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Monday, July 03, 2017

Principia Americana

[T]he more ignorant we become the less value we set on science, and the less inclination we shall have to seek it.

 - T Jefferson to J Adams, 25 May, 1795


To be anti-science is to be anti-American:

[W]hile team Trump is the most anti-science administration in U.S. history, it’s worth remembering this week that the Declaration’s drafters were undeniably men of science.

In sharp contrast, Trump has embraced the most anti-scientific climate denial imaginable — and surrounded himself with a team of deniers who have purged science from government websites and removed scientists from EPA advisory panels to make space for industry advocates.

In his most consequential anti-scientific act, Trump abandoned the Paris climate deal, whereby 190 nations had unanimously banded together to save themselves (and us) from catastrophic climate change.
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Jefferson’s masterpiece famously begins “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people,” to break free of tyranny and “assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,” they should explain why they are impelled to do so:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The double appeal to “Nature” — including the explicit appeal to “the laws of Nature” in the first sentence — is particularly salient. After all, Sir Isaac Newton’s landmark 1687 text, “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica,” famously lays out his three laws of motion, which many at the time called the “laws of nature.”

How familiar was Jefferson with the Principia? Very. Jefferson had studied it so closely he even wrote a letter identifying what he calculated to be a tiny mathematical error in it. For nearly two decades — including the entire time he was vice president and president — Jefferson was also president of the nation’s oldest scientific society, which was founded by the great American scientist Ben Franklin.

Jefferson and Franklin grounded the Declaration in the scientific laws of nature. That’s clear from a crucial edit made by Franklin. As Historian Walter Isaacson explained in biography of Franklin:

The most important of his edits was small but resounding. He crossed out, using the heavy backslashes that he often employed, the last three words of Jefferson’s phrase “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” and changed them to the words now enshrined in history: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

The truths were “self-evident,” which is to say axiomatic.

Today, it is the laws of nature, studied and enumerated by scientists, that make clear we are poised to render those unalienable rights all but unattainable for billions of humans on our current path of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions. It is the laws of nature that make clear Americans can’t achieve sustainable prosperity if the rest of the world doesn’t, and vice versa.

Just remember, Trump loves "the poorly educated."  Make America iGnorant Again!

ntodd

* 14th Blegiversary: wanna help feed our oxen? *

July 3, 2017 in Biofuels, Bitches!, Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink

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