To The Other Side
70 years ago today, Chuck Yeager became the first human to break the sound barrier.
He did so with two broken ribs.
In doing so, he enshrined himself in the pantheon of heroic men and women who dedicated their lives to make the rules of nature our bitch. Legends like Marie Curie, who along with her husband surrendered her health in the quest to understand radiation. Paragons like Norman Borlaug, who revolutionized agriculture and saved upwards of a billion lives. Martyrs like Gus Grissom, who burned to death with his crew in the Apollo 1 disaster.
The culmination of all this scientific research and physical sacrifice is a more understood world; a world where we have less unknowns to fear and more tools available to craft our dreams. Getting to where we are right now required the discipline and courage of the aforementioned heroes; countless others did their part to push us forward toward a brighter dawn in a softer world.
But the grand scientific mission is not universally appreciated. There are a great number of people who doubt the basics of science; this can stem from a lack of education, a conclusion of religious teaching, or the product of political indoctrination. And it is these people who are involved in a War on Science.
It is a shame that something as universally important as scientific rigor has been politicized, but it is a side effect of allowing bribe-able politicians to debate concepts like flood plains (which affects insurance prices and property values) and the effectiveness of birth control.
Ideally the laws we make should be based off of case studies and experiments instead of easy political points, but it is evident that a skepticism of "experts" has soured the public trust of previously trustworthy institutions and methods.
Skepticism is a good trait, but when paired with inadequate knowledge it can be more a burden than a benefit. A lack of cultural respect for science will reflect on our education, which will reflect in our workforce, which will reflect in our military capacity. Scientific advancement and martial superiority always went hand in hand, after all - you can't conquer a country with spears and clubs anymore. It is no coincidence that Chuck Yeager was a Captain in the US Air Force when he punched through to Mach 1.
Science must be respected, as should its heroes. So tonight, raise a glass to those who put their bodies on the line to better understand the world - and raise your finger to those who desecrate their achievements for political points.