America's Disdain for Science
I'm not a science person. Mr. Brilliant loves watching the Science Channel, but my interest in black holes is limited to that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer falls into one. Perhaps it stems from my utter inability to learn to use a slide rule (yes, I went to high school in the pre-calculator age), or the time I seriously cut my finger trying to put a glass tube into a rubber stopper in high school chemistry class. But while I have little aptitude or even interest in the nuts-and-bolts of science, I realize how important it is to not just life in today's world, but how vital it is to solving the many problems that face us today.
Because I work in the area of clinical trials and studies, government commitment to scientific and medical research is not just an abstract concept, it's my bread and butter. But when you have a government run by people who are flat-earthers, or who embrace flat earthers like John Hagee, you have a government that lacks that commitment:
Speaking at a science summit that opens this week's first World Science Festival, the expert panel of scientists, and audience members, agreed that the United States is losing stature because of a perceived high-level disdain for science. They cited U.S. officials and others questioning scientific evidence of climate change, the reluctance to federally fund stem cell research, and some U.S. officials casting doubt on evolution as examples that have damaged America's international standing.The fish rots from the head. The anti-science posture of the Bush Administration, Congressional Republicans, and the wingnut echo chamber are a significant part of the problem, but also at fault are schools that can't can't attract teachers with scientific knowledge and parents who place sports at a higher level of importance than knowledge.
"I think there's a loss of American power and prestige that came about as a result of our anti-science policies," said David Baltimore, a biologist and Nobel laureate and board chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Raising questions about the science of evolution, he said, "leads to a certain disdain for American intelligence." He added, "What we need is leadership that respects science."
The panelists also expressed concern that science funding has not been a major issue for any of the presidential candidates. "The campaign so far has given too little attention to what science means for our own economy and our status in the world," said Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate and president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
We didn't get to where we were when I grew up by being incurious religious nuts who think a Great White Alpha Male in the Sky made the earth in six days and sculpted us out of clay. But we're sure as hell going to go back to the Middle Ages if we don't stop letting these people dictate policy.