Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The dangers of creationism

Wichita Eagle | 03/02/2005 | Kansas schools getting bum rap on evolution:

Though I oppose creationism and the position of John Calvert, who heads the Intelligent Design Network, he was completely correct at the most recent State BOE open forum in calling predictions of an industrial flight from Kansas “silly.”

As the evolution/creationism debate again becomes our focus of attention, it is important for Kansas scientists to hold our colleagues to the facts.

Kansas is a progressive state with some of the best science teaching and science research in the nation. This renewed debate is not going to change that fact.
John Richard Schrock cites his study showing that Kansas teachers are less likely to believe in or teach creationism. That's all good.

Here's the problem. Boeing probably doesn't care what its workers' biology education is. Kansas just passed a Biosciences Initiative, a multi-billion dollar bond issue aimed at attracting biotech businesses. If you were a biotech business, looking for innovative research opportunities, would you move to a state with a reputation for questionable science education?

The Biosciences Initiative is flawed for other reasons. It specifically bans stem cell research, and research using human embryos. Whatever your moral concerns about that research, that's the future. California and New Jersey have funds for those purposes, and Harvard has set up funding for that research, too. No one wants to move to Kansas as it is, and this doesn't help. If you want to attract scientists, don't piss on modern science.

What about this story, wrapping up various attempts at attracting new blood to small towns.

The tiny towns in the Great Plains and upper Midwest don't want to die. They are trying to keep their young people from departing, to beckon home those who have left, and - more and more - to think of ways to entice outsiders to come and build and stay. Thus, proposed tax breaks in Iowa; loans in Nebraska; land giveaways in Kansas and elsewhere.
Now these things aren't working, so maybe this is all pissing into the wind. But maybe people would be more open to living in Ellsworth if they didn't think they'd have to live with a bunch of hicks. They want to know that their kids will be educated, and that the town will be there for their kids to grow up in. Evolution in schools is one part of the story. Anti-gay ordinances, or state constitutional amendments that could ban domestic partnerships, or an attorney general who wants to read about everyone's sex life, all make Kansas a worse place to live, and small town Kansas scary, because you're stuck with the same 1,000 people forever.

In a city, if your neighbor is an ass, you either move, or you insulate the walls and make new friends. In a small town, you can't avoid doing business with most of your neighbors, and avoiding them socially is nearly impossible. If they're creationist nuts, or Republicans even, you might be unhappy there forever.

That's why moderate Republicans should become Democrats, and this culture war crap should be seen as an attack on small towns. It drives out the youth with an ounce of potential, and it scares away new blood. I know people who regret coming to Kansas for grad school because of the school situation, and I don't know any grad students from out of state who plan on staying. The Natural History Museum and the Universities attract great grad students and smart faculty to study evolutionary biology. This stuff scares away prospective students (I know from conversations with people), and it gives students every reason to take their quality Kansas PhD and run.