By the time you read this, most likely you already will have forgotten this week’s snowocalypse, the big snowstorm that couldn’t. And wouldn’t. And didn’t.
It’s funny, our automatic assumption that if something sounds authoritative, it must be right. But guess what? That’s not necessarily so.
When objective science as we know it was newer, it all seemed so straightforward. Better living through chemistry! And it’s true, as far as it goes. We are healthier and live longer now that we’ve discovered penicillin. Headaches that could kill your spirit are vanquished by a simple aspirin. Wounds no longer fester. Jane Austen heroines could stay for days in near-strangers’ houses because they got caught in the rain, which could lead directly to death, but we have to find other responses to our romantic dilemmas.
But science, as Oscar Wilde said about truth, is rarely pure and never simple.
Medicine is science – but it also is art, if not mere craft, as you will discover if you are unlucky enough to develop a serious illness. There are many medications that we know work – but we haven’t the slightest idea why. (And please note that by “we” I mean scientists, not editorial writers. It’s a very expansive we.)
And so is weather forecasting, as it turns out. It’s not that the forecasters got it wrong, as they – and the snowed-in sufferers on Long Island or in Boston – can tell us. It’s just that there were more details to the forecast than they deigned to share with us – and the devil clearly was in those details.
So the governors of New Jersey and New York basically closed their states’ highways, and New York’s Andrew Cuomo shut down the city’s subways as well. All of that made sense. The blizzard of the century was possibly headed our way, and safe, we are told, is so much better than sorry.
But to go on about the blizzard of the century – well, whoops.
It’s funny to watch politicians wipe the egg off their faces. But the problem is that the next time they declare Snowmageddon, no one will take it seriously.