Where have all the good times gone?

I recently spent a wonderful vacation in Washington, DC–replacing a planned driving trip to Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado and some of the nearby parks in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. All because of a pain in the neck, that I am again happy to report–is now gone. We’ll get there eventually.

I lived for 4+ years in the DC area, from 1999-2003, and visiting the Smithsonian museums on weekends was one of our favorite past-times. This time, we had an opportunity to go with children now at an age where they could fully appreciate the magnificence of the Washington Mall.

One of the days we visited the museum of American History. There were many exhibits, and we had to pick and choose. One of them was about science labs and research in the US. A must see, and extremely well presented.

What struck me in particular was the evolving way in which science and scientists are viewed. We know today that “Geeks and Freaks” seems to be a common conception, along with evil and/or obtuse researchers lacking in any human emotions. But was it always like this?

Apparently not. It seems that scientists and science were once accorded the highest respect of the American public. For example, look at this comment, photographed at one of the exhibits:

Respect for Science! Today homeopaths and creative design proponents seem to have eroded the respect for scientists

And how about this? Laboratories as cultural symbols of truth! Oh those were the days…

Laboratories as cultural symbols of truth--*sigh*

Where have we gone wrong? Is there any way to turn back the clock?

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of about 10 students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery that is now in press! All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising. http://www.stevecaplan.net
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