After 2020, science is going to need to come bearing gifts.
Was 2020 the year mankind was finally blinded by science?
Other historic years have boasted scientific achievements that changed the world and the future.
Electricity was a big one. The internal combustion engine was another. The man who invented anesthesia has his own statue in the U.S. Capitol, as well he should. We are all grateful for anesthesia, and if you aren’t, one quick search for what triage was like before anesthesia should change all that.
The year mankind landed on the moon was a big year for science. We split the atom, and that was a big year for science, too, though the full implications of that discovery aren’t yet completely known.
In 2020, our ancient, primordial enemy- our only natural predator- the deadly virus again reared its ugly head. But were we rescued by science, or did science endanger us in the first place?
Or was it both?
If COVID-19 was indeed accidentally released from a virology institute in Wuhan, as seems increasingly likely, science itself unleashed Frankenstein’s monster on an unwary world populace- however unwittingly.
The lab-leak theory, as some progressives have pointed out glumly, if true, would be a serious blow to science and those who screamed it in the face of anyone questioning official public policies during the worst of covid.
But even if the theory is never proven true, which is very likely to be the case, the damage is already well and truly done. A significant portion of the populace, worldwide, will remain convinced of its veracity.
The fact that the Chinese Communist Party has been actively working to prevent the international scientific community from conducting an independent investigation in Wuhan is enough to ensure that.
The fact that the CCP is also keeping out journalists isn’t helping matters, either. The closest any journalist has gotten to the mysterious cave where several researchers from the Wuhan virology lab appear to have been the first sufferers of COVID-19, has been a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who managed to bypass roadway blockades by approaching the cave on a mountain bike.
He didn’t make it.
Now, it isn’t so much a question of science anymore. Finding answers about the origins of COVID-19 has almost nothing to do with science at the moment: It’s pure politics. And anyone arguing, in the U.S. or anywhere else, that science isn’t influenced by politics is going to be disillusioned.
Other nations, including the U.S., as curious as they are about the origins of COVID-19, are unwilling to challenge China to open Wuhan to an independent scientific investigation into how to pandemic started.
More importantly, a full, unfettered investigation might reveal how humankind might prevent such in the future. Scientists are now fonder than ever of reminding a newly attentive public that the next pandemic is already waiting in the wings.
Whether or not it is waiting in Wuhan, we aren’t likely to know until it’s much too late to stem the tide of infection from spreading like wildfire.
Politically, it has become too fraught for nations to approach China’s political leaders about this matter, let alone make demands.
But released or emerged, the COVID-19 pandemic already represents a catastrophic failure of science and public health experts.
For one thing, experts have been warning about a pandemic brewing for years. Were our political or scientific leaders ready for such a crisis? No.
For another, “gain of function” research to turn animal-borne viruses into deadly human pathogens should never have continued at a laboratory U.S. diplomats and scientists warned was unsafe in 2018.
The lab certainly should have received no more funding from U.S. and other affiliated sources.
Additionally, the failure of the E.U., and other world governments, to address the needs of the most vulnerable nations continues unabated.
Public messaging about COVID-19, has also been a nightmare.
Science might be irrefutable; government bureaucrats, whatever their other professional qualifications, rarely are.
Sure; science delivered a Covid vaccine in record time. But due to the terrible, inconsistent messaging- including well-intentioned efforts by social media giants and media companies to prevent the spread of horror stories about vaccine side effects- vaccine rates are stalling.
Of course rates are stalling: Hiding information about vaccine side effects is making people even more afraid of the vaccine. Efforts to hide something reveal there is something to hide.
Then, in an effort to win elections, and/or drive cable news ratings, and/or shape the narrative, officials, including newly elevated science officials, were allowed to constantly air their speculative theories because they played well on television.
Yes, of course scientific knowledge is always evolving. Which is why it should have been public policy makers crafting public policy and addressing the public, with input from government scientists. Behind the scenes, scientists and doctors could have speculated to their heart’s content.
Instead, under the auspices of “evolving science”, theories and speculation subbed for responsible, measured and carefully considered public policy.
The result was a mishmash of hits and misses and a patchwork of failed government responses which has left people more distrustful of their institutions and political leaders than ever.
The proof is in the pudding; a large percentage of U.S. adults aren’t vaccinated and have no intention whatsoever of getting the jab. Contract tracing, and vaccine passports, are all going over about as well as a lead brick.
The U.S. government knows it did a terrible job managing COVID-19; hence the extended unemployment and bailout hush money.
But science owes us, too. Big time. And here are three ways science could get back in the good graces of humankind.
End World Hunger
Is that too much to ask? Sure, advanced weather technology has made it possible to eliminate most major starvation events, but that isn’t enough.
Ending world hunger may even be within reach, as scientists are abuzz about a new vertical cultivation method. Step on it.
Truth About Aliens
On June 24, a major senate intelligence report is due on the subject of U.S. military contact with and observance of unidentified aerial phenomenon. Make it good.
Jet Packs for Everyone
Good news; science has invented jet packs! And, are they ever cool.
With world hunger vanquished, our curiosity satisfied about aliens, and a jet pack in every driveway, we might begin to heal from the disappointments dealt us by science and government in 2020.
A time machine wouldn’t go amiss either.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)