Discussing the recent exposure of the make-up of the House committee on science when it was viewed in light of current issues involving a woman's reproductive rights, I remarked that the most depressing thing is the committee members' total ignorance of science. Science has come under attack by the religious right entirely for the reason that both cannot be right. Either we evolved from primitive forms over hundreds of thousands of years, or we came into existence at the same time as dinosaurs approximately 6,000 years ago. Take your pick. Acceptance of one negates the other -- for you at least. And you can fall back on a ton of scientific data that says only fools go around claiming God put fossils in the earth "to fool the Darwinists."
Almost all of the committee members debating such things as trans-vaginal devices, sonograms of fetuses, funding for birth control advice groups, &c. are Republicans, and I'd wager all are evangelicatholics. (These are Christians who tend to be evangelicals or Catholics, and both houses of Congress are full of them.) They have them in the Senate, too; however, the ones in the Senate tend to be more sensible and less likely to choose myth over reason. The most alarming thing about the committee, however, is that its members know little to nothing about science. They do not care about the scientific method. Do they know that critical thinking leads to rejection of dogma? Are they afraid that if the atheists take over, the nation will be given over to immorality? Do they believe Eve talked to a snake and that Mosheh went up the mountain and came back with the Decalogue -- Moses, a totally mythical figure having no recorded history whatsoever.
Ignorance of science led to the humiliation and torture of untold thousands who uttered truth in the face of fiction. Galileo is the most famous, but he was not the first nor last, and dogma's imprisonment of humanity, its enslavement of us through silly proscriptions and appeals to fear and superstition, its justification of our irrational treatment of others unlike ourselves -- all are part of a continuing history of violence, intimidation, and terroristic tactics. Yes, terrorism! When these lunatics inspire others to murder abortion doctors, torch gay bars, drag African-Americans by rope behind pick-up trucks, &c., &c., &c., what else can their words of hate be seen as?
Ignorance of science is the most disturbing thing about religion. After all, if you can say, "Trust in the Lord" and go about your day without a thought to why prayer was seen in a study to make hospital patients actually get worse, then you are a danger to humanity. The same fatalism we criticize Muslims for exhibiting our own religious people prove part of their mind set. "The Lord will provide." Better apply for food stamps. "God helps those who help themselves." Help yourself to a bank vault through force of arms. Science has explained all of the mysteries, but people go on believing. They know nothing of science and they do not want to know anything of it. Their pastors and priests do not want them to know anything about it, either.
The Bible says that the truth shall make you free. If the religious nuts have their way, there will never be freedom. Only freedom from dogma is devoutly to be wished.
Whoa, thanks for bringing Richard Carrier to my attention, John. I've only seen Part One of his presentation, but it is revealing in the extreme as to the attitude of the church versus that of those who wanted to advance human knowledge and understanding.
This is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand where christian resistance to science and understanding come from.
Thanks again, John. In the Catholic schools my dad sent me to I heard bits of what Carrier said, especially a hostility to doubt and doubting. The only encouragement I heard to my interest in science came from my 12th grade home room teacher, a elderly nun. I long wondered why she hadn't repeated the official Catholic view. Years later, a woman I met told me that she (the nun) might have regretted what she had once told her students.
Catholicism still has problems with modernity but even then, in the 1940s, I heard none of the ignorant hostility that today's evangelicals mindlessly repeat. For instance, the 1925 Scopes trial was recent history then but I heard no objection to evolution. In a university museum I saw the skeletal similarities between humans and other animals and easily accepted the fact of evolution.
Some evangelicals in California recently got a comeuppance. They'd sent their children to their church schools and when the kids graduated they failed the science part of college entrance exams. The universities denied them admission; their families sued and lost their cases. Is it a kind of cosmic justice?
Your last paragraph, Tom, is precisely what is alarming, with implications for America's future. We are falling behind for a variety of reasons, but this one is at least one we could do something about. Home schooling and voucher private schooling where there is hostility to science are both thwarting education that prepares students for higher learning. No country can succeed economically without college graduates ready and willing to go into physics, chemistry, math, etc.
I won't go so far as to decry all home schooling. Different people do it for different reasons.
Some people use home schooling as a way to remove their children from the thinly-veiled evangelical Christianity taught as part of some imaginary "controversy". Or, they're doing it to protect their children from bullies who are targeting them for any of a number of reasons.
I've "borrowed" some information from homeschool sites to use in teaching literacy and basic arithmetic to adult learners. Some of this was good and useful information. Some of these sites are very CHRISTIAN in their outlook, some are for teaching.
Some homeschoolers couldn't test their way through second grade, whereas others have advanced degrees.
At some point though, the kids have to get outside teaching. Their interests may lie in different areas than those of their parents, and science and technology is advancing at a rapid pace.
The real thing that worries me is the sidelining of actual education in math, science, history, or basic reading in favor of teaching someone's religion, and having religion as a main point of differences among students. Gangs, social classes, gender, and race are bad enough, but throw in the difference of "religion", and it'll get far worse.
Yes Religion is anti-progression and it can also be deadly like whats happening in the Arab world over the anti-islamic movie.
That is it precisely. When you have an ideologue like Nothing Yahoo and an ideologue like anyone on the Palestinian side, you have both the Koran and the Bible promising Jews and Palestinians both the contested lands. The evangelicals (e.g. the Rev. John Hagee) urge them on since they want to hurry up and have the Rupture Rapture because their tiny brains cannot grasp the fact that our species itself is much older than their roughly 5,000 B.C.E. big bang equivalent, a six-day creation orgy with the solar-phallic deity claiming the miraculous. (Remember, these people claim fossils were planted by God to fool the Darwinists.) Layers of stone in great cliffs are explained with reference only to Noah's flood. The Science committee of the U. S. House is populated by extreme right wingnuts whose religion guarantees that they know absolutely nothing about their committee specialization -- and they really live up to it. If they knew more they might have to back off in their attacks on the EPA.
This should be on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. Excellent post!
Agree with AtheistTech - well said!
To Steph...If I only knew why (otherwise) intelligent people seriously pretend that religious stories and figures are real...it's a puzzlement!
To James...Excellent and scary post. I remember a jaw-dropping moment during one of the Republican debates - several candidates said they didn't believe in evolution.
Ignorance of science leads to belief in "be fruitful and multiply" (7 BILLION??) and "nature is yours to dominate" - in other words, to the destruction of the planet. Even more dangerous: the widespread belief in imminent end-times, Rapture and Armageddon, the last of which may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Again, anti-scientific. The earth has billions of years to go, unless we destroy in a hundred.
Right on! For years I have said that the Rupture Rapture is self-fulfilling. Else why does the evangelican megachurch con man, the Rev. John Hagee, encourage his flock to support Israel? These are mostly people who, a generation ago, would be blabbing about "that damned Jew!" or "That fucking kike!"