One of the most important issues facing America today, especially while we are in an unemployment crisis and a stagnant economy, is education.
Education is how the job-creators and innovators are given the tools they need to thrive, and those who fill those jobs receive qualifications and training that allow them to do those jobs to the best of their ability. It is truly how the innovative engine of America thrives.
Therefore, we as Americans should pride ourselves with the notion that there are certain inalienable facts that we can figure out. We are always on the pursuit of truth, in science, in philosophy, and in life. This pursuit of truth is what allows us to grow as a society, to understand the world around us, and to understand exactly how it is that we fit into it as individuals, as a society, and even as a species.
This is why it is so troubling when politicians attack science. As a society that can only move forward when we learn more, and not resist knowledge, it is a problem when we attack knowledge directly.
If you disagree with this premise, you need look no further than Galileo Galilei, who was subjected to house arrest and charged with heresy for believing that the Earth revolves around the Sun (which, sadly, a 1999 Gallup poll suggests that 18% of Americans disagree with).
However, let’s talk about controversial things that shouldn’t be controversial today. The big bang theory isn’t controversial; it is the best explanation for how our universe formed. Embryology isn’t controversial; we can observe it in so many animals, and even in humans.
Evolution isn’t controversial; there are mountains of evidence that support it and there has never been any credible proof to the contrary. Given these premises, you can imagine my shock when a Congressman from Georgia’s 10th Congressional District (covering Athens and Milledgeville), Dr. Paul Broun, said this:
“All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. There’s a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth.
I believe that the Earth is about 9,000 years old. I believe that it was created in six days as we know them. ”
Viewing science as an assault on one’s faith is just as poor a view of science now as it was in Galileo’s time.
Believing the Earth is 9,000 years old fails to take into account mountains of scientific evidence to the contrary, such as the fossil record. Still, that’s Dr. Broun’s opinion, and he is allowed to have it.
What troubles me is the notion that this man is on the House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the committee responsible for science policy in America.
Paul Broun is allowed to have his beliefs, but to give him a say in legislation that affects science funding (including studies into the big bang theory, evolution, and embryology) is, in my view, a mistake. Someone whose decisions can so drastically impact the scientific field should not dismiss the fundamental principles that make the study of science even possible. Biology, for example, is incomplete without evolution.
As a country that prides itself on being the first to land a man on the moon, a country that pioneered aviation, a country that makes advances in medicine and basic science research that impact our lives and our understanding of the universe every day, can we really afford someone who doesn’t believe in the basic tenets of science deciding scientific policy for our country?
I would think not.
Interestingly, a conservative talk-show host in Georgia, named Neal Boortz, has actually started to petition voters in that district to write in Charles Darwin as a protest move, noting that Dr. Broun’s comments “[make] Republicans look like knee-dragging, still-tending, tobacco-spitting Neanderthals.”
I would not go that far, but I would say that this is not a good show for our political system, our state, or our country, and that it is in fact a shame that Dr. Broun is running unopposed.
The protest move, while hilarious, is unlikely to hold, given that Charles Darwin is dead.
However, I hope that the backlash from this tactless speech makes Dr. Broun think very hard about whether he wishes to continue representing his state and serving his country on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
Vijay Reddy is a College senior from Fayetteville, Ga.