Eppur Si Muove or And yet it moves....
"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820
I am working from home as it is half-term and just turned on the TV to listen to something while I am having my Coffee and working at my paper. It was playing “West Wing” and then heard it is about NIH! This caught my attention and I started to watch … The story was about the US president daughter (Dr. Ellie Bartlet ) who was working as post-doctoral research fellow at John Hopkins and found the lab had been funded by million dollars’ by NIH . Dr. Ellie Bartlet is finally attacked by name. The President was furious.
When confronted by his team, he said: “When the NIH was founded, the idea was simple: Identify the best research as defined by scientists themselves. And now these people who are not even scientists have answered all the questions before any science has been done?
Have you ever seen one of these grant applications? We’re lucky Einstein didn’t have to fill one out or God knows what ‘E’ would equal.”
To escape the press Ellie comes to the White House and her father talks to her about how their two professions have related in the past. She replies that:
“There’s always been tension between science and policy. Hell, we used to do terrible things to you people because we were never ready to hear what you had to say. I know of one guy they were ready to carve up with instruments of torture because he had this silly idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun.”
“If this is an object lesson about how scientists have it better today because there’s no Inquisition —”
“I enjoy talking about Galileo….”
“It’s apocryphal, Dad. A story for tourists. If Galileo had muttered ‘It still moves’ after they made him recant his life’s work, they would have killed him on the spot….”
“If you believe in what you’re doing, you have to speak up.”
“Our work speaks for itself.”
“Not enough…. Science can’t wall itself off from controversy. It has to live by it.”
At first Ellie just wants to wall herself off with her data. But she does end up giving a press conference in which she says:
"Science cannot exist in a vacuum. By nature it’s an open enterprise, strengthened by public scrutiny.
Openness is the basis of a free society. But when science is attacked on ideological grounds, its integrity and usefulness are threatened.
Independent peer-reviewed research is the cornerstone of science. It shouldn’t be about the left or the right, but what works to keep people safe and healthy. I believe all Americans and all people everywhere, no matter who they are or how they live, deserve research to improve their lives.
Thomas Jefferson said, “We must not be afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead.” Scientific truth ennobles us. It tells us who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. I believe the truth will only be found when all scientists are free to pursue it. Thank you.
I really enjoyed that and I think I am going to watch the “West Wing” from now. The Science moves ...
The West Wing episode 5.16 “Eppur Si Muove”, original air date 3 March, 2004. ( I just found it today , 13 years late!)