" ROCHESTER — IN 1982, polls showed that 44 percent of Americans believed God had created human beings in their present form. Thirty years later, the fraction of the population who are creationists is 46 percent.
"In 1989, when “climate change” had just entered the public lexicon, 63 percent of Americans understood it was a problem. Almost 25 years later, that proportion is actually a bit lower, at 58 percent.
"The timeline of these polls defines my career in science. In 1982 I was an undergraduate physics major. In 1989 I was a graduate student. My dream was that, in a quarter-century, I would be a professor of astrophysics, introducing a new generation of students to the powerful yet delicate craft of scientific research.
"Much of that dream has come true. Yet instead of sending my students into a world that celebrates the latest science has to offer, I am delivering them into a society ambivalent, even skeptical, about the fruits of science.
"This is not a world the scientists I trained with would recognize. Many of them served on the Manhattan Project. Afterward, they helped create the technologies that drove America’s postwar prosperity. In that era of the mid-20th century, politicians were expected to support science financially but otherwise leave it alone. The disaster of Lysenkoism, in which Communist ideology distorted scientific truth and all but destroyed Russian biological science, was still a fresh memory.
"The triumph of Western science led most of my professors to believe that progress was inevitable. While the bargain between science and political culture was at times challenged — the nuclear power debate of the 1970s, for example — the battles were fought using scientific evidence. Manufacturing doubt remained firmly off-limits.
"Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact. Narrowly defined, “creationism” was a minor current in American thinking for much of the 20th century. But in the years since I was a student, a well-funded effort has skillfully rebranded that ideology as “creation science” and pushed it into classrooms across the country. Though transparently unscientific, denying evolution has become a litmus test for some conservative politicians, even at the highest levels.
"Meanwhile, climate deniers, taking pages from the creationists’ PR playbook, have manufactured doubt about fundamental issues in climate science that were decided scientifically decades ago. And anti-vaccine campaigners brandish a few long-discredited studies to make unproven claims about links between autism and vaccination.
"The list goes on. North Carolina has banned state planners from using climate data in their projections of future sea levels. So many Oregon parents have refused vaccination that the state is revising its school entry policies. And all of this is happening in a culture that is less engaged with science and technology as intellectual pursuits than at any point I can remember.
"Thus, even as our day-to-day experiences have become dependent on technological progress, many of our leaders have abandoned the postwar bargain in favor of what the scientist Michael Mann calls the “scientization of politics.”
"What do I tell my students? From one end of their educational trajectory to the other, our society told these kids science was important. How confusing is it for them now, when scientists receive death threats for simply doing honest research on our planet’s climate history?
"Americans always expected their children to face a brighter economic future, and we scientists expected our students to inherit a world where science was embraced by an ever-larger fraction of the population. This never implied turning science into a religion or demanding slavish acceptance of this year’s hot research trends. We face many daunting challenges as a society, and they won’t all be solved with more science and math education. But what has been lost is an understanding that science’s open-ended, evidence-based processes — rather than just its results — are essential to meeting those challenges.
"My professors’ generation could respond to silliness like creationism with head-scratching bemusement. My students cannot afford that luxury. Instead they must become fierce champions of science in the marketplace of ideas.
"During my undergraduate studies I was shocked at the low opinion some of my professors had of the astronomer Carl Sagan. For me his efforts to popularize science were an inspiration, but for them such “outreach” was a diversion. That view makes no sense today.
"The enthusiasm and generous spirit that Mr. Sagan used to advocate for science now must inspire all of us. There are science Twitter feeds and blogs to run, citywide science festivals and high school science fairs that need input. For the civic-minded nonscientists there are school board curriculum meetings and long-term climate response plans that cry out for the participation of informed citizens. And for every parent and grandparent there is the opportunity to make a few more trips to the science museum with your children.
"Behind the giant particle accelerators and space observatories, science is a way of behaving in the world. It is, simply put, a tradition. And as we know from history’s darkest moments, even the most enlightened traditions can be broken and lost. Perhaps that is the most important lesson all lifelong students of science must learn now.
"Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, is the author of “About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang” and a founder of NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog."
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/22/opini … n&_r=0
I think you did a great job here. I am lucky to have been raised in a family with a physician for a dad and a Mom who was the first woman to be chair person of a hospital in Arizona. My school ski coach and best mentor taught biology. Every morning we would go for a run but I had to identify 3 new plants each day. Hey the running was hard enough from 7K to 8K feet above sea level. --- Which brings me to Percival Lowell and his observatory on Mars Hill. And Dr. Shoemaker of Meteor crater fame. NASA trained for the moon in my little town.
