Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The War on Science

Following is from a May 11 speech in New York by Patricia Princehouse, as she accepted a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award from the Playboy Foundation for her efforts to preserve science education in Ohio public schools. The Nation has the full text.

If you can lie about science and get away with it, you can lie about anything.

Evolution is just the tip of the iceberg or, as the creationists put it, the leading edge of “the wedge.” The wedge they are seeking to drive through the heart of American democracy. The lies about science are not limited to evolution. Every day more lies about science seep into public consciousness. Lies about stem cell biology, lies about global warming, about clean air and water, lies about sexuality, about conception and contraception, lies about the effects of hurricanes on metropolitan infrastructure.

The war on science is a war on democracy itself. And the special weapons and tactics are rhetorical. The enemies of democracy use the language of tolerance to attack it from inside. Why, they ask, are we “censoring” the evidence for “intelligent design”? Why do we deny our teachers the “right” to use their “academic freedom” to teach “critical analysis” of evolution. Isn’t it only fair to teach both the evidence for and against evolution? All these clever ploys play well in the media on this issue and many, many others, and we will see these word games more and more in coming years. I call it the “orange is the new pink” strategy; every time the public cottons on to a catch term like “creation science” or “intelligent design,” they change to a more neutral-sounding term like “critical analysis” or “evidence against.” But defenders of American freedom are learning to stand up and say no, it really is fair to forbid teachers to lie to students, to prohibit school boards from using the power of the state to convert children to other peoples’ religions. Tolerance requires judgment.


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