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."
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.
Perhaps I have been fighting for free expression on campus for the last 20 years.
No, it's the conflict with their literalist interpretation of the Bible or the Koran. Most fundamentalists don't know a whole lot of biology, so if there were 'flaws' they wouldn't be able to evaluate them.
As for 'evomaniacs', well, stupid people are often hostile to what they don't understand.
You mean, like Newton changing the orbits of planets and observing the result. Oh, wait, he didn't do that. I guess that means he wasn't a real scientist.
And then there's Einstein. Here's a list of the science experiments Einstein ran in his research career.
Sorry, Einstein, according to our FR peanut gallery, you don't qualify as a real scientist either.
I've never seen such strong opinions with so little to back them up.
Please support this claim. I am against censorship and believe that every person has the right to their beliefs. However, the contention over the ToE is not about censoring the idea of ID. It is, rather, a result of repeated attempts by individuals, whose motives are different than they claim, to force science to accept, as science, a notion that has no more evidential support than astrology, tarot-reading, or any of the endeavors of Ms. Cleo.
Over two hours later, and the only response is the sound of crickets..... as expected.
Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped. -EGH
Well, yeah, that was the point I was making. I got my degree in Meteorology and evolution never came into it. There is nothing in that field that hinges on evolution. Biology courses were never required. One could be a great meteorologist and have no clue what evolution is all about. It seems that from what I've read on these threads, that there are some who disagree with this.
Those other branches of science depend on the scientific method of which the ToE is an example, but rejecting the ToE is not rejecting the scientific method; it's just rejecting the conclusions some have arrived at by observing the fossil record.
Guess those of us that study the stars don't qualify either.
Deep Impact was an astronomical experiment, for sure.
All you've got to do is send a chunk of metal towards Alpha Centauri, and in a few thousand years, someone else will watch what happens when it hits. And if you're lucky, they'll include you as a middle author :-)
Had you specialized in palaeoclimatology, it would have.
I had the fortune of being in the mission control room at JPL for the Magellan launch. (My voice is recorded as saying "go for launch"). :-) My two seconds of fame. LOL!
Except that those cultures, if any, that thought that 2+2=5 apparently didn't make it.
Come on now. We all know you said: "This is boring; I'm going to go for lunch."
"Sorry, Einstein, according to our FR peanut gallery, you don't qualify as a real scientist either."
There's a number of things that Einstein postulated that couldn't be tested until many years after his death. I'm sure you are aware of that.
"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."
What I said was, the argument is not over postulates which can be tested in a lab. The argument is solely over the postulates which are jealously held in spite of the ability to reproduce them.
(And, yes, I realize that the above statement doesn't apply to many people on this board. Many of them are still arguing with the results produced in the lab. But I'm not referring to those people).
So he wasn't a RealScientistTM until he was dead a few years?
I looked back and found no such thing. All of RWP's comments have been relate to documented numbers.
Defend yourself of withdraw the comment.
"So he wasn't a RealScientistTM until he was dead a few years?"
Considering the grief he got over some of his ideas when he was alive I'm sure that's what some people said. But he at least he had mathematical proofs for many of his ideas. Proofs can be reproduced and verified on a chalkboard.
History will tell whether you, Darwin, and your colleagues will be held in high esteem or chuckled at for your own ignorance. Modern medicine laughs at medical theories and ideas from the 19th and 20th century. Do you think the people of the 21st and 22nd centuries will think any differently of much of the current scientific knowledge? Of course, the exception to this will be those ideas which can be examined and tested in the lab -- just like any of the experiments Newton, et. al. performed are still being reproduced today.
All you have left is the requirement to be a good person, and heaven forbid that anyone would have to attempt that.
Obviously Jesus was mostly a hocus-pocus man, and made no demands on his followers to engage in good works.
I guess it doesn't take much knowledge of biology to stand in front of a blue screen, but if you wish to study climate change, you will need to learn about evolution.
No doubt. But Darwin's made it 150 years so far. And don't substitute yourself for history. The only people chuckling at Darwin here are chuckleheads.
Of course, the exception to this will be those ideas which can be examined and tested in the lab -- just like any of the experiments Newton, et. al. performed are still being reproduced today.
Name an experiment Newton did that's being reproduced today.
A shame they can't go to the "Pointless Chat Room" or be routed there.
However, this thread includes partisan implications--and libertarians would love to uninvite conservative Christians from "their party"--like 'tarians even vote! This has been true for a long time--libertarians chiefly show up to gripe, gripe, gripe about how they don't like Baptists and are so terribly terrified about this looming theocracy.
"The Religious Right is going to destroy the GOP!" when the GOP would have been consigned to oblivion long ago without the RR or Mr. RR.
The erstwhile "War on Science" is yet another one of these, a phony issue to diguise an irrational antipathy.
Newton did experiments. He proved by experiment that light was waves and not particles.
I sat for nearly an hour underneath an apple tree this very lunchtime, but was not struck on the head by a falling fruit.
Run for the hills, gravity isn't working!!!
Hang on, wrong season...
Oops, I forgot about his prisms.
Mostly he was a theoretical scientists though.
But that was before Einstein proved that light was particles and not waves.
Actually, he was just a graphics artist getting a head start on the cover art for Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" album....
"Only the historically ignorant and arrogant medical researchers do."
Uhm, no, you know that's not true. Most people cringe and shake their heads when they think of doctors "bleeding" people many centuries ago (this hastened the ultimate demise of G. Washington, for example). Certainly they didn't know any better at the time but that doesn't mean people today don't laugh at it.
"What experiments did Newton perform? "
Are you asking a serious question? Heck, we reproduced the light through the prism experiment in Junior High.
"And, are you aware that Newton's theories have been shown to be inadequate?"
Absolutely. But they are not incorrect within certain constraints, which still makes them valid. I don't know of anyone who looks at Newton's theories like they do medical science of yesteryear.
And Feynman showed that Certs was a breath mint and and candy mint...nope, I haven't got that right, have I?
" The only people chuckling at Darwin here are chuckleheads."
Now that's funny! I haven't seen you as a real witty guy on this board but that was a good one.
"Name an experiment Newton did that's being reproduced today."
As I mentioned above to CG, we reproduced the light through the prism thing in junior high.
Has anyone ever noticed the nearly absolute lack of joy and playfulness that certain people on these threads exhibit.
"Has anyone ever noticed the nearly absolute lack of joy and playfulness that certain people on these threads exhibit."
Yeah. Most all of us are guilty of it from time to time, but some make it a full-time habit. It's life-and-death to most on both sides.
Get the album, and listen VERY carefully to the faint comments at the end of one of the songs....
The words "there is no dark side of the Moon really ... matter of fact it's all dark" over the closing heartbeats come from the studio doorman at the time, Gerry Driscoll.
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