Terror and Tragedy at the Boston Marathon: and in the Aftermath, Science and Evidence Are Key

, director, Center for Science & Democracy | April 18, 2013, 3:38 pm EDT
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I grew up in Boston and as a kid would ride my bike to Commonwealth Avenue on the third Monday in April to watch the runners go by. I don’t really know why, as I wasn’t a runner or any kind of athlete and didn’t really know any runners. But in Boston it was spring (finally), and all along the 26-mile route people would come out to watch, silently like me or cheering friends and family. So the shock and horror of the bombings this Monday in April 2013 affects all of us, runners or not, spectators or not, Bostonians or not, because it means a simple pleasure was shattered for no reason, and along with the terrible toll to the victims, we are all victims of that.

Photo: hahatango/Flickr

But amidst the sadness there is more to see. Heroism of those who ran toward the blasts to help, the first responders, law enforcement, medical personnel, public officials, all doing everything they could at a moment’s notice. People are strong and capable and caring, and that is wonderful to see.

And from my current viewpoint at UCS, I see how important science and technology are to minimizing the damage, bringing the perpetrators to justice, and preventing future tragedies. I think about the tools that first responders have at hand, medical personnel treating the victims, law enforcement searching for evidence, counselors comforting the shaken. Along with their courage, compassion and skill they each bring the results of years of research, invention, engineering and analysis into play.

And now, where is the focus of attention for law enforcement and much of the public? On the search for evidence. In a democracy, we must respond to the challenge of this terrible, senseless act. But we must do it on the basis of evidence of the crime and its perpetrators, not rumor, innuendo or prejudice. That’s how a democratic society makes decisions, not in anger and emotion (though we are both angry and emotional) but on the best evidence we can find.

So amidst the sorrow, there are reminders of many things that make us stronger—compassion, courage, science and deciding on the evidence—democracy at its best.

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