I’m what you might call a science geek. I DVR’d the entire Fabric of the Cosmos series on “Nova.” I pored over tech specs of the new iPad. I read “The Origin of the Species” like a page turner. If not for my formidable math handicap, I might have become a biologist or chemist or astronomer. My point is, I believe in science.
But that belief also has gotten me burned. Science, I’ve come to learn, can be manipulated like anything else. It’s also not infallible, if only because human experimenters are, well, human.
These are all important points for professionals to consider as the industry makes a pivot toward science and away from experience. Some would say that pivot is more of a pendulum swing — that we’ve gone too far toward science, leaving behind the practical value of experiential knowledge that aquatics has relied upon for years. To science believers, these professionals are written off as the this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-it crowd.
I used to be squarely on the side of science, but I’m beginning to wonder, like some of the aforementioned crowd, if we haven’t gone too far. For example, I recently sat in on a presentation of the findings of the Lifeguard Safety Coalition, a body that aims to base lifeguard practices on science and data. But I was struck by how little science there actually is regarding the rigors of guarding. Nearly all the recommendations came to the same conclusion: More research is needed.
The fact is, there’s an incredible body of research and understanding in the collective knowledge of longtime aquatics pros. While I support and encourage continued efforts to challenge old beliefs with new science and continued research, it’s important not to discard the tried and true in the process.
That said, there are times when science must be paramount, particularly when going with our gut means using people as guinea pigs. That is essentially what the National Safety Co. has decided to do in its use of the Heimlich maneuver for drowning rescues
Its main proponent, John Hunsucker, may one day be proven right about its efficacy. He’s even got his own “science” to prove it. But until the full scientific community backs him up, it’s unconscionable, and frankly not very smart, to be blinded by one’s own certainty. It’s what you might call science fiction.