Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Turmoil in Maine

A letter to the editor of the Kennebec Journal caught my attention this morning. It is from a resident who is alarmed about a gubernatorial candidate named Paul LePage. The reader writes:
In a televised debate on May 27, Paul LePage seems to indicate he thinks public schools ought to teach creationism to children.

One version of creationism tells students that Adam and Eve really existed, that the entire globe flooded (in just over a month, no less), and that the universe is 6,000 years old.

All these things are falsehoods.

And LePage is OK with teaching them to children because he doesn’t really understand science.

This isn’t just some abstract misfortune in science education. There will be real-world consequences, including the harming of future conservation and management efforts.
I suppose the reason that it struck me is that I often think of Maine as being part of greater New England, which has a reputation as being more "enlightened" than the rest of the continental US of A. My brother, who lives in Maine, actually says that this is not the case. Aside from the coastal cities, most of Maine is quite rural, in setting and education. This, he says, often causes friction, such as what is evident in this story. The writer, Michael Hawkins laments that if creationism is taught, Maine science will suffer. This is a sore point for most scientists and those that follow science. I commented on this a bit back:
Understanding of organ transplant and repair is now progressing by leaps and bounds with the help of evolutionary medicine. Understanding of how viruses respond to selection forces and how they affect populations differentially is possible with the understanding of evolutionary theory and the interaction of genetics and the environment. Quantum Mechanics allows us to understand the structure of basic particles and their role in the formation of the universe. The Large Hadron Collider works because of this understanding. New oil-discovering tools work because of our palaeontological and geological understanding of where the deposits of oil are which, in turn, is based on our understanding that the geological record is a picture of 3.5 billion years of life on the earth. Palaeoclimatic reconstructions of the earth have allowed us to understand how climate changes over time and how to recognize those changes before they happen. This understanding has led to the current debate on global warming and climate change.

Not one of these advancements would be possible if
creationism was taught in the public schools.

Not one.
I suspect that, like Tim Pawlenty sort of did, LePage will backtrack on this stance to avoid being seen as scientifically illiterate. We also saw Rand Paul sort of do this recently. This will continue to be a hot-button issue. In the right democratic strategist's hands, it could sink the GOP in November.

Now playing: Ira Stein & Russel Walder - The Calling
via FoxyTunes

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