Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Just the Facts, Ma’am

By Peter Bowditch

Legislators continue to either refute or ignore science when it clashes with their ideology.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

One of the nice things about science is that scientific facts are true whether you believe them or not. (I know there are no “facts” in science, just hypotheses that are strongly supported by all the evidence so far available, but “scientific facts” is a convenient shorthand way of saying this.) This has not stopped legislators in various parts of the world trying to pass laws that either refute science or simply ignore it.

There was the infamous Bill #246 that came before the Indiana General Assembly in 1846. This is often erroneously said to be an attempt to legislate the value of pi, but in fact it was an attempt to legislate that a circle and a square could be drawn with exactly equal areas using only a ruler and compass (“squaring the circle”). The bill didn’t mention pi, but would have had the effect of requiring pi to be exactly equal to 3.2. The bill was defeated by ridicule, and was never actually put to the vote.

Possibly the best example of legislatures trying to pass laws against science is the campaign in various places to prevent the teaching of evolution. This is a clear case of a belief system being substituted for real science, and even inventing such expressions as “creation science” and “intelligent design” can’t hide the fact that religion is being used to deny the theories and facts of real science. (Saying that “evolution is only a...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.