Friday, October 28, 2005

Is Science Dead?

I figured that was a nice turn of phrase on the 70s "Is God Dead?" as immortalized in Time Magazine.

All this talk of intelligent design, our shackled stem cell research sector, and other "fear mongering" amongst the so-called Godly has raised hackles, understandably, at our institutes of higher learning.

Is US becoming hostile to science?
Fri Oct 28, 2005 8:09 AM ET

By Alan Elsner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bitter debate about how to teach evolution in U.S. high schools is prompting a crisis of confidence among scientists, and some senior academics warn that science itself is under assault.

In the past month, the interim president of Cornell University and the dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine have both spoken on this theme, warning in dramatic terms of the long-term consequences.

"Among the most significant forces is the rising tide of anti-science sentiment that seems to have its nucleus in Washington but which extends throughout the nation," said Stanford's Philip Pizzo in a letter posted on the school Web site on October 3.

Cornell acting President Hunter Rawlings, in his "state of the university" address last week, spoke about the challenge to science represented by "intelligent design" which holds that the theory of evolution accepted by the vast majority of scientists is fatally flawed.

Rawlings said the dispute was widening political, social, religious and philosophical rifts in U.S. society. "When ideological division replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers," he said.
Dogma. Yes.

It amazes me that the religious right in this country doesn't take a clearer look at what has happened in the Islamist states, and realized we are in danger of becoming a bunch of snarling, backwards anachronists. After all, the Arab world was once the beacon of enlightenment and knowledge (as I've said here before), and we ought to know that history repeats itself with regularity.

I believe history is a pendulum, and that when it swings too far in one direction, it swings back as far in the other. Most pendulums eventually stop: friction, gravity, heat loss, and other factors decelerate the pendulum until it finally must rest.

So we're seeing the ground shift and the pendulum start to swing back to a more liberal, intellectual and enlightened society. I fear for what has happened while the emotional, fear-mongering rightists have done while they've had control of the agenda. I fear for the fact that pensions are worthless, social security is near-worthless, and health care is enormously expensive, all while the entire country gets older, and we've squandered both our standing in the world authoritatively and fiscally.

But back to the topic at hand:
In the past five years, the scientific community has often seemed at odds with the Bush administration over issues as diverse as global warming, stem cell research and environmental protection. Prominent scientists have also charged the administration with politicizing science by seeking to shape data to its own needs while ignoring other research.

Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have built a powerful position within the Republican Party and no Republican, including Bush, can afford to ignore their views.

This was dramatically illustrated in the case of Terri Schiavo earlier this year, in which Republicans in Congress passed a law to keep a woman in a persistent vegetative state alive against her husband's wishes, and Bush himself spoke out in favor of "the culture of life."
Yes. Terri Schiavo. A woman who died many years ago, but through the efforts of a hateful, spiteful family, was forced to suffer years of indignities, all because they saw her through a lens that no rational person did.

I grieve their loss, but in truth, they should have, for Terri's sake, grieved it long ago.
Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller believes the rhetoric of the anti-evolution movement has had the effect of driving a wedge between a large proportion of the population who follow fundamentalist Christianity and science.

"It is alienating young people from science. It basically tells them that the scientific community is not to be trusted and you would have to abandon your principles of faith to become a scientist, which is not at all true," he said.
"Alienating young people from science." And those young people are the economic engine of the future. Further, can you imagine what would have happened if this uprising of regressive fascism had happened even a century ago?

No rockets to the moon. No computers. No polio vaccine, or smallpox, or chicken pox or measles. No cell phones. And we'd likely be speaking either German or the Queen's English, since goodness knows, we'd barely be able to change a diaper.

Since it's nearly Halloween, let me put a scare into you:
Polls for many years have shown that a majority of Americans are at odds with key scientific theory. For example, as CBS poll this month found that 51 percent of respondents believed humans were created in their present form by God. A further 30 percent said their creation was guided by God. Only 15 percent thought humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.

Other polls show that only around a third of American adults accept the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, even though the concept is virtually uncontested by scientists worldwide.

"When we ask people what they know about science, just under 20 percent turn out to be scientifically literate," said Jon Miller, director of the center for biomedical communication at Northwestern University.
Go read the article. There's a lot more.
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