Monday, September 24, 2012

Junk Science

Back in the 90's, Bill Nye was a household name. His science show captivated young audiences and probably inspired a whole generation of engineers, chemists, and biologists. He was an influential voice for common sense education, even if those who watched his show didn't see his underlying message at the time.

Recently, Bill Nye has been making waves once again, this time by being completely honest about his disdain for creationism. Nye even went so far as to use scientific facts, rational argument, and soft vocal tones to get his point across. This is contrast to the way creationists usually get their point across: religious zealotry, irrational biblical reference, and loud yelling. In fact, Nye's arguments were so persuasive, he may have dented the resolve of many a creationist.

But creationists, not above the "eye for an eye" thing, saw this attack on their belief system as carte blanche for an attack on Nye himself. And since the Bible is fairly explicit on not killing people, they were forced to do the next best thing: spread a rumor on Twitter that the famous scientist was dead.

Of course, this was quickly debunked, thanks to Mr. Science Guy producing a video the following day of himself, very much alive, and still very much against creationism. The video spawned a few humorous jabs at the creationists, such as this.

In the above link, you can watch a short video of Bill Nye discussing his displeasure with creationists in America, which has long been the most attractive place for science and thinkers to congregate and work. Nye has some great lines in the video, like saying of creationists "It's very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You're just not going to get the right answer. You're whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place."

What's interesting about that is that this seems to be exactly what creationists want: a mystery. Since it's creation, religion (any religion) has served as a way of explaining things that are a mystery. Ancient people found religion in lightning, rain, earthquakes, death, the sun, the moon, the stars, and just about everything else. If they couldn't explain it, they chalked it up to religion. When creationists argue for their point of view, they are arguing for us as a nation to keep the living world around us a mystery. Why? Because if people don't understand how something works, they will be more likely to accept a ready-made answer. The more people who don't know about evolution, the more people will latch onto a belief system that rejects it.

And because this is the viewpoint of Creationism, those who reject evolution see those who support it as having similar motives. It is a natural part of human nature: if we don't like someone, we believe they don't like us. If we feel threatened by someone, we assume they are threatening us. It is because of this response that creationists continue to fight, sometimes aggressively, to prevent the teaching of evolution is schools, to stop evolution from being put in textbooks, and to "teach the controversy" to students, even though they themselves are creating the controversy, not the science world.

When America is already sliding in many areas of study compared to our peers around the world, it really shows how impaired we are when a religious extremist view can wield so much power in limiting the teaching of real science. How is it that we allow a group that can scream out their opposition to have so much influence over our curriculum and, therefore, our future? It's appalling that we are having this debate, of all things, while our children continue to do worse in national testing. There are so many other issues to tackle, this is a ridiculous red herring.

1 comment:

samp said...

I agree. I really believe after spending billions on education and apparently getting nothing in return as it relates to "smarter" more college prepared kids, maybe it is time to think outside the box. Notwithstanding the unions position on teachers sacred tenure, etc., maybe it's time to evaluate them and pay them based on performance instead of how long they've taught. Thirty years of teaching and still kids aren't prepared doesn't seem to like a productive thirty years. I for one think that teachers are way under paid. We do want an educated nation, right? So, why not attract the best and the brightest as they do in the business world? Pay them according to performance not just coming to work and going home. I realize you may not agree but after all this money and still nothing to show for it, it seems time to find a better way to educate our kids. Our nation would want no less and neither should we.