25 April 2012

Science and policy: one step forward, two steps back

Some friends of mine at Science Debate released a survey a couple of weeks ago that reported something that shouldn't be at all surprising or even newsworthy.  Americans of faith want more sound science and less ideological nonsense in politics.  (Yes, that includes "born again" Christians that effete chardonnay-sipping Massachusetts liberal pansies like me like to mock so much.)

It makes sense, after all - believing in God doesn't mean you automatically think climate change is a hoax (it isn't) or that vaccines cause autism (they don't).  Best of all, I think, was the strong support given to sound science in policy specifically from Republicans. The survey suggested that Republicans oppose political censorship of scientific reports more strongly than Democrats do.  I'll be honest - this surprised me a little bit. But then, it was a Republican who tweeted this:
I guess what's so confusing to me then, is this poll seems to fly in the face of beltway punditry conventional wisdom.  Nobody in DC ever thought Jon Huntsman had a chance to win the GOP nomination for President, and this tweet even prompted remarks from "leading" commentators how this eliminated any remote possibility of winning.  During the presidential primaries, all of the candidates either backed away from previous pro-science positions, fudged, or outright denied overwhelming scientific consensus.

effectiveness depends on residence in Tennessee
And then, of course, there's Tennessee.  Yes, the folks who brought us the original Scopes trial are at it again, this time with a law that "prohibits the punishment of teachers" who want to teach evolution - an interesting back-door path to asserting creationism in the state science curriculum. The governor there didn't sign it but didn't veto it either - not what I'd call a profile in courage.  I'm not sure where the law falls on whether it's ok to say magnets relieve pain (umm... NO) or even cure cancer (seriously) or "detoxifying electric foot baths" do, ummm.. something.

But I thought it was a good time to remind everyone what evolution is and isn't - from credible, articulate voices.  I'm so grateful to all the people who participated in this, and I hope we can do more things like it.  The voters are apparently on our side - hopefully someday the politicians will follow their lead.

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