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Is The U.S. Becoming Anti-Science? 1722

Posted by Zonk
from the what-is-science? dept.
smooth wombat writes "As a follow-up to a recently posted Slashdot article, Reuters UK has an article which poses the question: is the U.S. becoming hostile to science? From the article: 'Among the most significant forces is the rising tide of anti-science sentiment that seems to have its nucleus in Washington but which extends throughout the nation,' said Stanford's Philip Pizzo in a letter posted on the school Web site on October 3. Cornell acting President Hunter Rawlings, in his state of the university address last week, spoke about the challenge to science represented by intelligent design which holds that the theory of evolution accepted by the vast majority of scientists is fatally flawed. Rawlings said the dispute was widening political, social, religious and philosophical rifts in U.S. society. 'When ideological division replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers,' he said." What is your take?
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Is The U.S. Becoming Anti-Science?

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  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Friday October 28, 2005 @06:55PM (#13900811) Homepage
    Yes. Any other stupid questions?!
    • by networkBoy (774728) on Friday October 28, 2005 @06:58PM (#13900845) Homepage Journal
      +1 insightful, -1 Troll, +1 underrated, -1 flamebait, and +5 right (unfortunately).
      -nB
    • by Seumas (6865) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:02PM (#13900873)
      The problem with science being eroded and derided in this country is largely due to the same constructs that affect voting and politics. Think about it.

      And there's not really a lot you can do about it. There are few things more addictive and difficult to argue with than religion, because you're not talking about sense or reality or science or rational thought. You can't scientifically argue with people who only can respond with "well, there must be a creator, because I feel it in my bones" - or people who can't possibly conceive that evolution doesn't in any way rule out there still being a creator.

      Ignorance is hard to fight. Ever been around an extreme racist and tried to convince them why they're ignorant, stupid and wrong? Then you know what I mean. :/
      • by Irish_Samurai (224931) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:44PM (#13901287)
        people who can't possibly conceive that evolution doesn't in any way rule out there still being a creator.

        Evolution in no way rules out a creator. In the sense of Intelligent Design I would agree that it does. Why does no one ever attempt to explain that God created man using evolution as a tool? Whatever happened to the divine clockwinder theory? Why does no one view god as the collected set of mechanics that the universe runs under? That certainly fits the bill for omnicient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.

        The argument "because you say that god created man, and I have proof supporting evolution, that proof also supports the lack of a god" is not really a strong one.
        • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday October 28, 2005 @08:00PM (#13901436)

          Why does no one ever attempt to explain that God created man using evolution as a tool?

          Pope John Paul II did accept that "God" made man using evolution. Here's his Magisterium [cin.org] Is Concerned with Question of Evolution For It Involves Conception of Man. He delivered the Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences on October 22, 1996. Of course other Christians don't have a good opinion of Catholism or the Pope, some even believing they're devil worshippers.

          Falcon
        • by Coryoth (254751) on Friday October 28, 2005 @08:10PM (#13901518) Homepage Journal
          Why does no one ever attempt to explain that God created man using evolution as a tool? Whatever happened to the divine clockwinder theory?

          People do, but that doesn't mean it gets any acceptance from certain groups. One of the fundamental issues is that a lot of christians believe humans have a soul and that animals do not. For that to be true you need some divine intervention in the evolutionary process to grant humans a soul once they become human. My understanding is that even the Catholic church, which accepts evolution, holds that such an intervention occurred. Once you have to believe that God has some active hand in the evolutionary process it's not much of a stretch to accept a few more fiddles along the way and thus you get Intelligent Design: the belief that evolution occurs, but with ongoing active tweaking by some external entity.

          Basically it comes down to egocentrism - the desire to believe that humans are somehow special and separate from other living entities. To believe that you really need to believe that there was some active intervention to set humans apart. This really has little to do with religion necessarily (though most religions tend to grant humans such special status and hence have some explaining to do), but rather a general unwillingness to accept ourselves as simply a part of nature.

          In practice humans are really only very subtley different from other animals. Every time someone claims to have some defining property that sets humans apart from animals (self awareness, tool use, awareness of mortality, language, social learning, etc.) we find new examples of animals that do the same. Tool use is now widely noted across the animal kingdom, and self awareness, and awareness of mortality are reported for a variety of animals. At least some level of language has been noted amongst various animals, and efforts to teach great apes more advanced languages have been remarkably successful. We really don't give animals anywhere near enough credit.

