Skip to comments.Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology
Posted on 04/19/2006 3:57:51 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
A new article in PLoS Biology (April 18, 2006) discusses the state of scientific literacy in the United States, with especial attention to the survey research of Jon D. Miller, who directs the Center for Biomedical Communications at Northwestern University Medical School.
To measure public acceptance of the concept of evolution, Miller has been asking adults if "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals" since 1985. He and his colleagues purposefully avoid using the now politically charged word "evolution" in order to determine whether people accept the basics of evolutionary theory. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of Americans who reject this concept has declined (from 48% to 39%), as has the proportion who accept it (45% to 40%). Confusion, on the other hand, has increased considerably, with those expressing uncertainty increasing from 7% in 1985 to 21% in 2005.In international surveys, the article reports, "[n]o other country has so many people who are absolutely committed to rejecting the concept of evolution," quoting Miller as saying, "We are truly out on a limb by ourselves."
The "partisan takeover" of the title refers to the embrace of antievolutionism by what the article describes as "the right-wing fundamentalist faction of the Republican Party," noting, "In the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Missouri, and Texas all included demands for teaching creation science." NCSE is currently aware of eight state Republican parties that have antievolutionism embedded in their official platforms or policies: those of Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas. Four of them -- those of Alaska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas -- call for teaching forms of creationism in addition to evolution; the remaining three call only for referring the decision whether to teach such "alternatives" to local school districts.
A sidebar to the article, entitled "Evolution under Attack," discusses the role of NCSE and its executive director Eugenie C. Scott in defending the teaching of evolution. Scott explained the current spate of antievolution activity as due in part to the rise of state science standards: "for the first time in many states, school districts are faced with the prospect of needing to teach evolution. ... If you don't want evolution to be taught, you need to attack the standards." Commenting on the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover [Kitzmiller et al. v Dover Area School District et al.], Scott told PLoS Biology, "Intelligent design may be dead as a legal strategy but that does not mean it is dead as a popular social movement," urging and educators to continue to resist to the onslaught of the antievolution movement. "It's got legs," she quipped. "It will evolve."
I consider it a compliment that you read my post.
I'm a helluva guy, and it must be true, as I keep saying it.
Consider for a minute how interesting it would be to observe a true debate over the merits of evolution. (It won't happen between two groups of fanatics, however.)
Evolution aside, the crux of the matter is the presence of a public education system that currently exists for the primary purpose of brainwashing America's youth to accept various pop agendas.
Unfortunately, public education will continue as a government-funded and government-controlled institution (just as Marx desired). The curriculum debates will rage for as long as some individuals operate under the belief that children will be harmed if they do not "know" the politically correct precepts of the day, and that local governments are too ignorant to make their own curriculum decisions.
Fortunately, individual parents still have the option to reject handouts from the great "middle class welfare scheme" by opting out of the public education system.
Really? Nutritional Science or Behavioral Science?
There are some posters on FR you should know a little about before debating them on technical matters. Physicist, Right Wing Professor, RadioAstronomer, and CoyoteMan among them. RWP is definitely not a nutritional scientst, but if you prefer to think the man doesn't have the credentials and background to contribute to a bush-league debate on Evolutionary Theory, I won't try to dissuade you from that. Just realize it's greatly amusing to those of us with a passing familiarity with RWP's profession and educational background.
No it doesn't. But thanks for playing.
The National Science Foundation is a political organization and should not be considered a reliable source. Trust, but verify
The National Science Foundation is a largely apolitical agency. I deal witht ehm on a weekly basis.
You can find my c.v. linked off my profile, bozo. So where and in what field did you get your Ph.D.?
Thanks. I'd actually never run the math on that before, and it was an excuse to do it.
Better solution. You, the Islamists, the sexual harassment industry, and the rest of your easily offended brethren learn to deal with it. There is no right not to be offended, and privatizing public institutions simply because of a few soreheads makes no sense at all.
That explains so much. Thanks for the insight.
I'm trying to keep track of how many leftist positions the CRIDers take:
- ID should be taught in science class even though it has not proven its qualifications (affirmative action)
- CRIDers get to decide what words mean, changing the language of science (Ebonics)
- We need to pass laws to protect the faith/feelings of certain groups (Doug's General Theory of Liberalism)
I eagerly await the answer to the question you posed above.
I fully understand that you're uncomfortable arguing with someone who actually knows something about the subject of your uninformed rants.
BTW, you haven't shared where, in what field and when you got your Ph.D.. Given that you've appointed yourself an arbiter of who's a real scientist and mathematician, it must be somewhere really good. Maybe you're in the National Academy?
