Vapourium Presents Science Tank | Issue 9

Politicians Denying Science

Ask anyone and they’ll be happy to tell your their opinion on healthcare or immigration. This makes sense because most of the time arguments can be made for both sides of any policy issue. However, lately there has been an alarming trend of established truths being heckled by the scientifically illiterate. Suddenly a false equivalency takes place, in which facts become partisan issues up for debate. The most troubling example is global warming. There’s no such thing as an “opinion” about global warming. Either you accept the overwhelming professional consensus, or you’re wrong. How did facts become political issues? 

One of the worst offenders in recent memory is Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He has publicly stated that he does not think carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of global warming, putting him diametrically opposed both to the scientific community and to the agency that he leads. In the past he has said that he would like to dismantle the EPA, and he has sued it 14 times. Hiring Scott Pruitt to protect the environment is like appointing Bill Cosby to watch your drinks. As the former EPA chief Gina McCarthy says, “The world of science is about empirical evidence, not beliefs. When it comes to climate change, the evidence is robust and overwhelmingly clear.”

The fault is partially ours as voters. Citizens around the world need to demand science literacy from their politicians, and boycott candidates who have unscientific policies. This trouble all stems from the popular perception that only scientists need to know science. It’s all too common to hear people say they can’t work out how to divide up a bill, or that they didn’t “get” science at school. Somehow this is the norm, whereas if somebody struggled to read or write we would be surprised. In reality, not knowing basic science is just as dangerous as being illiterate. The world today is dependent on science and technology, and becoming even more so as time passes. 

Unfortunately we can’t trust our politicians to be informed for us. If you look at the educational backgrounds of our political leaders, they are all businesspeople or lawyers. They are in situations where they need to be informed about science to make good decisions about policy, and yet a lot of them stopped their science education after high school. It’s easy to tell if a politician knows their stuff or not. Look at their public stances on issues such as climate change, vaccinations, GMOs, nuclear energy, or water quality. If they deny the scientific consensus on these things, they’re unfit to make policy decisions that affect generations to come, and they are not worthy of your vote.

This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2017.
Posted 1:20pm Sunday 30th April 2017 by Ben Cravens.