America losing brainpower advantage: report

Sep 24, 2010 By Devin Powell, ISNS
Though most of the world's top universities are located in the United States, the World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th in math and science education. Credit: ISNS

The United States' ability to compete globally in science and technology is on a "perilous path," said a new report delivered Sept. 23 on Capitol Hill to a bipartisan group of policymakers, industry leaders, and academics.

American continue to perform poorly in math and compared to their counterparts abroad, they said. Though the is still a leader in innovation and produces a disproportionate share of the world's wealth, other countries such as China are investing heavily in research and education and, according to the new report, threatening America's competitiveness.

"At a time when jobs are our foremost concern in the United States, keeping our brainpower advantage is a good way to keep new jobs coming," said Sen. Lamar Alexander R-Tenn.

The group that met Thursday was originally brought together in 2005 by a bipartisan request from Congress to assess the U.S.'s competitiveness and to recommend a path for the future. They concluded that the health of the American and the creation of jobs depend on innovation.

"We've known for some time that science research is a firm foundation for economic growth," Rep. Rush Holt D-N.J. said on Thursday. "Now we're really at a critical moment."

New scientific discoveries drive the creation of new jobs: basic research in solid-state physics, for example, led to the materials now used in products ranging from iPods and medical scanners to GPS networks and to the jobs in these industries.

"Rising Above the Gathering Storm," a report written by this group and sponsored by the National Academies in 2005, outlined the problems facing the U.S., including stagnated federal research funding and a dysfunctional . It listed 20 recommendations meant to improve the American education system, double federal spending on basic research, encourage more people to pursue careers in science and engineering, and reform patent, immigration, and litigation policies.

Revisiting this original report five years later, the members of the Gathering Storm committee have now upgraded the storm to an approaching Category 5 hurricane.

"The outlook for America to com¬pete for quality jobs has further deteriorated over the past five years," according to the new report.

Only 4 of the top 10 companies receiving U.S. patents in 2009 were American companies. Most of General Electric Co.'s research and development personnel are located outside of the U.S., and 77 percent of global firms surveyed said they will build new research and development facilities in China and India.

"China graduated more English-speaking engineers last year than we did," said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. "The United States' share of high-tech exports has fallen from 21 to 14 percent, while China's rose from 7 to 20 percent."

"They're doing better than we are," Wolf added.

The new report again stressed the importance of education. Though most of the world's top universities are located in the United States, the World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th in math and science education. American test scores in these subjects have changed little over the last 40 years. Nearly one-third of American adults don't know how long it takes the Earth to revolve around the Sun, according to the National Science Board.

Some progress has been made in basic research funding. The America COMPETES Act, passed in 2007, opened the door for new funding for major government agencies such as the National Science Foundation and for the new agency ARPA-E devoted to high-risk, high-reward energy research. Many of these efforts were funded by money from the 2009 economic stimulus bill.

This stimulus funding is now largely used up, and the America COMPETES Act expires this year. Thursday's advocates for science called on the Senate to pass a reauthorization of a revised version of the COMPETES bill that allows federal spending for basic research to continue to increase.

"This is a marathon, not a sprint," said Norman Augustine, former chairman and chief executive of the Lockheed Martin Corporation. "Just running fast, we'll stay in the same place. We have to run really fast."

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Source: Inside Science News Service

4.1 /5 (28 votes)

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bg1
3.9 / 5 (14) Sep 24, 2010
Why would a young person invest in a career where they can be replaced for a dollar an hour? If the US is serious about "encourag[ing] more people to pursue careers in science and engineering"; then our elected officials will have to radically change our trade policy. But they won't because their major donors are getting richer than ever with the current trade policy.
bottomlesssoul
3.3 / 5 (8) Sep 24, 2010
@bg1 you're saying Americans won't get a science education because they won't get paid enough? Why would someone get an education in history which has no or little potential to earn money?

I've had the sad privilege of working with engineers and scientists who pursued their careers for money instead of knowledge. Over paid ignorant whiners.
VOR
3.1 / 5 (7) Sep 25, 2010
too many US voters/leaders underemphasize education reform/progress and underfund education.Their selfishness or ignorance prevents them from knowing it is the best investment we can possibly make in our country's future. ALL desciplines are important, but there has never been pay equity across them. I dont think your chances of employment are dramatically different based on your level of education, just your level of pay. If you want to find a reason to avoid education, you are seeking ignorance and regression. Trade and foreign-sourced tax policies could use some tweaking, IMO.
Ravenrant
4.2 / 5 (17) Sep 25, 2010
Freedom can breed stupidity. The kind of freedom in the USA is perfect for it, it's a petri dish for stupidity. It is self perpetuating and permeates american society. This brainpower loss will only get worse and all the experts opinions on the cause will not change anything. We do not worship the gifted and most intelligent, we worship the dollar.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.7 / 5 (11) Sep 25, 2010
The majority of people with high intellect in the US have been going into economics rather than medicine and hard sciences. Couple that with the decay of our school systems and the failing infrastructure for our cities and towns and the brain drain was bound to happen. It has nothing to do with our freedoms or othersuch, it's that intellect doesn't pay in the US.
I dont think your chances of employment are dramatically different based on your level of education, just your level of pay.

