Why Americans trust technology but not scienceRoundup
tags: Science, technology, Benjamin Franklin
Joyce Chaplin is a professor of history at Harvard University, author of "The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius" and a current Guggenheim Fellow.
It is one of the central ironies of our age: A nation devoted, even addicted, to technology regularly dismisses science itself.
Advances in electronic media helped elect a U.S. president who uses such technology to his advantage but dismisses the science of climate change. And President Trump is not alone. Many Americans rely on technology as they reject science, using the Internet to, for instance, build a case for why they should not vaccinate their children.
The current reality is at odds with the accomplishment and vision of Benjamin Franklin, whose birthday is today. Franklin was a man of science who wanted science and technology to improve everyday life. He championed inoculation against smallpox; now we can vaccinate against many diseases. He published a newspaper and invented the concept of the electric battery — anyone reading this article online is doubly Franklinesque.
In his era, science was central to national prestige, and thoughtful engagement with both science and technology was desirable. During the 18th century, children learned Newtonian physics, women studied botany and lowborn sailors published their observations of the world. Inclusion was not universal, but the aspiration to engage more and more people in science was a notable goal.
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