Data, Statistics, Science, Imagination and Common Purpose

In President Obama’s Inaugural Address, “data” and “statistics” were the 247th and 249th words spoken. Science was very much foregrounded in the President’s address:

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.

There is tremendous congruence between this stated respect for science and the somber chastisement over our collective “failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”  The Bush administration sought to suppress science because facts about the world can be politically inconvenient.  The implications of scientific research don’t always jibe so well with our desire for short-term gratification.  I hope that President Obama can truly help to focus our political debates onto the serious decisions that we need to make as individuals and as a society.  

I am thrilled by the prospect that the age of know-nothingness in Washington DC might be over, but am also realistic that these things take time.  Let’s hope we can make this change while we still actually have time!

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