The higher your level of education (without specialty) the more jobs are open to you.

You don't want a high school dropout responsible for anything having to do with nuclear research, but you can have a nuclear physicist change your oil. It does make a difference.
Nik_2213
4.5 / 5 (10) Sep 25, 2010
Take a look at the text-books, set by nigh-fundamentalist majorities on committees. Take a look at the teaching, where precious few are taught to question in a scientific manner. Reap the whirlwind...
John_balls
3.3 / 5 (12) Sep 25, 2010
Why would a young person invest in a career where they can be replaced for a dollar an hour? If the US is serious about "encourag[ing] more people to pursue careers in science and engineering"; then our elected officials will have to radically change our trade policy. But they won't because their major donors are getting richer than ever with the current trade policy.

Holy cow did you hit on the nose. I work in these fields and it's not easy to geta degree in them and it makes it even more difficult knowing that they can easily export your job overseas in a new york minute.
droid001
4.5 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2010
The problem is that science, good education is not assessed enough. A simple speculations paid more. This is absurd. It is very easy to lose leading position in the rapidly changing world, and very difficult to regain.
Nokia is an example.
freethinking
1.7 / 5 (22) Sep 25, 2010
I find it amazing that people like nik2213 blame christians for poor education outcomes. My guess is nik_2213 is a progressive and hates facts.

Fact 1, the public school system has been taken over by progressives and by and large is against christians.
Fact 2, (though I dont believe is home schooling and my kids are in public schools) the majority of home schoolers are religious, and home schoolers out perform public school students.
Fact 3, kids are not taught to question and think, only recite.
Fact 4, public schools discourage and hinder boys from higher education.

I would provide links to prove the above points for the lazy progressives on this board, however unlike the progressives, I have to work.

US did better with math and science 50 years ago when the progressives had less control of the school system.

Think about it, progressives take over the school system, school system gets worse. They take over the economy, the economy gets worse.
jonnoxx
3.3 / 5 (7) Sep 25, 2010
The prime reason for USA's steady decline is a change in demographics that is causing the mean IQ of the population to fall. "Education" cannot fix stupidity. This can only be fixed by by strong social intervention at a national government level eg introducing policies that (really do) incentivise the poor to have less children and that actively discourage teenage pregnancies and poor parenting. Good parents and strong families are the foundation of a nation. And when that is FIRST in place, then only can "education" kick in. This is Singapore's recipe. And it also the engine for China's future dominance. Their kids are brighter now than the average US ghetto kid. And the China advantage is only going to increase while US politicians and academics do an egg-dance to avoid confronting politically uncomfortable home-truths.
_nigmatic10
2.5 / 5 (6) Sep 25, 2010
Bottom line. If the Jobs are in other countries, then eventually, so to will the people to fill them, and eventually, the education to train them.

That has been happening here in the U.S. for a long time. Eventually, left to its course, this nation will be a nation of Idiocracy. (funny movie, btw.)
Philip_Cunningham
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 25, 2010
The Real Reason American Education Has Slipped - David Barton
http://www.metaca...4318930/
Skeptic_Heretic
4 / 5 (7) Sep 25, 2010
I find it amazing that people like nik2213 blame christians for poor education outcomes. My guess is nik_2213 is a progressive and hates facts.
When did he do that? Or are you just assuming that people are out to get you?
CarolinaScotsman
3.5 / 5 (13) Sep 25, 2010
As long as religious nuts continue to deny science and have a huge following that listens to them, this country will never regain its premier position in the world of knowledge. This is why America is losing ground.
gwrede
3.4 / 5 (11) Sep 25, 2010
China's got more than 4 times the population, India almost 4 times what the US has. How on earth does anybody expect they won't trample the US once they get their act together?? Which they undoubtedly will, within our lifetime.

Americans quibble over abortion, whether the Earth is flat, intelligent design, gun permits to everyone, should you die of appendicitis if you're not wealthy, and whether the Governor of Alaska can see Russia, is it right to shoot someone in Arizona if they look non-Caucasian, and daily talk-show hosts take it for granted in their quips that everybody knows how it feels to have used marijuana, speed and cocaine.

At the same time, China and India are building good education systems, not destroying their youth with stupid TV-programming that erodes folks' morale and attitudes towards working as one for the good of the nation, and they are not eating themselves to death at McDonald's.

