Stop what you're doing and pay attention to this immediately. If you don't already know, there's this chemical called dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO), and it is a very dangerous chemical and yet it is put in our food and drinks and deliberately sprayed onto organic crops. This chemical corrodes metals, causes tissue damage and burns, causes death by inhalation, causes electrical short circuits, causes soil erosion, and causes widespread disaster and destruction. Despite calls for the government to ban this chemical, the chemical is still being used. It's even in baby food. Baby food! Why is a chemical found in bleach and tumours being put in baby food?
Have I got your attention? Good, because you can calm down now. DHMO is water. No, really. That's what it is. Good old water. You see, water is a chemical, and its chemical name is dihydrogen monoxide. You probably know it as H2O (the two is supposed to be a subscript), which is its chemical formula. It also goes by the name hydroxyl acid. You probably already are familiar with all of this, in which case, congratulations, or you probably aren't, in which case, now you are.
The dihydrogen monoxide parody
In April 1983, for Fools Day, a weekly newspaper in Michigan reported that dihydrogen monoxide had been found in the city's water pipes and proceeded to list alarming effects of the chemical, e.g. it is fatal if inhaled, which we all know because people aren't fish; we can't breathe in water. But people didn't get it at the time that they were referring to water. In 1990, the parody made it's first appearance on the internet following a coalition by a parody organisation at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to ban dihydrogen monoxide. In 1997, a 14-year old by the name Nathan Zohner gathered petitions to ban DHMO for a class project he dubbed 'How Gullible Are We?'. Since then, campaigns have been going on in different parts of the world to ban this highly dangerous chemical. And people still fall for it. Why? Because science illiteracy is a huge problem the world over.
Fun story - I met this person who ran an Instagram account based on the fact that they were vegan and they would keep telling people that vegans don't need to adhere to the rules of sanitation because vegans can't get salmonella, cholera, tapeworms, roundworms, and all those other contamination diseases because those are all spread by worms and all worms live in and eat meat. I made the mistake of trying to save the lives of the vegans who followed that account, big mistake. There really are vegans out there who think that sanitation does not apply to them! I was shocked. Some other vegans tried to step in too, but that dude could not hear it. He went off on that trajectory of, "You're all bought by the man! You don't even know! Stay woke!" Food and water contamination meant nothing to this person; he was vegan, he was protected by the power of vegan magic! This, and a whole lot of other stories I could tell you, is why science literacy is important. But what is science literacy?
The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) defines science literacy as "The ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen." The U.S Centre for Education and Statistics states that scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. In short, science is everywhere, and you need to understand the basics of it. Not just to be considered 'literate', but to be able to make informed decisions about your life as well as to be able to participate in an informed way in your civic and cultural duties. Healthcare = science. Climate change = science. Food = science. Economy = science. I could go on and on, but you get the point. You can't escape science. If people can be fooled by something as simple as dihydrogen monoxide, imagine what else out there they can be fooled by.
Now, now, this isn't necessarily the general population's fault. Our education systems should be able to impart to us the tools and knowledge to be science literate, but that's not what's happening here, and a lot of people have talked about this over and over again. Education reforms are necessary in many places. You know things are going horribly when Neil deGrasse Tyson, a renown astrophysicist, has to step in on a Twitter row with a flat-earther. Things are getting out of hand. Instead of moving forwards, we're moving backwards. That really isn't a pleasant thought. But most importantly is where the dissension is coming from: a fear of government control.
People all over the world are increasingly viewing governments with suspicion so anything that comes from or seems to come from the government won't be trusted. But it's the government's mandate to provide healthcare and education and to ensure that the citizens have adequate food and water and that they have jobs... so science literacy is trapped in the middle of it all. People will still believe all of these things that are not scientifically accurate because they take comfort in them somehow, and because they see them as less suspicious. People are desperately trying to 'stay woke' and that doesn't go all too well at times. Some, like the anti-vaccine movement, have had fatal consequences. But that doesn't mean we should give up. Science literacy is important. Without knowledge, you cannot succeed.
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