Protests for science show shift in our culture

Oh, the things you thought you’d never see. 

As I think about when I looked forward into the future during my formative youthful years (some time ago now), back then I never, ever imagined I’d see people taking to the streets demonstrating in support of science, which people on Saturday did in Kansas City and throughout the nation. 

I certainly knew way back when what demonstrations looked like. That’s even though I grew up in a small rural Missouri town with zero diversity. Because while waiting for dad to return home from work and supper to be served, a boring time for a kid in the 1960s, you could turn on the TV evening news and see if anything exciting was happening — sheriff’s deputies clubbing black people marching for civil rights, race riots when Martin Luther King was killed and massive protests against the the Vietnam War. 

Or now and then on TV you’d see a conservative demonstration against counterculture.
So if you told me we’d have demonstrations and marches roughly four decades later, perhaps in 2017, I’d have said, “Sure, that’s possible maybe people still won’t be getting along, but I hope they will.” Yet, I never would have entertained a single thought about people marching to support science. 

What kind of a doofus doesn’t believe in science? Or scientists?

Anyone who doesn’t believe in science, and science’s partnership with engineering and industry, should take to the woods armed only with an ax, shovel, hoe, knife and the clothes on your back, then see how much fun you have for how long. Part of my bias in this direction stems from the times I was raised in. We learned early as kids about the great inventors in history, such as Robert Fulton who furthered steam power and Thomas Edison who ushered us into the electric age. 

Granted they were inventors, but science set the stage for their inventiveness. Then we also learned early on that America capped off winning World War II for the betterment of the free world by inventing the atomic bomb. 

Despite the horror, we knew science begat power in the modern world. 

We worshiped with wonder the science behind the space race. No one took for granted what was going to happen as we watched on live TV as the first man stepped on the moon. 

War, greed, racism, meanness, snobbery were all bad, but science, basic science led to the engineering that begat equipment for the Beatles to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was and still is great.

Science still speaks to me today. Last week, I had my annual doctor’s checkup and the tests that go with such exams. The next day, the nurse called to say blood and urine test results were all fine. 

I’m good to go for another year. It’s amazing that science lets modern man test such things and get reassurance or help if something is amiss. But just as remarkable is test results are available in a day’s time. 

Who remembers the worry of waiting weeks for results to come in?

Contractors are currently redoing Interstate 29’s pavement and ramps in Platte County. The work is at night to minimize traffic tie ups.

I’m impressed at how fast they’re making progress and how smooth the new pavement is. One morning I pulled onto pavement laid the night before. I followed a fully-loaded cement truck down the ramp. 

That’s a lot of weight in a relatively short wheel base. 

I watched for the truck creating dents in new pavement. None appeared. Wow, the advances that make road building so smooth. 

Science is a full partner with engineering to make efficient road building possible. 

Since it is spring, I planted tomatoes last weekend in my garden. The Beefmaster and Better Boy tomato varieties were not dug up in the woods. They were developed by the science of horticulture. 

Reasoned thinking leads to measured results and then more reasoned thinking leads to advancement.

Thank goodness for lawnmowers. I had to use both the push and riding varieties last weekend as grass grows like crazy this time of year. Sure, they’re mechanical and the results of engineering, but there’s plenty of science that led to gasoline, tempered steel and a spark plug.

Scientists today work on levels so complex that much of what they do is beyond our complete comprehension. We can grasp basics but the complexities require considerable training and experience in specialized fields. 

Maybe that’s why some people can turn their backs on science and scientists. But anyone with common sense does not.

Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at