At this rate, the US will go the way of the SU (Soviet Union).
trekgeek1
4.5 / 5 (6) Sep 25, 2010
Though I have heard that China and India label some professions as "engineers" when they aren't engineers as we know them, more like vocational technicians. I'm not sure, but it would be useful to find out. Plus, quality over quantity does make a difference. If you have a few brilliant engineers and a bunch of monkeys crunching numbers, it may equal fewer engineers with better development tools and resources. Maybe we can do more with less people. Maybe we need to start broadcasting Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Bill Nye episodes on all major networks during prime time, instead of a football player dancing with a desperate housewife.
gold2_718
4 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2010
Re Philip_Cunningham's post on "The Real Reason American Education Has Slipped": This a classic example of distorting and ignoring inconvenient facts in order to make a preconceived point. Just a couple of examples. First, the speaker conflates association with causality. He states that the drop in SAT scores is due to some dramatic change in the inclusion of religion in US schools. He does not demonstrate that there was a dramatic shift (or any shift) during that time and ignores the real dramatic shift. During the time of the decline, there was a huge push to have more students take the SAT and apply for college so the percentage of high school students taking the SAT has soared. He also denies the major changes made to the test between 1963 and 1994 (even the name changed). Finally, he inserted the name "Jesus" into a Jefferson quote in order to make his point (consult any reference). So it is either ignorance or lies, take your pick.
gold2_718
5 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2010
I agree with bg1 and others that we should stop rewarding those who are exporting good jobs. However, it is still possible to obtain skills in school which lead to well-paying science and engineering jobs which are difficult or impossible to outsource. We can and should be introducing school kids to these futures beginning in first grade but there are powerful forces who do not want a well-educated, critical thinking citizenry (Murdoch and the Koch brothers come to mind). The do an excellent job of manipulating the system in ways that keep education down.
gold2_718
5 / 5 (7) Sep 25, 2010
@gwrede: I'm not sure the Soviet Union is a good-enough example of our future. We are fat and happy (they weren't) and driving straight off the cliff. Think Roman Empire and "Bread and Circuses" (http://en.wikiped...rcuses). In this case Bread would be the cheap food (as you pointed out) and Circuses could be exemplified in the mindless TV shows as pointed out by trekgeek1.
Quantum_Conundrum
3.4 / 5 (8) Sep 26, 2010
trekgeek1:

I can agree with this, and I've been pointing it out for several years, but often mocked for it on this forum and others.

The fact that Brett Favre got a contract for 16 million for one year to play a sport while people in actual R&D, engineering, healthcare, or production jobs made somewhere between 1/32 and 1/16th is completely insane.

I am shocked at the number of television programs on basic and expanded cable which are completely utter nonsense: 10 channels of watching people cheat on one another, 10 channels to watch disney, nickolodeon, cartoon network, etc, promote witchcraft all day long, 10 channels for sports, 10 channels to be brainwashed by the media owned by your favorite political party, etc, and then maybe 2 or 3 "educational" channels and half of their programming is also nonsense or repeats because they can't keep good enough ratings to stay on television.
Quantum_Conundrum
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 26, 2010
Actually, scratch that. Favre made about 320 times as much money as an Registered Nurse makes, not 32...

That's right. We could staff an entire hospital for the price of one football player on just one team...
trekgeek1
3 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2010
trekgeek1:

The fact that Brett Favre got a contract for 16 million for one year to play a sport while people in actual R&D, engineering, healthcare, or production jobs made somewhere between 1/32 and 1/16th is completely insane.

I am shocked at the number of television programs on basic and expanded cable which are completely utter nonsense: 10 channels of watching people cheat on one another, 10 channels to watch disney, nickolodeon, cartoon network, etc, promote witchcraft all day long, 10 channels for sports, 10 channels to be brainwashed by the media owned by your favorite political party, etc, and then maybe 2 or 3 "educational" channels and half of their programming is also nonsense or repeats because they can't keep good enough ratings to stay on television.


Thanks. Witchcraft? I don't really see too much witchcraft on t.v. but there is plenty of room for fantasy and imagination in a kids mind.
jonnoxx
5 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2010
For a web-site representing the best of USA science, the poor quality of comments on this site is as much an indication of the underlying problem as the problem itself. Where are the well-thought out explanations for this decline? And above all, where are the practical solutions, and why is your solution the better bet than other alternatives? And how are you going to get this better solution to prevail NOW - not in some distant hazy future?

For starters, recognise that it is not merely about population numbers (somebody argued that China and India have much bigger populations, therefore they will be better than us). Not so (at least for now). Israel and Singapore are miniscule populations surrounded by much larger competitive nations - and yet they thrash their competition. Why??? The central problem is that the US is now boxing FAR below its weight, and worse, this trend is accelerating. In 20 or 30 years, the decline (and fate) of the USA will be pretty much irreversible.
kuro
4.5 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2010
It is the current situation that isn't normal.

The US as such has never had a "brainpower advantage". It has (especially post-WWII) had an economic advantage that drew the brightest brains from all over the world.

Now that other places are experiencing greater growth, the brains will, of course, follow.

It won't happen overnight, but just as the production capacity has spread, so will the brains.

