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Gerald Holton Introduction THE FIRST SECTION OF THIS SPECIAL ISSUE COVERS THE RECENT HISTORY of the em erging conflict betw een politics and science in the United States. The questions to be explored include: Has the balance of power am ong the various interests th at play a role in determ ining public policy changed? W hat are the consequences of these changes? W hat lessons can be learned from past successes and failures in public policy? The attem pt to answ er these questions comes at w hat may be a tipping point in the relation of politics and science. To understand better the relative radicalism of the present dilemma and its probable results, it will be useful to step back a bit and recall that from the begin­ ning, and until very recently, science and technology were in m utu­ ally fruitful em brace of Am erica’s politics and policies. We all know of sturdy and benign offspring in recent decades: for example, the culture-changing Internet, m uch stimulated by DARPA; the trium phs of genome research, many being the results of federal support in the past; or the findings of economists such as Robert Solow and Zvi Grilliches that over a four-decade period in America, the gross output per manhour doubled, w ith as m uch as 87 percent of that increase attributable to advances in science and technology—the kind th at the National Science Foundation, the D epartm ent of Energy, and other agencies used to support in style. To be sure, there have also been some bastard offspring of the union of politics and science—for example, the “Star W ars” missile social research Vol 73 : No 3 : Fall 2006 733 system. But history reveals an underlying benign potential in the American soul that can and m ust reassert itself. Even America’s birth certificate, its Declaration of Independence, announced in its very first lines that the new nation was “entitled” to its existence by “the laws o f nature.” The so-called Founding Fathers were well educated in science, and commonly associated the ideal of society with Newton’s image of the solar system, and the laws by which it harm oniously sustained itself. Thomas Jefferson, who confessed him self m ost happy w hen he was doing science, saw a double purpose for the pursuit of science: of course, the advancem ent of knowledge, but also w hat he term ed “the freedom and happiness of m an.” Thus, Jefferson’s launching of the Lewis and Clark expedition had, in his m ind, the double purpose: as a scientific survey of interest on its own, but also getting to know the area to which the nation was bound to expand. Benjamin Franklin, whose anniversary we are celebrating this year, was of course a m ajor scientist, rightly called the Newton of Electricity, and was also rem em bered for his studies in oceanography and meteorology, and on medical subjects. It was his great renow n as a scientist from the New W orld that assured him access to the courts of Europe, thereby obtaining help and recognition for his nation at its m ost perilous moments. W hen Alexis de Tocqueville visited in the 1830s, he recognized th at A m erica’s technology, sym bolized by Robert Fulton’s steam ­ ship, was transform ing society. At about th at tim e, as Elting Morison pointed out in his om inously titled book, From Knowledge to Nowhere, the great Barge Canal, starting in Erie, was a great technological achievem ent, resulting in hugely accelerated com m erce and the grow th of cities. W ith the start of the scientific approach to medicine in the 1860s, the curve plotting survival took off, and has continued upward, reflect­ ing the longer and healthier lives that millions can enjoy. As a result, access to proper healthcare is considered more and m ore to be one of the basic hum an rights. 734 social research Among the num erous examples of the beneficent interaction of science, technology, and society, let me just briefly list a few more from which the nation can...


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