New Scientist: Will an Anti-Science stance hurt the U.S.?

May 19, 1988

Physicist Tony Feinberg, in New Scientist

With the news that Nancy Reagan has referred to an astrologer when planning her husband's schedule, and reports of Californians evacuating Los Angeles on the strength of a prediction from a sixteenth-century physician and astrologer Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus), the image of the U.S. as a scientific and technological nation has taking a bit of a battering lately. Sadly, such happenings cannot be dismissed as passing fancies. They are manifestations of a well-established "anti-science" tendency in the U.S. which, ultimately, could threaten the country's position as a technological power....  The manifest widespread desire to reject rationality and substitute a series of quasirandom beliefs in order to understand the universe does not augur well for a nation deeply concerned about its ability to compete with its industrial equals. To the degree that it reflects the thinking of a significant section of the public, this point of view encourages ignorance of and, indeed, contempt for science and for rational methods of approaching truth....  It is becoming clear that if the U.S. does not pick itself up soon and devote some effort to educating the young effectively, its hope of maintaining a semblance of leadership in the world may rest, paradoxically, with a new wave of technically interested and trained immigrants who do not suffer from the anti-science disease rampant in an apparently decaying society.