Who on earth purchases all those lurid copies of Weekly World News sitting near the grocery-store checkout? Who actually reads stories about reincarnation, UFOs, astrology, parapsychology, or accounts of how “Bigfoot Turned My Husband Into a Love Slaveâ€? How could anyone take seriously any newspaper so bold as to predict the date of Jesus’ Second Coming or Armageddon’s onslaught?
Given their recent assertions that “divine design” secure a forum in the science classrooms of Utah’s public schools next to evolutionary theory, it would be all too easy to name Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, and conservative activist Gayle Ruzicka as avid subscribers. The sad fact is that, enamored by religious belief and even outright superstition, our nation is perilously close to relegating science to the dustbin.
Our national contempt for Darwin’s theory of evolution has already made Americans a laughing stock worldwide. As science author and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said in a recent interview with MSNBC, “With biotech companies, there is no understanding of biology without the theory of evolution. And so if you say, â€˜I don’t believe the theory of evolution, I think we were all specially created,’ you must understand the consequences of it to your own employability. The emergent economies are going to be scientifically and technologically driven, with biotech front and center. If you’re coming in saying that there was Adam and Eve, you’re not going to get past the front door.”
That’s what the future holds unless we fortify students’ education in science. But our current contempt for science goes far beyond that. The Colorado Supreme Court recently overturned the death penalty given one man after it was discovered the jury read the Bible to reach its verdict. Aside from vague, and expensive, ambitions about exploring Mars, President George W. Bush has little use for science. He cut funding for the National Science Foundation, which funds science education for kindergartners all the way up to graduate students. We could spend money for the research and development of alternative fuels that might extricate us from the morass of Middle East politics, but are content with kissing the boots of filling the coffers of Saudi princes.
Our denial of scientific evidence reaches its crescendo with global warming. Scientific academies the world over, including our own U.S. National Academy of Sciences, acknowledge the overwhelming proof of a gradual rise in atmospheric temperature brought on by the burning of fossil fuels. Bush doesn’t want to hear about it. It’s so much easier to have his man Philip Cooney, former oil industry lobbyist and chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, redact all those troublesome statements from an advisory report on global climate change. The scientific community wants to tell us something? Why listen when the White House wields a big, black marker?
There was a time when science was revered as the tool by which we measured and understood physical phenomena so that we might use it for our benefit, control it, or even rise above nature. It used to be called “progress.” Increasingly, it seems we’d rather declare all of nature sacred because God created it and leave the rest to superstition, religion and any other open-ended speculation void of evidence. This is the path to national obsolescence but the editors of Weekly World News, flush with a new generation of readers, will be laughing all the way to the bank.