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Science!

On Tuesday, when people in my company gathered to listen to the inaugural address, one particular sentence caused a small number of us to applaud and cheer.

Actually, it was just a fraction of a sentence.

As soon as President Obama had said, "We will restore science to its rightful place," those of us in the science department cheered, much to the amusement of the folks in the other departments.

The sad truth is that science has been under attack in this country over the past few years. I don't really want to revisit all the attacks right now; for anyone interested, there are plenty of articles and books on the subject. I will remind people that in 2004, a group of scientists – including 20 Nobel laureates – issued a statement pointing out the distortion of scientific facts that had been presented to the American people by the government. These distortions had mostly been made with the sole goal of supporting government policies that would have made no sense in the light of scientific facts.

But that light is beginning to show through the cracks. In the article Scientists Welcome Obama's Words, the reporters note that the scientific community is hopeful for policies which acknowledge that science must come before policy.

And in other news, the Texas Board of Education has voted to remove discussion of evolution's '"strengths weaknesses" in their science standards. The phrase "strengths and weaknesses" is a code word among anti-evolutionists to try yet again to sneak religion into science class, and I'm delighted that Texas is finally doing the right thing....after twenty years.

Whenever I hear about suppression of science, or the attempts to sneak pseudoscience into science classes, I am always reminded of Richard Feynman's words as a member of the Challenger commission: "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."

Unfortunately, people can be fooled, which is why we must always remain vigilant.

Comments

In addition to the science mention, I was thrilled that he included non-believers in the usual religious round-up. Might well have been the first time any President specifically mentioned such.
Good heavens, I'm talking a lot this round, but I was actually curious about that. I would have expected the term 'non-believer' to be not the best one to use, given that it defines people by what they are not, rather than by what they are. It also had certain undertones to me of, "Here we all are, all these people of religion, and also those people over there who don't believe." And I kept thinking of "Curse the unbeliever!", which I'm quite certain was not the intention.

I would have expected that someone of his ability with words would have chosen a phrase less loaded. "Atheists and agnostics", for example, would have defined people by their beliefs rather than lack of same, and would also have kept to his rhythm better. If he was looking to break the rhythm, then, "people who are not part of an organized religion" I would have thought could do. Are you in the non-believer category? If so, would you have preferred a different wording, or is non-believer acceptable?
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