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King: Too many still deny reality of science

POSTED: March 11, 2014 1:00 a.m.

No joke. There really is a Flat Earth Society. Conspiracy theorists are everywhere these days, but I really did think the idea of a flat earth died out years ago, especially after our astronauts took those beautiful photos of our planet from their space capsules. But then the flat earth people say that too is a conspiracy, a hoax by NASA.

You don’t find many Americans buying into this, but recently a public science literacy test by The National Science Foundation found that 1 in 4 Americans believe the sun orbits around the earth.

I have trouble swallowing this. Who were they testing? Where did these people go to school? Did they go to school at all?

Unfortunately, we already know that the U.S. does not score well in science and math. This may be the reason for some of the recent letters and articles in The Times implying issues like global warming and biological evolution are not real. At this point, both are beyond debate.

You cannot have a debate between religious fundamentalists and science. They live in totally different worlds. I’ve listened to the creationists’ arguments. They are based on a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible, not the scientific principles basic to the world we live in today.

Biblical Creationists claim the earth is only about 6,000 years old. On the other hand, Hindu scripture says the universe wasn’t created it all. It always existed. Should we now have a debate on the Bible vs the Upanishads?

The Bible’s story of Creation in Genesis is majestic, poetic and inspirational, but it is out of place when used as science. Furthermore, it is dangerous when fundamentalists repeat misconceptions about climate change and the origin of mankind. The Earth is not flat, but it is getting warmer, and everything indicates that man’s dependence on fossil fuel has a lot to do with it.

Man did not “descend from apes.” We do, however, have common ancestors. In fact, on a primal level all living things have common ancestors. I find this majestic, poetic and inspirational. God breathed life into matter.

The right to voice one’s opinion is almost sacrosanct in America, but the media is amiss when it reinforces misinformation. I watched the recent National Public Radio videotaping of its program pitting creationist Ken Ham against Bill Nye, the science guy. It was billed as a debate. I take issue with the word “debate;” it was a contest between two very impassioned men, and as such, it was good entertainment. Even NPR compared it to a football game or an extreme weather report.

“It’s nice to have something completely different to talk about,” they said.

But did it change anyone’s opinion or did it simply reinforce opinions already held by the true believers? People do want their opinions reinforced, and if something, no matter how unlikely or bizarre, is repeated often enough, it has that effect. This is one of the first rules of advertising.

It’s also a rule of politics. State your position and repeat, repeat, repeat. However, this makes it hard to back down when you’re proved wrong. The Republican Party made a mistake when it began courting voters from the far right, anti-global warming crowd. Over the years, Republicans have spent a lot of money and a lot political capital on campaigns to undermine climate science.

If you want documentation — names and amounts — read “The Climate War” by Eric Pooley, former managing editor of Fortune and chief political correspondent for Time magazine. If you care about the Republican Party, (or the two-party system, as I do) help the Republican Party refocus.

When it comes to the origin of man, I doubt that God cares what we believe. But if what we do jeopardizes the Earth and all the many creatures that inhabit it, I wonder if we can be forgiven.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.


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