Disovery Day Follow-Up 2017

Discovery Speaker Addresses Science versus Social/Political Agendas

Published: Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dr. Robert Lanciotti delivers the keynote speech at Benedictine College's 2017 Discovery Day

A sustained Zika Virus epidemic in the continental United States is highly unlikely. Moreover, women infected during pregnancy will most likely not result in children with birth defects.

That is the good news from Dr. Robert S. Lanciotti, a microbiologist and chief of the Diagnostic Laboratory within the Arbovirus Diseases Branch at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). The bad news; political, social and activist groups have begun to highjack science, ignore the scientific method, and use questionable “data” to promote their own agendas.

His presentation, “The Zika Virus Epidemic: An Inside Look at How the CDC Responds to Global Virus Epidemics,” was part of Benedictine College’s annual Discovery Day on April 5. Discovery Day allows students to create and present original projects they have researched outside of the classroom. The college cancels classes and student presentations are scheduled throughout the day. Lanciotti’s keynote presentation was a highlight this year.

“Social agendas, which I call modern myths, are presented to us as statements of fact, but they haven’t really undergone serious scientific inquiry or scrutiny and many of us accept these ideas and make decisions based on them,” he said.

He mentioned research on health and psychological results relating to sex change operations, what the data showed, and what some activist groups are willing to “hear.” Lanciotti also cited several studies comparing child outcomes between same-sex parents and heterosexual parents. He contrasted sample size, survey subjects, and other problems within various aspects of the research.

“We’re living in a time when people are trying to create their own truth,” he said. “You can’t create your own truth. We need faithful servants of the truth.”

As another example, Lanciotti mentioned a former CDC director who played up the dangers of the Zika Virus in the media, even though the data had begun to show it as a rather mild virus and discount the connection to the microcephalus birth defect. But Lanciotti said it all came down to money.

“In the fall of 2016, Congress was voting on a $1.1 billion allocation to the CDC a National Institutes for Health (NIH) for Zika Virus, so it is to the benefit of these agencies to promote the idea that Zika is going to be uncontrollable,” Lanciotti said. “That’s the sort thing that is very disconcerting that these political agendas are asserting themselves on science.”

Lanciotti’s research with the Arbovirus Diseases Branch is focused on insect-borne viruses (arboviruses); specifically the development of new and rapid diagnostic tests, as well as studying the biology, history and evolution of these diverse viruses. Over the past 28 years, he and his laboratory were responsible for the identification and characterization of several emerging arboviruses, including West Nile Virus in New York (1999), Chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere (2014) and the recent Zika Virus. His laboratory has also been responsible for the discovery of several new arboviruses, most recently Bourbon Virus in Kansas. He has written/cowritten 98 scientific manuscripts and has authored six textbook chapters on diagnostic technology of the arboviruses.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.