          Jedidiah.
      • The real issue is that there needs to be an acknowledgement in a systematic search for truth. I am a firm believer that one needs to treat science as a form of systematic philosophy. After all that is what it is and aside from the uninformed who think that data implies theory, all theory is inherently philosophical in nature (see "Physics and Philosophy" by Werner Heisenberg for more on this link).

        But part of the problem is that revealled religions are inherently opposed to such approaches. After all what good is systematic philosophy when the Bible is your ultimate authority? Because of the fact that systematic philosophy, where nothing is beyond questioning/revisiting, will always exist in opposition to authority-based religion, where the basic tenants of the religion are expected to be taken on the basis of faith.

        This tension is what most of these arguments about intelligent design, etc. are really about. Science is a darned good methodology as far as it goes, but most of the questions as to the nature of spirituality are really beyond it. This is because science as a general rule, in attempting to ascertain those truths useful in engineering fields, does not admit to the study of the human condition in its entirity. I.e. science does not imply materialism, though such trends are common in our modernistic way of thinking.

        The question few people want to have asked is "can systematic processes be used to determine religious or spiritual truth?" People who hold one book (whether the Koran, the Bible, the Torah, or something else) as the unquestionable authority on these matters are threatened by this because they are afraid of being wrong. And yet, throughout some periods in history, such methodologies were used by many in this area.

        For example, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe (and before that in the Islamic world, though this fell out of fashion there in the 13th century), such attempts were made. The basic framework in both these areas was based on the writings of Plato and commentary of later writers. They sought to find the unifying principles behind all religions (Henry Agrippa discusses Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Classical beliefs in his De Occulta Philosophia, though most of his Islamic sources were heavily influenced by Classical philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato). The fundamental idea that we are religious beings was so self-evident to them that they didn't bother to question it. Such philosophers of this sort included Theostratus Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, H.C. Agrippa, Albumassar, and many others.

        Personally though I think that they got the model wrong in many areas I think that they did show that it is possible to take such an approach however, and personally I think that such discussion would ultimately help everyone, especially once one makes the leap from the sort of attempt at a universal theology that those such as Agrippa attempted to create to something more along the lines of structuralism in Linguistics.

        But in the end, science belongs in science classes, and areas that are beyond science (including intelligent design) could be tought I guess in philosophy or theology classes.
      • by bergeron76 (176351) on Friday October 28, 2005 @09:31PM (#13902025)
        Exactly - any scientific theory is presented and assumed to be _false_ unless substantiated with claims. Intelligent design is not a "theory" because there are no factual claims to bring to the table. When a theory is presented to the scientific table without any valid claims, it is dismissed outright.

        The worst thing the scientific community can do in this case, is to acknowledge "intelligent design" as even a "theory".

        It needs to be ignored, and called "Creationism" as it rightly is.
    • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:06PM (#13900925) Homepage
      Is it? I say we reserve judgement until I've had time to collect, validate, and interpret some data on this...
    • Story (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:16PM (#13901029)
      If anyone actually thinks there can be logical discussion about this topic on Slashdot, they should consult a doctor....or maybe just get out more.
    • by saudadelinux (574392) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:20PM (#13901059)

      Let's face it, there's always been an anti-intellectual streak in the US, and now, these Bible-thumping ignoramuses are strengthening it.

      These are the people who want to bring back Old Testament style theocracy, and think that it jibes with the Constitution. Check out the Christian Reconstructionist [wikipedia.org] article on Wikipedia. Ultramontanes of the highest order.

      Although I live in DC, I don't worry about Islamist terrorists as much as these folks taking over. Islamist terrorists could cause nasty infrastructural and personal damage, but these people, given a chance, will do everything they can to ensure nothing that conflicts with their interpretation of the Bible gets taught, women have no reproductive rights, gay people are executed for something they can't help being, etc., etc. They'll warp the laws to a viewpoint no one's held in 2,000 years - there's been progress since then, but they don't want it.

      If they had their way, the only science that would go on would be to prove absurd things, like Moses really parted the Red Sea, instead of say, forensic ethnobotany to show how people ate.

      • by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Friday October 28, 2005 @08:00PM (#13901437) Journal
        Let's face it, there's always been an anti-intellectual streak in the US

        This is by no means confined to the USA. Pol Pot made a point of killing anyone who wore glasses on the assumption that they were intellectuals.

