Op/Ed: The Politicization of Science

by | May 24, 2021

By Erik Carlson

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), scientists and science educators have constantly fought an uphill battle communicating the working theory on COVID-19. Early on, doctors and scientists took emergency action recommending masks, social distancing and the sterilization of surfaces. Since then, our theory on the transmission of COVID-19 has evolved and scientists have removed the recommendation to sterilize surfaces. 

This discrepancy was immediately harped on by many Republican lawmakers. “How can scientists make mandates about mask wearing if they suddenly change their recommendations?” they exclaimed. Even just last week, I received a comment from a gentleman on the street on the efficacy of masks. 

To answer that comment publicly, I can tell you without a doubt masks shortened this pandemic. 

The battle over the accuracy of science has been fought over a variety of topics in the last decade but is becoming ever more political in our current society. Renewable energy, global warming, even something as time-tested as vaccination has become the forefront of a new age of political inquisition. 

Just recently the Florida legislature passed a bill banning the requirement for schools to require proof of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is something that just a year ago would have been political suicide to do for any of the other required vaccines such as MMR or chicken pox. Frankly, if the smallpox vaccine was not mandated for much of the world, millions of people would be dead and a highly contagious disease would still roam the Earth. 

As a both a scientist and an educator, I can tell you, there is no global conspiracy to microchip you. There is no goal to infringe upon your freedoms. I have worked with scientists across the political spectrum and our scientific integrity must be unblemished if we expect to survive in our field. We are simply reading the data and producing working conclusions. Sometimes the data changes and thus conclusions change. 

Science is not inherently political and wishes no more than to generate models of our current understanding of the world. It is then the policymakers who sometimes politicize these results and muddle their meanings. 

Although the world of science education is certainly evolving and expanding, there are certain basic things we can do to proliferate truthful material. First, be open to new ideas. Pretending to know everything about everything means you will learn nothing. 

Next, be okay with being wrong. No one will or should begrudge you for accepting your previous opinion was invalid. Evolving opinions should be okay, even for elected officials. Data evolves and scientific perspectives morph as more studies are collected. An opinion previously held may no longer be valid. 

And finally, check your sources. Although time consuming, understanding where the information is coming from and who is funding that information is important. 

To some extent, we are all educators in this time of social media, and it is time to start acting like it. Spreading garbage and lies is an insult to the profession of teaching. As we bring our opinions closer together by propagating truth our civility will follow. 

Erik Carlson is a doctoral student in astrophysics.

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Alan clarke
Alan clarke
May 26, 2021 7:24 am

Under normal circumstances, the world would accept the Covid vaccine pretty much the same as we did the Polio vaccine. We’d get the shot and be done with it. If wearing the mask helped, we’d wear the mask. These are not normal times. First off, the internet makes everyone an authentic genius because he or she read something somewhere he or she could agree with. Second off: the acrimony in USAmerican society today is worse than ever. We are distant from each other and not just because of the social distance rules. We don’t have faith in our government—and we have earned the right to not have faith. We don’t trust our news media because they have merged opinion with fact and the result is a hodgepodge of biased rubbish. Scientists have come out opposing each other. That’s a tell.

The average person really is befuddled by it all. I wore the masks and got the shots. I can’t say I believe everything but I had to put my faith in my own best judgement. I know people in the medical community who will not get the shots. I know people who will not come to meetings if they have to wear a mask. The righteous indignation is rampant. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that this is a scheme of the New World Order folks to get us all medically enslaved. Well, it sorta is, but the NWO folks would have to be pretty darned organized to pull it off. But…

The thing about this pandemic is that it didn’t only just happen here. It is happening all over the world. In USAmerica, we do not hear much about what is going on overseas, just what happens here. The global pandemic is not the result of the Great Trump-Biden Divide and the election. While I’m sure politics is involved, the whole thing doesn’t just revolve around us here in the US.

The scenario changes if we stop being so “Greatest Country” and look at what is going on elsewhere. This is a world-wide event. Look to see what scientists—and governments—in other countries are doing. Are they developing their own vaccines and are they working? Are they having problems having people wear the masks and get the shots? More important, are they dying there too? Are their statistics similar to ours? Have there been any great successes—or failures—overseas that we should know about?

Mr. Carlson has many good points. He’s obviously a well-educated chap and a scientist and in that, he is absolutely sure that without a doubt the masks have helped. I note that he didn’t miss his chance to get a shot in at the Republicans. That is telling. Personally I’m trying to avoid all that with this message. The point is, if you are naked and out in the freezing cold rain and a guy comes by and offers an old greasy blue tarpaulin, by all means grab it. If we have learned anything about the past few years, the people running this show are not the brightest bulbs on the tree. In fact, they shouldn’t be running it at all but they are what we have. We simply are not producing enough quality people who want to get in government. I, for one, certainly hope that our scientists are a better grade of people than are our politicians. I end with this quote from one of my best friends who constantly claims that he “is glad that he is not a day younger than he is!”

