BY GARY EDMONDSON
Before becoming the conscience of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin was a renowned scientist. His 1751 Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia in America collected previous papers that elucidated positive and negative electrical charges and posited that lightning was a form of electricity [which two French scientists confirmed before his own kite flying].
A fellow of the Royal Society with the 1753 Copley Gold Medal honoring his work [think: Nobel Prize], he paved the way for insulators and lightning rods – along with inventing bifocals and the efficient Franklin stove.
“Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed a new rule Tuesday to overhaul the way science is used to write regulations at the agency, disqualifying huge amounts of peer-reviewed public health research and giving favor to industry-funded studies.
“The new rule, widely condemned by scientists and environmental groups as an ‘attack on science … ’” – Huffington Post, April 24, 2018
In his quest for unfettered scientific investigation, Franklin organized the founding of the Publik Academy of Philadelphia in 1749, the first non-sectarian college in the Colonies. It survives today as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania.
Fellow founding father Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819. It, too, has lasted longer than a dozen years and has never been forced to pay $25 million to more than 6,000 defrauded students.
[“This settlement marked a stunning reversal by President Trump, who for years refused to compensate the victims of his sham university,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman concluded.]
Pruitt’s order enacted rules proposed last year by the Rev. Sen. James Lankford, one of his fellow Oklahoma Apostles of Ignorance.
“There is no safe blood level of lead. According to the EPA, lead poisoning can cause slowed growth, lower IQ, behavior and learning problems, and more. In the 1970s, it became increasingly clear that lead exposure resulted in negative health effects.
“Rather than accept the growing weight of this scientific evidence, the lead industry started to use manufactured counterfeit science to cast doubt on the impacts of lead exposure and the acceptable amount of lead in blood.
“Now if the ‘BEST Act’ had been the law of the land when the federal government began to regulate lead, the lead industry could have used this counterfeit science to challenge EPA regulations on the grounds of “degree of clarity” and “variability and uncertainty” [among other things], forcing the agency into endless litigation over settled science …” – Union of Concerned Scientists Blog, April 3, 2017.
That is the policy Pruitt has adopted.
The Jefferson Lab notes of its namesake: “[Jefferson’s] main scientific contribution was as a statesman of science. For half a century in public office and in private life, he led the growth of American optimism about science, technology, and the future …
“In fact, during the week in 1797 when he became vice president of the United States, he presented a formal research paper on paleontology to his scientific colleagues in the American Philosophical Society.”
“At a time when archaeological sites are a growing flashpoint in the debate over public lands, the Bureau of Land Management blocked at least 14 staff archaeologists and other specialists … from attending a major scientific conference last month, a new report says. – The Salt Lake Tribune, May 15, 2018
Jefferson was president of the American Philosophical Society for nearly two decades, including during his presidency, at a time when “much of what we now call ‘science’ was known as ‘philosophy.’”
“When President Donald Trump was sworn into office, much of the science community braced for the worst. Trump had long shown a stubborn disregard for any scientific knowledge that differed from his beliefs …” – The Atlantic, March 23, 2018.
Jefferson and George Washington are both known for keeping detailed records of their agricultural endeavors and adjusting their practices along empirical lines. But Washington, too, had an inquisitive mind.
New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer offers this anecdote:
In November of 1783, Tom Paine, George Washington and two of his colonels pondered the origin of the will-o-the-wisp.
The colonels thought “the fiery globe that people sometimes claimed to see floating over marshes” originated with matter, maybe turpentine. “Washington and Paine thought it was a gas.
“So the next night, they got in a scow with some soldiers and set out on the Millstone River to conduct an experiment. The soldiers poked poles into the mud, and Washington and Paine held torches close. They saw bubbles rise, and then a flash of light broke out across the water. Washington and Paine were right. The gas would turn out to be methane, produced by the microbes in the mud.”
Pure scientific method.
“Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, who strongly denies that climate change exists, brought a large snowball on the Senate floor Thursday as a real life example that the globe is not warming.” – CNN, Feb. 27, 2015
Paine, as responsible for our country and its liberties as any other founder, was, according to History’s Heroes, “an engineer, scientist and inventor [who] designed the Sunderland Bridge over the Wear River at Wearmouth, England … He was a capable inventor and invented, among other things, the smokeless candle.”
In The Age of Reason, 220 years ago, Paine anticipated the possibilities of space:
“Since, then, no part of our earth is left unoccupied, why is it to be supposed that the immensity of space is a naked void, lying in eternal waste? There is room for millions of worlds as large or larger than ours, and each of them millions of miles apart from each other …
“The idea of a solitary world, rolling or at rest in the immense ocean of space, gives place to the cheerful idea of a society of worlds, so happily contrived as to administer, even by their motion, instruction to man. We see our own earth filled with abundance; but we forget to consider how much of that abundance is owing to the scientific knowledge the vast machinery of the universe has unfolded.”
“The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Jim Bridenstine, a Republican Congress member from Oklahoma, to be the next administrator of NASA …
“Bridenstine, 42, brings some odd qualifications to the job, and some controversy.
Typically, NASA administrators are chosen from within NASA’s ranks, come up through the military, or have a background in science. Bridenstine has none of that. His qualifications: He’s former Navy pilot who once ran the Air and Space Museum in Tulsa. He also sits on the House Committee that oversees NASA.” – Vox, April 19, 2018
In Nature’s God, Matthew Stewart’s devastating refutation of Hobby Lobby-like lies about the beliefs of our founders, he documents a brazen breach of law in 1764 in Salisbury, CT.
In public defiance of local laws, Dr. Thomas Young [later a Boston Son of Liberty] inoculated the Green Mountaineer Ethan Allen against smallpox.
Yep, there were inoculation deniers even then – though the good people of the 18th Century were of the mind that it was an affront to the will of God to prevent such pestilences or thunderbolts as He might choose to loose among them.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The adage is especially relevant for climate-warming greenhouse gases, which are crucial to manage – and challenging to measure. In recent years, though, satellite and aircraft instruments have begun monitoring carbon dioxide and methane remotely, and NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System [CMS], a $10-million-a-year research line, has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon. Now, President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly killed the CMS, Science has learned.” — Paul Voosen, Science, May 9, 2018
Designed, deliberate, willful ignorance embraced for private greed. No facts, no problems. [But Congress has put that funding back in place for now.]
And of course examples involving only the scandalous Pruitt – who departed his position last week – could fuel an essay five times this long.
No wonder Oklahoma Republicans – so well represented in our essay on ignorance – work so hard to keep this state at the bottom of all educational ratings. An educated public would soon realize that, short of outright of treason, there is nothing as anti-American as the anti-scientific ignorance that permeates their party.
– Duncan resident Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party