In “They Saved Lisa’s Brain,” Lisa Simpson joins the local Mensa chapter, whose members subsequently decide their intelligence equips them to run Springfield. A live-action version of this Simpsons episode occurs in the pages of Science, which presently lowers its aspirations from explaining the universe to merely running the United States.
“The United States has an insatiable desire for technological advancement but is governed by founding documents that are completely unsuited for science and technology,” Holden Thorp, Science’s editor, writes in an editorial for the publication. “This incongruity has manifested in recent disastrous actions by the US Supreme Court on guns, abortion, and climate.”
He refers obliquely to New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Dobbs v. Jackson, and West Virginia v. EPA; the Second Amendment protecting the right to keep and bear arms; the Tenth Amendment preventing the federal government from usurping functions of government not delegated to them, even in penumbras or emanations, by the states; and the Constitution guaranteeing a republican form of governance that necessarily forbids legislation by unelected bureaucrats.
Upon becoming editor in 2019, Thorp, the former chancellor of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill until his 2013 departure following an athlete-cheating scandal, made Science less science and more politics. While the chemistry professor failed at running a government-funded school, he believes other scientists should possess more say in running the government.
In May, for instance, Thorp advised scientists in Science: “Make protest signs. Start marching. Push lawmakers to finally break the partisan gridlock that has made moments of silence a regular observance. The National Rifle Association and its minions must be defeated.” (READ MORE: Scientist: My Abortion ‘Like Being Born’)
The corruption of purpose witnessed in Science follows the corruption of purpose witnessed in science. A sort of keeping-up-with-the-Einsteins phenomenon nudges that publication and its competitor Nature toward hot-button political topics and social “science.” In veering from the rigors of the scientific method to the self-flattery of a priori assumptions, the publications undermine science in depicting it as yet another field pushing not truth but ideology. Recent headlines, for example, in Nature read: “I Wouldn’t Be a Scientist without My Abortion,” “The Sting of Sizeism in a Scientific Workplace,” and “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Are Foundational Research Skills.”
Is science that boring to scientists that they must fixate upon politics? It sometimes feels that way for Thorp, whose articles suggest he wishes he wrote for Mother Jones instead of Science.
“The scientific community must value and partner with communicators and policymakers who can help show that scientific advancement demands that the nation operate as a work in progress,” Thorp writes in his latest editorial. “Otherwise, America will be stuck with a government that worships a set of documents created by men who had no idea about evolution, dinosaurs, hydrocarbons, women’s health, or digital communication.”
Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, proved that lightning operates as an electrical phenomenon, and named and identified the Gulf Stream.
What scientific achievements does the former chemistry professor denigrating him and his fellow Founding Fathers boast?
Whereas Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He served as president of the American Philosophical Society, then encompassing science as much as philosophy, for more than double the time he served as president of the United States. He displays his deep scientific interest in the only book he wrote, Notes on the State of Virginia, which details in the opening chapters the plants, animals, minerals, climate, and much else of his home state. He established with Congress the Corps of Discovery that sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark west. He devoted a room in his house to his fossil collection, which led some contemporaries to ridicule him as “Mr. Mammoth” and some looking back respectfully to label him the “Father of Paleontology.”
Of course, Franklin, Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers did not know what everybody did not know in the 18th century. The discovery of dinosaurs, the theory of evolution, and the iPhone came later. Thorp, like Jefferson and Franklin, holds no idea of the scientific discoveries a century or more in the future. Should we dismiss him for the very reason he dismisses the Founding Fathers?
Just as it does not follow that science holds the answers to gun control today, it does not follow that a background in science proved necessary to founding a republic yesterday. One admires Jefferson and Franklin for immersing themselves in scientific questions, and George Washington and John Adams for dabbling in them. But only one who views science as a sort of faith containing all the answers, and possesses a profound ignorance of history, would denigrate the American Founding because its leading figures did not encounter Charles Darwin. Unfortunately, people who imagine science as everything start making everything science. In this way, they ironically dilute and destroy their obsession.
The utopia Lisa Simpson, Comic Book Guy, Dr. Hibbert, Principal Skinner, and their Mensa friends create, complete with clocks based on the metric system, quickly degenerates into a dystopia. The egos, lack of practical knowledge, no checks and balances, and sense by the smarter MENSA members that their inferiors should automatically defer to their opinions all contribute to anarchy in Springfield.
“Don’t feel bad, Lisa,” Steven Hawking counsels. “Sometimes the smartest of us can be the most childish.”
Some scientists possess wisdom. Others do not.