Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Monday, August 22, 2005

More on Nelson and Family First

Chris Nedin flagged this piece from last November's Australian Science:

McGauran Out, Family First In

Howard has now dispensed with a separate, though junior, Minister for Science. Peter McGauran tried to make it appear that CSIRO and the Cooperative Research Centres would serve “the national interest” better by becoming predominantly commercial operations, directions that were dictated from on high. McGauran has been dispatched from the science portfolio and will now spend his days hosting ceremonies in the never-never land of Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.

Brendan Nelson did not overtly exercise his power over science in the past term. Now he has become solely responsible for both large issues and detailed administration of science despite being busy bedding down his controversial changes to universities and stemming the rout of technical training.

Nelson will have his work cut out to recover from the distrust of this government among scientists. Opening conduits to scientists who are not cowed by the “managerialism” that overwhelms research institutions will not be easy following the departure of Nelson’s well-regarded science adviser, Dr Thomas Barlow, after completing his term through the last government.

If Family First, which Howard embraced with mutual exchange of preferences in the poll, exerts its influence in the Senate, Nelson could be confronted with an implicit challenge from the party’s power base in the fundamentalist Assemblies of God (AOG). Like its American counterparts, AOG is not only deeply conservative on moral and ethical issues but espouses creationism as the literal interpretation of the Bible (see Editorial, p.1). The Christian Right in the USA never ceases campaigning in state legislatures to overturn the teaching of evolution in schools and replace it with “creation science”.
Talk about your prophetic comment. So in this context we can expect that Nelson deliberately made that comment regarding Intelligent Design, and that this is part of a larger strategy, unless the Minister actually responds to requests for clarification. And it also looks like the Howard government really is turning "Christian".

Even worse, it appears that education is clearly now something that serves government policy (or whatever is declared to be government policy) in the sense of having to meet "National Priorities" which unsurprisingly leave things like pure science, humanities and so on out in the cold in favour of what politicians do (law, political science), need (economics) or hope for a big payoff from (medical research, primary industry research).

Australia is quickly becoming a banana republic in education.