Science's influence on society is immeasurable. Medicine, technology, engineering, telecommunications, and education, owe their modern existence to systematic observation and experimentation - the scientific method. Whether or not you care at all about it, science has had a direct and profound impact on your quality of life, health, communication, and entertainment. For these reasons, and zillions of others, science matters.
Unfortunately, public perception of the importance of science has significantly diminished over the past decade, particularly in the United States. There are myriad reasons for this, but a large share of the burden may lie with scientists themselves. Sure, the Bush administration has done their best to discredit and make irrelevant science for eight years, and religious conservatives have waged the so called "war on science" for even longer. Those factors matter, a lot, but I think a large portion of the blame lies within the scientific community and people that call themselves science advocates. As a bunch, I think we've become complacent, satisfied to remain within our own tiny spheres of influence. We run experiments, publish papers, give talks, and maybe even blog, but at the same time, we allow the constant denigration of our craft - within government, among the media, and at the hands of anti-science groups. This passivity has become all too common; scientists are quick to spout their misgivings about the state of research in America, when provoked (for taped interview, say), but self-motivated outrage at their own cheapened status is seldom seen.
That is not to say that the devaluation of science in America was caused by inaction among scientists. This is hardly the case, but I think this anti-science society persists in part because scientists as a group, and any science friendlies among the public, have not spoken up loudly and angrily enough. When the government rejects thousands of research studies from 50 years of investigation, and denies anthropogenic global warming, for example, the science-friendly public should have stood up, shouting and calling their congresspersons. We shouldn't have allowed this to pass, letting the big bad government rework reality as they pleased. We all share the blame for the current predicament, and so we all share responsibility to fix it.
We need to return (were we ever there?) to the days when science was the first and last resort of public policy. When we need answers, we should look to the research, examine the data. Health care, energy, immigration, foreign policy, *the economy*, and many other hot-button political issues are directly informed and influenced by knowledge gleaned from scientific research. This isn't just about some "elitist," academic pursuit of knowledge (though there's nothing wrong with that!), this is about coming to real-world solutions for current imperative issues.
So we are now past the blame game, past pointing fingers, past all those hand-wringing cliches. There are real crises in the world that need fixing NOW, and science can help. There may not be much time to begin fostering trust and excitement in science among the public, and enacting science-based policy. Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal, two unabashedly anti-science politicians, are among those that may challenge the future. We have in front of us an opportunity, the chance to take advantage of a science friendly administration to reinstate science as the driving force behind prudent government.
Consider the multifaceted nature of your world. Consider the influences on your everyday life, where many disparate ideas coalesce into what you call society. For each of us, this world has its vital and precious parts. Let's keep it all intact.