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Le Monde, France

Attack on Science
in the US


By Pierre Barthélémy

As we enter 2012, no fewer than six bills are being considered in four states—Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire and Oklahoma—all of which aim to offer public school students an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Translated By Eliza Perrotta

14 February 2012

Edited by Josie Mulberry

 


France - Le Monde - Original Article (French)

The Republican primaries are in full swing in the United States and that means it’s open season on the ultra-conservative electorate. This primarily involves a guerrilla war tinged with religious motives against science and scientists. Even though the media hardly mentions it, the most important of these movements is the grand return of state-sanctioned creationism. As we enter 2012, no fewer than six bills are being considered in four states—Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire and Oklahoma—all of which aim to offer public school students an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Some endorsers are blunt and deliberate in their attempts to justify the bills. For example, in New Hampshire, the Republican Jerry Bergevin justified his initiative by declaring, “I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It's a worldview and it's godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they've been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: they don't respect human rights,” he said. “We should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it. . . Columbine, remember that?” he added, referring to the massacre at Columbine high School in Colorado, 1999, when two young men killed thirteen people before killing themselves. “They were believers in evolution.”

Not all those against evolution use such basic arguments, especially since a Supreme Court decision in 1987 ruled it unconstitutional to teach creationism, which is considered religious. To get around this obstacle, Josh Brecheen, Republican Senator of Oklahoma, who wants to oppose “the religion of evolution,” clearly specifies in the bill he introduced in his state that he’s not demanding creationism—or “intelligent design” as it’s known in its most recent form—be added to school curricula. His approach is subtler. Explaining that “critical thinking, logical analysis, open and objective discussion” in education should be encouraged, his bill innocently aims to “foster an environment of critical thinking in schools including a scientific critique of the theory of evolution.”

One might think that this is nothing but a new wave of creationism like many others since the notorious “Monkey Trial” in 1925, when teacher John Scopes was condemned for teaching his students the great ideas of evolution. In truth, this offensive goes beyond a mere squabble against Darwin. In fact, in Josh Brecheen’s bill one can read that “critical thinking” in schools targets “scientific theories including, but not limited to, evolution, the origin of life, global warming and human cloning.”

It is probably not a surprise for climatologists to see the “academic interpretation” of their research targeted by Republican “extremists.” There is a certain logic to the fact that this denial of science, which grows more and more openly in the ranks of the Christian right, should target domains other than evolution. This phenomenon is gaining momentum, as we saw with the anti-vaccine rhetoric by ex-candidate for the Republican nomination Michele Bachmann a few months ago, or even with the incessant attacks against climatologists since the so-called “Climategate” in 2009. The latest attack to date is by a candidate still in line for the nomination, Rick Santorum, who declared in February that global warming is a “hoax.” Invited to a speech on energy, Santorum, a staunch supporter of fossil fuels, explained his position as follows: “We were put on this earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit.”

The former Pennsylvania senator continued, stating that the work on climate change was “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life.” “I for one never bought the hoax,” he said. “I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man's contribution [greenhouse gases] is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face.”

The passage from creationism to a broader denial of science, incorporating, among others, climate change skeptics—and their lobbies—implies two things. First, it implies a growing distrust of research, which leads to advances that disrupt the American Christian right’s worldview. And secondly, with these bills on education, it implies a weakening of public education, both by forcing it to integrate a religious view of the world in general and of scientific issues in particular, as well as by “undermining” it in favor of private education. This is explained by the American journalist Katherine Stewart—author of “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children—in a perspective piece published Feb. 12 in The Guardian. In particular, she writes, “If you can't shut down the science, the new science-deniers appear to be saying, you should shut down the schools.”



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One Response to “Attack on Science
in the US

  1.  Vote: Add rating 0  Subtract rating 0   deliaruhe Says:

    The Deniers would like to do both — shut down the sci­ence and the schools. Most home-schooled chil­dren are taught by par­ents who are Deniers.

    But look on the bright side. Sci­ence is a highly com­pet­i­tive enter­prise, and in a gen­er­a­tion or so, all those rapidly devel­op­ing nations will have a chance to chal­lenge the U.S. in sci­en­tific achieve­ment. The world needs more coun­tries with advanced sci­ences — espe­cially envi­ron­men­tal science.

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