The ALS ice bucket challenge is pretty cool. It’s great to see people come together to bring awareness to a disease that not many people know about. It’s one of many examples of how social media is changing how we relate to each in the world and bring issues into a collective consciousness. The video of Bill Gates and his water-dumping contraption is adorable. And I’m enjoying watching local businesses take up the challenge and post their own, fun versions. Millions of dollars have been raised. And that’s great.
It reminds me, too of efforts I see in the park on weekends. Walks to cure this and walks to become aware of that. I see enthusiastic people with matching t-shirts walking around the park, often with their loved ones in mind as they do what they can to make a difference in people’s lives.
I’m a realist. Which means I’m also a cynic. When I see these efforts, I often wonder how much affect they’re really having. If catharsis and awareness are the goals, I say “Well done and keep up the good work.” But if progress in treatments or finding a cure is the goal, is there a bigger movement that could help all of these causes?
The truth is the cure for all diseases comes from one place: science. The scientific method, free, unencumbered research, funding to universities and scientific communities and real science education; these are the things that are going to find ways to fight disease and alleviate suffering. Science is the answer. And we are not doing enough to promote science in our culture. Science and rational thinking are under attack. It’s politicized and demonized. It’s under attack in our schools, in the media, in our governments both local and national and through social media.
I’d like to see a movement that insists on teaching the scientific method in schools. I want to see people fight with passion at the mention of intelligent design, the evil of vaccines or climate change debate. Fighting for science might not make for a good social media clip. It means paying attention to city council meetings and school board meetings. It means speaking up in every day conversations, defending science and the scientific method, even when it’s not polite. It means talking to your children’s educators and fighting back against the wave of legitimized ignorance that’s become vogue in our society. It means fighting fear and championing the seekers of truth.
A lot of people are suffering from disease. Whether it be breast cancer and it’s famously visible pink ribbon campaign or depression or ALS, we can’t all be the champions of every cause, every day. But there is one thing that we can fight for that will help them all: Science. The cure for all diseases comes from the same place: scientific research of all kinds. Alexander Flemeing wasn’t looking for penicillin in 1928 and Wilhelm Rontgen didn’t know what x-rays could be used for. To promote all science is to promote the fight against all diseases.
I applaud everyone who has taken part in the ice bucket challenge. You’ve done some good.
Now, let’s throw buckets of science on our heads.