Religious conservatives recently criticized science teachers in the Atlanta suburbs for teaching evolution as a fact in classrooms.
According to the critics, evolution is not proven, therefore science teachers are obligated to “teach the controversy”, and spend equal time discussing evolution and a rival theory, Intelligent Design, that is descended from creationism.
All science textbooks now used in Cobb County, located directly outside Atlanta, have warning labels that read: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”
Since there are no disclaimers inside science textbooks about the unproved existence of the earth’s magnetic field, or the importance of alternative theories about the origin of oil, the only assumption that can be made is that religious conservatives are holding evolution to a higher standard than the rest of science.
Intelligent Design is a theory based on the idea that living creatures are “irreducibly complex,” like a mousetrap.
If you remove the spring from a mousetrap, it isn’t an inferior mousetrap; it’s not even a mousetrap at all.
Supporters of Intelligent Design claim that cells and animal biology are both irreducibly complex, and therefore could not have come about without the active intervention of some kind of higher intelligence.
Meanwhile, there is a long-standing urban legend that abortions increase the risk of breast cancer.
Most scientists, who point to the lack of any statistical documentation, dispute this.
Until last year, the National Cancer Institute’s Web page contained links disclaiming their myth.
Religious conservatives in Congress criticized the Web site and were spinning it as proof the Cancer Institute was advocating abortion, and threatened its funding.
Scared of being cut off from federal funds, the links magically disappeared from the Web site.
Also, AIDS scientists were warned by the National Institutes of Health that mentioning the words “gay,” “homosexual,” or “transgender” could justify funding for their projects.
Orwell would be proud.
These are signs of a new war being waged on science in America.
For the first time in several administrations, Bush’s science advisor, John Marburger was notified that his post would no longer be considered as a cabinet-level position.
The White House felt “they did not need that level of scientific input,” according to Allan Bromley, science advisor under the first President Bush.
Want more proof?
Michael Dini, a biology professor at Texas Tech University, announced he would not write recommendation letters for students who did not believe in evolution.
For something no different than a seminary screening atheists and agnostics out of its ranks, Dini was sued by a creationist student.
While such lawsuits are not unusual, intervention under the Justice Department is.
The Department of Justice, which has taken a wildly right-wing term under Attorney General John Ashcroft, actively intervened in the case, demanding the handing-over of numerous documents from Dini and threatening to transform a civil suit into a high-profile national case if he did not comply.
This country is under siege.
Well-organized, well-financed, evangelical Christians are attempting to turn back the clock.
Purging facts from science textbooks, withholding funding from scientists who don’t toe the party line and taking an active role in political intimidation of dissenters is just the start of it.
Make no mistake; the ultimate dream of Bush, Ashcroft and company is to have America become a Christian Iran.
When the Justice Department threatens a professor over recommendation letters, then we know this nation has become ill.
We can only hope that 2004 will mean the end of Bush’s monkeyshines.
Neal Ungerleider can be reached at N_terminal@yahoo.com.