One of the most intriguing visits I made while in London was to Westminster Abbey. Many famous Britons from all fields of endeavor are entombed there. Many of their tombstones have been trod upon for so long the carved inscriptions are barely readable.
Three tombs especially interested me and were placed within a few paces of one another: Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell. Together they form the core of modern scientific thinking.
Newton is famous for his laws of physics, in which he predicted during the 17th century that an object with enough velocity could escape Earth’s gravity. This little tidbit was the result of his efforts to formulate a theory on the force of gravity as it affects all matter. By the way, he also invented calculus, the mathematical tool that allowed 20th century man to figure out how to send somebody to the moon, among other things.
Charles Darwin wrote from his experiences in the far corners of the world as one of the first true naturalists to step out of the “creationist” box. He determined that organisms changed over time and that new forms of life were constantly appearing and old ones disappearing to adapt to their environments. His theoretical work — and that of his contemporary Alfred R. Wallace — led to the melding of modern genetics and biology to geology.
This relationship now explains how the Earth and its living things came to be and continue to change.
Some call evolution a theory, but it is only theoretical in the sense of not being able to see how life and land changed on Earth over billions of years. The facts are that those changes indeed occurred.
Lyell is not as well known as Newton and Darwin, but all their works and writings are linked for all time.
In the 19th century, Lyell was the first scientist to determine the Earth was significantly older than what the Church of England dictated. His discoveries of fossils of organisms that no longer existed led him to postulate that some rocks were not always rocks. As a result of this and other work in England and Scotland, he is known as the father of geology.
I also noted during my recent visit to England the establishment of social systems and how they compare to what the United States has.
One of the most vexing of these is the welfare or nanny state.
Great Britain saw the value of tending to its needy citizens and providing all with a solid education in subjects needed for either higher education or the trades. But as with our U.S. welfare systems instituted in the 1960s, proper oversight of these bureaucracies went lacking for the sake of fiscal restraint.
Human nature pushes us to find the easiest path to our own survival. If it’s easier to take a handout than work, pride goes out the window and the “dole” becomes the norm. That is the case in Britain, and that is what we struggle with here. We didn’t learn from their mistakes.
President Bill Clinton instituted workfare in the 1990s to get people trained to work and off welfare. It worked. But the Republican administration that followed canceled the program because it was, well, Clinton’s.
Similarly, however, the term socialized medicine is a canard thrown out by conservatives in this country to make sure health-care insurance companies make their profits off the sick.
In Britain, government-sponsored, single-payer health care works. It might not be ideal, but World Health Organization statistics show Britons are generally healthier than their American counterparts by large margins.
Britons also have the right to (a) buy their own health care insurance and (b) see physicians of their choice irrespective of how their needs are served.
Our new House speaker tells us the GOP wants to “repeal” the health-care reform laws (even before they’ve been implemented) because it kills jobs. Huh?!
If you really want to kill jobs, have a sick workforce. Healthy workers are productive and pay taxes. The only jobs being killed are those from the medical insurers who charge 30 percent-60 percent more than the cost of care for their “administrative costs” and profit.
If a country is confident its physicians are competent, why pay a for-profit middleman?
Turner is a retired teacher and industrial engineer who lives near Marble Falls. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.