Science Fights Back

I had the good fortune to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting this past weekend on behalf of the magazine. One symposium I missed, though, was "Science under Attack", which provided an overview of the current ideologically motivated attacks on both scientific research and science education in the U.S., and provided potential responses from the scientific community. (As I explained to a friend, I figured there was little reason to go to a debate about such matters, as there is really no scientific debate at all.) Looks like I missed a good one. As astronomer Phil Plait explains on his excellent Bad Astronomy weblog, the meeting served as a call to arms to scientists who are tired of having their empirical evidence equivocated with faith-based preconceptions. Specifically, he calls out some in the media who all too often serve as patsies in the fight:

To the media, please, don't simply take what people say and repeat it. Don't feel the need to get "balance" in your reporting by talking to "both sides". Sometimes there aren't two sides! If someone builds a Holocaust museum, would you interview a white supremacist who says the Holocaust never happened to achieve "balance"? When a new vaccine comes out for a virus, would you interview a homeopath so that "both sides are heard"?

I'm curious to see whether this meeting, following closely as it does on the heels of the Dover decision (in which a federal court ruled that the Dover school district could not include Intelligent Design in its science curricula) and the ID retreat in Ohio, will mark a watershed moment in the willingness of scientists to stand up for themselves. Might this mark the beginning of 2006: The Year Science Fought Back? —Michael Moyer