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Editorial Government Politics Science Technology

The Decline of Science and Technology in America 1347

Posted by Zonk
from the not-so-good dept.
puke76 writes "There's a good article over on the BBC about the decline of science and technology in the U.S.. Vint Cerf and others are going on record to voice their concerns about the current administrations recipe for 'irrelevance and decline.' Scientists are increasingly concerned about the White House's pandering to the religious right at science's expense. From the article: 'radically we have moved away from regulation based on professional analysis of scientific data ...to regulation controlled by the White House and driven by political considerations.'"
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The Decline of Science and Technology in America

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  • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:11PM (#13383156) Homepage

    There's a saying that I hear a lot of religious people say: "You reap what you sow". Ironic then that in this case America gets precisely what it sows. You teach kids that ID is science and you get crappy scientists. You cut the percentage of GDP spent on RND and you get less nobel prize winners. You ignore the science of economics and you end up with a huge current account deficit which will take a decade to repay. You ignore the *fact* that human produced carbon dioxide is warming the earth and you wreck your environment just in time for your grandchildren.

    America is at a cross-roads of sorts. It can choose to be the The Christian Republic of America or the United States of America. It seems as time goes on these options are becoming more and more mutually exclusive. The religious fanatics are intent on replacing the textbook with the Bible. The atheist fanatics (yes they do exist) are intent on removing any shred of religion from public life.

    The next fifty years are going to be interesting. Will the US continue to train world class scientists and be a home for the creative? Or will the US sink in to irrevelence through placing religious dogma before pragmatism.

    The condom policy in Africa makes me think the latter rather than the former.

    Simon.

    • by duffbeer703 (177751) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:17PM (#13383211)
      The US will be irrelevant. US dominance is based on money, and we are exporting money to the Near and Far East at a record clip.

      How long could our high tech army, navy and air force equipment stay operational if the Chinese refused to export any electronics?
    • by McDutchie (151611) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:20PM (#13383240) Homepage

      Parent is insightful, not flamebait. For a good example of what happens when science and enlightenment are replaced by theology and repression, just look at the Middle East. The Arab world was the cornerstone of world civilization in the Middle Ages -- they invented the zero, we still use Arabic digits, they were astronomers and mathematicians, and they initiated the Renaissance by preserving ancient Greek and Roman writings. But they let all that slip and became mostly a bunch of backward theocracies instead. America is next if it continues on this road.

      • by Fiver- (169605) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:31PM (#13383369)
        Early Christianity had the same effect in Europe...

        "It is owing to this long interregnum of science, and to no other cause, that we have now to look back through a vast chasm of many hundred years to the respectable characters we call the Ancients. Had the progression of knowledge gone on proportionably with the stock that before existed, that chasm would have been filled up with characters rising superior in knowledge to each other; and those Ancients we now so much admire would have appeared respectably in the background of the scene. But the christian system laid all waste; and if we take our stand about the beginning of the sixteenth century, we look back through that long chasm, to the times of the Ancients, as over a vast sandy desert, in which not a shrub appears to intercept the vision to the fertile hills beyond."

        -Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
        • by starling (26204) <strayling20@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:09PM (#13383781)
          [...]a shrub appears to intercept the vision to the fertile hills beyond.

          Nostradamus eat your heart out. Looks like Paine was quite the prophet.

        • by Mauz (869660) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:44PM (#13384088)
          I work with 45 people from around the world and with the exception of three people, all have Masters or higher education. What is interesting is that about 53% of us were educated in church run schools up through the 12th (or equivalent) grade. From my limited sample, I don't think that religion backed education is a bad thing. Nor do I think that personal moral behavior based on the tennats of a relgion are bad.

          However, I think the problem is when a religious institution no longer concerns itself with helping people but decides that it should dictate to people that we are in trouble. I'll go so far as to apply this to all systems of belief that fall into the religious catagory. If the system of belief must protect itself by demanding that people act in a certain way and seek the power of the government to enforce that behavior, that system of belief should be burned at the stake.

          But then, what do I know. I was raised a conservative Christian, but God and I have our doubts about each other.
          • by Himring (646324) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @07:54AM (#13388258) Homepage Journal
            I'm sorta answering things in general here that I've spied throughout this thread:

            Quaint are these arguments pinning all the woes of the Western world on religion, on Christianity. Typically, Christianity is blamed for any and all murders, genocides, etc. I find that systems void of any deity are quite effective at slaughtering people too, thus we had millions killed, murdered, exterminated under fascism/communism (and whatever "ism" Pol Pot ran).

            In the Abolition of Man Lewis argues that there has always been a string of truth throughout civilization (citing there is only one civilization). He calls this the Tao and argues that it has always existed and keeps cropping up no matter what in whatever religious form. Kant's paradox points this out as he compares the mystery of the starry heavens to the mystery of the moral law within. We just can't escape it -- this need to do and be right, so, call it what you will, but Christianity is simply another form of it (no one ever said it was perfect).

            Lewis goes on to note that, for the first time ever, the Tao is actually under attack and in jeopardy of being done away with -- that this is a unique event in history. This is exactly what happened the last century in Germany, the USSR and Cambodia -- Taoless (The Tao being a general concept of a supernatural force we must answer to) systems took over the minds of humanity (yes, even in Cambodia -- oddly). Now, people died, and, sure, people died under religions too, but the fact remains that, for the first time ever, people were killed, en mass, not for land, not for belief, not for any reason other than the fact that they no longer should exist on the planet. The Jewish Holocaust is the best example of this. It was killing, for the first time ever, with the goal of entirely eliminating a certain people from the planet. Say what you will, but all other wars and conflicts had another, primary, goal.

            In short, Christianity may suck, religion may suck, but these have never produced the goal which a Taoless system has produced, nor has ever such a dismal concept been conceived in any religion.

            Irreligious systems, Taoless systems (communism, fascism, etc.), surprisingly, have the same goals as religion. They simply don't want a god to be any part of the solution, but this causes the paradox of demanding the function of a heart without having a heart. We simply don't behave very well on our own without the thought that we will, eventually, answer to a higher force. It is the brain that feeds the stomach through the heart. We remove the organ and demand the function.... We castrate and then demand the gelding procreate -- it simply cannot happen. Or, Lewis puts it another way, "what makes a man sit in the trench through the 6th hour of bombardment for God and country?" which he answers, "what else can make a man sit through the 6th hour of bombardment but God and country?" (These quotes from memory). This leads into thought that along with religion comes concepts of country, nationhood, family, etc. One could argue that we are moving beyond these hindrances -- that the American Civil War marked the end of state-centeredness and into nationhood, or that the end of WWII marked the end of nationhood and into a global community. Indeed, perhaps we are moving beyond god, beyond the boundaries of answering to such a force, but without the heart -- without these pesky religions -- it is an ominous world looming wherein there is no great parent up there to whom we must answer, where Nietzsche's ubermensch will create his own world, in his own likeness and the final minorities who don't look like me must be removed as so much infestation.

