There are things I never thought I would have to say or talk about. However, people seem to like it when I get personal, so I thought I would talk about my childhood yet again. When I was in school I seemed to enjoy science. It wasn’t my favorite subject. I think if you have read my blog for any period of time you would guess what my favorite subjects were.
However, I still remember vividly that the cheerleaders would change seats and sit behind me for some reason on test day. That was until I took Chemistry. I won’t reveal my teacher’s name because that would be rude, but she managed to suck any joy I may have had for science completely out of me. I got exactly two detentions during my high school career and she gave me one of them. It was for having my book wrapped incorrectly. That’s right. It wasn’t for not having it wrapped. It wasn’t for not having my book. It was for it being wrapped incorrectly. I could see the students of today saying, “tell me more about this book wrapping of which you speak.”
Shortly before Christmas we were taking a test. I wasn’t feeling well. In fact, I had already planned on going home early following the test. I could feel myself getting really sick, but she never let anyone go to the restroom. I didn’t make it through the test. I ended up throwing up on the test, myself, the girl in front of me, and anyone else within a five foot radius. I stayed home for two days (more out of embarrassment than anything else). As my wife said after hearing that story, “there went your chance of dating that girl in front of you.” As if I ever had a chance anyway.
Those stories are important for two reasons. First, they helped shape me as a teacher. That teacher’s nickname was “Satan”. Nobody liked her and that included the staff. When you are a teacher, you know who that teacher is on your campus. Everyone knows that teacher. The last thing I ever wanted to be was that teacher. No one wants to be responsible for students hating school or hating a subject. I could be called boring. I could be called hard. I could be called easy. I never wanted to be called cruel.
Secondly, science became my least favorite subject. I don’t like math either, but I have always been good at mental math and I have a fairly developed interest in statistics. So, we will have to call that good in terms of interest. Yet, even though I have little interest in science, I still think it’s important and something we should pay attention to.
If you are plugged into politics, you saw the president talking with some scientists in California. They were concerned about climate change and the effects it is having on the wild fires in California. They urged the president to pay more attention to climate science and to work with climate scientists to prevent more disasters from happening. He responded by saying it would get cooler eventually. Don’t worry.
It’s one thing to disagree about the implications of science. It is one thing to disagree that what we are noticing in science is something to change national policy about. It is another thing to deny science itself. “It will get cooler” is both dismissive and overwhelmingly stupid at the same time. It’s like the congressman that brought in a snowball to “prove” that global warming didn’t exist. When did this happen to us?
When we were kids, they told us that global warming would eventually destroy us. No, the world did not turn into a disaster movie, but I don’t know if people have been paying enough attention. We seemingly have wild fires all year around on the west coast. We have five tropical storms in the Atlantic ocean at the same time. In 1983, Hurricane Alicia (that’s an A meaning it was the first storm of the year) hit Galveston in September. It is September. if all of those storms reach tropical storm status we will be moving into the Greek alphabet.
Temperatures are getting hotter and hotter every year. Glaciers and ice caps are melting. The ozone layer has holes in it. These are all facts. We can certainly disagree on what policies we need to adopt to address these facts, but denying the facts won’t get us anywhere. Now, the sophistication of the denial depends on the relative intelligence of the person doing the denying.
The village idiot in chief says short quips like, “don’t worry, it will get cooler.” Others use the presence of snow as an example of the absence of global warming. Compelling. Others are a little more thoughtful. For instance, they point out that temperatures have only been routinely documented for a little more than 100 years, so how do we know about warming patterns over hundreds or thousands of years? Like I said, that’s a little more thoughtful, but ultimately the scientific community has reached a consensus. Global warming exists and we are involved.
I could wax poetic about the need for scientists and experts, but I will simply say this. One of the things that separates human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom is specialization. We each have become experts in something. Our society functions when we allow experts to use their expertise for our entire benefit. When we deny what those experts tell us or attend Facebook University to get our own “facts” then we threaten the very fabric of society.
Now, I can choose to listen or not listen to those experts. My doctor can tell me that sugar is bad for me and that I need to adhere to a certain diet. I can choose to ignore those warnings every now and then. I can choose to follow or not follow the advice of other experts in my life. However, I do that at my own peril. I also don’t deny their expertise. I don’t suggest that some kook in a Youtube video has got it right and hundreds of real scientists have gotten it wrong.
Yet, that seems to be a real theme in this election cycle. Wearing a mask and social distancing have become political issues. I don’t need to see a bumper sticker on your car to know who you are voting for. I just need to see if you are wearing a mask and social distancing. I listen for your opinions on vaccinations and flu shots. I listen for your opinion on whether global warming is a hoax. Obviously, this isn’t 100 percent full proof. Yet, increasingly the advice of doctors and scientists has become a political issue. When did we slip down this rabbit hole?