When and why did we stop listening to scientists?
If it’s a virus from Dayton, Tenn., let’s find a vaccine.
Reporter and writer Jonathon Gatehouse recently wrote about America’s movement toward anti-intellectualism and what he calls “dumbing down” in Macleans, a weekly current affairs magazine. Science was only a part of Gatehouse’s evidence, but a convincing part, and the connection to Dayton and the Scopes Trial was clear.
“South Carolina’s state beverage is milk. Its insect is the praying mantis. There’s a designated dance — the shag — as well a sanctioned tartan, game bird, dog, flower, gem and snack food (boiled peanuts). But what Olivia McConnell noticed was missing from among her home’s 50 official symbols was a fossil. So last year, the eight-year-old science enthusiast wrote to the governor and her representatives to nominate the Columbian mammoth.”
After all, mammoth teeth were dug up by slaves on a South Carolina plantation in 1725. “Fossils tell us about our past,” the 2nd-grader wrote. But the state legislature got hung up on how the mammoth fit in with the Bible’s book of Genesis, and the bill to name a state fossil was amended to specify that the Colombian mammoth “was created on the sixth day with the other bests of the field.”
Gatehouse, in his Macleans article, writes: “Charles Darwin’s signature discovery — first published 155 years ago and validated a million different ways since — long ago ceased to be a matter for serious debate in most of the world. But in the United States, reconciling science and religious belief remains oddly difficult.”
Such an understatement.
We don’t even believe our own scientists — 97 percent of them — who show us in study after study that our machinery to make power and our propensity to burn things to make more things is gradually smothering our planet and warming it. We don’t even believe satellite photos and maps that show retreating glaciers and the collapsing ice shelf of Antarctica. In an Associated Press poll earlier this year, only 33 percent of Americans said they had a high degree of confidence that it global warming is “man-made.”
But climate change alone is not the only scientific fact we are choosing to ignore.
Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 22 states and five Canadian provinces have died from white-nose syndrome, a fungus disease that infects the skin of the muzzle, ears and wings of hibernating bats. Often the bats awake sick and hungry — but too early in the year to find food. Consequently, they starve or freeze.
So? So, bats are nature’s balance for insects. They are the night shift for birds. Without them, we can’t apply enough pesticide to save our crops — or our own skins.
Then — speaking of pesticides — there are the honey bees.
The mysterious mass die-off of honey bees has been called Colony Collapse Disorder, and bee populations are so low in the United States that it now takes 60 percent of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. Never mind that bees also are used to pollinate almost all crops across the country: apples, peaches, squash and more — $30 billion worth of crops each year.
Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths, and the results show that averting what’s been called beemageddon will take more than one fix.
Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. Actually the culprit is a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides, including a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids that contaminate the pollen the bees collect to feed their hives.
Europe already has banned neonicotinoids, but our scientists say that won’t be enough because it is the mix of those chemicals and other chemicals that actually is a problem.
We likely won’t take any action. It takes too long to get agreement from lawmakers who are in debt to big chemical companies and especially big agricultural chemical companies.
And besides, we don’t believe science.
Here’s more from the AP poll: 42 percent of Americans are “not too” or “not at all” confident that all life on Earth is the product of evolution, and 51 percent are skeptical that the universe started with a “big bang” 13.8 billion years ago. Another 36 percent doubt the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years.
Just 53 percent of respondents were “extremely” or “very confident” that childhood vaccines are safe and effective.
Only 69 percent believe in DNA, and 18 percent still don’t believe smoking causes cancer.
The world really is still flat — at least in the United States.