Vaccines. Evolution. Global climate change. The World is round. Things that should not be in question in the 21st century,
A certain U.S. governor and 2016 presidential hopeful responded to whether or not he accepted biological evolution as scientific fact. To which he promptly responded “I’m going to punt on that one, as well, that’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or the other. So I’m going to leave that up to you.” I will not mention the governors name or political party as it is a moot point. Politicians of all ilks seem to hate, or at the very least, refuse to demonstrate elementary school understanding of scientific fact. Besides, Google is just one tab over anyways.
Now on the face it, that comment would at least be an improvement from some comments we’ve heard in years past. Uneducated politicians should seek expert opinion on matters that they don’t comprehend. If it were that simple. Unfortunately governors and state governments have unique power through their control of public education to influence the scientific literacy of our children. If school boards across this country did indeed stay away from revising scientific fact to meet local prejudices or religious beliefs, I would be okay with the governor’s statement, well, a little bit at least.
But here’s the rub.
We’ve already gone through the Dark Ages. We should not be deliberately steering for a second one.
Science is, fundamentally, about seeking truth. Regardless if the truth matches the vision we hold for the Universe in our mind’s eye. Science, along with technology, engineering, art, and mathematics; is key to our continued survival as a species. Ignoring scientific fact, without being over-the-top, threatens our species. And at the very least, threatens the U.S. economic way of life as the world recovers from the Great Recession. While the rest of the world continues to creep past the United States in the practical and theoretical applications of scientific research, we will only have ourselves to blame if we continue to elect politicians who, due solely to seeking political gain, irreversibly damage investments in STEAM arenas of knowledge.
When a politician makes statements as this governor did, it shows he/she is more interested in pandering to his establishment that he/she is interested in the collective survival and well-being of society. Its shows that they cannot make decision based on fact, rather they will make choices based on who donates the most to the political coffers. And most importantly, it shows they are locked in their way, facts be damned. Just this week a new theory on cosmology, which solves some of problems with existing theories, states that there was no Big Bang. That the Universe is indeed eternal. Now if this theory proves true, it fundamentally rocks scientific understanding of astrophysics and cosmology. And you know what? That would be just dandy! Science, unlike political stance, can grow and change as our understanding and research grows and changes. To be ignorant of the possibility to change the fundamentals, would make science no more reliable than religion or politics in attempting to understand reality. We would sway solely at the whim of the priesthood and politicians, not universal truth. This ability to admit that you’re wrong is fundamental to science. It also antithetical to politicians like this governor. I want an elected leader that can admit, when faced with fact, is willing to do the right thing. Not the politically expedient thing.
Thankfully, science has thus far survived the onslaught of charlatans and pseudoscience. Electing politicians like this governor, with their immense power to influence policy and education funding, would put us on a direct course to the Dark Ages 2.0. That is why, as much as science and politics shouldn’t mix, having scientifically literate elected officials is crucial. Scientific literacy and acceptance shows that an individual is reasonable, embraces logic, is a good listener, takes action based on fact, and is looking out for the greater good.
To elect an official that is otherwise leads us to a reality that we simply cannot afford.
Clipart courtesy of openclipart.org