I'll be taking a long weekend in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day - a day that celebrates the legacy of the civil-rights leader and provides an opportunity to carry on his work through service. This weekend, thousands of Americans are contributing humanitarian services in Haiti, where millions are in need.
Take some time out to consider a contribution to the relief effort - making sure, of course, that the money really does get to those in need. To assess how well your chosen charity is performing, check out the Charity Navigator database.
On the science front, there's some bad news and good news for King's philosophical brethren. An internal study, newly released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gives the university poor marks in racial diversity - particularly in science and engineering. More hopeful news for the future is contained in the National Science Foundation's latest science and engineering indicators, suggesting that the proportions of blacks and Hispanic students in those fields will rise in years to come.
Science isn't everything, as King observed in 1964 during his Nobel Peace Prize lecture: "There is a sort of poverty of the spirit that stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance," he said. "The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually."
Despite all that, we have to hope that scientific and technological advances will give us a greater understanding of what King called the "interrelated structure of reality." Many of the scientific insights we've gained in the 46 years since King's observation support the view that no single element, gene or theory can explain why we do what we do ... or why we see what we see. The workings of the cosmos and conscious beings are indeed interrelated, and science provides the evidence.
Martin Luther King, like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, would agree with the proposition that "we are all connected." We just have to do a better job of reflecting that reality - not only on MLK Day, but every day. Feel free to add your own thoughts as comments below.
More Web links for the long weekend: