With all the rampant denialism going on out there, we smarty-pants scientists need to prepare for the next outbreak. The question is, which form of denialism will be the next to hit? I think it only makes sense that those conniving little bastards will go after the very foundations of modern genetics and molecular biology - the "theory" that the genes encoding our biological traits are contained in cellular deoxyribonucleic acid (aka "DNA").
So how to prepare? I propose a new tactic. No more bloody and violent exchanges of capital letters and exclamation marks on the battle fields of the blogosphere. Enough with the "YOU ARE A DENIALIST BECAUSE YOU ARE DUMB AND IRRATIONAL AND WILL NEVER ACCEPT REALITY!". No more "it's in a peer-reviewed journal and has been regurgitated by a lot of other peer-reviewed journals so it must be true". No more "this is not even really a debate amongst REAL scientists, so I don't have to bother to explain it to you". No more "I did a PubMed search on your hypothesis, no hits came up, so you're wrong!!!". No more "I hold a BSc, an MSc and a PhD from Oxford, Cambridge and Hogwarts, whilst you barely satisfied the conditions of your community college, ergo I am clearly in the right and you, sadly, are mistaken".
Yes, I would like to propose a radical new approach in the war on denialism. I call it "explaining science". This means doing nothing except explaining experiments and their results. (aka "the evidence"). When people are unconvinced or do not immediately understand, we rephrase and try again. And again. And again. They still don't get it? Maybe we draw a picture. A cartoon. Maybe an animation. Maybe a bulleted list. Maybe use statistics, a pie-chart or a bar graph. Make a video, a hologram or a video-game. Do an interpretative dance. Whatever it takes. Just don't call them denialists, or you'll remind them they're supposed to be denying something (shhhhhhh). And maybe, in the end, we will convert the denial-lovers to science-lovers. Or perhaps some will resist and forever remain beyond our reach. Maybe the disease of denialism is incurable or even genetically encoded in an unlucky few defectives. But I'll be damned if we don't die trying!
So, to prepare for the eminent strike against DNA, all we have to do is remember how we know that DNA is the genetic material. Keeping the experimental evidence at our fingertips, we will be well-armed to defend science from the denialists. What? Can't remember why? Don't worry, me neither. Hey I'm just a graduate student in biochemistry after all. Luckily, Larry Moran, a real scientist who's old enough to still remember the evidence and knows how to blog, points to the experiment in question (that's why they call him 'Professor'). It was Canadian Oswald Avery's 1944 paper which showed that DNA, but not RNA, carbohydrate or protein could transfer the genetically transmitted trait of virulence from bacterium to another. You can read commentary in science blogger John Dennehy's "Citation Classic of the Week". Even better, check out this awesome Cold Spring Harbor animation describing the experiment. No denialist can withstand the power of animations!
So, fellow scientists, be vigilant for the emergence of the DNA denialists when they strike. Know the enemy, but more importantly, know the evidence!
(PS- This was a humor piece, whether you find it funny or not. Except the part about the Avery paper. So don't be sending me any hate-mail.)