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I believe that the Idaho legislators and some of the people who support them embrace junk science. For instance, in the name of saving babies, Idaho has passed a bill requiring the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare to provide information to women seeking abortions about reversing a medication-induced abortion part-way through. This would be a worthy endeavor if it was based on good science or even universally accepted medical practice. Instead, it is more wishful thinking and sentimentality.

Abortion is an extremely difficult choice for most of the women seeking them. Any woman who isn’t anguished over the choice, who considers it just another method of birth control won’t be swayed. For the young mother who has decided to do it, it proposes another level of shame if she wants to go through with it. It is also of questionable success or safety.

That a majority of men who will never have to face an unplanned pregnancy, whose families are, for the most part, established, passed this legislation is an irony of gigantic proportions. It makes it even worse that they are relying on junk science, not to mention unrealistic sentimentality about perfect families.

Earlier in the session there was great debate about science standards. Remember the legislator who famously said, “I don’t care if a student believes the world is flat, if he has reasoned it out for himself.” People who honestly believe that individual reason is equal to scientific reasoning do not understand science at all. Established science is not based on individual reason alone. An individual must prove their hypothesis in a way that other individuals can replicate the proof.

That there can be any debate that the earth’s climates are changing (I prefer to use the word evolving) cannot be contested. Those who do not want that fact taught in science class are saying that we should not educate a new generation who will ask and answer the questions of why and what we should do in response to it. To fight over the fact is to perpetuate a point of view pushed by people who do not want to see disruption of their business plan, their investment strategy, or maybe their religious beliefs that God controls everything, and we shouldn’t interfere with His plan.

In 2015, I ran into a story about the growth of alternative health-providers in Idaho. It seems that many Idahoans go to them instead of doctors, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners. Notice that I said instead of, not in addition to. Here is another example of Idaho’s belief in junk science. Real science has begun to recognize many alternative therapies as useful in relieving symptoms or making patients more comfortable with medical conditions. However, claims of cures are too often bogus. I’ve used alternative therapies, but I have always understood their limitations.

When we talk about the need for better education in Idaho, it is not just about the need for career-focused information. Part of the skill set needed by adults in both today’s world and the future will be science literacy. Not everyone will want to retain chemical formulas, how to measure the force needed to lift something with a lever, or how photosynthesis works. They do, however need to know about the scientific method of problem solving. They will need to know how to discern the amount of scrutiny necessary to be certain a scientist is telling the truth.

Junk science wastes resources. It takes up the time and money that could more properly be used in actually dealing with problems constructively. I can understand the desire to find an answer to something that is complex. I can understand wanting less expensive solutions to medical problems or social problems. Don’t we all love magic? Junk science is appealing, but the FDA and the CDC and other government agencies were established to prevent people from being the victims of junk science.

Living a life of reason is not easy. It requires access to good, factual information. It requires lifelong learning. It requires looking at hard truth. Fortunately, there is art and science fiction and fantasy and romance and comedy. Let’s embrace the quasi-real while also keeping our eye on fact and reason. Let’s not ignore the truth while perpetuating junk science in Idaho.

Linda Brugger retired from the Air Force and is a former chairwoman of the Twin Falls County Democrats.


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