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Column: Palin fruit fly remark is ‘bad buzz’

October 31st, 2008

Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jerry Coyne says that Sarah Palin’s criticism of fruit flies during her disability speech demonstrates her ignorance and contempt for science. Fruit flies, he says, provide most of what we know about how genes are passed on in humans, as well as significant insights into epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and autism.

Why are the Republican candidates so contemptuous of science? I suppose it’s part of their general attack on “elitism,” which has been surprisingly effective. We white-coated nerds in our labs, fooling around with flies at taxpayer expense, are easy targets.

But America can’t afford cheap shots at science, because a lot of basic research has immense implications for human welfare — even if ignorant politicians can make it sound silly.

… Trying to bond with the American people by taking pride in your ignorance and making science the common enemy — now that’s a bridge to nowhere.

Jerry Coyne is a professor in the University of Chicago’s department of ecology and evolution.

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2 Responses to “Column: Palin fruit fly remark is ‘bad buzz’”

  1. Stephen Mendelsohn Says:

    I see it differently. Rather than being “anti-science,” Sarah Palin my have been taking a dig at “curebie-ism,” the notion that what people with disabilities need most is medical research to “cure” them and make them “normal” like nondisabled people. Many people in the self-advocacy community (this is particularly true in the autistic community) view their differentness as a strength and source of pride and see the urge to cure as intolerance, even being tantamount to genocide.

    Palin has those pro-aborts who also claim to be disability advocates going bonkers because their hypocrisy has been exposed. They will advocate for more government funding of research and cures, but want to do everything possible to prevent the birth of people with disabilities, even if that means supporting eugenics.

  2. Sheree Says:

    When the nation first met Sarah Palin, I had several thoughts. My first thought was, well what a likeable woman. It would be nice to have her over for tea, work out with her at the gym etc.. However, as she continued to speak about her being an advocate to the special needs children in America, I kept listening, waiting for the climax. What are you going to advocate for, Sarah? Come on tell us..
    She failed to expand on her plan — that is, if she even had one at that time. To say the least I was very disappointed as most of the other parent’s who have children with special needs were.

    My son has Fragile X Syndrome and autism. It has not been easy for him or us his family that love him so much. Palin’s own son has Downs, I understand that her son is still very young and Palin has not had to begin the fight for the rights her own son is entitled to and deserves. Palin has not had to fight for the education of her special needs son’s education yet, she has not had to fight and go to court for her son to be insured. I have!

    Then Palin has the audacity to demean and downplay the importance of the biomedical research which uses fruit flies as an effective model to study and make ground breaking discoveries uncovering the underlying reasons that are the causes of the symptoms exhibited by disorders such as Fragile X? It is through research such as this, that the scientists dissect these conditions, so that the core may be uncovered, treated and with prayer cured!

    Sarah Palin — you, madam, are no maverick. You are not an advocate. One can only hope for Trig’s sake that you become rapidly aware of biomedical research.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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