Friday, August 15, 2008

Evolution is good for society

Those of us who tend to spend our time on planet earth won't find much to disagree with in this article by Olivia Judson. Judson points out various excellent reasons why teaching evolution is such a valuable endeavour, one of the key ones (and perhaps slightly underappreciated) is:
The third reason to teach evolution is more philosophical. It concerns the development of an attitude toward evidence. In his book, “The Republican War on Science,” the journalist Chris Mooney argues persuasively that a contempt for scientific evidence — or indeed, evidence of any kind — has permeated the Bush administration’s policies, from climate change to sex education, from drilling for oil to the war in Iraq. A dismissal of evolution is an integral part of this general attitude.
This is a very important point. Some of the most important decisions facing society over the next century concern science; it is therefore vital (as well as blindingly obvious) that we have a scientifically literate society, equipped with critical thinking skills. Looking at the facile media coverage of, for example, GM crops ("we're all fucking dooooooomed"), suggests reason to worry in this regard. Still, it's not as though our next head of state is a clueless buffoon, besotted with his own ill informed opinions on a wide range of scientific subjects. Oh. Bugger.

I always find it illustrative that an ignorance of the arts is generally frowned upon in polite circles, whereas an ignorance of science is indulged or even encouraged ("yeah, I found physics sooooo hard, guffaw guffaw"). Given that science is, in practical terms, more important in everyday life than art and also equally stimulating and beautiful, this is a sorry state of affairs.

Grumble grumble etc etc.

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