Nothing to worry about, the US will eventually drop to its proper place in the world - it may not be #1, but will be near the top.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2010
Kuro,

That's a reasonable assessment, however, I think you're wrong. I have a feeling that the US will fall far further than it should depending on the rather upset political situation. If we start running into cross partisan government shutdowns, as we did prior, we're in for some serious trouble, both economically and culturally.
Bob_B
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 26, 2010
I too believe it is religion that is crashing the USA, just as it (Muslim religion) crashed the world of the inventor of algebra. and other great thinking minds.
Once religion takes hold real thinking begins to stop. It seems as long as religion is driving/dividing the population, it will continue to sink into stupidity faster and faster.

To the Singapore commenter: I'd never wish to live there. It is such a controlled society is just a bunch of bees or ants - your choice - but don't spit while thinking - you could be put in prison.
ChairmanLMAO
5 / 5 (6) Sep 26, 2010
The problem has a simple cause, and a correspondingly simple solution.

The cause is that the corporate swine who run this country, and have bought our Congress, have used the power of the US Government to enact policies that benefit them at the expense of everyone else. Education produces people who don't unquestioningly believe whatever their leaders tell them, so it's not in anyone's interest to have an educated populace.

If we want to solve this problem, we need to publicly fund ALL elections and ban lobbying. We need to have severe prison terms and financially ruinous penalties for interfering with elections and policy making for personal or corporate gain. We need to reform the patent and copyright system, so it once again favors innovation instead of stifling it. And we need to throw every radical right-wing anti-science bigot out of office.
ChairmanLMAO
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2010
The Real Reason American Education Has Slipped - David Barton
http://www.metaca...4318930/


Yes - I agree, that is a big factor. We need to make sure that fundamentalist religious whackos are kept as far away from schools as is humanly possible.
gwrede
3 / 5 (6) Sep 26, 2010
To the Singapore commenter: I'd never wish to live there. It is such a controlled society is just a bunch of bees or ants
True. Then again, the opposite, where it's everyone for himself, and I want it all and I want it now, doesn't work either. That only leads to stepping on other people.

There should be a middle ground somewhere, that lets people both live their lives happy and free, and still feel they're building something together. (Heh, that sounded like a religious politician.)
but don't spit while thinking - you could be put in prison.
Now, there's something to think about! If you live your life wading in others' spit, half-eaten hamburgers, beer cans, barf, and gum in your soles, how could you ever learn to respect anything?? -- I want that law everywhere!
ereneon
5 / 5 (4) Sep 26, 2010
@phillip
Though That video makes some good points, I don't think it is religion that is actually the determining factor here, though I do think it is related.
1) Not all private schools are religious.
2) More affluent people tend to send their kids to private school, so there is an innate bias toward privates schools producing more high achieving students.
3) After the 60s we became a consumer culture and our whole society became consumption oriented. This consumer culture is the real problem, and religion is but one casualty of it. Good consumers don't question advertising or that material junk far beyond what is needed to live a simple comfortable life can make them happy (even though many studies on this very site strongly indicate otherwise). Tens of billions in lobbying and marketing by the giant organizations profiting from excessive consumption, and widespread corporate/political corruption are the real problem.
Pratyeka
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2010
The direction any society takes has always been determined by the majority. It always reflects what the majority desires most. Since the majority is now composed of selfish ignorant bent on having nicer stuff than the Jones, without having to make any effort, you get a society in decline. Go ahead, let the ignorant morons vote and you get a society ruled by ignorant morons.
Quantum_Conundrum
1.4 / 5 (11) Sep 26, 2010
Pratyeka:

Ironically, the democrat party and especially people on this forum have a nasty habit of insulting republicans, and claiming to be "educated", yet it is the democrat politicians who won the majority in the congress and won the presidency...and now those same leaders continue to make even worse mistakes than the people before them.

Above, BobB blames "religion" and says "once religion takes hold real thinking begins to stop".

I question his intelligence and education, as all save two signers of the declaration of independence had SEMINARY degrees.

Oh, and then there's that Isaac Newton guy who was so much a Christian and took his faith so seriously that he spent much of his life trying to decypher Bible prophecy. Yet somehow this guy you would likely characterize as an idiot just managed to revolutionize physics and math in so many ways we can't even list them here.

The degree of dishonesty BobB has shown here is simply appalling.
ChairmanLMAO
3.7 / 5 (9) Sep 26, 2010
Ironically, the democrat party and especially people on this forum have a nasty habit of insulting republicans


If Republicans weren't so hostile to science, maybe they wouldn't garner so many insults from educated people?

I question his intelligence and education, as all save two signers of the declaration of independence had SEMINARY degrees.


