To the editor:
The clash between scientific fact and some religious values reappeared in the form of comments by State Sen. Jim Abeler for his intent to disconnect Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm from her tireless service to Minnesota residents during this devastating pandemic.
The wave of disinformation and defiance of medical authority that arrived with the coronavirus, stemming from churchly values, remains the never-ending, high-stakes consequences of science denial. It’s one thing for Abeler to point out that data on vaccines may show a 1-in-100,000 chance of not being suitable. But to throw out the best medical advice along with its dedicated health commissioner is to beg the unnecessary early death of perhaps thousands. Abeler must recognize that his comments could lead to more deaths than necessary from not following good science.
Since we’re gradually recovering from over a year of pandemic death, Minnesotans must grapple with a troubling question of why did so many of our fellow citizens reject not just the scientific evidence of the needs for wearing masks, keeping social-distancing-protocols and taking the vaccine, but the evidence of their own senses, when so many lives were at stake?
In the past, big tobacco, particular pharmaceutical companies and fossil-fuel producers used clever methods to systematically undermine scientific evidence, while simultaneously exploring ways that individuals can become science deniers: All done, of course, for god-almighty profits. Now we have nicotine-addicted youth, rampant opioid-addicted suicides and a climate crisis essentially unstoppable, with mass-extinction on our doorstep. Science denialism has woven itself into the fabric of American society, and Abeler just added the next chapter in how to keep it going.
Data reveal a persistent divide between the 2/3 of Americans who trust science and the remaining 1/3 who do not. The rejection of science is not because the science is too uncertain or otherwise inadequate; it’s because the science implies something these people don’t want to accept as true. Science clashes with Abeler’s religious values and the ideology of his hope for salvation. But what about the salvation of his constituents, most of whom do not share his values structure?