There was a recent piece on Nova.com about the new Spider-Man musical. The blogger was okay with the musical, but didn’t like the idea that the villains are mad scientists. Why make scientists the bad guys?
I usually have little sympathy with people whining about fictional victims. Fiction has featured mad scientists for a long time, and the USA doesn't have a monopoly on them: Doctor Faustus and Doctor Frankenstein come to mind.
But it's true that science, and scientists, aren't respected in our culture very much. We as a country, as a people, don’t put a premium on education. The glory professions are all flukes and shortcuts: entertainer, singer, athlete, Kardashian. You don’t hear kids talking about wanting to be doctors and lawyers and scientists anymore. What modern kid would ever want to be a pointy-headed smartass?
There are people – let's be ingenuous and call them “anti-educationists,” though I think we all know who we're talking about – who encourage this galloping charge toward the dumbification of America. They are great believers in “common sense” and “native intelligence,” which is (according to them) a whole heap more valuable than book larnin'.
Anti-educationists dismiss science as a “belief system,” neither more nor less worthy of credence than any particular religious belief. (Never mind that it's based on empirical research rather than feelings and religious texts and I-say-so.) They've put evolution and "intelligent design" on a par with one another; if one's worthy of respect, then so is the other. They're both “theories,” after all.
However, as one particular judge in Dover, Pennsylvania can tell you, they are not both “theories,” and anyone who says so betrays his own ignorance of the meaning of the word “theory.”
Anti-educationists say that science is a useless smartypants charade, a way for sneaky people to waste money. I recently watched Senator Coburn of Oklahoma listing some wasted-money projects: one was “the study of cow farts.” How silly, right?
But science is always silly, girlfriend. Coburn would have had a lot of fun at the expense of Alexander Fleming fooling around with moldy bread in search of penicillin. Because, hyuk hyuk, this guy's spending money experimenting on rotten food!
As you can tell, I have little patience with the anti-educationists. I do not believe that there is any such thing as “native intelligence” or “common sense,” or “God speaking in the heart” for that matter. God may speak to you in your heart, but just try asking him to calculate a tip sometimes and see how much math he knows.
I will predict right now that, in that instance, God will know exactly as much math as you know yourself.
You'll see I'm right. I have weird powers of prophecy in these matters.