My Facebook status from Sept. 22, 2013 was a little sarcastic. A bit.

“I am not convinced that a diet rich in fried foods, sugary baked goods and soda, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, will lead to weight gain and health problems. I believe that until such things have been proved by industry experts, not just “academics,” there is no reason to take action. Any changes in my body that may occur are likely just natural fluctuations or perhaps things that were going to happen anyway. Besides, parts of me —  such as my hair — may get thinner. So even if my body changes, some areas will be better. And the academics are all warning us about diet and exercise for their own profit. The industry research is much more trustworthy. So why inhibit the growth of these industries and parts of my body when we really don’t know anything?”

Hopefully, you get the point. We’re in denial. We see how science starts with a hypothesis and adjusts as more data come in, and we translate that to “they don’t know anything,” using that as an excuse to ignore the conclusions even as they get stronger.

We’ve been in denial about climate change for generations. Humankind’s role in global warming is controversial — except among those who actually study climate. Even big businesses like automakers are going greener while the government harrumphs and laughs at scientists. When Ford unleashes an electric pickup truck, you know times have changed.

And we’ve been in denial about COVID-19. Donald Trump, who reorganized (to use a polite euphemism at the behest of picayune fact-checkers) the country’s pandemic preparedness team, spread false information on everything from miracle cures to how seriously the virus can affect its unwilling hosts. CDC guidance was published against scientists’ objections. At the local level, presenting the facts on how to deal with COVID can cost you your job as a health officer. In my home state of Virginia, a Republican governor — not even one who embraces Trump — fought to tell local school districts and their health officials whether they could have mask mandates.

Trump also rolled back a lot of environmental regulations, even though there’s considerable evidence that such regulation can succeed. Case in point: the ozone layer. Or the Mississippi River. (If you like, I’ll dig up a paper from grad school about cleaning up another river. No? You sure? OK.)

Among the effects: We’re killing our pollinators. A lot of us like food. The good news is that we’ve found we can bring the bees back if we really try.

But what can you expect from people who treat everything they don’t understand as something created by a demonic sorcerer?

Hence my Facebook message from four days later: “Off to do some yoga before it’s banned in Virginia as witchcraft.”

I’m not sure I was kidding.





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