Our Guiding Light

A few days ago, the White House press secretary said that Science shouldn’t stand in the way of re-opening schools. You get the impression that “science” is wrong to figure in our decision making. I disagree.

Rationalism is the idea that we should make decisions based on facts and using reason to get the best possible results from those facts. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, a crisis whose like we haven’t seen in the last hundred years.

We have a choice here. We can go with patent medicine cures, internet conspiracy theories and the wishful thinking of politicians whose devotion to economic continuity continues to amaze. Or we could look at the facts of the situation, that is, the science of pandemics and what experience we have of them.

We live in a conflicted society. While there are many who believe in facts and science, there are millions of Americans who long for authoritarian direction. They believe that optimism and hope placed in a strong man ruler can overcome the complexities of our age. Some hope in divine guidance from a current politician who they believe resembles a flawed “David” or a useful “Cyrus.”

However, for the moment although we may have to work to keep it, we live in a flawed democracy and the very idea of a government for and by the people is from the age of Enlightenment. An age in which the uses of reason and logic were exalted.

Just now, we are confronted with the decision whether or not to open our schools. There is great variation in how the virus is spreading geographically and how many resources can be employed in one school or another.

I realize that for some office holders in this nation, a full reopening of the schools would be advantageous. I don’t care.

We should protect our children as much as possible. Let us move forward as fellow Americans basing our decision on the facts at hand using human reason as our guide.

In the United States, we are confronted with many serious problems ranging from the current need to decide how schools should reopen to more long term difficult problems about policing and racism. Let us remember that we were once a revolutionary society that challenged the divine right of kings based on our belief in human judgment and self determination.

Let us place the guiding lights of reason and logic before us and move ahead with confidence that even if we err that we are making every effort to make the best decisions possible.

James Pilant