In the judgment in favour of Simon Singh against the British Chiropractic Association’s bogus defamation action, the judge noted that the use of defamation law on scientific discussions had a “chilling effect“, and a movement has resulted to reform libel law, to which all three major parties seem to be committed.
In the United States, notionally the home of free speech, the trouble caused by creationists and Tea Baggers leads even ordinary schools to avoid teaching evolution. The chilling effect has frozen education in the US. A school that was not trying to teach creationism or IDiocy, but merely to avoid controversy, has refused a teacher permission to teach evolution in science class. The teacher, Mark Tangerone, will retire two years early as a result.
Likewise, the effect of the revisionists in Texas is having a similar chilling effect around the US in the teaching of history and science. Basically, anything that a vocal and troublesome minority want to prevent being taught, can be stopped dead. This can include things like sex education, of course, which is what the target is – if you can control who has sex and under what conditions, you run things in general.
It is, I think, time to review Aristotle’s point about democracy: it can become mob rule in an instant. The way we had previously prevented this, to the extent that we had, was not to increase the influence of the majority by greater elected representation, but to curtail representation by convention and expert opinion. The conventions were that politicians would not try to impose political views on education, or on science (often honoured more in the breach), and the curtailment was, in other democracies than the US, that experts had a special role in setting the standards. Both appear to be under constant and intensive attack. I think, especially in the light of the astroturf funded campaign against Anthropic Global Warming, that this needs to be addressed urgently, in the US and around the world.