Looks like I just can’t keep my thoughts to myself anymore!
Tony Blair in an interview (summary, full text, podcast) with New Scientist tells of his difficulties with science at school and his new found appreciation for it since becoming a political leader. He talks about his ideas for getting children and business more involved with science across the board and expresses his confidence in the public’s ability to see scientist’s point of view following healthy debates around issues such as stem cell research and GM crops.
But he also dismisses questions on the movement away from rational thought and increases in religious fundamentalism.
In certain areas, we seem to be moving further away from rational thought, whether it’s the rise of fundamentalist religious beliefs or the use of unproven alternative therapies. Do you see any shift in this direction?
I don’t. I think most people today have a rational view about science. My advice for the scientific community would be, fight the battles you need to fight.
He raises as an example homeopathy, saying a battle over that isn’t going to change the world, which may be the case, and he may be right that most people aren’t anti-science, but the problem is, that the people that are have both influence and power in our society. This lack of understanding is highlighted by the answer to the next question.
One subject that is of great concern to scientists is creationism. There has been a suggestion that creationism is being taught in some British schools. What are your views on this?
This can be hugely exaggerated. I’ve visited one of the schools in question and as far as I’m aware they are teaching the curriculum in a normal way. If I notice creationism become the mainstream of the education system in this country then that’s the time to start worrying.
This shows a deep disconnect with the problem at hand; we need only look at the United States to see that. Their Christian right has so much influence and power that they can continually push creationism into science classrooms across the country despite a constitutional defined separation of church and state. If it wasn’t for the dedicated teachers, professors and scientists across America fighting this battle I have no doubt that they would have succeeded by now.
I would normally say "where America goes we are never far behind" but in this case we are leading the way. There are several schools in the UK that already teach both creationism and evolution in the science class, and as such we cannot accept that this problem is hugely exaggerated. When we have organisations such as Truth in Science, funded by people like The Discovery Institute who are sending "Information Packs" to every science department in the country pushing bad science, lies and creationism wrapped up in new moniker, we cannot accept that the time to worry is when this becomes mainstream; by the time it becomes mainstream, it will be far too late!
We lost the first battle without even noticing, lets hope we don’t lose the war.