The War Over Warming
The culture war continues to find its way into science classrooms, with the flare-ups moving from evolution to global warming. In Utah, for example, a parent recently objected to an in-class showing of Al Gore's “An Inconvenient Truth,” saying that film’s thesis that human activity is the prime contributor to the earth’s rising temperature is not a scientific fact and should have been countered with opposing views.
Utah’s academic standards require high school science teachers to introduce the topic of global warming, but appear to leave a lot of gray area. They don’t require teachers to give equal classroom time to differing views on the issue, but also don’t identify specific causes. “You'll notice we don't say anywhere that humans are warming up the atmosphere,” notes Barbara Gentry, a district secondary science teacher specialist in the state. “Students are merely asked to investigate or research the effects of global changes on earth systems.”
Yet Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, suggests that teachers would be misrepresenting the topic if they neglected to teach about the human influence on climate change. "If evolution carries 99 percent unanimity among scientists, then climate change as being caused by human activity has a rate of 85 to 90 percent unanimity among scientists," she says.