        -jcr

      • by Coryoth (254751) on Friday October 28, 2005 @08:48PM (#13901787) Homepage Journal
        These are the people who want to bring back Old Testament style theocracy, and think that it jibes with the Constitution...but these people, given a chance, will do everything they can to ensure nothing that conflicts with their interpretation of the Bible gets taught

        On that general front you might want to keep an eye on the Constitution Restoration Act 2005 [wikipedia.org], which basically seeks to bar the Supreme Court from hearing any case that seeks "relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government".

        The practical implications should that actually get passed are, well, rather interesting. One is left wondering exactly how different this is from the Iraqi constitution's reference to the Koran being "a sovereign source of law" (at least it become "a" rather than "the"). It is a long way from making the US a practicing theocracy, but it does go a long way toward laying some necessary groundwork to make such a thing possible.

        Jedidiah.
    • yes and no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Quadraginta (902985) on Friday October 28, 2005 @08:22PM (#13901609)
      Well, the United States is not and has never been one thing or the other. It's a very heterogeneous country, with many strong and often conflicting trends.

      Among these, yes, there's a long and robust history of anti-intellectual populist amateurism, a feeling that any man's opinion is just as good as a trained expert (maybe better), and that any one of us, just by sitting down and thinking hard about the matter, can give an authoritative opinion on any subject whatsoever.

      Um, does this remind anyone of any community in particular? Say, an on-line discussion group? No? Well, let's move on...

      As a direct consequence of this robust amateurism, Americans have always tended to distrust the voice of authority when it conflicts with their own "instincts" and "common sense." People who think the authority of religion is why folks reject evolution or global warming, et cetera, are utterly misunderstanding Americans. These things are rejected not because Joe Sixpack trusts authority A (the pastor) over authority B (the professor), but because he trusts his own instincts more than either.

      Now, it turns out neither evolution nor global warming are plain as the nose on your face obvious. (After all, even clever scientists took centuries to clue in to them.) It takes a fair amount of education and sifting of subtle data to really understand the arguments for and against, and to accept that these theories are much better explanations for the facts than anything else.

      Not surprisingly, for someone who lacks both data and education, it's going to seem hard to believe that (for example) a change of carbon dioxide content from 0.033% of the atmosphere to 0.034%, which raises the average temperature of the Earth by 2.0 degrees, or maybe only 1.5, is going to result in an onslaught of massive hurricanes, massive species extinction, desertification of big swathes of the Midwest, the cessation of ocean currents that will turn England into Greenland, buried in ice 8000 feet thick, and other miscellaneous global catastrophes. Joe Average, confronted with such a bald statement, can perhaps be forgiven for initially responding: what the hell are you smoking?

      I wouldn't believe it myself, except I have studied the data and I do understand the physics.

      Of course, experts are unanimous that these theories are correct. And if Americans were more in the habit of trusting experts, they would just take their word for it. "Oooookay, global warming of 1 degree causing massive climate change seems plain nuts to me, but Professor Foo here says it's so, and he's a smart guy with all the data, so I guess it must be so."

      But many of us don't think like that. Hell, none of us thinks like that. How many here are willing to make a similar statement about (say) the President's judgment with respect to WMDs and the war in Iraq? "Well, it seems nuts to me, but he says it's so and he has all the data..." Ho ho. Plain fact is, we all think we're just as smart as the "smart guys" and are entitled to question their conclusions if they don't make obvious sense to us.

      So, big chunks of the population remain skeptical of anything nonobvious in science. Fact of American life, mostly.

      If I had to put my finger on any reason why this fact might be a smidge more prevalent than it ever was, I'd put it square on the pernicious spread of relativism over the last 40 years. We are trained for years, in school and sometime in the workplace (sensitivity training, anybody? TQM?) in the basic principles that (1) all viewpoints are equally valid, (2) truth is not an objective thing, but a subjective opinion that legitimately varies with your viewpoint, (3) explanations of events that reduce social friction and validate everyone's worth are to be preferred, even if you must doubt the evidence of your own eyes to accept them, and (4) there are often "higher truths" than the plain ordinary truth. That is, statements can
  • by jkauzlar (596349) * on Friday October 28, 2005 @06:56PM (#13900821) Homepage
    The U.S. is not becoming anti-science. It only appears that way because our administration (sorry if this seems like flamebait.. it is, but its clearly the truth) prioritizes their political success, fiscal policy, and religeon over the recommendations of science. Over time, I think this attitude could prevail over the country, but I doubt if more people than before look down on science as a result of our government's viewpoints. No doubt that debate over evolution and stem cell research has brought a lot of normally suppressed voices to the forefront of political discourse.

