There is a growing disbelief in science that is seen among religious fundamentalists throughout the US. Scientists, policy makers, and the public can benefit from understanding why some people choose to not believe in science is useful as such a misguided perception can lead to concrete and dismal consequences for society. For example: a widespread belief that global warming is a liberal propaganda might lead to a lack of action in regards to reducing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, thus accelerating climate change and jeopardizing food security for millions if not billions of people (Lal, 2004). Not to mention rising sea levels can lead to cities drowning, displacing millions if not billions of people. On another note, teaching children that creationism is real could also have awful consequences on a lot of different aspects in society. When students are taught that science is of equal weight in reason with religion, the collective rationality of society goes down the drain. In this essay, we will discuss how the claims made by creationists and climate change deniers are not sound, and their reasoning laughable. Which is why it deserves a closer inspection and a lot of scrutiny.
Science is obsessed with facts, not opinions. What a person believes in is irrelevant, as scientific facts will always remain a fact whether that person believes it or not. The earth will always be round, even when one believes its flat. Birds will always be an evolved descendant of ancient reptiles, this will always be true also. The distinction between opinions and facts is part of the reason why science contributes so much to the betterment of society. Through the scientific method, humans have figured out how to brew medicine, lengthen lifespans, and fly to the moon. Meanwhile, the most religion have contributed to society is hotel room holy books and a lot of violence. Some creationists would argue that neither creationism nor evolution are testable hypotheses, when in fact they are. Within the last century, we’ve seen many instances where bacterias evolved resistance to antibiotics (Feikin, 2000) — and though small, they are still a solid example of evolution happening within our lifetime.
When a small group of scientists oppose an idea, it is usually the case that the idea goes against their special interest. For example, 97% of scientists agree that climate change is a real issue and it is caused by human activity (NASA, 2016). This statistic is from a review of 11,000+ scientific papers regarding climate change, and not from a poll or interview. Of the three percent of scientists that deny climate change, MIT’s professor emeritus Richard Lindzen is probably the most well known. He speaks very openly about his disbelief of climate change and have been doing so since the early 1990’s. Dr. Lindzen have been invited to speak in many Republican galas and conservative think tanks to talk about climate change, and it just goes to show that even professors make mistakes. He argued that temperatures have gone up in recent history, but the trend is not significant enough for the society to worry. That isn’t true, as a measly two degree centigrade increase in temperature can wreak havoc on different ecosystems around the globe (LiveScience, 2010). Dr. Lindzen also mentioned that the reason why so many scientists believe in climate change is because of the spike in funding for follow-up research into climate change. It’s an inane claim as grant money for research is never used for personal expenses by scientists, and it is almost as if Dr. Lindzen accused thousands of scientists of forging data to show a positive correlation. It’s also ironic for him to say that scientists are being bribed, as Dr. Lindzen himself have openly charged organizations for a speaking fee of USD 2500 every time he speaks in front of a crowd about his views (Harper’sMagazine, 1995).
Thinking that that large scientific organizations would serve the “liberal propagandists” is both asinine and laughable. For example, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) are just two organizations that agree on the soundness of climate change arguments, how it is a real threat, and how it is caused by anthropogenic effects. There isn’t really a single prominent figure that stands out on the pro-climate change corner, as most statements made that are pro climate change are made by the scientific community as a whole or through published scientific papers. AAAS is responsible for publishing Science, the largest and most prominent scientific journal in the United States with the strictest peer-review protocol in the country, while NASA is funded by the federal government — and therefore wouldn’t really have the motive be biased towards private organizations.
Getting to the center of the issue, a lot of the logic that groups like creationists use is not at all sound. For example: Ken Ham, in his book “The Lie: Evolution” argues that evolution is not only absurd, but also evil. Ham is famous among biologists and creationists for being vocal about creationism, and have appeared on numerous television shows talking about the horrors of evolution. In chapter eight of his book, Ken Ham mentioned that evolution is responsible for racism. His argument came from a statement made by Henry Fairchild Osborne, a 20th century American paleontologist. Osborne stated that “The Negroid stock is even more ancient than the Caucasian and Mongolian … The standard of intelligence of the average adult Negro is similar to that of the eleven year old of the species Homo sapiens” (Henry Fairchild Osborne, Natural History, April 1980, p. 129). Ham used Orborne’s justification for racism as evidence of how evil evolution can be, all while ignoring the fact that studies have shown that intelligence has less to do with genetics and more to do with environmental factors (Hanscombe, 2012). Back in the early 20th century, African Americans were marginalized and they had a low socioeconomic status. Given the same conditions growing up, their intelligence would be on par with that of European and Asian Americans. Even if what Osborne said is true, it’s unclear why Ken Ham would think that it’s better to believe that a God created a lesser race.
In the same chapter, Ken Ham argued that evolution is evil because it caused a Western Australian man to descend into drug dependency. He argued that since evolution is taught in school as an indisputable fact, it has lead children into atheism which would lead into a life of misery and drug dependence. The argument isn’t even valid, as the conclusion doesn’t really follow from the premises put forth. First of all, school systems doesn’t penalize students for believing in what they want to believe, they only show students the evidence for evolution and test them on it. A lot of the evidence for evolution is empirical, and so to deny them wouldn’t make any sense as they are observable. Whether or not they disprove creationist claims is another story. Second, atheists are one of the happiest people in the world. “According to Gallup data for 2010, the happiest nations were Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. These are among the least religious countries in the world. Also according to Gallup data, Sweden, Denmark and Norway were the second, third, and fourth least religious states, being exceeded only by Estonia in their atheism” (Barber, 2011). Thirdly, the tendency for a person to become addicted to drugs and alcohol is largely determined by their genetics (Nestler, 2000).
Science is fond of critique, so much so that without it science wouldn’t be the impressive system that we have today. As shown by the arguments above, the problem arises when the critiques are not well supported. There are many institutions that choose to ignore the facts, and so institutions like the Discovery institute in Texas are making sure that critiques of the theory of evolution are included in textbooks across the state of Texas. The Texas State Board of Education members are also in on it, wanting creationism to be taught alongside evolution in classrooms for a more “balanced discussion.” An open discussion about theories is what science is all about, but pinning a fact that is backed with centuries of research with an opinion makes little sense. If only creationists spend as much time scrutinizing the bedtime story that is creationism as they scrutinize evolution!