As I walked with the March for Science today, I reflected on everything that science has accomplished, along with the history of science in the United States. A large part of what helped turn the USA into the world power that it is today has been its strong history of supporting scientific endeavors and cultivating a fertile environment for significant advances. Our cultural embrace of science is major factor in what made America great in the first place.
If you look back through history, the United States has been at the forefront of scientific advancement in many fields for the last two centuries. We’re the nation of Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone. We’re the nation of advances in electrical technology under Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. We’re the nation of Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine that has saved countless lives. We’re the nation of the invention of powered flight by the Wright Brothers, the breaking of the sound barrier, the creation of liquid powered flight by Robert Goddard, and the nation that first put humans on the moon. Along the way, the United States has won by far the most Nobel Prizes.
We’ve also accomplished huge feats of large scale engineering. The United States created the Erie and Panama canals. We built the Transcontinental Railroad, spanning the nation and passing through multiple mountain ranges. We built the interstate system, a massive nationwide infrastructure project that still connects us to this day. During World War Two, our engineering and logistical prowess turned us into an industrial giant. By the end of the war, the United States had over half of the entire world’s industrial capacity. None of this would have happened without a cultural commitment to science.
Today, however, that national heritage of scientific pursuit is in jeopardy. President Trump, a significant number of Republican elected officials, and many of the people that voted for them are denying science in a number of critical areas such as climate change, vaccination, and evolution. The thing is that the same fields of science (biology, physics, chemistry, etc.) that gave the United States so many wonderful advances are the same fields of science that warn us of the dangers of continuing to use fossil fuels, assure us the vaccines are safe, and demonstrate through evidence that evolution is a fact. If we turn our backs on this research and refuse to act on it, we are turning our backs on one of the very aspects of American culture that have turned us into the strong nation that we are today.
Will it be easy to tackle the challenge of preventing further damage to our environment from human caused global warming? No, it won’t. However, I fully believe that the nation that went to the moon, out-built the world during WW2, and all but eradicated polio has the ability to rise to the occasion. Right now, all we need is the courage to act. If we truly want America to be great, we need to embrace our scientific legacy instead of rejecting it. Otherwise, we risk sitting on the sidelines as other nations take the lead. History is generally unkind toward nations who cling to the past and refuse to move into the future. They fade into the background as the nations around them race past. Let’s not allow that to be the fate of the United States.
While I am primarily a fiction author, science, history, and politics do inform my writing. Going forward, I aim to incorporate pieces into my blogging schedule where I will cover interesting information on those topics that I encounter in research or casual reading. If that interests you, I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter in the field below.