    Supposedly Britian has a somewhat separated office of science within their government to make decisions that impact circumstances on environment, wildlife and global warming... much of these decisions take more than four years to measure for results, so they're obviously going to be ignored by any U.S. president whose voters believe otherwise. The British government appoints the person in charge of that much like we do the supreme court and federal reserve chairman, which is supposed to keep it relatively non-partisan.

    I say we follow the British lead on matters like this. Of course it would have no effect on creationism/ abortion/ etc regulation, but its a start. As far as science in general, the United States is by far the leaders for scientific paper production, measured by citations. However, this number taken per capita or divided by the GDP of the country in question has always put the U.S. far behind in research, primarily to European countries. I'm not sure if this number has declined in the past few years having had a strong religious president.

    Mostly, I think, the scientists just keep quiet and do their job of saving lives and advancing technology and let the naysayers bicker on the internet...

  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 28, 2005 @06:57PM (#13900827) Homepage Journal

    It's about the message science is bringing. Some people, for religious, political or business reasons don't want to hear what science is saying. This is initially a case of trying to silence the messenger. Not just about science, either. Tell people the economy stinks, they can see the evidence all around then, and they deny it.

    Seems every couple generations people in the US have to re-learn the hard lessons of their forebearers. Silence science in this country and it'll be carried on all the more in other countries. e.g. Stem Cell Research. The State of California approved a bond for stem cell research, a few billion $ if IIRC, not much of it has been spent and it will be years before any of it is, on research, because a bunch of Right To Lifers are fighting it on many fronts in state courts.

  • by rminsk (831757) on Friday October 28, 2005 @06:58PM (#13900841)
    ... Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him. ... http://www.venganza.org/ [venganza.org]
  • by taskforce (866056) on Friday October 28, 2005 @06:58PM (#13900843) Homepage
    This is preposterous! The US has produced a number of excellent scientific theorum in recent times, including Intelligent Design [wikipedia.org] and Intelligent Falling [theonion.com]
  • No, no, no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dslauson (914147) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:00PM (#13900854) Journal
    I think it's sad that we only tend to hear the voice of extremism in the media.

    I mean, I guess it makes sense, because nobody ever holds an "I'm riding the fence on this one" rally.

    Still, this is making us look bad because the ones with the crazy opinions are the ones with the loudest voices sometimes.
    • Re:No, no, no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by be-fan (61476) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:07PM (#13900929)
      I think that's an overly optimistic viewpoint. Science is ailing in this country. The high-profile crusades against it from the creationists is just the tip of the iceberg. Far more important is the fact that science just plain isn't held in high regard, at a cultural level, and not enough Americans are persuing careers in the various scientific fields. On top of that is all the snake-oil masquerading as science, and the fact that the general public really has no idea of what is and is not science. Of course, that is nothing new, but it is something that universal education was supposed to fix. Well, in that case, universal education has failed. It is not at all surprising to see why, though. In the vast majority of class rooms in the US, science is taught not as a set of principles and methods, but as a loosly-connected facts. Students are not taught how to think scientifically, but are mearly forced to learn tidbits of information that may as well have just been pitching statistics for all the good they do.
  • what's to ask? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gcb (16524) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:00PM (#13900860) Homepage
    Yes, there is a large, vocal, and frighteningly powerful group in the USA ignoring science for ideological reasons. Is there anything to learn by having a discussion on Slashdot about this?

    Shouldn't we be asking Slashdot something like, "How do we stop the insanity?"

    Seems like that could be more productive.
  • Of course it is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:01PM (#13900866)
    With backwards, religious zealots running the country, like DUMBya and his minions, you get the mess we are in now.

    All this "Intelligent design" crap is for the physical adults that chose to remain mental children ..

    Just look at the banning of the nature videos at the Imax theaters recently because the films discuss evolution..

    The zealots in washington would have the scientists put to death if they could get away with it for denying their precious book of fairy tales.

    "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him."

  • by JungleBoy (7578) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:02PM (#13900879)
    America is more than anti-science. American culture in the broadest terms has become very anti-intellectual, which is really a super-set of being anti-science.
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:23PM (#13901086) Homepage Journal
      America is more than anti-science. American culture in the broadest terms has become very anti-intellectual, which is really a super-set of being anti-science.

      It's a funny thing, but with television, radio, imusic, internet, etc. etc. etc. you see people with less time they actually devote to thinking for themselves.

      I'm some damn radical because I read books, which stir my imagination and inspire ideas, rather than having my ideas told to me.

