Video Friday: Freedom of Choice in America – Science, Just Another "Theory"

Below is video showing candidates from the 2011 Miss USA contest answering the question, “Should evolution be taught in schools?” Their answers are a great example of the normalization of the idea that evolution is “one side” of a story, with religion being the other side, and that we should just choose between these based on
personal preference.

This discourse of choice works, in part, because of the word “theory.” In popular usage, “theory” is often used as though it’s interchangeable with “idea” or “opinion” or “random thought I just made up in my head right now.” Of course, scientists use the word in a very different way, and the scientific process is to test theories and find evidence for or against them. But the conflation of “theory” in the scientific sense with “opinion” in the public-usage sense facilitates the discourse of choice…

it’s important to remember that these women are carefully prepped for this competition; they have been through years of lower-level beauty pageant competitions and, to get to the Miss USA contest, they’ve clearly learned the rules of the beauty pageant circuit. They may or may not personally completely agree with what they’re saying; the point is to provide an answer that they believe is most likely to appeal to a group of judges who are looking for a candidate who will be palatable to a broad audience and unlikely to stir controversy.

and here’s a parody video asking if math should be taught in schools

Normalizing “Choice” in Discourses About Evolution, Sociological Images, 8/25/2011.

Now think really scary. Picture presidential candidates discussing global climate change. They’ve also learned the ropes and have done their polling. Like beauty pageant candidates, they may or may not agree with what they say, often saying what they believe is most likely to win them votes.

As Thomas Jefferson noted, the health of democracy depends on an educated and informed citizenry. Test your news IQ and then quiver in fear, lobby for better schools or move to Israel, the country with the highest number of scientists and engineers per capita. Of course, every country has its own problems, so that may not be a better option. It would all be just funny, if the stakes weren’t so high.

What does this have to do with corporate governance? See, Next ShareOwner Proposal Hot Topic: Climate Change Risk Assessments at Insurance Companies.

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