The Sciences

Some good news, some bad news, and some background

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitApr 19, 2011 9:30 PM


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With the seeming onslaught of attacks on reality coming from all over the country, I hate to add to the bad news... but I will because the bad news shows just how silly antiscience legislators can be, and there's also some good news to go along with it. So that's nice. And I'll end with an article that shows us why those of us in the reality-based community have such a hard time pushing back against nonsense.

The Good: A couple of years ago Louisiana passed a law designed to destroy good science, allowing teachers to use creationist materials in the classroom

, despite this being a clear violation of the US Constitution. So why is this good news? Because a bill has been filed to repeal that awful law

. Even cooler, this bill came about because of efforts by a high school student in Baton Rouge named Zack Kopplin, who has been working with the Louisiana Coalition for Science. In high school I was busy goofing off with my friends. Zack Kopplin is busy taking on the entire Louisiana State legislature. Good on him! And while it's still in the early stages of this fight, it shows that grassroots efforts can get things done.

The Bad: A Tennessee House legislator, in an effort to promote creationism, badly misattributes a religious quotation to Einstein

. The fail in this one is strong. The quotation was not said by Einstein, for starters. Einstein was famously agnostic, and only talks of God as a substitute for natural laws, for another. And for a third (and fourth), the legislator tried to equate creationism and evolution as theories, and that neither could prove they are right. However, creationism is a not a theory -- it's dogma -- and evolution is both a theory and a fact

. I wrote about this Tennessee nonsense earlier

; let's hope this antiscience bill doesn't get passed by the state's Senate. Tip o' the twin paradox to Henry Davis.

The Background: Over at Mother Jones magazine

, Chris Mooney wrote a great article about why science shows us that science isn't trusted by so many people. He writes:

And that undercuts the standard notion that the way to persuade people is via evidence and argument. In fact, head-on attempts to persuade can sometimes trigger a backfire effect, where people not only fail to change their minds when confronted with the facts—they may hold their wrong views more tenaciously than ever.

Sounds vaguely familiar. The facts, obviously, need to be out there and need to be conveyed, but how we convey them is just as important, and in some cases may actually be more important. All the facts in the world make no difference if the person to whom we're talking isn't hearing them.

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