Friday, April 3, 2009

Dumbing Down American Science Books

Stalwart Iraq War-defender Christopher Hitchens once made the literary observation that when you're reading the work of Proust, you feel as if you have no business at all trying to write professionally. Consequently, rather than trying to paraphrase Hitch, I will include the money-quote from this article about the current effort to dumb-down science books in Texas:

The Texas anti-Darwin stalwarts also might want to beware of what they wish for. The last times that evangelical Protestantism won cultural/ political victories—by banning the sale of alcohol, prohibiting the teaching of evolution and restricting immigration from Catholic countries—the triumphs all turned out to be Pyrrhic. There are some successes that are simply not survivable. If by any combination of luck and coincidence any religious coalition ever did succeed in criminalizing abortion, say, or mandating school prayer, it would swiftly become the victim of a backlash that would make it rue the day. This will apply with redoubled force to any initiative that asks the United States to trade its hard-won scientific preeminence against its private and unofficial pieties. This country is so constituted that no one group, and certainly no one confessional group, is able to dictate its own standards to the others. There are days when I almost wish the fundamentalists could get their own way, just so that they would find out what would happen to them.

America's business leaders have been making their voices increasingly heard on this topic, though not always as harshly as hedge fund manager Barry Ritholtz.

So which is it America - do we want to maintain our technical and economic leadership, or not? It shouldn't be such a hard decision. And it's not one that China is having any problems making.

No comments: