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Yes Virginia, There Is a Future in Science

Twa, Michael D.

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Optometry and Vision Science: September 2017 - Volume 94 - Issue 9 - p 855
doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001131
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Dear Editor,

I am a graduate student who is now 28 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no future in scientific research. My advisor says, “If you see it in OVS, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth; is there a future for me in scientific research?

Virginia O’Hanlon

115 West Ninety-Fifth St

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see on cable news or late-night comedy television. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be adult’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a future in scientific research. The need for science exists as certainly as the need for love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no future for science. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no hope for precision or regenerative medicine, no chance for solar energy or biofuels, no possibility of quantum transport, only Netflix and sports to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in social media, mobile phones, and online shopping. The eternal light with which the knowledge of science fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe that there is a future in science! You might as well not believe in Santa Claus! You might get your advisor to hire researchers to study every human being alive who is afflicted with macular degeneration to advance science, but even if they did not resolve all the mysteries of this disease, what would that prove? Nobody can grasp all of knowledge in their hand or mind, but that is no sign that there is no value in scientific pursuits. Some of the biggest scientific challenges in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see Higgs boson particles dancing on the lawn with antiprotons? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart a cell or an atom to see what it is comprised of, but there is a veil covering the unseen mysteries of life and matter, which neither the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only science and the power of the mind can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world, there is nothing else more real and abiding than the noble pursuit of understanding.

No future in science! Absurd! Science lives, and the pursuit of knowledge will live forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10 thousand years from now, science will continue to make known the mysteries and beauty of life and our existence.

On September 21, 1897, the unsigned editorial of Francis Church was published in the (New York) Sun. His editorial was in response to a letter from Virginia O’Hanlon who wished to know if Santa Claus was real. His editorial became the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history. I am continuing that tradition with a twist. Full acknowledgement (and all apologies) to Virginia O’Hanlon and Francis Church.

© 2017 American Academy of Optometry