On Understanding Science and Loving Your Neighbor

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Science is an enterprise armed with methodological tools that describe and explain how Nature unfolds. In the Natural Sciences, we have the luxury of physical laws that lend us predictive power because of the empirically familiar regularities present in Nature. Sometimes the math is simple and sometimes it is not. 

Now please forgive me as I oversimplify a bunch of stuff.

Rocket science

Hard stuff, right? Yup. In spite of having to balance the force interactions that accrue when an object moves at some number of miles per second through changing frictional forces in the atmosphere, we are really good at it. However, one small error in the math, or one small defect in the craft, and it falls apart catastrophically. Hundreds or thousands of successful launches are instantly forgotten in the epic drama of the next catastrophe. Rocket science still works.

What does it take to do rocket science? Lots of Math, Physics,Engineering, and a bunch of highly trained experts in those fields. But I oversimplify. Heard of Einstein? He gave us General Relativity, and you can’t do (some aspects of) rocket science without it. BTW … your GPS systems work because of General Relativity. It’s really hard stuff, but the math is impeccable. Do the math right, and it works. Maintain the code that makes the computer chips do their thing, and it works every time. Until a chip fails, or a power source, etc. Science doesn’t fail in those instances, people do. Nature throws you curve balls without warning. Again, Science didn’t fail, but Nature changed without our approval.

Immunology

Perhaps one of the hardest disciplines within Biology. It is to Biology what General Relativity or Quantum Mechanics is to Physics. I understand Physics more than I do Biology, which isn’t surprising given that I am a Physics Professor. My specialty within Physics isn’t General Relativity or Quantum Mechanics, but I can tolerate reading the textbooks and research publications. When I do the same in Virology, Immunology, and Genetics, I get the same sense about the complexity of those topics as I do within my Physics wheelhouse. However, in some ways, I think these sub fields within Biology are herding way more cats than Physics has to deal with. Why is that?

Biology deals with living organisms. Some of those critters are people. Free moral agents that have the capacity to act with intelligence, or not. Physics deals with objects and forces on them. Unconscious things obeying the laws of Physics with precision. The systems of interacting objects in Physics have no idea that politics and religion even exist. A falling rock will hit the Republican just as often as it hits the Democrat. The motion of celestial objects is the same for the Buddhist as it is for the Baptist. Science doesn’t care what you think about anything because your thoughts are irrelevant to the laws of Nature. Your opinions are less than irrelevant to Mother Nature. That’s why you can trust Science more than most any person or human activity.

COVID

Enter the global pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2. A virus with ancestry to SARS-CoV, MERS, etc. It only took 17 years (2002-2019) for the SARS family of coronaviruses to mutate its way to something we are having a hard time containing. The complexity of our biosphere and the critters therein is no more or less difficult than Physics, so long as the variables therein cooperate. Guess what? They never do. Why? People. Critters. Climate. Geography. And a bunch of other things that herd as well as rabid cats.

Human behavior is undoubtedly the greatest perturbation in the COVID-19 saga. Collectively, we misbehave more than Nature. The virus will always do its thing the same way, without fail, so long as there are susceptible hosts. It can’t help but evolve, which is the fate of all living things. Billions of susceptible hosts means that a virus will evolve to become better and better at infecting susceptible hosts. This outcome is as sure as gravity. It is as predictable as Rocket Science. It is more reliable than the GPS that keeps satellites in orbit and tells you where to find a coffee shop.

Politics

Politics. Politics and religion. Politics and religion and culture wars. These things are the rabid cats that can’t be herded. Individually, even religion and politics are capable of great good; but collectively, they are a disaster because they were never meant to be together in in the first place. Culture wars destroy everything. There are no real winners in a culture war because it dehumanizes everyone, especially the antagonist. Politics has no interest in the goals of religion except to manipulate it for the voting block therein. Religion has no business in politics given that its mission is separate and superior. Putting politics and religion and culture war together is a perfect storm of stupid from which defeat is the only sure thing for everyone involved. Expert level snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

This is our problem in the United States in 2021. The perfect storm of stupid driven by politicians and pundits are the mad cats running amuck in public. They sow seeds of distrust in the name of a culture war with one goal: political gain (of function). The end result is that dozens of millions of Americans behave as if these lies are true, and in the process refuse to follow the Science that Public Health promotes. The Science didn’t change, but what it pays attention to does, and thus the advice from Public Health changes accordingly. 

This part is really simple. Before the Delta variant, vaccines were excellent at preventing severe disease and death. They still are! However, the Delta variant gained a superpower over its ancestors, and now the vaccinated are able to transmit, whereas before they did not. It’s like showing up for a sword fight only to find out that your opponents now have light sabers. You’ll need a new weapon, a new strategy, a new defense.

The refusal to wear a mask has no rational or scientific basis. Masks are effective because the laws of Physics don’t care about your culture war or your snowflake preferences for comfort. The same is true of vaccines. You might was well argue that the Earth is flat, or that the Moon landing was faked. Perhaps Elvis and Bigfoot are the same guy because you’ve never seen them together. It’s madness.

Delta will lead Epsilon and Epsilon to Gamma, etc etc etc. so long as we have a collective behavior that is contrary to reason and logic. Deliberate ignorance is deadly and makes culture wars popular. The anti-mask and anti-vaccine culture war will only bring misery. If you want an eternal pandemic, then play this pathetic game. Realize that in doing so, you endanger yourself and others in the process.

So much for loving your neighbor.

Published by Clark Vangilder

born at a very young age, naked and out of work

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