Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level
and then beat you with experience.” -- Mark Twain

"Colt .45s; putting bad guys underground since 1873." -- Unknown

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"Let’s eat all of these people!” — Venom

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Monday, March 11, 2013

Much to be Proud Of.

I have one quibble:

"And we didn't scare so easy."

Sure we did. After Pearl Harbor, we put American citizens into concentration camps based on their national origin. In World War One, our government locked people up for sentences ranging to ten years for the crime of dissent. After World War One, there were "Red Scares" and the "Palmer Raids". Once the Great Depression swung into gear, our government was so afraid of a protest by former soldiers that they sent the cavalry, backed by armor, after them. And yes, one of the lesser discussed reasons for the GI Bill of 1944, including the provision known as the 52-20 Club, was to get returning servicemen either working, subsidize their looking for work, or into school, rather than have them hanging around and breeding resentment.

After the Second World War came another round of Red Scares. We executed the wife of a spy as a ploy to put pressure on him. Our government, pressured in part by one drunken paranoid senator, ruined the lives of a hell of a lot of people just based on suspicion.

There are, of course, other things that we are #1 in. We're first among industrial nations in teen pregnancy. We're first in health care spending per capita (and 40th in life expectancy).

More than that, we've pretty much lost our way on science. Over fifty years ago, we as a nation thought that teaching mathematics and science to children, along with physical fitness, was a good idea. 150 years ago, education was valued enough that state-supported universities was thought to be a fine idea. Now, state-supported universities are being gutted like fish hauled up onto a dock. On a per capita basis, we were 4th in the world for number of college graduates and that was before the banksters and the Republicans wrecked our economy. We're 20th in math education, 23rd in science education.

Yes, we reached for the stars. But then we spent over thirty years settling for low Earth orbit flights and it doesn't look as though that will change anytime soon. We sent probes out to deep space, but now, for the most part, we pretty much keep sending them to Mars (12 since the Viking landers). (Since Voyager 1 and 2: 2 probes to Jupiter, 1 to Saturn, 1 to Mercury, 1 to Venus, 1 to the Asteroid Belt, 1 to Pluto)

Both the government and some corporations spent money on basic research, which was scientists asking "wuffo" and then doing experiments to find out what and why. Sometimes, things were discovered, not by accident, but because the data demanded it. Now, the only time that technological developments get any funding from the government is if there is a use in it to better kill people. In 1883, a friend told Hiram Maxim to give up on experimenting with electricity, telling him: "If you want to make your fortune, invent something to help these fool Europeans kill each other more quickly!"

We have become those fools.

Now, a scientist who comes up with a hypothesis that does not comport with a politically-accepted ideology will face having his life ruined by blowhards on cable news and on the radio who are so scientifically illiterate that they probably believe that "Brownian Motion" has something to do with a Colt M1911. We have tens of millions of people and an entire political party that judges science through the lens of ideology, a concept that has failed before and is failing now.

But why should I get upset about this? It's not going to change. We have politicians shrieking for government austerity, despite filing cabinets full of data that show that austerity in bad economic times not only doesn't work, it makes things worse. But that's what their ideology demands and that is what they then demand. We have politicians that deride people who live in areas where education is still valued. We say we want to raise our children to be competent in math, science and technology, but then we spend years teaching them only how to pass a series of tests.

No, we're not the greatest country. And we show no sign of trying to reverse that.

We are so screwed



Joe said...

Preach, sister!

Of course, writing from Virginia I have to say it's not just cable-news blowhards who persecute scientists. Here, we call those guys "Attorney General".

BadTux said...

There have always been ignoramuses and know-nothings who celebrated stupidity as a virtue. See the Scopes Trial for a perfect example. The difference is that once they were derided, and now they are celebrated.

Cujo359 said...

What BadTux says, plus we've always been OK with letting a few folks suffer so the rest of us can avoid being scared. At one time it was the Japanese, then "communists", and now it's Muslims.

As long as there's some group with little power we can scapegoat, we don't scare easy.