“Suddenly, experts matter,” says Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, the brain trust for the government Abraham Lincoln established 157 years ago.
“People realize, when the chips are down and everything is on the line and you can be the next person in the hospital bed, it’s the experts that you want to listen to and the experts you wish you had listened to all along,” McNutt says.
Scientists know this is no time to gloat and they obviously didn’t want this to happen. But those whose warnings of pandemics and other disasters, particularly involving climate change, have gone unheeded see a “told-you-so type of moment” unfolding. As Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe puts it, “Every disaster movie starts with a scientist being ignored.”
“Americans have been subject to a lifetime of anti-scientific, anti-expertise, and anti-government propaganda. I’m not surprised at all that many of us choose to believe the propagandists instead of the scientists,” says science historian Erik Conway, co-author of the book “Merchants of Doubt.”