THE BLOG
10/31/2014 08:35 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2014

The Quarantine of Nurse Kaci Hickox Epitomizes a Scientifically Ignorant and Paranoid Society Frightened of Ebola

ASSOCIATED PRESS

There have been two contracted cases and one death from Ebola within the U.S., therefore it's a bit of a stretch to say we're facing an outbreak or epidemic. However, before discussing the injustices experienced by Kaci Hickox, a woman who recently defied her Ebola inspired quarantine in Maine by going on bike ride, let's look at America's view of science. Scientists agree that the first modern humans appeared on the Earth around 200,000 years ago, yet Pew Research states that over 42 percent of Americans believe in a "creationist view of human origins." To a great many citizens in this country, the good Lord brought us here around 10,000 years ago, Noah's flood actually did happen, and humans lived alongside dinosaurs. In fact, 70 percent of Georgia Republicans believe in creationism and 58% of all Republicans in 2012 believed God created humans within the creationist time frame. There's even a Creation Museum in Kentucky making claims, in the name of science, that vindicate Biblical text. According to The New York Times, the Creation Museum merges religion and science to foster a divinely inspired narrative:

But inside the museum the Earth is barely 6,000 years old, dinosaurs were created on the sixth day, and Jesus is the savior who will one day repair the trauma of man's fall...

Fossils, the museum teaches, are no older than Noah's flood; in fact dinosaurs were on the ark...

The Creation Museum has a similar interest in dramatizing origins, but sees natural history as divine history...

The other catastrophe, in the museum's view, is of more recent vintage: the abandonment of the Bible by church figures who began to treat the story of creation as if it were merely metaphorical, and by Enlightenment philosophers, who chipped away at biblical authority. The ministry believes this is a slippery slope.

Therefore, it's safe to say that America's view of science sometimes bends to the whims of various religious or political interests. For so many educated people, even for people in politics, to believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old speaks volumes about scientific knowledge in the U.S.

As for global warming, well, creationism isn't the only assault on science in our country. Shockingly, only 25 percent of Tea Party Republicans believe global warming is happening. In contrast, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication states that 97 percent of climate scientists say "climate change is happening and human caused." Furthermore, the efforts of Ted Cruz, Fox News, and the conservative establishment have done a great deal to muddy the discussion about global warming with "doubt." As stated by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, even though there is virtually unanimous consensus among scientists, many Americans still doubt the facts:

Despite nearly unanimous agreement among climate scientists that the Earth's climate is warming due to fossil fuel burning and other human causes, only 42 percent of Americans believe that most scientists think global warming is happening. One third (33 percent) of Americans believe that "There is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening"

Thus, the discrepancy between the scientific community and the average American remains significant, primarily because climate change correlates with laws curbing greenhouse emissions, and these laws affect business. Hence, we have doubt when there's really no scientific doubt, debate when there's really no scientific debate, and widespread ignorance in the form of political dialogue.

Then of course, there's the belief among 14 percent of Americans in 2014 that AIDS might be God's punishment for immorality, as stated in a Huffington Post article titled, "Fourteen Percent Of Americans Believe AIDS Might Be God's Punishment: Survey":

Since the outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980s, some conservative religious groups have come forward to loudly blame so-called "immoral" lifestyles for the epidemic. In 1987, Reverend Jerry Falwell famously said, "God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah primarily because of the sin of homosexuality. Today He is again bringing judgment against this wicked practice through AIDS."

Americans still struggles with the issue of making same-sex marriage legal across the nation, especially with people like Rick Perry correlating homosexuality to a disease like alcoholism.

So how do creationism, the global warming "debate," and our scientific views on homosexuality correlate to the Ebola scare and two states imposing a quarantine upon an American nurse?

