I originally intended to focus my blog on comments on interesting science stories I found or a few personal stories. Almost immediately I found the active and interesting discussion on social media which has a lot of comment potential and possibly an area where my background gives me some ground to stand on. I didn’t plan to go off on, at least very often, rants since I actually feel we’re saturated with that elsewhere. Nonetheless posting on whatever strikes my fancy has led to including some rants and I wonder if those pollute my more temperate and hopefully more thoughtful, as well as factual other content.
Many bloggers stick to a narrow focus, esp. those who use blogging to publicly expose their work and ideas to others as part of their own professional identity. In today’s world, certainly employers, but others as well, look at one’s social media to decide who you are and what you represent. As a personal blogger (and with no potential employers to impress) I’m not concerned about that but I do recognize that controversial posts may be unwelcome and dilute the rest of my content. But it’s also hard, given it’s a personal blog, to self-censor, so I’m debating a split, one place (this one) for the “cleaner” content and another for the opinion stuff.
It might not seem that way but there is a connection in my posts. Since my earliest memories I’ve loved science, although I later switched to technology for a career. So I see all these cool things happening and want to add my $0.02 on top of the real work others are doing. Writing posts creates the discipline to learn the topics better. While science was mostly relegated to the geeks all during my school years and not a very good path to popularity nonetheless the excitement of the space program, the idealism of JFK, the continuing interesting discoveries that excited me also seemed to be widely accepted by the U.S. public.
But then something changed, at least from my perspective. While the attacks by religion on science go back forever, certainly to Galileo and the Scopes trial, the war on science seemed to intensify with the growing political activism of religion. I actually never paid much attention to (or knew much about) evolution but as I became interested, as a hobby, in studying molecular biology, the importance of evolution (and the beauty of it) as the central organizing principle of biology became much clearer. Dawkins’ Selfish Gene is one of the coolest ideas ever.
When ideas like the Big Bang and plate tectonics, literally developed during my lifetime, added to the picture of the origins of the universe and then life (that we have atoms in our bodies created in supernovae is astonishing to me) I became more aware of the fights, esp. over biology, by religious zealots. That led me to listening more to the rational community, even in the old days of Usenet (pre-web) and I was amazed that creationism was making such a comeback. I followed with great interest the Dover trial about “intelligent design” creationism and eventually even read the full transcript of the trial (many legal decisions are actually quite good reading). During that deep dive into the “controversy” I became aware that evangelism had determined that getting new converts hooked on creationism was a better test of their conversion, exactly since it is so ridiculous and incredible, and therefore demonstrated the convert had abandoned reason and fully embraced religious dogma.
This outraged me, that a desire to recruit more members and more tithes would lead to modern day war on science. All the results of science are fascinating, but it is the great invention of the scientific method, a procedure for learning and verifying truth that is the real marvel. Humanity has long speculated about their world but only fairly recently actually found a systematic way to learn about it, from evidence and conclusions from evidence, instead of fantasy and superstition. The Internet and social media wouldn’t exist, or countless other modern conveniences, if it weren’t for science. So to deny science is to deny any kind of progress, in thought or practice, that the human mind can discover and create. Any prosperous nation today owes that prosperity, security, health and general well-being to science.
As religion became steadily more politicized and aligned with only one political party all those believers, hostile to science because it contradicted their ancient myths, were a ready-made source of votes to then be exploited by the rich. The Kochs found the fire was already blazing and in a short time, with some targeted funding, they managed to discredit all the findings of science about global climate change, simply because it threatened the Kocks’ and Exxon’s greed.
So it’s hard now to separate anti-science, religion and greedy business; it’s just all balled up together. So I can create posts about wonderful new things happening in science and Bobby Jindal can divert taxpayer funds to religious school to teach unsuspecting kids that dinosaurs and human romped around together. I heard of a protest by religious types of explanatory signs the National Park Service had put up at the Grand Canyon explaining the geology and especially its age and the protesters believed NPS was endorsing a “religion” (which they think science is). The absurdity that facts have to be suppressed because some won’t listen to reason. Ignorance is now what NPS or the school system should be telling us.
It’s hard to remain quiet, for fear of offending potential readers, when this escalating and non-stop war on science is occurring with more frequency and intensity in the country that took the lead in the world in science but is now falling behind rapidly. Any survey of what our kids are learning and how they rank in the world is appalling and offensive. I met young people in China who are learning science and math well; they’re no smarter than kids here, they don’t actually work any harder, but that society has decided its path out of crushing poverty is modernization based on science and technology. We’ve all heard how good their economic growth is at the same time as our economy is faltering, we’ve all heard how science and math illiterate our kids are in a time where these subjects are absolutely essential to a good income.
So this is a dilemma for me, to speak out, at least in the same blog as the “tame” posts or not. I’m not looking for popularity and I certainly have no intention of just writing what I think others want to hear, but it might make sense to separate the two strands (will two blogs be quantum entangled?) and just stick to the inoffensive articles here.