  • by briancarnell (94247) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:02PM (#13900882) Homepage
    It would be nice if the anti-science stuff didn't always focus on the creationists and would occasionally also focus on the animal rights [animalrights.net] nuts who advocate killing researchers and blowing up labs. Just 'cause they don't tote Bibles (though some do), doesn't mean they're not every bit as big a problem as the creationists (besides, creationists rarely blow up biosciences labs like animal rights extremists do).
  • by Logic Bomb (122875) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:03PM (#13900891)
    Most of the heavily religious people in the US are Christians with fairly fundamentalist, or at least evangelical, views. These people are not particularly interested in the physical world, because their religion teaches them that whatever they do here is merely preparation for an afterlife that will be much much better. If your primary concern is going to heaven when you die, why would you care about physics?

    There's also the simple matter that learning about critical thinking in general and science in particular makes it hard to swallow religious dogma. Science isn't incompatible with spirituality, but it's totally in opposition to biblical literalism and other fundamentalist practices. It's very much in the interests of these kinds of religious groups to denigrate science, as doing so makes it easier to spread their beliefs. (And, for people whose faith isn't enough, easier to justify their beliefs.)
    • by thule (9041) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:41PM (#13901257) Homepage
      There are plenty of European/Western scientists, that most would consider some of the greatest scientists in the world, believed in a Christian view of God. The two are not mutually exclusive. It seems to me that people that believe as you do are as ignorant as you believe Christians are. That is pretty sad.

      Here is an article about a
      chemical engineer/scientist [startribune.com] that happened to be a Christian. Do you think he would have been more accomplished if he took on an atheistic view of the world? If so, why?
      • by node 3 (115640) on Friday October 28, 2005 @09:37PM (#13902044)
        There are plenty of European/Western scientists, that most would consider some of the greatest scientists in the world, believed in a Christian view of God. The two are not mutually exclusive. It seems to me that people that believe as you do are as ignorant as you believe Christians are. That is pretty sad.

        What's sad is how you completely misrepresented what the poster said.

        He said "makes it hard" (not impossible) and that "Science isn't incompatible with spirituality, but it's totally in opposition to biblical literalism and other fundamentalist practices." which is in complete sync with your claim above about there being scientists who "believed in a Christian view of God".

        The fact is there are very, very few prominent scientists who are evangelical or fundamentalist Christians (or any other religion, for that matter), which was his point.

        Here is an article about a chemical engineer/scientist that happened to be a Christian. Do you think he would have been more accomplished if he took on an atheistic view of the world? If so, why?

        Could you point out the part where he said "any Christian scientist would be more accomplished had he/she been an atheist", because I certainly didn't see that anywhere.

        Science and dogma don't mix very well at all. Science and spirituality do mix quite well for some. *That's* what I got from Logic Bomb's post. Re-read it and see if you don't get the same.
  • by 8127972 (73495) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:05PM (#13900907)
    .... in an America dominated the religious right.

    I wonder if there's a scientific reason for that?
  • my take? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maskirovka (255712) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:05PM (#13900911)
    When ideological division replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers,' he said." What is your take?



    My take is that I should learn to speak chinese.

  • by d-rock (113041) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:07PM (#13900937) Homepage
    I think it goes beyond just anti-science. The way things have been going lately I'd contend that there's a general anti-education theme at play. It's not cool to be smart here, and it's definitely not high on anyone's funding list, no matter what the politicians may say. I've spoken a lot with my Father-in-law (he's Taiwanese) and we've come to the agreement that Americans in general are becoming increasingly complacent when it comes to education. Everyone's fat, happy and enjoying "Pimp my Ride" too much to care about the long-term impact of drastic education underfunding and a general lack of good teachers. I have two hopes: that the influx of educated foreigners in search of a better life here don't get completely blocked out by the xenophobes at home, and that the small percentage of Americans who are determined to get a good education are able to hold the line until people realize that education is a good long-term investment.

    Derek
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:09PM (#13900956) Homepage Journal
    From the Article: Polls for many years have shown that a majority of Americans are at odds with key scientific theory. For example, as CBS poll this month found that 51 percent of respondents believed humans were created in their present form by God. A further 30 percent said their creation was guided by God. Only 15 percent thought humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.

    Uh, this looks like a poll tweaked for contraversy to me. The 2nd answer presupposes the third; thus 45% of Americans think that humans evolve from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and a large portion of those believe that God wrote the rules that caused the evolution. The Big Bang itself is not only consistent with this point of view- it provides some proof of it. Something happened at planck time that changed the laws of the universe from a set of random variables effecting every particle differently, to a set of constants that all of our laws of physics are based upon. And not easy numbers either- really messy numbers that if they were even .0000000001% different than they are, we would not have evolved in the same way- perhaps not at all.

