Mark Morford is wonderfully excited about the prospects for biological research, and I don’t blame him. Consider what the world was like in 1900 and how physics and engineering changed it by 2000; from horse-and-buggy and steam locomotive to interstates and jet planes, from telegraph to world-wide communication networks. We’re going to see a revolution of that magnitude in the coming century, too, and you can expect biology and medicine to be at the forefront. Well, maybe. As Morford writes, the alternative is to
…hold tight to the leaky life raft of inflexible ideology (hello, organized religion), to rules and laws and codes of conduct written by the fearful, for the fearful, to live in constant low-level dread of all the extraordinary changes and radical rethinkings of what it means to be human or animal or male or female or hetero or homo or any other swell little label you thought was solid and trustworthy but which is increasingly proven to be blurry and unpredictable and just a little dangerous.
We know which side GW Bush and the Republican party are on: with the knuckle-draggers and antique hierarchies of organized religion. Our president has vetoed a bill to support stem cell research. This is remarkable: he has only vetoed three bills in his entire presidency, and two of them have been with the intent of killing stem cell research. Just as remarkably, our representatives in congress haven’t been able to muster the numbers to override that veto. Imagine if the American government had voted to censure the Wright brothers and to outlaw the internal combustion engine at the turn of the last century, or if they’d decided to condemn the kinds of radical and dangerous physics being pursued at places like Princeton and Chicago. It wouldn’t have changed a thing about the natural world, or the discoveries that were made; it might have slowed the pace a bit, but the changes would still have come from England and France and Germany and Japan and the Soviet Union … the biggest difference would be that the United States would be an irrelevant backwater.
That’s what the Republicans are doing to this country right now: damning us to a future as a backward, corrupt mess, a big, blundering headache for the world. In 2100, will the rest of the planet see us in the same way Turkey was seen in 1900?