Meet a member: Radiologist seeks to increase activism

Steve Solomon and his wife Pam take a break during the Climate March in St. Louis.
Steve and Pam Solomon hold signs at the March for Science.

Name: Steve Solomon.

Where I live: Wildwood, Mo.

Where and when I was born: Chicago, 1959.

Family: My wonderful wife Pam and three great kids, Mike (and wife Kelsy), Brad and Cindy.

Education: B.A. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Integrated Science Program at Northwestern University. MD from University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine; Diagnostic Radiology Residency at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Washington University.

Occupation: Radiologist.

How I got to where I am today: I grew up in a conservative Jewish family (medium “strength” Judaism, between Reform and Orthodox) on the north side of Chicago. I received an excellent early education in an enlightened Chicago public school during the Apollo era with a strong emphasis on math and science. It was there that my sense of awe and wonder of the cosmos was born along with my driving curiosity to understand it. After repeatedly finding answers in science and reality, religion faded from my mind. I was fascinated with the rapidly developing technology of that time, happily trading in my slide rule for a hand-held calculator and punch cards for a personal computer. I relished a good mystery, in fiction and in reality. I also loved the feeling I experienced when helping others. These factors led me to a career in medicine and, specifically, radiology, which combined cutting edge technology, image guided detective work, and helping patients. To date, I have had an enjoyable and rewarding 35-year career in radiology.

Where I’m headed: My medical career has occupied the lion’s share of my time, but it has been impossible to ignore disturbing changes in our country. The growing denial of science, experts and reality and the ever-increasing encroachment of religion on our secular government at all levels, especially in my Bible Belt surroundings. I became progressively alarmed by the lack of action on global warming, the anti-vax movement, and the scarcity of science-based governmental policies, to name but a few. When I could, I marched for science, climate action and justice, reproductive rights, and other important issues. I wrote letters and emails to elected officials and called their offices. As I wind down my radiology career over the next several years, I plan to dedicate much more time to activism for all the humanistic, state/church separation, and science/reality-based issues that are important to me. This includes in-person lobbying, penning letters to editors, and running for office, such as the local school board.

Person in history I most admire and why: Carl Sagan. Not only was he an accomplished scientist in many disciplines, including astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, and astrobiology, and a respected author, he was also the first, best science communicator I had encountered. He argued the now accepted hypothesis that the high surface temperature on Venus was due to the greenhouse effect and made known the implications for our fossil-fueled “Pale Blue Dot.” His book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, was my primer for critical and skeptical thinking and holds up well to this day. He narrated and co-wrote the award-winning 1980s television series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” the most widely watched series in the history of American public television, introducing the joy and wonder of science to hundreds of millions of people around the world. If it’s one thing that has become abundantly clear to me, our shared acceptance and understanding of science is necessary for our future survival.

A quotation I like: “There is no God, and that’s the simple truth. If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.” — Penn Jillette

Things I like: Humanism, science, music, exercising, reading (especially science fact, science fiction and fantasy), electric cars, renewable energy, my solar panels, and a good bourbon or single malt scotch.

Things I smite: Anything that tears away at the wall between state and church, “religious freedom” (in the backward perverted sense that my religion is free to trump your rights), racism, gender discrimination, loss of body autonomy, science denial.

My doubts about religion started: My doubt began in Hebrew school. As was the norm in the time and place I grew up, all Jewish children attended Hebrew school to learn about Judaism and to prepare for an eventual Bar or Bat Mitzvah. In my case, that was a wonderful mistake. Four days a week after school during fifth through eighth grade, I spent two additional hours in a “wholly” untenable reality which started me on my path to becoming a first-generation freethinker.

Before I die: There are places I’ve wanted to travel to and haven’t yet, although I’m limiting their number to reduce my carbon footprint. New Zealand is high on my list, along with the Galápagos Islands. I’d love to see a glacier while they still exist. I aim to learn a new language and the culture of the people that speak it. I especially yearn to catch up on my ever-enlarging Kindle library!

Ways I promote freethought: I am an After-Life and Immortal member of FFRF as well as a Missouri State Representative and belong to and support many other organizations that promote science, rationality and state/church separation. When asked, I admit to being an atheist and am always willing to engage in conversation about my beliefs or lack thereof. In my conversations and social media posts, I promote science, critical thinking, secularism and the simple truth that you can be good without a god.