Science as Enemy

at 11:43 PM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

As paleo diets, ancestral health and anti-vaxxer campaigns sweep the country, one gets a sense that a new form of primitivism is approaching, a seductive cult cleverly disguised behind the mask of "authenticity," or should I say neo-authenticity.

One way or another we'll know neo-primitivism has arrived when legitimate concern over technological excess finally gives way to a paranoid rejection of science. This is already happening, not just in America, but all over the so called "developed" world, and sadly in some of its best educated communities, one close to my own where almost half the parents of young children, ripe for measles, flu and whooping cough, have chosen for specious reasons not to vaccinate them against those and other communicable diseases.

Neoprimitive logic, based largely in fear, ignorance and repudiation of peer-reviewed science, says that green tea, coconut water, bone broth and everything raw is authentic and good for us, while gluten, vaccines, anything genetically modified or chemicals used to kill disease-vector insects are human poisons that should be avoided at all costs. Published research is ignored, as the alleged benefit of all things ancient, and the toxicity of all things modern, are conjured from statistical anomaly, unsubstantiated clusters, anecdotal evidence and a sadly distorted psuedo-authenticity. Results include the outright banning of fluorides, social-Darwinist public policies, human starvation and, despite the sound principles of herd immunity encouraging parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.

Of course, in an open society, we value freedom of choice, even to the point of inviting unwanted diseases and enduring a plague of neoprimitive cultism. And I suppose we must allow some skeptical anti-scientism to appear in our media, even if it begins to jeopardize public health and the future of our children. But if we let it go too far beyond that point, and decide that sound science can be ignored, or worse rejected, we become no smarter than fish who have decided that water is their enemy.

One irony of all this is that Africans, so-called "primitive" people, who have seen the face of Ebola, have developed a strong respect for modern science, which they hope will one day soon develop a vaccine for their children.


With a Perspective, I'm Mark Dowie.

Mark Dowie is an investigative historian living near Willow Point in Marin County.