Perceivings by Alan Dean Foster

I consider myself a considerate person. Polite and controlled. Diplomatic in discussion, tactful in argument.

When debating current issues that affect us all it is a particularly useful way to respond, especially in a state awash in everything from derringers to small thermonuclear devices. Hey, everybody needs home protection. Most of us simply disagree on the degree.

I grew up in a family dominated by businessfolk. My parents were straight middle-class. Mom was a homemaker, Dad worked nine to five and brought home a paycheck. As far as I know there were no technologists in the lineage. No researchers, no scientists mad or even mildly dyspeptic. Far less were there any artists, musicians, or writers. Yet from as far back as I can remember (some might slyly say since time immemorial) I have always loved science. More than that, I have had the greatest respect for it and for what it has been able to achieve for the human species (when not developing more efficient ways for us to off our fellow man).


Now I find myself living in a time when science is not only characteristically important, but life-saving. Having royally screwed things up, as humans are wont to do on occasion, due to a small group of hungry folks deciding to chow down on bushmeat, we find the entire human herd under relentless assault by an enemy that does not listen to reason, does not care about our lives, loves, or desires, does not respond to threats, argument, persuasion, promises of riches, or being hit by a rock, is not fazed by knives, bullets, gas, rockets, or nuclear bombs. Well, maybe the latter, but you know what they say about the cure being worse than the disease.

I am speaking of our new companion, the coronavirus, Covid-19. It jumps from person to person, it makes young people sick and hits them with afflictions that may not materialize for years, it kills old people without mercy, and it slays even the fittest. Perhaps most insidious of all, it has a tendency to mutate. It even attacks politicians, which is maybe why something is getting done about it. It often seems we are helpless to fight back against an enemy we cannot see, taste, feel, or hear. We are weaponless. Almost.

We have science.

It is science that identified the threat. Science that tells us how to best defend ourselves against it, avoid it when possible, and hopefully fairly soon now, give us a vaccine to protect ourselves against it. To that end money is being spent and resources marshaled. This world-wide, species-wide project faces only one real stumbling block.


Or more properly, a disturbed minority of us. Because for some reason there are folks who do not believe in science. Science, not politicians or therapists, tells us the best ways to beat back the virus are to wear face masks when out and about or in a crowd, social distance six feet (not a hundred, not a thousand), and, god forbid, wash our hands frequently. As one commentator pointed out, our fathers and grandfathers were asked to storm the beaches at Normandy in the face of tank traps, barbed wire, concealed machine gun fire, and artillery bombardment.

Yet some people object to wearing a cloth mask?

Why? Because they believe in “individual freedom.” But this is not about individual freedom. You want individual freedom, go live in a cave or on an uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific. Failing that, you live in a society. As such, you have responsibilities to your fellow members of that society.

What is it with people who do not believe in science? Are these the same folks chatting with their friends on cellphones? Science. Do any of them watch satellite TV? Science. Drive a car? Fly in a plane? Flush a toilet? (All that stuff about hydrology and gravity, you know.) It’s all science. We live in a world that science has made. Science did not give us Covid, or AIDS, or ebola, or typhus, malaria, triptosomaiasis, cancer, or a whole farrago of diseases I probably can’t pronounce or spell. But science helps us fight back.

So when I see people dissing science by claiming to invoke individual freedom, or anti-vaxxers putting their own children at risk because of their “beliefs” (do they ever ask the children about this?), I shake my head in despair and wonderment. The lives of all of us, every day, are infused with science, yet there are still all too many who choose to ignore it. Not all of it. Just those aspects with which they personally disagree.

Okay, it’s a free country. But it’s a funny thing about science: you don’t get to pick and choose which bits you like and which you do not.

Prescott resident Alan Dean Foster is the author of 130 books. Follow him at

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