Rational Inquiry -Volume 5 Number 2
Overwhelmed by the Majority?
By Keith R. Taylor
A recent headline in the Union-Tribune article proclaimed that the "overwhelming majority" of Americans think our kids should be taught creationism along with evolution.
Iím not a scientist. I just play one on the internet. Still, I wanted to get the opinion of one, so I called SDARI member, Dr. Elie Shneour. He said, "Evolution has met every single scientific test that has been devised. Creationism not one. The first is derived from critical thinking. The second is a religious construct."
With all that in mind I wondered what else would likely be taught. How about up is down? After all it might be someoneís belief. One of my friends surely would love the idea that thirty-six divided by one half is eighteen. He insists that he is right and wonít change his mind.
And why not? If we can substitute belief for facts, a lot of time spent proving things can be saved. Why bother with the protocol of developing a hypothesis, trying to prove it wrong, passing it around for peer review, then publishing it? Hey, just quote a book, claim the book is inerrant, and demand that folks respect your right to have it taught as fact.
While that sounds scary and makes you wonder if the country has been bought by religious fundamentalists, the survey didnít indicate it was quite that bad. I checked with the folks who commissioned the study, The People for American Way.
It found that 83% of Americans want evolution taught as a science. Thatís comforting. And while a majority want creationism taught, most of them do not want it taught as a science. According to the PFAW web site, "most Americans see evolution as scientific theory and creation as a matter of belief, and believe that the two are not mutually exclusive. While they want schools to acknowledge that many people have religious beliefs concerning the beginning of life, they do not want evolution to be replaced by creationism, nor do they want the two taught side-by-side as equal but competing scientific theories."
Thatís better than the screaming headlines would have one believe. I wonder just how that would be handled by the schools though. We can only hope enough folks recognize that freedom of religion does not require us to teach its dogmas as facts in our schools.
It looks like the public, in general, has a better handle on this than many politicians, especially when a real problem arises. Take the Kansas fiasco for example. The school board of that state simply decided that evolution didnít even need to be taught. Imagine trying to teach science without the building blocks of biology! Donít our leaders know better?
Apparently not. Of the seven candidates paraded before the TV cameras as possibilities for the presidency, not one stood up for science in the Kansas fiasco. Even the candidate whose name graced the cover of In the Balance suggested both creationism and evolution be taught, and he didnít add the caveat that creationism be excluded from the science curriculum.
George W. Bush, the fellow who is certain to oppose him in November, brags about his accomplishments in education. Well, I dunno. He is the current governor of Texas, the state where critical thinking in schools goes to die. If a text doesnít conform to Texas standards it is changed. Texas standards are determined by school boards, with a strong assist by the Gablers, a fundamentalist husband wife and team who preview textbooks. Their aim as quoted from their web site <www.textbookreviews.org>: "We are a conservative Christian organization that reviews public school textbooks submitted for adoption in Texas. Our reviews have national relevance because Texas adopts and buys so many that publications write them to Texas standards and sell them across the country."
I donít want to stifle anybodyís religion but Iím a tad uncomfortable with a president who is comfortable with a group like the Gablers.
And what about those leaders and would-be leaders? To quote a recent president who recalled a line spoken from a movie and credited it to a real life Naval officer, "Where do we get such men?"
Hey, we get them from us, and Iím not a bit happy about most of them- especially when it comes to science education. I would like to make George W. Bush spend an evening listening to Mel Gabler. Iíd also like to sit Al Gore down and make him read In the Balance. Every author ought to read his own book at least once! Saving the planet cannot be done by people who are ignorant of the basic tenets of biology. Creationism is not that and ought not be taught-especially as scientific fact!
Do not doubt for a second that the opponents of reason and critical thinking are ineffective and can be brushed off as a nuisance. The posturing of our politicians currying favor with them proves that. Their effect is pervasive and pernicious. The future of the earth is indeed in the balance whether the politicians believe it when they write it or not.
Keith R. Taylor is the president of SDARI.