If you’re a true American patriot, you cannot deny science

You’re entitled to your political beliefs, but not your scientific ones

I was once criticized — perhaps rightfully so — by a few close friends for (not so) occasionally badmouthing all who voted for Trump, and those who continue to do so today; this, despite the fact I that I still have no proof that anybody I know voted for him.

I was admonished that I needed to understand where they were coming from, and rather than be angry at them, I was to pity them; my anger should be directed at the system, not the hapless voters, who are as much a victim as those of us who knew better (yes, we did and we do know better, fact; see below).

I was further advised to recognize that, misinformed or not, such misplaced trust in Trump was simply an opinion, a political belief, and like it or not, it cannot and should not be stifled. To each his own, then.

Fine. I’ll begrudgingly accept that one’s decision to support Trump is indeed based on a set of values and opinions, in turn based on one’s experiences in life, and crucially, one’s (lack of adequate) education.

Put another way then, one’s opinions and beliefs are the effect of one’s upbringing, they are not the cause: you believe a set of things because you are reacting to certain (lack of) inputs in your life, which caused you to develop these opinions.

Okay, fine; I’m okay with this so far: If I routinely get sick from eating sushi, I’d probably be of the opinion that raw fish is unsafe. (Mercifully, as I love sushi, this has never happened.) If I’m constantly harassed by drug addicts on the streets of a city, I’d probably be of the opinion that it’s not a very safe city.

If I lived somewhere which is constantly ravaged by bitterly cold winters, I’d surely be of the opinion that climate change is a hoax; the world is in fact cooling; clean coal is a thing; and CO2 is good for the environment.

Similarly, if I’d heard that vaccines cause autism, or that evolution was “just a theory,” then it’s equally fine for me to form the opinion that vaccines are harmful, and Homo sapiens did not, in fact, evolve from earlier forms of primate.

Except, no. Not even slightly.

You see, science is not a thing subject to one’s beliefs or interpretations. It’s a rigorous framework of hypothesizing, experimenting, observing, concluding, and then repeating over and over again, and then having such experiments reviewed and replicated by one’s peers, and their peers, and so on, until a vigorous conclusion can be drawn upon the facts of the experiment.

There is no element of belief with respect to science; things either are, or are not; nobody gives a shit about your beliefs.

As the respected astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has brilliantly stated,

The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.

This quote is immensely powerful, and it matters; it matters a lot. Unfortunately, its significance and truth is often lost on many people who are of the foolish and misplaced, er, opinion, that science is open to interpretation, and thus, one is free to have their own opinions.

No. It isn’t. And you’re not. Because, to paraphrase Han Solo when chastising Finn in Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, “that’s not how [science] works!”

It’s at this point that the very people to whom this little essay is directed will surely be up in arms with arguments like “but scientists once said the Earth was flat; scientists once thought heroine could be used as a medicine; scientists once thought leeches were useful for sucking infections out of the body.”

YES! Scientists did once say all those things! And that’s the whole point! The beautiful thing about science is that it’s designed to be corrected and improved over time; it’s designed to overturn previous, incorrect theories and understandings about how the world works; that’s what science does!

If science didn’t evolve over time, it wouldn’t be science.

It would be religion.

Right. So what does this all have to do with politics? It’s very simple. If you want to support Trump and his views, values, and beliefs because it’s what you believe, go for it.

But if you choose to support his claims and his political actions that categorically contradict raw science, then no, I’m sorry, but you simply don’t have that right.

Look, nobody is asking you to like science. And for all the aforementioned reasons, nobody’s asking you to believe in science — because you can’t, it’s not a thing that you believe or don’t believe in.

But you do have to blindly accept science.

As an analogy, a lot of people argued (and still argue) against gay marriage on “scientific” grounds, that children raised by same-sex couples were doomed to a suboptimal life relative to their peers raised in “normal” family households.

Well, that’s not what the scientific literature says, folks. It just doesn’t, plain and simple.

Look, nobody is telling you that you have to like gay marriage if it actually infringes upon your personal beliefs; but you do have to accept it because science says it’s fine, and, oh yeah, because it’s the right thing to do as a civilized, advanced society.

I’d like to reiterate this point: just because you accept and agree with a thing, does not, ipso facto, mean you have to like the thing.

(To give a glib, mundane example, I may not like America’s lethargic 55 to 70 mph highway speed limits, but given our generally horrendous driving ability and lack of any notion of European-style lane discipline (keep right except for passing, never pass on the right, etc.), low speed limits are absolutely necessary and I must agree with them.)

And why shouldn’t we blindly accept science? Look what it’s done for our civilization: in just 100 years, we’ve gone from a bunch of nomadic villagers basically living the same way for thousands of years, to landing people on the moon; supercomputers in our pockets for catching Pokémon; the eradication, prevention, and taming of formerly lethal diseases; getting ready to put humans on Mars; finally transitioning away from barbarically old fashioned fossil fuels to a solar/wind-powered world; and instead of an average life expectancy during the first decade of the 20th century in the mid-40s, we’re now pushing 80 here in the US.

Because science.

Look, I get it. Science is a tricky thing. It can be hard to understand. I studied physics, chemistry, biology, and math for years, and still find it complex. All scientists will always find science complex. So don’t you think it’s at least a little arrogant when people with no scientific education claim that they know better than the scientists? It’s like somebody who’s never set foot into an airplane arguing with a pilot about the takeoff checklist of a 747; or somebody with an education in art history arguing with their doctor over the optimal cancer treatment.

And by the way, to scientists’ credit, they acknowledge that climate science is an especially difficult, tricky thing to get right, even if all the studies’ trends tightly agree that human-caused pollution is rapidly accelerating the deterioration of our world.

But think of it this way: if we transition to clean energy and it turns out the climate scientists were wrong, nothing’s lost! We’ll have just moved up the technology ladder, cool!

But if we fail to heed their warnings, and if they are indeed right, the results would be catastrophic within the next 100 years.

And besides: isn’t America supposed to be the best, most powerful, most techologically advanced country in the world? Keeping us in the fossil fuel era isn’t just counterproductive, it’s just plain stupid. It’s like playing a game of Warcraft, Age of Empires, or Civilization, and never advancing your society through the various ages of technological development. It doesn’t make any sense in those games, and it doesn’t make any sense in real life. After all, it was America’s scientific progress during the 20th century that made us the the most powerful country in the world; why wouldn’t we want to continue this progress?

So if you truly love America, if you’re truly a patriot, embrace science, and push back against those who would deny it.

And I have a feeling your political beliefs will slowly change as a result, too.