Tuesday, March 2, 2010

South Dakota legislature declares that astrology can explain global warming

Of course, they meant “astronomy,” but apparently South Dakota legislators don’t know the difference.

Dr. Steven Salzberg is the Director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology and the Horvitz Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, College ParkBy Steven Salzberg

Here in the U.S. we have a never-ending competition among the states to see which one can enact the dumbest laws. This past week, the South Dakota House of Representatives passed a law that tells schoolteachers how to present the evidence for global warming. The lawmakers who wrote the bill clearly don’t believe that global warming is a reality, so they simply created a law to promote their version of reality. Interestingly, they used the same strategy used by creationists in their efforts to ban the teaching of evolution: the “teach the controversy” approach, where you claim you simply want children to hear both sides of the issue. But the part that really got my attention was the law’s claim that “astrological dynamics” are one of the driving forces behind global climate change.

The South Dakota bill, which was passed 36-30 (not all the legislators are idiots; here’s the roll call vote), includes a number of delightful errors, which are worth examining one by one. Let’s start with the most entertaining claim:

That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect (sic) world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative.

Wow! The South Dakota legislature has declared, by majority vote, that the ancient pseudoscience of astrology “can effect world weather”! Astrology, of course, is a superstitious belief that the movements of stars and planets can affect our daily lives here on Earth, a belief that has no basis in science. Some people – including, apparently, the South Dakota legislature – still take it seriously, although most view astrological forecasts as light entertainment.

(Perhaps South Dakota was jealous of all the attention that creationists are getting by attempting to legislate the teaching of creationism in other states. Bradford Plumer over at The New Republic thinks this is their attempt to win the “dumbest state in the nation” prize.) …

South Dakota legislature declares that astrology can explain global warming

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