Science: Sanity's Home Field Advantage

  • by: Peter Pitts |
  • 07/21/2023
As with many Baby Boomers, my dad served in the European Theater of Operations during WWII. He told me many times how, just as he was going to be shipped to the Pacific to participate in the invasion of Japan, the atomic bomb ended the war and, in his opinion, saved his life. It’s not a unique story but, as we all know, it’s not so straightforward either. In any case, it’s a tale of science and the wonders … and horrors it can cause simultaneously.

It's also a story of the urgency of dealing with science openly, honestly, and in terms people can understand. That’s why the story of the early days of atomic energy are so relevant today as we battle misinformation and disinformation on science in general and vaccines in particular.

And it’s why I’m extra-proud the New York Times chose to publish my letter in today’s edition. I think that considering science as our “home field advantage” is a far more powerful and positive approach to addressing the public’s diminishing trust in the FDA and the industries it regulates than “battling” people like RFK, Jr. Let’s fight on our own turf.

Here’s my short letter. I hope you enjoy it and hope (even more so) that somewhere my father is smiling.

Oppenheimer’s Lessons on Politics and Science

To the Editor:

Whether it’s harsh truths about atomic power or the merits of vaccines against Covid-19, influenza and childhood illnesses, it’s science — regularly, honestly and clearly explained — that is sanity’s ultimate home-field advantage.

Peter J. Pitts
New York
The writer, a former F.D.A. associate commissioner, is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a visiting professor at the University of Paris School of Medicine.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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