In 1905 Albert Einstein, a 26-year-old Swiss patent clerk with knowledge of science as it then existed, saw some shortcomings and proposed the special theory of relativity.
As a consequence of this theory, Einstein constructed what is perhaps the most famous mathematical equation in science: energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared or E=mc2. Gradually. the theory was proved correct.
In 1940 Einstein, then a citizen of the United States, signed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt stating that, based on that equation and discoveries about the nucleus of atoms, there was a potential of constructing a bomb with enormous power.
Roosevelt was moved to start the “Manhattan Project,” in which a team of scientists and engineers was gathered in a secret military base in New Mexico to see if that bomb could be built.
They succeeded. The first “atomic bomb” was detonated in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. In short order, two bombs were built and used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the Second World War.
It’s clear that the atom bomb left the entire world in awe of science, an awe that lasted two decades or more. (Nuclear energy was one result.)
But in the following several decades, appreciation of science’s value in everyday life waned.
Concepts and practices such as hedge funds captured the public’s interest.
In recent decades respect for and admiration of science has dropped to a low level.
In fact, there is actually an anti-science attitude in the land. Advice from medical science on vaccinations and control of epidemics is widely dismissed, even distrusted, as is advice from atmospheric science on climate change.
This is sad. Science has power and value. This should be brought to bear to improve people’s lives through medicine and through preserving our natural environment.
What will it take to restore respect for science?