I very much doubt it. As evidence, let me turn first to my own field, drug research, because other high-tech fields share some of its problems. I’m a medicinal chemist—I spend my days in an actual white lab coat, thinking up potential new drug structures and new ways to find them, and then trying to make those ideas work for real out on the lab bench. I moved to my present job, though, because my last employer closed down the entire research site where I used to work. That’s been a depressingly common experience over the last few years. Since 2000, more than 300,000 people in the drug business have been laid off. Not all of them have been scientists, of course, but plenty of chemists and biologists have been hearing the swish of the ax as the industry looks to cut costs everywhere it can. These people, many of whom have been scrambling to find any work they can, are not a good audience for stories about America’s critical shortage of scientists.
As I slowly make my way back into blogging after an extended break, it’s nice (and a bit annoying!) to see more prominent bloggers echo arguments I’ve been making for a long time now. Here is Kevin Drum making what should be a commonplace, mundane observation (emphasis added):
The fact is that belief in evolution has virtually no real-life impact on anything. That’s why 46% of the country can safely choose not to believe it: their lack of belief has precisely zero effect on their lives. Sure, it’s a handy way of saying that they’re God-fearing Christians — a “cultural signifier,” as Andrew puts it — but our lives are jam-packed with cultural signifiers. This is just one of thousands, one whose importance probably barely cracks America’s top 100 list.
And the reason it doesn’t is that even creationists don’t take their own views seriously. How do I know this? Well, creationists like to fight over whether we should teach evolution in high school, but they never go much beyond that. Nobody wants to remove it from university biology departments. Nobody wants to shut down actual medical research that depends on the workings of evolution. In short, almost nobody wants to fight evolution except at the purely symbolic level of high school curricula, the one place where it barely matters in the first place. The dirty truth is that a 10th grade knowledge of evolution adds only slightly to a 10th grade understanding of biology.