Things we ‘know’ that are not so
As I See It
It is astounding how many false “truths” people believe. A surprisingly large number of people deny the Holocaust and the Apollo manned moon landings, claiming that the recorded evidence and eye-witness reports were created in a studio. Many more are in denial of global warming, to which my next column will be dedicated.
For 1,500 years, common knowledge was that the earth was the center of the universe and the sun and planets all revolved around it. In 1543, Copernicus, a Polish astronomer, published his conclusion that all of the planets, including the earth, revolved around the sun. Because this disagreed with the belief of the Catholic Church, he was proclaimed a heretic. Astrology, an ancient pseudo-science, still has its adherents.
There are many superstitions that never go away: Bigfoot, or “Sasquatch,” in the Pacific Northwest, the abominable snowman in the high Himalayas and the Loch Ness monster in Scotland. It has been revealed that phony footprints in the snow and faked photographs have been made to perpetuate these myths, but they still have their believers.
More recent beliefs are “flying saucers” or UFOs, claimed to be either secretly created here on earth, or of extraterrestrial origin. These are more likely atmospheric phenomena or unexplained results of human activities. The enormous distances to even the nearest extrasolar planets (“exoplanets”), that have been detected (4.2 light-years), make it virtually impossible for there to be visitors from other worlds. Most of the exoplanets discovered so far are even farther away.
Modern science has created a variety of products, some harmful and some not. Pesticides have been sold as answers to a need, while the manufacturers concealed their harmful side effects. Most prominent was DDT, an insecticide promised to eliminate malaria by killing the mosquitoes that carry the parasite that causes malaria. Rachel Carson, who exposed the disastrous effect DDT was having on bird life, was castigated by the manufacturer until she proved her case and got DDT banned.
Similarly, CFC refrigerants and aerosols escaping into the air were found to be the cause of shrinkage of the ozone layer that protects life on earth from lethal cosmic radiation. The manufacturers claimed these warnings were a communist plot, but international action banning the production of CFCs resulted in a 50 percent recovery of the ozone layer in just 12 years.
Another case is GMOs, genetically modified organisms. For centuries, mankind has been engaged in genetic modification, improving both the productivity and nutritional value of food products such as corn, grains, fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry, saving millions of people from starvation. But after Monsanto genetically modified corn to be resistant to round-up (also made by Monsanto), its widespread use created an avenue for toxic contamination of the corn, and gave all GMOs a bad name.
An example of how an erroneous publication can obliterate the truth is the false claim of a link between inoculation and autism. There is no such link, and the author of the article had his license revoked. But millions of people still believe his false claim. Fluoride treatment to reduce tooth decay has its proponents and opponents, and the jury is still out on this one. Neither side will likely change its opinion, regardless of the decision.
The health insurance and pharmaceutical companies have brainwashed people and lobbied Congress with the false claim that universal health care (Medicare for all) would bankrupt the country. The United States has the highest per capita health care cost in the world, yet ranks 21st in its quality and availability. Health care in the U.S. costs twice what it does in Canada. The reasons for our high health care cost are bloated bureaucracies, huge stockholder dividends, high salaries and big bonuses for the executive staff, and tens of billions of dollars for lobbying Congress. These raise our health-care costs 30% compared to the less than 4% administration cost of Medicare.
Of course, universal health care would have to be paid for by everyone covered by it, just like Social Security. But consider the benefits: no more worry about a catastrophic illness or injury wiping out your savings and your ability to finance your children’s education, or even taking away your home or making you choose between your medical costs and paying for your everyday needs like food, utilities and auto expenses.
We are the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal health care. Their people can afford it — why can’t we?
Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. “As I See It” appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Economics may seem complex, but it’s actually common sense, which explains why politicians have difficulty considering the economic effects of their legislation.