So? I'm not sure how that proves anything. The real question is if people of Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson's intellectual prowess, born in the modern era with the benefit of our much greater understanding of the universe, would espouse any religious views whatsoever? And indeed, Jefferson, who was arguably the most prominent of the framers in terms of influence, was very nearly an atheist.
ereneon
5 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2010
There is a lot of religion-bashing going on here, which kind of worries me. Though I am personally not religious, I know many people who are, and are smart, talented, tolerant, hard-working people (yes, including Christians and Muslims). I don't think religion is the problem. The real problem is ignorance. Ignorance supplies fundamental extremist religion with gullible recruits, which I don't think anyone reasonable doubts has been a negative influence on the world, and the same ignorance drives our current insane consumer stampede over the proverbial cliff. The powers that be (political, financial, corporate, and yes, both parties are equally to blame!) make sure children are not taught how the world really works, (the insane banking system, the billions of lobbying, the rampant corruption), and until we can change this, we don't really have any hope as a country. Religion is just being used as a tool to keep us divided and divert us from the obvious truth.
dirk_bruere
5 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2010
If you want to make discoveries, become a scientist.
If you want to make machines, become an engineer.
If you want to make money, become a banker.
ereneon
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2010
@ Chairman
Disclaimer: I am not personally religious.
Actually many scientists and thinkers from the modern era were religious. Off the top of my head:
Einstein (Jewish/Christian)
Oppenheimer (Jewish/Hindu)
Arthur C Clarke (sort of Buddhist)
Feynman (supporter of Christian ethics http://en.wikiquo...Feynman)
In fact I would say the opposite of your claim is true, truly great thinkers tend toward religion rather than away from it. The difference is that they thought deeply about it and took their information from many sources. Truly brilliant people know there is so much out there, and they yearn for answers. As I said before, religion is not the problem, ignorance is. Read Feynman's quote on religion. It really changed the way I think of things like this.
ereneon
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
The link in my comment got messed up somehow, here is the correct link:

http://en.wikiquo..._Feynman

Though not really religious, Feynman definitely thought there was a place in our society for Christian values.
kuro
3.8 / 5 (5) Sep 26, 2010
I don't think religion is the problem. The real problem is ignorance.


You seriously not see the connection between those two? Religion was a useful tool for social cohesion in certain types of society. It purported to gave tools to explain the world to those being cohered.

These days we have better forms of government and better cognitive tools to deal with the world around than religion.

And we come to the real problem.

Learning and using these tools is hard and requires discipline, dedication and a lot of work. But modern society allows a lot of individuals to go by in life without the need to know any science, or have any critical thinking beyond the skill to compare brand images.

To those who are too lazy to bother, the world becomes magic, and they go by default for the easier toolkit - a religion or something similar.

Incidentally, doing this they also bring to life and support a cute little religion industry which has grown into a powerful political force.
ereneon
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2010
Again, the problem you are driving at is ignorance, not religion itself. Ignorant people mindlessly practice religion without thinking about it or considering alternatives, which I agree causes many problems. However, many of the greatest scientific thinkers of the modern era were either religious, or studied religion deeply, but they thought a great deal about it, and certainly were not mindless followers. Maybe our problem is disagreement on the definition of "religion". The definition I am using is that religion deals with things that are unfalsifiable, in other words, out of the reach of science. In this way, science and religion do no conflict. Can science prove there is no "God"? Of course not, because it is not falsifiable. People who kill each other over who the true prophet who told them not to kill and steal are not really religious, they are just fools.
kuro
3 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2010
First, you invent your definitions liberally - "religion" can refer to "a system of personal beliefs" and also "an organized cult that sells members peace of mind in exchange for a tithe".

The important phenomenon is the organization. Most join churches not to find a "God", but because it is a social custom (no thinking) or a useful social tool, or to avoid being ostracized.

Second, there are no "unfalsifiable" things, there is only not enough knowledge. Science (and, more importantly, experience) has long proven that "God" is an irrelevant concept. But it is so much easier to discuss "God" than to ponder math or physics or social problems seriously.

Third, people who kill each other over who is the true prophet are religious in the deepest sense of that word - they have so much belief in their respective supernatural power, they'd do anything for it without critically thinking about it.

Why? Because religious belief makes thinking useless. You already know all you need to know.
Quantum_Conundrum
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 26, 2010
ChairmanLMAO:

Just so you know, I am neither republican nor democrat, and I consider both parties to be a blight on this country, because neither of them has any real interest in social, moral, technological, or economic progress in this country as a whole, but only for their own specific interest groups.

Quantum_Conundrum
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 26, 2010
Kuro:

You also show yourself to know little to nothing about actual Christianity.

you say, "religious belief makes thinking useless. You already know all you need to know..."

You must not be referring to Christianity nor even the Old Testament, right? After all, look here:

From the BIBLE:

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:

O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart

Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

Quantum_Conundrum
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 26, 2010
Continued:

He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established

And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD (IS. 11:2)

====

Oh yes, "baaaaaaad" old Christianity is the cause of all ignorance.

No. Rather foolishness and laziness are the cause and has nothing to do with Christianity, and is rebuked countless times throughout the Bible.
canuckit
5 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2010
"Though the United States is still a leader in innovation and produces a disproportionate share of the world's wealth..." Most of the innovation comes from young people that immigrated to the US because of the financial advantages compared to other countries. The countries that provide these individuals talk about their brain drain problems.
kuro
4.1 / 5 (8) Sep 26, 2010
Conundrum indeed, reigns in your head.

