Saturday, March 19, 2005

On the Ash Heap of Science

The 19 March 2005 New York Times features the story "A New Screen Test for Imax: It's the Bible vs. the Volcano," describing how some Imax Theaters have succumbed to pressure from proponents of "intelligent design" or creationism in refusing to show films with "evolutionary overtones."
People who follow trends at commercial and institutional Imax theaters say that in recent years, religious controversy has adversely affected the distribution of a number of films, including "Cosmic Voyage," which depicts the universe in dimensions running from the scale of subatomic particles to clusters of galaxies; "Galápagos," about the islands where Darwin theorized about evolution; and "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," an underwater epic about the bizarre creatures that flourish in the hot, sulfurous emanations from vents in the ocean floor.
Science museums - often the last refuge of rational thought in cities battling the forces of ignorance and zealotry - would do better to invite the controversy, even at the risk of losing funding. If such a fundamental principal of the biological sciences cannot be discussed in public, what difference if the museums close their doors?

Religious fanatics have exploited the public's ignorance of science for too long. Humanists and other thinking people must find ways to improve and strengthen science education, at all levels, if the U.S. is to maintain its leadership in science and technology.

Perhaps we should ask our pharmaceutical companies to put a disclaimer on each bottle of pills or vial of vaccine saying "warning: research, development and testing of this product was based on principals of evolutionary biology." Or create a directory of physicians who value prayer more than biological science. Or post a notice at each gas pump noting that "the fuel you are purchasing was discovered by exploiting our knowledge of the Earth's geology over its billions of years in existence."

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