GOP war on science victim: Rachel Carson

May 14, 2007

Some people do things that are so stupid that one wonders how they manage to shave or put make-up on the next morning, having to look at their own face.

Mugshot of Utah Rep. Rob Bishop

Mugshot of Utah Rep. Rob Bishop

53 Republican representatives voted against naming the post office in Springdale, Pennsylvania, after Rachel Carson, the scientist who wrote Silent Spring, generally considered one of the most important or most influential scientists of the 20th century. No kidding. Springdale is Carson’s hometown.

2007 is the centennial of Carson’s birth — her birthday was May 27. (The bill, H.R. 1434, passed, 334-53.)

Why did the Wacky 53 vote against the honor for Carson, who got the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980? In an earnest ritual of voodoo science, they claim that bans on DDT kill millions, and that DDT is harmless. No, I’m not making this uphere’s the story from the Salt Lake Tribune, which covers territory represented by Rep. Rob Bishop and Rep. Chris Cannon, both R-Utah:

They contend that Carson’s actions – which led to a ban on the chemical DDT used to kill pests – actually has caused more deaths because of malaria and other diseases spread by insects. DDT, Carson wrote, was detrimental to the environment and to humans. Some scientists say DDT led to the California condor’s near-extinction.

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Another intelligent design advocate denied tenure

May 14, 2007

News out of Ames, Iowa, is that intelligent design advocate, physicist and astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, was denied tenure at Iowa State University.

Advocates of intelligent design will argue this as evidence of a bias against counter ideas, part of a massive, monolithic conspiracy to hide the truth about intelligent design. Gonzalez will be more circumspect, at least until his appeal of the tenure denial is finished.

Another friend of intelligent design, Dr. Francis Beckwith, a philosopher, was originally denied tenure at Baylor last year. His appeal was successful, however, and he now has tenure at Baylor, though he is moving from the Institute for Church State Relations to the philosophy department. Beckwith also made a splash in conservative evangelical news recently when he made public his return to the Catholic church.

I can’t speak for Iowa State, but it has been my experience that professors who get tangled up in crank science projects get distracted from the work that will get them tenure. While faculty certainly have free speech rights to advocate causes, much of the backing for intelligent design is sub-standard academically, or even bogus.  Such advocacy does not help a case for tenure.

Advocates argue that Gonzalez has more than enough publications to meet the standards set by Iowa State, but the numbers do not account for how many of the publications may be in suspect journals that support intelligent design, nor do they account for the publicity an ardent ID advocate brings to a department which is often unwanted. Faculty at Iowa State collected 120 signatures on a petition disowning intelligent design, in what they billed was an attempt to convince the outside world that Iowa State is not “an intelligent design school.”

ID advocates frequently miss the point that science is not a game of racking up publication points, and that the quality and accuracy of the research also plays an important role in tenure decisions.

Wailing and gnashing, and perhaps rending of garments, from the ID group should begin any moment now.

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