenomena of how a Tom Bates can exist in the 21st century, let alone the 12th. To realize his ilk is taking over the reigns of power in this country should terrify the rest of the civilized world.

    • otter17 Says:

      Authoritarianism activation… it can cause people with a predisposition to following authority to do all kinds of crazy things, so long as their leader does it. A summary book called “The Authoritarians” by Bob Altemeyer is available to read on his U of Manitoba website. It seems like a good primer into the subject, but I have been looking into other research papers to get a bit deeper understanding. We may all need some working understanding of this behavior to interact with such folks as this period of U.S. history takes its course.

      I would hope that Mr. Bates worded that sentence incorrectly, but he rarely comes back after drive-by posting, it seems. Who knows.

  6. indy222 Says:

    Clinton should have shaken herself out of her depression and shame in time to have led the fight for a recount before it was too late. Kudos for Jill Stein for at least getting the Wisconsin recount. No way it should have devolved to Stein to raise the money to do this. We’re going to Hell by the default of those who knew better, but acted out of crass power-grabbing and to hell with the rest of us – thanks – for nothing! – Democratic National Committee. Goes without saying this is the most shameful excuse for a presidential election in the history of the United States. No other comes remotely close, and that includes the Bush stolen election of 2000.

  7. Slightly OT , but then also ties in with earlier posts.

    “You need to be legal not like California where 3 million illegals voted,” insists a woman named Paula. When pressed about where she got that piece of (false) information, Paula responds: “From the media…some of it was CNN…it was coming all across the media.” Er, no. Not the mainstream media, at least.

    The conversation moves on. And Paula and another woman insist that President Obama told illegal immigrants that they could vote. Asked where they heard that, a woman in the back row says, “Google it…you can find it on Facebook.”

    If you do Google it, as Camerota does in the clip, what you quickly find is this video – in which Obama is talking to actress Gina Rodriguez about voting:

    “Obama: … who may not have a voice. Who can’t legally vote. But they’re counting on you to make sure that you have the courage to make your voice heard.

    Obama is expressly making clear that it is illegal for undocumented workers to vote. He is saying that it is incumbent upon legal immigrants to go to the polls to ensure their voices – and the voices of those who can’t vote because they are undocumented – can be heard.”

    You see that affirmation happening right in the CNN clip. Paula is affirmed by the woman in the row behind her who also “saw” Obama telling undocumented immigrants to vote. No matter that it isn’t true. They both saw it. Are you saying their eyes are deceiving them? Or that they’re lying?

    It’s hard to overestimate how dangerous this all is for a healthy democracy. When we can’t collectively agree on a set of facts, we are in deep trouble. We’re a hell of a lot closer to that than many people are willing to admit. And that’s depressing as hell.

    • earlosatrun Says:

      The ‘ordinary’ people who made those statements are not ordinary voters. They worked for Trump’s campaign, and if my source is right, they’ve run for political office in the past.

      Either CNN’s producing propaganda, or they’re being very sloppy about researching their guests.

      The major media’s owned by 5 or 6 large corporations, but too many people are convinced that the media is “leftist”. A democracy will not endure with such willful ignorance, nor will a republic for that matter.

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