“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Creationism Lives - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

I'm a regular at Dr. Michael Tobis' blog Only In It For The Gold (his blog's name is a sarcastic reference to the meme that climate scientists are engaged in a conspiracy to promote climate change in order to get rich from grant money). Michael has a "mt's shared items" section where he links to articles that he finds interesting. Often, he'll link to Andrew Sullivan's blog from the Atlantic Magazine (a magazine I really enjoy) entitled "The Daily Dish." He's currently linking to the article Creationism Lives - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan which quotes portions of a Scientific American article bemoaning the level of scientific ignorance in the United States. And apparently, the origin is the National Science Foundation's bienniel reportScience and Engineering Indicators. It reports the results of surveys in various countries that indicate many Americans don't believe, for example, in evolutionary theory.

By and large, I agree with Sullivan's point here, but the article he cites (and his quotation of it ends with) includes the following: "
Only 33 percent of Americans agreed that “the universe began with a big explosion.” Hmmm.... if someone phoned me and said "I'm taking a survey, do you agree that the universe began with a big explosion?" I would say "no." If they asked if I agreed that what is commonly known as the "Big Bang Theory" is currently the most likely explanation for the origin of our universe, I would say yes. The Big Bang, as presently understood, was not in any way an explosion. So, would I be marked down as another example of American scientific illiteracy?

I believe that whoever published the information quoted by Sullivan was attempting to further the case that Americans don't understand science. Paraphrasing A. Conan Doyle through Sherlock Holmes, the writer had not the gift of the true journalist, the knowledge of when to stop. The author succeeded only in showing the limits of his or her understanding of science, or at least of cosmology.

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