Simanaitis Says

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SCIENCE CONSISTS of following evidence in seeking truth. This succinct characterization comes from comments made by Rush Holt, in his editorial “Democracy’s Plight,” in Science, February 1, 2019.

Rush Holt, chief executive officer AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. Photo by Chet Susslin in Science, February 1, 2019.

“Observers,” Holt writes, “speak of ‘Truth Decay,’ dismissal of expertise, and neglect of evidence…. Democracy is at risk when it becomes simply a contest of fervently held opinions or values not grounded in evidence.”

The Wall. Although Holt cites no particular example, I offer the National Emergency of the Wall. There is plentiful evidence against this being anything resembling a national emergency.

For example, the Pew Research Center published “5 Facts About Illegal Immigration in the U.S.,” in November 28, 2018. In particular, the trend of illegal immigration is declining, not rising.

The three states in which unauthorized immigrant population rose from 2007 to 2016 were Louisiana, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

According to The Washington Post, June 25, 2018, “Most Immigrants Who Enter the Country Do So Legally, Federal Data Shows.” That is, illegality is often caused by overstaying visas, not by evading a border wall.

Yet, this evidence is ignored in a constitution-challenging executive branch usurpation of congressional powers.

Image from The Washington Post, June 25, 2018.

Holt’s Perception. “Democracy,” Holt writes, “requires a citizenry that is informed, as well as engaged. We must find an opening to reinforce among citizens a renewed appreciation for evidence.”

And he notes, “Approaching an understanding of the actual state of things is what science does well.”

Illustration by Davide Bonazzi/Salzman Art in Science, February 1, 2019.

Holt’s Suggestion. “In the United States,” Holt observes, “the public’s approval and trust in science are relatively strong compared with other institutions, a finding that had been observed in public surveys for decades…. This essence of science is to demand evidence at every turn and to discard ideas when they are shown not to comport with the evidence.”

“This thinking,” he says, “is not reserved solely for scientists, and one need not be an expert to demand evidence.”

Holt concludes, “… this enormously powerful way of thinking is available to all in their daily lives and their civic roles. A long shot? Perhaps. But it is the only opening I see to address democracy’s plight.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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