My dad, an English teacher, always challenged my brothers and me to estimate and later verify distances, heights and temperatures and consider how everything worked.
My parents didn’t have money for subscriptions, so I spent hours in the library poring over Scientific American and Popular Science. Later, at the University of California at San Diego where I got a B.S. in biology, I was thrilled to meet people whose biographies I had devoured: Nobel prize winners Jonas Salk and Linus Pauling and other scientists unwavering in their search for truth.
Now partisan hacks head federal agencies, where they censor scientific findings and threaten to lay off scientists doing vital work. Fake news and industry lobbyists are dampening what should be a clanging alarm about global climate change.
Scientific research can help policymakers and citizens make informed, practical decisions about their behavior and investments. Research can also provide mind-boggling insights into the world around us, from the behavior of the tiniest subatomic particles to colossal, expanding galaxies far, far away.
The March for Science, a nonpartisan celebration of science and its importance, is scheduled for April 22 in Athens and around the country. Join me at the federal courthouse, 115 E. Hancock Ave. in downtown Athens, for the local March for Science to show support for scientists.
On the next day, April 23, my wife Pat has organized a free public event called “Walk and Talk with a Scientist.” Some of the area’s top researchers — experts in coral reefs, cancer detection, water toxins, poultry, climate change and more — will chat with people about their work from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. along the trail at Herman C. Michael Park, 1051 Elder Road in Oconee County.
Pat has invited elected officials, too.
I wonder if most people avoid science because they think the findings are all distressing. Some certainly are grim, such as the quickening pace of global climate change. But we should grapple with the implications rather than put our head in the sand. And other researchers are making thrilling discoveries that will make life better for millions and may just help us save ourselves and other species here on Earth. We should be cheering for our world-class scientists in Athens as loudly as we do the Bulldogs and our great bands. Stem cell scientist Steven Stice should be as lauded as marvelous musician Michael Stipe.
Gathering with such visionary and dogged researchers just might help us recapture the childhood thrill of learning about the wonders of science.