            I empathize with Voltaire who witnessed the horror of a flawed religion, a flawed Christianity. I empathize with Bultmann who attempted to save the embattled faith from itself, but at the end of the day Kant's "moral law within" cannot be escaped, nor can it be supplanted with a godless system based on what's best
      • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:33PM (#13383388)
        ...they invented the zero

        ... and Microsoft patented it.

      • by northcat (827059) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:46PM (#13383524) Journal
        They didn't invent zero, the Indians did and you aren't using their digit, you're using Indian digits. The Arabs just brought it to Europe and that's why it's called "Arabic Numerals". Just Google for it, or look up the Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org]. And as a non-European, I'd say you're giving too much credit to them for your achievements (assuming that you're a European/American).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Scientific study is supposed to be objective. Measurements such as quantity of U.S. (citizens? residents? natives?) Nobel Prize winners are subjective. The question "Is religion to blame for our crappy scientists?" is about as fair as "When will you stop beating your wife?" The premise bears a bad assumption. If a question with such an assumption (like "what factors make $skin_color1 people less intelligent than $skin_color2?") were proposed for a scientific graduate study, it would be rightly turned dow
    • by Quill_28 (553921) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:23PM (#13383275) Journal
      What I find intersting in your post in that America is at a crossroads to choose which way to go.

      What do you think America has been that last 200 years? Christian-Judism has always had a strong influence on America the influence is less and les each year.

      Do you think the ten commandants were recently put up in court houses? Do you think pray in school is a recent thing.

      Do you the Bibles being taken out of school is a recent thing?

      When was the Conressional minister put in place?

      And yet somehow over the last 200 years America was at the fore front of science and technology.

      Take any shred of religion out of the government, but don't tell me our forefathers or constitution says it should be that way.

      • Seven of the nine U.S. founding fathers denied the divinity of Jesus. There are many other examples of their reluctance towards religion. I doubt they'd be super thrilled with the Bush administration's attitudes towards scientific inquiry.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:43PM (#13383489) Journal
        Take any shred of religion out of the government, but don't tell me our forefathers or constitution says it should be that way.

        The Founding Fathers seemed to think differently:

        "[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom ... was finally passed, ... a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination."
        Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821.

        "The clergy, by getting themselves established by law, and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man. They are still so in many countries and even in some of these United States. Even in 1783, we doubted the stability of our recent measures for reducing them to the footing of other useful callings. It now appears that our means were effectual."
        Thomas Jefferson, 1800

        "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution."
        James Madison, 1785

        "As I have now given you my reasons for believing that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is a falsehood, I have a right to ask you your reasons for believing the contrary; but I know you can give me none, except that you were educated to believe the Bible; and as the Turks give the same reason for believing the Koran, it is evident that education makes all the difference, and that reason and truth have nothing to do in the case. You believe in the Bible from the accident of birth, and the Turks believe in the Koran from the same accident, and each calls the other infidel. But leaving the prejudice of education out of the case, the unprejudiced truth is, that all are infidels who believe falsely of God, whether they draw their creed from the Bible, or from the Koran, from the Old Testament, or from the New."
        "It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so. The Koran says, that God spake unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No. Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don't is all the reason you can give for believing or disbelieving except that you will say that Mahomet was an impostor. And how do you know Moses was not an impostor?"
        Thomas Paine, 1797

        "The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
        George Washington, Treaty of Tripoli

        You know what's missing from American education besides a good grounding in the sciences? Even the tiniest bit of knowledge as to the opinions, beliefs and motives of the Founding Fathers, who must stand as being the most misunderstood men in history.

        • by the_skywise (189793) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:24PM (#13383924)
          "You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention. "
          George Washington 1779

          "I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way."
          James Madison 1773

          "Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this."
          Benjamin Franklin (who, let it be known to all the gentle readers, was decidedly NOT a Christian or a religious man)

          Jefferson was an atheist.

          You know what's missing from American Education? Even the tiniest bit of knowledge about how to think for yourself.
          • by d34thm0nk3y (653414) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:43PM (#13384080)
            There is no conflict between the two sets of quotes. It is possible to have a belief yet not wish to enforce it through the threat of violence (the only force a government actually controls).
          • by Temsi (452609) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:46PM (#13384112) Journal
            Their religious beliefs are irrelevant.

            What is relevant, is that they knew first hand what kind of problems limiting religious freedom generated, so they made a big point of ensuring nobody in this experiment we call The United States of America would be persecuted or discriminated against for his religious beliefs, or lack thereof.
            Sadly, the GOP of late seems to ignore the "lack thereof" part, and in many instances the "religious beliefs" part as well if it doesn't match the distorted ideas they have of what Christianity should be.

            Freedom of religion means you can subscribe to any faith you want, or none at all. Freedom of religion also means freedom FROM religion.

            It also means the government does not have the right to encourage religion over none, or one religion over another. This is exactly why the 1st amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

            Translation: No laws can be made that specifically discriminate against or benefit religion or religious beliefs.

            Injecting religion into poltics is an extremely bad idea.
          • by Wazukkithemaster (826055) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @06:02PM (#13384243)
            you know whats missing in your post? government. You quoted the founding fathers but not in relation to the country which they created, but rather, in relation to their opinions/personal beleifs, with the exception of the last bit of washington , which i looked up for fun and found that he was speaking to native americans (the deleware) who wished to teach their children how to be more westernized/civilized. That is some mighty important political context.
        • by dammy (131759) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:39PM (#13384044)
          "The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
          George Washington, Treaty of Tripoli

          Shame that is from Barlow's fraudulent translation. None of the existing copies of that treaty show that at all. See http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/5/9/ 212811.shtml [newsmax.com]

          BTW, it wasn't George Washington, but John Adams who signed that treaty.

          Dammy
          And no, I'm no a Christian, I am a Pagan.

        • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:53PM (#13384170) Journal
          This, not Christianity, is the American religious cult. The belief that the Founding Fathers (capitalized of course) were gods and that every litle thing they said actually matters today in a world that they couldn't possibly understand. Different factions claiming that their group, and no other, really understood what they meant. The constant recourse to original intentions in the modern high tech world as if the acquired wisdom and knowledge of the intervening 200 years was completely irrelevant. The repeated quotations about freedom from slaveholders and middle class landholders whose main care was for their own financial interests and the interests of their social class. And the complete inability to step out of this groupthink so that both conservatives and radicals are almost completely incapable of imagining anything written by a Founding Father as anything other than axiomatic truth.

          Not that I'm 100% negative about this religion. There is no doubt that the US has been economically successful as a result and that the liberties of Americans are at least on a par with some European countries.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:44PM (#13383501)
        Take any shred of religion out of the government, but don't tell me our forefathers or constitution says it should be that way.

        Considering the large number of Atheists and Deists that were amoung their ranks, I'd say the only reason they DIDN'T say it should be that way was because it wasn't a popular opinion. It still isn't.

