Sunday, April 29, 2007
The More Things Change ...
Dan Hurley, a historian, has an article in the Cincinnati (Ohio) Post that has an interesting take on the upcoming opening of Answers in Genesis' faux museum. Hurley says:
Since the 1980s, a powerful confluence of evangelical fundamentalist Christianity and right-wing politics has focused on challenging science education in the schools and via informal educational institutions like science museums.Reaching back into history, Hurley tells the tale of an earlier interaction of science, religion and politics encapsuled in a visit by the former President, John Quincy Adams, to Cincinnati in November 1843. A difficult frontier journey for a man of 76, Adams came to lay the cornerstone for a new observatory in Cincinnati. Years before, while he was President:
Adams bemoaned the fact that American government had done nothing to press the frontiers of astronomy, the cutting edge of science in the early modern period. While European powers supported 130 astronomical observatories, what he called "lighthouses in the sky," not one existed in America.During this visit to Cincinnati, Adams gave an oration almost two and a half hours long on the history of astronomy focusing on the work of Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and Newton:
Adams detailed the destruction of the ancient cosmology reflected in the Bible that placed the Earth at the center of the universe, and replaced it with an understanding that the Earth is one of several planets that revolve around the sun in elliptical orbits that can be charted mathematically and explained by natural forces.Returning to the present, Hurley makes the excellent point:
Thematically, Adams organized this sweeping narrative around the struggle between science and the religious establishment. For Adams, Galileo was not only one of the "master spirits" of the ages, but also a martyr. Using new technology, a telescope, Galileo peered deeper into the skies than anyone before him and, more importantly, reconciled conflicting data with a new paradigm. For championing this scientific, non-biblical view of the universe, Galileo was denounced, suppressed, silenced and imprisoned by the Pope and the Inquisition.
[I]f we allow the combination of evangelical fundamentalism and right-wing politics to undermine science in the schools and museums, Americans will end up dependent on scientists from other societies. Not only will our flow of gadgets be threatened, but also things like the development of prescription drugs to protect us from the threat of a mutated H5N1 virus. Today, bird flu threatens millions of fowl, but it could threaten millions of humans, and the only way to understand that threat is within the context of evolutionary change on the molecular level.The destruction of science threatens all of us, both in mind and body.