Opinion: What part does science play in voting for our next president?

Regardless of political leanings, consider the science in November.

  • Wednesday, October 14, 2020 6:30am
  • Opinion

By Nils Dihle

As the November election approaches we are bombarded from different sources trying to influence us on how to vote. These sources have differing political ideologies depending on how conservative or liberal they may be. These ideologies influence the amount of spin put to “facts,” how information is presented and what is discussed or ignored. So, we absorb this information with a “grain of salt” and then consider the source. The farther left or right the source leans, the more conservative or liberal the source tends to be, the more likely we are willing to agree, disagree or file the information away for possible future consideration. This choice of ours, of course, is determined in large part on where we as individuals fall along the political spectrum. This is normal. Some of us identify as Republicans, some as Democrats or some — like me — have not declared a party affiliation. We expect these differences in a democracy and we expect different sources with different agendas will try to influence us on how and who to vote for. This is especially true during a presidential election. This is politics and is not necessarily all bad. We listen, consider the source and then decide according to our beliefs.

This is why I was surprised when two well-respected, established and strictly nonpartisan journals that are science and data based came out with scathing editorials denouncing one of our presidential candidates. These editorials were not based on party lines, were not based on leaning left or right nor were they coming from views associated with conservative or liberal ideologies. They are based on science and data.

The first can be found in the “New England Journal of Medicine” published in early October 2020. This publication is considered the world’s most prestigious medical journal. It is 208 years old. It has never endorsed or condemned a political candidate in all those years. It prides itself on being nonpartisan. All 24 of its editors signed on to the article. This has only happened four other times in all 208 years of existence and those were other editorials relating to medical-type issues. This editorial pointed out that the Trump-led administration rejected science and medical advice by, “Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uniformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.”

The article goes on in clear terms pointing out excessive pandemic-related deaths and other Trump-led administrative failures but can be summed up with one more quote: Speaking of the Trump led administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, “they have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.” While not openly endorsing Joe Biden, the article makes it clear that Donald Trump should no longer lead as president.

The second editorial is in the October 2020 issue of “Scientific American” magazine. The first paragraph starts out emphasizing that in its 175 years of existence the publication has never endorsed a presidential candidate. The next paragraph starts out with this statement, “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science.”

In support of this statement the article points out how science and experts have been downplayed or ignored by the the current administration when dealing with their response to the pandemic, with health rules from the Environmental Protection Agency that are endangering the health of people from pollution, with handling (or even acknowledging the existence) of climate change with associated environmental and economic damage and a number of other mishandled areas. The editors then go on to outline some of Joe Biden’s stated plans and approaches to governing that include the important role nonpartisan science, experts and data should have in top-level decision making that effects us, our country and our world. The article ends with this quote, “It’s time to move Trump out and elect Biden, who has a record of following the data and being guided by science.”

Regardless of your political leanings, if you think science should play an important part in a president’s decision making process I hope the above will give you pause for thought in deciding how you vote in November.

Nils Dihle has lived in Juneau with our growing family since 1975. Dihle is a retired teacher and counselor and does not have a political party membership. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a letter to the editor or My Turn .

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