Thursday, September 16, 2021

Has the Pandemic Made Us Appreciate Science?



One would think that the pandemic would have made Americans want to learn more about disease and health, about how to minimize the spread of disease by means of vaccination, social distancing, etc. In fact, this is what science writer Robin Marantz Henig said in the November 2020 issue of National Geographic: “Maybe the pandemic will persuade even the skeptics how crucial scientific discovery is to human flourishing.”

At the time Henig wrote this, it seemed so inescapably reasonable. But this has turned out to not be the case. The surge in covid cases in America, the great majority of them among the unvaccinated, has only strengthened the anti-science fervor among many Americans. About half of Americans disregard science, and many of these openly detest it. Rather than acknowledging that masks slow down the spread of covid, some states not only do not have mask mandates but have made these mandates illegal. Here in Oklahoma, it is illegal for schools and other state entities to require measures that protect either children or adults. It is difficult to appreciate the depth and scope of the hatred that many Americans feel toward science, whether it is the study of how diseases spread (epidemiology), or any other branch of science.

Right now, as shown in this graph from a French news website, America is leading the world in the number of covid deaths per day. Brazil used to be the leader, and Indonesia was briefly, but America has gone back to being the world leader in covid deaths per day.

As a science educator in rural Oklahoma, I feel quite despondent right now about the hostility of my neighbors toward any kind of scientific evidence about anything. I used to be inspired in my work; now, I just count the days to retirement.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Why Hasn't China Gone Green?


A special Labor Day essay!

China is the world’s biggest investor in and producer of green energy. Their participation in solar and wind energy is nothing short of breathtaking. They would seem to be a model to the rest of us of how an economy can go green.

They are, however, also the world’s biggest investor in and producer of dirty energy, in particular coal. In addition, they notoriously pollute the environments of their own billions of expendable citizens.

They are the best and the worst. What is going on here? May I speculate?

First, they know that green energy is the unavoidable path of the future. Civilization will collapse into a dark ages pile of wiggling failures if we do not embrace renewable, clean energy. They know this as much as anybody. They do not deny it, unlike the executives of American coal and oil corporations. Accordingly, China (led by its top-down imposition of economic priorities) leads the world in technological innovation of green energy. Someday, they are poised to lead the world.

Second, they also desire to bury the United States. I do not mean in a nuclear or violent way. But they want to bury us as a serious economic competitor. They plan to do this by out-producing us. They appear to be successful. They sell much much more to us than we sell to them. They will do this by using clean energy or dirty energy, whatever is at hand. Once they have buried us, they will be glad to switch to green energy, and at long last let their gasping, sick citizens breathe freely and let the skies become clear.

They are walking a tightrope, but they have done so many times before. They appear confident that they will lead the post-American world into a green energy future.