Ebola has been used by conservatives and others in this country to further already existing political goals of shutting down borders, blaming Obama for the latest undesirable event, and attacking science. Both Republicans and to some extent Democrats have fostered an aura of fear around the Ebola virus, as if this country faced an imminent risk of catastrophe. The reality, and the science of Ebola, should have overshadowed the hyperbole and political rhetoric, but all the fear mongering has taken center stage. A a result, the predicament faced by an American (who could be you, me, or any other citizen) named Kaci Hickox centers upon her right to lead a normal life and public health fears. As summarized by Time magazine, Ms. Hickox faces a "knee-jerk" reaction due to politics and ignorance:

Kaci Hickox -- a Maine nurse who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa -- has remained at odds with state health officials after she was placed under quarantine even though she tested negative for the virus and has not shown any symptoms...

A court order would force the state to show that Hickox's confinement is justified and based on medical science, but that could be difficult considering Hickox has yet to show symptoms of Ebola. She says she has been tested twice since her return to the U.S. on Oct. 24 and the result came back negative each time...

Emory University law professor Polly Price says if the court decides in favor of the Maine health officials, other states may "feel free to post armed guards outside of asymptomatic people's houses, or confine them in an institution."

Either way, some experts fear that the case may also have a more short-term impact on Americans still looking to help Ebola patients in West Africa, where almost 5,000 people have died from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's a knee-jerk reaction that won't do very much to protect the people of Maine or the U.S.," says Susan Kim, a Georgetown University law professor. "It will, however, hurt efforts to contain the epidemic in West Africa if we treat returning health care workers like pariahs."

While conservatives want to ban flights to West Africa (such advice interestingly coincides with their immigration policies), this wouldn't work to stop Ebola. The CDC and most other health professionals (you're more likely to catch a cold on a flight than Ebola) have stated repeatedly that doing so would only worsen the crisis.

In the meanwhile, an American citizen brave enough to fight the disease where it needs to be fought is now facing ignorance in the form of an unwarranted quarantine. This ordeal is being waged by politicians more afraid of the political fallout of not doing anything, as opposed to following the science of preventing Ebola. Also, the story you hear about this nurse having a fever in New Jersey, according to Hickox ignores the more accurate reading from an oral thermometer. As stated in NJ.com Hickox passed her initial examinations:

"I explained that an oral thermometer would be more accurate and that the forehead scanner was recording an elevated temperature because I was flushed and upset," Hickox wrote in a letter published by the Dallas News.

"After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. 'There's no way you have a fever,' he said. 'Your face is just flushed.'"

In addition, Hickox tested negative not once, but twice for Ebola. So, the calls for a quarantine from Governors in New Jersey and now Maine seem to infringe more on her rights as a citizen rather than any legitimate public health concerns.

The same people who correlate the flood of illegal immigrant children at the border to the D-Day invasion are also the same people who propagate false rumors these children were spreading diseases. In addition, these also happen to be the same people who don't believe in climate change, the theory of evolution, or any other aspect of widely accepted science that disagrees with their political narrative. Therefore, it's important to remember that while Ebola is being utilized for political gain, the virus won't be defeated with fear mongering.

In order to really combat Ebola and protect the United States, the countries of Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone must receive everything needed to ensure the real outbreaks in those counties are halted. In treating people with Ebola in Sierra Leonne and being on the front lines to combat Ebola, Kaci Hickox has done more to help eradicate this disease than Governors Chris Cristie and Paul LePage have ever done, or will do, in their entire lives. Courageous and compassionate people like Ms. Hickox who travel abroad keep America safe from diseases that start in other countries. They shouldn't be treated like pariahs for doing something noble, especially if they've been tested negative for the disease twice and show no symptoms.

I say Ms. Hickox should keep going on her bike rides and continue living a normal American life. Even though we live in a paranoid and media driven society, Ms. Hickox should always remember that nobody can take away her rights as an American citizen. Terrorism has done enough to erode our freedoms, it would be a shame to see Ebola and scientific ignorance infringe upon our liberties in the same manner.