In the “Choosing politics” opinion piece published on March 29, the author calls attention to a common mistake many of us make. Sometimes we misattribute a rejection of science to fundamentally different political beliefs. An article in the journal Science, “Was ‘science’ on the ballot?” covers this topic in detail. In short, when we see people acting as if they reject scientific fact, they often accept the science but have a different judgment call on values. One example is masks — many people accept the truth that masks prevent the spread of COVID (which they do) but reject that they should have to wear them over concerns about personal liberty.
I do not aim to defend this way of thinking in any way. Taking a moment to step back, however, and carefully understand why people are making these choices helps us to address the public health issue at hand.
Unfortunately, the author of “Choosing politics” seems to have reduced this complex topic down to the simple idea that partying during the COVID-19 pandemic is ok. While they are correct that science does not technically provide an answer on whether partying during COVID is ok, it does tell us that it will increase the spread of COVID and cause unnecessary harm to others. We then have to ask ourselves, is that an acceptable decision to make? The author claims that, “Moralizing campus discourse forecloses reconciling our differences of opinion.” Unfortunately, whether to party during COVID is itself a moral question. Trotting out the stock argument, claiming that your critics are applying ridiculously high moral standards and have no right to “judge,” makes no meaningful contribution to the discussion and serves only to delegitimize an opposing viewpoint without reason.
I fundamentally disagree with the position that putting others at risk is ok. Mental health is incredibly important, but alternative activities exist that can fill a need for socialization without harming others. With COVID cases on the rise in Connecticut and highly transmissible variants making their way into our community, I hope that more people make a judgment call that protects others’ safety.
PATRICK BUCKLEY is a second-year doctoral student in the Microbial Pathogenesis Department. Contact him at email@example.com.