Wednesday, February 02, 2005

More on KS BOE


Dr. Myers got the impression that things went poorly yesterday. I want to clarify that things were pretty balanced. No big guns from KU were there, just me and Rachel Robson, both grad students. There were some very good comments against the proposed changes, and I didn't write as much about them because I was concentrating on getting myself ready to fit a three minute speech into two minutes, and no one said anything terribly non-obvious. A lot of “separation of church and state.” A lot of “our kids won't get jobs.”

I think there are at least three debates here. One is to try to peel one of the 6 conservatives out of the bloc. Unlikely, not worth much effort. Another is to win the press, who had their A team out filming last night. Reaching the press means reaching the people who aren't paying attention, and swaying them for the next elections. The other debate is entirely among the conservative voters. They say (as they did last night) that there aren't transitional fossils, or “If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” not to sway me or the middle ground, but to rally their own wacko backers.

The fight, in this case, is for the media. And I wonder if more inflammatory rhetoric wouldn't get better press? I think that my phrase “The suite of changes being offered in the minority report are a systematic perversion of the definition of science.” was as tough as our language got, and that's more “Sir, I demand satisfaction” than “If I wanted shit from you, I'd squeeze your head.” The latter would get me on the Fox evening news, the former on a PBS special.

I intentionally scaled back my rhetoric to try to seem reasonable and non-dogmatic. Does that leave it seeming like the moderate position is between me and the guy who wants to teach that canyons eroded in mere minutes? Should I, or someone, have been more aggressive? Instead of “Science is not opposed to the supernatural, it is simply independent of it” should someone have said that they are opposed, and a good science education will espouse not just methodological, but philosophical materialism?

This is a problem all over. The middle ground in abortion is between eugenics and abortion prohibition, that is, choice. No one espouses eugenics, and for good reason. That leaves the functional middle ground of the debate more extreme than the true center of the issue. Would there be more support for reproductive rights if someone was advocating forced abortions in opposition to people advocating forced pregnancies? I'm not sure.

Is it just that liberals and scientists are inherently fairminded, and are trying to really address the issues? Do we come into every gunfight with a knife because that's half way between a gun and nothing?