The nexus between science and citizenship may not be obvious. What good does it do a citizen to know about dark energy and dark matter, and the difference between them? Or that we live in four dimensions, or that space bends? That’s stuff for eggheads, right?
Well, maybe not.
In his biography, “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” Walter Isaacson writes that Einstein “came to symbolize the perception that modern physics was something that ordinary laymen could not comprehend, ‘the province of priest-like experts’ . . . It was not always thus. Galileo and Newton were both great geniuses, but their mechanical cause-and-effect explanation of the world was something that the most thoughtful folks could grasp. In the eighteenth century of Benjamin Franklin and the nineteenth century of Thomas Edison, an educated person could feel some familiarity with science and even dabble in it as an amateur.
“A popular feel for scientific endeavors should, if possible, be restored, given the needs of the twenty-first century. This does not mean that every literature major should take a watered-down physics course or that a corporate lawyer should stay abreast of quantum mechanics. Rather, it means that an appreciation for the methods of science is a useful asset for a responsible citizenry.”
Can a representative democracy fashion rational decisions on clean coal technology, intelligent design, cold fusion, when life begins, greenhouse gases, swine flu and the like, without some acquaintance with the science involved? Not likely.
Oh . . . that fourth dimension is time, something it might be useful for a citizen to spend on figuring out why something like E=mc² matters. Pun intended.