        Of the brightest minds I've come upon, almost all have been Atheists, Agnostic, or Deist. Few would admit it publically, however, in fear of creating enemies in the religious fanatics that abound.

        In our line of work, that kind of tension in the work place is very dangerous.

        It's kind of sad when you're smarter, nicer, more honest, and better educated than the many people around you, yet you have to conceal your true beliefs out of fear of persecution.

        The Constitution grants us the freedom to believe (or NOT) as we choose. Why then is it that despite your claims that the religious influence is shrinking that it becomes more and more difficult (and more dangerous) to openly proclaim one's Atheism?

        When our government takes actions influenced by religious beliefs they are essentially denying the Athiests their rights. Not imposing those beliefs on the masses does not hinder one's right to worship. Figure it out. There is only one constitutionally correct way to handle this, religious people just don't care about anyone else's rights but their own. Somewhat ironic, I would say.

        Posting AC for obvious reasons...
      • Choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by simpl3x (238301) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:46PM (#13383522)
        Many of the people who came to America were not religious conservatives, but religious liberals. The quakers, for example, were prosecuted for their views on organized religion. See this link [fgcquaker.org] for example. Your comments are exactly what the religious right would have us believe, that religion should be the core of our government, when in fact it was founded by people who got the harsh edge of that stick. The basis of our government is freedom of religion, not freedom to choose a state religion.

        I stay out of peoples bedrooms and churchs, for the very reason that I don't want others in mine!
      • by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:48PM (#13383550) Homepage
        Actually no, 200 years ago Christianity in America was absolutely nowhere near as strong as it is today. The modern evangelical American Christian movement mostly stems from the Second Great Awakening of the 1810-1820s or so; it's been getting stronger since then but didn't have much of any presence before 200 years ago. Meanwhile Christianity as a force directly in politics-- that is, Christianity acting politically in its own interest, as opposed to politicians or political movements who incidentally happen to be Christian or have Christian supporters-- is an even more recent development, one that's really even hard to identify existing in anything even remotely like the form it takes today before the 1970s or so.

        What you are saying, that America has always been a Christian nation the way it is today, is a nice little fairy tale, but it simply isn't true. Members of the Christian political movement that have hijacked America's politics in the last 45 years try to pretend that the spot they hold is their divine right and that they have always held it, that oceania has always been at war with eurasia, but the fact is a political member of the SBC stranded 200 years ago would be nothing but a ranting street preacher. Drop them 225 years ago among the deist-packed "founding fathers" that people are always trying to lay claim to, and they'd be even worse off...

        Take any shred of religion out of the government, but don't tell me our forefathers or constitution says it should be that way.

        Our "forefathers" and the constitutional law they wrote say it should be that way, in very specific terms:
        Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion
      • by slavemowgli (585321) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:49PM (#13383552) Homepage

        And yet somehow over the last 200 years America was at the fore front of science and technology.

        No, it hasn't. It's been at the forefront for the last 70 years or so, but that's mostly due to the nazi's rise to power, which caused a big wave of immigration of European scientists.

        Now, please don't take this as flamebait; I don't intend to say that the USA don't have their own brilliant minds or that they didn't have them before the nazis, but I think that the current situation, where the USA, which account for less than 5% of the world's population, are the scientific center of the world, so to speak, is in no small part due to the fact that many top scientists did go to the USA back then.

        In the future, over time, things will shift again. Not necessarily back to Europe, but India and China, for example (both nations with more than a billion inhabitants, which is more than the USA, Canada, Australia, Europe and Japan have combined) will definitely leave us behind them in terms of scientific significance.

        Basing politics on religion rather than science is just gonna speed that up even further.

      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:52PM (#13384154)

        ...It's the attitude that says this:

        And yet somehow over the last 200 years America was at the fore front of science and technology.

        The single biggest negative perception about the US that I experience here in Europe is the collective ego represented by the way the US government conducts itself, and the comments made by so many Americans in many an Internet forum. Here are a few claims I've seen in the past week alone:

        • The US is the only economic superpower in the world, and supports the economies of all the other nations.
        • The US leads the world in production of everyday consumables.
        • The US leads the world in production of luxuries.
        • The US leads the world in scientific research and invented everything from cars to the Internet almost single-handed.
        • The US is a world centre for the arts.
        • The US is the only military superpower in the world, and therefore has a responsibility to act as the world's policeman.

        Now here's an alternative version, as seen by the devil's advocate:

        • The US is the biggest liability in the world economy, with an imminent crash brought on by a combination of personal greed and poor government that will leave millions economically desperate.
        • The US produces little except lawsuits, which it loves so much that it seeks to impose legislation to further its own business interests on other countries throughout the world.
        • The US refuses to accept its responsibility for global environmental damage, because it would hurt the pockets of its big business, which is responsible for much of that damage.
        • The US throws its military might around like a toy, and then complains like a spoiled child when someone fights back.
        • The US claims to spread democracy, yet holds presidential elections so biased towards two near-identical candidates that the only thing separating them is how effectively they rigged the impossible ballots.
        • The US is fighting a war on terror, yet has consistently been the biggest state sponsor of terrorism for decades, and remains the only nation in history ever to have actually used a weapon of mass destruction that cost millions of civilian lives.
        • The US claims to value the rights of individuals, yet flouts its own constitution on a regular basis for the benefit of big business, never mind the number of foreign citizens it still holds without charge or trial at Gitmo.
        • And here's the killer: the average US citizen is in complete denial about all of this, and considers saying it to be a personal insult rather than a statement of fact.

        Seriously, this isn't meant to be a troll. That first list really is the impression a lot of Americans I've encountered give, and the second list is certainly how the US is increasingly perceived here in the UK.

        The problem for this discussion, of course, is that being a world leader in scientific research depends fundamentally on three things: attracting good people, getting them in touch with everyone else's good people, and funding them well enough to do their thing. Pissing off the rest of the world and destroying your economy from within probably aren't the best ways to achieve any of those three critical things. Yeah, I'd say the US is pretty much toast for a while as far as leading the world in scientific research.

        • by shiftless (410350) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @07:33PM (#13385078) Homepage
          You are correct. Sad, but true. Disclaimer: I am an American. I don't know what people are like where you're from, but most of them here are idiots. They believe what the preacher, government, teacher, etc tells them to believe, and defend it fervently. Growing up, all I ever heard was that the U.S. is the freest country in the world, the U.S. is the best, etc etc. Bullshit, no it's not. The U.S. is 99% fucking idiots who sit on the couch, watch Survivor, and basically do everything except anything requiring thought or effort, and the 1% people with brains, willpower, and the ability to think for themselves, who employ the other 99%. The sad part is, most of the 99% are perfectly content to be peons and live in subdivisions and suburbs with 1000 other people who have the same house, floor plan, and lot. Pathetic.

          Americans, in general, are the masters at expending every effort to not have to think or do anything. Example: The Atkins Diet. Nowhere else in the world will you find people who will invent crazy ass, unhealthy diets, count carbohydrates, and generally jump through hoops to accomplish what could easily be done (more healthily, too) by GETTING OFF YOUR FAT ASS AND DOING SOMETHING.

