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.