I’m a bit of a science geek. For me, just knowing that there’s a fish that can climb up a straight cliff as long as there’s even a thin film of water or the fact that we are all made of stardust is enough to cause delighted squealing. Unfortunately I lack the discipline to actually be a maker of science; love the experiments, hate the reporting associated. This is part of the reason I have such tremendous for scientists. And it’s also the reason why I hate the fact that science gets so badly abused nowadays. There are so many ways that science gets the stick today, even as we live in a society that has benefited more than ever off the discoveries made by science, there are people who pervert it for their own gains and in the process try to destroy the future for our children and our children’s children.
People like Andrew Wakefield truly make me sick. This is a man who presumably took the Hippocratic oath to “respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk” and “prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure” and then fabricated research to cause millions of people to stop vaccinating their kids, which in turn caused a new epidemic of whooping cough, measles and other serious illnesses that had been nearly completely eradicated. Because these diseases are so rare nowadays, some of the children were not diagnosed in time, resulting in permanent hearing loss, respiratory problems and other lovely things that would’ve been prevented if it weren’t for Wakefield and his cronies.
Then of course there is the creationist threat to education. They wish to either remove completely a huge and important part of biological education or teach a religious indoctrination as if it were equal. I mean sure, evolution IS “just a theory” but it is a theory that has more evidence to support it than Newton’s theory of gravity (which actually breaks down on a planetary scale, thus Einstein’s theory of general relativity) and there are no competing scientific theories for evolutionary theory, because there is no theory of intelligent design. None the less there are people out there who would eviscerate the education of our children and grandchildren for their own gains, halting or at least hindering biological and medical discovery for a long time.
But neither of these two groups poses as big a threat to science as the governments and corporations funding it. Science is expected to bolster the bottom line and we, as a species are losing our sense of wonder about all the things we can discover. And now, the James Webb Space telescope is facing the axe. As of Friday there will be no more shuttle launches to maintain the Hubble telescope and if the JWST isn’t completed (it’s like 85% complete) and launched, there will be no more discovering new galaxies or getting new images from space. This makes me at least very sad. And it’s not like it’s a unique occurrence in the US, but it seems to be happening all over the world.
Unfortunately I don’t have a solution either. There don’t seem to be that many politicians willing to stand up for scientific discovery and ultimately they are the ones who decide the fate of science. Other than oppose bad science whenever you run into it, ridicule its proponent’s ideas whenever you run into them and support legitimate scientists whenever you run into them.
Go on, hug a scientist (but ask permission first, no one likes to be hugged out of the blue).