          America is going down the toilet, slowly but surely. I hope it dies the painful, agonizing death it so richly deserves, WITHOUT fucking up the rest of the world first. It pisses me off though, because I love this country, and I hate to see the idiots destroy it. But there is nothing I can do to stop them.
    • by jjoyce (4103) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:26PM (#13383310)
      As a concerned American, I'm not reading all that.
    • by On Lawn (1073) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:32PM (#13383373) Journal
      Blame Canada, or religion. Which ever your bogeyman of the day is.

      You teach kids that ID is science and you get crappy scientists.

      Where is ID being taught?

      Private Catholic schools (for instance) have higher aptitude scores for math and science. Public schools do not teach ID.

      The state of public schools in America can hardly be blamed on religion since religion plays an infinitesimal part of the curriculum. Teaching to the lowest common denominator along with a general malaise in interest in science among kids is a much larger part of the determination of the curriculum.
    • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@y a h o o . c om> on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:32PM (#13383381)
      America is at a cross-roads of sorts. It can choose to be the The Christian Republic of America or the United States of America.

      Oh blah blah blah. People say this every generation, because they don't realize people have said it every generation. America is always at some kind of crossroads. And you know what? It usually comes out pretty okay.

      The political pendulum swings back and forth. Always has. But this country has never been particularly liberal, except maybe for a brief period in the late 1960's and early 1970's that was mainly a reaction to the Vietnam War (and the same thing may happen again in a few years). People talk about how even Democrats today are basically conservatives - well, who the hell do you think dropped the atom bomb on Japan? It wasn't a Republican.

      The point being, this is a conservative country. Get used to it. It's always been that way, going back to its founding - remember, this country exists because people needed somewhere to go to practice their religion. The freedom to not practice religion was added later.

      This is not to say I share this view - on most issues (not all), I'm about as liberal as it gets in this country. But I've been around long enough to see several swings of the pendulum, to live through several wars, and to know that nothing that's going on right now is really all that unusual in the grand scheme of things. Sure, if you take a 10 year view, things aren't so hot right now for us liberals and scientific thinkers. Maybe even with a 50 year view we'd be at or near a low point. But those of us who lived through Vietnam (and I was young, but I do remember it) and the aftermath know how bad things can really get in terms of ideology, the economy, and yes, even science. This that we're in now, this is nothing. A blip on the radar.

      So, before you come up with these dramatic proclamations about how America's at a "crossroads" and you predict we'll take the wrong path and eventually fade into irrelevance, remember all the times people before you said those exact same things, and remember how dumb they sounded even five years later.

      America is simply doing what it always does, going through the motions of trying to find a balance of values that appeals to its people. Those values may not be your values, but they're really no different than ever. It's a balance that can never truly be attained, though, so you will see things shift back and forth periodically. We are just at the extreme edge of one of those shifts right now, but from a historical viewpoint I really don't see that this is anything unusual.
      • by laird (2705) <lairdp AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:33PM (#13383994) Journal
        "this country exists because people needed somewhere to go to practice their religion. The freedom to not practice religion was added later."

        This is incorrect. The founding fathers knew first-hand the dangers of religious power, which is why the only mention of religion in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution was to make sure that "no religious test" would be required for public office. The first ammendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". And anyone familiar with Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson knows full well what they thought on the subject. For example, Jefferson wrote "no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

        Most of the occurences of religion in the US government were put into place in the 1950's, a period of immense insecurity (Athiest/Communist Threat, etc.). Politicians in 1954 added "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance, and in 1955 added "In God We Trust" to coinage and paper money.

        The founders, on the other hand, were quite careful in making clear that the United States was _not_ founded as a Christian country, or even as a particularly religious country, and that the freedom of religion clearly included, as Jefferson put it, "freedom of and from religion."
    • Teaching ID in public schools isn't going to cut down on the number of good scientists. A good scientist is someone who can think for themselves. Anyone who can't see through the ID crap fails that test by definition. Really the only thing that happens is that the dumb get dumber and the intelligent are unaffected. I'd say a more likely outcome would be the income gap getting wider than our scientists getting worse, although honestly this change is so small that it really doesn't matter.
    • by bushidocoder (550265) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:53PM (#13383591) Homepage
      I think its shortsighted to blame religion on these cultural changes, when religion has been a critical part of the American culture since its inception. In fact, one could overtrivialize and look at the percentage of Americans who go to church now, compare it to fifty years ago, and say that the decline of religion in America is causing our recent problems - but of course, that's not the case either.

      The problem has nothing to do with religion - its about lowered standards of quality in American culture. Does the religious right let Bush get away with anything he wants? Sure. But religion only happens to fit into the model because that's Bush's demographic. Nixon's demographic let him get away with anything he wanted, just like Clinton's, Reagan's and Johnson's did. Voters rarely turn on the guy they put into office. Bad Presidents always reflect poorly on the individuals who support them, but that doesn't mean that the ideas that bind the demographic are neccesarily invalid simply for that reason.

      Stem cell research is a relgious / science overlap. Intelligent Design is a ridiculous idea from a very very small minority in Kansas. Past that, I don't see much overlap from religion in science in America. Sure, the conservative party is playing down environmental research, but that has nothing to do with religion - that's a culture of corporate profits interfering with science.

      You blame religion for the decrease in American science - I blame the media. I blame CNN for undercovering important issues, and spending two weeks on a runaway bride. I blame Disney for making a movie about a girl who is interested in science and math and is unpopular until she decides to drop it all and become an ice skater. I blame television networks that make 10,000 reality tv shows and 5,000 Ally McBeal spinoffs for every one Numbers or... well, I can't think of another show I like on network tv. How about the fact that TLC found it was much more profitable to stop showing documentaries and focus on home decorating shows? I also blame underfunded schools and a corporate culture that has dropped R&D in favor of easier methods of reducing profits.

      Simply blaming religion is insulting to those of us who are thoughtfully religious, and worse than that, its wrong.

    • This is the country of both the Scopes' "monkey trial" and Stephen Jay Gould. A view of the relationship of religiousity against scientific success would lead to the conclusion that all the Nobel Prizes are for America's having been more religious than Europe for at least two centuries.

      America has never had a problem with being Christian and being a science and technology leader. Scientists often have religious or quasi-religious motivations. They want to know how the world that God created works. Truth
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:54PM (#13383617) Homepage Journal
      Excuse me while I interpret your post as a load of BS. As another poster said, Christianity has been a strong force throughout the history of the US. Every President the US has ever had has claimed to be a Christian.[1] Yet you've conveniently ignored that fact, made an unsubstantiated opinion, then presented it as fact. Is that the scientific process?[2]

      The truth of the matter is that the United States has been a Wartime economy since World War II.[3] The thing propping up such an economy? The Cold War, of course![4] The US outspent the Soviet Union at every turn, eventually causing the USSR to go bankrupt. The wartime economy then began to taper off, slowly reducing the amount of private and government funded research. By the end of the 90's, science was already in trouble, but no one noticed because of the technology boom.[5] (Itself an artificial boom caused by overspending.) The tech boom crashes, and suddenly the true state of things is revealed.

