On Feb. 14 we’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day, a holiday devoted to love. If we ever decide to create a holiday devoted to science and reason, Feb. 12 might be the date to commemorate. On Feb. 12, 1809, British scientist Charles Darwin was born. Darwin went on to lay the foundation for the theory of biological evolution through natural selection, which changed the way we think about the natural world.
Actually, there is such a global holiday, Darwin Day, celebrated on or about Feb. 12. However, according to the International Darwin Day Foundation website, no events are planned this year in Kansas. There are some churches, in Lawrence, Wichita and Topeka, celebrating Evolution Weekend, spearheaded by The Clergy Letter Project.
We need to pay attention to science. The Pew Research Center offers a 12-question quiz (http://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/science-knowledge/) on science knowledge. According to the latest results, Americans know a lot about basic scientific facts that affect their health and their daily lives. For example, 91 percent know that aspirin is the over-the-counter drug recommended to prevent heart attacks. On the other hand, only 54 percent know that antibiotics do not kill viruses along with bacteria, and less than half (46 percent) know that electrons are smaller than atoms.
For years, there have been grassroots efforts to create a science debate for presidential candidates. That’s not a bad idea for all political candidates, as science affects most major policy decisions.
Last year, a report published by Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance looked at 49 countries. American students ranked 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading. So, a celebration of science, along with a fresh look at how we teach it, may be in order. (Maybe we need math and reading holidays, too.)