History will view “trust the science” as the simpletons’ misused catchphrase of 2020. “Trust the science” or “follow the science” are rote responses to critics of broad shutdowns, shut-ins, and other policies that do more harm than good.
“Trust the science” should mean a lot of things, aside from debasing faith. Scientific discovery is a broad and constantly changing discipline involving all aspects of life and death. During the pandemic, “trust the science” has come to mean exclusive trust in those who view life through a microscope — experts on viral life and how it proliferates.
To genuinely “trust the science,” society must assess more than the findings of microbiology and virology. We must consider sociology, psychology, physiology, economics and more.
Scientists looking through microscopes do not see single parents facing more political dictates that say their jobs are nonessential. They do not see student diesel mechanics and welders who learn by doing, not by staring at computers. They do not see people who only found fellowship and belonging in their places of worship, work, learning and play.
We see posts on social media that feature our friends and acquaintances boasting of alcohol and pot consumption, trying to cope with their diminished lifestyles. Virtual happy hours and cocktail parties normalize drowning stresses and anxieties in wine, whiskey, beer and pot.
As of September, Nielsen’s market data revealed a surge of nearly 25% in alcohol sales outside of bars. Hard alcohol sales rose 28%.
The Journal of the American Medical Association — a peer-reviewed publication of science — finds a 10% average increase in alcohol consumption during the COVID crisis and a staggering 41% increase among women. That is a matter of social science outside the realm of the microscope.
Consider the fact most jobs deemed “nonessential” by governors — think restaurant wait staff — belong to women. Women disproportionately manage household finances, shopping, and children suffering the damaging effects of shuttered schools.
The Centers for Disease Control — if we are trusting science — reports record levels of drug overdoses during COVID. Overdoses have doubled in Colorado.
The CDC reports a 26.4% increase in COVID-era deaths involving cocaine and a 35% increase involving methamphetamine and psychostimulants.
“Measures taken at the national, state, and local level to address the COVID-19 pandemic may have unintended consequences for substance use and overdose,” the CDC reports.
Looking back years from now, we are likely to find crude efforts to stop the virus — measures that failed to consider a wide body of science — caused more harm than good. We smashed flies with a demolition ball and caused irreparable harm.
On this first Sunday of 2021, the third day of the “Dry January” tradition, we have decisions to make for ourselves when all the science and religion in the world cannot save us.
Just as millions overindulge alcohol and drugs, others prepare for better lives than they knew before the plague. All around us we see and read about investments in new businesses that cannot open until things get better — measured risks built on foundations of hope.
Families are learning to cook healthy meals. People walk neighborhoods in unprecedented numbers, in groups composed of relatives and friends. Sales of boats, fishing rods, climbing gear, and other outdoor accessories are setting records. That explains why Colorado Parks and Wildlife saw record-breaking use of state parks in 2020.
Science and religion combined will not save us. By learning from each, and thinking for ourselves, we can choose to flourish by building on hard times. Science calls it the will to survive.
The Gazette Editorial Board
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