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Thursday, September 21, 2023


GUEST COMMENTARY: Obama a friend of knowledge

My name is Tom Pile, and I like Sen. Barack Obama. There are many reasons, of course, why I have an emotional attachment to him, but these reasons are not what I am willing to go to the stump about.

People have emotional attachments to Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain, Rep. Ron Paul and, God save us, Rudy Giuliani. The emotional attachment to a candidate is important in campaigning, of course, but in little else.

No, I like Obama because I think Obama likes science. You may say to yourself, why science, of all things? What about the war and the economy? I lack the space to go into it, but consider this: We would not be having either a war or an economy as presently constituted without the developments in knowledge and technology which have accrued, by and large, over the last 200 years, and most acutely in the last 50. However, our national commitment to science has declined from its enthusiastic support around the time of the moon landings and other affairs; there are many causes, many effects, but the trend is not a positive one.

?Both candidates, of course, cite figures for specific pieces of applied technology they want – ethanol standards, alternative energy proposals, combined in some cases with exhortations to drill now, pay less later and so on. Everyone likes new technology, especially when it addresses some problem we already acutely feel. Basic science, on the other hand, is the sort of free-roaming fundamental research so often set to the side in favor of enormous initiatives. Obama says he will double funding for this, as well as predictable schemes to increase math and science education. ?It’s not enough, of course, but we must take what we can get. Perhaps he will provide more, particularly if a juicy new avenue opens up – a new branch or discovery we cannot even imagine yet but which may solve problems we had come to accept as the everyday course of affairs, such as smallpox, a world limited by the length of a day’s walk and the divine right of kings once were. Technology and science may seem to open a new problem for every one they solve. The real point is the previous problems were, in fact, solved.

The other candidate, by contrast, seems to focus primarily on automotive proposals and promising to keep your children from Internet pornography. A meaningful concern, to be certain, but would we consider a foreign policy complete or sufficient if it consisted of "maintain friendly relations with Egypt?" Certainly McCain would offer incentives to auto companies to roll out vehicles they seem to be developing quite well now. That is, however, as far as he seems willing to go. Perhaps he is bound to his party, much of whose base may consider long-term planning to be foolish (these being the "End Times") and secular science to be untrustworthy at the best of times.

?Think what you want of Obama as a person. Call him sexist, racist and Muslim, with a crazy reverend for a preacher. Remember, though, who is willing to put up the money to solve not just the problems of today, but those of tomorrow.

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