Reporter's Note: The Administration has been dealing with tough questions about the short supply of swine flu vaccine. But they’ve been dealing with something else too: A serious case of doubt among many Americans. I have no doubt my daily letter to the president could help.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
You might guess from my name, Thomas, that I am a doubting sort by nature and you would be right. I doubt that I’ll get much taller. I doubt that I will ever be called by a professional sports team to fill in when they run out of quarterbacks. I doubt that I will ever become a big fan of Dancing With the Stars. Not that I haven’t tried.
And I doubt science sometimes; when it makes shaky claims, when research is being paid for groups with too much vested interest in a slanted outcome, and when a scientist’s ideas run too fiercely counter to the body of knowledge built over many years by many others. (That last one is a little tricky for me, because I often believe that when “everyone knows” something it is probably not true, and I’ve always been a great admirer of pioneers who come up with something utterly new. Like Tupperware for instance.)
All of that being said, however, I’m having a little trouble understanding all the folks who doubt the science of the H1N1 vaccine. Their chief concerns seem to be that the vaccine was developed quickly, that the virus we are dealing with is a bit novel and unknown, and they just don’t feel comfortable having anything related to all that injected into their bodies. Fair enough. It’s a free country. Or at least mostly. The problem is, when we are dealing with a pandemic I think we have to ask ourselves what matters more: and individual’s rights or society’s well-being?
Oddly enough, in addressing this problem, I think you might find it helpful to consider this possibility: Maybe the doubt is not really about pure science at all. Maybe what has made people uneasy is the politicization of science. As conservatives and liberals alike have used science to prove their points over the years, I think science itself has been cheapened. The scientific and academic communities have too often sold out for fame, money, or to promote a certain political viewpoint, and we’re all suffering for that; because such behavior opens the door for deeper doubting of the integrity, honesty, and reliability of science.
So when something like swine flu comes along, there are a lot of folks already predisposed to say “vaccinate yourself…but count me out.” Vaccines have certainly had some problems over the years. But they have also saved millions and millions of lives. I think you should make both points clear, get the vaccine supply on track (where it should be anyway, but that’s another problem) and start encouraging all your political pals to respect science for what it is…an honorable quest for truth…and don’t just cherry pick the facts that back your case, whatever it is. That could help a lot of us with our doubts.
Hope all is well. Hey, the Saints are on MNF! Are you coming over? Let me know so I can be sure to have enough burgers…
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