Science is Not Democratic

Republican candidate Rick Perry is being compared to George W. Bush, our most recent president from Texas. Here is one place the comparison breaks down. Perry is not campaigning to be the “Education President,” as Bush did. Whatever its merits, Bush was president when the “No Child Left Behind” act became law. Based on Perry’s recent comments, it looks like he is more interested in leaving every child behind.

When a little boy in New Hampshire was prompted by his mother to ask Perry about evolution, Perry replied that it’s just a “theory” with “gaps,” and added, “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution. I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.” Perry, who likes to tell us the importance of following the Constitution, should know that it’s constitutional to teach creationism in a mythology class but not in a science class.

Apparently, Perry’s theory of science teaching is to tell children they are smart enough to figure out what is right and what is made up. Here are other scientific questions to ask small children: When you walk around, does the earth look flat or round? When you look at the sun in the morning and evening, does it look like the sun is moving around the earth or that the earth is moving around the sun at approximately 67,000 mph? Never mind the scientific consensus, you’re smart enough to just know.

Governor Perry is correct in saying that evolution is controversial. But the “controversy” is religious and political, not scientific. Perry and other anti-evolutionists should be asked questions like:

(1) How do scientists describe the theory of evolution by natural selection?
(2) How do scientists distinguish a hypothesis from a theory?
(3) As a scientific theory, how is creationism falsifiable?

An educated person should understand the rudiments of the scientific method. Creationism should no more be taught as an alternative to the theory of evolution by natural selection than should the “stork theory” be taught as an alternative to reproduction. Creationism is an alternative to Zeus or Krishna, not to Darwin.

Only 38 percent of Americans say they believe in evolution, and far too many politicians are either among the other 62 percent or pander to them. This, to me, is evidence that democracy works best when we have an informed electorate. I agree with Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” However, science is not and should not become democratic. If 100 million people believe a wrong thing, it is still a wrong thing.

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