It used to depress me that I'd gone from fighting the leftist 'science and math is socially constructed' crowd in the 1990s, to the so-called-conservative creationists in the 2000's. It took me a few years to realize they're both using the same playbook.
I think the most interesting insight here is that the trimming on non-coding DNA is correlated with the scarcity of raw materials. Is there an existing article on Talkorigins? If not there should be.
Facetiousness allows the wheel of idiocy to continue rolling.
Obfiscating the comment by focusing on Wintertime's grammatical flaws in the sentence detracts from the theme of the debate.
Haven't seen one. We had a thread on the Prochlorococcus genome a while back, IIRC, and it was mentioned that the absence of non-coding DNA might be a result of a N/P shortage.
There are some interesting experiments one might run. Give it has a rapid duplication time, one could culture it in a high N/P environment for five or ten years and see if the genome develops 'junk'. Or one could look for strains living in areas of ocean with lots of land-run off and compare them.
I did no such thing.
You shouldn't be depressed. A lot of us are glad you're here, refuting the pseudo-science (pscience?) as only a Right-Wing Professor could.
" If they are not ultimately responsible for what they posit, they are only spinning tales.
Look what happens when an evolutionary notion is debunked after a better notions comes along--nobody dies from a bad reaction, no bridge falls down, no piece of shuttle garbage explodes. The notion just goes to some sort of purgatory."
Yep. That's why these discussions are largely pointless for all parties involved.
The evolution scientists are not really scientists -- at least not in the classical sense. They are more like forensic detectives; the real hard sciences are the ones which have experiments and can be put to the test over and over again in the lab.
They are putting together a story from a record of facts. The facts exist but they can't be re-created or reproduced in our lifetimes so they make conclusions based on the facts that they have found. They know they don't have all the facts but they don't what they are missing, either. They make assumptions to fill in the blanks. Then those assumptions stack up onto more assumptions and steer the conclusions a certain way.
Therefore they are putting together a story which looks like what they think happened but at the end of the day it's just a story. There are innocent people in jail sometimes because the detectives developed the wrong conclusion. There is virutally no contention about the parts of the evolution picture which can be demonstrated in a lab -- speciation, for example. But the far-reaching conclusion about common descent is just a story based on lots of assumptions using incomplete data.
If the evos would stick to teaching what we absolutely know by reproducible, testable lab work then there would be virtually no contention about this subject. It's when their assumptions about common descent are broadcast as being on the same level as those lab experiments that they meet resistance.
"It is Christianity, Jim, but not as we know it."
Sorry, couldn't resist that.
Your point is well taken; my point I did not make clear. I am not offering Mr. Jefferson's approach as a model for emulation, still less an exposition of my own faith, merely noting it as one of many possible. I do not assume that anyone else's experience of God is identical to my own and I therefore endeavour (do not always succeed) in giving the benefit of the doubt. Until someone invents a Soul-o-Scope for peering into another's innermost being, we're stuck with taking people at their word unless there is a good reason not to.
Jefferson's own account I find of interest (in a letter to Benjamin Rush in 1803):
In some of the delightful conversations with you in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you that one day or other I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed, but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other. At the short interval since these conversations, when I could justifiably abstract my mind from public affairs, the subject has been under my contemplation. But the more I considered it, the more it expanded beyond the measure of either my time or information. In the moment of my late departure from Monticello, I received from Dr. Priestley his little treatise of "Socrates and Jesus Compared." This being a section of the general view I had taken of the field, it became a subject of reflection while on the road and unoccupied otherwise. The result was, to arrange in my mind a syllabus or outline of such an estimate of the comparative merits of Christianity as I wished to see executed by someone of more leisure and information for the task than myself. This I now send you as the only discharge of my promise I can probably ever execute. And in confiding it to you, I know it will not be exposed to the malignant perversions of those who make every word from me a text for new misrepresentations and calumnies. I am moreover averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public, because it would countenance the presumption of those who have endeavored to draw them before that tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquisition over the rights of conscience which the laws have so justly proscribed. It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the common right of independent opinion, by answering questions of faith which the laws have left between God and himself. Accept my affectionate salutations.
Perhaps you should be fighting the existence of government-run and politically-controlled state colleges which seek to "dumb down" debate and strive to control thought and speech on campus.
State colleges used to be substantially independent from political control and significantly more self-sufficient. At this point, however, they have merged seamlessly into the public school welfare scheme which redistributes wealth from taxpayers and property owners, providing an overcompensated living for professors and teachers, and a "free" or subsidized education for students.
In other words, it is the flaws in the evomaniacs' arguments that have caused the creationists' resistance to the theory of evolution as a whole.
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