Scientific American Takes a Shot at Sarah Palin

IN OUR NAIVETE, we foolishly expect science publications to maintain a high standard of journalism. However, in Scientific American we read Evolving Creationism in the Classroom.

It starts out well enough, saying that some would like the schools to teach creationism, despite the fact that “evolution is the linchpin of modern biology …” Fine, but then they say:

That didn’t stop Republican vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, from expressing the idea that creationism—the biblical notion that God created Earth and its life forms a few thousand years ago–should get equal footing with evolution in public school science classes. “Teach both,” she said during a 2006 televised gubernatorial debate. “You know, don’t be afraid of information.”

That’s stunningly irresponsible for a publication that has pretensions of respectability. It’s been widely publicized by now that Sarah doesn’t advocate creationism in the curriculum. Further, she’s made no move to change how evolution is taught in Alaska’s schools.

As the article progresses, and moves away from discussing Sarah, it becomes more accurate:

She [Sarah Palin] isn’t the only one who feels that way. In the past, proponents of creationism have tried to sell it as “creation science” or “intelligent design”—the idea that life is too complex to have evolved without divine intervention. But after a landmark legal setback in Pennsylvania (teaching intelligent design in the public schools was found to violate the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state), creationists have retooled their approach. This year’s buzzwords were “academic freedom” and “strengths and weaknesses”.

Moving along:

Lawmakers in several states drew inspiration from a petition published in February by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group promoting intelligent design. The petition argued that teachers should not be penalized for “objectively presenting the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory” and students should be allowed to express their views on those same strengths and weaknesses.

They then go on to discuss the idiotic anti-science legislation recently passed in Louisiana, and the current creationist controversy swirling in Texas, all of which is old news. Then this brief article ends. So what’s the point?

It seems to us that the whole purpose of this article was to get in a dig at Sarah Palin. Trashy politics isn’t what we should expect from Scientific American. They do publish some good material. For example, back in 2002 they gave us this: 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense.

We need a version of “Shut up and sing!” for science publications.

Postscript: If Gov. Palin’s position were as described by Scientific American, we would be in complete agreement with the article’s sentiments.

[Our related articles are here: Sarah Palin & Creationism.]

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Scientific American Takes a Shot at Sarah Palin

  1. CS, the article is about the attempts made to get creationism into classroom and mentioned something Palin did say as an example of the support the idea, note I said idea and not action, is getting on multiple levels.

    The article did not say that she took that kind of action, nor that she was about to. It repeated a comment made by Palin that was appropriate to the issue. There is no lie in that and they did not even imply that she was about to put it into action.

    The purpose of the article was to bring to focus the ongoing struggle between us and them for kids minds.

    The article was certainly not about Palin.

  2. Perhaps I’m too sensitive. The way I saw it, there was nothing new in the article except for Palin, and they didn’t accurately describe her position. I call ’em like I see ’em.

  3. What are you sensitive about?

    Is it because you know, deep down, what she would try to get away with if she could?

    If you show enough circumstancial evidence to a jury – they just might convict.

  4. I’d like a little more evidence. What’s out there so far isn’t really sufficient. If she were with the Discovery Institute, for example, that would be more than enough. But there’s no record of anything that blatant. Let’s see if anything else comes out.

  5. I agree with the Curmudgeon that a distinction must be made between Creationist activists, such as the Discovery Institute, and religious ‘fellow travelers,’ which at the moment is what Palin appears to be. That is, one must judge by actions rather than beliefs, and so far it doesn’t appear that Palin used her positions of power to instigate actions to further an agenda based on her religious beliefs. So there is a case for giving her the benefit of the doubt, at least thus far; she could (and I hope she does) clarify her position during the coming campaign.

    That said, I don’t agree with the Curmudgeon in finding the Scientific American article “stunningly irresponsible.” As bsharp55 notes above, it accurately quotes Palin on the topic. The quote seems to me neither more (nor less) egregious than President Bush’s own “teach the controversy” endorsement, which was ill-considered and deleterious — but also neutralised by the Dover trial.

