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Today's Great Challenge

Leon Lederman, high energy physicist
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Building on the origins of Western civilization in ancient Greece, 17th-century Europe witnessed the Enlightenment, a commitment to the use of rationality in human affairs. The celebration of reason synthesized a new philosophy, which incorporated science, art, spirituality, politics. We owe the best of modern society—our knowledge of the physical and biological universes, our technology, longevity, comfort, freedom and democracy—to the commitment to the use of reason.

Today, the challenge is to defend the progress we are making against the antithesis, the growth of fundamentalism, blind obedience to evil, rigid belief systems, e.g., communism, fascism, dictatorships, religious zealotry, which have captured too large a fraction of our populations. The challenge is also to enhance the rule of reason with emphasis on universal education, compassion, fairness, respect for the environment, and the full exploration of the potentialities of the human mind.

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