Bettering the world can mean battling ignorance and bias

Bettering the world can mean battling ignorance and bias

Bettering the world can mean battling ignorance and bias
Poverty is the worst and most effective weapon of mass destruction. (Shutterstock)
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According to Scientific American, the earth rotates at about 1,000 miles an hour. It orbits around that sun at about 67,000 miles per hour. It moves around the center of our galaxy at about 490,000 miles per hour. So, how come we do not feel this? Our immediate perceptions do not allow it because we, and everything on the earth, are moving at these same speeds.

Not so long ago, many of the world’s top scholars thought the planets revolved around the earth, and we were the center of the universe. Scientific analysis and some tough thinking by people like Galileo and Copernicus, and many others along the years brought innovative ideas of the earth and our place in the solar system into different views.

We would not have gone to the moon or sent satellites and massive telescopes millions of miles away without these ideas that pushed us to think differently. We would not have a rover on Mars. Our ignorance of those areas outside of our tiny blue planet may be much worse than what it is. Our abilities to navigate by the stars and planets would have been handicapped. Our communications systems would be much less than what they are.

Over the recent centuries, especially recent decades, invention, innovation, improvements in health, medicine, and our ability to fight disease have made amazing improvements. The development of our energy systems, industry, education, and more have brought billions out of poverty. We do not have to go back far to see when the GDP per capita of the world showed that about everyone was poor, lived short lives, owned extraordinarily little, and were barely housed and fed. Such problems indeed still exist, but not like in the past.

The human mind, scientific thinking, and a lot of investments and other efforts to improve things changed the lives of the average person in most places. Someone from 1100, 1500, 1700, and even 1900 would barely recognize this world.

In 1800 the average life expectancy of a person was about 35 years in the Americas and Europe, and about 25 years on average for a person in Asia and Africa. Of course, these differed according to circumstances. Recently, the aome general conclusions can be drawn by reading history. Many of the people who made the great breakthroughs fought the biases and ignorance of their times. But they persevered. Galileo and some of the first vaccine scientists are good examples of this. Many were humiliated by the superiors who feared their innovative ideas, but the innovative ideas broke through the biases and prejudices of the day. “The truth prevails because it has power.”

Some of these advances were by mistake, like Alexander Fleming finding a petri dish left out by accident that had the mold to develop penicillin. Some were discovered by keen observers, like the English doctor Edward Jenner who saw that milkmaids who got cow pox did not get smallpox. One of the essential medicines for treating cholesterol was discovered by studying rice mold. Rice mold, who would have thought? The Japanese biochemist Akira Endo did.

Protect those who have different ideas from bullying and scorn. Those young people might just change the world.

Dr. Paul Sullivan

The use of chlorine in water treatment and other amazingly effective water treatment ideas were developed in the 20th century. Water treatment has been around since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans – and even before given the boiling of water for foods and teas. But the chemical treatment of water and using heat and energy at grand scales are more recent. These newer and more effective ways of treating water saved countless lives from horrible diseases like cholera and typhoid.

There are many thousands of inventions that could be discussed. However, one thing is clear. We still have many problems in the world. There are still many places ravaged by disease and people living and dying with filthy water. There are many places where vaccines are not available.

More children die from unsafe water than conflict, according to the UN. People still die of starvation. Poverty is the worst and most effective weapon of mass destruction. The world knows of the cures, or it can work towards them.

We have solved so many medical, energy, transportation, cooling, heating, food, and other issues in the past. Science and scientific thinking were a major part of all those movements forward for humanity. “Ignorance never solved anything. Prejudice never solved anything.” Collaborating with many people from many backgrounds and experiences has helped advance science, medicine, law, economics, and many other fields.

We face astonishing challenges in the future. Suppose we collaborate with people from many disciplines, cultures, races, religions, and life experiences. In that case, there is a particularly good chance we could find creative and effective solutions to the ills that the world face.

We need people who enthusiastically edit their own biases and solve problems with clear eyes, ears, and minds. We need a diversity of collaborators on these issues from all over the world.

We need to look beyond what we have and know now and what the future could bring. Leaders? Protect those who have different ideas from bullying and scorn. Those young people might just change the world.

• Dr. Paul Sullivan is a senior research associate at KFCRIS and non-resident fellow, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view