October 6th, 2020

Follow the Science

I believe common sense is a better indicator of what a leader should do, than science. Let me be clear, I follow the science. I am a political scientist and I live with a chemist/physician and have raised an IT professional, engineer and researcher. So I love science, but science is always changing because we learn things. The purpose of scientific discoveries is for them to be challenged. You know you have an important theory, when there are other scientists trying to repeat your experiment and either confirm or dispute your findings. That is how science works.


Here are two examples of where politicians said, “follow the science” and we would be shocked today. From 1896 until about 1950, Democratic party candidates with acquiescence by Republican party candidates ran on the platform across the country, not just in the South, that the consensus of scientists is the “negro is inferior to their White counterparts.” Sound familiar? And I mean the use of the term consensus. And in the 1972 to 1980 elections, Democratic candidates ran on the concept of “global cooling.” The scientists who came to these conclusions were not bad people, they were just working with the tools they had at the time. As time went on, other scientists tested their theories and in the two cases above, debunked them.


So today, as we are in the middle of fighting the once in a 100-year pandemic, I know three things. First, we need to redefine what it means to be a pandemic. If you look at how the CDC and the WHO have defined pandemics in the past 100 years, it does not seem to be consistent. Second, whether you are fighting Covid-19, the flu, pneumonia or any other respiratory disease up to and including the 200 variations on the common cold, washing your hands, keeping your distance and covering your face as needed, and staying home if you feel sick are smart policies to follow. Third, we are learning as we go and we must acknowledge what you said in January, February and March might be different that what you are saying now and that does not make you a liar.


Leaders have to take all this information in and then make the best decision for what they think is best for their constituents. If we discourage people from changing their minds because they learn something new, we are sunk.