May 15, 2006

Striking Stats from the Public Library of Science

The Public Library of Science published an article this month discussing the relatively recent "partisan takeover of science." The article details some interesting statistics, including the following, perhaps the most striking of all:
To measure public acceptance of the concept of evolution, Miller has been asking adults if human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals since 1985. He and his colleagues purposefully avoid using the now politically charged word "evolution" in order to determine whether people accept the basics of evolutionary theory. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of Americans who reject this concept has declined (from 48% to 39%), as has the proportion who accept it (45% to 40%). Confusion, on the other hand, has increased considerably, with those expressing uncertainty increasing from 7% in 1985 to 21% in 2005.
This confusion is perhaps the result of political dichotomy spinning pure scientific theory into philosophical absolutes that one or the other side rejects/accepts. Many Americans want to stay moderate, but are pushed one way or another by the extreme stances taken by sects of Republicans or Democrats. I find myself defending liberals more than conservatives recently (in defense of the advance of science), and I am a registered independent.

Scientific terms like "evolution" and "embryonic stem cells," (of which most people do not have a solid understanding in the first place) have transcended technical definition; they stand for oppospoliticaltcal stances.

Americans are crafting new stereotypes for our society, further distinctions upon which to segregate groups of people. If we begin to move apart in smaller, like-minded communities - like with like - we will uproot our nation's very foundations, nullifying the historical significance of the United States.

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