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Stupid Science Statements Made by Public Figures: Send Us Your Favorites

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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classic misrepresentation of human evolution from chimp to modern man“The brain holds on to false facts, even after they have been retracted”

—Valerie Ross, “Lingering Lies: The Persistent Influence of Misinformation,” Scientific American MIND, July 2011

Lingering lies and entirely false scientific statements sometimes make a bigger impact on the public, policy, elections and scientific practice than do the facts themselves. How often have you witnessed a public figure make a false or inaccurate scientific claim? Chances are, many uninformed listeners of such statements will pass on what they “learned” to others in their social circles and peer groups causing a fib to go viral.

Want to join in? Whether such statements in the news amuse you or you want to put an end to all misinformation, please send the latest examples of “stupid science statements” that you have observed to We will consider publishing submissions, with your permission and credit, of course.

Please include brief information in your e-mail on who made the statement, when it was made and a URL or other source where it has been documented.

Image credit: Bryan Wright, Flickr

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Comments 18 Comments

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  1. 1. mem from somerville 9:54 pm 09/8/2011

    May I just say that I love this effort? Public shaming is all we have left for some of this stuff–it goes totally unchallenged in so many situations.


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  2. 2. outgriber 11:46 pm 09/8/2011

    I hereby incorporate by reference every statement in the public record about science made by a GOP political figure while running for office or debating legislation during the last 2 decades, especially as regarding evolution and climate change, notwithstanding those few courageous remarks made by John Huntsman and others that amount to no more than a rounding error on the whole.

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  3. 3. blancabarquera 5:19 am 09/9/2011

    One my “favorites” quotes against science is from Sarah Pailin:
    “…projects having little or nothing to do with the public good — things like fruit fly research in Paris, France…”

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  4. 4. BlondMaggie 10:36 am 09/9/2011

    Rick Perry on Climate Change: “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense,” Perry said. “Just because you have a group of scientists who stood up and said here is the fact.” Because, you know, scientists don’t know the facts.

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  5. 5. marcus9266 12:32 pm 09/9/2011

    “As we work and sightsee on America’s largest island, we’ll get to view more majestic bears, so now is a good time to draw attention to the political equivalent of the species.” –Sarah Palin, referring to Kodiak Island in Alaska, even though Hawaii is America’s biggest island, July 19, 2010

    “A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.” –Sarah Palin, dismissing global warming as influenced by human activity, Newsmax interview, Aug. 2008

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  6. 6. 1artworkz 3:07 pm 09/9/2011

    PALIN: “We should create a competitive climate for investment in renewables and alternatives, none of this snake oil science stuff that is based on this global warming, Gore-gate stuff that came down where there was revelation that the scientists, some of these scientists were playing political games. I sued the Feds over this, I sued the Feds over this as Governor for some bogus listing on the ESA, just about got run out of town by the environmentalists. But now we feel a little bit vindicated because we’re realizing through Gore-gate that there was some snake oil science involved over the data collection there … We invented the Internet, unless that was just another Gore-gate thing too”.

    Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SLRC) 2010

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  7. 7. chubbee 12:19 pm 09/10/2011

    Unfortunatly posts like this in this type of forum are just “preaching to the choir”.
    The ognorant masses will still believe the drivel spouted by our oh so well informed leaders.

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  8. 8. ContrarianBob 3:22 pm 09/10/2011

    My Favorite stupid statement is an entire “science based video” called the Inconvenient Truth. This politician spokesperson (and snake oil salesman) nearly became the President of the USA. However, unfortunately he did get a Nobel Prize for this phooey science. He compared all common sense skeptical scientists to this nonsense “holocaust deniers”

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  9. 9. nigelum 9:18 pm 09/10/2011

    So, let me get this straight. This blog post is for the sole purpose of making ourselves feel better by quoting gibberish from individuals we don’t like? Basically it boils down to “I feel good about myself because they’re stupid.” It’s good to have debate, but not opinions based in vanity or pride…not very scientific.

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  10. 10. blackbird79 5:52 am 09/11/2011

    May I respectfully disagree with preceding Comment No.9 –

    #1: No, they are not stupid — or at least, not THAT stupid — THEY ARE WINNING. And they have the power of a predatory Corporate Oligarchy (our erstwhile, now quasi-democracy) behind them.

