Read Editorial with D2G – Ep 487

Science knows

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Meanings are given in BOLD

In its 175-year history, Scientific American had never felt the need to take a political stand. In 2020, for the first time, the popular science magazine has endorsed ( declare one’s public approval or support of ) Joe Biden for the US presidency. But 2020 is the year of the pandemic, where ignoring the science behind a pathogen ( any microorganism that can cause disease ) has had real consequences ( a result or effect, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant ) in terms of lives and livelihoods ( a means of securing the necessities of life ) .

And the head of the most powerful government in the world has decided to blame the victims of a natural disaster in the largest state in his country, coming up on an election.The intensity and frequency of wildfires in California has caused consistent damage in America’s most populous, richest and politically significant state. Donald Trump, speaking to people whose homes and natural surroundings have been devastated ( destroy or ruin), blamed the blazes on people and authorities not “raking the forest floor” or “clearing dead timber ( personal qualities or character)”.

When it was pointed out that there is a near universal scientific consensus ( a general agreement ) that both the frequency and intensity of the wildfires has increased due to climate change, Trump stated, “I don’t think science knows”. The response of his rival for the US presidency has been to label the president a “climate arsonist ( a person who commits arson ( the criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property))”.

The essence of science is based on the distinction ( a difference or contrast between similar things or people ) between what David Hume called fact and value — truth and opinion. Confidence is a great thing in a public figure, but politicising what many would think is unpoliticisable — a natural disaster — Trump may end up being beaten at his own game.

“Climate arsonist”, though hyperbolic ( deliberately exaggerated ( regarded or represented as larger, better, or worse than in reality) ) , is bound to have a bit of resonance ( the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating ) in the middle-class California suburbs ( an outlying district of a city, especially a residential one )  that saw their homes and surroundings engulfed ( powerfully affect (someone); overwhelm)  in flames and smoke.

In fact, blaming an all-pervasive ( (especially of an unwelcome influence or physical effect) spreading widely throughout an area or a group of people ) problem like climate change could have helped Trump escape the blame. But he blamed the victims instead. On the heels ( an inconsiderate or untrustworthy person ) of his alleged (mis)management of COVID-19, the president’s lack of respect for scientific truths might bear ( take responsibility for ) a political cost.

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