Opinion | Ted Konnerth: Science is messy | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Ted Konnerth: Science is messy

Ted Konnerth

A recent article in Bloomberg Green, a regular news blog focused on climate change and energy conservation, provided insights into the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations organization of scientists from 195 countries across the globe, that stated that the science “is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” This is an astounding statement that shows remarkable alignment across the world’s leading scientists on climate change. This level of concurrence is remarkable because science is messy.

Scientific research is bound by standardized practices that require repeatable confirmed tests that validate a scientific hypothesis or theory. In practice, a theory is rarely, if ever, proven. It’s a scientific construct in which testing will add to the volume of information that supports and challenges the theory, such that the theory over time becomes more and more robust. Big theories, such as the big-bang theory and the theory of relativity, have been tested for decades with continual results that shape future experimental tests of the theory.

The beauty of science is that it is an honorable, dedicated approach to learning. Scientists, for the most part, are conservative and rarely announce their findings in a public audience to declare they’ve proven a theory. The rare case, for example cold fusion, was a bust and diminished the respect for dedicated scientists.

Sadly, science is under attack.

I’ve heard dozens of people declare that the public agencies or spokespeople don’t know anything about COVID-19. My response has been that the people who are actively engaged in COVID-19 research are fully aware of what they don’t know; that’s why science is messy. COVID-19 was a completely new illness in December 2019 and had characteristics that defied any previous research on coronaviruses. To the credit of scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has taken the brunt of the criticism, they have consistently been open and honest that they don’t fully understand the virus. Plus, it keeps mutating regularly, and that brings added complexity to the disease and the treatment regimens. Fauci has spent his entire professional life studying viruses and has worked for nearly 20 years on developing the messenger RNA approach to vaccines, which has proven to be remarkably effective.

So why is it that so many people — including legislators, political party spokespeople and even a former president — openly state that the Food and Drug Administration or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don’t know what they’re doing? The same question can be asked about climate change. How can a person of leadership or influence blatantly state they don’t believe in climate change?

I have a theory.

I have friends who have told me they don’t believe in climate change. My immediate response is, “How many climatology courses have you taken?” It’s the same for COVID-19: “How many virology or epidemiology courses have you taken?”

These same friends credit vaccine hesitancy to their belief that there is insufficient data to ensure it’s safe. The world has administered 4.5 billion vaccine doses so far. I’ve heard very few reports of adverse reactions to the vaccine. So I assume the vaccines are deemed safe, as the World Health Organization has been promoting them for the past year. How much more data do you need?

How did we arrive at this point in history where you can publicly besmirch an entire organization like the CDC or FDA or the International Panel on Climate Change and somehow get credit for your opinion? How do we allow a governor to say that no one is allowed to mandate masks for their business or their city or their school? How many science courses have these governors taken to embolden them to make such a decree? And at what risk should we allow a governor to say you can’t ask a customer to wear a mask to come into your business?

Leadership is about vision. It’s also relying on the best advice you can get, as no one leader knows everything.

Our country is at risk because of the climate and pandemic. But the biggest risk of all is a lack of trust. If we dismiss facts that are unpleasant or create lies to satisfy our supporters, we will all lose.

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