“The work of a scientist is often unglamorous. Behind every headline-making, cork-popping, blockbuster discovery, there are many lifetimes of work. And that work is often mundane. We’re talking drips-of-solution-into-a-Petri-dish mundane, maintaining-a-database mundane. Usually, nothing happens.

Scientific discovery costs money—quite a lot of it over time—and requires dogged commitment from the people devoted to advancing their fields. Now, the funding uncertainty that has chipped away at the nation’s scientific efforts for more than a decade is poised to get worse.

…we most certainly lose diversity in science—ranging from diversity of topics researched to diversity of people doing the research,” she told me. “Since we don’t know where real future progress will come from, and since history tells us that it can and almost certainly will come from anywhere—both scientifically and geographically—public funding that precisely diversifies our nation’s portfolio is crucial.”

“It would take a decade for us to recover and move the world’s center of science to the U.S. from China, Germany, and Singapore, where investments are now robust.”

–from “Scientists Brace for a Lost Generation in American Research” by Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic on March 16, 2017

I’ve been thankful… for the distraction of graduate school from the reality of the dismal political situation that the 18.96% have forced the rest of us into.  Really the dismal life situation that the 18.96% have forced the rest of us into.  I had hoped, really hoped, that it wasn’t going to come to this, but we are a country with a short memory and we rarely learn our lesson the first, fifth, or forty-fifth time.  I’m sorry for those of you that are so selfishly idealistic and deluded that you sold your fellow Americans out to the reality of Donald Trump because you thought you were “sticking it to the man” or letting “the establishment” feel the force of your ire, or you honestly thought that third party presidential voting is how you change the two-party system.

And yeah, I’m angry at your lack of foresight and common sense.  Yes, the system is deeply flawed and broken as it stands now (but its not yet irreparable), but the reality of the American political system is that third parties are not viable yet and acting as if they are only makes the problem worse.  At this rate, they may never be viable because those of you that support third parties (every four years) aren’t doing it right.  If third parties really wanted to do it right (instead of making money off those that don’t like the two viable candidates every four years), it would go something like this: Run candidates for school boards and city aldermen, the county tax assessor and the mayor.  Get a footing in the local community, then turn to state houses and senates, and eventually a couple of governors.  With a reasonable base of power at the state level, run some Congressional races.  And then, having done the leg work, with the support of a decent share of government (I’d guess something like 10-15% nationally, and 20-30% on the state level) there might be a realistic chance for the big white house on Washington Ave.

But that’s work.  And it takes longer than the 15 minute attention span of the average screen-addicted American choking on their own affluenza-infected cynicism and self-importance.  Rome wasn’t built in a day…and it didn’t fall in a day either.  It died the death of a thousand cuts–lead poisoning on a massive scale, intense economic stratification, a system of taxation that let the most wealthy avoid taxes in comparison to the percentage paid by lower classes, reliance on slave labor, overextending itself militarily on foreign wars (leading to massive defeats), a division into two entities with two governments, a decline of civil infrastructure and technological advancement, the oppression and inhumane treatment of non-Romans within their borders leading to resentment and rebellion…  Each one stacking upon the other until it couldn’t hold anymore.

Except that right now, we are the civilization accumulating its thousands of cuts.

And one of the biggest bleeders in need of attention is science.  The current administration, brought to you by the letters R and A, and the number 7: Russian propaganda, American stupidity, and roughly 7 million Americans that threw their votes away on President Nader Part Deux + 90 million Americans that just didn’t bother to vote.  Now, we have been left with an administration that can’t face basic facts about any issue facing the country or the world, from basic toxicology with regard to pesticide use and public health and access to affordable health care to the staggering loss of species due to habitat loss and degradation and the likely effects of continued release of greenhouse gasses.  This puts our future, and the future of our children in incredible peril.  Our failure to learn from scientific discovery as a society and our failure to invest in science, and in the solutions and technologies that have the potential to save us from the worst excesses of our hubris and our indulgence is quite simply, short-sighted and stupid on a level that has been unparalleled since the Inquisition.

What we need now, more than ever, is to invest our capitalour human capital, our environmental capital, and our economic capital into building sustainable societies with ecologically-based values.  And if we fail in this, we will fail on the global stage, the last nation holding the bag on phonographs, telegrams, and tin-type photography, falling into a new dark age, a newly fallen Rome.

One of my favorite shows (thank the gods for Netflix) right now is West Wing, simply because its a sane reminder that politics can be elevated to something beyond the election of a liar, a fraud, a cheat, a misogynist, a bigot, a jingoist, xenophobe, and apparently a puppet of a foreign government with a history of hiring illegal immigrants in the US while sending his own manufacturing to China, who has been too busy calling in favors for his companies as he makes as much as he can off the tax payer dime under the guise of “security” while putting white nationalists, terrorists, foreign collaborators, corrupt businessmen, and his whole damn family (with 0 experience doing anything useful) into positions where they can more easily erode the bedrock of democracy.  Thank the gods for a fictional President from a show whose last season was 10 years ago, that allows me to continue to have some hope for America (because the statistics of our redemption as a nation and a species are not looking good right now).  And it just happens to have one of the most eloquent statements on the importance of the public investment in science that exists on television:

Science cannot exist in a vacuum. By nature it’s an open enterprise, strengthened by public scrutiny. Openness is the basis of a free society.

But when science is attacked on ideological grounds, its integrity and usefulness are threatened.

Independent peer-reviewed research is the cornerstone of science in America. It shouldn’t be about the left or the right, but what works to keep people safe and healthy.

I believe all Americans and all people everywhere, no matter who they are or how they live, deserve research to improve their lives. Thomas Jefferson said, “We must not be afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead.”

Scientific truth ennobles us. It tells us who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. I believe the truth will only be found when all scientists are free to pursue it.

(Ellie Bartlet, The West Wing, Season 5: Episode 16)