Thursday, March 24, 2011

The ten things everyone should know about science

Here's an interesting list from the Financial Times of the ten things everyone should know about science.

An excerpt:
Scientists have been complaining for decades that, while they would be ashamed to admit knowing nothing about Jane Austen’s novels, literary colleagues can get away with total ignorance of relativity and quantum theory. As Larry Summers noted on his installation as Harvard University president in 2001, students rarely admit to never having read a Shakespeare play but find it “acceptable not to know a gene from a chromosome or the meaning of exponential growth”. ...

Inevitably, such a list is somewhat arbitrary. Concepts that just missed the top 10 include risk, plate tectonics and the laws of thermodynamics. But compiling this list was simpler and less contentious than, say, choosing the best 20th-century novels – let alone the most important concepts in literature – because fewer candidates are available for selection, and there is more agreement among scientists than literary critics about what really matters.

Indeed, I've seen many lists of the essentials when it comes to literary matters, but I think this is the first I've seen about science. And these days, it's far more important to be scientifically literate, I'd say. You really can't be an informed citizen - especially if you actually plan to vote, as every citizen should - without some basic knowledge of science.

And frankly, I'm often astonished at the levels of scientific ignorance in America. Even politicians - maybe especially politicians - regularly show that they don't have the slightest understanding of even the basics of science. How can that be, in one of the most technologically developed nations on Earth?

Heck, in the GOP, at least, politicians are often proud of their ignorance. Well, you don't want to be one of those elites, do you? And if you actually understood science, you might have to accept some things that you really don't want to believe.

Here's an example from that festering sewer of ignorance, the Texas legislature:
Bill Zedler: Evolutionists will go "Oh, it just happened by chance." ... When was the last time we've seen someone go into a windstorm or a tornado or any other kind of natural disaster, and say "Guess what? That windstorm just created a watch."

Zedler might as well have "scientific idiot" tattooed on his forehead, since he just demonstrated that he doesn't know the very first thing about evolution. This is something he should have learned in grade school!

You can't be an informed citizen with this degree of ignorance. But apparently you can be a Republican politician. And don't think this is just Texas, either. If the 2012 Republican presidential candidates have any better understanding, you can bet they won't admit it.

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