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       As Bob Dylan said so clearly fifty-six years ago, “The times, they are a-changin’.” In many ways, the world we are experiencing right now is changing just as much as it was in the sixties. The pandemic, the climate change, race and gender issues and the change in government are all having major impacts on our lives. It is important to take a step back and consider the role of change, how it influences us and how we should deal with it.
       As Stephen R. Covey said in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.” Further in that text, he noted that “…correct principles do not change. We can depend on them. Principles don’t react to anything….They aren’t here one day and gone the next. They can’t be destroyed….Principles are deep, fundamental traits, classic truths, generic common denominators. They are tightly interwoven threads running with exactness, consistency, beauty, and strength through the fabric of life…thousands of years of history have seen them triumph, time and time again.” In considering what is happening and what will happen, we must reflect on the basic underlying principles. They have recently been ignored far too often. Recognizing those principals and giving them the value they merit can go a long way in resolving many of our society’s current difficulties.
       The theory of evolution, presented by Charles Darwin in 1859 in The Origin of Species by Natural Selection, addressed the problem of change in two ways. He stated how change is necessary for survival when he said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” He also pointed out the nature of our reluctance to accept change. When he said “…the chief cause of our natural unwillingness to admit that one species has given birth to other and more distinct species is that we are always slow in admitting great changes of what we do not see the steps.,” he was viewing the issue from a scientific perspective. However, it equally applies as a social issue.
       This resistance to change requires an active role in education if we want to see it overcome. In the April 27, 1956, issue of the AAAS magazine Science, Jacob Bronowski noted “I think we need to teach science…not as a collection but as an evolution of knowledge….Because it presents science as changing, questioning, and argumentative, it can teach the method of rational debate to everyone in the classroom, and this can be a lifelong lesson. But most important, the evolution of science goes to the heart of the scientific method….This to and fro between logical and the empirical is the core of the scientific method, which nonscientists never seize because they do not see science as a progress.”
       Twenty-five years ago, Glenn T. Seaborg similarly stressed the importance of education in addressing this difficult problem: “Having served in many capacities, educational and governmental, over my career, I have no illusions about the complexities involved in implementing change. Yet there is really no choice if we are to survive and thrive as a nation. We must shine a strong spotlight on education, with special and lasting emphasis on science and technology, and the real-world connections so apparent to us in chemistry and all the sciences.”
       The issue of change frequently comes up as a critical issue in science fiction stories. I would like to share three quotes on the topic. In Inheritance, Christopher Paolini states: “Change itself is neither good nor bad, but knowledge is always useful.” In Moneta: Dragonlady of Pern, Anne McCaffrey stresses the need for looking forward. “Nothing will change yesterday….So now you must deal with today.” And Theodore Sturgeon reinforces the imperative importance in The Patterns of Dorne. “Life itself is growth and change, and a society which does not grow and change is dead….”
       Stepping away from the fictional setting to a historic frame, the topic has similarly been addressed. In Evolutionary Socialism, Eduard Bernstein pointed out that “the society of today is no firm crystal, but an organism capable of change and constantly engaged in a process of change….” Nelson Mandala said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and Margaret Mead stated: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
       In The Devil’s Gold, Steve Berry referred to a problem that is very valid today: “It is true that the world has changed, but in many ways it remains the same….Hate still exists. Bigotry can be manipulated. The masses are gullible.” Similarly, William Faulkner warned to “never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the world.”
       As a closing note, I want to share a statement Charles C. Ryan made in the March 1978 issue of Galileo: “Skepticism is a necessary tool for scientists but it is also a healthy attitude for everyone else as well. Scientific investigations and day to day existence alike call for a reasonable balance of skepticism and open-mindedness. Without the former, we’d be easy prey for any charlatan; without the latter, we’d be incapable of change. A balance of both can mean sensible growth.”
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