Jerry Coyne has not yet responded to my first post, so far as I can tell. But I hope to have up a second one up today, defending the science-religion reconciliationist position from a legal perspective. The basic point that I will develop will be that reconciliationism played a key role in the biggest pro-evolution victory in this decade, Judge John E. Jones III’s ruling in the 2005 Dover trial. This on its own doesn’t make the court-endorsed accommodationist position true–judges are not our ultimate arbiter on either science or philosophy. But it does suggest that if we care about the teaching of evolution, we ought to think very, very hard before undermining a position that has succeeded so well in court.
But that’s just a teaser, an argument to be developed at more length soon. In the meantime, I want to draw attention to my latest Science Progress column, which is on a very different subject–the beginning of hurricane season. It’s supposed to be an average year, not a bad one, at least according to the pre-season forecasts. But it only takes one storm to devastate us, and we all know there will be > 0 storms in the Atlantic this year. Moreover, Congress continues to fail us when it comes to making much needed new investments in hurricane research. As I put it:
In 2006, following the devastation caused by [Katrina] as well as by Hurricanes Rita and Wilma, the National Science Board released a report observing that “the present Federal investment in hurricane science and engineering research relative to the tremendous damage and suffering caused by hurricanes is insufficient and time is not on our side. The hurricane warning for our Nation has been issued and we must act vigorously and without delay.” Yet the 2007 National Hurricane Research Initiative Act, a response to this report and the general post-Katrina sense of hurricane vulnerability, did not make it out of committee in the last Congress. So much for acting “without delay.”
Legislators will try again to pass a version of this law in the 111th Congress, but by now we have strong reason to question whether making dramatic new investments in hurricane research counts as a congressional priority. One would think such funding would rank high among legislative no-brainers; that hurricane funding bills would pass as easily as resolutions naming bridges and highways. But if our leaders couldn’t act in the wake of Katrina, why expect them to act in the wake of Ike?
Someone ought to tell Congress that while we have the best hurricane forecasters in the world at the National Hurricane Center, their hands are still tied by inadequate scientific knowledge. Numerous factors constrain their abilities, most notably our incomplete understanding of why hurricanes intensify or weaken. Forecasters have become excellent when it comes to pinpointing where storms will go, but they can’t yet tell you with as much accuracy how strong they’ll be when they get there. As strong storms cause dramatically more damage than weak ones, this is a key vulnerability.
You can read the full column here. And again, I have some other stuff to do first, but I hope to have my second reply to Coyne up today.