Stein Touts Pseudoscience for Votes

Rowan Bassman, Contributing Writer

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein represents a much-needed voice on progressive issues. As 2016’s most nuanced and righteously dissident candidate on issues from race to renewable energy, Stein has made her campaign a rallying point for leftists, so it feels like a betrayal when she entertains harmful pseudoscientific conspiracy theories.

Despite her background as a physician, Stein regularly flip-flops on a wide range of liberal pseudoscience, most disturbingly the anti-vaccination movement. She has referred to autism as a “disease,” an “epidemic” and a “public health calamity” — rhetoric that dishonors autistic people, reinforces ableist perspectives on neurodivergence and raises suspicion about supposed “environmental” causes of autism. She has asserted her personal support for vaccinations, but responded to a Reddit question about vaccinations by describing collusion between pharmaceutical companies and regulatory agencies: “The foxes are guarding the chicken coop as usual in the U.S. So who wouldn’t be skeptical?”

As Gizmodo night editor Eve Peyser, OC ’14, pointed out, Stein tweeted on July 31, “There’s no evidence that autism is caused by vaccines,” then promptly deleted it and posted instead, “I’m not aware of evidence linking autism with vaccines.” Given the scientific consensus on this issue, her shift from definitive to skeptical language strikes me as solely politically motivated.

Regarding homeopathy, Stein has suggested that “just because something is untested doesn’t mean it’s not safe.” Again, while she’s not actively declaring her support for homeopathy, her statements are certainly a wink to those with faith in it.

Stein’s hardline anti-GMO stance is also troubling. Do we have a right to know what’s in our food? Of course. Is there inappropriate interplay between agricultural corporations and the agencies that regulate them? I certainly think so. But is it scientifically sound to call for a moratorium on GMOs? Not when so many major studies have declared them safe. At this point, Stein’s suspicion toward scientists of certain disciplines rivals that of climate change deniers.

While Stein’s climate plan is stellarand she has participated in crucial direct actions such as protesting the pipeline at Standing Rock — which mainstream media largely ignored — her pseudoscientific stances draw attention away from her advocacy of these legitimate environmental justice causes. Viewed collectively, her hodgepodge of positions gives credence to the harmful notion that environmentalism is an out-of-touch New Age fringe movement.

I suspect that Stein’s fear of losing supporters has led her to trade scientific credibility for political clout. She panders to the dangerous medical fads of middle- and upper-class liberals, in large part because they’re the demographic most able to fund third parties.

But the environmental movement has no business profiting off of misinformation and fear, even for the advancement of other, more righteous causes. In an era of calamitous science denial, the Green Party and other environmental organizations have a responsibility to give voice to nothing but provable scientific truth.