1. I'm reverently talking about religions in general, not singling one out. Islam, Communism, Ayn-Randism, Christianity, any make-belief that substitutes a simple recipe for critical thinking is the same.

2. Please, refute me with facts, not Bible quotes.

Fact: "Old" Christianity has persecuted all people who threatened the Christian doctrines for as long as it had the power to do so, dead or alive, even when the said doctrines were based on ignorance.

Examples: Bruno and Galileo are, of course, the best known victims (as the works of the Greek philosophers) but you can learn about many more, if you could only find the time to raise your pious eyes from the Bible and read a real history book.

Fact: "New" Christianity is spending a lot of time and money trying to subvert the educational system with pseudo-science.

Examples: Google "board of education" and "creationism".

So yes, religion demotes thinking and leads to ignorance.
ereneon
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
Abusing religion is an easy way to manipulate people for your own ends (political, etc.). In fact, it is a great way to keep people split into bitterly fighting factions so that they cannot unite to fix society's actual problems. This is obvious above, where many intelligent well read people are fighting back and forth about it instead of setting their differences aside and discussing fixing the real issues almost everyone can agree on (political/corporate corruption, corrupt campaign finances/lobbying of both parties, corrupt broken banking system, runaway consumer culture, etc.). Both sides just need to come to terms with the simple fact that faith is not a choice. Atheists can't choose to be religious any more than Christians (or any other religion) can choose to be atheists. You can argue about it all you want, but it will make no difference.
ereneon
5 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2010
@ Kuro
There are no unfalsifiable things? That’s a very bold statement that I don't think many philosophers will agree with.

http://en.wikiped...iability

Here is an easy one from the above article:
"No human will ever live forever." How will you prove that wrong?
Zidara
3 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2010
@kuro

Fewer and fewer people regularly attend church or consider themselves religious, especially compared to 100 years ago and at the beginnings of the USA. Our nation of late has declined with that, but I know correlation doesn't imply causation, so I'm not trying to prove anything there.

What I do want to know, is why the number of people hostile to religion has increased even though religious influence has decreased. Even more important, WHY should they feel so much more threatened now? Science and religion are not mutually exclusive, the proof of that is the number of excellent scientists who have also been religious, or AT LEAST religiously tolerant. Are you willing to say Einstein would have been a better scientist if he had been atheist?

One of the things this nation was founded upon (and protected in the constitution) was religious freedom, so I think you should get over yourself.
kuro
2 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2010
You're using the phrase in your example colloquially, without providing a clear definition.

Unless you provide a clear, falsifiable definition of at least "live" and "forever", your question is meaningless, an invitation to play with words.

If you provide a clear and falsifiable definitions, you'll be able to answer your question yourself.
ereneon
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2010
Choosing good meanings for "live" and "forever" is actually very hard to do. I don't think I can come up with definitions that will be very satisfying. I'll approach the problem from a different point of view which is much more rigorously defined.
We can think of whether God exists or not (or any other religious question you like) as a decision problem which is either true or false. We know that problems which cannot be decided exist, particularly in computer science (halting problem, etc. http://en.wikiped..._problem ) therefore there exist questions of the same format as "does God exist" that provably cannot be decided no matter how much knowledge you have.
kuro
4 / 5 (4) Sep 26, 2010
Science and religion aren't mutually exclusive only if you consider the religion as personal belief of a responsible person.

Religious organizations that wield social power always have potential to conflict with science, because their value system is found on a belief of a supernatural force, not reality.

Every time belief diverges with reality (e.g. AIDS and condoms in Africa) and religion wins (e.g. fundamentalists in US stop condom funding), real people suffer (AIDS spreads).

"why the number of people hostile to religion has increased even though religious influence has decreased"

Because religious organizations are trying to fight their decrease in influence the wrong way - by power-grabbing.

Some have tried to aggressively PR by re-introduce pseudo-science, covering up large-scale misdeeds of their officials, or harming people (e.g. AIDS and stem cell research), etc.

Naturally, these call for opposition.
ereneon
4.8 / 5 (4) Sep 26, 2010
Then attack the ignorant and malevolent people who do these things, not the religion itself. Attacking the religion itself creates many enemies that would otherwise be your allies (such as responsible people who have religious personal beliefs). I agree that the things you stated above are a bad influence on the world, but if reasonable people who happen to be religious are bitterly attacked by people on your side, then they are practically forced onto the other side which defends these things.
ereneon
3 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2010
Here is a more tangible classic example of unfalsifiability and how silly it is to argue about whether God exists or not in the context of science:
Your brain is in a vat with electrodes hooked up feeding you your perception of reality.
Nothing you can say can falsify this, since anything you experience can simply be part of the simulation. You can claim it is improbable, but even this is tenuous at best since your whole perception of reality is based on the simulation. You can argue about this forever and make no progress. Arguing about God's existence with science is the same.
kuro
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
@enron:

You're just being lazy now, if you give an example, you should stand by it. If you define "live" and "forever" in terms of our current knowledge, a human definitely cannot live forever, and it is easy to see why, to see how this answer can be falsified, and to judge how likely falsifying it is.

