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Science fights back

Prema Polit: Association fights willful ignorance of science; charts evolution of non-scientific thought.
 
 
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During this long weekend, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest general science organization in the world, held their annual conference in San Francisco. Although the focus of this conference was on climate change, they couldn't ignore the unfortunate setback in a much more established arena of science: evolution.

In a presentation at the AAAS conference, Michigan State professor Jon Miller stated that only 40 percent of people in the United States believe in evolution. God save us. No, really. We could use some divine intervention in this one. The U.S. numbers contrast to the 80 percent of people in Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden who accept evolution.

Also featured in the conference was a workshop in how to run for school board, which seems a bit odd for a science gathering, but may be key to injecting some sense into the educational system. It's one of those times where facts do need to battle with blind faith.

Now, I'm all for debate and discussion in the classroom and life in general, for challenging norms and looking at things from a different perspective. But suffice to say, what belongs in a science classroom is debate based upon scientific evidence, not faith. Creationists and proponents of "intelligent design" try to fit evidence around a belief, rather than build a theory from evidence. And that's in their most scientific moments.

But somehow evolution, so widely accepted in the scientific realm, ends up battling with faith-based ideas for space in a science curriculum. This leaves the teachers on the front lines. Nine teachers and an activist were honored with the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award at the AAAS conference for their fight to keep the teaching of "intelligent design" out of the classroom.

I wish that so much political force was not necessary for science to hold its ground in the realm of education. Scientists should be free to pursue new frontiers in research rather than having to scramble through political muck. In the meanwhile, however, there can't be enough scientists on school boards around this nation, so take those papers out of the lab and onto the podium for a little while at least.