One man made thousands — possibly hundreds of thousands — of children sick. Many of them died and many will continue to die, because one man passed bad science off as legitimate.
In 1998 Andrew Wakefield published an article in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, which found a link between the combined mumps, measles and rubella vaccine and autism. It was a lie but it took more than a decade for the journal to fully retract that paper. It has been thoroughly debunked but today some parents still refuse to vaccinate their children, and a large part of that fear is based on one scientist whose lie had the protection of the scientific academy for 10 years.
But what happens if false science had been held to be true by most scientists for decades, even centuries?
Scientific racism is not new. These days, we refer to it as a pseudoscience — a convenient way to paint as crackpots those who use science to justify (usually their) racial superiority.
The label of pseudoscience, mostly reserved for tinfoil-hat wearers worrying that they might fall off the edge of the flat Earth, allows us to pretend that race science wasn’t mainstream, that Western science didn’t throw funds and time and expertise into defining races, that scientists didn’t use “empirical methods” to show that different races came with different characteristics, some of which had more value than others.
But science has a lot to answer for about race. It was and continues to be the barracks behind which racist beliefs fester. It also helped to build the walls in the first place.
For the rest of the article, visit the Mail & Guardian.