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It’s science you must trust

/ 05:06 AM January 28, 2021

Science is at the heart of today’s modern society. Science has discovered everything that we are today. Science establishes facts that can provide the basis for wise decisions. Donald Trump would be the greatest exemplar today of what ignoring science can lead to—400,000 American deaths from COVID-19.

Scientists said that to fight COVID-19, wear masks and maintain distance. Trump said that’s not macho, follow me and don’t wear them. Some 74 million believed him, and didn’t. So thousands of Americans died who shouldn’t have and wouldn’t have if they had worn masks, and not insisted on mingling. He’s responsible for those deaths by ignoring scientific fact.

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COVID-19 is being beaten by scientists developing vaccines, through scientific process. The most dangerous threat to science is politicians, those of them who decide for popularity, or power, or self. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro has been ignoring science and allowing the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, putting the world’s climate at risk. There are many others like him. If temperatures soar to 3-to-4 degrees above where we are today, the race will become extinct, and almost all other animals with it. Planet Earth will join Mars as a dead world with just cockroaches and a few microbes left.

Top of mind today must be climate change. Science has told us that climate change is heating the planet to unbelievable levels and worsening the natural disasters that afflict the world every year, with the Philippines the third most prone in the world. We know we are going to have typhoons, earthquakes, floods, and that they’ll get more ferocious, yet there’s far too little preparedness being done. Admittedly there’s been great improvement in this administration, but it still falls short of what’s needed.

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For millions of years, humans lived a pitiful, short, brutal existence. Scrabbling for food and sustenance, reproducing and doing not much else, except to fight wars for dominance. And build towers to their own magnificence—for which they needed science to design and decide how to build, but it was rudimentary and limited science, just a bit of physics.

Then came the 16th and 17th centuries, and science entered the picture in a meaningful way, its pace of introduction accelerating exponentially as we entered the industrial revolution. Mind you, science doesn’t always get it right at first; it’s a development process of discovery, investigation, testing, challenge, reevaluation, etc. But the result inevitably comes as the errors are winnowed out toward a more complete understanding of a subject or phenomenon. Then we benefit.

The steam engine started that revolution. But it was the harnessing of electricity, as shown by Benjamin Franklin’s experiment, that was the underlying force on which all else grew. You just can’t run a modern lab on a gas lamp (that, too, was a scientific invention).

One invention that has always intrigued me is the simple zipper. A rudimentary version was invented by Elias Howe Jr. in 1851, and modified more to the design we have today by American Whitcomb Judson in 1891. We use at least one every day. Look closely at it, it’s brilliant in its simple design.

In 1948, the transistor radio was invented; in 1958, the chip, and the fifth revolution began. In 2007, the first smartphone replaced the multi-story computer. The world has not been the same since, and this is just the beginning.

Where science has failed, though, is in getting its message into the general populace’s minds. Education has failed, media has failed—giving credence to the stupidest ideas over the boring reality of what science has discovered. Communicating how science works to the wider public can be hard, but it’s vital. Media should rely on evidence-based reporting, not on giving credence to far-fetched positions or nonsensical claims. As Richard Feynman, noted physicist, said: “Reality must take precedence over public relations.” Indeed it must.

Science has brought us a life unimaginable a scant century ago. A standard of living no previous society had, yet here in the Philippines we are ignoring it, and ignoring it where it matters most, with our children. I still can’t get over the fact that we were last in science and math in a world survey of 79 countries. We spend next to nothing on research and development, yet it’s been proven that countries that do spend on R&D grow faster. It’s time science was brought into the national conscience.

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