The God Vaccination

Recently read one of those articles 'Britain has at last escaped the illusion that salvation lies in mass science: Making the subject compulsory has been a failure - it is right that it should be a specialism for the interested few ' (,,1921286,00.html) where you simply cannot believe that someone has written something so mind-numbingly stupid, and you keep thinking that when you reach the end you will be told that it was all a joke, a spoof, and silly old you for being taken in by it. The author thinks that science teaching in British schools has all been a conspiracy by scientists pushing their own interests, and there should be far less teaching of science and far more training of 'management consultants, bankers, computer salesmen and business administrators'.

Science is essential for everyone these days; perhaps it was always essential. Reading many of the blogs and posts on HuffPo it is clear that there is an abysmal general ignorance of evolution, of genetics, of the environmental history of the world, of ecology, of physiology, of the way that genes work, of why we know that 'the supernatural' is nonsense, of psychology, of the history of the universe, and even of fundamental scientific tools like hypotheses and null hypotheses, and experiments; of statistics, and significant difference, of regression lines, of mean and standard deviation.

Without these mental furnishings you can't evaluate what is going on in the fact based world, and nor can you critically assess what you are being told by politicians and business leaders. The 'debate' about climate change would never have taken place if the public was scientifically literate, and politicians and corporations would have been forced into action 15 years ago, at a time when it would have had some effectiveness.

Equally importantly perhaps, science is a way of vaccinating the mind against religion. The religious mindset is one of blind obedience to, and belief in, whatever you are told. The scientific mindset is one of skepticism - whatever you are told you challenge. The charismatic religious leaders all over the world who have led their people down so many dark, blind alleys could never have succeeded if they were faced with minds trained to assess claims in a scientific manner.

So yes, science education is vitally important, and grows in importance each day. To be arguing for less science education in 2006 is a bit like a medieval pope refusing to allow people access to certain books, or even the bible itself. People should only know what religious leaders want them to know, a view that the medieval religious leaders of the 21st century would certainly echo.

You get your children vaccinated against a range of dangerous health conditions, and give them immunity to measles, chicken pox, cervical cancer. Get them mentally vaccinated with a science education against the dangers lurking in the advertising of consumer goods, politics, and religion, and give them immunity to Big Macs, great leaders, and imaginary friends. They will thank you for it in later life.

And so will society.