    So while our dearly stupid evangelical leaders may be going the wrong way, the American People as a whole seem to be as pro-science as ever.
  • Yes and (Score:5, Insightful)

    by azav (469988) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:11PM (#13900974) Homepage Journal
    Yes and I'm scared that we're approaching a Christian induced period of "believe in what makes you feel good" instead of "believe in what is correct, true and accurate."

    I'd like to become a born again SCIENTIST but I never left the fold.

    If any are tough enough to do it and already have a Biology degree, pick up and read Origin of the Species. Many things were not known to Darwin and his peers at the time like genetics and plate tectonics so many of his assumptions are not entirely accurate, but they are a path on the road to the understanding that we have today. Read it for reference, not to learn new concepts since many ideas posted are superseded by what we now know. And read it so that you actually can talk on an informed manner to those who claim to know that evolution is a myth.

    Religion is a panacea for those of small minds who are to lazy to learn how the world really works and feel comfortable with small and easy answers - even if they are false.
  • How Ironic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cluge (114877) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:13PM (#13900989) Homepage
    One of the actions of the US that is declared "anti-science" is the refusal to ratify Kyoto. I find that very strange since one of the lead scientists doesn't agree with kyoto. Lindzen's senate testimony [senate.gov] is an extremely disturbing look into how politics shape science. Couple that with the bad data [climateaudit.org] found in the Mann report and it's enough to make anyone doubt good science [john-daly.com] is being done.

    At the end of the day, the US isn't anti-science it's a system that has been built around science in much of the developed world that doesn't promote enough skeptisism or honesty. Peer review in some circles just means you belong to the right clique, with the right point of view. Put that together with funding that often comes from political circles filled with "true believers" and you have a recipie for disaster.

    Lindzen's quote "There is a certain charm when politicians are so certain of the science when the scientists are not" seems rather apt.

    cluge
  • No question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:14PM (#13900998) Homepage
    Of course science is suffering in the U.S. In 1991, 9% of the U.S. population believed in Naturalistic Evolution. That went up to a whopping 10% in 1997 with 44% believing in creationism and 39% believing in Theistic evolution (evolution, but God-guided). Now, if you ask scientists (which pretty much includes anyone with a higher degree in science, but presumably people of intelligence and education), the percentage that believe in Naturalistic Evolution goes up to 55%, with only 5% believing in creationism and 40% in Theistic evolution. So 95% of scientists believe in Evolution in one form or another. Why? Because it's a friggin' fact!

    The 44% of the US population that don't believe in evolution of any form believe there's a God who's idea of a good time is toss dinosaur bones around the world making them look millions of years older than our 4000 or 5000 year old Earth. As if his time couldn't be better spent smiting creationists or something.

    But really, if you have such a large population that simply can't believe facts, then how on Earth can science advance in that kind of environment.
  • by Khashishi (775369) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:15PM (#13901014) Journal
    weapons development is science
  • by alucinor (849600) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:16PM (#13901021) Journal
    Here, your own Bible says that God didn't directly create animals, but that he gave his blessing for the earth to produce life:

    And God said, "Let the land produce living creatues, according to their kinds ..."

    Gen 1:24

    So, even if I chose to argue with the creationist point of view solely from the Bible, you can't say that God just popped a creature into existence. He let the land produce the living creatures -- can this leave room for interpretation that God said, "let life evolve?"

    It would make for an interesting study whether evolution is completely random or not. Perhaps the whole tree of species is following some sort of pattern, like a literal tree growing from a single seed -- some randomness is involved, but overall, there is a meaning and order to how the growing tree develops.

    This kind of science would overlap more with Gaia theory than theology.
  • by Noryungi (70322) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:18PM (#13901045) Homepage Journal
    And even worse than that, a very small minority of American believers are actually anti-science. Try to google for recent opinion polls, and you'll see that most Americans are actually pro-science and fairly liberal in outlook.

    These religious, anti-science people are bullies, and they must be opposed. And the opposition should start in the mainstream media, which unfortunately have been neutered by political correctness, especially giving all sides of a debate equal air time, and by the incredible propaganda of the right and the far right parties.

    Even moderate Republicans are now becoming afraid of the political power of the know-nothings (because being anti-science is bad for the bottom line, but that's another story).

