Billotte, Jackie. 2022. Becoming a Scientist in an Anti-Science World. American Entomologist (Summer):22-23.
I objected to the article written by Ms. Billotte for its claims that lacked evidence and displayed a political rather than a scientific bias.
The letter below was a letter I wrote to the editor of American Entomologist to object to the unscientific letter she allowed to be published in the magazine. I sent the letter on October 17, 2022.
Dear Zsofia Szendrei,
As a member of the ESA, and one trying to learn more about the world of insects, I was
concerned by some of the content in the article in your Summer 2022 edition of the
American Entomologist, by Jackie Billotte, entitled “Becoming a Scientist in an Anti-
Science World”, pp. 22-23.
Certainly, antiscientific thinking is a significant challenge facing anyone concerned about
public facts. The loss of public facts results from the demise of the philosophy known as
Modernism which science relied upon to bolster its place in public discourse. But before
we can decry the loss of science-based knowledge, we must first have a shared
definition of what science is. Some people say science is the study of reality via empirical
investigation of which experimentation plays a key role. Others, however, claim that
science is the only avenue by which knowledge may be obtained because matter and
energy are the only entities which truly exist. The latter definition is what philosophers
call, “scientism”. Regrettably, the article did not clarify which definition of science was
Setting aside the problem of the hasty generalization which the term evokes, the article
failed to distinguish what views held by anti-vaxxers was specifically unscientific. Is it
unscientific to say that the Covid-19 vaccines did not work? One need only think of
President Biden who got Covid multiple times despite being vaxxed to the max but also
surrounded by staff who were vaxxed.
A second concern is the blurring of the distinction between facts and policy. I am aware
of people who believe in the value of vaccinations (e.g. polio and small pox) yet who
have serious reservations about the value of the Covid-19 vaccinations, and actively
oppose the mandates to require them. There are also many shades of perspectives on
the Covid-19 vaccinations. Some thought they were only valuable for those with high-
risk conditions, while others may think they were valuable for everyone but not
children. Others still question their safety, let alone their efficacy. Would these people
also be considered anti-vax?
A third concern centers on the lack of clarification regarding how opposition to various
social issues are part of the anti-scientific movement. To give a specific example, how is
being opposed to LGBTQI+ legislation an example of anti-scientific attitude or bias? Is it
anti-scientific to suggest that there are only two genders or is it really a debate over
I can certainly join the author in decrying the impact that Post Modernism has had on
knowledge and public discourse. However, perhaps scientists should have chastised
their fellow English and Social Science faculty for promoting Post-modernism when it
was in its infancy. Unfortunately, it’s too late now and it has invaded even the scientific
community. Scientists should learn how to handle this philosophy and explain its
benefits, namely its value in undercutting arrogance, as well as discuss its terrors,
namely the loss of objectivity.
If scientists want to improve public discourse and demonstrate the value of science as a
way to inform policy, then I would suggest the following steps.
1. Emphasize clear definitions. Communication is only enhanced by accurate
2. Know your own presuppositions and how they influence your evaluation of data.
There is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact.
3. Be aware of the difference between facts and policy. Even when people agree on
the facts, doesn’t mean they agree on the solution.
4. Finally, scientists need to remember the need for humility. Beliefs that are
absolutely certain today may be on the trashheap of ignorant history tomorrow.
Just read, Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Perhaps, if we follow these
four unscientific principles, we might find a better reception in a conflicted
Stephen M. Vantassel
December 15, 2022
Dear Mr. Vantassel,
The American Entomologist editor-in-chief reviewed your letter and has decided not to publish it. I appreciate the effort you put into refining the letter following our initial correspondence about it. In the end, the editor feels like American Entomologist is not the right forum to debate some of these topics. We have a limited amount of space in each issue, and we’d like to keep as much of that dedicated to entomology and entomology-related discussion as possible. Thanks again for the submission, and I’m sorry it did not work out this time.
December 15, 2022
Thank you for getting back to me Mr. Hudson. I'm sure you recognize that I find the editor's rationale rather specious and self-serving. I find it odd that the magazine is not the place to debate the topics, yet it was the place to publish information which was not based in "science" but was grounded in ideology that I can only presume fell in line with editorial bias. (Otherwise, how could it have passed editorial review?) Interestingly, the author's statements and insults against those which whom she disagrees can stand and find room in the publication but space cannot be found for my questions which raise doubts about the scientific nature of the author's arguments.
If you believe that scientists are objective and only have an interest in the facts then you don't know too many scientists. The days of debate and open inquiry are quickly coming to an end in many parts of the scientific community, if in fact they ever were open to true debate.