    #2: No, it is NOT good to have so-called “Debates” when & where no meaningful debate is possible. There IS no worthwhile pro-con debate about the importance of maintaining & defending true scientific standards in the teaching of evolution as THE organizing principle of the biological sciences. There IS no real pro-con debate about the fact of human-induced global warming. There IS no meaningful debate over the fact that 29,000+ industrial chemicals dumped into and around 307 million American citizens with virtually ZERO safety testing to scientific standards represents a threat to public health and to the environment, medical rescues or hopeful clean-up campaigns not withstanding. And there IS no scientific debate that “dirty” energy practices do, in fact, send tens of thousands of Americans each year to an early grave — a toll a Fukushima-per-year cannot come close to matching.

    Such “Debates” simply give a high profile forum to the most determinedly cynical, well-funded, and concerted disinformation efforts of America’s institutions of predatory & parasitic wealth — the kind of wealth, I might add, which does relatively little to produce meaningful job growth, or anything else which is much in the general interest of the vast majority of Americans.

    Specious argument, punched up by a liberal dose of “hot button” emotion-ticklers, will (on balance) WIN over rationally qualified statements of a scientific nature EVERY time with a population functionally illiterate in the sciences — and unfamiliar with the inherently complex and non-intuitive nature of the reality in which they live.

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  11. 11. Torbjörn Larsson, OM 1:24 pm 09/13/2011

    In an ironic twist, the false “ladder of progress” of hominids that you illustrate the article with is my favorite Stupid Science Statement Made by Public Figures.

    Not only is “the ladder” false as evolution can go any way, exemplified by simplification in parasites. But the chimp pictured at the beginning is at least as specialized as the self-cultured human at the end. Likely more so, since our hands (especially) and feet looks more like the hominid common ancestor, which definitely didn’t knuckle walk as chimps (and separately gorillas) later evolved!

    Which is doubly ironical, since “the ladder of progress” is a stock and base religious idea AFAIK. Guess that kind of unthinking non-scientific bias is what makes Scientific American still american and not entirely scientific.

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  12. 12. MadMax 4:44 pm 09/14/2011

    Christine O’Donnell:

    “”They are — they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they’re already into this experiment.”

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  13. 13. ljacobson1 2:54 pm 09/15/2011

    Here is a thorough debunking of Michelle Bachmann’s deeply irreponsible nonsense about HPV vaccine causing mental retardation:

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  14. 14. Postman1 3:34 pm 09/15/2011

    All time stupidest statement “The science is settled”, Al, send me your money, Gore.
    All science is subject to question and the ‘consensus’ is often proven wrong.

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  15. 15. pfj14807 4:37 pm 09/15/2011

    Luckily, my grandchildren don’t listen to Palin, Perry, Bachmann, Gore or O’Donnell. They do, however, watch, and are influenced by, popular technology shows on TV. Specifically, “How it’s Made” on the Science Channel. The writers of this show do not know the difference force and pressure. Despite my efforts, I’m afraid my grandkids won’t either!

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  16. 16. jaydoc 9:19 pm 09/15/2011

    Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia, speaking of Guam at a congressional meeting: “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.”

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  17. 17. MarkHarrigan 6:24 am 09/16/2011

    Our erstwhile opposition leader in Australia, Tony Abbott, in his vehenment opposition to a carbon tax has trumped his previous statement “climate change is crap” with the wonderful line “CO2 is weightless”!

    Gee – guess he’s never dropped a chunk of dry ice on his toe!

    This link shows how often he repeated this.

    Regardless of what you think about the reality of AGW this shows a fairly poor grasp of the science.

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  18. 18. Dancint 7:41 pm 09/29/2011

    “But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. There isn’t one such study because carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful. It is part of Earth’s life cycle” Michelle Bachman. and a little later in on in the same speech on the floor of the house “Well, carbon dioxide is a natural part of Earth’s atmosphere. The carbon dioxide is perhaps three percent of the total atmosphere that’s in the Earth. So if you take a pie chart, and you have all of Earth’s atmosphere, carbon dioxide is perhaps three percent of that total.”

    Fact check: Percent of atmosphere that is CO2 0.03 (she is only off by a factor of 100)
    Fact check: if carbon dioxide levels exceed 5 percent by volume it’s toxic (forms carbonic acid and is an also an asphyxiant) Lethal dose is half hour at 5 percent and 5 minutes at 10 percent.

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