Thursday, January 11, 2007

US: Science education backwater. Reason? Religion...

Sigh. This is utterly disheartening. The figure above shows the results of a poll conducted in a variety of countries on public attitude towards evolution. Secular Europe is obviously far more educated on the aspects of evolutionary theory. Look where the US is. Second worst only to Turkey. The US is probably the country that puts out the most science literature, yet it is a biological education backwater.

Speaking as a Canadian, just where is my country in this? I mean, Iceland, a puny little island country with a mere 250,000 citizens, gets on the list, while Canada, a couple of orders of magnitude a greater number, gets no respect.

What do the IDiots at the Disco Institute have to say about this? Bruce Chapman: "A better explanation for the high percentage of doubters of Darwinism in America may be that this country's citizens are famously independent and are not given to being rolled by an ideological elite in any field," Chapman said. "In particular, the growing doubts about Darwinism undoubtedly reflect growing doubts among scientists about Darwinian theory. Over 640 have now signed a public dissent and the number keeps growing."

That 640 probably contains morons like Kent Hovind. (I can't wait for the sentencing on the 19th. Not only is his Science laughable, his moral character is pretty suspect as well.)

'Famously independent'? Not sure about that. They certainly aren't very independent when it comes to religious belief. I mean, if you give yourself over unquestioningly to religious dogma, how independent can that be? Religious opponents to ToE parrot the same old tired, ineffective and discredited arguments as they always have. Hardly what I'd call independence. It was noted that "the evolution issue has been politicized and incorporated into the current partisan division in the United States in a manner never seen in Europe or Japan. In the second half of the 20th century, the conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as a part of a platform designed to consolidate their support in southern and Midwestern states—the "red" states. In the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in seven states included explicit demands for the teaching of "creation science". There is no major political party in Europe or Japan that uses opposition to evolution as a part of its political platform." I find this infinitely more plausible.

Well, it's up to us scientists to set people straight. Evolution is a FACT as undeniable as gravity, well known before Darwin's time. What is in dispute is the theory explaining it, mainly in its details. Darwin essentially got it right where previous attempts at an explanation were incorrect.

I recently read at Pharyngula about Doug Kauffman's objections to evolution. You know, the usual fundie arguments that ToE is bad Science because it is unproveable (no Science is, in point of fact, proveable); that ToE is dying (quite the opposite- it's the only game in town in Biology); Intelligent Design is a good alternative to ToE (without IDiots ever having established any part of it with evidence); ignoring key evidences in support of ToE such as homologies between similar species, that pretty much every fossil ever found is a transitional form (and the usual complaint is where are the transitional forms between the transitional forms?), or even the very existence of fossils; trying to apply the second law of thermodynamics in a way which is totally inapplicable (remember, the Earth is powered by the sun. The second law clearly states that it applies only to systems which are closed....). The usual baloney. I guess we can safely place this guy in the red zone in the figure.

For those that remain unconvinced that religion is responsible for the results of this survey, "individuals who hold a strong belief in a personal God and who pray frequently were significantly less likely to view evolution as probably or definitely true than adults with less conservative religious views." It's difficult to take criticism of ToE seriously from a society where "only a third of American adults agree that more than half of human genes are identical to those of mice and only 38% of adults recognize that humans have more than half of their genes in common with chimpanzees. In other studies, fewer than half of American adults can provide a minimal definition of DNA." This is a sad state of affairs.

But creationism is provable, right? It's in the BIBLE! Therefor it must be true!

Oh bother. This is bad logic, yet I hear it all the time. No one has yet shown that the Babble has a grain of truth to it. And assuming the Babble is Gawd's word because the Babble says so is such a ridiculous tautology... It pains me to think of the waste religions have caused our whole species. Yes, they had there place long ago. It was a key factor enabling social and cultural evolution. It's time to replace them. Our social and cultural abilities were evolved to deal with 150 or so individuals, but watching CNN shows that it no longer is capable of maintaining peace in a global or even local setting.

For some things, we might be able to attach a dollar figure to the wastage of religion, but for many other things we can not. How does one attach a value to the waste of a life living a lie? Giving someone false hope of a better life than their current one after their death, when no one has established the existence of such a thing? Murder in the name of the Gawd, be it in the guise of the Inquisition or blowing up civilians in a terrorist attack. It boggles the mind.

But I digress. The main point is that the universe and the way it works doesn't care about any of us, or how we think it should work. It is not a popularity contest. It either is or is not in this universe, and it is up to us to explain the existence of phenomena. That is the idea behind Science. We go where the evidence takes us, no matter how much or how little we like it. And please, no comments that include 'Goddidit' without telling me exactly HOW Gawd did it. There is certainly no Science in creationism, or its more recent impostor 'intelligent design'. It's like MC Hawking says: "What we need more of is Science!"

Maybe I'll move to Iceland.

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