Activism and Common Sense

Reusable shopping bags at the Fulton Youth of the Future Youthmarket in the New York neighborhood of Chelsea

A recent article in the Huffington Post (I know, not generally the best science reporting, but it brings up a good point) talks about a study that has shown that the plastic bag ban, or more specifically, the influx in use of re-usable bags for shopping has given us a sizable influx in e coli cases.

Now, this makes a lot of sense. When you’re using, and not washing, the same bags every few days or weekly or whatnot for animal products, it’s easy for bacteria to grow and flourish. This makes it very easy for bacteria to get on your next meat purchase and into your system.

As per usual, there are activists that support the plastic bag ban attacking the science instead of the problem. It conflicts in some way with their ideology, so of course the science must be bad, right? Yes, that must be it, because an education campaign about washing your bags or using paper would be just too difficult.

This article got me thinking about quite a few of what we see in left wing activism today. There always seems to be a lot of “missing the mark” going on. We always tend to attack the right because of their anti-evolution stance and climate change denialism. These are definite problems, however, the left has problems of its own.

Look at the anti-GMO movement. These are people who generally have a problem with big business, and how they operate. The problem is, instead of waging a campaign against those business practices, they attack the very sound science of GMOs. This has led to a massive fear mongering campaign that has, in many ways, stifled scientific progress and shoved aside any honest public discourse.

We also have the people liberating animals from testing labs. I get what they’re trying to do. I really do. Unfortunately, they’re doing it wrong. Setting aside the debate on whether or not animal testing for medicine is right or wrong (I think it’s necessary, btw) let’s look purely at the results of these actions. You want to save the animals, great! The problem that these people like to ignore is that the result of their activism is often releasing invasive species into an ecosystem, causing quite a bit more damage. Not optimal.

Then there’s the anti-medicine sentiment. This is, by far, the most harmful of left ideologies. I get the dislike of corporations. I completely understand. But, fighting against “big pharma’s” business practices, again, seems to result in attacks on sounds science. This has led to the rise of alternative medicines that cause people to use herbs instead of efficacious treatments, often resulting death. This has also led to the anti-vaxxer movement. The anti-vaxxer movement, in a nutshell, kills children.

These are serious problems. How can those of us of a more progressive bent take any sort of intellectual or moral high ground in the larger conversation if we’re so intellectually dishonest in our own ideologies? This is something that really needs to change.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

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