Fred Procopio
Fred Procopio
May 26, 2021 5:00 pm

Alan, thank you for the wise response that reflects well your years of experience. From my vantage point in medicine, it is clear to me that the politicization of the science has been far from unilateral. The response to the pandemic should have been a rallying cry for unity. Unfortunately, our so called leaders used it to further the divide. As THEY say, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Don Rice
Don Rice
June 2, 2021 4:41 pm

You make some good points, Alan, but I think you do a disservice to today’s news media when you say “they have merged opinion with fact,” as if that were something new. With a few obvious exceptions, we probably have more truthful and objective journalism than at any time in our history.

In the eighteen century would-be opinion-makers hid behind pennames and could write any “facts” they pleased; the yellow journalists a century later relied on sensationalist lies to increase circulation. As newspapers grew so did the costs of publishing one. As a result, even in small towns and cities, the local dailies and even weeklies were owned by people of wealth—and guess what? Not only their editorials, but their news columns represented the owners’ points of view. This is what the well-known journalist A. J. Liebling (who started his career on the Providence Bulletin) meant when he famously wrote “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Today nearly ninety percent of professional journalists working for traditional news media have college degrees, and a fair percentage of those have degrees in journalism. As professionals these people take pride in the accuracy and fairness of their reporting.

It’s true that today any crackpot who can find an empty chair in front of a library computer can spread vicious lies about anybody or anything they want. That’s why, more than ever before, we need a strong and free press to sort through those lies and dig out the truth. So until we have solid facts to demonstrate otherwise, making broad unsubstantiated generalizations that undermine the press is not in our best interests.

Dean Fachon
Dean Fachon
June 3, 2021 2:17 pm

We are being led by the nose to one of the most dangerous times in our history by the willful misrepresentation of facts:

1) For instance, the number of people who died due to COVID-19 has been significantly overstated: Going into the pandemic, the CDC changed the rules for completing death certificates. If someone died with COVID-19, they died from COVID-19. This includes people who died in car accidents, people who had stage-4 cancer, and people with chronic underlying disease. The CDC’s own data reveals only 6% of the reported deaths due to COVID-19 occurred in people with no co-morbidities.

2) In addition, the number of COVID-19 cases was grossly overstated. Up until recently, the “gold standard” PCR test was over-cycled to yield false positives. (Anthony Fauci admitted so himself.) Up to 90% of reported COVID cases were false positives. Subsequently, the CDC has quietly lowered the threshold for PCR cycles, helping to bring case numbers down. The timing for this sleight of hand itself is suspicious, but even more suspicious is that no effort has been made to amend the record. Previous case-numbers stand. Why is that?

3) Treatments for COVID-19 have been suppressed. Doctors from around the world have testified that our natural immune systems can successfully reduce the impact of COVID-19 if we take adequate amounts of Vitamins D with K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and by taking zinc. Doctors from around the world have also reported that infected patients benefit greatly from Hydroxychloroquine and zinc when properly administered during early onset of disease. Another drug, Ivermectin, has also been shown to dramatically reduce and/or eliminate complications due to COVID-19.

The last people in the world who should take these vaccines are children, and the coercion being used to get them vaccinated is especially repugnant. Ditto the concept of vaccine passports. As the narrative around the origins of COVID begins to unravel, and Dr. Fauci is increasingly shown to have dissembled at best, people should start asking more questions about the rest of the COVID narrative. Our time is really almost up. There are enormous amounts of information available for those who want to know more, but censorship is rampant. Here are a few links below to get you started:

Dean Fachon

CDC-VAERs: https://www.openvaers.com/covid-data

Dr. Peter McCullough: https://www.brighteon.com/c577292f-e65b-438c-8a65-0d41cae1eb58

Dr. Bryam Bridle: https://www.collective-evolution.com/2021/06/02/canadian-viral-immunologist-professors-doctors-sound-the-alarm-on-covid-19-vaccine-safety/

Immunity of those previously infected: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/27/4/20-4576_article

Weekly broadcast: https://thehighwire.com/ click “Watch”

Alan Everton
Alan Everton
August 18, 2021 9:46 am
Reply to  Dean Fachon

Mmmm……who should I trust? I think I’ll stick with the lifelong infectious disease expert.

Dean Fachon
Dean Fachon
August 23, 2021 11:12 am
Reply to  Alan Everton

I cited facts.

Anthony Fauci has flip-flopped, prevaricated and lied before a Congressional Committee. Those are facts too. Trust him, even in the face of facts which prove him wrong? That’s your call.


Brian Mason
Brian Mason
July 16, 2021 5:18 pm

The statement “Even just last week, I received a comment from a gentleman on the street on the efficacy of masks. To answer that comment publicly, I can tell you without a doubt masks shortened this pandemic” strikes me as overconfident without cited support.

Are we saying the pandemic is over? As a general matter it’s not clear why masking would shorten one(as opposed to mitigate it) since it would be a balance between lowered R0(assuming masks slow transmission) and converging on herd immunity. In this particular instance, in the US, I’d argue it had extended the pandemic since getting to a vaccination state is what moves it to endemic. The vaccines took actually longer to arrive because social distancing and masking(using the assumption masks slowed transmission) translates to longer trial times–you need infected people to run the trials and we weren’t doing any human challenge trials.

And if the gentleman on the street was referring to the outdoors, he’s correct. The transmission rate outdoors, particularly in an EG environment, is functionally zero even without any preventive measures.


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