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Essay - Dodging creationist dung

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  • Todd S. Greene
    From: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060529/princehouse [go to link for full essay] ... Science and the First Amendment by Patricia J. Princehouse (The Nation,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 27, 2006
      [go to link for full essay]


      Science and the First Amendment
      by Patricia J. Princehouse
      (The Nation, 5/16/2006)

      People ask me, Why pour so much energy into protecting science
      education? Why not fight for literacy generally or any of a thousand
      other educational issues? I have two answers. One is easy: I know
      about evolution, so it makes sense that I would work on what I know
      best. The second is harder to grasp. And that is that freedom of
      religion is the bedrock foundation of liberty in this country. If we
      allow certain special-interest religious groups to co-opt the public
      school science classroom, to use it as a vehicle for converting
      children to religious views their parents don't hold, if we allow
      them to spout outright lies about the nature and content of science,
      what do we really have left? If you can lie about science and get
      away with it, you can lie about anything.

      Evolution is just the tip of the iceberg or, as the creationists put
      it, the leading edge of "the wedge." The wedge they are seeking to
      drive through the heart of American democracy. The lies about
      science are not limited to evolution. Every day more lies about
      science seep into public consciousness. Lies about stem cell
      biology, lies about global warming, about clean air and water, lies
      about sexuality, about conception and contraception, lies about the
      effects of hurricanes on metropolitan infrastructure.

      The war on science is a war on democracy itself. And the special
      weapons and tactics are rhetorical. The enemies of democracy use the
      language of tolerance to attack it from inside. Why, they ask, are
      we "censoring" the evidence for "intelligent design"? Why do we deny
      our teachers the "right" to use their "academic freedom" to
      teach "critical analysis" of evolution. Isn't it only fair to teach
      both the evidence for and against evolution? All these clever ploys
      play well in the media on this issue and many, many others, and we
      will see these word games more and more in coming years. I call it
      the "orange is the new pink" strategy; every time the public cottons
      on to a catch term like "creation science" or "intelligent design,"
      they change to a more neutral-sounding term like "critical analysis"
      or "evidence against." But defenders of American freedom are
      learning to stand up and say no, it really is fair to forbid
      teachers to lie to students, to prohibit school boards from using
      the power of the state to convert children to other peoples'
      religions. Tolerance requires judgment.

      So the rhetorical battle is pitched and the enemy is well armed. But
      it turns out that standing up for freedom and democracy is a lot
      like doing science. You start with noble principles and do the best
      you can, but when you get right down to it, you spend a lot of time
      dodging elephant dung.

      (Patricia Princehouse teaches evolutionary biology and the history
      and philosophy of science at Case Western Reserve University in
      Cleveland. She is president of Ohio Citizens for Science.)
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