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It’s enough to make you sick. In a country where almost 5 billion prescriptions are filled each year, where 33 million people take an aspirin a day to keep pain away, where 3.6 million babies are delivered in 6,000 hospitals, a significant percentage of Americans don’ trust science, and particularly medical science.
A recent Pew Charitable Trust poll found, “Overall, 29 percent of U.S. adults say they have a great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the best interests of the public, down from 40 percent who said this in November 2020. Similarly, the share with a great deal of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interests is down by 10 percentage points (from 39 percent to 29).”
You probably don’t think of aspirin and democracy having something in common. I do, Here’s why. With every pill swallowed, we should be able to trust that a scientist in a sterile lab worked with the prime purpose of relieving pain. Similarly, when we vote, we expect those elected will work to make our lives better, if not pain free. We are right on scientists, less so on some political leaders.
We have always had skeptics about science, but that lack of trust has increased in recent years. Part of that came from COVID and much was inspired by those who sought political gain from inflating fears. The percentage of Republicans who have little trust in science is about double Democrats’ skepticism.
Another recent poll found that only 36 percent of us had "a lot" of trust that information we get from scientists is accurate and reliable. About 51 percent said they trust only a little (what does that mean?), and another 6 percent said they don't trust scientists at all. Part of the Republican Party — from Donald Trump to Congressman Jim Jordan — owns the franchise for fearmongering
Republicans were most likely to say that they have only a little bit of trust in scientists to give accurate and reliable information, and are the most likely to say they think scientific findings may be tainted by political ideology.
We should probably ask Rep. Jordan of Ohio, a very extreme, beyond conservative, Republican. Jordan, Trump echo and bull horn, has spent a lot of time prattling about the virus being deliberately spread from a laboratory in China. He says if Republicans take control of the House, he would demand an “investigation” of the doctor who has served this country for almost 40 years with international acclaim. In earlier testimony, Dr. Anthony Fauci asked, "What happens when (Sen. Rand Paul) gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there, and I have threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children, with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me.”
As bad as that is, the harm is beyond Fauci. With Jordan’s incessant help, a lot of people think medical science is not to be trusted. They believe scientists manipulate experiments to prove whatever they want. That, of course, is nonsense.
Jordan needs a tranquilizer and truth pill as soon as one is developed, even in a Chinese lab.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary.