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Yahoos Challenging Textbooks

A Library Link of the Day last week linked to this fun story about a new law in Florida that lets random yahoos who hate science and stuff challenge textbooks, school library books, and other material they don’t like “via an independent hearing,” whatever that might mean.

One of the amusingly passionate spokespersons dedicated to this new law claims that, “We found them to be full of political indoctrination, religious indoctrination, revisionist history and distorting our founding values and principles, even a significant quantity of pornography.”

Goodness, that does sound problematic, except of course all it really means is that the alleged political and religious indoctrination wasn’t trying to indoctrinate people into his particular cult and the alleged revisionist history didn’t present the particular skewed vision he wanted presented.

It’s laughable that people who are the most opposed to “indoctrination” and “revisionist history” are almost always the ones who are most in favor of both, as long as it suits their purposes. Either they’re too foolish to realize it, or they believe everyone is too foolish to notice.

He really hated a textbook called “Our Democracy.” “We’re not a democracy, we’re a constitutional republic,” he said.

Well, yes, that’s true, to an extent. As much as some people want to suppress it, and as rigged as the process sometimes is, we do vote for our representatives, which sort of makes America a representative democracy among other things.

One could perhaps even consider America a plutocracy, or even a kleptocracy these days.

But why split hairs.

Really, though, it’s all about religion and how some religious zealots hate the teaching of science in classrooms, especially the teaching of evolution.

“There will be people out there that argue that creationism versus Darwinism are facts. They’re both theories,” says the man who doesn’t understand how science works.

If it weren’t enshrined in Florida law now that schools had to take those people seriously, the only sensible thing to do is ignore them and hope they don’t come knocking on your door trying to force pamphlets upon you and demand your salvation.

Fortunately, that’s followed up immediately by someone who does understand how science works:

“In everyday conversation, a theory is a hunch or guess,” says Glenn Branch, with the National Center for Science Education. “That’s not how scientists use it. For scientists, a theory is a systematic explanation for a range of natural phenomena.”

It’s pretty hard to get laws passed if you just come out and say, “schools shouldn’t teach science,” but if you talk about “theories” you might convince ignorant people that there’s a debate here. There are a lot of ignorant people out there, and the availability of useful scientific information in libraries isn’t helping any.

The saddest part, at least for Floridians, isn’t even the opposition to teaching evolution, but the opposition to teaching climate change science.

It’s a similar debate. Whereas the creationists pretend that the religious objection to evolution is a scientific “controversy,” the climate change skeptics usually present it as a political controversy.

They just substitute politics for religion as a way to avoid science altogether, because they don’t like any evidence that doesn’t support their preconceived beliefs.

Why sad? Oh, maybe stuff like the flooding in Miami from the sea level rising. It might seem important for Florida students to learn about the climate change that will increasingly flood some of their cities.

On the other hand, since it’s highly unlikely that Floridians or Americans in general are going to be willing to make any hard choices to deal with potentially damaging climate change anyway, maybe it is best to just ignore the problem. Once the cities flood, they can always move and wonder what the heck happened.

Libraries are full of books and articles about climate science that nobody really wants to know about, so librarians have done their part. Teaching doesn’t seem to work, either. You can lead a horse to knowledge, but you can’t make him think.

And that whole evolution thing? What difference does it really make to the rest of the country if some school students in Florida don’t learn how science works? So Floridians will be less likely to become biologists. We’ve got more biologists than we have jobs for them anyway.

And on climate change, what’s the worst that could happen? That hatred and ignorance of science spreads to enough parts of the country that religious zealotry instead of science guides the actions of politicians on climate change?

Would that really be any different than Big Oil and the energy lobbyists guiding their actions like we have now?

While this law might have some bad effects for any Florida students who get their science teaching eliminated by “independent hearings” of yahoos, it could be good for students everywhere else.

They’ll be more competitive for colleges, for example, including those in Florida. They’ll be better prepared to think critically about crucial problems facing the world, and clever enough to find enjoyable ways to rationalize not dealing with those problems anyway, like the rest of us do.

The way things are going, it probably doesn’t make any difference. Once we’re all back to beating each other with clubs to fight for the few livable land areas left in the world none of this will matter anyway. It’ll be the end of any human-caused climate change AND the end of human evolution.

Happy Monday!

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