Article: Is US becoming hostile to science?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Stella, Oct 30, 2005.

  1. Stella macrumors 604


    Apr 21, 2003

    Is US becoming hostile to science?
    Fri Oct 28, 2005 12:10 PM BST
    Printer Friendly | Email Article | RSS

    By Alan Elsner

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bitter debate about how to teach evolution in U.S. high schools is prompting a crisis of confidence among scientists, and some senior academics warn that science itself is under assault.

    In the past month, the interim president of Cornell University and the dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine have both spoken on this theme, warning in dramatic terms of the long-term consequences.

    "Among the most significant forces is the rising tide of anti-science sentiment that seems to have its nucleus in Washington but which extends throughout the nation," said Stanford's Philip Pizzo in a letter posted on the school Web site on October 3.

    Cornell acting President Hunter Rawlings, in his "state of the university" address last week, spoke about the challenge to science represented by "intelligent design" which holds that the theory of evolution accepted by the vast majority of scientists is fatally flawed.

    Rawlings said the dispute was widening political, social, religious and philosophical rifts in U.S. society. "When ideological division replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers," he said.

    Adherents of intelligent design argue that certain forms in nature are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by a "designer," who could but does not have to be identified as God.


    In the past five years, the scientific community has often seemed at odds with the Bush administration over issues as diverse as global warming, stem cell research and environmental protection. Prominent scientists have also charged the administration with politicizing science by seeking to shape data to its own needs while ignoring other research.

    Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have built a powerful position within the Republican Party and no Republican, including Bush, can afford to ignore their views.

    This was dramatically illustrated in the case of Terri Schiavo earlier this year, in which Republicans in Congress passed a law to keep a woman in a persistent vegetative state alive against her husband's wishes, and Bush himself spoke out in favor of "the culture of life."

    The issue of whether intelligent design should be taught, or at least mentioned, in high school biology classes is being played out in a Pennsylvania court room and in numerous school districts across the country.

    The school board of Dover, Pennsylvania, is being sued by parents backed by the American Civil Liberties Union after it ordered schools to read students a short statement in biology classes informing them that the theory of evolution is not established fact and that gaps exist in it.

    The statement mentioned intelligent design as an alternative theory and recommended students to read a book that explained the theory further.

    Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller believes the rhetoric of the anti-evolution movement has had the effect of driving a wedge between a large proportion of the population who follow fundamentalist Christianity and science.

    "It is alienating young people from science. It basically tells them that the scientific community is not to be trusted and you would have to abandon your principles of faith to become a scientist, which is not at all true," he said.

    On the other side, conservative scholar Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute, believes the only way to heal the rift between science and religion is to allow the teaching of intelligent design.

    "To have antagonism between science and religion is crazy," he said at a forum on the issue last week.

    Proponents of intelligent design deny they are anti-science and say they themselves follow the scientific method.


    Polls for many years have shown that a majority of Americans are at odds with key scientific theory. For example, as CBS poll this month found that 51 percent of respondents believed humans were created in their present form by God. A further 30 percent said their creation was guided by God. Only 15 percent thought humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.

    Other polls show that only around a third of American adults accept the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, even though the concept is virtually uncontested by scientists worldwide.

    "When we ask people what they know about science, just under 20 percent turn out to be scientifically literate," said Jon Miller, director of the center for biomedical communication at Northwestern University.

    He said science and especially mathematics were poorly taught in most U.S. schools, leading both to a shortage of good scientists and general scientific ignorance.

    U.S. school students perform relatively poorly in international tests of mathematics and science. For example, in 2003 U.S. students placed 24th in an international test that measured the mathematical literacy of 15-year-olds, below many European and Asian countries.

    Scientists bemoan the lack of qualified U.S. candidates for postgraduate and doctoral studies at American universities and currently fill around a third of available science and engineering slots with foreign students.

    Northwestern's Miller said the insistence of a large proportion of Americans that humans were created by God as whole beings had policy implications for the future.

    "The 21st century will be the century of biology and we are going to be confronted with hundreds of important public policy issues that require some understanding that all life is interconnected," he said.
  2. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    I think it's sad - and a sign of a culture on the decline - that we, as a whole, have become so religious (well, more like fundamentalist) and unable to think analytically. Each year gets worse.
  3. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    I think we should rename Scientology to "Mythology" and stop confusing the kIdz.
  4. Chundles macrumors G4


    Jul 4, 2005
    Yup, this "intelligent design" nonsense has to go. It has no basis of fact other than what's been written down in some book. I'm all for religion and stuff but just because you believe it, doesn't make it true. You can lead a "good life" and still have good scientific knowledge of the best theory we have as to how life originated on Earth. Evolution is not some baseless hypothesis (ID fans love to mix up the words "theory" and "hypothesis") it is a solid interpretation of the literally mountains of evidence that has been collected over the years. ID is not based on evidence but rather the lack of the ability to think that tiny gradual changes can lead to huge changes over the billions of years the Earth has been spinning round our very average sun.

