USA Today and Science

Science does not stand alone — its findings become meaningful when viewed at large, not selectively, and when its formulas are placed in an everyday context, and its principles critically evaluated. By claiming that science rests on one side of the drinking age question, and neglecting the scientific and mathematical findings that disprove its case, the authors of yesterday’s editorial in USA Today illustrate a narrow-minded view of science. The authors’ attempts to crouch behind science are even more disappointing, having admitted in the first half of their article the dangerous unintended consequences generated by Legal Age 21.

If science supports the pro-21 argument, then why do the other 50 studies (surely, not cited by the newspaper) fail to support a cause-and-effect relationship between a higher drinking age and lower fatalities? If science proves that the 21 year-old drinking age is responsible for a decline in traffic fatalities and consequently, lives saved, then why have more lives been saved by seat belts and airbags in 2004 and 2005 than in the entire history of Legal Age 21? And further, how would the authors and MADD explain the (scientific) fact that alcohol-related fatalities have reached their highest level in the last decade?

 Then there is the social reality of alcohol in the lives of young adults — made more difficult and dangerous by Legal Age 21.  Drinking has been forced out of the open, into unsupervised venues where risky binge drinking has become the norm. Why are young adults, excelling in many other ways, choosing to put their lives at risk by consuming dangerous quantities of alcohol? The answer is tied to a scientific term called reactance motivation, and a certain historical movement called Prohibition. If we infantalize individuals who in all other instances are considered adults, it is not a surprise that we receive increasingly infantile behavior. Over 1,000 young adults aged 18-24 die every year from alcohol-related causes taking place off the roads and highways — victims of risky drinking practices. These dangerous consumption patterns are documented and widespread, and bear anatomical and neurological consequences far outweighing those associated with the moderate consumption of alcohol.

 Science does not rest on either side of the question, and needs to be evaluated seriously and realistically. There are too many questions left unanswered, and too many lives lost, to risk using limited science as a shield from social reality.

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