Carrie: For the second year in a row, the Idaho House of Representatives Education Committee has altered the proposed science standards for public schools by removing some of the language linking human activity to global warming.
Jerry: Why do they object when most scientists agree with that?
Carrie: Even though the standards were created by a committee of Idaho’s award-winning teachers and scientists, some legislators resist accepting them because they conflict with their religious, political or other beliefs.
Jerry: Resistance to scientific findings has been happening for centuries. George Bernard Shaw once wrote “All great truths begin as blasphemies.”
Carrie: Can you give me some examples?
Jerry: For centuries, we thought the earth was flat. But Columbus didn’t sail off the edge…after all.
Jerry: Contrary to 17th century religious beliefs, the sun didn’t revolve around the earth. When Galileo offered proof that the earth revolved around the sun, he was called to Rome by the Catholic Church to face the Inquisition and threatened with life imprisonment.
Carrie: Given an “offer he couldn’t refuse,” he recanted.
Jerry: It took 350 years for the Vatican to apologize and say “Galileo was right.”
Carrie: I hope we don’t have to wait 350 years for our Legislature to accept the standards as written by Idaho’s scientists and science teachers!
Jerry: Moving on to more current times, remember what happened in the ’50s when scientists linked smoking to cancer? The tobacco industry launched a decades-long campaign of disinformation to deny the findings. Nowadays, it’s accepted fact that smoking causes lung cancer.
Carrie: Which brings us back to our current issue: the fight over what’s causing climate change.
Jerry: According to NASA’s website, 97 percent of climate scientists who publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals agree that “climate warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
Carrie: Who’s saying that?
Jerry: The American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Medical Association, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, Geological Society of America, US National Academy of Sciences, and 200 worldwide scientific associations, to name some. Go to www.climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus.
Carrie: Wow, that’s impressive. I’d rather get my scientific information from that group than radio host Rush Limbaugh, whom Rep. Dell Raybould quoted as his source for climate change knowledge.
Jerry: That’s precisely the problem. Our legislators are well-intentioned public servants, not scientists.
Carrie: Leading the opposition to the science standards climate change references was Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell. He was quoted saying, “I don’t care if the students come up with a conclusion that the world is flat — as long as it’s their conclusion, not something that’s told to them.”
Jerry: I disagree with Rep. Syme. Reaching a conclusion isn’t the same as reaching a scientifically rigorous conclusion.
Carrie: At the recent House Education Committee hearing, Boise State University professor and science textbook writer Dr. Leslie Elliott (Ph.D. in physics) asked the education committee legislators a science question. When they couldn’t answer it, she explained “You probably didn’t know it…and you’re not expected to. You are legislators, not scientists.”
Jerry: That illustrates why it’s important for Idaho’s professionally-trained science teachers and scientists to establish the science standards, not our legislators.
Carrie: Reminds me of what the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.”
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Jerry is a retired farmer/rancher and native Idahoan. Carrie is a retired nonprofit administrator. They live in Idaho Falls.
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