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National Center for Science Education: The Don Quixote of "Science"

Plugging his new article in Earth magazine, "Defending science: The link between creationism and climate change," the National Center for Science Education's (NCSE) Steven Newton writes that all Darwin skeptics are really "creationists." And he says all skeptics of catastrophic, man-made climate change are really "climate change deniers." To complete the mislabeling trifecta, he says that both of these groups are just "science deniers" at bottom. "Science deniers" are the NCSE's new specialty.

"Science denial" sounds scary, and perhaps contagious, but the NCSE has since 1983 trafficked profitably in the "anti-evolution" trade. So why change focus now? Why mess with a good thing? Because "science deniers accuse the scientific community of accepting evolution and climate change because of ideological prejudices, not on the basis of evidence." And this, Steve Newton says, amounts to "an attack on science itself."

Here's the essence of the new alarmist campaign. Science itself is good, obviously. So "an attack on science itself" is bad, really bad, much worse than "creationism" and "anti-evolution," the NCSE's usual suspects. Won't you, dear potential donor, please help the NCSE do the greatest good by funding our battle against the greatest evil, the combined anti-science forces of anti-evolution and anti-climate change? Someone in the NCSE's Oakland office deserved a nice bonus for that enterprise-expanding pitch.

Quixote.jpgYet when did the current beliefs, whatever those are, of the current scientific community, who or whatever that is, become the same thing as "science itself?" Did we succeed in locating "science itself?" Have we all finally settled on what counts as "evidence" and how it will be weighed?

Despite the science-y paean to "evidence," is it anywhere to be found at the NCSE? Will the NCSE contest in a scientific manner the scientific evidence and argument presented in Science and Human Origins, a book that undermines the facile textbook accounts of human evolution? Of course not. The NCSE doesn't actually deal in science or science education, its (ironic) name notwithstanding.

Rather, like modern crusaders the NCSE creates threats to civilization that it might "heroically" vanquish them -- not unlike a certain literary figure who tilted at windmills thinking them giants. So you'll kindly excuse our suspicion of "the scientific community" to the extent that its interests are represented in the public square by the NCSE, the Don Quixote of "science."