Brian Greene on How Science Became a Political Prisoner

Nick Stockton in Wired:

BrianGreeneTABrian Greene is one of those physicists. You know the type: Blessed with a brain capable of untangling the mysteries of the universe, and a knack for clearly explaining it all to the rest of us schlubs.

His enthusiasm for doing these things keeps him quite busy, what with the three best-selling physics books for grown-ups, a children’s book about time dilation(!), a few TV specials, and, of course, a TED talk. Oh, and he and his wife have, since 2008, spearheaded an annual science-themed takeover of New York. The World Science Festival runs from May 30 to June 4, with talks, performances, and interactive events in all five boroughs.

An ambitious schedule, to be sure. Opening night includes a performance of Greene’s next book (working title: Until the End of Time) exploring humanity’s place in the unfolding universe. Other events explore how the brain works, and how to use the scientific method in the kitchen. A biologist will lead a sailboat cruse of New York Harbor, and Mario Livio will set up some barrel-sized telescopes in a bid to disprove every New Yorker’s fervent believe that you can’t stargaze in the city.

Greene hopes the festival both sates and stirs the public’s appetite for science. No easy feat these days, when politics has shifted science from something people do to something they march for, argue over, and believe in. I gave Greene a call to ask how how the joy of science, and the thrill of figuring things out, might prevail when it seems science is under siege.

Given the debates over science right now, I’d like to start by asking a basic question: What is science?

Science is our most powerful tool for evaluating what’s true in the world. It’s a perspective on reality that allows you to grasp what’s right and what’s not. And, in the best of cases, use that knowledge to manipulate and control the world to the betterment of everyone.

More here.