Though terrestrial life gets more dire and dispiriting by the day, Americans should have gotten a lift from the successful launch of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on Friday and the subsequent docking with the International Space Station. It was a sign that the country still has the capacity to pull off great technological and visionary achievements.

SpaceX has put NASA astronauts back in Earth orbit without having to hitch a ride with Russians, as they have had to do for the past nine years, and they have done it with a capsule that, inside, looks more like a sleek Tesla than a cramped airplane cockpit stuffed with dials, switches and gauges. It still took a massive booster rocket to get Dragon beyond the restraints of gravity, so the Millennium Falcon of Stars Wars fame could still beat it off the ground, but the Millennium Falcon is a figment of imagination. Dragon is real.

That’s the difference between fiction and science. Science is the actual thing, or at least the closest we can get to knowing what is real until scientists can deepen their knowledge and come up with more complete explanations. Unfortunately, there are quite a few people in the political world these days who prefer convenient fictions to unfolding scientific facts.

When scientists said COVID-19 was a deadly pandemic that will kill tens of thousands, there were certain people who insisted it would be no worse than the flu. When scientists say climate change is an existential threat, there are some Republican political leaders and right-wing commentators who say the scientists are just pushing an anti-capitalist agenda.

I think we know who has the agenda. Take it from the astronauts, trust the scientists, not the politicians.

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