Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our Woeful Legacy

While reading this op-ed piece in the New York Times by Adam Frank, an Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Rochester, my state of mind began to slowly decline until I felt downright lousy.  By the end of his article, I had become so ashamed that it was as if I had knocked a 3 year-old child off his or her tricycle.  In more ways than I think he realizes, this professor has directed the uncomfortable spotlight of truth directly on me and my generation.  And I hate it.

Sure, there are far too many people in our country who actively combat the foundations of modern science, but that's not the problem.  The problem is the far greater number of people who impulsively believe these people simply because:
  1. They are excessively self-assured.
  2. They sound remarkably convincing (good salesmanship).
  3. They yell a lot.
  4. Wave an ancient book around.
The fact that so many people so blindly adopt these ancient explanations for the natural world is precisely the reason our society will be held accountable to future generations.  And we should be utterly embarrassed at ourselves for allowing this to happen.

History will look back upon the inquisitive generations before us, who dedicated themselves tirelessly to scientific discovery, as directly contributing to the growth of humanity.  However, I do not believe those same historians will be so kind to those in and around my generation.  When I consider all of the work that so many pioneers of scientific discovery have bestowed upon us, it honestly disappoints me that so much of this effort has been so flippantly discarded or just downright ignored by so many in this country.  As a glaring example, many Americans - 46% to be precise - have completely abandoned the vast mountain of evidence supporting modern biological science in lieu of mythical explanations of the natural world written well over 3000 years ago.

But why?  Is it easier for these people to hold onto their beliefs simply because they were born into them?  Is it more comfortable to believe that your existence is infinite (well, AFTER you're born that is.  Nobody seems to care about all that time before you were conceived by your parents - but I digress.)  Or is it this notion that ancient cultures were somehow more in tune with some universal consciousness and in turn possessed the ability to perform superhuman feats?

All of this gives me reason to be disappointed in my contemporaries.  Because this generation does not strive to understand the Universe as we have in the past, nor do we display the same fervor for discovery as our predecessors.  Instead, my generation has chosen:
  • Belief in ancient texts over the magnificence and wonder of the Universe.
  • To openly dismiss solid and heavily researched principles of science.
  • Bronze Age myths and deistic magic over the breadth of data in modern biology.
  • To put their children, and the rest of us for that matter, at risk of serious infection by abandoning modern medicine over unfounded belief and very dangerous lies.
  • To maintain a rigid stance of divine exceptionalism and extraordinary privilege, with no consideration of future generations (this includes our population explosion and anthropogenic climate change).
  • To ignorantly regurgitate misinformation, bumper-sticker platitudes, and political sound bites with absolutely no requisite proof of these claims.
  • To brazenly criticize "gaps" in scientific knowledge without the same demand for consistency in your religious text.
Our grandchildren deserved better from us, and we've already let them down.

*** Edit ***

Another example - North Texas has issued a measles alert after 9 people have been diagnosed with the infection.  And this outbreak has been linked to a vaccine-denying megachurch in Tarrant County.

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