    I think one is obliged to regard Creationist ‘fellow travelers’ with very high suspicion, unless and until they categorically state that, whatever their own religious beliefs or personal creed (however so formed), they acknowledge both the Constitutional prohibition on using public funds for religious promotion, and the extreme dangers of politicising the practise and education of science. Absent such unambiguous statements, a ‘Fellow Traveler’ must remain an object of deep mistrust.

  6. I don’t even know if Sarah is a “fellow traveler.” She may be just a small town girl, with the experience of a small town church, plus whatever worldliness she picked up at the university of Idaho, and she’s paid no attention to this issue — not the way we have.

    She hasn’t spouted any of the propaganda lines about “teach the controversy,” “strengths and weaknesses,” “evidence disproving Darwinism,” etc. I suspect that she’s really not involved in this at all.

    I’ve been wary of Scientific American for years. In fact, I canceled my subscription a few years ago because they had way too many articles about topics like “world poverty,” and far too few on science. So I strongly suspect that they have a political agenda, and so far they’ve done more to push their own views than Sarah has.

  7. You don’t think that “Teach both” ‘ and “Don’t be afraid of information” are the propaganda lines????

  8. Yes, they are propaganda lines. It’s also possible that someone unconnected to the “controversy” could stumble into those phrases, which were chosen by the propagandists precisely because they’re so “nice” sounding. I’m suspicious, certainly, but I’m waiting for more evidence.

    Relax. It’ll all come out.

  9. I fully agree with you CS that the media should not be promoting the view that she intends to take actions based on her religion without historical evidence that that is what she does. Repeating innuendo and gossip without some kind of evidence that it is true, is basically dishonest. I simple think that in this case that isn’t what happened.

    I didn’t respond to any of your other posts about the media treatment of Palin because you were making good points, although I guess I should have told you that.

    I don’t trust Palin because there is good evidence that she is either highly religious or quite good at faking it (which suggests another problem) and tends to speak in ways that conflate military action with religion. That possibility scares me; getting rolled on by the recently awakened, religiously guided elephant south of us is likely to crush us.

    Now I realize that my view is based on a general distrust I have in highly religious people of power, so it has little evidence behind it and I have no intention of presenting my opinion as ‘truth’, but it will take a fair bit of time and evidence to convince me she isn’t dangerous. It’s a prejudice of mine.

  10. Now I realize that my view is based on a general distrust I have in highly religious people of power …

    I have a distrust of people in power, period. We’ve had religious people in power before — loads of them. It all depends on whether they adhere to the Constitution, or whether they imagine themselves to be on a mission from God. I’m going to wait for some evidence of what Sarah does, or says she’s going to do, not what she said before — which wasn’t much. Politicians say all kinds of general things. I want specifics.

  11. You want specifics – during an election? You don’t want much do you?

  12. carolinaguitarman

    “In a subsequent interview with the Daily News, Palin said discussion of alternative views on the origins of life should be allowed in Alaska classrooms. “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum,” she said…Palin said during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign that if she were elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add creation-based alternatives to the state’s required curriculum, or look for creationism advocates when she appointed board members..Palin’s children attend public schools and Palin has made no push to have creationism taught in them…”
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080903/ap_on_el_pr/cvn_palin_creationism

    I don’t find anything to get scared about. She doesn’t think it should be part of the curriculum, and she’s not made any indication that she wanted to since she’s become governor.

  13. I don’t find anything to get scared about. She doesn’t think it should be part of the curriculum, and she’s not made any indication that she wanted to since she’s become governor.

    Agreed. I’ve been saying that for a few days now, and the truth is out there. But the press keeps staying with the original rumor. It’s like McCain’s wanting to stay in Iraq for 100 years. They flogged that one for weeks.

  14. “If she were with the Discovery Institute, for example, that would be more than enough. But there’s no record of anything that blatant.”

    So, in other words, the fact that McCain has given a keynote speech for that august organization *is* a smoking gun for you? Heck, forget Palin, I think McCain may have the bigger credibility problem here.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.