crypto and public policy

Boycott for Science

Filed under: General June 28, 2005 @ 6:56 pm

I’m a sucker for a good action flick. Actually, I’m a sucker for any action flick, really, provided it offers a better-than-horrendous plotline. So I’ve been somewhat excited about War of the Worlds, the Steven Spielberg movie starring Tom Cruise. Except now I think I should boycott the movie because of Tom Cruise.

Let me be clear. I don’t care one little bit whom Tom Cruise dates or gets married to. That is his business. I don’t even really care if people think he’s been brainwashing the woman he’s dating. There’s no way for me to truly assess the veracity of these allegations, and, frankly, it’s not like celebrities lead otherwise normal lives. There is an online petition that unfortunately ventures into these questionable areas of criticism, so I won’t be signing it.

The problem with Tom Cruise is far more serious. Our country is becoming increasingly unscientific. Our administration repeatedly downplays scientific reports regarding the gravity of global warming, the need to provide comprehensive sex ed to our children, environmental reports on everything ranging from mercury emissions to public land grazing, and the list goes on. In each case, someone with an agenda and without scientific training spreads misinformation. In each case, propaganda and FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) are used to deform scientific debates and promote a mostly-discredited line of reasoning.

And Tom Cruise is doing just that with regards to psychology and psychiatry. He’s making absurd and irrelevant claims that psychiatry is a nazi science (so is rocket science, literally, as a coworker recently reminded me), and generally insulting people he barely knows for taking psychiatric drugs. The scary thing is that Tom Cruise’s words probably carry significant weight among a certain segment of the population. And his training in the matter amounts to the teachings of the Church of Scientology, teachings which are secret by design, thus not peer-reviewed and not even close to scientifically sound.

We need to revive a pro-science movement in this country, a movement based on logic, empirical evidence, and a general pursuit of fact and truth. Not everything can be whittled down to fact, but a lot of things can. On those matters which can be scientifically decided, we should respect the real experts, the ones who publish in peer-reviewed journals and can provide consistent evidence for their claims. We should seriously question people who come to the table with religious or cultish reasoning. Enough is enough. Religion should be a private matter, not a set of goggles through which to view scientific fact. A religion-backed argument should simply be irrelevant when contradicted by scientific fact.

So I won’t be seeing War of the Worlds. And I hope a number of science-minded people follow suit. Tom Cruise can choose to believe whatever he wants to believe, can date whomever he wants to date, can screw up his life as much as he desires. None of these things would likely affect my movie viewing patterns. But if he wants to use his position to spread bad science, I won’t spend any more money providing him with that soapbox.

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