Value(s) of Science


Tragic. That is the only word I can use to describe the Haiti earthquake. In the picture above, a thirteen year old girl is trapped under rubble. The people lack heavy equipment to free her and argue how to move the rubble out of the way without a giant slab crushing her. Anderson Cooper shows the terrifying results of an earthquake hitting an area without proper safety measures. Jean-Max Bellerive, the Haitian Prime Minister reports a 316,000 death toll for the 7.0 earthquake. “The Really Big One” reports that the 9.0 earthquake in Tohoku, Japan killed over 18,000 people… Wait, what? Only 18,000? Why did a 7.0 earthquake kill a whopping 316k people and the earthquake that is 100x larger only killed 6% of that amount. The answer is simple, science. Both Cooper and Schulz show the importance of scientific research protecting humans.


Let’s return to the trapped girl. As the picture shows, there is no professional emergency rescue party for her only average men in overalls. There is no coordination. There was no earthquake resistant architecture. There was no warning system. Cooper prefaces the video by emphasizing the poverty of Haiti, being the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and immediately follows up with the devastating results of hundreds and thousands of people dying and losing their homes. This choice intentionally relates poverty to vulnerability. CNN uses frightening images and verbal information of the situation to engage the viewer that ultimately convince the viewer that earthquake safety measures are essential. Schulz does the same.


This image illustrates the point that Oregon is not prepared for a strong earthquake. Schulz’s argument parallels the image with data. “The Really Big One” moves the reader emotionally similar to the CNN broadcast, but must use statistics that meshes well with its written medium such as the facts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“FEMA calculates that, across the region [of Oregon], something on the order of a million buildings—more than three thousand of them schools—will collapse or be compromised in the earthquake.”

By emphasizing that more than three thousand of the buildings are schools, she supports her argument by evoking empathy. She knows that the general public upholding children as sweet, innocent, and the light of our future. If an earthquake were to hit, thousands of innocent children would be at risk of the school collapsing on them. The irony of a place of developing children could become their death trap makes it all the more impactful. These frightening facts instill fear in the reader and supports that science should be utilized to protect our children, and the first step is to identify the problem.

Not only do Schulz and Cooper understand, the public knows it. The number in the pictures above show the percent interest relative to the term’s highest peak of popularity since 2004. The search trends from Google Trends show that there is a spike in people interested in earthquakes and what they are after the Haiti 2010 earthquake in January even if the earthquake does not affect them. These trends show that earthquakes are sensational because they drive a spike of interest due to empathy for the victims and fear of a similar fate. This drive to know how to protect oneself demonstrates a demand for science to protect them. This instinctual response plays a factor in scientific research for safety measures. The existence of CNN’s reflection video proves that there is an interest and demand to know this. A news station would not waste it’s time to review science that may affect the audience but rather investigates sensational scientific catastrophes, even if the audience is not affected. Remember, news networks are a business that spend and make money. More views lead to higher ad prices. But video team’s trip to Haiti costs money. CNN knows that investing money to investigate into disasters will pay off because there is a demand for knowledge on the matter.


Schulz parallels Japan with Oregon. Japan has developed impressive seismic wave protection such as seismic sensors to halt potentially life threatening activities, make buildings more resistant to seismic waves, and mitigate tsunamis with walls in the picture above. With all this science, Japan has taken significantly decreased the death toll of earthquakes, likewise Oregon has stopped developing schools, hospitals, and other important services in the inundation zone. But they could do better. Japan’s tsunami walls were based on incorrect science.

“In 2005, however, at a conference in Hokudan, a Japanese geologist named Yasutaka Ikeda had argued that the nation should expect a magnitude 9.0 in the near future”

Japan made scientific advances that could protect the country but did not invest in them. By inserting this politely applauded and ignored argument, Schulz sets up a parallel between Japan and Oregon. Japan shows what could happen to the west coast of the US. Oregon which currently lacks tsunami walls, adequate evacuation plans and still operates hospitals and schools in the zone; Oregon has the science to reduce the damage. Schulz makes this parallel because it is not too late for Oregon, it can significantly reduce the cost of the destruction with the latest. If it does not, Oregon will become the next Haiti that CNN so terrifyingly depicts because “hoping all the science is wrong” like what happened during the 2005 Hokudan conference will not help them. Schulz and Cooper base their content on the value that science protects humans and without that universal value, their arguments would cripple to trivial at best.


Do not be too distraught though, science literature such as CNN and “The Really Big One” publicizing the value that science protects humans is a step in keeping humans safe in general, not just the citizens of West Oregon. Scientific knowledge makes people aware of danger and how to address it.

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