Letter to the editor: LePage will harm science

I’ve written a letter to the editor which appeared in the Kennebec Journal today. As is ever so common, the KJ threw in some poor editing. One of the changes I’ve noticed has to do with an omission – I refer to Paul LePage as a loon. Another is that they changed “okay” to “OK”. I half-expected the first change; the second change is just bad writing. I would never use “OK” anywhere besides maybe a text message.

But then there’s the big change. Here’s how the paper starts my letter.

In a televised debate on May 27, Paul LePage seems to indicate he thinks public schools ought to teach creationism to children.

No, no, no. Paul LePage actually, literally, without any doubt said he supports the teaching of creationism in public schools. He is a creationist. The KJ is effectively lying when they put these words into my mouth. I would never make such firm claims on such flimsy (and poorly written) grounds. Here’s how I actually started my letter.

Paul LePage thinks public schools ought to teach creationism to children.

He’s a loon.

Now does that sound a bit more like me?

In addition to this malarkey, the KJ also changed my final sentence, taking away its punch. Whereas I say, “Do not vote for Paul LePage”, they’ve pretended I said, “Do not vote for LePage”. In addition to this, they also made the title of the letter “Irreparable harm to science if LePage elected”. That’s crap. Bush harmed science greatly, but it isn’t irreparable.

Given all the errors the KJ has forced upon me, I will be giving them a call very shortly. I may report back on it. Until then, enjoy the letter I really wrote.

Paul LePage thinks public schools ought to teach creationism to children.

He’s a loon.

Creationism, in one version, means telling students that Adam and Eve really existed, that the entire globe flooded (in just over a month, no less), and that the Universe is 6,000 years old.

All these things are falsehoods. And LePage is okay with teaching them to children because he doesn’t really understand science.

This isn’t just some abstract misfortune in science education. There will be real world consequences including, for example, the harming of future conservation and management efforts.

Biologists often use genetic markers to determine variation within and between populations to determine the best way to maintain healthy species. One example involved the use of microsatellites to determine the temporal and spatial population structure of Atlantic cod populations across the Gulf of Maine. Were we seeing several distinct populations or was there breeding between seemingly distant groups? How much variation was there within populations that were being treated as separate? These were just some of the questions that had to be asked in order to better manage Maine’s Atlantic cod population.

Under LePage, students could be discouraged from ever getting to know what microsatellites are, what their importance in genetic testing is, or what they mean to management services in Maine. LePage could instead encourage students to reject science – especially biology and its underlying theme and fact of evolution – by having teachers instruct them that faith is an okay way of knowing. If LePage has his way, the future of Maine biologists – and all the species they manage – will be threatened. And that’s just the first field of science we know he could harm.

Do not vote for Paul LePage.