Scientists paddle hard, like kayakers | Opinion
Science is like water. Sometimes he is placid, moving very slowly. Sometimes it rushes and foams in the rapids. At other times, he collapsed directly on the falls.
This makes scientists very fond of kayakers.
While kayakers sometimes paddle lazily on calm water, they must keep pace with the water no matter how fast it is flowing.
As water rushes down a river, splashing and surging on and around rocks – some smooth and round, and some sharp enough to destroy a kayak – paddlers must adapt quickly and deftly to their rapidly changing environment.
And so are the scientists who are working frantically to bring society safely through the COVID-19 pandemic by providing society with protection policies and life-saving medicines.
They must make instant judgments under dangerously and rapidly changing circumstances as the pandemic environment changes rapidly. And the change can come abruptly, as if it were kayakers skirting a sharp bend in a river to face wild rapids in which waves crash into invisible rocks.
Scientists do not face a stable danger. Best practices in applying scientific solutions change as circumstances change. And one of those changing circumstances is – luckily – information developed while running, so to speak.
It’s not as if COVID-19 has already been studied, with remedies on the shelves.
COVID-19 is new. The virus itself evolves in a process called mutation, and as we see, the delta variant that causes the infection peak this late summer is very different from COVID-19.
The delta mutant is at least 40 percent more easily transmitted. Simply put, it’s spreading like wildfire.
Cornell-Ithaca University virologist Gary Whittaker warns, “I think the virus [delta] succeeds on volume and speed. It has become a much more efficient virus. It passes through people and passes through cells much faster.
The general public, which includes most journalists, does not even have a basic understanding of how science works.
Television is a total fraud as it claims to report news with video clips that are only a few seconds long and must include teary and sentimental action sequences and / or interviews of people who don’t know what they are talking about and who are fundamentally moving.
As the saying goes, on television “If it bleeds, it leads”, to which we can now: “If it cries, it leads. No attempt to provide perspective or substance.
And now we have full-fledged social media conspiracy theories that ignorant consumers place more weight on reports from scientists who have dedicated their lives to the search for the truth.
Politicians contribute their usual selfish words and actions to the cauldron of public opinion with ubiquitous election campaigns such as the intervention of politics in science-based decisions, even when it hijacks and pollutes public discourse.
For example, here in Washington, the Republic Party has attempted to inject itself into and disrupt Governor Jay Inslee’s mask and vaccination campaign to fight the pandemic. This does not give science a moldy fig when it is a riding slaver on “unconsciousness”.
Day is a retired Washington State University professor. He has spent 32 years transmitting scientific research to the general public. During this time, he served on national committees tasked with improving the public’s understanding of science.