    I'm sorry if I offend but I just don't put much stock in an idea that stems from just one book, written and translated and re-translated and compiled and re-compiled over the last 2000 years (see, I don't doubt the existence of Jesus - there is a mound of evidence that suggests he existed - I just don't think he was a deity).
  5. decksnap macrumors 68040


    Apr 11, 2003
    Please don't confuse all Americans with the American President and his bumpkin posse. There are plenty of intelligent people here, who think for themselves. It just goes to show how (painfully) close the connection between religion and government has become under this president.

    Gotta keep 'em seperated.

    The US is still the source of a huge amount of scientific progress and discovery.
  6. Chundles macrumors G4


    Jul 4, 2005
    You're absolutely right. I have relatives up in Massachusetts and whilst visiting them I found it to be a source of very intelligent, logical people. It was wonderful to finally have a proper conversation with people after traveling on my own for so long.

    It's time to really drive a wedge between church and state, the two can co-exist but they cannot rule together - history shows us that.
  7. decksnap macrumors 68040


    Apr 11, 2003
    No suprise there- looking at a current North American map, Massachusetts falls squarely within The United States of Canada.

    Attached Files:

  8. macrumors 6502a

    Jul 17, 2002
    Bay of Fundy
    I'd hate to see that country exist, but I can't help but think it would dominate the world and bring new waves of technology and enlightenment :p
  9. Chundles macrumors G4


    Jul 4, 2005
    Oh I love that picture. I was in Canada last year when the US election was on - a very interesting place from which to observe....
  10. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    Not to mention that religion-driven policy restrictions on embryonic stem cell use in research has put back experimentation and development of new approaches in medicine by at least 10 years.
  11. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    I love the map! :)
  12. Stella thread starter macrumors 604


    Apr 21, 2003
    Fortunately, other countries see the benefits of stem cell research and are driving head long.

    Opponents of Stem Cell research will soon change their tune when it becomes personal to them - i.e., a Stem Cell procedure becomes available that will save their or some one close to them life / or quality of life...
  13. FoxyKaye macrumors 68000


    Jan 23, 2004
    San Francisco, Terre d'Ange, Bas Lag, Gallifrey
    Here's a related link:

    From my alma mater - Cornell is generally considered one of the more conservative schools (especially given who is on its Board of Trustees), however, it was very encouraging to see an entire "State of the University" speech devoted to debunking "intelligent design."
  14. Deepdale macrumors 68000


    May 4, 2005
    New York
    That is a great map of the United States of Canada and Jesusland to the south.
  15. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    we're losing.
  16. wordmunger macrumors 603


    Sep 3, 2003
    North Carolina
    I really much prefer this map. The US has plenty of smart people, all across the nation. There are smart people everywhere, and rednecks everywhere.
  17. leekohler macrumors G5


    Dec 22, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    Agreed, but since we have a "guy who talks just like reg'ler folks" in the
    Oval Office, we're all continuing down a very bad road. VOTE IN 2006 guys!
  18. decksnap macrumors 68040


    Apr 11, 2003
    Yes, plenty. Who knows how a poll like that was framed when it was taken, where it was taken, etc. Means very little. Besides, even 15% of a country this huge is a crapload of people!

    Don't just vote- move to a swing state then vote.
  19. tristan macrumors 6502a

    Jul 19, 2003
    high-rise in beautiful bethesda
    There's a big constituency out there that's anti-intellectual - the more "book learning" you have, the less they trust you. The Republicans have allied themselves with this constituency, which includes, but is not limited to the christian conservatives. That's part of why they're always complaining about those "elitist liberals" and "Washington insiders".

    Of course, the whole thing's a sham. The "ruling class" of Republicans is full of ivy league graduate degrees in law and business. They also know how important smarts are. Bernanke is a PhD and two of the three supreme court nominees are ivy league lawyers.

    The deeper problem this country has is that careers in science are seen as inferior to just about everything, from media to law to finance. Most college students, if given the choice to be on a reality show or participate in a research project that could cure a disease, would take the reality show.
  20. mactastic macrumors 68040


    Apr 24, 2003
    I saw a survey one time that showed that the well-to-do, who happen to be mostly Republican, are the biggest consumers of both sushi AND lattes.

  21. Chacala_Nayarit macrumors 6502


    Oct 6, 2005
    Lakewood, Washington
    A recent PhD in Chemistry said on /. that he works 60 hour weeks for 22k a year. It's hard to get anything besides lab assistant jobs. Damn 22,000 is the salary of dishwashers.:rolleyes:

    The last school I went to was 86% business degrees, sad. All about that dollar, sad.

    Bottom line: Imtelignz desine :D

  22. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I think part of the problem is that many people see it as an "either/or" situation and the idea of having faith is dead. It's been replaced w/religious "fact." People don't "have faith" in the resurrection they "know" it really happened. People don't "have faith" in the Bible they "know" it's all real. Etc.. They have been brainwashed into accepting what's preached to them and discouraged from questioning and

    The closed mindedness is one of the things that really drove me away from organized religion. Are these people so insecure w/their religion that they feel threatened by any info that originated outside of their religious text?


Share This Page