An Epidemiological View of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election: COVID-19 and the Ethics of Science Denial
COVID-19 is exploiting U.S. political and cultural polarization in the first presidential election to be driven by epidemiology and public health. Medical science is on the ballot as Americans’ views on economic re-opening fracture according to party affiliation. The difference between pro aggressive versus incremental re-opening, mask wearing and social distancing is rooted in respect for, or denial of, the science of epidemiological pandemic disease control. Political leaders at multiple levels, and in particular the president, have politicized the wearing of face masks and so intentionally obscured and misinformed the public regarding the objectively and scientifically proven value of these protective measures. The presidential election rests at a fundamental level upon an individual choice of whether to accept or “believe” value-neutral, evidence-based science or an unethical decision to be swayed by political disinformation. The persistent and highly dysfunctional political and cultural polarization of the U.S. is now enabling and reinforcing the ethics of science denial, while driving the nation’s public health fate and near- to medium-term economic outcomes. However, mask wearing, social distance and sheltering are not political expressions, and the right to freedom of expression does not include behaviors that produce or could produce serious, and in the case of this pandemic, deadly impact on other citizens. One does not have the right to forms of political or other expression that kill or make ill other individuals.
Recommended CitationGellert, G. A. (2020). An Epidemiological View of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election: COVID-19 and the Ethics of Science Denial. Journal of Health Ethics, 16(3). http://dx.doi.org/10.18785/ojhe.1603.03
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