“We are letting parents decide what’s best for their children, not government.” – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
We spend most of our time talking about the Republican War on Women and to be fair, it has eclipsed the Republican War on Science, though the two overlap.
But the War on Science hasn’t gone away and Republican opposition to the real world is as strong today as ever. We’re on a slippery slope to the day when Weather Priests replace Meteorologists and Climate Scientist becomes an arcane term.
We already know that the Grand Canyon was caused by Noah’s flood and that the Republican cure for drought is prayer. We know that if God gets angry over our sinning he kills birds, and if he’s really angry, people – through floods, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Everything science has learned about weather is tossed out the window in a frenzy of superstitious fear right out of the Bronze Age.
The earth, they insist, is only a few thousand years old, not 4.5 billion. Noah’s flood was only 4,000 years ago. But geologists know the Grand Canyon is 5-6 million years old. Humans have only been here for little longer than that (six to eight thousand years according to the Bible) though we know through science that the Bible is wrong, that humans have been around for 200,000 years.
We’d begun migrating out of Africa and Neanderthals were already in Europe 70,000 years ago. Heck, six thousand years ago we already had our first civilizations in places like Mesopotamia and India. Forget Adam and Eve and fig leaves and talking snakes.
They say that evolution is a lie and they can prove it by saying humans and dinosaurs lived together, even though science shows us that this also is a lie. But according to the Scotsman a “science” textbook” at Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, Louisiana claims otherwise:
“Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”
Obviously, the logic goes, if dinosaurs are still alive today, evolution is a fraud. The book goes on to develop a conclusion based not on observable scientific fact but on the Bible:
Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all.”
Of course, scientists think no such thing. No scientist believes “Nessie” exists. Photographs have been doctored or misinterpreted, eyewitnesses debunked and sonar has proven nothing of the sort. Perversely, this “science” textbook uses science to debunk science.
In other words, something that cannot be proven to exist is being used to disprove something that is observable in nature and very provable through repeated testing.
As Rob Boston writes over at AU’s blog Wall of Separation, it’s very easy to laugh at this. Valerie Strauss at Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet says “This would be funny if it weren’t so, well, not funny.”
The book is Biology 1099 published by Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) in Madison, Tenn., and as Boston writes, though “Fewer than 40 children attend Eternity Christian Academy” at present,
Thanks to Gov. Bobby Jindal and compliant Louisiana legislators, 135 students may be enrolled there this fall. Many religious schools in the state have ambitious plans to expand in the wake of the taxpayer-funded windfall.
And as he goes on to point out, “the fact is we have no way of knowing how many other tax-supported academies in Louisiana use ACE’s materials. The publisher is popular among Christian fundamentalist educators and home-schoolers.”
The Scotsman reports that according Boston-based researcher and writer Bruce Wilson, who specialises in the American political religious right, this fundamentalist nonsense is taking place in at least 13 states and that upwards of 200,000 students are receiving this “education.”
Wilson goes on to say that, “One of these texts from Bob Jones University Press claims that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons. It has little to do with science as we currently understand. It’s more like medieval scholasticism.”
The results for children and for America could be catastrophic. Already lagging in science, America could fall even further behind. Of course, it’s no surprise that Louisiana has the biggest voucher program in the country. As Strauss writes,
This is where support of vouchers is leading us — to the public paying for a child to learn that the Loch Ness Monster was a dinosaur and co-existed with humans. This is important to Young Earth Creationists, who believe that Earth was created no longer than 10,000 years ago, not the 4.5 billion years estimated by science. They also believe that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark.
If people want to believe this and they want their children to learn it in school, that’s fine. The public shouldn’t have to pay for it.
Really, rather than laugh, we should cry over what is being done. We cannot save these children. We can only hope that as so often happens, they grow up, are exposed to our shared reality, and realize the world is not as their parents claimed. Unfortunately, the only way to debunk superstition is, as Carl Sagan observed, through science, and that science is not going to be taught in a Republican America.
Louisiana and twelve other states are only the beginning. If the rot continues, the history of the United States of America will become only a footnote, a historical curiosity – assuming the human race survives at all.
As a final note, University of California, Berkeley, hosts a site called Evolution 101 (a must read) and another listing misconceptions about evolution and natural selection, things every American ought to know, so please send them to all your fundamentalist friends and link them to every discussion you see online.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.