#SCIENCE is based on EVIDENCE, making it inherently not #FAITH-based @startswithabang

Ethan Siegel has written a must-read article defending the scientific process in the Forbes science section (No, Science is Not Faith-Based). Siegel takes on an inflammatory and misinformed claim from Matt Emerson that science is faith-based (Wall Street Journal). Emerson’s claim was related to the recent detection of gravitational waves by LIGO. Siegel, a trained astrophysicist, clearly explains why the claim that science has anything to do with faith is completely non-scientific. Read the full-article here, my favorite parts below:

Faith, by definition, is the belief in something despite insufficient knowledge to be certain of its veracity.

Yet in every case, there are two key components that make the prediction scientific:

  1. The prediction, or the belief that the outcome can be accurately predicted, is predicated on the existence of quality evidence.
  2. As the evidence changes — as we obtain more, newer and better evidence — and as the full suite of evidence expands, our predictions, postdictions and entire conceptions of the Universe change along with it.

There is no such thing as a good scientist who isn’t willing to both base their scientific belief on the full suite of evidence available, nor is there such a thing as a good scientist who won’t revise their beliefs in the face of new evidence.

I have a family member that teases me because I always ask about the evidence behind claims, assertions, etc. I guess years spent on a science PhD and postdoc will engrain a desire for evidence in you, but that desire has nothing to do with faith…

New interactive map shows the germs at your local NYC subway stop! Fun… and scary!! #science

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Check out this awesome interactive map of the bacteria in New York City’s subway system (from the Wall Street Journal)!! The map is one of the results of a huge project looking at bacteria and other germs and microbiology in the City’s transit system! Above I took a screenshot of the map for the subway station next to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital at 168th St, including 108 bacteria that can cause all sorts of problems – including antibiotic resistant bacteria! This is a super fun tool…. unless you’re a germaphobe, in which case it is horrifying  :/

Every day, New York City’s 5.5 million commuters seed the city subways with bacteria from the food they eat, the pets or plants they keep, and their shoes, sneezes and unwashed hands.

For the first time, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College sampled DNA in New York City’s 466 open subway stations. They found genetic material from 15,152 different species, most of them harmless or unidentified. Almost half the DNA belonged to bacteria. No two subway stations were exactly the same, and the research continues.

So far, the scientists have identified 67 bacteria species associated with disease and infections. Here are details on a few of the bacteria found.

Not vaccinating = victimizing children and reliving bad history #science #vaccinate

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Paul Offit has written a great opinion piece (full of awesome science facts) for the Wall Street Journal about vaccinations, or lack thereof. The article highlights the recent outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases in wealthy, educated areas of the USA. Offit gives a history lesson on anti-vaccine movements (that’s right California, this fad happened in Japan in the 1970’s: not vaccinating is lame and tired):

Parents might consider what has happened in other countries when large numbers of parents chose not to vaccinate their children. Japan, for example, which had virtually eliminated whooping cough by 1974, suffered an anti-vaccine activist movement that caused vaccine rates to fall to 10% in 1976 from 80% in 1974. In 1979, more than 13,000 cases of whooping cough and 41 deaths occurred as a result.

41 preventable deaths and who knows how many other complications from the 13,000 cases of a preventable disease! So sad. Offit gives one possible explanation for why people, especially educated, wealthy parents have stopped vaccinating.

We simply don’t fear these diseases anymore. My parents’ generation—children of the 1920s and 1930s—needed no convincing to vaccinate their children. They saw that whooping cough could kill as many as 8,000 babies a year. You didn’t have to convince my generation—children of the 1950s and 1960s—to vaccinate our children. We had many of these diseases, like measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. But young parents today don’t see the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases and they didn’t grow up with them. For them, vaccination has become an act of faith.

Correct! Many of the diseases that we vaccinate against are gone from the public eye, but are in fact horrible diseases that can be fatal, especially in children. This is why scientists created vaccines for them. Vaccines against diseases were once celebrated! and the scientists behind them were Nobel Prize winners! But now that people have forgotten the huge impact of these diseases, vaccines are seen as unnecessary, and scientists are seen as drug-pushers. Unfortunately, Offit explains that recent outbreaks of these vaccine preventable diseases has not rallied parents to vaccinate their children. Rates of vaccination remain unchanged following the outbreaks.

Because we’re unwilling to learn from history, we are starting to relive it. And children are the victims of our ignorance. An ignorance that, ironically, is cloaked in education, wealth and privilege.