That video is only a minute and a half long. It features Eugenie Scott, who, until recently, was head of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). We wrote about her retirement a couple of years ago — see Eugenie Scott Retiring from the NCSE.
The video isn’t new, but it’s certainly worth a look. Scott discusses the controversy over evolution and climate change, and says that it’s not about the science, it’s about ideology. She’s got a good point, but we think there’s more to it than that.
As far as we’re aware, evolution and climate change are only two scientific subjects that arouse heated passion among the general public. Well, to a far lesser degree, there’s also the Big Bang, but the public usually ties that together with evolution. What is it about evolution and climate change that gets people so worked up?
There are science topics that are far more controversial — among scientists. Some say that string theory isn’t a scientific theory at all, as it seems to be resistant to testing. Dark matter and dark energy are hotly debated. You can probably think of others. Although those topics are genuinely controversial, the public seems content to let scientists work it all out.
In contrast — despite the silly claims of creationists and climate change skeptics — there’s virtually no scientific controversy about evolution and climate change — except for details. Is Scott right in saying that the public uproar about those two topics is because of ideology?
In our opinion, she’s partly right. Evolution is a hot topic in education. Creationists would love to ban it, or at least “balance” it with their religious views. Politicians and school board officials are often sufficiently ignorant (or crazed) that they try to accommodate their constituents’ religious preferences. As for climate change, again there’s a political dimension. Legislators are always trying to implement their “solutions” to the problem by imposing taxes and controls on activities they deem to be harmful. That is what generates opposition.
But politicians have — so far — kept their slimy hands off of things like dark matter and string theory. If they could figure out a way to tax and regulate somebody in the name of those ideas, they’d certainly try to do it — and then the public would get involved. If you think creationists’ letters-to-the-editor are crazy, wait until the public starts screaming about string theory.
Anyway, Scott is correct. Yes, the public uproar is ideological. But it’s triggered by politics.
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