Quarks, Neutrinos and Fiscal Policy
After dedicating a large part of my high school experience to journalism, I never really gave a second thought to continuing it when I entered CMC. I pictured a glamorous life filled with caustic chemicals, NMR spectra and the occasional memo to the President of South Sudan. I exchanged my notepad and fedora for thick goggles and flame retardant aprons. And, as a dual Chemistry and International Relations major, most of those things have come true.
Yet, as I continued studying science, I learned to appreciate journalism more and the role it plays in communities ranging from the 5Cs to a national level .The major catalyst for change occurred in my Intro Scientific Philosophy class the day we were debating whether our scientific laws describe natural phenomena as they actually were or whether they are just empirically adequate (the laws simply fit the data). I agreed with the latter view and found myself reflecting upon the effectiveness of governmental policies that attempt to correct some social ill. Why do some work and others don’t and more importantly who decides whether some are successful or not? Do the same natural laws that play such an extensive role in science govern these outcomes as well?
While debating quantum particles and the effectiveness of Medicare, I began to see a connection between the explanatory power of science and the creation of national policy which can drastically affect the lives of millions. Specifically, I conjectured that the inherent skepticism, use of controlled variables, and outside the box thinking as prescribed by the scientific method could potentially play a major role in improving deliberative decision making.
The famed astronomer Carl Sagan also noted this connection between science’s role to map the unknown and a government’s policies. He writes, “every act of congress, every supreme court decision… is an experiment. Policy ideas can be tested. The great waste would be to ignore the results of social experiments because they seem to be ideological unpalatable.” As Sagan so eloquently points out, there are more similarities between science experiments and the successes and failures of decision making than many acknowledge and it is critical to recognize these similarities.
The more and more I thought about science and government, the more clearly I saw the role that journalism should play in order to facilitate these changes in thinking. Journalism and free press, both in Washington and here in Claremont, strive to be much more than just an source for news and an outlet for people to express their opinions; we strive to provide the ideas that deviate from conventional wisdom and initiate change, we attempt to question the conventional and provide a source of skepticism that causes people to see beyond penciled bubbles.
With national elections and major transformation occurring across the 5Cs, now is a good of time as ever to prescribe to the ideals of science and challenge accepted ideas and policies through journalism. Here at the Port Side, we have been working to “rock the boat” since our inception and the ideas of transparency, skepticism and change are the reason we exist. However, I encourage you to also read TSL, the Forum, Scripps Voice, Claremont Independent and Orange Peel. Despite minor differences, we all have very similar goals and are well suited to promote skepticism among students, staff and faculty. Even better, express your thoughts and ideas by writing for these publications. As Hippocrates, who played a major role in the creation of the scientific method, wrote, “leave nothing to chance, overlook nothing and combine contradictory observations.”