Back in the old days, before the 2008 election, there was a lot of talk from the Left about the need for a science-based approach to governance. The basic sentiment was that it was inconceivable a modern, powerful nation such as ours could or should ignore ‘facts’ that were utterly intuitive. This line of thinking has prevailed and we are now about to embark on a second term of the ‘science president’. Yippee.
The problem so far has been his inability to actually understand science and scientific evidence. It’s almost as though he’s never studied science. For all we know he hasn’t.
One of the first glimpses we had at this comprehension gap came early during that first campaign in a discussion of tax rates vs. revenue. Confronted with the information that studies have shown an increase in marginal rates has historically produced lower revenue to the government he replied he’d heard such a thing somewhere but it didn’t sound fair and therefore taxes needed to be raised on ‘the rich’. If the purpose of taxes is to raise money for government, he failed to get the point. If the purpose of taxes is to promote ‘fairness’ without regard to the welfare of government, he missed the point again. A fact counterintuitive to a held belief is, apparently, not a true fact in his mind.
Next came the global warming conversation. The thinking here is that temperatures seem to be rising, (though we’ve only been keeping records for a very brief period of time, geologically speaking), we are putting a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels, CO2 causes a greenhouse effect, so CO2 must be the problem, trapping heat in the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise, ice to melt, and, eventually, entire continents lost to massive floods. Therefore we need to ban fossil fuels.
Maybe some of this is true. Maybe not. In either case there is no recognition by the president of the fact that over the course of earth’s history temperatures have risen and fallen dramatically, all without the aid of humans. If CO2 is the culprit perhaps we should do something about those pesky volcanoes in Hawaii and Iceland. Or we could develop low-roughage diets for cattle and the people of densely populated countries. After all, it’s not just the cars and electrical plants contributing to the greenhouse gasses. And if it’s just the weather, and not cataclysmic climate change, oh well, never mind, solar is better anyhow. It just is.
Now the battle is over guns. The intuitive logic is that people use guns to shoot other people, therefore we need to take their guns away. The counterintuitive reality is that Switzerland is a gun-toting country, much like our own, but its rate of gun homicides is a fraction of ours. Australia recently enacted gun control legislation and the incidence of gun-related violence and deaths is going up. Once again the president isn’t going to let facts get in the way. Guns are bad. They just are.
The one area in which science has a distinct role is medicine, so maybe we should look at that for a minute. Specifically, psychiatry. More specifically, schizophrenia and the schizo-affective disorders. By definition this is a disease complex that, when uncontrolled, renders its victims incapable of rational thought, making them a danger to themselves and others. People suffering from schizophrenia and not taking medications to control the disease’s symptoms are prone to gross emotional lability, from euphoria to suicidal depression. Or, they may suffer from auditory and/or visual hallucinations.
Such people will have difficulty holding a job, maintaining a residence. They could become homeless. Such people could, due to a disordered thought mechanism, find a gun and start shooting. In fact, this is exactly what has been happening.
Generally speaking, sane people do not walk into a theater or schoolroom armed to the teeth and start spraying bullets all over the place. In recent history that has been the work of the delusional, the deranged, the ‘mentally ill’. The sort of person who, had he been properly diagnosed and treated, would likely never have considered doing such a vile thing.
Homelessness is a similar issue. Admittedly, among the homeless population you will find some who are homeless due to purely financial reasons. They are sane, they are capable of working, but for whatever reason things have gone badly and they are for the time being on the streets. These unfortunate people do not represent the majority.
Most homeless people, at least most of those in the urban environment, are incapable of maintaining a job or a residence due to their underlying schizophrenia. There is no law requiring them to seek medical care or take their medications. They may be found lying in the bushes somewhere and taken to a local emergency room at the request of a concerned passer-by, but once there they are free to leave. They cannot be forced to take psychoactive medication. They are free to be a crazy as they want, as long as they do not admit to having thoughts of harming themselves or someone else.
In that case they will get a formal psychiatric evaluation and could be placed on an involuntary hold for a few days. Sooner or later they will be declared ‘stabilized’ and will be released, possibly to a shelter, from which they can elope whenever they feel the need to once again return to the streets.
It’s absurd, but true. The science president, and those who elected him, claim to be deeply concerned about the environment and the human condition. So much so that they will sacrifice our money, our cars, and our guns to save us from ourselves. That there is no good evidence that any of that will work is not a deterrent. That there is good evidence showing that doing so will give results opposite of those desired is likewise not compelling. Certain things are bad and we must get rid of them. They just are.
So we have a war against the rich, a war against fossil fuels, and a war against guns, when the only war that would make any sense at all would be a war against mental illness. Imagine, no more decompensated schizophrenics shooting up the place, an eighty percent or so drop in the homeless population. But that would involve applying real science to a real problem. It would require the ability to embrace counterintuitive ideas. Unfortunately, the science president doesn’t seem to possess either skill.