    If you take a look at history, you'll see that, historically, periods of great scientific progress have been associated with weakened -- or at the very least more tolerant -- religions. The best example of this is the islamic golden age, which saw an incredible civilization that was tolerant of science and of other religions (including christian jewish scientists) and saw marvelous art bloom. Of course, being able to control the trade routes between Asia and Europe also helped a lot. At the same time, Europe was tightly controlled by the Catholic Church and in the darkness of the Middle Ages.

    As soon as the different islamic countries were overrun by the Turkish Caliphate -- which practiced a much more puritanical and intolerant brand of Islam -- and by the Spanish 'reconquista', the islamic dark ages began.

    At about the same time, Europe started its Renaissance, by re-discovering the classical Roman and Greek philosophers (whose books were copied by the Moslem scientists) as well as importing many of the arabic innovations in science (the number 'zero' and the distillation of alcohol, among other things) and asserting the powers of the state vs the power of the Church.

    I am afraid the USA are headed down the same path: the puritanical streak that has always been present in American society is making a strong come-back (like it does every 30 to 50 years: see McCarthy, Joseph and the term 'witch hunt'). If it is not fought vigorously, the USA will go down the path of the great islamic statelets of the past and will slowly fade in importance. Progress, after all, has usually been followed by regression many times in history.

    The question is, will it take the rest of the world with it, or will americans find the strength and courage to fight obscurantism?
  • by jotux (660112) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:34PM (#13901184)
    I think there should be a definate emphasis here that the US isn't in a dabate now over science in general, it's a debate about teaching controversial science in the classroom. Teachers in the US couldn't care less about teaching physics, chemistry, physiology, etc. The fight is over issues in science that are controversial, and whether or not they should be taught along side equally (if not more) controversial religious ideas.
  • by Borogrove (126006) on Friday October 28, 2005 @07:57PM (#13901408)
    I find it humorous that ID has gotten so much attention lately. I imagine its advocates appreciate the publicity. However, I think it's a fairly small part of any problems the US is having staying at the forefront of scientific study. Even as a biologist, believing strict evolution or ID isn't going to greatly affect your current research, and in any other field, the impact will be nil.

    A greater problem is the shortsighted policies toward research in the US. In the past, the National Science Foundation has focused on foundational research while DARPA, NASA, and various other agencies have funded practical, shorter term applications. For some reason after 9/11, it was decided that NSF grants should only go to projects that had a short timeframe for "useful" results. Suddenly, the engine that drives all the discoveries that aren't just applications of previous work has dried up.

    Another huge problem started 25 years ago. Since the early 80s when educational institutions were given full rights to market their discoveries, we've seen huge profits to Universities, and an equally perverse incentive to keep research secret. It also gave a big incentive for researchers to study quick, economically valuable problems, regardless of long-term benefits. Who cares if you could find a cure for malaria? Only the third world countries would need it, and they don't have enough money to make the researcher and her university rich.

    It's easy to scapegoat religious fundamentalists for the problem, but it goes far deeper. The problem of a lack of foundational research will affect the US for a generation, if not corrected.
  • by davmoo (63521) on Friday October 28, 2005 @08:22PM (#13901612)
    I see a lot of comments here blaiming Washington DC, Bush, etc. And that has a lot to do with it. But let's not forget the rest of the people who live here, too. This is a country where every science related expence is examined with a microscope and disected, but we think nothing of paying athletes millions of dollars. And don't even get me started on how much we spend on those with absolutely no talent, like Paris Hilton. Washington will not change until the people want change...and quite frankly, I don't see that happening any time soon.

    And local issues are just as bad. In my own area (Bartholomew County, Indiana, USA), if the schools need money for something like computers or science equipment, no one can help. Same goes when we run short of money for teachers. But when one of the local highschools wants to raise $400,000 US to replace the grass in their football field with astroturf, people run over each other trying to get to their checkbooks so they can donate.

    Washington will not change until the people want change...and quite frankly, I don't see that happening any time soon.
  • by van der Rohe (460708) on Friday October 28, 2005 @09:23PM (#13901974)
    Frankly, I could care less if kids in Asscrack, KS have to deal with a sticker on their textbooks warning them of potentially contentious science within. The smart ones will see through the nonsense (possibly with the help of smart family members) and the stupid ones will stay stupid. No great loss either way. Complex societies benefit from stupid kids growing up to be stupid adults - someone's gotta do the cleaning, the gas pumping, the infantry duty, and it certainly shouldn't be smart people. Education isn't the problem.

