Why creationism threatens science education in America and our future generations.
There is a fine line between science and religion. The dawn of the modern era has revealed certain unalterable truths about the world we live in, and creationism has become an major obstacle to these truths. One of the important revelations of the modern era was the discovery that the earth and all life that lives upon it were not created in Genesis, but instead were evolved over a process of billions of years. Mankind was not made separate from the animal kingdom, but instead was part of it.
The advances of modern science has revealed that the natural world is far more complicated than what religious mythology proclaims in holy scriptures. In spite of the advances science has made, and the overwhelming evidence that exists for evolutionary biology, fundamentalist religion has not subsided in its iron willed resistance to science.
Slowly, the Christian right in America has waged a war against science and the teaching of evolutionary biology. This is a war built up over decades, culminating in the creation of the YEC (Young Earth Creationist) movement. This is the specific branch that has been so outspoken in their rejection of evolutionary science and so ardent about pushing their fundamentalist dogma in science classrooms across America.
The YEC movement’s main talking heads are men like Ken Ham, William Lane Criag, Walt Brown, the disgraced Kent Hovind (who is serving prison time for tax fraud) and Kent’s son Eric Hovind. These men are supported and propped up by their own “foundations” and an influential creationist website called Answers in Genesis.
To understand the YECs, you have to understand their belief system. The YEC movement espouses the belief that all evolutionary and geological science is incorrect or severely flawed in its evidence and calculations. Most scientists agree the earth is approximately 4.3 Billion years old. Creationists say that the earth, based on biblical calculations, is only about 6,000-10,000 years old.
Richard Dawkins once said wittily; “Believing that the earth is only 6,000 years old is like believing the entire width of North America is 500 yards.”
Creationists believe that the Genesis story of the bible is literally true. Adam and Eve, the talking snake, Noah’s Ark, all of it is literal fact to them. They have even gone further by saying (with no scientific backing) dinosaurs lived with humans before god drowned them in the great flood. The YECs have even set up museums and theme parks around the country devoted to this idea, with animatronic dinosaurs complete with saddles and living peacefully along side humans.
In 1994, three speleologists discovered what would become one of the most significant prehistoric sites in all the world. The Chauvet-Pont-D’Arc Cave is a feast for the eye and the soul, with walls covered in paintings and drawings so detailed and well-preserved, it takes your breath away. Most of the artwork dates back to the Aurignacian era, 30 to 32 thousand years ago.
At least 13 animal species are featured in the cave paintings, including predators which are rarely depicted in art of this era. Panthers, bears, cave lions and cave hyenas are presented with all their ferociousness on display. Many of the animals are painted with almost a 3-dimensional quality; often the artist used “squiggles” around the legs to indicate movement. Not surprising, no dinosaurs were found among the cave paintings.
Creationists miss out on the Chauvet Caves because their belief system tells them these amazing wonders cannot be real. If one’s faith demands an adherence to an Earth that is less than 10,000 years old, how can one appreciate the beauty of intricate art, dated 32,000 years ago? In the Chauvet caves you see red hands on a wall, you see footprints and you realize: these are the last remnants of an ancient people.
In most Western countries, creationism is not as important as it is in America. The reason being, 46% of the American population believes that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. This is not only scary, it can be potentially dangerous to the field of science in the future. We will have half a generation grow up rejecting proven science and embracing mere religious dogma as the source of the world’s natural origin.
These people will then pass this misinformation on to their children and their children’s children. This has the potential to destroy scientific inquiry in America. The YECs have already managed to pass anti-evolution and pro-creationist laws and are succeeding in introducing christian dogma into the classrooms. If the war against science is allowed to stand and continue, there might be no science education for millions of Americans across the country.
One young activist from Louisiana named Zack Koplin has waged his own personal war against the tide of creationists, especially in the predominately red states where creationism is the strongest. Koplin has made it a crusade of his to reinforce the teaching of science education in public schools in America, though he has a tough fight ahead of him.
Science must win out over mythology. This is so important, people have written entire books and dissertations on the subject. If we allow religious dogma to win over science, a very bleak world awaits future generations. Fight back, as hard as you can, against creationism and its falsehoods. We cannot afford to lose the future generation to misinformation and faith based charlatans.
With contributions from Erin Nanasi