ACCORDING to the American Library Association (ALA) the book most American parents have wanted banned over recent years is ‘And Tango Makes Three’ about two male penguins that adopt a fertilized egg and raise the chick. According to Walt Brasch writing at On Line Opinion:
“Gays saw the story as a positive reinforcement of their lifestyle.
“Riding to rescue America from homosexuality were the biddies against perversion. Gay love is against the Bible, they wailed; the book isn’t suitable for the delicate minds of children, they cried as they pushed libraries and schools to remove it from their shelves or at the very least make it restricted.
“The penguins may have been gay-or maybe they weren’t. It’s not unusual for animals to form close bonds with others of their same sex. But the issue is far greater than whether or not the penguins were gay or if the book promoted homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. People have an inherent need to defend their own values, lifestyles, and worldviews by attacking others who have a different set of beliefs. Banning or destroying free speech and the freedom to publish is one of the ways people believe they can protect their own lifestyles.”
The books that make me cringe are always about what I perceive to be the distortion of science. I described three of the worst in a piece I wrote for ABC Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor in 2005:
“Several books have been published this year by celebrity scientists warning that unless we change our ways, civilisation as we know it is doomed. Tim Flannery in ‘The Weather Makers’ explains that our addiction to coal is impacting on our weather systems. In ‘A Big Fix: Radical solutions for Australia’s environmental crisis’, Ian Lowe advises that the situation is so desperate we abandon the traditional scientific method. Jared Diamond in ‘Collapse: How societies choose to fail or survive’ explains how the elite can lead us in the wrong direction.
The very worst was Lowe’s ‘A Big Fix’ and in particular his contention that we abandon the traditional scientific method.
“Professor Lowe begins his new book by stating, ‘I am a scientist’. But then on page 86 explains how we should abandon the traditional scientific method in favour of ‘sustainability science’ which ‘differs fundamentally from most science as we know it’. The Professor writes that, ‘The traditional scientific method is based on sequential phases of inquiry, conceptualising the problem, collecting data, developing theories, then applying the results. … Sustainability science will have to employ new methods, such as semi-quantitative modelling of qualitative data, or inverse approaches that work backwards from undesirable consequences to identify better ways to progress’.”
While it might be tempting to wish such a book were banned given that it appears to promote the corruption of science, I should perhaps be grateful Lowe has so clearly articulated this popular, if misguided, concept called ‘sustainability science’. Once something is clearly articulated, it should be easier to discuss and it is through discussion we can best hope to reasonably argue the pros and cons of apparently subversive ideas.
Banning the First Amendment, Walt Brasch http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=12681
We need real science for the environment – send Chicken Little to Hollywood, Jennifer Marohasy http://www.abc.net.au/rn/ockhamsrazor/stories/2005/1509193.htm