The chair squeaked quietly as I fidgeted, swiveling left, right, left. I sat toward the back of a long wooden table flanked by my fellow graduate students, while a pair of eminent biologists led a discussion on how to talk to skeptical non-scientists about evolution. Perhaps it was an intrinsic bias instilled by our families, or a side-effect of years spent steeping in the world of science; whatever the case, as we sat in that conference room we discussed those who dared to disbelieve as if they were at best misguided lambs to be converted and at worst heretical fanatics, frothing at the mouth and waving crosses wildly to fend off fish with feet.
For thousands of years, explorers, adventurers, and conquerors have searched for the “fountain of youth,” a magical spring that grants longevity to those who drink from it. Today, the search continues, now led by explorers of a different kind — research scientists.
Information is instant. I remember the moment when this fact of the digital age was made unequivocally clear to me. It was the summer of 2014 in Montreal and I felt my room shake. A truck? Thunder? An earthquake? An earthquake. The news was up on Twitter faster than it seemed possible to type. Yet, as the internet breathes immediacy into almost all forms of communication, the dissemination of biological findings has remained embarrassingly slow. Research routinely takes years to be shared, hindering the speed at which science progresses.
Recently, concern about the long-term effects of head trauma related to contact sports has skyrocketed. At the center of the controversy are the rising number of former football players suffering from a neurodegenerative condition and the National Football League (NFL), which has largely denied any link between football and degenerative disease.
It's bad when a philanthropic organization uses bad science to justify their means, but it's dangerous when bad science misdirects policy. I’m sure many good people work in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I’m sure there was good will, but good reasoning was nowhere to be found when the image above was posted on their Facebook page.