When Christopher Columbus set off on his epic voyage in 1492, he left behind a populous that believed his ships would fall off the edge of the world and never come back.
Why? Because back then everyone believed that the world was flat, like a table and of course, tables have edges. To everyone’s great surprise, Columbus did not fall off the edge of the world. Instead he discovered the New World.
Without the fact of Columbus’ discovery, the Pilgrim Fathers would have had nowhere to go in 1620. Without the facts of science, Henry Ford would never have built the first Model-T, the Wright Brothers would never have built the first airplane and the US would never have become the richest and most powerful nation on earth, in the 20th century.
Facts made the US great yet now, in the 21st century, the US seems hell bent on denying that there is a HUGE difference between fact and faith. Or as I see it, fact and fiction.
According to a recent Gallop Poll, ’46 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago.’ I have no idea where the figure of 10,000 years came from but a whole range of different scientific disciplines have shown that this is total fiction. Chemistry has proved that carbon dating works. Palaeontologists use carbon dating to determine how old fossils are and they have shown that human beings go back much, much further than 10,000 years. Geologists have proved that the world itself goes back billions of years. And I haven’t even come to Darwin yet.
Nonetheless, 46% of Americans are convinced that chemists, palaeontologists and geologists are all wrong. Why? Because they prefer the Bible to evolution, fiction to fact. The irony is that these same Americans are the greatest consumers of scientific products in the world. No, not microscopes and test-tubes but cars, fridges, iPhones, tv’s, air-conditioners and fast food. None of those products would exist without science. And facts.
The only thing more hypocritical than this attitude of denial amongst common Americans is the attitude of the media in pandering to them. The media have taken the concept of supply and demand to truly obscene levels by giving this 46% market share what they want – validation.
Instead of attempting to clarify the difference between facts and fiction [faith] the media have decided to prevert their own standards by making it seem as if they are reporting impartially on both sides of an equal debate. Thus creationism is given equal air-time [and validation] as science. And science seems to be losing the media battle because science is not really sexy. Science is also hard to understand, especially if you are poor and lack education. The media know this. They also know that it is much, much easier for their viewers to sit in front of a tv with a frozen dinner and a cold beer, being entertained, than it is for them to read and study and ask uncomfortable questions.
I know that there is an element of Australian society that matches the 46% of Americans who don’t want to think but most of them are not religious. Most of them are not dirt poor either and that makes a big difference because poverty, ignorance and bigotry can create a very powerful force for ‘evil’. I don’t bandy that word around too much because I don’t believe in demons and all that supernatural bunk. Nonetheless, there are situations in which no other word will suffice and this is most definitely one of them.
We have seen the face of evil in terrorist attacks by fundamentalist Muslims. Now we are seeing the face of evil in fundamentalist Christians as well. The latter may not be blowing people up, yet, but the writing is on the wall. All I can hope is that some American President will have the guts to insist that a) education is important and b) that science is the only foundation for an education system. If that doesn’t happen then I can see a very powerful nation degenerating into a very dangerous nation.
Let’s not forget that red button and all the missiles connected to it. Those missiles are capable of turning the whole earth into an ash pile many times over. I don’t know about you but I cannot think of anything more terrifying than having a fundamentalist President sitting in the White House. A rational man would never push that red button but a bigot just might.
God help us all.