Opinion » Bill Cope


Special Edition: The Other SFMPB


My dearest Brothers and Sisters in our dear Society For Making People Better,

You must be wondering what has happened to make me think you can stomach another THE FLUTTER! so closely upon the heels of the last one. Well, if you don't like it, don't blame me! It is Ken Burns' fault. You know, that guy who does all those documentaries about American things that they show on the PBS channel? Okay, yes. I admit. It was me who decided we needed a special edition of THE FLUTTER!. But one of Ken Burns' darn documentaries made me decide it.

Do you remember in the last THE FLUTTER! (#17) that I gave you a new rule for the The Official Society For Making People Better Rule Book? You should. It's only been three weeks. It is Rule 18 and here it is again, in case you forgot to add it to your personal rule book: If you chose to reject sound, scientific evidence in some fields, you cannot take advantage of sound, scientific results from other fields.

You may also remember, or not, that I didn't have room to explain why I thought it would be a good new rule for our dear Society because I used up so many words talking about other things. First I explained my transition from Rajah Bill to Brother Bill. And then I warned you about the big hashtag/number/pound/tic-tac-toe conspiracy going on with that monstrous "#" thingie, and by the time I got to the new rule, I was plumb out of space. Don't blame me. It's that darn Boise Weekly's fault for not giving me all the room I need to get to everything that needs gotten to.

What I would have explained about the new rule, had I been allowed the space to do it, is how it concerns the way certain people refuse to accept what highly-trained professional scientists are trying to tell them when it comes to such matters as climate change, the effects on the environment by toxic chemicals and deforestation and over-population, and the general mess industry has made of human health and life on Earth as a whole. Yet those same certain people—many of whom hold powerful positions such as Senators and Governors and oil company CEOs—expect their doctors and medical care providers to be up-to-the-minute on any science that concerns their own, personal health.

See what I mean? They are so dead-set against science getting in the way of their making tons and tons of money, they resort to calling scientist liars and hoaxsters, to destroying reputations and careers, to defunding research and denigrating entire fields of inquiry, to rewriting textbooks and distorting history itself, rather than admit those scientists may be right. Yet who do they turn to when they get sick? Who do they turn to when they want longer, healthier lives?

SCIENTISTS! ... that's who! The very same smart, highly trained professional people they call liars and hoaxsters when the evidence says Earth is going to hell in a fondue pot, and it's happening because of stuff they are doing or selling or digging out of mountain tops in West Virginia or spilling into the Gulf of Mexico or whatever.

But there's another aspect to being scientists I hadn't really thought about much until I saw Ken Burns' latest documentary last week. The three-parter was called Cancer: The Emperor of Maladies, and it chronicled the century-long search for a cure to this bastard dirty asshole disease that has cursed—or likely will curse—virtually every man, woman and child on Earth, either directly or collaterally. What makes Burns' documentaries so powerful is how he turns the narrative of his subject matter—be it the Civil War, baseball, jazz, the national parks—into a series of profiles of the people involved. He reminds us that every Civil War soldier, every ball player, jazzman or preservationist were mere men and women first, historical figures second. In every one of his films, Burns' makes clear it is the history of individuals that determines the history of nations.

This documentary on cancer was no different. The history of the war on cancer is nothing more than the interlocking histories of the men and women who have dedicated—and still are dedicating—their lives to making ours longer and better. It takes a passion few of us have, to keep digging ever deeper into the mysteries of our world, and it's seldom, if ever, done for any other reward other than to save and improve lives, preserve a livable world, and learn. I see it now, thanks to Ken Burns and his darn documentary: These people belong to their own Society For Making People Better, and their society has been around for centuries.

So with this considered, I feel it is my duty as founder and Brother-in-Chief of our dear SFMPB, to rescind Rule 18. Yes, just rip it out of your rule books and burn it in a waste basket. (A metal waste basket would be best.) I wrote it in a moment of weakness and resentment. I wrote it because, at the time, I felt people who refuse to accept the evidence of global warming don't deserve the benefits of what other scientific endeavors have bequeathed us.

But that darn Ken Burns and his darn documentary made me realize the members of that other Society For Making People Better would never deny their science to anyone. Not even to people who would deny them the gratitude and respect they deserve.

Signed: Your Founding Brother—Working hard everyday to be a better Bill.