PROPONENTS of ``creation science'' - biblical literalism dressed up in pseudoscientific clothes - try to inject their concepts into science teaching in American schools. But their unwelcome efforts are only the tip of a larger, uglier antiscience iceberg.
As several speakers explained during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco last week, this kind of anti-science rhetoric takes advantage of public ignorance of what science is all about to press racist and/or political agendas.
It twists genetics and other sciences to assert the ``superiority'' of one human race over others - shades of Nazi Germany. It declares, arrogantly, that all ways of ``knowing'' about nature are equally valid whether they would ordinarily be classed as religious mythology, superstition, or natural science.
This is done both to undercut the sciences in describing and explaining natural phenomena and to legitimize views that otherwise would be rejected as hateful or absurd.
How else could proponents of ``the flagrant falsifications of Afrocentric `science' '' hope to gain a hearing for their silly notion that the skin-darkening pigment melanin can function as a microcomputer and give black people superior intelligence and extrasensory abilities?
The quote in the preceding sentence is taken from a presentation at the San Francisco meeting by mathematician Norman Levitt of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.
As he and other speakers pointed out, what separates this kind of antiscience attitude from the long-standing efforts of creationists is the fact that ``a growing number of scholars and educators in the humanities and the social sciences'' are promoting this ``multiculturalism'' aggressively in American colleges.
``What results on our college campuses is a continuous barrage of sneers and tirades against science from a wide circle of teachers, lecturers, and books,'' Dr. Levitt says.
It's done in the name of ``multiculturalism,'' which declares that the sciences merely represent another socially imposed way of thinking by which an elite group asserts authority over others.
The sciences are said to represent white, male-dominated Western culture.
This plays to the prejudices of minority militants who then demand equal time for ill-defined ``feminist science,'' ``Afrocentric science,'' or ``native American science.'' It would elevate the traditional mythology of native American cultures to equal status with modern astronomy and geology in defining the natural history of the world.
Bernard Oritz de Montellano, an anthropologist with Wayne State University in Detroit noted at the AAAS conference that this can lead to such absurdities as claims that native American myths of cycles of cosmic creation and destruction actually happen.
All this might be laughed off as the clash of ideas in a free intellectual market place if it were not so pernicious.
As Dr. de Montellano points out, most Americans believe in ``science'' as an explanation of nature more as a matter of faith than of understanding.
They can be misled by those who would legitimize myth and pseudoscience by dressing them up in scientific-sounding jargon.
This turns ugly when the pseudoscience then is used to assert the superiority of one culture or race over another.
The claims of creationists represent a sincerely held religious bias. They shouldn't be taught as science, but could be introduced in classes on comparative religions. Claims of cultural or racial superiority, on the other hand, are the language of the holocaust. They have no place in American education.