The day that humanity halts questioning, we cease to exist. Inquiry is an innate quality that makes humans the way that we are. Civilization would not have progressed if it wasn’t for the audacious nature of individuals, and our desire to know.
The Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, which I personally consider one of the most significant ages in our history, was the century that defined our country and our people. In a single century, great men such as John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau reshaped our understanding of the human experience. Established institutions such as the monarchy and the church began to crumble, and out of the ashes of conflict rose the freest societies humanity has ever known.
This progress is not universal. There are those in our society who wish to see the rights of man disappear, degraded, and denied. It is a fact of life that there are always those who wish to exert undue amounts of power over their fellow man, this is human nature and is not something that can be ignored or easily defeated. The ultimate goal of these vile men is the denial of knowledge, of understanding, to the people. The most effective way to combat this is the effective and timely distribution of knowledge to everyone, and to not hinder the flow of information to the people. The phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” comes to mind, and this is certainly true. We do not remember the personality of Thomas Jefferson or Jeremy Bentham, we remember their words, because ideas are the only immortal beings.
Knowledge is a double-edged sword. It can be used simultaneously to repress and to liberate. However, it is better that we be exposed to every idea rather than the ideas chosen by a select few, because this allows people to make their own choices, good or bad.
Humanity will progress when the whole of society is exposed to the collective knowledge of the human race. Limiting knowledge, shutting down research centers, cutting funding, these things are not just detrimental, they are catastrophic. The monetary cost of progress is high, but it is not just a necessary cost, it is a long term gain for all of us. It is up to the United States Government to fund research institutions, as it is clear that the private sector seeks to distort science in order to make profit. While profit is a good thing, the government is the only institution capable of consistently releasing unbiased and clear results.
This repression of the academic community that we are experiencing in the Trump era is harmful, and damaging to our reputation abroad, as well as our ability to conduct ourselves as the leader of the world. The United States succeeds when we enable the brightest among us to, and slashing funds or relying on the private sector is not the correct path.