The War on Science

Science is everywhere. In nature’s beauty,
in a laugh between friends, the buildings we build, and the communities we form. It’s
constantly wondering…asking, why things are the way they are. How can we make things
better? What are we in the grand scheme of the universe? It spans from the depths of
space to the device you’re watching this video on, right now. During the Enlightenment era, scientific revolution
brought ideas around calculus, atomic theory, and gravity to our world; the Industrial Revolution,
saw significant technological and manufacturing developments including the first cars; and
in the Digital Age, scientists helped spur the formation of the internet as we know it,
as a means to share research and ideas. Today, advances in medicine and agriculture have
saved more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history. But, despite these achievements, science and
society are often at odds. Scientific discoveries like the Earth is round, that our planet revolves
around the sun, or that diseases are spread through germs were all once ideas that were
rejected by society. So much so that Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for suggesting
the Earth wasn’t the centre of the universe, and even Galileo was sentenced to house arrest
for supporting the theory. Today we see the rejection of scientific evidence for vaccinations
– leading to preventable disease like measles coming back, after being wiped out in the
year 2000; or the rejection of scientific evidence for climate change, despite the vast
consensus among scientists. As put by Carl Sagan “We live in a society
exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about
science and technology”. And yet when we look to history, we see that
ignoring science has lead to the crumbling of societies. Ancient Greece was a time of
great learning around ideas of space, time and light and during the subsequent Roman
Empire these ideas were mostly embraced. However, the Romans were complacent with the learnings
of the Greeks, and little innovation or exploration of new ideas around science and knowledge
took place during this era. With shifting governments and values, emphasis on reason
and science slipped away and Rome eventually fell into the Dark Ages. Today, despite the voices of many supporting
logic and reason, this war on science continues. In the UK, investment in publicly funded research
has dropped to less than 0.5% of the GDP – the lowest it has been in two decades. This year,
the US has cut at least 300 million dollars from NASA’s earth-science budget – which
just happens to include climate science. Not only does this mean that existing climate
studies will be ignored, but useful data won’t even be collected in the future, all to serve
ideological agendas. But for what? The bank bailout in America
cost more money than NASA’s entire 50 year running budget – a budget that stirs imagination
and visions for the future of our world and universe. And the military budget? One month
of spending is equivalent to NASA’s entire annual budget.
Here in our home of Canada, the War on Science is in full effect under Stephen Harper’s
Conservative Government. Our science libraries dedicated to health, environment, fisheries
and oceans are being shut down. Laws that were once in place to ensure the protection
of endangered species have been gutted, with 80% of Canada’s 71 freshwater fish species
currently at risk of extinction. And not only has Prime Minister Stephen Harper eliminated
the National Science Adviser role, but some 2500 federal scientists have lost their jobs.
In a recent survey, 90% of government scientists felt they could not speak freely about their
research and roughly 25% say they have been forced by the government to change their research
for non scientific reasons. We’re told that the remaining funds are
geared towards science that has a clear commercial output. Which at first glance may seem fair
– research that isn’t a ‘waste of money’ so to speak. But, when Einstein constructed
the theory of relativity, did he know that it would lead to the development of GPS, nuclear
energy, or the original television? These industries are worth billions, but focusing
on commercial output is shortsighted, as science is often a slow, evolving, iterative process. Science is much more than a body of knowledge
and applications; it’s a way of thinking. A way to unravel the world’s mysteries,
see it’s beauty – where we can look at all the facts to make informed decisions, instead
of relying on preconceived notions and bias’. Science doesn’t choose a political party
– it simply adheres to evidence. But just like good policy is supported by science,
science is supported by funding and advocacy from our governments. So when you head to
the polls to vote, wherever you may be, remember that a vote for science, is a vote for knowledge
and progress based in reality. Look at your parties policies on science, and take a stand. If you believe in the message of integrating
science successfully into our societies, please share this video – on facebook, on twitter,
through email and in person – to remind the world how important science is. And subscribe for more weekly science videos.

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