The halting problem is a strawman to your first argument -- the two questions are not equivalent, and comparing them is meaningless.

"Attacking religion itself" -- if a person is motivated by a set of beliefs backed by an organization, it is the beliefs and the organization that need to be called out, labeling the person as "bad" isn't going to help.

As for the "vat" -- there is an alternative theory. Since the brain and the electrodes that feed it information operate on certain principles beyond the control of the people who run the simulation, a powerful brain in enough time can eventually figure out they are in a simulation if the simulation is out of sync with physical reality.
kuro
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
"if reasonable people who happen to be religious are bitterly attacked by people on your side, then they are practically forced onto the other side which defends these things."

If reasonable religious people are facilitating the bad acts of their religious organization by not actively opposing them, even as they see them as wrong, is their responsibility any less than that of their leadership?

If they flock in defense of the bad things their organization is doing simply because they see the act of pointing out such bad deeds as "attack on our values", are they simply deluded, or are they actively protecting their investment in the social power their religious organization gives them?

It isn't as simple as you make it out to be.
ereneon
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
If a religious person attacks all of science because he found an example of a few corrupt scientists, then he is creating many enemies who would otherwise be his allies (other people who support science and are not corrupt). The situation is the same. It's just human nature to band together when your group is attacked, even if parts of it are bad.
kuro
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
Consider how wrong is your argument in the context of the "brain drain" problem of the article.

On one hand, you have a large coalition of various religious organizations that try to block funding for a specific specific, science-backed initiative, clearly causing harm (say, Christians blocking stem cell or effective AIDS protection, or "green" movement blocking genetic research without regard to the evidence).

Of course, objecting to such policies is the morally justified and the objectively "right" position.

Of course, being attacked when standing up against such policies will be a red flag to all who consider doing science in such society, and facilitate brain drain.

On the other, you have someone who attacks "all of science" with the one and only argument that "there are some corrupt scientists" (example?).

Of course, such judgment should be dismissed as not factual and not sane, by all whose views are based on any objective criteria.
ChairmanLMAO
5 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2010
@ Chairman
Disclaimer: I am not personally religious.


Then surely you have no reason to make such outrageous claims that have no basis in fact.
notHyped
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2010
"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools"

"Religion"? Please. What about good old-fashioned American greed?

You create a country where humanity's true nature is allowed to flourish, and you are surprised when that nature is one of essential selfishness?
Skeptic_Heretic
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2010
The link in my comment got messed up somehow, here is the correct link:

http://en.wikiquo..._Feynman

Though not really religious, Feynman definitely thought there was a place in our society for Christian values.

He also didn't think Christian values were Christian in origin or that they were sufficient on their own.
Javinator
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2010
Religion is not the problem.

Fundamentalism is the problem.
gwargh
4 / 5 (4) Sep 27, 2010
I think everyone should tone things down a bit. Religion is largely part of the problem, but only because of literal interpretations. No one who believes the earth is 6000 years old can really do much in science. Not ALL Christians (let's face it, they are by far the main culprits of this in the US) are old testament nuts though. And religion serves its purpose perfectly well when it stays in its own domain, rather than trying to claim everything as its domain. (What its real domain is, on the other hand, is fairly debatable. Some would say it's the business of bullshit, I'd claim it's more so moral comfort and community building. But to each his own, I suppose.)
mrN
5 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2010
Well in my humble opinion should folk in the states look who is performing? In Finland(home sweet home) we have quite good education system yes
it is evil authoritarian socialistic but what does that matter if it works?

Maybe i'm little(or more XD) paranoid but I think U.S education system is purposefully sabotaged by rich elite (who owns United states) to keep ordinary men and women down.
HealingMindN
not rated yet Sep 27, 2010
It's interesting that this article uses China as an example. I recall a news show last week where the people were discussing how China owns most of U.S. economy. Therefore, China has over taken the U.S. economically and academically?
rountree
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2010
if we truly want to improve out educational status, increase starting salaries for teachers to $100,000 a year. it will take 20 years to flush the system, but within a few years you will begin to attract the best and the brightest. many people who would love to teach are not willing to work two or three jobs to make ends meet.
ArJ
1 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2010
If cost is your driver, Research & Development is usually sacrificed. However, recently, companies are starting to spend more on R&D because there's a limit to how much you could lower costs.

