Thursday, September 02, 2010

Zombie: The Problem of Conservatism and the Anti-Science Movement

Zombie over at Pajamas Media has a long post on "What is Wrong with Texas?" The post deals with the influence of the Texas State Board of Education. It is part two of a five part series, which deals with the problem of liberal influence in textbooks. In part two, along with quite a few other topics, he addresses the areas that I find near and dear: science in general and evolution in specific.

Although painted in rather broad brush strokes (all the resolution of a "blunt stick" as William Howells once wrote), Zombie argues that the TSBE is trying to push patriotism rather than conservatism I find a good deal to disagree with there. In most instances in which "patriotic" viewpoints are promoted, they are invariably conservative. And they have reason. It takes very little to show that the public school system from the top down leans heavily to the left. From the fact that the NEA is the single largest voting block at the Democratic National Convention to examples such as that from Amherst High School in Massachusetts—which eschewed a performance of "West Side Story" on the grounds that it was racist but had little trouble green-lighting "The Vagina Monologues"—the left's agenda is in open display.

Consequently, it is not surprising that some local school boards are rising up in indignation at this. In many ways you can't blame them. They feel penned in and that their values are being dismissed and mocked. It is no secret that we homeschool our kids in part for these very reasons. The public school curricula in the high schools has some serious problems. How serious? He continues:
For example, it was recently revealed that famed historian Howard Zinn was a communist — and not just a casual half-hearted communist, but a lifelong fierce and unapologetic advocate for Marxist-Leninist revolution, and a leading member of the Communist Party. Why should you care? Because Zinn was the author of the bestselling A People’s History of the United States, which is now considered a basic textbook in many school districts.
In my opinion, these are people that need to be supported for many reasons. The problem is that, in trying to promote a patriotic and conservative viewpoint, there is a distinctly "less-educated" veneer about their positions. This is nowhere more apparent than their attempts to remove "Darwinism" from the school curricula across the country. As Zombie writes, in a decided break with his conservative brethren:
  • The debate about the reality of evolution is over. Evolution happens, and it happens through natural selection. The evidence is beyond overwhelming and is conclusive.
  • If you quibble about the meaning of the word “theory” without knowing its definition in a scientific context, then you unintentionally have disqualified yourself from the conversation.
  • Intelligent design, creationism, or any other euphemism you care to use to describe “directed evolution,” are not scientific theories; they are religious beliefs, and as such have no place in a science class.
  • Denial of evolution is not a necessary adjunct of being Christian or having religious sentiments; it is entirely possible to be religious and to accept scientific realities like evolution, and many evolutionary scientists are also Christians.
  • “Darwinism” is not some sort of faith-based religion in its own right nor is it competing with Christianity, and anyone who claims so is either seriously misinformed or is purposely deceiving you.
  • The scientific community takes an extremely dim view of any official in a position of power who tries to undermine the teaching of evolution; this is a make-or-break “litmus test” issue for most scientists.
  • Therefore, the insistence by officials such as the Texas State Board of Education on tampering with evolution curriculum unnecessarily creates enemies out of many clear-thinking science educators who might otherwise applaud the TSBE’s pro-America and pro-factuality stance on other issues.
Zombie is absolutely correct about his last point. At present, I cannot support the anti-science bandwagon that the conservative movement has embraced like grim death. All of the great ideas that they have are almost at the expense of any sort of intellectually honest view of science and the universe. This is quite a debate within me because, sociologically, I agree with most of what the school board in Texas and organizations in other places are trying to do. I just wish they would leave evolution alone. That is a losing battle and not one that they should be fighting in any event. Whether or not this is a "litmus test" for my willingness to politically support these people, I am not sure. It is scary to see yourself standing on the other side of the fence.

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