Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fighting ignorance: why the Kansas evolution election matters

By Nancy Jane Moore

If you wondered why In This Moment paid so much attention to the Kansas School Board primary elections, take a look at these survey results summarized in the Science Times section of today's New York Times.

In surveys on public acceptance of evolution conducted in the U.S., Japan, and Europe, the U.S. ranked next to the bottom, with less than 50 percent of the population believing in education. The only country with a lower level of belief is Turkey; in Iceland, 85 percent accept evolution.

The study was published in the August 11 issue of Science Magazine. Click on this link to download a PDF of the supporting materials or purchase a copy of the entire report.

Today's Science Times also includes an essay by Lawrence Krauss entitled "How to Make Sure Children Are Scientifically Illiterate." While Krauss applauds the victories of Kansas moderates, he observes:
But perhaps more worrisome than a political movement against science is plain old ignorance. The people determining the curriculum of our children in many states remain scientifically illiterate. And Kansas is a good case in point.
He points out that the Kansas school board chairman, Dr. Steve Abrams, is a strict creationist who believes God created the Earth 6500 hundred years ago.

Krauss goes on to say:
I have recently been criticized by some for strenuously objecting in print to what I believe are scientifically inappropriate attempts by some scientists to discredit the religious faith of others. However, the age of the earth, and the universe, is no more a matter of religious faith than is the question of whether or not the earth is flat.

It is a matter of overwhelming scientific evidence. To maintain a belief in a 6,000-year-old earth requires a denial of essentially all the results of modern physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology and geology. It is to imply that airplanes and automobiles work by divine magic, rather than by empirically testable laws.
Krauss, a physicist who frequently writes on science for the lay audience, has posted here on his website an interesting article he wrote on the conflict between science and the religious intelligent design movement. It provides a good analysis of the intelligent design movement's strategy and emphasizes the importance of good science education. This article is a valuable tool for those who are struggling to make sure that their schools are doing a decent job of educating the children.

No comments: