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North Carolina Citizens Are Not the Problem


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I’ve complained a lot in this space about North Carolina’s state legislature and governor fighting against science, and unless something drastically changes I probably will continue to do so. But a new survey makes an excellent counterpoint, and something North Carolina’s citizenry should be screaming as often as possible:

We are not the problem!

In a survey of North Carolina’s most visited attractions, number one was the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, including its spectacular new Nature Research Center, featuring the Daily Planet, the world’s largest globe. The whole thing sits right across the street from the State Legislature, which has in recent times been disgracing itself regarding science, so just hanging around the museum doesn’t necessarily help.

Also I should say right here that I’m on the board of the Friends of the NCMNS, so you have to recognize that I love and support the museum whether it wins popularity contests or not. But popular indeed: it had 1.2 million visitors in 2012; number two attraction Biltmore, in Asheville, the Vanderbilt ubermansion that’s billed as the country’s largest private residence, had 1.1 visitors, and so for the first time in the nine years Carolina Publishing Associates has been making this list, Biltmore did not win: a science museum did. That’s big for a state whose leadership has recently deeply commited itself to both science denialism and education bashing.

And more good news: the NCMNS is not alone. Of the top ten most-visited attractions in North Carolina, six were at least in some way related to science: Charlotte’s Discovery Place (third), the North Carolina Zoo (fourth), Marbles Kids Museum (sixth), the North Carolina Arboretum (ninth), and the Museum of Life and Sciences (tenth). Six of our top ten most visited museums or historical sites involved science.

So I’ll say again, to all those considering coming here to work, to play, to live, to visit: the problem isn’t the population. The people like science and education. The legislature and the governor don’t. The people will be here a long time. Stick with us, folks. Science will have its way in the end.

Scott Huler About the Author: A writer who commonly explores science, culture, and the relationship between the two. Follow on Twitter @huler.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. sault 11:29 pm 03/8/2013

    Agreed, an entire population is never ALL bad or to blame for the mistakes of their government. It’s just a shame that the 20 – 30 percent of people that reliably come out to vote for the anti-science clowns in state (and federal) legislatures can really cause major problems for 100% of the population.

    It doesn’t help that a lot of states are mostly made up of totally uncompetitive congressional districts (drawn by the very people that stand to benefit from the lack of competitive districts), so gerrymandering by state legislatures is probably an even BIGGER problem in these states.

    And it also doesn’t help that many of these states tried to disenfranchise many different groups of voters with onerous and unnecessary “voter I.D.” laws or intentionally making voters in urban areas wait hours to vote though a lack of polling places / personnel. So even if voter turnout got significantly higher than 50% (the 2012 election got close to 55% turnout I think…), a lot of those extra voters wouldn’t even be able to cast their vote!

    Long story short, the lack of competitive districts means that the extremists get to have more and more control over government since politicians have to worry more about primaries than the general election. And we get all the crazy like we’re seeing in NC and a lot of other states. Heck, we’ve got a state rep from WA claiming that someone riding a bicycle releases more CO2 that someone driving a car!!!

    http://green.autoblog.com/2013/03/08/wa-state-representative-argues-bikes-pollute-more-than-cars-bac/

    What’s next, abiogenic oil? Young-Earth Creationism??? Oh, wait…some of our elected officials have spouted off this nonsense too!

    Link to this
  2. 2. frankblank 12:03 am 03/9/2013

    Well, why then do not the citizens recall the brain-dead schmuck of a governor?

    Link to this
  3. 3. PTripp 3:08 am 03/9/2013

    Things have changed in the last year in NC government. For the first time since reconstruction we have Republicans controlling the House, Congress, and a Republican Governor. Bev ‘We should cancel the 2012 elections’ Perdue, the last Governor didn’t even attempt a second term. She was the one who also said when vetoing a bill on preserving the Outer Banks that ‘all the arguments were only science.’

    The NC government is far from fixed, the system is still broken, but progress is being made to restore it. There’s an old joke in NC. What do you call an ex-Governor …. Inmate.

    North Carolina’s main industries forty years ago were Tobacco and Textiles. It’s now technology.

    When you try to generalize and stereotype people and regions you fall into a socialist logic trap and base your assumptions on a distortion of the truth. By definition you are looking at what was. The truths are that people are different and people and things change. You can’t put them all in a nice little box and say they’re all the same. Life doesn’t work that way.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Trafalgar 3:20 am 03/9/2013

    sault: Clowns are (understandably) upset about people using ‘clowns’ as a pejorative for politicians. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/a-886174.html

    Link to this
  5. 5. grifter1337 6:48 am 03/9/2013

    I am also from NC and love the sciences. I would love for this to be indicative North Carolinian love of science. This only shows that people who go to tourist attractions in NC are apt to go to science attractions. How many of those people were from out of state and how many of the almost 10 million people in NC did not go to any tourist attraction. How many visitors did Carowinds have last year? Like 20 million?

