Monday, 13 February 2012

Temperature's rising

If there's one thing that brings the militant atheist in me to the fore it's the uncomfortable mix of religion and politics. Well, okay there are a few more than one thing, but I do try to keep that particular side of me tucked away. Sometimes, though, it's like the Hulk. Someone mentions a new US bill asking that Intelligent Design be given equal educational billing to evolution and my skin turns bright green, most of my clothes rip off and my trousers turn purple.

So everyone ran off screaming when I saw there are six bills along these lines being put before US state legislature already this year. And worse. Two prominent bodies of the willfully ignorant are ganging together; forming a giant angry mob. Pitchforks and spittle-flecked, rage-filled faces pointed at things they don't want to believe in. 'Scientific controversies', they say. Deniers of both evolution and global warming have teamed up to pressure their government. To demand that the way they see things be considered as valid as the way the overwhelming majority of people who have made a career of studying these certain things see them. Well, it's not valid. They're wrong. Demonstrably wrong. And that should not be passed on to future generations in school classrooms. You can't give an equal platform for these alternative views. You can't teach schoolchildren an alternative opinion to reality. There isn't just one alternative to reality, anyway. There are an infinite number - make one up.

Of course there are some scientifically qualified people in the world who hold views that would seem to support Intelligent Design. There are a great many of people in the world and I'd be very surprised if there weren't a few scientists who choose to believe otherwise. But the point is there are only a very few. Usually it doesn't take much digging to find an ulterior motive for their thinking, too. I have yet to hear of a biologist or geologist who doubts evolution and isn't religious. Most religious people tend to have no problem believing in evolution and most I've discussed it with see ID and old-fashioned Creationism as harmful to the integrity of their faith. This isn't some paradigm shift being championed by a handful of foresighted geniuses. These people want a return to an old way of thinking, a step back from knowledge.

Climate change has a little more grey to it. There's certainly a sliding scale of opinion on the level of humanity's contribution to the present temperature rise, but there's no doubt it is rising. Oil companies have shown a reluctance to accept this, as fuel austerity measures and alternative solutions are not really in their interests. And oil companies have a great deal of money. Pair this money up with the passion of the ID zealot and we seem to have arrived at a new mutant breed of anti-science bill. Worrying, but you'd hope there would be the sense to discard this sort of nonsense as soon as it gets to any form of political platform. After all, the clear division of religion and politics was a founding principle of the US, as Thomas Jefferson pointed out:

'Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.'

Denial of the obvious has no place in school curricula. The elevation of contrasting ideas to the science class would lend them an undeserving credence and burden a generation with misinformation. 'Teach the controversy' is the catchphrase. Teach the facts, I'd say. Disgraceful this is still an issue.

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