End the politicization of science

Objective truth should not be up for debate

By Keshav Kumar

These days, multiple aspects of our lives have become increasingly politicized. While this trend of politicizing previously uncontroversial issues has plagued everything from sports to music, we should be most concerned about its effect on something far more important: science. 

The politicization of science is indisputably growing, especially with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Overwhelming scientific evidence supports the use of masks and vaccinations in preventing COVID-19, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, that has not prevented many from  attacking both measures. 

Conservatives, from Fox News host Tucker Carlson to Republicans in Congress, have promoted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, according to Business Insider. Former President Donald Trump has rejected the effectiveness of masks and has even dismissed the threat of COVID-19 initially, according to the New York Times. Throughout his presidency, Trump and his highest profile supporters have used their influence to cast doubt on science.

Attacks on truth – conservative leaders have used their influence to reject reason and science (Photo by Photo courtesy of Denis Iarkovoi/123RF)

Unfortunately, unsubstantiated and dangerous attacks on science are a time-honored tradition in American political culture. Even before his presidency, Trump repeatedly called global warming a “hoax” in tweets, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. 

Why do prominent politicians continue to lie even when science contradicts them? While some are possibly not aware of research published about climate change or COVID-19, the reality is many do not care. 

Trump and many Republicans can ignore science because their messaging, at its core, is dependent on emotion, rather than reason. Trump won the presidency not by proposing carefully crafted policies, but by loudly calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” who are “bringing drugs [and] crime” into America, according to NBC News. Even though Trump had no statistical evidence for these claims, he did not need it – his goal was to evoke fear and hatred in Americans, rather than convince them of his arguments. 

Since credible science is usually very nuanced and esoteric, it can be frustratingly easy to attack it using disingenuous appeals to emotion. Because of this, conservatives continue to attack science emotionally, despite lacking a factual basis to do so. 

Though this opposition to science alone is certainly horrifying, as it has undermined our ability to respond to the greatest public health crisis of our time, we must take a step back. When a politician, a Fox News host or even a random person on Twitter expresses distaste against masks or advocates against the COVID-19 vaccine, they are denigrating not only science, but also the very concept of truth.

Misleading (and yes, occasionally lying) is an inevitable part of politics. However, at this scale, it is apocalyptic. If Americans cannot agree on what is happening in our country, we cannot decide what our problems are, and we cannot take steps to fix them. And that has been true for the past two years — whether it has been the election or COVID a faction of our country has lost touch with reality, and we are all suffering the repercussions.

Remember this whenever you see someone on social media spreading a political conspiracy theory or fake news. As citizens of a democracy, we have an obligation to call out lies wherever we may find them. Unfortunately, if we shirk from this responsibility, we may not be living in a democracy for much longer.