      The entire Stem Cell issue, and ID issue are irrelevant to the US's technology bottom line. We simply can't afford the level of progress that was achieved in the Post WWII economy. We had one last "Hurrah" in the 80's and early 90's, then everything petered out after that. It's not sexy, it's not pretty, and there's no good place to put the blame. But that's the way it is.

      [1] [wikipedia.org]
      [2] [wikipedia.org]
      [3] [wikipedia.org]
      [4] [independent.org]
      [5] [selenasol.com]
    • by Marcus Porcius Cato (905228) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:05PM (#13383728)
      This sort of hyperbole is just infuriating. Yes, America is having a crisis in the technical fields, but blaming it on Bush is idiocy.

      Let's look at history. Arguably, the era experiencing the greatest innovations in science and technology was from the mid 17th century to the middle of the 19th. You've got Newton and Liebniz and Hooke and all those other Royal Society guys rewriting every bit of our knowledge of how the world works -- and doing so under the authority of a state and church with far, far more control then the US government has ever had.

      The second greatest technical period is probably from WWII through the 1960s in America -- especially the 1950s when we developed and perfected nuclear power, jet aircraft, rocketry, computers, etc; and all in a far more controlled society. Heck, the 50s US has become the cliche of an uptight, religous, puritanical society. Yet we grew by leaps and bounds.

      Besides, the whole "intelligent design" stuff, where it affects anything it affects pure science. And pure science very rarly is the driver of much of anything. Where the technical fields impact our lives is through engineering. It's making science practical. And that's something that the evolution vs ID really has no impact on.

      But engineering really is in dire, dire straits in this country, but for completely differnt (almost opposite) reasons. Primarily, in my mind, because of the stiffling of innovation because of government regulation and excessive lawsuits. When you codify everything, mandate everything, and ban everything else then there is no room to innovate and do new things. It's the Democrats and their state-controlled regulatory state that has stiffled the technical fields, not the religious right.
  • Brainwashed! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:11PM (#13383159)
    Our forefathers came to America for freedom of religion, speech, etc and now our own religious citizens are shoving it down everyone else's throat. Christians need to keep their religious beliefs OUT of whitehouse.

    The sad thing is many of these christian fanatics are uneducated, Rush Limbaugh/ Bill O'Reilly products (sculpted zombies) who's life doesn't stray further than Wal-Mart.

    • Re:Brainwashed! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bigwavejas (678602) * on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:22PM (#13383271) Journal
      No, what's sad is you had to post your opinion as a anonymous coward, as you would have been modded flamebait for speaking your mind.

      I must say you bring up some good points and I tend to agree much of your arguement. A good portion of this country is very uneducated and tends to follow blindly to what its fed from news stations such as Fox News who proclaim themselves to be, "Fair and Balanced." In a lot of ways this country *is* going backwards, as ultra-paranoid religious groups are collectively working to sway votes in the whitehouse. I think what we do need is the same sort of counter-group to thwart their attempts at branding their religious/ personal beliefs on "the rest of us."

    • Re:Brainwashed! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Coryoth (254751) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:29PM (#13383346) Homepage Journal
      The sad thing is many of these christian fanatics are uneducated, Rush Limbaugh/ Bill O'Reilly products (sculpted zombies) who's life doesn't stray further than Wal-Mart.

      Or, in fact, into reading the bible any more than selectively. US fundamentalist Christaianity seems to have rather odd ideas about what exactly Christ said. The concepts of loving your neighbour, helping the poor, and forgiveness that seem to crop up a lot on the new testament... well apparently they're not so important. Despite 85% of the population of the US professing to be Christian, the US has ranks second to last among developed nations for foreign aid as a percentage of the economy, rate almost as poorly for private charity, have high rates of poverty for a developed nation, and are the only developed nation that still uses capital punishment (so much for "turn the other cheek"). 75% of Americans thought that "God helps those who help themselves." was a teaching from the bible - look as hard as you like, it isn't there; Ben Franklin said it. Christianity in the US is less Christianty, and more some bizarre American religion with vague Christian roots - I mean hell, most mormons are closer to following the new testament then a great many US Christians.

      Jedidiah.
  • Science's Vitality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apsmith (17989) * on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:13PM (#13383176) Homepage
    From the article, on a lab in Britain after WWII:

    they were concerned the government did not fully appreciate that science
    in peace was as vital as science in war.


    I think this is a key point. And not just public support for science and government funding, but the motivation of young people going into the field is critically important to whether or not scientific effort actually makes a difference in the real world. Are there real world problems (like the problems that led to development of
    radar and computing in WWII, or the needs of cold war espionage and besting the Soviets post-Sputnik) that captivate people's attention? If the critical needs are there, that ensures both public support, government funding, and highly motivated researchers bringing real advances.

    And we do have critical needs for R&D work right now - renewable energy [energybulletin.net] probably most critical. Developing things further in space is a challenge that needs our best efforts now too. But our government and media, and even places reflective of geek opinion like slashdot, spend a lot of effort downplaying the seriousness of problems like oil depletion and
    global warming. People can't be motivated to do anything about it if most of the country thinks it's not really a problem at all.
  • by saskboy (600063) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:15PM (#13383183) Homepage Journal
    First off it's easy to decline when you're the world leader to begin with. Unfortunately in an age where the Internet is taking over, and unlimited possibilities for learning present themselves, the protectionists in the Bush administration are having their way with Americans. What kind of an insane world leader would suggest that we have to fight religious extremists, and then in the next breath insists that he supports Christian ideology being taught in the 21st Century science classroom?
  • Corporations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pete6677 (681676) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:15PM (#13383184)
    Corporations are more to blame for the decline of science than the government. Most industrial development is ultimately driven by companies looking to make money on new technologies. Lately, most companies have been gutting research budgets in favor of more short term profits (ie. HP). Look at most job postings, how many both require an advanced degree and are willing to pay enough to hire someone? Most companies aren't interested. Until corporate America can look past next quarter's numbers, R&D will not really exist in the U.S. anymore.
    • Re:Corporations (Score:3, Interesting)

      by antarctican (301636)
      Corporations are more to blame for the decline of science than the government. Most industrial development is ultimately driven by companies looking to make money on new technologies. Lately, most companies have been gutting research budgets in favor of more short term profits (ie. HP). Look at most job postings, how many both require an advanced degree and are willing to pay enough to hire someone? Most companies aren't interested. Until corporate America can look past next quarter's numbers, R&D will
    • Re:Corporations (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arnie_apesacrappin (200185) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:43PM (#13383495)
      Look at most job postings, how many both require an advanced degree and are willing to pay enough to hire someone? Most companies aren't interested.

