The 200th birthday of Charles Darwin is next Thursday and may I be the first one on Bilerico to wish a rousing "Happy birthday!" to the distinguished British naturalist, whose brilliant "On the Origin of Species" threw religious fundamentalists into a tizzy they're still refusing to conclude?
The United States stands alone among modern western nations in that roughly half its adult population still disbelieves in the theory of evolution.
In case you are one of the many who don't realize that the word "theory" in this context does not convey uncertainty, let me clarify. In a scientific context, "theory" refers to an explanation or prediction based on a body of evidence that is under scientific examination. It can be a new theory with weak supporting evidence that is eventually discredited; or, as in the case of evolution, a theory that is firmly established by two centuries of investigation, experimentation, and supporting evidence.
To put it another way, any scientist worth his or her salt accepts evolution as a scientific fact.
But not half of American adults. Unsurprisingly, the percentage is even higher among religious fundamentalists, a portion of whom believe the Earth and humanity are between six and ten thousand years old. Scientists, on the other hand, date the Earth at approximately 4.5 billion years old, with life having its origins about 2.5 billion years ago, and modern humans approximately 200,000 years ago. Among believers in a "young Earth," are Americans who also believe that humans walked the planet with dinosaurs. Among them are fellow voting American citizens who actually believe dinosaurs still live: and I don't mean in the evolved form of birds.
Meet "Dr." Richard Paley of [Mt.] Fellowship [Baptist] University Theobiology Department. (Hat-tip to Crooks & Liars.) Dr. Paley is so certain that Apatosaurs, Plesiosaurs, Pterosaurs, and Velociraptors (yes, as in "Jurassic Park") still walk the planet that he's putting together an expedition to Africa to bring back "living specimens of pterosaurs or their fertile eggs," to display "in a Pterosaur Rookery that will be the center piece of the planned Fellowship Creation Science Museum and Research Institute (FCSMRI)."
Deep breath... OK. Paley and his co-religionists represent a wingnut fringe in America. Among them are those who brought us Proposition 8 in California and anti-LGBT legislation across the states. That a single, functioning adult can believe in the pablum some of these folks do is astonishing; Mt. Fellowship Baptist Church has a congregation full of believers. And while their website is either accidentally or intentionally guarded as to where they are geographically located, they could be anywhere in America. San Diego County, for that matter, has a "Creation Museum."
How can the US hope to contend with an ever more technologically complicated and competitive world when more Americans believe in the existence of angels than do in evolution?
How can we hope to pull ourselves out of the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression when our elected representatives and mainstream media have allowed the conservative purveyors of the failed economic policies that got us here in the first place have a large role in writing the legislation to ostensibly reverse the catastrophe?
Far too many Americans are scientifically illiterate, unable to identify fallacious and/or illogical arguments, and woefully ignorant of history, geography, simple mathematics, current events, the fundamentals of our Constitution, and the basic structure of our government. Our corporate-controlled media, attentive to right-wing demagogues and dominated by Republicans and their talking points, panders to and perpetuates this ignorance.
Is it any wonder, then, that the repudiated Republican minority has determined the public discourse over the two-week debate on economics and Obama's stimulus package?! That they are now obstructing and rewriting that legislation in a form that Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman fears will render it too little, too late?
If people believe in living pterosaurs--and angels!--then why not believe that further tax cuts will reverse our economic collapse?
Charles Darwin must be rolling in his grave.