Ignorance is not bliss

A couple of weeks ago the March for Science folks solicited comments from participants and volunteers regarding their reasons for participating. I am a science enthusiast, but not at all a scientist. My father was a research chemist and his sister a physicist  – perhaps there was a layer of rebellion lurking in my career choices. But if I’m being honest, no. Sure, I scored high enough on all of my aptitude tests in school, but as a child I had little interest in science (I now blame elementary school science classes and high school biology). I’ve always loved the law, but wound up in IT. But I also really love history.  And literature. And human nature (I majored in psychology). Contradictions rule my life. As a result of this huge amount of noise in my head, I chose to ignore the question they’d posed because I had a hard time pinning down a coherent answer. I just knew that this country’s willful disregard – contempt, even – for science, and science-based decision making seemed to be growing at an alarming rate. Although this disregard for fact is not a liberal or conservative issue,  with our new government things were not looking to get better any time soon. So I signed up to help out as soon as it became possible, and booked a hotel room as soon as we had a date. Over the past week, though, as what I’d been concerned about as a potential has started to become reality, I’ve decided to write this post as a long-winded way of answering the ‘why’ question.

I need to mention that another part of my reason for picking now as the right time to talk about this was a fairly innocuous sounding ‘share this status’ kind of post someone I know had put on Facebook today. Innocuous sounding, yes, and knowing the poster, I know this came from a place of good intent, but, although I chose not to comment on the post (& certainly not to ‘like’ or ‘share’), it left me feeling like it was merely another way of dismissing the legitimate concerns of others by deliberately missing the point of their concerns. It also suspiciously lacked any mention of the very real fears about science and the environment. This was the post in full:

I don’t care who you voted for, at all!!! But this… this is what bothers me so badly🤔…..I keep seeing people post on how they are terrified, or scared? Well.. what are you scared of exactly? War? Because that’s been happening. School shootings? Because that’s been happening. Pipeline? That’s been happening. Terrorism? Definitely alive and well. Going broke due to health insurance? Mm yes. Corruption throughout the system? Already there. Police officers being murdered? Yep, that’s been happening. Bullying? Check. Loss of jobs? We’ve got that on lock. A tanking economy. Yep. Being discriminated against for your religion, political views, sexual orientation, race? That’s been going on too. Rape, murder, violence, riots.. all going on and has been.
So tell me, what are you scared of that is not already happening basically everywhere? This isn’t a Trump problem, this is a people problem. We all need to reevaluate our own selves. Maybe America (and the world) is a little too scared and a little too easily offended.
Quit being scared, crying around, offended by everything…. step up and do your part as an American, no, as a human being. Treat others with respect, help and encourage one another, raise your kids right, tell the truth, be a contributing member of society. Make sure your hands are clean, that’s your job. Burning the American flag? Get out of here with that, how about you do your job to make it a better place.
But right now, all I see is hate. It’s disturbing, 🙁 and the ones with the most hate are being exactly what they claim to be against.
Copy and paste if you agree….this is common sense -(I did)

No, this isn’t really common sense – it is an oversimplification of a complex situation. And it omitted the elephant in the room – the lack of evidence based reasoning coming from this administration. We have an obviously thin-skinned 70 year old child in the White House who has surrounded himself with people wholly unqualified to be in the jobs they have been given. I’ve written about that before, and certainly will again, but for me, and my logically-wired brain, what is most disturbing is the support – and credence – our President is giving to conspiracy theorists, to science deniers, and the disregard for any evidence based judgements (like the apparent dismissal of the need for the CBO to crunch the numbers on the proposed healthcare plan before voting on it). Given that propensity, it no longer seems so surprising that Trump’s businesses have filed for bankruptcy protection 4 times. But you cannot run a government like that, and the country cannot be allowed to go bankrupt.

Economics aside, this past week has had our newly minted Environmental Protection Agency head, Scott Pruitt, officially on record as saying that CO2 is not a primary contributor to global warming, despite over 100 years worth of scientific findings regarding the role CO2 plays – and in contradiction to papers that the EPA, and other agencies, have previously published. And in contradiction to the views expressed by ExxonMobil and Shell. Add to that the change to the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology’s ‘What We Do’ statement from “the scientific and technological foundation to achieve clean water” to “national economical and technologically achievable performance standards”, and you have an EPA that is about to gut itself even if the House bill HR 861 to terminate the agency withers away (as it almost certainly will). Yep – science and technology minus the science – but with the addition of economic feasibility. But what do we have to be scared of? At a minimum, generation of scientifically illiterate children drinking contaminated water and wondering whatever happened to the bald eagle.

All indications – by word and action – from the President and his staff, and by the views of the other Cabinet picks, are that science – or indeed any evidence based logical reasoning are in serious jeopardy. And Congressional actions, particularly in the House of Representatives, to eliminate environmental protections that have been put in place over the years (many predating Obama) – even to the point of endangering our National Parks and jeopardizing endangered species. Want to dump your coal waste in streams? No problem – it was terribly unfair of administrations past to interfere with your business needs. Also this week, the House moved to allow businesses the right to request employee genetic testing as a part of corporate wellness programs (those ubiquitous participate or pay more for your insurance programs). Genetic testing? Seriously? This is a fascinating study in employer privilege that could legally pass muster if the testing is ‘optional’ as most wellness programs allegedly are (you just pay not to play – the choice is yours), but that hopefully will not even make it far enough in the House to get to the Senate.

So, long-winded explanation to a fairly simple question. I’m participating in the March for Science on April 22 in Washington, DC because the scientists need to know they aren’t alone and unappreciated; because I don’t want to see us taking steps backwards in the realms of science and technology; because I want my eventual grandchildren to inherit a world cleaner and more environmentally sound than the one I lived in before Richard Nixon created the EPA; because the future of humanity rests on logic and reason – and education. And finally, the answer to the not-so-innocuous ‘what are you scared of exactly’ FB post is that I am truly frightened of taking that step backward – of losing all that we’ve gained scientifically and technologically, and mostly I’m frightened of logic and reason losing any more ground than it already has.

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” — Charles Darwin

Have a peaceful weekend!

Image credit https://www.marchforscience.com

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