From an op-ed at Nature:
Scientists might have made a difference, had they protested against laws that now threaten what can be taught in our classrooms, argues Brandon Haught
Haught is complaining about an academic freedom law in Florida that restricts the use of science courses for propaganda purposes:
Advocates of the law were widely quoted as claiming that evolution is just a theory and that anthropogenic global warming is in doubt. It would have been invaluable if scientists at local universities had issued simple statements: yes, evolution is a fact; the word ‘theory’ is used differently in science from how it’s used in casual conversation; and the basics of human-caused global warming need to be taught. Perhaps authoritative voices from the state’s universities would have swayed a senator or two. More.
Yes, evolution is a fact because change over time is a fact. But why didn’t people in Haught’s position complain when the world’s best-known Darwinians, Dawkins and Dennett to name two, were using evolution to promote naturalist atheism? Does Haught really think that such a stance would be without consequence in a free society?
One thing that has become clear in the last few years is that current high level concerns about science education are misdirected. Put simply, the Bible-quotin’ hillbilly is not the enemy. The stingy politician is not the enemy either.
The boffins cannot bring themselves to face them, for fear of becoming the targets of the abuse previously unleashed on others, about which they themselves did nothing. They imagined themselves to be above all that. So they have few allies against a dark new age when their only defense is to continue to misunderstand the problem.
Rob Sheldon, our physics color commentator, offers:
The danger of this piece is not that the topics are so indefensible, but that they want to harness science to politics. When we harness politics with religion, we get state churches, Islam or Communism, but what we don’t get is religion. When we harness politics with charity we get welfare and poverty but what we don’t get is charity. When we harness politics with medicine, we get year-long delays for surgery, we get death panels, but we don’t get health. When we harness politics with education we get “optional algebra” and “whitewashed history” but what we don’t get is an ability to think for ourselves.
Why oh why would anyone want to harness politics with science? Are these op-ed writers actually doing science, or are they just apparatchiks Nature hires to comply with political paperwork? Because the one thing guaranteed to happen, regardless of whether you love global warming or hate it, whether you love Darwin or hate him, is that science stops being done. And surely, surely that would not be what Darwin intended.
See also: Nature: Stuck with a battle it dare not fight, even for the soul of science.
Marchin’, marchin’ for Science (Hint: the problems are back at your desk, not out in the streets)
Post-modern physics: String theory gets over the need for evidence
The multiverse is science’s assisted suicide