I was only about 8 when my scout master Harry Brown (the guy who developed the theories and practices of "thining" forests and controlled burns) Made me put my hand on a nautiloid "fossil" in a rock/granite formation thought to be over a billion years old.
My oldest son invited me -- and paid for movie once -- it was on String Theory.
The sweet spot on a baseball bat, our dynamics of skiing faster downhill. Each living thing, even love and emotions are made so much better by deep scientific inquiry and contemplation.
WHAT the heck ever happened to teaching children ,,,, "if this then that or maybe not"?? Question and devour knowledge of our world.
(as an aside Pluto is a Planet because I saw it through a telescope at Lowell observatory on a Junior Achievement field trip) So there.
So my life is more defined by art and philosophy and emotions and spirituality. But I could not possibly enjoy those like I do without a working knowledge of things crazy like: molecular structure, energy and matter, and worm holes, and toad stools. A young willow tree bends and sways to every breeze. An old oak stands erect and allows the winds to trim off the old and rotten branches as it grows closer and closer to heaven. Without science we have no sturdy trunk that will anchor our thoughts to Earth as we reach toward the heavens.
A man who cannot discern an igneous rock from a sedimentary one will not be invited to my table.
We disagree on a lot of stuff but not on this.
Thanks for the informative piece.
<facetious mode> Gee, Ralph didn't you know that it's God's will and mankind is entitled to crap where he eats!</facetious mode>
So how did life begin, Ralph, and can science duplicate it?
It isn't the job of science to duplicate nature and life, but to understand it. People are part of nature, "God" and religions are inventions of humankind—that's the key to understanding the difference and the distinction. The mind of man invents symbols and representations of the natural world while religions try to help mankind comprehend their place in it. Moreover, people don't kill each other over science anymore, but they still do when it comes to religion.
Beats me. I studied economics, not science.
"It isn't the job of science to duplicate nature and life, but to understand it."
Science doesn't know how life began. The best they can come up with is a primordial 'soup' and maybe a lightning strike or something for a kick-starter.
And yes, it is the job of science to duplicate, AKA: replicate.
Ralph, I think it is fair to say that at least a portion of those who populated the field and call themselves "scientist" have sold out for grant money and twisted their data to fit the necessary conclusions of the particular interest group. Here I am speaking to the subject of climate change so touted by Al Gore and friends. That tweaking of the data became apparent and credibity suffered as a result...something any good scientist would want to protect at all costs. That is not to say there is not evidence of climate change but to simply say that the evidence did not not actually support he desire conclusion until it was tweaked. Others in the field know that but keep their mouths shut for fear or retribution and loss of grant money. I equate the result to be much like that of the field of lawyering...while there are many very good and ethical lawyers out there, the image of the profession has been marred by the handful of slocks that stretch its limits. One of them is living in the White House right now. ~WB
Ah yes, the old "Climategate" canard—and well proven as false and malicious!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climatic_R … ontroversy
You have just committed the unforgivable sin of questioning the claim of anthropogenic global warming. You are now a 'denier'. I'll bet you thought you were just a skeptic.
How do you feel about vaccinations? Evolution? You may be afflicted by the Tea Party Syndrome.
Well done. I am not sure that people have become less aware real science, but there has been an uptick in misinformation by those who who wish to keep the populace ignorant. It is easier to control uneducated people and push them into the direction you want them to go.
Enlightenment in both science and ideology are difficult to achieve under the best of conditions, but when there organizations that see their numbers dwindling they will distort the truth as much as possible to maintain power over their followers and attempt to discredit any advancement. Because these organizations are hungry for power, they will also do whatever is necessary to capture additional people into their control.
The anthropogenic global warming believers are almost universally left wing environmentalists who also despise the capitalism they blame for climate change, and which they are desperately trying to replace with socialism!
Just look at the left wing ideologues who are supporting it here!
That's not science. That's pure politics, and what left wing scientists saw as justification for cooking the climate books.
Do you know what the UN's IPCC recommends to combat climate change?
WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION! The holy grail of liberalism!
Thanks for initiating this debate Ralph. It is indeed depressing and rather bizarre just how many people even in the technologically advanced world deny the value of the science which brought them that technological advancement. They fail to appreciate that science is a fact and evidence based approach to understanding the world in an objective, unbiased manner. (That of course does not mean that all trained scientists are free from the occasional unscientific pronouncement or analysis of facts - but one shouldn't tarnish science with the sins of those human beings who abuse scientific methodology to promote their theories).
