THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Don't Trust Science?

At Facebook they analyzed everyone's status updates and arrived at the conclusion that there is one day all year when Facebookers are happiest. Christmas.

Data crunchers in other labs have revealed that if you live in Vermont you will live longer than if you live in New York.

Science interprets stuff like that and makes it really useful. ("Honey, call the movers - we're going to Burlington on Christmas.")

Okay, so what if a doctor told you that getting a vaccination against swine flu would be good? Would you get the shot?

Guess what -- according to a University of Michigan poll, 60 percent of parents surveyed said they do not plan to vaccinate their children against H1N1. Many were worried about the vaccine's side effects. People believe that getting the shot might make you more likely to get sick. Bill Maher told his 60,000 Twitter followers, "If u get a swine flu shot ur an idiot." Even the popular Dr. Mercola is against the shots.

The news is bad for flu vaccinations and it's even worse for others. Some parents, including Jenny McCarthy, believe that having your children vaccinated against measles might make it more likely that they'll be diagnosed with autism. Fewer people, therefore, will take the good advice of their doctors and get a vaccination that might help their children and society at large.

People don't trust science like they used to. A Pew Research Center poll says that only 27 percent of Americans think our greatest achievements are in science - down from 47 percent a decade ago. One explanation is that the days of Big Science - landing on the Moon, inventing the transistor - seem far away. Science is routine now. We expect our smart phones to do the laundry and make photocopies.

Even the innocuous Bill Nye the Science Guy is making people mad. A story appeared on Rainn Wilson's website about the time Nye was giving a science talk in Waco, Texas:

He cited Genesis 1:16, which reads: "God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars." Nye stated that the lesser light in the aforementioned quote was not technically a light, but a reflector, as in it reflects the sun's light. The God-fearing folks of Waco were furious. One woman shouted, "We believe in God," and proceeded to usher out her three children.

Just because your doctor says to get a flu shot doesn't mean you have to get one. I'm not getting one. Just because NASA says we should go to Mars doesn't make it a good idea. There are a few old bosses I'd like to send to Mars, believe me, but I'd rather we spend the money on solar power and electric cars. It's good to question science and medicine.

In the void brought about by all that questioning, however, sometimes you encounter ignorance. Not good. My fear of getting a flu shot comes mostly from ignorance - I admit it, and by not trusting science we could be creating an epidemic of ignorance worse than the flu.