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Are Democrats Really the “Pro-Science” Party?

by Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell

A narrative has developed over the past several years that the Republican Party is anti-science. Recently, thanks to the ignorant remarks about rape made by Rep. Todd Akin, the Democrats have seized the opportunity to remind us that they are the true champions of science in America. But is it really true?

No. As we thoroughly detail in our new book, “Science Left Behind,” Democrats are willing to throw science under the bus for any number of pet ideological causes – including anything from genetic modification to vaccines.

Consider California’s Proposition 37, which would require genetically modified food to carry a warning label. The American Medical Association is opposed because “there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.” Every major scientific and regulatory agency — including the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization, EPA, FDA, and USDA — recognizes the importance of genetic modification.

Yet, the California Democratic Party has officially endorsed Proposition 37 — in direct opposition to the recommendation of America’s finest doctors and in contradiction to the scientific consensus. The Republicans endorsed the pro-science position. Did this fact make the news? No.

Digging deeper into the issue, one finds that California Democrats have de facto allied themselves with some of the biggest anti-science quacks in America. Among Prop 37’s most fervent supporters are peddlers of alternative medicine, anti-vaccine groups, and even one crank who claims that genetically modified food causes autism.

This anti-science mentality is not a recent development. The Democratic Party has long made common cause with prominent people who thought vaccines caused autism, two in particular who stand out among the rest.
The first person is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who published an influential article in Rolling Stone and the progressive website Salon back in 2005 tying vaccines to autism. It was so inaccurate that both publications retracted it several years later. But the damage had already been done. Because of widespread misinformation from celebrities like him, to this day, millions of Americans falsely believe that vaccines cause autism.

The second person is President Barack Obama. On the campaign trail in 2008, Obama said , “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”

Wrong. The science was settled in 2002, if not earlier. In truth, the biomedical community never accepted this link, even as the myth gained wider acceptance among the general public. Obama was either severely uninformed about basic medical science or he was playing politics with people’s fears.

Once he got into office, his performance on the issue didn’t improve. In 2009, under the auspices of his newly elected administration, the FDA ordered a change from multi-dose to single-dose influenza vaccines because they contained less thimerosal — the preservative that anti-vaccine activists wrongly believed causes autism. According to Scott Gottlieb, a former deputy commissioner of the FDA, this last minute switch was partially to blame for the vaccine shortages which occurred later that year.

Strangely, these anti-science decisions made by prominent Democrats were largely unreported by the news media. Yet, whenever a Republican makes an ignorant, unscientific remark or denies evolution or global warming, that is front-page news — often for multiple days at a time.

Simultaneously, Democratic journalists, such as Chris Matthews, have the audacity to run news analysis segments asking why Republicans are anti-science — while blatantly ignoring all of the anti-science shenanigans going on inside their own party. Perhaps it is time Mr. Matthews takes off his blue-tinted sunglasses.

We call for an end to the media’s double standard for science reporting.

Indeed, the only reason Democrats are considered the “pro-science” party is because the media, for whatever reason, has decided to give them a free pass on scientific issues. It is time the free pass be revoked.

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Dr. Alex B. Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience. Hank Campbell is the founder of Science 2.0. They are authors of the new book Science Left Behind. This article was originally published at Real Clear Politics on Sept. 10, 2012.