The question is should our country be in a conservative wealth maintenance mode or risky, yet immensely rewarding, wealth creation mode? Right now, we are essentially letting the finance world siphon off investments into massive "profits." We need for the Government to disincentivize financial engineering and incentivize R&D, especially in small businesses. Large businesses have very little incentive to utilize savings for R&D (if they can sell their products without any improvements, why improve it?); they usually convert it into profit and/or massive bonuses. The government needs to bring more to small businesses, especially since small businesses employ majority of the people in the US and are the most agile.
maxcypher
5 / 5 (2) Oct 02, 2010
I'm a relatively new high school math teacher who entered the field in my 50's. I thought I knew what teaching was about until I actually started working. If you haven't taught within the US school 'system', then you really have no idea of how complex the problem is. It's not religion, not money, not politics, etc., individually. The fabric of US society has been fraying for decades and now teachers are expected to knit that fabric back in shape within the classroom. Quite the job for someone making $30k and putting in 15 to 20 extra hours every week.
Mesafina
1 / 5 (2) Oct 02, 2010
First off, I'd like to point out that having gone through the US educational system, the public school system is deliberately designed to produce people who don't know how to handle money and therefor will indebt themselves as serfs to society. I never once had the option to take a personal finances course in school, even though I was required to take macro economics. That is not a coincidence, they deliberately do not want that being taught to the serfs. My friend who went to a private school DID take such courses, and was required to as part of the curriculum. It really is a class divide between the landlords/owners in this country and the renters/workers (aka serfs). While most rich people are just decent people who happen to be wealthy, a few bad eggs upon high do actually have quite far reaching influence and power over us in America and around the world.
Mesafina
1 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2010
Secondly, in regards to the debate about religion. Religion itself is not a "bad" thing for society, as long as it is being practiced by reasonable, open-minded individuals who do not try and sell their religion to others. Just like communism or capitalism are both not "bad" ideals if you assune people will behave a certain way in their context. The problem with all these things is that is not how people behave.
Mesafina
1 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2010
When a religious person teaches their children that god is real, then they are effectively lying to their children. But since they think it's true themselves, it drops from being an outright lie to simply a delusion. Lie or delusion, when religious people teach their children their religion, that is when I have a problem with it. If you teach your children to accept what you say without question or evidence, then you are teaching them it's ok to accept things without question or evidence. How can it be any surprise that this behavior leads to ignorance and authoritarianism? How can there be any doubt that such situations actually harm the future prospects of the child in question, through harming his critical analytical skills which are so essential to being a functional human? It's practically child abuse.
jamesrm
not rated yet Oct 02, 2010
Idiocracy
www.youtube.com/w...OlfR7WTo
Fox made it then tried to loose it.
Some here may like it

Rgds
James
freethinking
1 / 5 (9) Oct 02, 2010
We now have supposedly the best educated teachers ever, but test scores are the lowest. Could it be that teachers are too educated? Why does it take 6+ years to teach someone to teach 1-4'th grade? Also raising teachers salaries won't fix any problem, many are already paid way too much.

What would fix a lot of education problems would be to eliminate teachers unions and the crazy teachers benefits. Two of the biggest are their pensions, and double dipping, were teachers officially retire, then come back to work full time collecting pension and pay.

Parents know who are the bad teachers but all they can do is hope that their kids arn't placed in their classrooms. Get rid of the many bad teachers, get rid of the progressivism taught in schools, and test scores will go up.
Mesafina
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 02, 2010
@freethinking... while I agree with some of what you said, I think that the assertion that teachers are overpaid is not true for most teachers, and your distaste for unions misplaced and a strawman. Unions can be corrupt, yes, but so can businesses and governments and any human organization. Unions are NOT the problem, but rather their lack of transparency and their political agendas in some cases. Unions have an important place in maintaining the balance of rights between worker and employer. We don't want to go back to 19th century england now do we? Unions played a huge part in forcing business owners to share more of their profits with their employees, after all no business that needs employees can operate without them, and the owner of such a businesses owes much of his wealth and success to the labors of his employees.
Atomicat
1 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2010
Enough of religion already. I didn't see one comment here that mentions the appalling treatment dished out to the best and the brightest. I wonder, are kids in Japan subjected to relentless bullying just because they are smart? Kids these days are smart in spite of the education system, not because of it. In America people delight in their ignorance and deem themselves worthy of having opinions just as valuable as those with 20 years worth of study and reading under their belts. Sorry kids, but if you don't have a background in cellular biology you don't get to have an opinion about stem-cell research. Oh you can have one I suppose, but there's no reason in the world why anyone should pay attention to it.

"I never let school interfere with my education."
- Albert Einstein
CarolinaScotsman
1 / 5 (3) Oct 03, 2010
"Seminary" is derived from seed bed. In the 18th century, almost all institutions of high learning were called seminaries; had very little to do with religion.

It is when dogmatic thinking in the guise of religion replaces scientific thinking that educational decline begins. When literally millions of people deny proven scientific facts because those facts violate their religious beliefs, we do not have religion, we have superstition. And I'm sure that there will be many who respond that the facts are not proven, they are a theory. Only if your heads are buried so far in the sand that you get all your information through your rear end.