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Why do Science and Technology Matter in society? by Paolo Giacomoni

With Redstone Arsenal, NASA, and many Biotech- and IT- start-ups, the Huntsville area presents with one of the highest density of Ph. D’s. per inhabitant in the country, an evidence of strong cultural, technological and scientific development. As a matter of fact, science is not only about knowledge, it is about creating technologies and eventually promote economic development. Science is all around us here in Huntsville and Madison County. The future is bright with science. Bright for all of Alabama (some quick examples and these should be further researched/confirmed for facts) including Agriculture, Stronger and better ships for the Navy in Mobile, Aviation Excellence in Fort Rucker in Dothan, Nascar at Talladega Superspeedway, Universities in Huntsville, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Mobile and Auburn. All these areas in Alabama benefit from investments the government has made into our communities. Jobs and Money is what science brings us- everyone likes that. Democrats like that! To bear its fruits, science has to stay true to itself. The goal of science is to understand how things happen, not why they happen. Far from being a drawback, this approach has proven fruitful over the centuries. We do now know for instance, that diseases are transmitted by micro-organisms, that matter is made of electrically charged particles and that light is a form of energy. This knowledge has facilitated the development of technologies such as the production of antibiotics and of electricity. These technologies have extended life expectancy and have made life on earth much more comfortable as compared to when animal and human labor were the only sources of energy. In a similar way, it can be expected that the progress in molecular and cell biology will help understanding the onset of the cancers and eventually find appropriate ways to cure them. It can also be expected that the progress in the understanding of solar physics and of the conversion of sunlight into electricity will lead to the sustainable, inexhaustible production of inexpensive energy. Among the windfall benefits of space research there have been the development of incredibly effective computer technologies, and the setting up of laser-driven precision devices that are helpful for communication and also for the military equipment. In Alabama we experience an extraordinary blossoming of industrially applied technologies and of centers of excellence that vastly contribute to the economical growth of the state. The shipyards in Mobile, the many aerospace companies, the military aviation in Fort Rucker, the IT and Biotech in Huntsville, the many universities, not to speak of the NASA, are but an example of the economical effects of science and it is obvious that when we cut funding for science, we not only hinder intellectual progress but we are throttling back the main engine of Alabama. Science and technology are neither good nor bad: the use one makes of them can be good or bad. On the positive side we have that the studying of science and of its history allows one to grasp the efforts made by humankind over the centuries to improve the quality of life and to favor the exchanges between human civilizations, for instance the invention of the plow, the weaving, the stirrup, the sail, the mobile print characters, the gun powder, the telescope, the brewing of wine, the steam engine, the contraceptive pill etc. On the other hand, science does not justify any metaphysical conclusion, and abhors eugenics or social Darwinism, that is to say that there is no scientific justification for White Supremacy and for racism in all of its forms, as there is no scientific justification for the belief that social success or failure are the consequences of the selection of the fittest. In the practice of their activity, scientists refrain from extrapolating scientific results to ethical conclusion, albeit they are free as individuals, of course, to have and share their opinions that will be subjected to criticism as any other opinion. The bottom line: Science and the study of history of science are well-proven to be critical for mankind’s quality of life. That’s a trend and a need we could stand to continue, because the alternative will not advance us as a society or civilization. When we cut funding for science, we are throttling back the main engine of Alabama. Science is what makes us great here in Huntsville, and can continue to make us stronger, but we have to protect what we have and protect the future for Alabama.


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