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Archive for Friday, January 24, 2014

Opinion: Prof expects more nonsense in ‘14

January 24, 2014

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New Year’s Predictions: More nonsense in 2014

Evolution. On Dec. 30, the Pew Research Center reported that the past four years were losers for evolution — at least in Republican circles. The number of Republicans who credit evolution for the Earth’s 50 million or so species of animals, plants and microbes fell by 11 points from 54 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in 2013. One can’t be polite about this. It’s akin to an 11-point drop in people crediting gravity for things falling down, not up. 

During the same time, the evolution meter ticked up among Democrats by 3 points — 64 percent to 67 percent.  That the 2009 evolution gulf between thinking Republicans and Democrats was 10 points is deplorable.  Worse is that it mushroomed to 24 points in 2013.

It’s a no-brainer that this gulf will widen in 2014, an election year, the traditional season for fertilizing the nonsense quotient. Witness the science nonsense during the 2012 presidential election, which likely caused much of the 11-point drop in the Republican approval of evolution. Ten of the 12 Republican candidates for the nomination proudly dissed evolution because it didn’t meet some constituencies’ scriptural seal of approval. In 2014, congressional and state candidates will race one another to the evolution-denial podium in order to bootlick constituencies that vote for willful ignorance and banishing the knowledge they don’t like.

Climate. Global levels of carbon dioxide will continue increasing in 2014. Why? Nations keep reneging on cutting their annual output of hothouse gases. Many are spewing even more, most prominently, India and China.  Kudos to the U.S., which the EPA shows has decreased greenhouse gas emissions by eight percent since 2005.  Still, since 1958, CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere has increased 24 percent.

On the ground, arctic waters keep warming, polar ice and snow packs keep shrinking, sea levels keep rising, insects and birds keep pollinating earlier, trees keep flowering sooner, and heat waves keep lasting longer and becoming more intense. Without intervention, these effects will mushroom as global average temperatures rise 2.5 to 10 degrees in the next 100 years. 

Politicians who deny evolution science continue to give us a two-for-one special, also denying the science behind climate change and its human fingerprint. In so doing, they deny the pros at NASA (http://climate.nasa.gov/index), the same agency that put men on the moon, satellites around Saturn, and sent back to Earth from space the most evocative image of a breathing planet — the Blue Marble. They also deny the 1300 climate scientists worldwide, the chemists, physicists, meteorologists, information technologists, geographers, medical doctors, biologists and geologists—the same people we trust to map the globe, cure our diseases, feed our nations, smarten our tablets, and take the daily pulse of the Blue Marble. Denial will continue 2014.

Education.  At the same time that America’s kowtowing politicians and pundits dumped on Darwin and denied climate change, America’s students fell further behind in math and science skills.  By 2013, the U.S. ranked below Britain, China, France, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Slovak Republic and Vietnam, among others. 

It’s popular to blame our schools or teachers or shrinking state education budgets. Blame instead the anti-science blowhards in legislatures, the media, on school boards and on the campaign trail. How can we expect the current generation of American students to embrace science and math when these politicos feel no compunction at trashing knowledge for political expediency? In a knowledge economy based on smart science, these “leaders” are eroding our smarts. U.S. scores in math and science will continue to drop in 2014.

Academia. Contributions to academic nonsense won’t cease in 2014. Check out the past few years. The American Anthropological Association decided to delete the word “science” from the lead statement and other sections of its long-range strategic plan.  The stated aim is to make anthropologists who say their studies are not science-based “feel more at home in their discipline.”  Enough said.

The American Studies Association (ASA), “devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history,” has singled out Israeli academic institutions for boycott, accusing the country of a “legalized system of racial discrimination against the Palestinian people.” Apparently North Korea passes the ASA sensitivity meter. Ditto a host of brutal dictatorships in the Middle East and elsewhere. In a welcome blow against such nonsense, top ranked American universities, including KU, have either canceled their ASA memberships or openly opposed the boycott.

Finally, in 2014, the Kansas Board of Regents will continue being atwitter about academic contributions to social media disrupting the harmony of the institution. The Board could use Frank LoMonte’s clarity on the constitutional issue: (http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/01/02/essay-criticizes-new-kansas-policy-use-social-media-university-employees). And it could heed his advice to quit “freaking out every time … a professor makes an offensive statement on Twitter.”

— Leonard Krishtalka is director of the Biodiversity Institute and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at KU.

Comments

William Enick 10 months, 3 weeks ago

America has been taken over by some type of madness. It's characterized by a hysteria concerning what is reality (by the facts). It's followed by an overwhelming desire to destroy this reality. Madness is of course, much more harmful than being nonsensical. We've all been nonsensical at times, but have snapped out of it...usually accompanied with an embarrassing smile on our faces. Not so with madness. When you are this delusional, they're out to get you.

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