An Encouraging Editorial In Support of Science November 1, 2010

An Encouraging Editorial In Support of Science

I know it’s Asheville, North Carolina and not a city in the Deep South, but I’m still very encouraged to see an editorial like this in the Citizen-Times… and very troubled to know who’s running for the state House of Representatives in Buncombe County:

When asked whether the General Assembly should be involved in the issue of teaching creationism or evolution in public schools, not one of the five candidates who attended would say flatly that creationism should not be taught. Republican Tim Moffitt did not attend, though he showed up for a meet-and-greet afterward.

Democrat Jane Whilden said “both sides should be taught and discussed.” Democrats Susan Fisher and Patsy Keever said the matter should be left up to the state Board of Education. Republicans Mark Crawford and John Carroll stressed their Christian faith. Crawford said such decisions should be made by local boards.

There are not two sides to the issue; there is only one. Evolution is a scientific theory that has been validated time and again over the century and a half since it was promulgated by Charles Darwin.

Creationism is a religious doctrine based on a literal reading of the first chapter of Genesis.

Are these office-seekers so ignorant they do not know this? Or, and this is more likely, were they dodging the question in order to avoid the wrath of the creationists? In either case, it was a sorry performance.

How bad are politics in our country when the only people running for certain public offices — from both major parties — are those who don’t know much about science or education?

Is it too much to ask for an intelligent candidate on the ballot?

***Update***: I’m told the editorial misrepresented one of the candidates:

Those present at the event report that Patsy Keever (a former school teacher) did say that it was up to the school board, but “our curriculum should be based on science.”

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  • Dekker

    I don’t think it’s that they don’t know much about science or education, but it’s that they do know a lot about the people who will be voting for them. And those are the ones who don’t know much about how science and education function. It’s more about pandering to popular (albeit misinformed) opinion.

  • It may simply be a matter of these people not connecting the dots. I’d be willing to wager money that these candidates don’t understand how the different branches of science impact one another.

    Likely they think that the study of animals “back then” has absolutely no connection with the study of animals “now”. Just as they wouldn’t believe that one must study mud huts to build skyscrapers, they probably think that geology “then” doesn’t impact the study of geology “now”. In other words, one’s present-day scientific activities wouldn’t be affected by one’s beliefs about the origin of things.

    Nor would they understand that the understanding of genetics and DNA that has been possible using evolution as a starting point has impacted medical research, psychology, computer science and a host of other disciplines.

    One of my greatest regrets is that science was presented to me as a series of facts in school, and all the experiements were about “confirming” them. Being a creative sort, I never gave science a second thought as a possible career path.

    Now, having read authors such as Dawkins, Coyne, Carroll and Sagan I see that science can be a great field of study for the creative, especially some of the newer cross disciplines.

    Perhaps we can have more impact and create more understanding through visual explanations of how evolution influences the other scientific disciplines and more robust journalistic explanations of new discoveries showing how evolution and related scientific activities made the discovery possible.

    We may not be able to change the minds of current leaders, but if we can fill the next generation with an awe and wonder for the world around them via science, we’ll win the war in the long run.

  • Weldo

    North Carolina not in the deep south? Any thing south of Toledo is in the deep south.

  • Justin

    Have you been spending a lot of time in the deep south, Hemant?

  • We can do that. Easy. Time’s on *our* side.

  • Judith Bandsma

    We have a new party here in SC..the Working Family party…and the candidate for congress in my district is one I’m going to be happy to vote for. His issues are strict separation of church and state, abolishing the ‘teach to the test’ system of education in favor of actual learning with a strong emphasis on science, keeping and encouraging new jobs…and encouraging the unions to keep them that way.

    I’m hoping he has a more than slim-to-none chance of actually being elected.

  • Verimius

    You have no idea how fitting this story is! Buncombe County gives us the word bunk, for nonsense, via bunkum!

  • captsam

    Hemant, how far below the Mason/Dixon do you think you need to go to get to the deep south.


    We need Greg Graffin on school boards throughout the nation.

  • jose

    Why do school boards have so much power? Is there no national or at least state standard of education, something like “list of things every kid in America should know how to do”? Can a school board decide to remove Math from the curriculum?

  • Amy

    This is the same town where the Cecil Bothwell controversy originated. They saw their way through that one pretty well, hopefully the same will happen here.

  • VorJack

    Asheville wouldn’t be the deep south even if you transplanted it into Mississippi. It’s a tourist town, about a quarter of it’s population are retirees from other states, and it’s got more than it’s fair share of hippies. It’s an odd mix.

    You’ve also got Billy Graham living about thirty minutes away, and his training ground – “The Cove” – just outside the city.

  • As for where the Deep South starts, you just have to drive South enough to see everybody out on their porches drinking Mint Juleps in the evening… where all the women wear petticoats, dainty gloves, and fancy hats… all in the sweltering heat… and the air is thick with the sweet fragrance from the blossoms of the magnolia tree…

    Well spending my whole life south of the Mason Dixon line, I have smelled the Magnolia blooms but the rest is just nostalgia and romanticism.

  • Sinfanti

    I agree that Creationism has a place in science class – in exactly the same way that Phrenology is discussed in the opening chapter of introductory Psychology courses.

    Science considers all possibilities, no idea should automatically be taboo – but the ones that don’t stand up to the rigors of scientific method need to be shown as such.

    PS – If I were still living in the US, I would certainly run for school board.

  • I agree with Sinfanti. Discussing the failed hypotheses of the past should be part of science. We learn a lot by experimenting and showing that an idea is wrong.

  • Carrie

    I’m currently researching school board candidates before I go vote this afternoon. I’m in north central Florida. The city is fairly liberal but the county is fairly conservative. One of the candidates has said “I am absolutely opposed to teaching creationism as science in our schools. I would absolutely safeguard the separation of church and state.”

    So I know who I’m voting for.

  • Valhar2000


    Have you ever read Isaac Asimov’s books on science? He often took the approach of explaining how people had come up with ideas or theories to explain things, then found them wanting and abandoned them in favour of better ideas, until the theories currently accepted came to be. I loved it!

  • Flah the Heretic Methodist

    Thank you Jeff P, that is the correct definition of the south, but you forgot the part about listening to the boll weevil chewing on the cotton all the live-long day. Yes, most peoples’ ideas of The South are just myth. And the bigotry, racism, homophobia and rampant religionism often labeled as “southern” can be found anywhere in the country.

  • Elle

    I have to agree Asheville is not the deep south. I live a few hours from there, love it. But asheville is basicly where a lot of the hippi’s in the deep south run off to for sanctuarary.
    The hills tend to be rather isolated making them more like their own subset of cultures and attitudes. My dad grew up in Asheville but he wouldn’t call himself southern. that’s for flatlanders.

  • muggle

    jose, wish to hell I knew the answer to that one. I think they should get off the stick and come up some damned criteria all ready and improve the state of our education system — both public and private.

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