As the war between PZ and the folks at the Intersection heats up again, I can’t help but throw my own voice into the cacophony. The argument is age-old and tries to answer the question: “Why are people so gosh darn ignorant?” On one side, the answer is because they cling to superstition and ritual. On the other side, it’s because scientists aren’t good enough educators. To be fair, the previous two sentences were gross over-simplifications of the respective positions.
To a certain extent, both sides are correct, but it’s not a debate I’m really interested in. As an educator, the reach of my influence is greater than the common person, but not that great, and I’m personally satisfied with what I’m doing. I can’t do anything about the rest.
The question I have seems to be the one that the accomodationalists (that is, the people who think scientists should focus only on the science) have yet to answer. What should be done about those people who are not merely ignorant, but ignorant and proud of it, and actively work against known truth.
I don’t have a problem with people believing evolution is wrong and the earth is only 6000 years old, until those beliefs start influencing public policy. How should those demonstrably harmful beliefs be handled then?
I don’t have a problem with people taking homeopathic medicine and other alternative medical treatments, but how should those beliefs be treated when they’re foisted upon children and others who are unable to protect themselves?
How should the psychic who preys on the weak and hurt be treated?
How should the faith healers who use honest belief as instrument for personal profit be treated?
The popularization of science is not going to make the young-earth creationist change their mind. When they come to the schools and attempt to gut science curriculum, what should be done?
Education will work in the long term. We see it working already. But it will take decades before we get the kind of literacy society really needs. What are we supposed to do in the meantime? Sit silently and hope we don’t destroy ourselves out of ignorance? What can we do right now beyond education?
These are the questions I’d like answered by the accomodationalists.