The Sciences

America and India love their antiscience

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitFeb 4, 2011 1:31 AM


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It occurs to me that young-Earth creationism and astrology are very similar (it's occurred to creationists as well). Both have no evidence to support them, have tons of evidence against them, and have people who adhere to them like zealots despite this, pushing these ideas on others. Sadly, some of these people are in the government. Creationism In Oklahoma, two state lawmakers are creating (haha) legislation that will basically attack the teaching of evolution:

Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, and Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, have filed legislation designed to undermine the teaching of a fundamental of modern science, the theory of evolution. Kern's House Bill 1551, called the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act, says students cannot be penalized for subscribing "to a particular position on scientific theories."

So this is saying you can't grade a student down for giving the wrong answer in science class. Remember when school was about learning stuff? This type of thing is very dangerous for students, because then they can claim they don't have to learn anything that is against their religious belief. Well, I suppose they don't have to learn anything in that case, but then they should fail the class. Seems pretty straightforward. But not to everyone, I guess. One of the Oklahoma politicians, Sally Kern has tried to pull stunts like this before. Let's hope this legislation fails again. Sadly, though, this kind of stuff does get traction in some areas... like New Mexico, which is trying to protect the teaching of antiscience ideas as well. The irony is head-explodey; they claim they're trying to protect teachers, but again this is typical Orwellian creationist-speak for attacking science. That article gives the chances of the New Mexico bill passing as slim, but creationists are nothing if not stubborn (which they kinda need to be, I guess). If it doesn't make it this time, it'll be reworded and resubmitted in the future. Bet on it. Astrology In India, the courts have ruled that astrology is a science. Seriously.

"So far as prayer related to astrology is concerned, the Supreme Court has already considered the issue and ruled that astrology is science. The court had in 2004 also directed the universities to consider if astrology science can be added to the syllabus. The decision of the apex court is binding on this court," observed the judges.

Public Interest Litigation was filed by a non-government organization in India, hoping to ban such things as astrology, feng shui, tarot, and others, which is what led to this declaration. I don't think such things should be outlawed -- free speech and caveat emptor* and all that -- but I also strongly suspect those judges don't really understand what science is. Defining it can be a little difficult, but here's one way of thinking of it: it's a method of self-correcting investigation that compiles evidence describing how the Universe and things in it behave, makes predictions based on that evidence, abandons bad ideas when they don't pan out, and seeks further evidence for those that do. Astrology doesn't exactly fit that description. Or at all. And as far as Universities actually teaching astrology as a science? Sounds like a load of Taurus to me.

Tip o' the mortarboard to Christopher Hanley, Stuart Robbins, and my sister Marci.

^* Yes I do know it's a different country than the United States, but that doesn't mean freedom of speech shouldn't be a universal right for all humans. When you shut down someone's right to support or oppose an idea, you get stuff like creationism in the classroom. As awful as I think creationism is, censorship is far, far worse.

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