In Print and On the Air

RICHARD ZARE, the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science, noted in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 28 that science is not just a matter of opinion. Referring to questions about the environment, global warming and evolution, Zare wrote in an opinion piece that it is deeply troubling that scientific opinion is often disregarded because such a trend threatens to make the country less competitive. The problem is most evident in terms of evolution, he wrote. In a Gallup Poll last November, only 35 percent of Americans agreed that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory well supported by evidence. An equal number said evolution was just one among many theories, and 29 percent said they didn't know. "All thinking persons should be troubled by this trend, because it devalues the basic scientific method that has proved its power over and over again by its successes in explaining the basic nature of the physical universe," Zare wrote. While science and faith are not in opposition, he stated, "claims of faith that fly against scientific findings are just not sensible." Zare blamed scientists who have difficulty explaining what they do, journalists bent on so-called objectivity and a failure of national leadership for giving support to the know-nothings. For example, on Nov. 14, President Bush told the Associated Press: "I'd make it a goal to make sure that local folks got to make the decision as to whether or not they said creationism has been a part of our history and whether or not people ought to be exposed to different theories as to how the world was formed." According to Zare, ideas do not fight for themselves—they are fought for by people: "We must be willing to speak out against the threat of making science just a matter of opinion. Scientific theories are more than a special set of opinions that the scientific community is trying to push onto the public in opposition to religious beliefs. To pretend otherwise is to invite the decline of our nation."

The San Jose Mercury News reported May 3 that Gov. Schwarzenegger must decide by mid-June whether to call a special election this fall that would include ballot measures on merit pay for teachers and simplifying the process for firing poor educators. Critics question how performance would be quantified on an uneven academic playing field—for example, how would a special education teacher receive merit pay? "If doctors were paid based on mortality rates, no one would work with cancer or AIDS patients and everyone would go into pediatrics," said LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND, the Charles E. Ducommun Professor in the School of Education. "If you reward teachers based on test scores, teachers would avoid teaching the kids with the greatest needs."