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Fool Me Twice

Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America

Highlighted passages (I took notes):

Deny the science, or pretend the problems don’t exist.

In an age when most major public policy challenges revolve around science, less than 2 percent of congresspersons have professional backgrounds in it.

It’s little wonder we have more rhetoric than fact in our national policy making. Lawyers are trained to create a compelling narrative to win an argument, but as any trial lawyer will tell you, that argument uses facts selectively and only for the purpose of winning the argument, not for establishing the truth.

Science has been responsible for roughly half of all US economic growth since WWII, and it lies at the core of most major unresolved policy challenges.

Journalism: “There are always two sides to every story. Bob says 2 + 2 = 4. Mary says it is 6. The controversy rages.”
Science: “Most times, one side is simply wrong. I can demonstrate using these apples that Bob is right.”
Politics: “How about a compromise? New law: 2 + 2 = 5.”

Thomas Jefferson’s fundamental notion that, when well informed, people can be trusted with their own government lies at the center of democracy.

“We have many people even here who hasten to condemn evolution without having the remotest conception of what it is that they are condemning, nor the slightest interest in an objective study of the evidence in the case which is all that ‘the teaching of evolution’ means,” wrote an exasperated Republican, the Nobel physicist and CalTech head Robert A. Millikan in the leading journal Science in 1923, “men whose decisions have been formed, as are all decisions in the jungle, by instinct, by impulse, by inherited loves and hates, instead of by reason. Such people may be amiable and lovable, just as is any house dog, but they are a menace to democracy and to civilization because ignorance and the designing men who fatten upon it control their votes and their influence.”

“This world is a strange madhouse,” [Einstein] wrote a friend three weeks after the rally. “Currently every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.”

In 1951, the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, gave a momentous speech in which he addressed Hubble’s work and the big bang theory, stating that the big bang proved the existence of God by showing there was a moment of creation, so there must be a creator.

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light,” [Max] Planck said, “but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

The culture wars the United States is currently experiencing are really one three-front antiscience war – a fundamentalist backlash against science, a propaganda war being waged by vested business interests, and an assault from postmodern identity politics that are based not on religious denomination, but on gender, sexual orientation, race, etc., and are as sacrosanct as religions, with their authority undebatable and any questioning akin to blasphemy.

Today, serious candidates for Congress and the presidency can openly state views that run counter to all known science and history, and many journalists don’t feel it is their role to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

In science, US students fell from seventh in a 1972 ranking known as the First International Science Study to twenty-ninth out of forty-five countries measured in the 2006 PISA report, below countries like Hungary and Poland and just above the Slovak Republic.

A scientific theory is not a hypothesis or guess, as the word commonly means when used in casual conversation. A scientific theory is the one explanation that is confirmed by all the known and validated experiments performed to date. Experiments involving evolution have numbered in the hundreds of thousands over the past 150 years. A theory is thus among the most certain forms of scientific knowledge, and evolution is among the most certain of theories. But because science is inductive, scientists recognize that there is still a chance that it could be wrong.

The adoption by schools of abstinence-only sex ed despite proof of its dismal results highlights a central question about American values: Which is more important in education – adherence to our ideological perspectives as parents or the outcomes it achieves for our children?

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