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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Science denialism and the pandemic

Ran across this NPR Living On Earth piece on my iPhone. Listened to it, and grabbed the the mp3 podcast link for you.

 Science denial and the pandemic 

Dr. Naomi Oreskes.
"I think there are two things that we need to do here in the United States. The first is I think we need to rebuild our scientific institutions and in the process of rebuilding them as institutions, we can also rebuild trust. We've had 30 years in this country of decreasing support for scientific institutions, particularly federal scientific agencies, like the CDC, like the US Geological Survey, like NOAA and in the process of cutting back the budgets from Of these organizations, we've also seen these organizations subjected to a lot of hostility, a lot of criticism by political forces in Washington, DC, if we roll the clock back and think about the 1950s, when I was born, and when money was flowing into science, it wasn't just that the government was putting money into science. It was also that the government was telling us a story about why science mattered. So if you think about Dwight Eisenhower and the early years of the space program, or john Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, who carried the space program forward, why did the American people believe in the importance of the Apollo program, it's because we were told a story, a good story, a true story, about how science could help build America, how to build our economy, how it could help build our educational systems, and how we could do cool things like put men on the moon. So I think we need to recapture that commitment to science and to scientific institutions and to scientists. The other thing though, that I think is equally important is to rebuild trust in government because the bashing of science has been linked in a very specific and direct way to a general argument against the government, particularly the argument against so-called big government. And this is something that began in the United States under Ronald Reagan, who's admired by many people and was an excellent president in certain ways but he did something that I considered to have been deeply, deeply damaging. And it's summarized by his slogan is that “the government's not the solution to our problems the government is the problem. For 40 years, we have heard that argument made by political leaders on the conservative side of the spectrum, so much so that a lot of ordinary people don't understand why we even have a CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, much less why we really need to count on them now in this current moment. And so that's about rebuilding trust in government and governance and making the point that sometimes we actually do need big government. We don't want the government telling us what to do with our lives on a day to day basis. But we do want the government to be there for us when we need it and it won't be there for us. We can't just say, oh, suddenly there's a crisis, suddenly we have to have government. No. If you want the government to be there when you need it. Well, it's got to be developed in advance..."

More to come...

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