We spotlight statements in a New Scientist interview with Eugenie Scott, who wants to fight classroom skepticism.
The interview is below.
Read more: “US education advocates tackle climate change sceptics”
Eugenie Scott has struggled to keep creationism out of the classroom – now her organisation is taking on climate change deniers too
You have battled for decades against the teaching of creationism in science lessons in the US. Why are you now also tackling climate change denial?
We have been receiving more and more reports of teachers being pressured against teaching climate change, much as they are pressured against teaching evolution. Right now the evidence is anecdotal but we have heard enough to suggest that it is a problem.
What form does this pressure against teaching climate change take?
We have heard that students will get up and walk out of the class when teachers start talking about climate change, or that parents will complain. Teachers don’t want to fight with parents, and it is easy for them to think that it’s just too much trouble to teach about climate change. That short-changes the education of the kids.
Have there been legislative attempts to influence teaching about climate change?
We have seen attempts to pass legislation directing teachers to teach both sides of the issue as if the science were in question. Five or six years ago we began to notice that evolution and the origin of life, global warming, and stem cells and human cloning were being bundled together in proposed state legislation calling for teachers to teach all sides of the controversy. The good news is that people in these states have managed to get these bills bottled up and not passed, except for one state: Louisiana.
How will you help teachers combat pressure over the teaching of climate science?
Often teachers and administrators don’t appreciate the very strong scientific consensus that exists. We will give teachers ammunition to help make the case to administrators that this is sound science that should not be compromised. We can provide teachers with support from local scientists who can back them up. Good science education does not call for the teaching of denialist arguments.
You already do this for the teaching of evolution. Does climate science pose any new challenges?
In the US we have constitutional provisions requiring you not to advocate religion in public schools. So if people try to “balance” the teaching of evolution with creationism we can say: “If you do bring that in, you will be sued and you will lose.” We cannot make this argument with climate change; there is no constitutional protection against bad science. It’s going to be tougher.
Are there any links between creationists and climate change deniers?
The tactics are very similar but the personnel, by and large, are different. There are many more organisations opposing climate science, it’s much better funded and has better access to the popular media. The motivation against evolution is religious. The motivation against climate change is economic and political.
Eugenie Scott is executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) based in Oakland, California, which defends the teaching of evolution in schools. This week the NCSE launched an initiative to defend climate change education