2020: The Year of Science

If a universal sentiment about 2020 coming to an end exists, for many it may be good riddance. This has been a painful year marked by staggering losses from an unforeseen pandemic and bitter divisions between families, friends, and neighbors on how best to live with it and which mitigating strategies work best. Our trust in science has eroded as various treatments, therapies, and preventatives were paraded before us every day by cable news networks and social media echo chambers that seemed to only serve to increase the height of the walls between us.

Ultimately, however, 2020 should be remembered as a year marked by one of the most incredible scientific successes in history: the development of multiple effective vaccines in less than one year.  The science behind these vaccines—known as messenger RNA technology—holds the promise of fundamentally changing the way we protect ourselves from future pandemics. This achievement will be equaled only by the logistical effort now underway to inoculate millions of Americans and start the process of returning our lives to normal. 

These mind-bending accomplishments make me stop in my tracks and ponder the awe-inspiring ability of science and scientists to solve some of the most vexing problems we face here in the United States and around the world. Pfizer, whose vaccine was the first approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), recently filed paperwork to trademark the phrase “Science will make the breakthrough,” and if successful, will use it in their ongoing “Science Will Win” campaign. I couldn’t have said it better.

Collision at the Intersection

The Center for Truth in Science focuses on issues at the intersection of science, justice, and the economy. The pandemic has highlighted a collision at this junction that highlights concerns over liability protections for businesses whose employees may contract the virus while at work, or that made decisions in response to the pandemic that potentially impacted employee health. Currently, Congress is debating these protections as part of various relief packages.

Last June, I shared a few thoughts on this situation in our post Covid-19, where science, justice, and the economy intersect. Key to this argument: “Scientific evidence, of course, will be at the heart of these cases. Attorneys will have to demonstrate that businesses acted negligently or ignored government-mandated guidelines that exposed workers and consumers to the virus. And, they will also have to demonstrate that the employee or customer contracted the virus while at work or patronizing the business. Meanwhile, state and federal legislators are debating proposals to provide employers some limited immunity or safe harbor from litigation that could put the final nail in the coffin of small businesses trying to work their way back from a government-mandated shutdown.”

The vaccine itself is likely to be a significant contributor to an economic recovery, but it appears that reasonable and rational protections against frivolous lawsuits that encourage small businesses to reopen their doors and rehire their workers should be a key provision of any proposal.

Most recently, the Center released a statement regarding concerns over exposure to per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and the efficacy of covid-19 vaccines. This is another glaring example of the importance of relying on science and not speculation.

Could your holiday celebration help prevent Alzheimer’s?

Finally, I want to conclude the last post of 2020 with perhaps the most uplifting scientific study of the year, one that shows that cheese and wine may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. The timing for the release of the study’s results is perfect—and probably not coincidental.  Take a look, you might want to put them to work at your holiday table.