      Or they just don't get it. I sat down with one of the VP's at my old job (as the company was starting to head down the toilet) to talk about their hiring practices. The company policy was "we pay in the 60th percentile." For every job, they used some salary survey to determine what it was worth. They literally looked at the salary range and picked a number based on the 60th percentile. Here's a summary of the conversation we had:

      Me: What kind of organization are you trying to build?

      VP: World Class.

      Me: So, if you were going to hire someone to administer your databases (a component so critical that even a VP knew that the business did not run without them), what kind of person would you want?

      VP: Someone at the top of their field.

      Me: So if you had to rate them, say on a scale of 1 to 100, what are you looking for?

      VP: I wouldn't even consider someone who isn't in the top five percent of candidates.

      Me:So what your looking for is someone whose skills are in the 95th percentile but is willing to work for pay in the 60th percentile?

      I never got a reply. For what it's worth, I wasn't an employee, I was a contractor.

    • Corporate idiocy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brennz (715237)
      I have seen this time and time again while working for large corporations

      1. Focus on short term profits over long term profits.
      2. Management by MBAs that have no technical understanding, and cannot understand technical subjects, nor key trends and drivers in an industry.
      3. Rampant cost-cutting, to the point of providing legacy computers to their employees.
      4. Hiring incompetent, wannabe techies with no mastery of technical subjects or even the motivation to learn.
      5. Lack of vision for developing core capabil
  • Fix the delusions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bob3141592 (225638) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:20PM (#13383242) Homepage
    Yet Americans continue to think that they are automatically number one in everything. The man on the street still believes that we Americans are the smartest, strongest, and most capable people in the world. Mostly that's a delusion supported by ignorance, as the typical American knows very little about what's going on in the world outside of the US.

    Certainly any American is capable of being the best, and is more likely to acheive that given good opportunities and education, and a culture that values whatever endeavor they choose. For science and technology, that's just not valued much by our culture. Americans like entertainment and instant gratification, and think the more of that they have the better they will be.

    I fear for our future.
    • Re:Fix the delusions (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Coryoth (254751) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:46PM (#13383521) Homepage Journal
      It's not just the perceptions of themselves, it's also their perceptions of the workings of the rest of the world that can be highly coloured. Ask a lot of people in the US about, say, the Canadian healthcare system and they'll give you lots of stories about people dieing on waiting lists, intolerable waiting times, and a general complete failure of the system. That's so far from the truth it isn't funny. No Canadian healthcare isn't perfect (personally I'd like to see them open up a parallel private system this "two tier healthcare is evil" is as stupid as the US fear of public healthcare), bt for the most part it functions very well, and very efficiently. Per captia health spending in Canada is significantly less than in the US.

      There are also the perceptions of Europe as being some socialist unproductive quagmire. Yes, in terms of GDP per capita most European countries are behind the US - but they also get much longer holidays, and work less hours and thus have more time for family. Turning things around if CO2 emisisons (as US opponents of Kyoto like to claim) are the natural byproduct of production, and reducing emissions would reduce GDP... well consider this list of countries by GDP/CO2 emissions [wikipedia.org] which shows that in terms of waste most European countries are significantly more efficient in generating GDP than the US. Is Europe perfect? No, not in the least, they're just different, with different priorities - they produce less but do it more efficiently. That's not the pereption a lot of Americans have of Europe though.

      Jedidiah.
  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:20PM (#13383247) Homepage
    is now accomplished by outsourcing engineering to India and manufacturing to China. IF the trend continues we'll end up a nation of international brokers and their support laborers (auto mechanics, maids, cooks, home repair, etc).

    Of course such trends never continue indefinitely - it's just a leveling of inequalities left over from the WWII and cold war days. The US benefitted from an immigrant brain source once (Einstein, Von Braun, Tesla) - it could easily flow the other way if conditions here become too hostile or the grass looks greener elsewhere.

  • by boomgopher (627124) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:21PM (#13383250) Journal
    "Young Americans are opting for better paid law and medicine over science and engineering and visa restrictions on bright foreign students further dilute the talent pool"

    Well, the more we blame this situation on religious/anti-religous bugaboos and other flamefests, and not on THE WAY WE RAISE OUR KIDS nothing will ever change.

    How many of you (or your wives for that matter) get on their childs teacher's case for being "too hard on my kid", "they just aren't good at math" etc. and not the other way around?

    Why do you think Asians kick so much ass in the sciences and tech fields? Because they believe in hard work and challenge their kids (granted, maybe too much sometimes)



    • Mod up, bro! That is the nail (i.e. you've hit it on the head). Aside from Bush and other problems, kids just don't want to work. Fewer kids go into science and engineering every year.

      The old tradition, and really what built America, was that your great+grandparents immigrated and worked like dogs/died like dogs (viva Upton Sinclair). Then their kids had it a little better. And so on, until we get kids who are disconnected from hard work and suffering. Who, really, won't do anything if it is too hard

    • by Coryoth (254751) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:54PM (#13383604) Homepage Journal
      How many of you (or your wives for that matter) get on their childs teacher's case for being "too hard on my kid", "they just aren't good at math" etc. and not the other way around?

      It's a deep cultural thing though. I am a mathematician and I can't tell you how many time I've had a conversation that went

      Person: So what do you do?
      Me: I'm a mathematcian.
      Person: Oh, I was never any good at math in school.

      And that last point is always said with almost an air of superiority, like there's an underlying "I didn't do well at math and I'm successful, why did you waste your time?" - often enough people will actually come out and say that too. I'm sure any other mathematicians here on Slashdot can testify to much the same thing. There is a deep deated cultural belief that mathematics isn't important - is it any suprise teachers and parents pass that attitude on to their kids?

      Jedidiah.
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:22PM (#13383263) Homepage Journal
    Someone could make a drinking game out of this.

    For example: Everytime a discussion about science on /. leads to someone posting a link to Michael Crichton ranting about junk science, take a drink.

    "It is the business of the future to be dangerous, and it is among the merits of science that it prepares the future for its duties."

    - Alfred North Whitehead.
  • by _am99_ (445916) * on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:22PM (#13383270)
    The Bush neoconservatives believe that their destiny is to mold the world as they see fit, and they don't care what they have to do or say to fulfill that goal. If that means lying about WMD, killing civilians, or sacrificing military personnel, then so be it. It is all for the greater good.

    So don't expect them to give a crap about the cost to science by doing what the religous right demands, cause they need them to be in power in the first place.

    Now if they could find a way to launder money out of R&D, like the defense, pharma, or oil industries, then you might get somewhere.

    Maybe some R&D project managers need to take
    Jack Abramoff or Tom DeLay [msn.com] out for a few rounds of golf...
  • Patents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Potatomasher (798018) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:25PM (#13383308)
    And while science is suffering from religious activists and the whim of politicians, innovations in engineering and technology as a whole are suffering from an outdated patent system, whose sole purpose seems to be rewarding large monopolies rather than promoting innovation.
  • by birge (866103) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:26PM (#13383313) Homepage
    Funny how liberal statists want the central government to control everything, except when the government is run by people they disagree with, elected by people they detest. You can't have your government schools and not expect the government to control the teaching as per majority desire, can you?

