Abraham Lincoln, Tech EntrepreneurRoundup
tags: Abraham Lincoln, technology, patents
Sidney Blumenthal is the author of All the Powers of Earth, The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln 1856-1860, A Self-Made Man, and Wrestling with His Angel, the first three volumes in his five-volume biography.
Donald Trump’s war on science has been thorough, relentless, and lethal. His rejection of scientific advice on the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in millions of needless infections and more than 100,000 deaths—and likely many more. His refusal to wear a mask in a defiant gesture of archaic masculinity against universal expertise has contributed to the exposure of millions to the contagion. His promotion of snake oil remedies like ingesting bleach over protective protocols has misled his followers into believing there is an instant panacea. His cheerleading of Republican governors to lift public health measures has triggered an exponential explosion of the disease. As the deadly virus spreads, he has prevented his scientific officials from the Center for Disease Control from briefing the people. Even before the crisis, Trump’s war on science has been systematic and ruthless. He has gutted regulations and overturned laws on the environment, safe food, and public health. He has driven scientific experts from every department and agency, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Agriculture to the Department of the Interior. He has insisted that his own fantasies about hurricanes drawn with a sharpie are more authoritative than the scientific tracking and research of the National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. He has suppressed incontrovertible evidence of climate change and has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement. He has attacked science to exploit and manipulate the faith of credulous evangelical believers. His assault on science, the scientific method, and scientific research has had fatal consequences that are still expanding in their human destructiveness.
Trump’s anti-science crusade, along with his unremitting assault on the rule of law and his toxic racism, constitute the heart of his anti-Americanism. He has set himself against the foundations of the nation established by such scientific-minded men representing the Enlightenment as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. In one of his last speeches, delivered at Constitution Hall one month before his assassination on October 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, addressed the National Academy of Sciences on its 100th anniversary. He stated: “In the last hundred years, science has thus emerged from a peripheral concern of Government to an active partner. The instrumentalities devised in recent times have given this partnership continuity and force. The question in all our minds today is how science can best continue its service to the Nation, to the people, to the world, in the years to come.”
The president who created the National Academy of Sciences in 1863, Abraham Lincoln, did more to advance the scientific revolution in American life than any chief executive of the 19th century. Trump, a historical as well as a scientific ignoramus, likes to measure himself favorably to Lincoln. Among the many ways Trump bears no resemblance to Lincoln is that Lincoln was himself a man of science. Trump’s war on science is also a war on Lincoln’s legacy.
On May 21, 2019, I delivered a lecture on Lincoln as an inventor, patent lawyer, and maker of the industrial revolution at a conference held in San Francisco by the RPX Corporation. Lincoln’s commitment to science was central to his rise, who he became, how he won the Civil War, and to the United States becoming a modern nation. Now, in the election of 2020, the very fate of science and the nation itself that Lincoln did so much to create—the inextricable entwinement of the scientific experiment and the American experiment—is at stake as never before.
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