As we face a long and difficult winter with Covid-19 infections ripping through the country, the prospect of effective vaccines has provided a much-needed glimmer of hope. As the weight of the exploding pandemic has worsened, it is both important and instructive to step back and recognize the scale of scientific achievement that has brought us vaccines within the very same year that the virus emerged. The benefits to humanity, lives saved, suffering averted and economic value of the vaccines cannot be understated and were brought to us by the scientists. Sure, the manufacturing facilities, logistic support of distribution and funding are all important to maximizing the benefits of this achievement, but without world class scientists to solve the puzzle our dire situation would be so much worse.
Science is providing the magic bullet that brings this pandemic to a close in the foreseeable future, allowing a restoration of life as something like what we once knew. Given this, isn’t it time to recommit ourselves to science as a tool to solve our other existential survival problems? Our Covid-19 experience has shown that science can provide answers to big and complex questions. What we do with those answers is the domain of policy makers, but policy makers need tools to make good decisions. Basic science, by improving our understanding of how the world works, provides the basis and underpinnings of good policy. Rather than turning our backs on science, now more than ever, we should invest in scientific research and educate ourselves at all levels about basic science, so that science can help us survive as a species. Science and technology offer the prospect of helping us solve climate change, feed a growing population without sacrificing air and water quality, reuse and recover waste products that are now despoiling our environment, and improve and extend lives through the development of therapies that cure currently terminal illnesses.
Now is the time to embrace scientific discovery while the world gains the immediate benefit of the Covid-19 vaccinations. Failing to do so puts our environment and our collective futures at needless and unnecessary risk.
In the meantime, wear your mask and get your vaccine as soon as you are able.