Thursday, March 4, 2010

The War Against Science Escalates

Yesterday’s New York Times reports that the anti-evolutionists are joining forces with the global warming deniers. I suppose this was inevitable, as both groups share the common practice of believing what they want to believe, without regard for the facts.

Here in Utah we get a strong dose of anti-science every winter during the legislative session. This year our elected leaders have officially proclaimed that global warming is a hoax. They also introduced a bill requiring the health department to produce a video of the heartbeat of an “unborn child” of three weeks gestational age, despite the fact that at that age an embryo does not have a heart.  (This bill was later modified to add another week, making the health department’s task barely possible.)  If the legislature had political reasons to dislike the law of gravity, they would undoubtedly try to repeal it.

Amidst all this, I recently received the latest Save Our Canyons newsletter, which contains a refreshing essay by SOC President Gale Dick titled “Is Science Just Another Opinion?”. Dick is also a retired physics professor from the University of Utah, so he and I naturally look at a lot of things in the same way. In the essay he insightfully lists possible reasons why so many people reject science:
  • Flaws in our education?
  • Sheer laziness?
  • Fear?
  • The inability of science to explain why so many terrible things happen to us?
  • Distrust of academic scientists who come across as arrogant and elite?
  • Belief that science is the enemy of religion?
  • Cultural aversion to mathematics?
  • Reluctance to accept the limitations that science puts on what is possible?
  • Reluctance to accept the responsibility that comes with scientific knowledge?
There are no simple antidotes to any of these understandable human shortcomings. The only cures are education, hard work, and integrity. All three of these things are part of the difficult process of growing up, when we recognize that we must accept the things we cannot change, work to change the things we can, and inform ourselves well enough to tell the difference.*

1 comment:

  1. Regarding the final asterisk: Obviously I stole the last sentence of this essay from the famous Serenity Prayer, but I don't especially care for the prayer's insinuation that we can acquire these important qualities merely by praying. It takes hard work, especially to educate ourselves enough to tell what can be changed and what can't.


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