Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Science and Americans : A love hate relationship

This past weekend I took my daughter to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was a Sunday and temperature was 45F, sunny, a respite from bone chilling cold. The museum was practically besieged by parents, children, mostly toddlers swarmed every corner. It will not be an exaggeration to say if one felt as if lost in the midst of a school tour.

Natalie Angier in her book "The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science" quotes a friend who suggested that Science museums are for kids. Natalie wonders why adults think so and is perplexed as to why a visit for a Science museum is never an outing for a child beyond high school.

Economist, recently published a poll that 60% of americans do not believe in Evolution, the most in a developed nation. A sweet irony for a country that boasts of NASA, Ivy League colleges, billions in science research, space shuttles, space race etc etc. Americans love Science in a limited way as long as it does not disturb their fairy tale puerile biblical beliefs. When such a clash comes its religion that always wins. Decades after the Scopes trial, when a teacher was punished for teaching Evolutions, even today cases are brought in courts to teach religion in the garb of pseudo-science.

I can bet my farm that 90% of the visitors to the AMNH are religious enough to believe that the world was created in 7 days despite taking a walk along the "cosmic way" that illustrates how the earth took shape across 13 billion years.

Sometime back NYT published an article about two disparate groups visiting Grand Canyon. One group marveled at the rocks, evidence of earth evolving in billions of years. Another group caressed the same rocks and saw the "design" of the good Lord.

I could see only a handful Indians. I guess a visit to AMNH is not as enticing as indulging in cultural associations or bhajans over pot luck dinners that reinforce caste identities. I've seen Indians reading prayerfully Ramayan, replete with casteist references to Shudras. Ah ! Well thats a different subject alltogether.

I need to write a seperate blog on the museum itself. It was a truly wonderful visit. We learned that the moon was formed in a month and much more.

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