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We’re All Americans!

October 22, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 43

In his letter “Different Views on Taxes” (C&EN, Sept. 3, page 6) criticizing Rudy Baum’s editorial “Storm Thoughts” (C&EN, July 16, page 3), Mark P. Wagher states: “Every time a bridge in Minnesota needs repair or replacing, Baum wants the federal government to step in rather than the local and state governments. Why should a hardworking family in Arizona have to pay more taxes to fund a bridge that they will never cross in their lifetime?”

Can you imagine a French resident of Paris begrudging paying for a bridge in Lyon? Or a German in Berlin, for a bridge in Munich? Regardless of what city or state we reside in, we’re all Americans.

On Sept. 17, 1787, the Philadelphia Convention drafted a constitution for a republic that was a compromise, relegating powers between a federal government and what had been 13 independent states, formerly British colonies. The document may have been appropriate for that time, place, and makeup of citizens.

Think of all the amazing, unanticipated changes, good and bad, that have occurred since the establishment of the world’s major religions or even since the founding of our nation. Yet many politicians and religious leaders seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge those changes.

Although our Founding Fathers (a term coined in 1916 by future president Warren G. Harding, then a Republican senator from Ohio) were statesmen with extensive political experience, they were necessarily creatures of their time, but most of us seem to have venerated them and converted them into semisacred figures with impossibly farseeing skills. These people also worship their creation of the antediluvian electoral college, which reflected our Founding Fathers’ distrust of the popular vote, as the greatest idea of all time.

Similarly, orthodox religious leaders seem to glory in their creeds’ antiquity and resistance to change (gimme that old-time religion!) and their reliance on faith rather than reason.

As scientists, we revere the great scientists of the past and celebrate their achievements. However, we recognize their failings, their mistakes, and the progress and changes or revisions that have been made in their work over the course of time. Science’s strength and power lie in its comfort with change and progress. The weakness of politics and religion lies in their failure to come to terms with change and progress.

George B. Kauffman
Fresno, Calif.



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