The Constitution of our Democracy (The right to vote one's ignorance) has, in Section 8 - Powers of Congress its only reference to science:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
Contrary to what most people think, human existence on the planet is increasingly and ineluctably to be determined by science and science alone -opinion (and its related 'ignorance') eventually
vestigializing out of existence.
What the article here effectively says is that ours is a nation run almost entirely by ignorance -and our scientists (and mathematicians) are not much better: Turn them away from their laboratories and blackboards, and their
beliefs are no better than those of the man on the street -politics, religion, ethnicity, opinion, whatever.
31 July 2009: Science Magazine
News of the Week
Universities Begin to Rethink First-Year Biology Courses
Introductory biology courses are often the last academic exposure nonscience majors at U.S. colleges have to science. Unfortunately, say science educators, the courses too often leave a bad taste in the mouths of students who spend more time in lectures
than on experiential learning and in regurgitating facts rather than understanding the concepts behind them. As voters, those graduates apply their misconceptions of science to shape national policies
on everything from evolution to stem cell research. So improving introductory biology is seen as a critical step toward raising the nation's scientific literacy.
In 2006, the National Science Foundation (NSF) began an initiative to do just that. This month, 500 researchers, educators, and policymakers met in Washington, D.C., at a conference sponsored by NSF and AAAS (which publishes Science) to
assess how far they have come. The consensus: There's still a long way to go.
Correcting the problem, speakers agreed, will require changing a deep-rooted academic culture that values research over teaching and makes little provision for doing a good job in the classroom. "We hire new faculty with big start-up
packages and expect them to set up their labs and get going on their research," explained Joan Lorden, provost of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Then we say, ‘Here's your course load. And by the way, we'd like you to be an innovative
instructor.’ But rarely do we give them the support they need to succeed."
NSF's education directorate funds a slew of programs aimed at improving undergraduate instruction across disciplines, and in recent years the agency's biology directorate has begun to tap into those efforts. At the conference, biology
chief James Collins described his plans to ramp up support for improving undergraduate biology. Assuming congressional approval of NSF's 2010 budget, Collins hopes to spend an additional $10 million next year on a variety of activities, including
mentoring, curriculum development, and research experiences for students as well as faculty development. This month, for example, NSF announced a new competition for $50,000 "incubator" grants that would allow researchers and educators to work up a
full-fledged proposal to carry out such improvements. The biology directorate is also hoping to join the education directorate in funding a university-based center to improve undergraduate retention and graduation rates among science majors, with special
attention to underrepresented minorities.
Participants said they hoped to use the conference to shore up support for reforms already under way on their campuses. But they were realistic about the availability of resources. "I heard about one terrific program that could be a
model for us. But it costs $5 million over 5 years," notes Eric Stabb of the University of Georgia, Athens. "And I'm sure my dean doesn't have that kind of money lying around. But now we can use the conference to hammer the administration on the need to
do more. And if we make a good case, maybe the state legislature can find the money."
Talk is cheap, agrees Collins, reminding participants that the burden is on them to sustain and scale up their reforms: "If anything is going to happen, it's because you will decide to do something."