    Here's the cycle of America:

    1) Democrats gain power, expand government control over X, Y and Z.
    2) Republicans gain power, use government control to fuck up X, Y and Z.
    3) Goto (1)
  • Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by overshoot (39700) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:26PM (#13383314)
    It continues to amuse me that the people who complain most about how few Americans are going into science and engineering are the ones who went into management, law, and politics.

    If not that, they ended up running universities where their business depends on having more science students to

    • provide cash to keep the gravy train rolling, and
    • work as grad students teaching the others so that the faculty doesn't have to

    Then they get stressed out that my kids look around at their father and his cow-orkers stressing over whose job is the next to vanish. They look at the management, lawyers, and politicians getting wealthier and more powerful every year, and shock! they decide not to go into tech.

    Here's the paradox: they want the best and brightest to make life decisions that they themselves saw as foolish.

  • by Cerdic (904049) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:26PM (#13383324)
    That's one of the themes of the BBC article, and it's so true on a variety of levels. I recall that, recently, the DC Metro (WMATA) had a big chunk of its budget cut because they allowed pro-marijuana ads on trains and buses.

    The real stupid part? The metro serves a large number of people and is always in need of more money. So, in reality, they punished the people. Look for lots of punishment from an angry God, er, government because scientists feel differently about religion, environment, and politics in general.
  • by hellomynameisclinton (796928) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:34PM (#13383396)
    "The Bush administration does not take kindly to anyone who has drawn a federal dollar being critical."

    I feel sorry for Joseph Wilson and his wife every day. They experienced this first hand - object and be retaliated against.

    It's not my idea - I heard it originally from a journalist for the SF Chronicle - but one of the biggest tools the White House is using is distraction. Attention is being drawn to social issues (such as gay rights, and vegetable rights - Schiavo), while significant detrimental policies are being waged against science (like barring publication of papers about global warming) and civil rights.

    The true crimes involve Writ of Habeus Corpus (Jose Padilla), and intentional endangerment (Valerie Plame), not stem-cells and Hubble.
    • by InfoVore (98438) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:58PM (#13384205) Homepage
      but one of the biggest tools the White House is using is distraction. Attention is being drawn to social issues (such as gay rights, and vegetable rights - Schiavo), while significant detrimental policies are being waged against science (like barring publication of papers about global warming) and civil rights.

      Columnist Molly Ivans pointed this out about the Bush Administration well before 9/11. She called it "The Politics of Outrage". Basically the cycle goes something like this:

      1) Administration does something outrageous
      2) Outcry & Criticism of action erupt that day
      3) Next day: Administration does new outrageous thing
      4) Outcry & Criticism over new outrage, yesterday's outrage forgotten (at least by the press)
      5) Lather. Rinse. Repeat, EVERY DAY.

      The truly disturbing thing is this strategy seems to work.

      This administration cynically manipulates news and news cycles every day. Real criticism is either ignored or jollied away as "well I disagree, but support your right to be feel differently, but we aren't changing".

      When the next idiocy or outrage occurs, the previous outrageous actions are stuffed under the floor by the media. This has given them free reign to pursue every boneheaded policy, or just flat out greedy corporate wellfare program they can think of. Its no wonder at all that Science is being strangled to death in the U.S.

      Rove, Bush, etc I salute you. You are the greatest marketeers the world has ever seen, and God save us all from your foolishness and greed.

      -I.V.
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:43PM (#13383487) Homepage Journal
    The decline of science in this country isn't an accident.

    It isn't a matter of falling standards and laziness. It isn't the fault of too much TV or rap music.

    There are forces in society who want science neutered and brought to heel.

    "Intelligent Design," and the manufactured controversy over "junk science" . . . it's all part of a plan to:


    reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.


    You can find it all here, in a document called "The Wedge Strategy."

    http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.html [antievolution.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:44PM (#13383500)
    As a Christian, and an amateur scientist (though not a Christian Scientist) I am increasingly disturbed by an administration that ignores whole chunks of the Bible (namely, nearly every word of Christ) in favor of pandering to a small and crazy fringe group who wants an untenable literal interpretation.

    I am disturbed as a a scientist because it's holding us back, and educating our kids with BS, and I'm disturbed as a Christian because this is not Christianity, at least not of the mainstream portion. And most Christians are too afraid to stand up and say anything at the wholesale hijacking of their faith. (I wonder if this is how Muslims feel) Please, slashdotters, don't paint with a broad brush Christians as being like.....this.......

    The "meat" of Christian teachings are _not_ incompatible with evolution, the big bang, modern society in general, etc, etc.

    Voted for Bush the first time around, voted libertarian on try number 2.
  • by Greg151 (132824) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:48PM (#13383549) Homepage Journal
    Don't some of you wonder why we need a new "enlightend" administration to save us? "Oh, bring back the Dems!" many will say. Oh yes, the Clipper chip people, I remember them well.

    The basic problem is your ( not all of you, I know) belief that the federal government is the solution to your problems. Stem Cell research? Oh, this cannot happen without unrestricted federal spending. Public education is screwed? Let's get Ted Kennedy and President Bush to work together to create "No Child Left Behind", only to have Ted rip it after he helped create it.

    The long term results of the Feds being involved is more slow moving, poorly engineered administrations like NASA. If the private sector had been invited into the space business 25 years ago, we would be much further along.

    I am starting to think that this is a generational view. I am an older Gen X'er, and it seems that the younger Gen Y crowd is much more use to asking for solutions from their "Parents" (aka, the Government) than in doing for themselves.

  • blame you dad! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the-build-chicken (644253) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @04:49PM (#13383555)
    ok...seriously for a second...blame the baby boomers. They represent that major demographic for UK, US and Australia and hence they weild the voting power.

    In the 60s/70s...they were entering the colleges and workforce...what did we get...a massive overhaul to the educational systems. In the 70/80s they were moving through their "working lives"...what did we get...a massive overhaul to industrial relations in favor of the workers...in 2000, they're all heading into retirement, mostly funded by shares, wanting to live on less money and also worried about death...what do we see? More power being given to corporations and taken from workers (in all three countries), more focus on immediate share holder returns rather than r&d, outsourcing to cut the cost of consumables, cutting of government research, services and educational assistence to lower taxes, and an increase in relious uptake as they all worry about death.

    This is sheer speculation on my part, but in Australia we're watching all the great social practices put in place during the 60s/70s and 80s be repealed...from free education and medical, to workers rights...and from what I hear here it seems to be happening in the US and UK. These trends, to my untrained eye, seem to follow rather closely the needs of the major voting demographic (baby boomers)...so lets face it...if you're under 40 you're screwed...unless of course you move to south america where I believe the major demographics in most countries is 15-25 (they're having somewhat of a baby boom at the moment).
  • by Thagg (9904) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:00PM (#13383677) Journal
    I'm incredibly disappointed with the lack of respect for science and intellectual achievement that seems to pervade the United States today. Everywhere I look I see this -- in energy, economics, medicine, education -- everywhere.

