New for the Fall season: Being practical

by Walt Maguire
Posted 9/9/21

The news about logic has been illogical over the past few weeks. Most of the story has been on the medical front: We have a vaccine that prevents serious injury and death, yet some choose to get …

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New for the Fall season: Being practical

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The news about logic has been illogical over the past few weeks. Most of the story has been on the medical front: We have a vaccine that prevents serious injury and death, yet some choose to get infected and take a horse diuretic. Texas has ignored so much professional medical guidance recently they might as well banish all doctors and dentists from the state. Storms and firestorms have devastated two coasts, and tornadoes are popping up in Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

Mistrust of science is an American tradition, going back to the mid-20th century: The atom bomb, then the Tuskegee Experiment, raised skepticism about the good intentions of science. In monster movies of the Fifties, there’s always a scientist not thinking things through and the day being saved by a sergeant with a high school degree.

The upcoming Pennsylvania election this November will be the first one after doubts were raised about the security of voting last Fall; never mind that the same 11 state Republicans who advocated voting-by-mail now want to drop it, for no reason other than they disliked the results. Two audits showed no problems. The distrust being advocated now could have a bigger impact.

The fact is, science is about facts, not policy. When computers were invented, it was our policy to use them for adorable cat videos and TikTok challenges. The internet was originally an international network for sharing scientific data instead of physically mailing giant spools of magnetic tape.  Now we use it to order giant spools of everything to be physically mailed.

A new joint study by Stanford Medicine and Yale University verifies that masks have a major benefit in a time of pandemic. On September 2, seven tornadoes appeared in the region and I-76 became a canal for days. A Washington Post analysis found nearly 1 in 3 Americans live in a county hit by a weather disaster in the past three months. These will not change many minds.

The problem is not a lack of faith in science; the real problem is not understanding what science is. Freedom to choose your own beliefs is your right as an American; that’s the American dream.  But facts are not a belief. A tooth does not care if you refuse to believe you have a cavity. Ignoring facts is literally living the American dream.

If the planet gets hotter, it churns up storms. If you expose yourself to a virus, you could get sick. If you go out in the rain without an umbrella, you could get your phone wet and be unable to order things to be mailed to you.

We probably can’t talk our friends and relations into choosing facts when they consider facts an inconvenient belief, but while we disagree about how we got here and talk about where we go from here. It’s a start.

Walt Maguire

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