I am not a scientist. My background in science is very shallow, both professionally and academically. My knowledge of science comes from what I read and what my wife educates me about (she does have a background in science). With that being said I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who devout their lives to science, usually with the goal of making the world a better place and providing a better understanding in how the world functions. More importantly, how we as humans are to function within its confines. Which has made the current public discussions and assaults on science somewhat unnerving. It is OK to question but too often the topic becomes a political topic and not a scientific topic. Rather than listen to science we say it is an attack on our civil liberties and individual rights, an assault on American values by the extreme left. I am not sure when science became the dominion of the left, but in any case that is where we are. In the end however scientific conclusions are based on data gathered over time, analyzed, and conclusions are developed. Science is the search for the truth and as its basis are facts. Politics is very emotional and sometimes irrational. Unfortunately both those traits have woven their way into the assault on science.
Throughout history science has made invaluable contributions to help our society progress. How each nation has progressed is somewhat uneven. The United States is very wealthy. Nigeria is not nearly as wealthy. But if we look at the United States so much of our success is tied to scientific endeavor. We sent a man to the moon. the work of Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution which has been key in allowing us to feed the planet. The Manhattan project which would end the second world war and foster in the Nuclear age. Breakthroughs in Aviation, medicine, Computer Science all led by American intellectual curiosity and economic expansion while positioning the US as a Global leader in the world of politics and the world economy. We have so much wealth and prosperity to thank for our status and yet when science provides a narrative we are not happy or comfortable with we turn our backs on science and choose not to believe in what it is telling us. We bite the hand that feeds us.
Many times that progresion comes with unintended consequences. We learned early in human history we needed heat, especially the further north you lived. Early on we used coal to heat homes and continue to use coal for many things today when it comes to energy, but both the mining for coal and use of coal has health consequences. We polluted our streams with waste from manufacturing facilities. We polluted our air with countless smoke stacks and the exhausts of millions of motor vehicles. In the meantime the global population has swelled to 7.7 billion people. The domographers say we will peak by 2100 at 11 billion people on the planet. All those people will need the bare necessities of food, water, shelter tec.. How abundant is the earth? Can we actually put a strain on the natural resources that are available to us? Some seem to think the Earth’s supply is infinite. I struggle with that narrative as in many places on earth where there was abundance there is now scarcity. We see populations of species dwindle from the Polar Bear in the arctic to the White Rhino’s of Africa. Fishing seasons, depending on the fish are not as plentiful as they were when I was a kid in the seventies. If the earth is forever why do so many believe time is running out? Science will be key to managing the inevitable growth, it will be key to maintaining the health of the planet.
For whatever reason these breakthroughs in science which have led us to lead a comfortable life, eradicate diseases, build huge economic opportunity, and envision a future rooted in science fiction, falls short for many. What the scientist’s are saying has become a threat to the way we live and our pursuit of happiness. The outbreak of COVID-19 is a perfect example, where some turned face mask into an assault on individual rights. Though the history and evidence were clear there will always be those who refuse to believe fact and choose fiction. In today’s world it is as if we are taught to live in fear and see evil around every corner. If you ask me why so many doubt science, it’s because that very science that led to all those breakthroughs is shattering their pursuit of the American Dream. It fundamentally goes back to human basics and something we have neglected in this country for generations. As we have forged ahead with our free market and technological innovations we have neglected a large swath of the US population who have watched jobs move overseas and technology wipe out jobs. Union were shunned as an assault on the income statement. If you did not pursue an education in STEM you were told the US would be left behind and you would be left behind. All those really smart people were right and what we were left with was a marginalized and growing white supremacist movement.
Then came “An Inconvenient Truth”, I have actually not watched the movie but it sums up what has followed (I have seen and met Al Gore as he discussed Climate Change). A lot more government regulation, climate control summits, pandemics, etc..As these arguments progressed and the villains were identified – the first being “Big” government, then the tech companies who tend to view the world more liberally, the social movements etc..the anger in ensued. It is a shame and a danger to our nation to not listen based on a perception and not being grounded in reality. But then the people being the most impacted are those who have more to lose than to gain.
We can choose as a nation to ignore science, but if we do so we do at our own peril. Much of the rest of the world is tackling the climate crisis and building new industries. In the US it is a political issue. Science has provided options to stop the spread of COVID-19 – Social distancing, masks, and vaccines. The response is I do not have to get a vaccine, it’s my right. The people who use this argument have a habit of defending their individual rights while violating yours. As David Brooks said, “We are not asking you to storm Iwo Jima, we are asking you to walk into a CVS”. But the hatred of science goes beyond COVID-19 to climate change. In California climate change is creating jobs as we look to alternative fuels, but again we have powerful lobbyists to combat the truth.
What science is telling us, is sometimes the answer to your demand will be “No”. An example is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gasses are cows. Livestock contributes about 14.5% of greenhouse gasses with cows a major contributor. Today on earth there are over 1 billion cows. They feed us either as dairy products or beef. We would be wise to cut that number in half. The problem is behind that number is a large cattle industry complex that employs millions of people. In addition if we culled 500,000 cows short term there would be a glut on the market, long term beef and dairy products would see significant price increases. th ejob losses would hurt and people who love burgers may see a change in availability. There are those that will scream “bloody murder”, but what the science tells us is true, as Neil Degrasse Tyson said, “The good thing about science is its true, whether or not you believe it”.
In the end we can choose to ignore science, but we do so at our own peril. Those who do choose will see their world (and frankly everyone else) begin to shrink around them. Golf courses need water, in the future if we ignore science we may not have as much available. Fish need to spawn, but if we keep building dams no spawning less fish. Climates that get too hot become deserts. As life disappears ecosystems become impacted. Snow pact is important for water supplies. More cars on fossil fuels means poor air quality (China can attest to this – look at Beijing skyline if you can see it). It becomes an endless list but if we chose not to listen to science and more importantly choose not to trust science we seal our own fate. If science dies, so does the human race.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann June 9, 2021