Friday, March 5, 2010

Attacks on Science.

It seems that in some parts of the United-States, science is believed to be a matter of opinion that can discuss like you can politics or tastes.
In Kentucky, a bill recently introduced in the Legislature would encourage teachers to discuss “the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories,” including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.” (NYTimes)
And this is not an isolated case :
In Louisiana, a law passed in 2008 says the state board of education may assist teachers in promoting “critical thinking” on all of those subjects. (NYTimes)
The strangest thing is to link those issues together. Evolution is a scientific theoretical explanation, global warming is a strong scientific hypothesis and human cloning is a scientific procedure.
Being a high school teacher myself, I can only imagine the kind of "discussion" on global warming or evolution one can have with a group of 16 year old kids with - if any - only a thin layer of scientific background . (it also pre-supposes that teachers have the scientific knowledge to lead the discussion - which most of them do not).
The weirdest part is that the Kentucky discussion is not about the truth but about the "advantages and disadvantages" which means, I suppose, that whatever is inconvenient should be rejected or denied. A great way to deal with science!
This of course is only the latest in a series of attacks on science by American religious extremists . Two days ago, it made the New York Times front page story under the headline: Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets. Apparently, this is very political:

The linkage of evolution and global warming is partly a legal strategy: courts have found that singling out evolution for criticism in public schools is a violation of the separation of church and state. By insisting that global warming also be debated, deniers of evolution can argue that they are simply championing academic freedom in general.

Yet they are also capitalizing on rising public resistance in some quarters to accepting the science of global warming, particularly among political conservatives who oppose efforts to rein in emissions of greenhouse gases. (NYTimes)

If you think discussions on global warming are harmless, you need to put it into context :

“Wherever there is a battle over evolution now,” [Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist who directs the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University ] said, “there is a secondary battle to diminish other hot-button issues like Big Bang and, increasingly, climate change. It is all about casting doubt on the veracity of science — to say it is just one view of the world, just another story, no better or more valid than fundamentalism.” (NYTimes)

There is no doubt that global warming has divided people along party lines in the U.S. with Republicans mostly denying it and Democrats mostly believing it. This is the recipe for losing track of the actual question at the expense of science, and it's not like the business world, with its anti-regulation lobbying is helping making the discussion become more reasonable.

Of course, it's not like France is immune from "scientists" who talk about things that have no expertise about.

No comments: