by Frances Edstrom, columnist
I’d like to discuss a topic without it becoming a partisan affront. So, let’s try.
We’ve been hearing a lot about science lately. Of course, we are used to that, since Science with a capital “S” is touted as knowing everything there is to know about the world’s climate, when we obviously don’t know everything.
These days, at least in the mainstream media and on social media, we are told to “trust the science” on COVID-19. Before I begin, I must admit that I believe that the virus has been responsible for over half a million deaths in the U.S. As an aside, there was an interesting article in the Washington Post that I read today, entitled “Most virus deaths occurred in countries where majority of adults are overweight, report finds.” That’s us. I also believe that distancing ourselves from others is a wise policy during a pandemic, and I wear a mask. I was lucky enough to score vaccinations, and that’s another topic I’d like to discuss, why the vaccination system was more like playing the slots in Vegas than a well-run health effort. Another time, perhaps.
Let’s get back to “trusting the science.”
Partnerships of government and science have not historically earned the everlasting trust of the people. Scientific data can be so easily and effectively subverted by those in power to manipulate the populace and justify blatantly immoral and unethical policies, that we do well to hesitate before “trusting the science.”
It was science that made the apology for the system of slavery in the early days of our country that haunts us to this day. Scientists fraudulently “proved” that the brains of the enslaved were not as fully developed as those of the enslavers, planting the seed for the belief that the enslaved were not fully human. Of course, men had been enslaving others for millennia without the benefit of even false and dishonest science, but a “civilized” nation needed a pseudo-scientific prop for its atrocities.
Scientists as recently as the middle of the last century actively engaged in unspeakable and brutal treatment of their fellow humans. Not only were Jews and others in Nazi territory enslaved, they were made the subjects of cruel experiments and finally, extermination, because they were scientifically “proven” to be tainting the development of an Aryan master race. This inhumanity forever remains a stain on our history.
In a perfect world, we would be teaching science in our schools in such a way that would prepare citizens to not only question the science of a certain claim and its funders, but also be able to determine how honestly the scientific method has been applied to the problem. Only then is a person able to apply a personal code of ethics to measure the morality of the scientific claim, and “trust the science.”