I was never particularly good in science classes. I muddled through and faked it enough to make more than passable grades but I had little interest in any of it. Still, I suppose I have always been in awe of those individuals who unlock the secrets of how things work, particularly when it comes to practical aspects of living. I was one of those little kids whose Mama was fearful that I might contract polio until Dr. Salk created his vaccine which I dutifully took as a six year old. I’ve spent hours struggling to compose a paper on an old school typewriter where one wrong stroke of a key meant either starting over or blemishing the appearance of my presentation with a white splotch of correction fluid. Now I can edit entire paragraphs in the blink of an eye and nobody is aware of the mistakes that I made. Science has enhanced our lives in more ways than we might ever enumerate.
I suppose that as I have moved ever closer into the winter years of my life I have better and better understood my grandfather’s optimism about the future. Until the day he died he marveled at the wonders concocted in the human mind. As he always noted he had witnessed the advent of the light bulb, the automobile, the airplane, movies, television, and space travel in his lifetime. This was thrilling for someone like him who as a boy had lived in a home without glass on the windows, refrigeration for the food or heat from any source other than a wooden stove. He scoffed at those who longed for the good old days and was particularly insistent that scientific progress was the hallmark of human ingenuity.
I suppose that in between the influence of my father’s collection of books and my grandfather’s optimistic support of science I have always held a fascination and respect for those who toil away in the world of experimentation and discovery even when I did not always fully understand what they were doing. Over time I actually came to enjoy learning about how things work, especially with regard to our human bodies and ways of keeping them healthy. I take great pride in living in a city filled with dedicated individuals who are changing the universe in space and medicine and the environment. Many of them are members of my own family or among my circle of friends.
As we host a multitude of difficulties that almost seem insurmountable at this juncture in our history I find great solace in our scientific communities. Covid-19 began with more questions than answers and so at first it appeared that we were at a loss for how to deal with it. In typical scientific fashion the initial precautionary warning was to be exceedingly careful while more information was compiled and analyzed. Over time our doctors and researchers were able to share a mountain of data and in carefully noting trends they realized that certain very basic behaviors had the positive effect of lessening, if not totally eliminating, the dangers of becoming infected with the virus. At the same time they began to realize the efficacy of certain treatments that appeared to be effective in reducing the number of deaths. Meanwhile never in the history of the world have so many experts been working to potentially find a vaccine for Covid-19.
Because of the dedicated efforts of science the horrors of Covid-19 have been more and more mitigated than in the beginning of the pandemic. This is not because the virus is going away or because treatments are cures or even because of her immunity, but because the scientific method has demonstrated what appears to be working and what is not. The population of the world that is following the science is complicit in helping even those foolish enough to ignore it. I can only imagine how much safer we would all be in going about our daily routines if everyone were to follow the guidelines of our scientific community.
I have listened to doctors and researchers and all of them agree that we do not have to wait for a vaccine to be safe. In fact they are uncertain if and when one will be available on a scale grand enough to protect the entire population. They point out that the virus may be with us for years to come and that a vaccine may have to be given annually as with the flu. It may also be that in spite of efforts, just as with HIV, there may never be a single inoculation that prevents it. What they do know is that masks are doing the most important work right now and we need to become accustomed to wearing them whenever we are outside of our own households. They are also finding more and more promising treatments that make them believe that one day anyone who tests positive for the virus may be given prescriptions that will help to reduce the incidence of horrific and deadly symptoms. There is hopefulness from the scientists but that hope is predicated on cooperation from the majority of people.
Just as with climate change, space travel and technology those of us who are barely literate in science should listen to those who have dedicated their lives to learning about how things work in the physical and sometimes invisible world. If the pipes in our home are leaking we call a plumber and stand back while he/she repairs the break. Why do we think we can do without the expertise of our scientists? What do we know about viruses and treating them that would make any of us better equipped to make important decisions about public health? Following science does not mean ruining the economy. On the contrary, it is the most likely pathway to a faster return to normalcy. Watch, listen and learn from the experts. They have no agenda other than keeping us all well. Science, not politics is the route to a better future.