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UCLA Magazine Fall 2002
The Little Marias
Coming Home
The Scholar and The Poet
Science & Society
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Fall 2002
Science & Society
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Shortly after the first anthrax attack last October, the National Science Foundation made an award of just under $200,000 to sequence the genetic makeup of the anthrax bacterium. Microbial genome sequencing is a valuable tool in defending against bioterrorism. This is a clear example of fundamental research responding to national need. The anthrax attacks also taught us why it is so important to have a public educated to the issues of science and technology. Although anthrax is not an everyday occurrence, there were many, including public officials, who thought it was contagious. It is vital that our citizens and all our leaders have a better working knowledge of the science and technology that defines our very existence.

A citizenry literate about science and technology serves several goals. It gives the nation a workforce educated and trained to compete in the increasingly competitive global marketplace. It promotes good judgment among voters on both issues and candidates. It serves as strong defense against delusions of safety as well as threats. I cannot exaggerate the primary importance of a scientifically literate citizenry. I cannot stress enough the responsibility of the science community to help us meet that goal.

But as we reflect on our knowledge-driven society, we all know that knowledge alone is not enough to make a better world. The Founding Fathers framed a set of primary values for our nation based on the independence of, and the respect for, individuals. Armed with these values, science becomes an important vehicle for human progress. With these values to guide us, we have made appropriate choices for ourselves as a nation.

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