By Jon Winsor
Updated: See below.
Update 2: Commenter Thomas J. Webb points me to Ron Paul’s latest book, where Paul lays out his current position on evolution–which differs from what he says below. Paul writes, “My personal view is that recognizing the validity of an evolutionary process does not support atheism, nor should it diminish one’s view about God and the universe.” (Earlier, I checked Paul’s website and could not find his position on evolution.) In his book, Paul still has doubts about science questions being relevant to the presidency (as he does in the video below).
Et tu, Ron Paul?
This is very disappointing. I always thought of the Ron Paul wing as made up of Republicans that were largely immune to this kind of motivated reasoning.
You might fault the Ron Paul people for their heterodox theories on going back to the gold standard, or their insistence that government intervention caused the Great Depression, or their sometimes quirky, youthful enthusiasm for their candidate. But at least the Austrian economists Ron Paul wrote about had some faith in the rationality of individuals.
But how rational is it to deny the theory of evolution? Read More
This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist, policy analyst and science communications strategist, who encourages the scientific community to get engaged in the policy-making process
In response to Rick Perry’s latest comments on evolution, Richard Dawkins has chosen to revert back to the “browbeating approach” to science communication. Dr. Dawkins has scaled the steps of the ivory tower and disdainfully shouts down at his subjects in his recent post on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog. In the opening paragraph, he says,
“There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.”
In one short paragraph, Dr. Dawkins has violated nearly everything we have come to know about effective science communication. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how Dr. Dawkins believes hurling insults, like “uneducated fools” and “ignoramus,” can advance his position. How far do you think readers of the opposite mind continued into this article? Read More
This is a brief guest post by Jamie Vernon.
In a stunning exchange with a young boy, a video posted by ABC News reveals Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry confirming what many scientists and science educators have suspected for years. According to the Governor, “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution.”
So, there it is. Texas encourages teaching of creationism in public schools.
Perry has consistently appointed creationist leaders to the Texas Board of Education over the years. Each of them has denied their intent to allow teaching of creationism in science classrooms in Texas schools. At the same time, the Texas Board of Education has made repeated attempts to weaken science standards to make way for anti-evolution curricula.
I think we’ll be hearing from the Governor on this matter. The backtracking will be a sight to see.
Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has traveled to remote areas in Antarctica, Siberia, and Alaska, amongst others, for over ten years now, collecting and studying meteorites. He gave FoxNews.com early access to the out-of-this-world research, published late Friday evening in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology. In it, Hoover describes the latest findings in his study of an extremely rare class of meteorites, called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites — only nine such meteorites are known to exist on Earth.
Though it may be hard to swallow, Hoover is convinced that his findings reveal fossil evidence of bacterial life within such meteorites, the remains of living organisms from their parent bodies — comets, moons and other astral bodies. By extension, the findings suggest we are not alone in the universe, he said.
For now I’ll say I’m intrigued, but also somewhat skeptical–at least until we learn more. What do readers think?
[Update: Phil's got a great post up on the possibility of fossilized microscopic life forms.]
We are both here in Washington, D.C. (or will be soon) for the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. Some of the stuff happening is here. First off, John Holdren speaks tomorrow night, so everybody will be expecting pointed words on the science budget.
Meanwhile, let me pull a few threads–sessions that sound very cool and where I think I’d learn something:
Comparing National Responses to Climate Change: Networks of Debate and Contention Read More
My latest POI episode is now up. Here’s the write up:
Why do Americans claim to love science, but then selectively reject its findings when they’re inconvenient? And why do some cultural groups reject certain types of scientific findings (about, say, harm to the environment), whereas others reject others?
Yale law professor Dan Kahan is doing some of the most cutting edge work right now when it comes to figuring out this out. Kahan is trying to resolve what he has called the “American Culture War of Fact,” by determining how it is that our core values-whether we are “individualists” or “communitarians,” “hierarchs” or “egalitarians”—can sometimes interfere with our perceptions of reality.
Most intriguingly—or, if you prefer, disturbingly—Kahan has found that deep-seated values even determine who we consider to be a scientific expert in the first place.
His results have very large implications for how to depolarize an array of scientific issues-and how to communicate about controversial science in general.
Dan Kahan is the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law at Yale Law School. In addition to risk perception, his areas of research include criminal law and evidence. He has served as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court (1990-91) and to Judge Harry Edwards of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (1989-90).
You can listen to the full episode here.
Yesterday the New York Times reported on this survey, published in Science, of high school biology teaching practices with respect to evolution across the country. The results can only be called dismal.
Yes, there are about 28 % of teachers who present the science unabashedly and accurately. But then there are the unapologetic creationist teachers:
At the opposite extreme are 13% of the teachers surveyed who explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least 1 hour of class time presenting it in a positive light (an additional 5% of teachers report that they endorse creationism in passing or when answering student questions). The boldness and confidence of this minority should not be underestimated. Although 29% percent of all other teachers report having been “nervous at an open house event or meeting with parents,” only 19% of advocates of creationism report this.
But neither the good science teachers, nor the bold creationist science teachers, are a majority. That honor goes to the wishy-washy middle of the road teachers, who comprise 60 %: Read More
My latest DeSmogBlog post is up: It’s about the increasingly unavoidable linkage between these two science education controversies:
In Louisiana, a 2008 bill demanded that students learn about “the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught”;”biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning” were once again singled out. In other words, it was precisely the same thing that’s now being attempted in Oklahoma—and in Louisiana, it succeeded.
In Texas, meanwhile, recent revisions to state textbook standards now require books to “analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming.”
Why this strategy from science foes? It’s simple: Courts have said you can’t teach creationism because it’s thinly veiled religion, and if you only single out evolution for “scientific” criticism then your motives are similarly suspect from a legal perspective.
But if you rope in some issues where there’s nothing obviously religious at stake—like climate science—you may be in better shape in court.
You can read the full post here.
For many years, Gallup has been asking the same survey question about belief in evolution. And it has been consistently finding that an alarming percentage of the public (more than 40 %) believes that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form within the last 10,000 years or so.” Technically speaking, this is young-Earth creationism. (The other two choices in the poll are a type of God-guided evolution and an atheistic or non-guided evolution. I would argue that both are pro-evolution responses.)
Anyway, we now have new Gallup results, and while it shouldn’t be over-emphasized, it’s starting to look like there’s some slight movement. The young Earthers are now at just 40 %; they’d been as high as 47 % at various points in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the non-guided evolution camp has gone up to 16 % (from as low as 9 % in the 1990s). Here’s an image from Gallup, showing responses to the same polling question over time:
Gallup headlined these results by emphasizing that 4 in 10 Americans reject evolution; but might it not also have said that more than half now accept it?
Anyways, in a discussion of these data, Gallup notes how they’ve drifted in recent years, but also puts that fact in its needed context–it’s not a very big change:
[Americans'] views have been generally stable over the last 28 years. Acceptance of the creationist viewpoint has decreased slightly over time, with a concomitant rise in acceptance of a secular evolution perspective. But these shifts have not been large, and the basic structure of beliefs about human beings’ origins is generally the same as it was in the early 1980s.
Fair enough. Still, I can’t help thinking about the arguments of Barry Kosmin, who will be my next guest on Point of Inquiry and is the chief expert on the growing number of non-religiously affiliated Americans (the “Nones”). I’m no pollster, but I wonder, could we be starting to see their growing prevalence in these data?