    The REAL danger is that, by changing the public perception of the value of real science, it makes it that much easier for fake science to take its place. We're seeing this happen on a regular basis, as the heads of important "scientific" advisory bodies are actually just pulled directly from industry, PhDs in unrelated fields wielded mightily to reinforce non-existant credentials.

    Want less regulation on pollution? Appoint EPA "scientists" who are actually just businessmen.
    Want limits on reproductive freedom? Get testimonials from "scientists" who are actually just clergymen.
  • by lukesl (555535) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @12:51AM (#13902905)
    The problem I have with this entire ID vs. evolution thing, speaking as a computational neuroscientist and a biologist, is that the entire framing of the argument is arrogant and flawed because it presupposes a definition of "intelligence" that is invalid at the level of basic neuroscience. Nobody can define intelligence adequately, but it's obviously something that (basically by definition) is a property of the human brain. The human brain is a dynamical system with a huge number of degrees of freedom and strong nonlinearities, but that's it. There isn't any magic, and there aren't any souls (and yes, I would argue that there IS scientific evidence against the existence of souls, and there has been since Galen's groundbreaking work in ~200 AD), there's just swirling masses of atoms inside peoples' heads. If you accept that "intelligence" is simply a property of the dynamics of a certain nonlinear system (e.g. the brain), then there's nothing to prevent other complex systems from displaying "intelligent" behavior. Like evolution, for example.

    What bothers me the most is not that ID is fundamentally religious, but that it's based on a fundamentally anthropomorphic definition of "intelligence" that is impossible to define, and even proponents of evolution fall into supporting this false dichotomy. Instead of saying "No, evolution is not intelligent!" they should be pointing out that intelligence itself is not intelligent. There's atoms, they move around, and that's it. If there's even a shred of evidence to suggest otherwise, please point it out, because I've never seen it, and I've been looking for a long time.
    • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Saturday October 29, 2005 @04:24AM (#13903615)
      When you bring things out to that level of abstraction, you really need to begin considering what all of those words mean. It seems that people, assuming I'm not imagining them in the first place, ascribe meaning to the world around them. That is to say that meaning is something we create, and the universe doesn't give meaning to itself.

      When you describe "swirling masses of atoms inside peoples' heads" you are merely trying to assign meaning things that you've experienced. If some one else, when observing the same phenomena, see "intelligence", "souls", or "magic", is isn't wrong, it's just different. The important question is which meaning will allow us to make the predictions that will ultimately result in interaction with our environment in a way that is most beneficial to us.

      So, as a neuroscientist, it may be the most beneficial for you to you to understand the brain as you do. That doesn't necessary mean that it is best for other people to view it that way. Indeed, a lot of what you've said wouldn't have meaning for someone outside the sciences. On the other hand, the idea of "intelligence" is pretty easy to understand. Basically, intelligence is just the process by which an object (something to which we have ascribed meaning) promotes a specific goal or set of goals. I'm not trying to say that this is a universal definition, but it works well for me. So in the case of evolution, one could see a particular class of organisms as the object, and survival as the goal being promoted. It's easy to see why people would ascribe intelligence to a number of "natural" processes. We are simply projecting aspects of ourselves onto the world around us so that we may better understand it.

      The problem with the view you espouse (and, hopefully, you can tell from comment that I don't really disagree with you) is that people are gregarious. We are horribly afraid of being alone, and like to believe that there something fundamental connecting us to the rest of the universe. For this reason, people like the believe that the intelligence they've ascribed to other people, and to the rest of the universe, is real (whatever that means). I don't know if there's anything wrong with that interpretation. Indeed, if the natural processes going on inside your body (assuming the processes and your body are real) have given rise to your own (real) intelligence (such as you understand it) there's no reason to believe that the intelligence you assign to other people and objects is any less real.
  • by sasha328 (203458) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @03:35AM (#13903471) Homepage
    I'll start with a couple of disclaimers:
    1- I am not American.
    2- I am a Christian, and hold a Christian world view.

    Having said that, it is really disheartening to see so many anti-Christian views being expressed because a "they don't believe in Evolution".
    It is this kind of attitude that makes all things america look silly to an outsider. Science is not Evolution. Science is much much more than that. There's chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, astrophysics, you name it. Biology is just one part of quite a large field.
    A statement that says: America is becoming less scientifically inclined, means that they are no longer interested in engineering, mathematics, physics etc etc.
    Is this the case?

    To blame christians for this percieved lack of interest is naive and misinformed. It also harbours an agenda. It's like saying the problems with the western world are all related to TV. Is this a valid statement?

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