I have to hand it to Portland, its a nice place to live. It's arts and culture are a vibrant and welcome change of scenery compared to other large metropolitan areas. Its nearly a universal fact here that everyone either plays in a band, is an artist, or has a bohemian lifestyle. Progressive and intellectual thought is encouraged here in Woolandia, just don't go around challenging our tightly-held naturalistic beliefs or there will be hell to pay. We have one of the largest bookstores in the country (it takes up an entire city block for shit's sake) with small independent bookstores catering to all sub-genres and all tastes that can be found everywhere. So, why do we embrace so many anti-science and scientifically illiterate stances? It goes against all common sense. So lets go through all of the things this science class failing city embraces!
#1 - Anti-Fluoridation, Portland defeated (by a substantial margin) the recent measure to fluoridate this year and its been defeated here four times before (once voting in favor, then shortly after reversing the decision). Why would Portlanders defeat such a simple health measure when all of the scientific consensus is firmly in favor of fluoridation? Rampant "chemophobia" (or the irrational fear of chemicals), the appeal to nature (the logical fallacy that because something is natural it is inherently better), manipulative political campaigning combined with internet misinformation (Clean Water Portland, the anti-fluoride lobby here, has a name which contains a fallacious appeal), and—to beat a dead horse—a lack of scientific knowledge by the general public. In defiance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association universally hailing water fluoridation as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century , the 65 years of studies in which the overall scientific consensus is that community water fluoridation is as safe as can be measured , and its incredibly low cost to high benefit ratio , Portland remains fluoride-free (except, of course, the level that already naturally occurs) and has no sign of swaying in favor anytime soon.
I consider anti-fluoridation to be number one on this list because of its widespread acceptance. The last time we voted, the measure was struck down by a 20-point margin . Selected articles for further reading on the topic: Why Portland Is Wrong About Water Fluoridation, Water fluoridation controversy, and The Sanest Arguments Against Fluoride... And Why They're Still Wrong
#2 - Anti-GMOs and New Seasons , if there's one thing people fear ingesting more than trace amounts of fluoride, its genetically modified organisms. Sure, who doesn't want to conserve the environment and eat good, healthy food? But how does organic food address these issues? Environmentally, growing organic food is a less efficient use of land (numbers are varied, but a fair estimate is that organic food is somewhere around 25% to 35% less productive )—food production takes up a substantial portion of the Earth's surface (with estimates as high as 40% ). Land use and its maximization is something that organic food will be unable to match with modern agriculture. The fact shatters the idea that organic farming is more environmentally friendly, especially since more and more arable land will be needed for food production due to an ever increasing human population. Are GMOs dangerous or have they caused a single illness or fatality? Are they less healthy than organic food? Its an unequivocal no on all counts, hippies. There is no evidence whatsoever that any GMOs are any more dangerous or unhealthy than organic food . The scientific consensus is broad and clear on this .
Often the same companies that mass produce organic food also have products which are produced conventionally so the idea that buying organic is some sort of consumerist rebellion against large corporations and conventional agriculture is a myth. I consider myself to be an environmentalist and I'm strongly interested in preserving the Earth's extremely fragile and varied ecosystem. However, our current methods of organic food production are wasteful and costly to the environment. Its also important to note that I am not entirely arguing against organic food, rather the false modern science verses organic food ideological dichotomy. Obviously, using technology and engineering to splice genes together can have negative consequences and should be researched carefully, but its an option that needs to be explored if we're going to feed the planet and stop global warming. Every technology has risks, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take them, especially when the stakes are so high.
Selected articles for further reading: What scares you about GE foods?, More bad science in the service of anti-GMO activism, and Fruitless Endeavors: The False Promises of Organic Agriculture
#3 - "Alternative" Medicine, naturopathic medicine is pseudoscience , reflexology is not an effective treatment for any medical condition , most people who eat a balanced diet don't need nutritional supplements (they're basically expensive urine coloring) , and homeopathy is outright unethical quackery (you're buying pills that have nothing in them) . But never mind all of that science stuff. Evidence doesn't mean anything in Woolandia!
Further reading: ASA Smacks Down Homeopathy, Another Negative Study of Vitamins, and The difference between science-based medicine and CAM
#4 - Anti-Vaccinations
Mo' readin': Retracted autism study an 'elaborate fraud,' British journal finds
Why Does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On?, Autism And Vaccines: Fears Persist Despite Overwhelming Evidence That The MMR Vaccine Is Safe, One Thing We Know About Autism: Vaccines Aren't to Blame, and The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru
#5 - Scientology
Scientologists actually believe all of this.
Further reading: Supernatural abilities in Scientology doctrine, Scientology's Space Opera and Confidential Materials, and Scientology controversies