No matter the results of this election, one thing is clear: half of America has announced through its vote that it does not implicitly trust the public health experts. As both Donald Trump and Joe Biden made clear time and again, part of this election was a referendum on the pandemic and its management. Mr. Biden promised to listen to “the scientists,” while President Trump advocated the end to lockdowns, mandatory masks, and counselled America not to allow fear of the virus to end life as we have known it.
Now, as the future of our country and the result of the election hangs in the balance, mainstream media is already beginning to voice its horror at this inescapable truth of the election. Experts are bemoaning the rampant lack of “health intelligence,” “disbelief in science,” and “poor education” that has led our country to a point where half have voiced their rejection of public health measures. Clearly, they opine, much more must be done to educate and inform.
But this election was not a referendum between science and suspicion. Science and public health are not the same thing. Science, as any self-respecting scientist will confirm, consists of scientific hypotheses which are then tested and retested in order to establish theories. Note the difference between theories and facts: even gravity is, for the true scientist, a theory. It is a fact that things heavier than air tend to drop to the ground. That fact, and a series of related facts, constitute the theory of gravity. If other as-yet undiscovered facts come to light and disrupt that theory, the scientist would pursue the conflicting data to its logical end. Thus, the scientifically sound Ptolemaic model of the universe, confronted with facts which no longer support the theory, gave way to the Copernican model. The Copernican model could very well become outdated in a thousand years when some information that scientists do not yet have access to suggests a different explanation.