An article about Creationism in Volume 303 of Science magazine, titled “Georgia Backs Off a Bit, But in Other States Battles Heat Up,” states that the flurry of fights at both local and state levels reflects the pervasiveness of resistance to evolutionary theory, says biologist Randy Moore of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. “It’s relentless. It comes up just about everywhere. And it’s not going away,” he says. Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in El Cerrito, California, believes that the timing is not a coincidence, “It’s an election year,” she says, meaning that there is a heightened awareness of hot-button issues among both politicians and the public. (I suppose that is why the issues of gay marriage and keeping God in the pledge of allegiance are also being brought to the fore recently. It looks like the Bush administration is trying to solidify their right wing, fundamentalist supporters.)
The illustration in the article showed that proposals to encourage teaching creationism and ‘intelligent design’ have been advanced in 37 states since 2001.
The article ends with “Scientists should not underestimate the threat to science from such grassroots efforts,” says Moore. “In every survey that I’ve seen data for, 15% to 20% of high school biology teachers teach creationism. University faculty have no idea what is happening in high school classrooms across the country.”
The need for science education seems particularly urgent now that the Bush administration has been acting in an unprecedented manner by censoring scientists, and it is doing so as a ‘faith based’ administration. H.N. Arendt said in “Online Journal,” (www.onlinejournal.com/Commentary/022404Arendt22404arendt.html) “To be a scientist is to, above all, demand reproducible behaviors and to apply the scientific method to those behaviors. In some ways, science is like Zen Buddhism. It has methodology, not doctrine. You do things according to the method, and you get the results the method produces. Nothing more, nothing less. No value judgments, no dogmas. Just conditionally-true statements that can be modified over time as new results come in.” The Bush Administration as well as Creationists everywhere condemn science for being wish-washy and having no absolutes when scientists change their policies, research results and medical procedures. They only understand dogma and believe, while scientists deal with reality and opinions based on data-driven decisions derived from the scientific method.
Creationists and other dogmatists are quite happy to live longer due to medical advancements – doctors did not pray for a cure; they did research to arrive at critical scientific advancements to prolong life. Listen to Baird’s “Prayer or Penicillin” on the Hallelujah! Evolution CD for a humorous song about this issue. Creationists are thrilled to have scientists use genetic engineering to create terrible diseases for germ warfare (made by private companies that benefit from government contracts as rewards for supporting the present administration), but not for prolonging or improving the quality of life (i.e. stem cell research). They do not really support our space program because the facts evolving from that research might threaten their religious views of the timeline and method of Creation. It would not surprise me if the Hubble telescope’s proposed demise is a result of Fundamentalist pressure on the White House. They do not mind giving Republican and conservative businesses (‘cronyism’ at its worst) government grants to find ways of dumping our garbage or toxic waste into the atmosphere or into our precious planet, but they refuse to fund organizations who propose to avoid that waste in the first place (such as birth control or alternate fuel systems). Fundamentalists do not mind shooting a benevolent, 45 year old doctor with a family, who performs abortions as a service to women who have nowhere to turn for help. They do object to him killing a bunch of cells that they call a ‘human.’ But, as one of Dr. Baird’s songs, “The Jerry Falwell Waltz” on Hallelujah! Evolution says, “they care for their welfare right up to their birth.” Put those unwanted humans on the face of the earth, disregard their doomed future in most cases and saddle the earth with more users of its resources. Fundies just want more poor souls, ignorant and gullible to join their holy war against modernity.
A recent case in point, an example of scientific censoring is found in The Los Angeles Times, 26 March 2004: Action to Protect Salmon Urged Scientists say their advice was dropped from a report to the U. S. fisheries services.
“Six leading marine scientists, who were hired as government advisors only to find their recommendations stripped from an official report, went public today with their views – that federal action is urgently needed to protect more than a dozen populations of West Coast salmon and steelhead trout from the threat of extinction.” Their advice was ignored. Maybe you don’t care about salmon or trout, but this action is symptomatic of a wider government policy. Other scientists complain about the same censorship, such as the EPA. “A group of 20 Nobel laureates and several science advisors to past Republican presidents last month wrote an open letter accusing the Bush administration of ‘suppressing, distorting or manipulating the work done by scientists’ at various federal agencies. Donald Kennedy, former Stanford University President and now editor of Science (Steve had Donald Kennedy as a Biology professor when he went to Stanford!), said the Bush administration has developed a reputation for scientific censorship and said that the salmon article withstood review by scientific peers before publication and that “Differences on scientific issues should be argued on the merits and censorship isn’t the way to conduct an honest debate.”
It seems that scientists and other rationalists must be eternally vigilant against the promulgation of nonsense wherever they find it. That is why Dr. Stephen Baird and The Opossums of Truth sing songs about science – to make the battle against ignorance entertaining and to make science understandable to all.