Bring It On!

We’re Blinded To The Science

May 29th, 2008 | by Ken Grandlund |

When it comes to being a world leader in the sciences, America is losing ground.

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.

In an era where scientific knowledge is vital to halting many problems facing the planet and future generations, America’s torrid love affair with right-wing politics couldn’t be ending too soon. For the last 7+ years, our government has been headed by an uninquisitive dunderhead who has mocked science in favor of personal ideological dogma and “gut feelings.”

And while science alone can’t solve all our troubles, a concerted lack of science is a prescription for decline. Starting with No Child Left Behind, the policies of the Bush administration has been to relegate science and scientific learning to the sidelines. By forcing the focus on math and reading skills over all other curriculae, schools have been federally mandated to achieve high test scores in those subjects or risk losing federal funding. But the result hasn’t been more knowledgable students with better math and reading skills. Instead, we still have “failing” schools in those subjects AND a lack of a rounded education that could interest today’s youth towards science.

But the “example” of leadership doesn’t end there. The ban on stem cell research, the insistance on continued fossil fuel energy over other possible avenues of exploration, the great “Intelligent Design” debate and the rush to insist that lawmakers know better than doctors what “brain dead” really implies all reveal a disheartening attitude towards politicized scientific inquiry and non-advancement. And the rest of the world is laughing behind our backs. Well, a lot of them anyhow.

But our loss is their gain, and they are sprinting ahead as we choke on their dust.

Our recent trip to Mars notwithstanding, American scientific advancement has seemed to focus itself on leisure activities for Americans instead of on things that could make our world a better place. Computer graphics and applications designed to make things more realistic only serve to disguise the fact that the real world is getting uglier all the time. One would think that the brain power used to develop “TV on Your Cel Phone” might have been better employed trying to create cleaner forms of energy.

And where our scientific knowledge and advances could actually help make the world a better place, like the use of genetically modified food crops in areas where food production is difficult, our politics (now and over the past) have made would be recipients wary of our motives and leery of offers of help. As with so many things, the use of science to further political ambitions has backfired, creating more doubt and mistrust than is really necessary.

Thanks to Bush and his cohorts in the religious right, science in America is in decline. We’re blinded to the science, and unless we open our eyes again, our status as a world leader in scientific innovation, and indeed in many areas, will continue to slip.

 (cross posted at Common Sense)

 

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  1. 6 Responses to “We’re Blinded To The Science”

  2. By Jet Netwal on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    I have long praised my local elementary school, whose super staff has managed to shoulder the NCLB load and still produce incredible science and arts programs.

    That ends this year, with state mandated budget reductions (yet another area when the mortgage crisis casts a long shadow. Crap loans, less taxes, lower education offerings, poorer schools, lower neighborhoods values, less taxes, lower education offerings, poorer schools, lower neighborhoods values and so on.)

    Bitter? A little. Concerned? Big time. I hope this country realizes what happens when we have 10 years worth of dolts graduating. It’s not the kid’s fault we didn’t prioritize their education nationally, but they’re still under educated, and they’ll be part of our national scene for another 60-80 years.

  3. By Jet Netwal on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Oh yeah, and that graphic totally rocks, Ken!

  4. By Paul Merda on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Hear, Hear Ken!!!

    I abso-tively agree 100% with your assessment!!

    It is why I have decided to change careers and become a science teacher. I only hope that I can inspire a few young minds to get into the field… We shall see I guess. I start my first class mid-July and am looking forward to it!

  5. By Ken Grandlund on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Good for you Paul. I wish you luck in your new career. We need good minds teaching younger ones.

    While not a scientist, I’ve always had a yen to learn about the sciences and throughout my life have fostered that desire with my own reading and testing andobserving the world around me. It’s paying off too. My daughter is beginning to foster her own love for knowledge and science now, and we’ve got many tools in our home to further that along. (a magnificent telescope and a binocular microscope to name a few.) I’ve found that love of learning and knowledge seems to be inate in kids- and if they have support and encouragement, their own inquisitiveness grows exponentially. She may never be a professional scientist, but the desire to understand is strong.

    Jet- thanks. Photoshop can be a fun tool.

  6. By christopher Radulich on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    we have had a problem with science for a long time. Both the original star trek and star wars were about the triumph of feelings over science.

  7. By Paul Merda on May 30, 2008 | Reply

    Dang Chris…that’s a good point. I never thought about it like that. Americans have ALWAYS been more about beleiving that knowing. After all, we were founded by a bunch of Puritans who killed a bunch of their own because of Witchcraft…

    Ken,

    Thanks! Someone’s gotta do it, it might as well be me. Kind of tough being a 38 yr old guy changing careers though. But my wife is being VERY supportive, both economically and mentally.

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