The American Need to Invest in Science and Technology

May 31, 2010

Right now, the American people are experiencing the worst natural disaster in the history of their country. A kilometer deep in the Gulf of Mexico is an entire natural reserve of oil leaking into the ocean. Over the past decade, America’s lead in producing scientists, engineers, and novel research has been declining compared to asian countries like China. The BP oil spill has exposed this achilles-heel by leaving the American government helpless. If anyone can stop this oil leak, it is the private companies who spend the most money on scientific research. During Obama’s most recent press conference, he said,

“What is true is that when it comes to stopping the leak down below, the federal government does not possess superior technology to BP.”

Maybe America’s obsession with terrorism and wars has caused its politicians to forget that America’s position in the world is due not only to its power and strength but also to its brains and scientific knowledge. This is certainly the case when it comes to public education, where children are taught hardly any science anymore, leading to the scientifically most embarrassingly ¬†ignorant population in the Western world. As a previous elementary school science teacher, I will say that the quality of our elementary science education is pitiful. This leads most americans to learn the majority of their scientific knowledge outside of school! However it usually takes some time before such lag in education begins to affect the actual production of gadgets and research and so far we haven’t felt the ¬†inevitable effects of this scientifically-illiterate population maturing.

Thankfully, a recent bill has been approved by the House of Representatives that is awaiting Senate approval and will grant $84 billion dollars to scientific research and technology. This bill has been derailed twice already by the Republican party (A.K.A. the party of ‘No’) but has finally been approved. It is a good start to overcoming the recent decline in the U.S.A.’s role as the world’s leader in technological research.

In the New York Times, David Brooks discusses how this recent oil spill is one of many areas in the fields of science and technology that is becoming too complex for people to handle. Steven Novella writes in his blog that one possible solution to this problem is creating robots to help combat situations where humans are inadequate to stop disasters. This is already being done with the Deepwater Horizon oil leak by using BP’s underwater robots to fix the leaking pipe. It is such robots that are missing in the governments arsenal for stopping the growing slick. If they had pumped more funding into research in this area, perhaps they would have some of their own robots to use. For now, the American people and America’s ecosystems are in the hands of BP because they are the only ones with appropriate robots at their disposal.

I hope that this environmental disaster proves to the government how important scientific research and technology is for us. If we want to help prevent this sort of occurrence in the future, we should be producing more engineers and scientists and we should do so from an early age, rather than attempting to fill our textbooks with lies and unscientific religious beliefs. That way the next time something like this happens we will not only have more scientists and engineers we can rely on, but also better tools for the job.