Why the denialists have to be fought

The Crisis of Scientific Illiteracy:
[Via The Intersection]

As a Tufts alum, I was thrilled to read The crisis of scientific illiteracy by Michael Shusterman in The Tufts Daily. It’s a terrific piece describing why the disconnect between science and American culture is so vital to address immediately. He begins:

Today the United States is faced with a serious crisis in scientific literacy and education. In the midst of debate over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, health care reform and the economy, this issue has receded further and further into the background. And yet the topic remains as salient as it has ever been. Our world is driven by scientific innovation and technology. Twenty-first century economies will be knowledge-based, science-oriented and dependent on workers in sectors like energy, biological sciences and information technology. The early by-products of this paradigm shift are already evident with the advent of personalized genetic testing, pharmacogenomic research, hybrid vehicles, advanced power sources and hundreds of other innovations and discoveries.

He goes on to discuss science literacy and the implications of a public that cannot grasp concepts like evolution or keep up with emerging fields such as genetics. Michael considers competitiveness with China and India and points out we may be falling behind in an increasingly globalized world. He also names many of the social and historical reasons that led to the current crisis which Chris and I have also outlined in Unscientific America.


Denialists spend much of their time denouncing the very things we need to maintain our strengths. Many are currently smearing any scientist who does not follow the denialist’s worldview.

They revel in ignorance and display a real lack of analytical skills. They attempt to deny reality.

This book aptly describes the problems. Here is Amazon’s description:

The Culture Wars Are Over and the Idiots Have Won.

A veteran journalist’s acidically funny, righteously angry lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States.

In the midst of a career-long quest to separate the smart from the pap, Charles Pierce had a defining moment at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he observed a dinosaur. Wearing a saddle… But worse than this was when the proprietor exclaimed to a cheering crowd, “We are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!” He knew then and there it was time to try and salvage the Land of the Enlightened, buried somewhere in this new Home of the Uninformed.

With his razor-sharp wit and erudite reasoning, Pierce delivers a gut-wrenching, side-splitting lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States, and how a country founded on intellectual curiosity has somehow deteriorated into a nation of simpletons more apt to vote for an American Idol contestant than a presidential candidate.

With Idiot America, Pierce’s thunderous denunciation is also a secret call to action, as he hopes that somehow, being intelligent will stop being a stigma, and that pinheads will once again be pitied, not celebrated.

We have had
Luddites and we have had Know-Nothings. I wonder what the name will be for this era’s worshippers of idiocy?

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