Four hundred years since human eyes first turned their gaze skyward with the aid of a telescope was celebrated in 2009 with the opening of IYA2009 in January of that year. The International Year of Astronomy, 2009, was a worldwide, three-pronged celebration of science as a force for authentic human progress; first, it marked the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of the telescope as an instrument of science to extend and expand the breadth and scope of humankind’s knowledge of the universe and it’s place in it, confirming the beauty, simplicity and veracity of the Copernican model; second, and concurrent with Galileo’s work with the telescope, it celebrated the publication during the opening decade of the 17th century of Johannes Kepler’s Astronomia Nova, the New Astronomy, wherein Kepler set forth his Three laws of Orbital Motion; and third, the 40th anniversary of humanity’s foray onto the lunar surface beginning with the landing of Apollo 11 on 20 July, 1969. 2009 also was the beginning of Barack Obama’s two-term presidency, setting the stage for what everyone hoped would be the beginning of a new era of human progress, not just on a regional or national level but on a worldwide scale.
With the opening of IYA2009 and the concurrent beginning of the Obama presidency, the specter of political ideology married to religious dogma, with the ignorance and intolerance such a marriage would foster, was gone – or so everyone believed; long-gone were the dark days of the Inquisition and the ensuing period of intellectual darkness, a period concurrent with Galileo’s first telescopic observations and thus ironically marked by IYA2009.
In a series of articles I have written in this space regarding the candidacy of Donald Trump and what the outcome of a Trump electoral victory would mean for this nation and the rest of the world, I attempted to warn and describe the danger to the human race such an outcome would be and how it would pose an existential threat to the planet and humanity itself.
From the current president’s cabinet appointments to his vacuous public pronouncements, the assault on science, reason and decency can only be regarded as an attack on Western Civilization, manifest as the tyranny of ignorance concurrent with an emergent war on science. This war on science has its roots in the defacto marriage of policy and religion where policy is set according to specific religious dogma and the concurrent belief that the natural world and environment is under the control of an omnipotent deity and thus we are free to do as we please without the slightest regard to the harm our actions have on our environment. This mindset is a throwback to the prevailing philosophy prevalent during the period leading up to The Age of Reason otherwise known as the Enlightenment (1685-1815).
The Trump administration’s proposed budget, released during the third week of May, cuts the Department of Education budget by 13.5 percent and reads like a primer on how to destroy higher education and research. The budget guts student-loan forgiveness, subsidized loans, the federal work study program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Fulbright program, to name just a few targets. That, combined with the administration’s withdrawal of this nation from the Paris climate accords, a nation with the second-highest CO2 emissions of any modern society, clearly isolates us from the rest of the world, deliberately foreclosing a leadership role for us in what will soon be an economic resurgence in the green-energy sector. Indeed, French President Emmanuel Macron has invited US scientists and engineers to, in his words, “come and work here with us“.
Back in the early twelfth Century, an influential Muslim Cleric doomed the great city of Baghdad, then the center of culture, civilization, science, astronomy and mathematics for the entire region. Al-Ghazali, who some regard as the single most influential Muslim after the Islamic prophet Muhammad, declared that science, mathematics and all related philosophies, all held in such high esteem and highly developed by the Greeks largely during the Hellenistic period, were “works of the devil”. To this day, the great city never recovered. Fast forward to the current epoch. As discussed above, the dangerous marriage of a materialistic, neo-nationalistic “conservative” political world view in this country with an openly-professed and self-ascribed “Christian” perspective has the potential to plunge the US and other western democracies into a new intellectual dark age and thus, go the way of Baghdad. Why would we need science since we’ll all be saved and brought up to heaven during the rapture? Why do we have to concern ourselves with a rapidly warming environment, complete with rising sea levels and disappearing polar ice caps? We’ll all be saved, again during the rapture! I quoted “Christian” above as the actions of this country, almost since its inception, have been anything but Christian. The atrocities committed are almost too numerous to list – and continue to this day. Few, if any, of the Founding Fathers were Christians or if they professed an affiliation to a particular Christian sect, were nominal Christians, in name only; they were “Deists” (advocates of the Enlightenment religion of nature and reason) and Free Masons but few or none would have been considered practicing Christians.
One of the first tasks they held in high importance when crafting the nation’s founding documents was to guarantee the “Freedom of Religion” and the “Freedom From Religion”, codified in the First Amendment and Article VI of the US Constitution. Having just won a Revolutionary War of Independence from King George III, it was their hope that a carefully drafted Constitution, complete with a comprehensive set of checks and balances, would curtail the power of the executive while providing the people of the new republic with a workable means of self-governance – that they would not fall victim to tyranny and despotism and thus, the nascent republic perish from the earth, a sentiment so beautifully expressed by President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. What a perverse irony that those who profess to be followers of Lincoln’s Grand Old Party are, by total measure, an anathema to the ideals of Lincoln and all he stood for – that they know he presided over one of the bloodiest wars in this country’s short history, a war fought in defense of the proposition that all men are created equal and are all born with inalienable rights by virtue of that birth and, yet, that they maintain their philosophy of practical, material racism is abhorrent and an affront to Lincoln on its face. For those who do not wish to see this republic perish from the earth and lose her standing as that Shining City on the Hill and a Beacon of Hope to a broken world, to fight in this war on science, the good fight for science and reason, we have to redouble our efforts to teach and inspire the current generation, imparting value and purpose to the pursuit of science and the loftier ideals, yearnings and aspirations of the human soul.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
November 19, 1863
All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike-and yet it is the most precious thing we have
An index of all articles in this blog can be found here.