Sunday, January 28, 2007


Science Lite

Frosty Hardison has a simple philosophy of science ... out of necessity.

To Frosty, if Hollywood is fer it, he's agin' it. Of course, the "Liberal left" is just an offshoot of Hollywood ... or maybe vice versa ... it don't matter much which. A scientific question can be decided based on whether or not you like the people who talk about it.

That's why he set out to convince the Federal Way School Board, in a southern suburb of Seattle, that they should not allow "An Inconvenient Truth" to be shown in his daughter's seventh-grade science class. In an email to the board, he said:

No, you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation - the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet - for global warming.
Why, then, who should we blame?

The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day.
Just pass over the question of why it is an insult to America to say it is responsible for global warming because it deliberately burns oceans of fossil fuel but it is no insult to Jesus to say he's doing it deliberately, only skipping the fuels part.

The scary part of all this is that the board, in charge of 22,500 students, imposed a ban on screenings of the film, literally at the drop of a propeller beanie. To add injury to an insult to all of our intelligences, the science teacher who intended to show the film, Kay Walls, says that she was told by the principal of her school that she would receive a disciplinary letter for not following school board rules that require her to seek written permission to present "controversial" materials in class.

The board now realizes the hornet's nest it has stirred up:

The ban, which the school board says was merely a "moratorium," was lifted Tuesday night, subject to rigorous conditions. Still, the action has appalled the film's producers and triggered a national backlash.

Members of the school board say they have been bombarded by thousands of e-mails and phone calls, many of them hurtful and obscene, accusing them of scientific ignorance, pandering to religion and imposing prior restraint on free speech.

It has been a terrible ordeal, school board member David Larson said during a long, emotional speech at the board meeting.
Why public officials, entrusted with public funds to educate children, would find it surprising that they are attacked for pandering to ignorance and sectarian religion is beyond me. The real question is why the religious bleating of one parent (plus "complaints from a few other parents") makes for a "controversy" in science when the National Academy of Sciences and nearly all of the world's leading climate experts agree that there is conclusive evidence that human activity is causing the Earth to warm and that there is an urgent need to reduce the amount of carbon being released into the air. This may give a clue:

[S]everal residents buttonholed Larson and asked him if there should be a "balanced" presentation of the Nazi Holocaust, because there are many who deny that it occurred.

"The Holocaust happened," Larson said. "We have evidence and photos. The difference between the Holocaust and the global warming is we don't have photos of what will happen 50 years from now."
Besides the fact that the evidence for warming is overwhelming, the point of those residents is well taken in this case, since Frosty's opposition, based on Christ's imminent return, is just as unevidenced and just as lunatic as any Holocaust denier.

The upshot is that "An Inconvenient Truth" may now be shown only with the written permission of the principal of the school and only if it is balanced by "alternative views" approved by the principal and superintendent of schools. Kay Walls, the teacher, is struggling to find authoritative articles to constitute an "alternate view" so the Gore documentary can be shown.

"The only thing I have found so far is an article in Newsweek called 'The Cooling World,' " Walls said.

It was written 32 years ago.
All of which reminds me of McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, from almost a quarter century ago:

The testimony of Marianne Wilson was persuasive evidence ... Ms. Wilson is in charge of the science curriculum for Pulaski County Special School District, the largest school district in the State of Arkansas. ... The District Superintendent assigned Ms. Wilson the job of producing a creation science curriculum guide. Ms. Wilson's testimony about the project was particularly convincing because she obviously approached the assignment with an open mind and no preconceived notions about the subject. She had not heard of creation science until about a year ago and did not know its meaning before she began her research.

Ms. Wilson worked with a committee of science teachers appointed from the District. They reviewed practically all of the creationist literature. Ms. Wilson and the committee members reached the unanimous conclusion that creationism is not science; it is religion. They so reported to the Board. The Board ignored the recommendation and insisted that a curriculum guide be prepared.
The Federal Way School Board has failed to heed the warning that you should not keep your mind so open that your brains fall out.

So a warming planet is a sign of judgement day. Suppose we construct mirrors in space. - What then? Maybe the judgement is judgement of our imagination and technological skill.
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