In its purest form, scientific methodology - research, experiment, observation, calculation and objective impartial analysis of the results to formulate theories which are then evaluated and tested through further research - is the only sensible, intelligent method of understanding the world. Everything else, notably religious faith, fails totally to measure up in any way, shape or form as a sensible method by which to uncover the truth of the world about us.
It is rather irritating how many people deny global warming as some kind of monumental governmental plot despite all the work of objective scientists which clearly indicates the negative effects of mankind's impact on the environment and climate (if not totally proving the long term impact of its current effects).
It is sad how so many people would deny all the evidence of experts, eye witnesses and investigators of any major event that happens in the world today because they prefer to selectively listen to the biased beliefs of conspiracy theorists.
It is bizarre just how many intelligent people deny the multitude of facts and evidences which support evolution, not for reasons of logic or objective analysis but simply because it conflicts with the cherished creationist view of life which they prefer to hold to.
Most of all it is incredibly depressing how many people eschew the value of objective study and genuine science for blind faith (whether religious or otherwise) and pseudoscience.
The only comfort I can offer is that such trends as are mentioned in the article which stimulated this forum debate are limited to minority elements of world society (perversely the fundamentalist extremists of the Islamic world and the conservative creationists and certain anti-scientific politicians in America make strange bedfellows in this regard). Throughout the world as a whole, understanding of the rationale of the scientific approach to understanding the world is generally on the increase. Hopefully - surely - it will ultimately win the day.
Wayne said nothing about vaccinations, so that's a straw man argument.
Divert and deflect.
LOL—as opposed to ignoring and averting the facts and its implications!
From how Americans feel about the states in 2013 . . .
http://www.businessinsider.com/poll-how … tes-2013-8
Did you read the article? The scientist mentioned several areas where people are rejecting science--some believe vaccinations cause autism although science says no, others as you know believe in Adam and Eve Creationism and dispute evolution. I just wondered whether Wayne also is a Creationist and anti-vaccination guy in addition to be a climate change denier. All three would qualify him as afflicted by the Tea Party Syndrome.
"I just wondered whether Wayne also is a Creationist and anti-vaccination guy in addition to be a climate change denier. All three would qualify him as afflicted by the Tea Party Syndrome."
Typical liberal...if you don't agree with him, he slaps a series of labels on you.
Why not argue the facts and merits instead of name calling?
Here's an article from tomorroow's paper re vaccinations:
"The global effort to eradicate polio, a disease that has been on the brink of extinction for years, is facing serious setbacks on two continents. The virus is surging in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, which had been largely free of cases for several years. And a new outbreak has begun in a part of Pakistan that a warlord declared off limits to vaccinators 14 months ago."
The Pakistani warlord would undoubtedly be a Tea Partier if he were in this country. Great minds.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/23/healt … p&_r=0
Note to Will: You shouldn't use labels to criticize the use of labels!
In Edwin Black's book "Internal combustion", we are taught that corporations with the complicity of governments took actions not in the name of the benefits of its nation or its people but in the mane of economics or more precisely in the name of profit. And until now scientific reports are denied credibility in the name of greed. While people could have access to solar and hydrogen generated energy they will be dragged with petroleum until our providers will extort us our last penny.
It belongs to the Homo Sapiens to start to differentiate the truth from the irrational verbiage.
This is an excerpt from “Coming Out Liberal”: Why Some Conservatives Fear Renouncing Their Republicanism by Allen Clifton
"I’ve stated numerous times before that I don’t really view most Republicans as members of a political party. I view most conservatives more as members of a faith-based political cult. I call it “Republicanity.” It’s a mixture of some form of political ideology blended with a handful of excerpts from the Bible. Facts, science, math, history—none of it matters. They follow their party like a faith more than a political ideology.
And faith is much more difficult to reason with. Faith doesn’t need facts, science or math—it just needs people who believe in it. In fact, faith often defines the term “illogical” because faith often lacks concrete evidence supporting its beliefs.
So what we see with Republicans is a devotion to their political party much in the same way we see devotion to faith. Reality, facts, science, math or even rational thought doesn’t matter because they’ve simply “been brought up” to be a Republican."
http://www.forwardprogressives.com/comi … blicanism/
Bertrand Russell's Advice to Will and Wayne:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl … Lfm8#t=101
To Will & Wayne, certainly, and to everyone alive today. Good clip
Funny how they always assume he's speaking to the other guy.
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