Don Rogers: Who owns ‘the science’ anyway?
They’re having none of it. That thick braid of results in common from the best science? The strict consistency in methodology, accuracy of measurement, studies conducted to proper standard and replicable? All the care taken?
No, the authorities be damned. The science of the agencies and universities, all their work, the official data, the research — all corrupt! Has to be.
The data doesn’t comport with their gut, contains the wrong implications, contributes to decisions that just can’t be right.
There must be other conclusions. Oh look, there are. Alternative science, which just happens to fit an ideology, a worldview, their politics.
Therefore — there is a logic to this — the apparent fringes hold the better answers, or at least more satisfying, what must be the real true truth, surely.
Other factors trip up the mainstream, all those liars. Yeah, liars one and all. That’s right. And who is to say which is the weaker, more flawed science anyway? Outliers have proven true in the end plenty of times.
Legitimate science may have built thriving civilizations, extended human lifetimes, made the species healthy and wealthy and to an infinitely greater degree than ever, safe.
But it’s all gone wrong now. Why? Well, see for yourself. Here, check out this data (it’s from the internet or a neighbor who heard something from a friend of a friend who might be a doctor or PhD or something). What are you, some kind of sheep? You actually believe the establishment?
They only want to control you, you know. Sell the masses out, enrich an evil elite. Their science has been faked. Why else would it not show what by all rights it should be showing?
You’d be excused for thinking I’m talking about the pandemic and our anti-mask, anti-vax neighbors. But I’m not. This is about the mine.
COOL VOICE OF SCIENCE
Staunch opponents of the bid to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine may have a harder case than they think relying on “the science.”
They might as well be anti-vaxxers claiming massive water pollution, for instance. The standard for water discharge the mine will have to pass in order to operate is … potable. The volume of discharge in Wolf Creek may sound impressive to a lay person, but is far less so in the context of watershed dynamics. The water is not that much of an issue in reality.
The crucial study assessing environmental risks — the Draft Environmental Impact Report, all 1,070 pages — provides a cool, perhaps dull evaluation of the proposal to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine with today’s techniques and to today’s standards.
Critics will find holes and weaknesses in the plan, as they should. There are real concerns to think through and for the county supervisors to consider before making their big decision, maybe the biggest this body will make in a century.
I have confidence in the skeptics and even some advocates who will examine this and other documents with great care and tease out actual issues. I just hope their thoughtful feedback is not drowned in a torrent of inaccurate claims from those who won’t bother studying anything but somehow just know anyway. Listen to them holler. Ignorance can be deafening. There’s an old lawyer’s saw about arguing when the facts are not on your side or you don’t have command of them.
The water, the air, the soil and bedrock all test out favorably to county, state, federal regulation with the measures the mine would have to take. The noise from deep underground would be too slight to disturb sensitive instruments at the hospital directly above. There would indeed be more traffic around the mine, and construction of the surface infrastructure would be loud, too. This is what the study has found.
As for the wild-eyed emotional claims we’ve heard and read these past few years, well, they’re pretty much baloney. That is, if you follow the science.
BY THE SWORD
This discussion fascinates me from the standpoint of people who — a bit smugly, I think — pride themselves on following “the science.”
That’s pretty easy when you just happen to agree with outcomes and actions. But what about when the science doesn’t go your way? Here’s the real test. The sword.
Actual science doesn’t have an ideology or core value aside from quality of measurement. Actual science is a discipline, a method, a means of thinking more objectively about reality. It’s not a slogan, shouted.
The loudest opponents making the wildest claims most unhinged from the data, the regulatory standards — the actual science — tend also to be the folks most appalled at the same sort of thinking that prevents, say, a loud minority from quite understanding how the pandemic would be a lot worse without the vaccines and a lot better if everyone got their shots.
You might conclude by now that I support the mine reopening. But that would be wrong, too.
There’s plenty left to question and the county supervisors to consider. Some has to do with scientific questions, but more so in the risk analysis, quality of monitoring, ownership’s background, community values today.
Ultimately, this will be a political decision, and perhaps mob outcry will carry the day. Fine, but then, that wouldn’t be anything close to following the science. Let’s at least be honest about that.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299
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