    But, I had one glorious day last year. The Jet Propulsion Labs at CalTech had an open house in May, and I attended this year with my little boy. It was a unique experience. You don't just stumble upon JPL, it's way off in the corner of the LA basin, but people came from everywhere around to the open house.

    At each of a fifty or so different stations, there were JPL scientists describing their current work to an incredibly diverse but intensely interested audience. The scientists and engineers are, of course, very enthusiastic about their projects -- but the tremendous enthusiasm of my fellow attendees was surprising and heartening. Young and old, of every imaginable race and combination thereof, in families and individually -- everyone was just enthralled. It was kind of interesting to watch the engineers trying to describe the interferometer that JPL hopes to send up to measure the positions and velocities of stars more accurately to this group -- but they struggled to explain it, and people struggled to understand it.

    As I said above, it was glorious. I recommend it to anybody in the LA area. There is hope.

    Thad Beier
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @05:14PM (#13383831) Journal
    This reminds me of an interview in Reason (a libertarian mag) of slashdot favorite Neal Stephenson. Here's the relevant part:

    http://www.reason.com/0502/fe.mg.neal.shtml [reason.com]

    Reason: The Baroque Cycle suggests that there are sometimes great explosions of creativity, followed by that creative energy's recombining and eventual crystallization into new forms--social, technological, political. Are we seeing a similar degree of explosive progress in the modern U.S.?

    Stephenson: The success of the U.S. has not come from one consistent cause, as far as I can make out. Instead the U.S. will find a way to succeed for a few decades based on one thing, then, when that peters out, move on to another. Sometimes there is trouble during the transitions. So, in the early-to-mid-19th century, it was all about expansion westward and a colossal growth in population. After the Civil War, it was about exploitation of the world's richest resource base: iron, steel, coal, the railways, and later oil.

    For much of the 20th century it was about science and technology. The heyday was the Second World War, when we had not just the Manhattan Project but also the Radiation Lab at MIT and a large cryptology industry all cooking along at the same time. The war led into the nuclear arms race and the space race, which led in turn to the revolution in electronics, computers, the Internet, etc. If the emblematic figures of earlier eras were the pioneer with his Kentucky rifle, or the Gilded Age plutocrat, then for the era from, say, 1940 to 2000 it was the engineer, the geek, the scientist. It's no coincidence that this era is also when science fiction has flourished, and in which the whole idea of the Future became current. After all, if you're living in a technocratic society, it seems perfectly reasonable to try to predict the future by extrapolating trends in science and engineering.

    It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from all of this. It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn't care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don't belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture.

    Since our prosperity and our military security for the last three or four generations have been rooted in science and technology, it would therefore seem that we're coming to the end of one era and about to move into another. Whether it's going to be better or worse is difficult for me to say. The obvious guess would be "worse." If I really wanted to turn this into a jeremiad, I could hold forth on that for a while. But as mentioned before, this country has always found a new way to move forward and be prosperous. So maybe we'll get lucky again. In the meantime, efforts to predict the future by extrapolating trends in the world of science and technology are apt to feel a lot less compelling than they might have in 1955.
  • by fredmosby (545378) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @06:26PM (#13384455)
    In the early half of the 20th century the U.S. was relatively isolated from the rest of the world. While the infrastructures of most of the countries in the world were destroyed by World War 2 none of the destruction reached the US. As a result America became the leader in technology development.

    The rest of the world has been a relatively peaceful place for the last 50 years. So now the rest of the world is catching up. It doesn't mean the US is doing worse, the rest of the world is doing better.
  • by Pchelka (805036) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @06:34PM (#13384547)
    I am a scientist working at a university and my salary comes entirely from research grants. Thanks to the Bush administration's bad attitude towards science, my funding will run out in a few months. I have written new grant proposals, applied for government research jobs and teaching jobs, but so far have had no luck at all. There are so many people out there right now who are in a similar situation, and many of them have even more experience than I do, so I really don't have a chance at competing with them.

    The article commented about visa restrictions preventing talented people from coming to the U.S. to study or do research. I just don't see that at all. In my field, there are tons of foreign post-docs working in the U.S., and many them decide to stay here after their post-doctoral appointments are done. Ironically, I have been told by many people in my field that I should look for a job overseas, since I can't find one here. Instead of trying to cultivate the talent that is already here in the U.S., our government's policies and the hiring practices of many institutions are bringing in foreign scientists while American scientists are being told to look to other countries for employment. In principle, I'm not against bringing foreign talent to the U.S. to help with scientific research. I just don't think it makes sense to do this on a large scale when U.S. scientists are struggling to survive.

    I've also heard the complaint from many industry leaders that they can't find Americans with the right technical and scientific skills to fill job openings, so they need to bring in foreign talent. I've started looking into industry jobs, and I'm beginning to realize that computerized resume searches may be partially to blame for the apparent lack of qualified applicants. Most of the job descriptions are so specialized that I don't think there would be anyone in the entire world who fit the job exactly and would have all the right keywords in their resume. It doesn't matter if corporations look for employees in the U.S. or in other countries if they aren't willing to invest in training their staff. The executives and upper level managers of most corporations probably don't have a lot of technical experience themselves, and yet they expect a prospective employee to show up at their first day of work and know everything there is to know about the corporation's products. This is unreasonable and impossible, given that this type of information is often proprietary and available only to people who already work at the company.

    I think that there are plenty of talented scientists, engineers, and programmers in the U.S. but the policies of our government and the practices of large corporations make it nearly impossible for us to actually find work in our chosen fields. Until we fix these problems, the U.S. is going to get further and further behind the rest of the world.
  • by constantnormal (512494) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @10:39PM (#13386252)
    ... Dubya's crowd, I'm afraid this has been going on for much longer...

    Back in the 50's and 60's there were research organizations throughout corporate America -- even a number of basic research departments (yes, that's right -- BASIC research, not just APPLIED research).

    And corporate America had at least one eye focused on the big picture, making plans beyond the next quarter and being more concerned about the welfare of the company than their bonuses and severance packages.

    Over the intervening years, we have seen not only basic, but applied research departments closed down in all but the largest companies. Emphasis has shifted to the current quarter (never mind the next quarter, we'll deal with it next quarter).

    All that Dubya can take credit for is using the Religious Right to pummel the weakened science establishment. And the most likely reason he has chosen to attack the scientific establishment is that they ARE weakened and do not represent any sort of political (or other) power in contemporary society. Dubya picks his victims well.

    The fault is in our society, and its view of science. Why we belittle the importance of science, and ignore the methodology of the scientific method, I know not, but it is manifested in the declining fraction of college and university science graduates for a much longer time than Dubya has been a factor.

    Dubya is more the symptom of the problem than the cause.

Brain damage is all in your head. -- Karl Lehenbauer

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