Thursday, March 20, 2014

Add Wyoming to South Carolina

… as a place where the state legislature wants to restrict what's taught. In South Carolina, it was books about gay themes; in Wyoming, it's teaching about climate change. In a footnote to a budget bill, the state legislature has blocked the adoption of a new set of national standards for science teaching, because they include climate change.  "There's all kind of social implications in evolved in that that I don't think would be good for Wyoming, said one representative named Teeters. So because burning Wyoming coal might have something to do with the climate changing, Wyoming won't be teaching that the climate is changing. It's only the state's rights, I suppose, to define the truth as suits their political interests. As the Casper newspaper reports,
Teeters said teaching global warming as fact would wreck Wyoming's economy, as the state is the nation's largest energy exporter, and cause other unwanted political ramifications. 
When challenged as to whether setting the science curriculum was an appropriate job for the legislature,
"We set their budget," Teeters said. "We control what they do."
So we are back to the "it's only a theory" nonsense that is still being fought about evolution, after all these years. I said in my talk in Beijing that there could be no American Lysenko, because the separation of academia from government control, and the tradition of open debate, would correct any such tragic nonsense. As one example I cited John Winthrop in 1755 lecturing on earthquakes at Harvard, proposing that they were not the result of divine wrath but of something mechanical happening down inside the earth. As another example I used Harvard sponsoring a conference last year on a "one state" solution to the Israel-Palestine problem, over the objections of Senator Scott Brown, who wanted the conference cancelled as "dangerous thinking." Dangerous thinking, I explained, was exactly what society needs universities for.

Was Massachusetts, even in the 18th century, better than Wyoming and South Carolina are today?


  1. Add to the list of taboo topis Evolution. This is somewhat self-censorship by HS bio texts to avoid controversy and be approved in Texas. But that makes it harder to fight back.

    Al Gores book title `an inconvenient truth' is quite appropriate.

  2. Massachusetts had its own problems in the 18th century -- look at the history of John Leverett's Harvard presidency (and the run up to it).

  3. im from Australia, we have more problems steaming from mining and racism, and believe me dangerous thinking is not welcomed here, as for evolution which is cited as a theory, and people do not believe in it, I hope the same people feel in a similar way about Gravity then maybe one day they will just float away.