Sunday, June 12, 2005

Science for the people

Good morning, guys and gals, this is your favorite talk show host, Chet Raymo, with another round of chat with the real people of America. My guest this morning is Ernest Crank, president of Sensible Americans for a People's Science. Good morning, Ernest.

Good morning, Chet.

Tell us briefly, Ernest, what is SAPS?

SAPS wants to take science away from the entrenched, self-serving scientific establishment and give it back to the people. After all, it's taxpayers like us who pay the bill for science in this country, and we're mad as hell.

What are you mad at?

We're sick and tired of having a secular-humanist conspiracy jammed down our throats. For example, you've got all these Ph.D's in white coats telling us the universe is billions of years old. Most Americans know that's not true, yet we're supposed to pay for this so-called research that's anti-Bible, anti- family. . .

Anti-family?

Absolutely. Most scientific research undermines the moral fabric of our nation, calls into question the sacred God-given truths upon which this country was founded.

But wasn't Jefferson a man of science? Franklin?

It's time to throw the atheistic scientists out.

Who will do the research?

Let me tell you a story, Chet. My brother-in-law, Bob, has a theory that proves Einstein was wrong, based on a code he discovered in the Bible. Do you think he can get his theory published in a scientific journal? No. Can he get a government research grant? Forget it.

What are Bob's qualifications?

You don't need a Ph.D to figure out how the world works. What do quarks and galaxies have to do with raising a decent family, making an honest living? Who needs to know about DMA?

DNA.

Whatever.

Tell me, Ernest, what would you say to those who argue that scientific research is the basis for our nation's health and prosperity?

This nation is great because God made it great.

And curiosity? What about curiosity?

Curiosity is vastly overrated. Scientists are always going on about "secrets of the atom" and "secrets of the universe." I say there's too much poking into secrets. If God had meant us to know such things, he would have put them in our heads when we were born.

...Solving the energy crisis, protecting the environment, preventing cancer. . .?

Let's get the government out of our lives and off our backs.

But who's going to. . .?

Science in this country is a bloated tax-supported bureaucracy leading this great nation away from the path of God. You've got the National Science Foundation. The National Institutes of Health. The national accelerator labs. The national observatories. Billions and billions of dollars to find out stuff that most of us don't want to know.

Huh. . .?

Consider another example, Chet. All the polls tell us that more Americans are interested in astrology than astronomy, yet you don't find astrology in our childrens' science textbooks.

But there's no evidence that astrology works.

Of course there is evidence. I read my horoscope every morning, and it's almost always correct.

But every test of astrology that's remotely scientific. . ."

SAPS wants to give science back to the people. Let the people decide what's true.

OK, Ernest, we have our first caller on the line. It's Jerry, from Framingham. Hello, Jerry.

Hi, Chet. I picked up a copy of Science the other day -- the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science -- and I could hardly read a word. All a bunch of meanlingless symbols and mathematical equations. I'd like to ask Mr. Crank, how come scientists aren't working on important stuff like UFOs, alien abductions and the Da Vinci code?

Good question, Jerry. We at SAPS are wondering the same thing. . .

Further Reading

Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things is a good read. Shermer is the resident skeptic with Scientific American magazine.

Wendy Kaminer's Sleeping With Extra-terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety has something to offend everyone, including skeptics.

Student Activities

  1. Here is a list of statements, from my book Skeptics and True Believers, for which there is zero scientific evidence. Some of these statements you will perhaps believe to be true, others you will likely assume to be false. On what basis do you make that distinction?

    The Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

    Extra-sensory perception (ESP) is real.

    Humans were created by God essentially as they are today.

    Some of us lived earlier lives.

    UFOs probably have an extraterrestrial origin.

    Miracles happen.

    Our souls will spend eternity in heaven or hell.

    Human consciousness exists independently of the material brain.

    Certain religions are more favored by God than others.

    Horoscopes are based on real influences of the stars.

    God hears and sometimes answers our prayers.

    It is worth looking for the Loch Ness Monster.

    A personal creative force guides the evolution of the universe.

    The Egyptian pyramids may be the work of extraterrestrials.

    The spirits of the dead are still with us.

    The Bible (or Koran or other sacred text) is the word of God.

    Scientists will never create life in the laboratory.

    Certain people have the power to predict the future.

    Angels exist.

    The Apocalypse is imminent, perhaps at the year 2000.

Discuss this essay and more over on the Science Musings Blog.