It's a topic that's been talked to death. We know.
The problem is, this item sort of unexpectedly grew legs and took on a life of its own.
And today, it is everywhere.
Yes, to the chagrin of a majority of South Dakotans who note that science deals with, well, reality, our state has been made into a laughing stock of late.
All because of a resolution introduced earlier in this session of the South Dakota Legislature by State Rep. Don Kopp of Rapid City.
Kopp somehow has gotten it into his head that the South Dakota public school system doesn't know anything about science. Or, to be more specific, how to teach it.
Here is portion of the resolution:
"…historical climatological data shows without question the earth has gone through trends where the climate was much warmer than in our present age. The Climatic Optimum and Little Climatic Optimum are two examples. During the Little Climatic Optimum, Erik the Red settled Greenland where they farmed and raised dairy cattle. Today, ninety percent of Greenland is covered by massive ice sheets, in many places more than two miles thick.
…the polar ice cap is subject to shifting warm water currents and the break-up of ice by high wind events. Many oceanographers believe this to be the major cause of melting polar ice, not atmospheric warming.
…carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but rather a highly beneficial ingredient for all plant life on earth. Many scientists refer to carbon dioxide as "the gas of life."
Climatic Optimum? High winds breaking up polar ice? The "gas of life??"
Back in the good old days, you were lucky if the rabbit ears on your TV allowed you to receive three channels, and you got most of your news from your community newspaper that didn't have a reporter in Pierre. So, in those days of old, we likely may never had heard that a measure that is so painfully unpleasant to read actually was approved by the South Dakota House. It then went on to the South Dakota Senate, where some of the craziness was removed from the measure, and it was approved by that body, too.
Today, with such modern conveniences as the internets and the World Wide Interweb and Twitter and Faceplace, there are consequences to pay if you either are, or appear to be, dumb.
Everybody hears about it.
Never mind that South Dakota has produced some pretty notable scientists here on our windswept prairies (winds, that I'm sure, travel north to eventually bombard the polar ice caps).
People like the Lawrence Brothers. Known as the "Father of Nuclear Medicine" and founder of the Donner Laboratory, the world's first research laboratory devoted to nuclear medicine, John Lawrence, a native of Canton, and his older brother, Ernest, were pioneers in the field of nuclear science.
Ernest Lawrence, a 1922 graduate of USD, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939 for his work on the Cyclotron and his research in nuclear physics.
John H. Lawrence, meanwhile, set his sights on medical research conducting experiments with radioactive phosphorous, including the development of modern nuclear medicine used to treat several forms of cancer. In 1983, he received the Enrico Fermi Award for his work and continuing leadership in nuclear medicine.
And, it's rather ironic that, while efforts are underway to establish The Deep Underground Science and Engineering Lab (DUSEL) in the former Homestake Gold Mine in the Black Hills, we have state legislators who apparently have no problem ignoring science entirely and substituting it with, well, I don't know, the opinion of Joe at the gas station who is sure, since it really snowed a lot here in South Dakota this winter, that global warming is just some silly thing made up by Al Gore.
This resolution, after all, is all Gore's fault. The aim of this measure, noting that carbon dioxide is "the gas of life" is to urge public school teachers to give students a better understanding of the climate science debate and was crafted in response to the showing of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" to local high school students, Kopp said.
"(In South Dakota) There is misunderstanding and very much a blurring between climate science and Al Gore," said South Dakota State Climatologist Dennis Todey. "Al Gore's not here."
What people of South Dakota need, said Todey, is science that helps them plan for future changes in water supplies, which are bound to come with climate changes, he said. "There are a number of scientific questions that need to be answered, but the issue is being muddied by calling (climate change) a hoax."
Todey is quoted in a story that appears on the Discovery Channel's Web page on that new-fangled internet thingabob.
News of this resolution also was published on the Web page of "The New Republic," a well-read national publication. The headline of their story about this whole mess simply reads: "South Dakota Makes A Play For Dumbest State In The Nation."
Even Rachel Maddow couldn't resist taking a swipe, on her nationally broadcast television show on MSNBC, at what appears to be our intellectually-challenged Legislature.
Lawmakers, including District 17's two members of the South Dakota House, defend voting for resolutions by stating that they really don't mean anything. This resolution, just like those that are introduced honoring some high school's winning debate team, is primarily fluff.
We hope, in the future, that state legislators will remember that their actions, no matter how trivial in nature, do have consequences. What I'm sure appeared to be fluff to many lawmakers has spread like wildfire across the nation.
We're a state that puts considerable effort toward trying to attract people and university students and industry and research and others things to make life just a bit better in our part of the world.
We can't help but think that lawmakers, who we often accuse of not accomplishing much while in Pierre, have managed to make the efforts to better South Dakota's image a bit more difficult.
We don't need those types of "accomplishments" coming from our state capitol.