    Link to this
  6. 6. Chryses 7:30 am 03/9/2013

    Upon what does Democracy rest?

    Link to this
  7. 7. dbtinc 8:10 am 03/9/2013

    sorry to disagree – the majority of the people voted for these morons and now the rest must suffer. Maybe this version of democracy ain’t so great?

    Link to this
  8. 8. dubay.denis 8:20 am 03/9/2013

    Gerrymandering legislative districts can dramatically skew elections. I believe I read that in the last election, more North Carolinians voted for Democratic congressional candidates overall than Republican candidates, yet far more Republican candidates won than Democrats. It seems Republicans know maps and math even as they deny science.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Finematerial 9:51 am 03/9/2013

    Sorry, not buying it. While you are (and should be) encouraging the intelligent NC residents, the fact is these antiscience types were elected by a majority vote. In a northeastern state anyone who acted as they do would never be reelected, in NC it happens again and again. The BTW, it’s still illegal to hold state office in NC if you are an atheist.

    Link to this
  10. 10. abolitionist 11:33 am 03/9/2013

    @6. Chryses

    The people.

    Link to this
  11. 11. Cyberia 8:37 am 03/10/2013

    To say that the people aren’t the problem is ridiculous. People who elect people who enact bad legislation ARE the problem!

    Link to this
  12. 12. Soccerdad 9:14 pm 03/10/2013

    How about those clowns in New York? They refuse to allow hydraulic fracturing for natural gas despite the fact there is no evidence to prohibit the practice.

    Link to this
  13. 13. Dr Billy Kidd 11:13 pm 03/10/2013

    There was nothing scientific about the article that North Carolina citizens are not the problem. It would have been more scientific to show polls that tell us that about 60% of the people in North Carolina believe God created the Earth about 7000 years ago.

    Link to this
  14. 14. Postman1 5:08 pm 03/12/2013

    I find it sort of ironic that this moronic author continues to denigrate the very state where he chooses to live and work.
    Also, frankblank, why would you call our new Governor a brain dead schmuck? Perhaps you need a mirror? Is it because he has been such a success in his public as well as personal life? Is it because he doesn’t give you anything to go after him for, so you need to resort to childish name calling? Perhaps you do need that mirror.

    Link to this
  15. 15. David_Lewis 10:45 am 03/13/2013

    That science denying sea level law is all about North Carolina getting the rest of the US to subsidize its land development policies. It has little to do with whether anyone in the state “loves” science.

    If a state allows development in areas subject to more frequent extreme flood due to sea level rise, the feds have to pick up the tab when the inevitable disaster strikes. Its not rocket science. Money flows in from the rest of the US to the state. The developers benefit when they build, and again when they rebuild with all the federal disaster funds. Its a no brainer, unless you’re one of the schmucks who buys one of the properties.

    Take a look at the Stafford Act. When the President declares a disaster, its provisions kick in. It authorizes rebuilding just the way things were, and mandates substantial federal aid, to “disaster” stricken communities. Flood events are becoming federally funded urban renewal.

    Link to this
  16. 16. PatrickR 5:33 pm 03/14/2013

    It’s amazing 60% of NC’s population thinks the earth is only 6000 or 7000 years old. Perpetuating this nonsensical notion is ridiculous. Nowhere in the Bible does it say the Earth is 6000 or 7000 years old this is all inference based on translation after translation from many different people at various times in history so give it a rest. To resist science fact when it’s convenient and supplement it with religious faith as the reason is the epitome of hypocrisy. Today’s politicians are akin to the Pharisee’s of the OT and their time will come.

    Link to this
  17. 17. huler 11:05 pm 03/14/2013

    I’m ready to see a link to this claim that 60% of North Carolinians are strict creationists. Not that I believe it’s not possible — hell, 40% of the whole country is — but I just can’t find it. So I’d like to see it. As for the atheist/public office thing, that appears to be true. Though it’s not enforced, it’s hellish and shameful. Another low point for NC. @Postman1, I’ve always believed that criticizing your government when it’s wrong is a right and a responsibility. I’m willing to bet that there’s at least one national public servant you did not vote for and who you believe is doing harm to our nation. Yet you remain in the United States, right? You criticize my work, yet you appear to still read it. You probably ought to rethink your point.

    Link to this
  18. 18. CPO_Ryback 7:39 am 03/16/2013

    Dear Writer & Editors –

    ” .. ubermansion that’s billed as the country’s largest private residence, had 1.1 visitors ..”

    Congratulations, you’re as good with math as OweBama of Harvard Law (D) is. LOL.

    Thank God they got rid of the (D) governor Bev. Who, BTW, publicly wished that legislatures would go away. Stalin and Mao thought the same thing.

    So the DOOK Yankees don’t like the locals? Great, as soon as OweBama of Harvard Law (D) learns how to use a calculator, you Yankees can run the state. That’s never going happen, HA, HA, HA!

    Link to this

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