New Education Bill Threatens American Educational Integrity
If you have not already read the paper this morning you may not know that Tennessee passed bill HB 0368/SB 0893. This of course is known as the “Monkey Bill”. For those not familiar with the bill it allows for the teaching of creationism in the classroom. It does this indirectly. This bill received large amounts of bipartisan support. The reasons stated for the bill are that it will stimulate critical thinking and protect teachers from any type of discipline if they assist students in critiquing scientific weakness. The bill does not call for the outright teaching of creationism, but it opens the door for its allowance.
This should offend the sensibilities of every educated person in this country—both theists and atheists alike. Anyone who states that evolution is not a sound theory of science, that it is not fact, can no longer be considered a well educated person when it comes to science. Scientists universally agree that the theory of evolution is fact. It is no longer up for debate. Period. End of story. If you do not understand this fact, I would urge you to read more. If you are not sure where to look, Daniel Dennett provides a great reading list on evolution in an appendix of his book Breaking The Spell. Start there.
What makes this situation more alarming is the fact that we are really just scratching the surface of what evolution can teach us. Evolution is no longer confined to the discipline of biology. It has uses in many other academic fields from psychology and neuroscience to sociology. Evolution may have much to teach us about how we think and act as humans. The knowledge that we can gleam from these studies may have huge benefits to the global society in which we find ourselves.
What Tennessee has accomplished is to pave the way for an uneducated and unprepared future workforce. The future of life on this planet is rooted in the sciences—like it or not. Tennessee has ensured that the current and future generations of its children will not have the knowledge necessary to compete in that economic, political, and scientific job market—leaving them woefully unprepared. This is nothing short of child neglect. It is a parent and educator’s responsibility to prepare children for the future. This cannot be done with a theory of creationism or intelligent design. While we sit here in the U.S. and debate this issue, the rest of the developed world is moving on and moving forward. (Aside: I refuse to capitalize either creationism or intelligent design—they do not deserve that honor. I purposely did not use the words “child abuse”. There are millions of children who are genuinely physically and mentally abused. To imply that a lack of scientific knowledge equates in any way with that type of suffering is to perform a disservice and devalues the pain caused by physical and mental child abuse. That is not a leap I am willing to make).
Where do we find the entire opposition to the theory of evolution? In religion. To be more specific, in the U.S. we find it rooted in Christianity. I have written previously about the dangers of modern religion. The danger that religion poses to education has just moved up the list. It is important to note two things. First, not all Christians support creationism and intelligent design. Second many do. More than most people realize. A Gallup Poll in 2010 concluded that 40% of Americans believe that humans were created by god within the last 10,000 years (creationism). That is 4 out of every 10 people. 38% believe that humans evolved from less complex organism but that god had a role in the process (intelligent design). That is also roughly 4 out of every ten people. Only 16% believed in the scientific theory of evolution. There are your remaining slightly less than 2 of the 10 people. This is insanity.
This problem crosses Party lines as well. The same poll states that 52% of Republicans and 34% of Democrats believe in creationism. This fact illustrates exactly how the Tennessee bill received bi-partisan support. The poll also shows that levels of education influenced the results as well. 37% of people with a college degree believe in creationism. While it is clear that less educated people tend to believe in creationism at a higher rate, I find the roughly 4 out of 10 number of college grads believing this nonsense embarrassingly high.
This story illustrates one of the very toxic effects of Christianity in America. The 40% that subscribe to creationism wish to bring our education system to a time prior to 1859 (the year that Darwin published The Origin of the Species). A second 38% want to somehow square the peg between religion and science. The malicious effects of Christianity, in my opinion, can be seen in many areas of society. The noxious effect it is having on education accomplishes the task of making the U.S. the clown of the developed world.
Rational and educated people cannot be silent on this issue—both atheists and moderate Christians alike. Our future depends on it. If you live in Tennessee you need to find a way to become involved in the effort to overturn this bill. If you do not, then the terms will be dictated to you. If you live in another state and this issue comes to your community, your responsibility can be no less. This type of ignorance cannot go unchecked.
To the moderately religious people who may read this—you have an extra burden to bear. As an atheist I can rail against creationism and intelligent design until I am hoarse, and I plan to. However, I will not be in attendance at your church services and church functions. You need to speak up against the malignancy that is your own religion on this issue. You need to stand up and say “This is not okay!” You have an opportunity to reach people that atheists will struggle to reach. Your silence on issues like these is what allows the fundamentalists a pulpit. Religious moderates are what enable religious fundamentalists. You can read more on that here.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments.
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