Creationism: the enemy of education
I am an atheist. This is something that doesn’t quite pack the conversational punch it would have done perhaps 10 or 20 years ago.
This is because living in modern day Britain is very much a secular affair. Whilst rifts may appear between religious groups, or because of religious differences, this stands apart from the concept of Britishness. The leadership and face of the country, once viciously (and tumultuously) affiliated to a single denomination of Christianity, has now stepped back from religious matters.
Indeed, religion lies almost imperceptible in British politics. There are atheistic and theistic members of parliament, but this fact does not much affect whether or not they're elected. They certainly don't have to thank God when they're doing election campaigns. In fact, I think it would probably be a bit awkward if they did. Such is the British way, keeping our emotions and feelings nicely hidden out of sight.
However, in the United States it is quite a different matter. God is everywhere. And this isn't a vague, 'religion is what you make of it' God, this is a Christian God, who happens to think that America is the greatest country on Earth. And, of course, this makes religious belief of utmost importance when electing those who run their country. But despite the near obsession with Christianity that radiates from the States, it appears that the general populace are not even properly informed.
Though Texas News seem to be quite impressed that the figure has gone down in recent years, 11 percent of the American population believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Only 52% of his own party know his actual religion of choice. This is a fact that can be found out in 0.15 seconds.
This is a perfect example of American ignorance when it comes to religion in general. But I’m not going sit here and criticise a whole country on its attitudes towards religious practice, Christianity, Islam or otherwise. I just want to draw your attention to one fact, as I feel it is one that desperately needs to be addressed.
Creationsim is being taught in American schools. In 2012.
Robert Wright has recently claimed that the number of Americans who deny evolution and believe ‘God created humans in the present form’ has jumped from 40% to 46% in the last two years as a direct result of the recent surge of ‘militant Darwinism’ that has emerged in the States. He also points out that the number of those who believe that evolution exists in some form (god sanctioned or otherwise), has actually dropped. This means that people who once supported the theory of evolution are turning their backs on it. And all for the sake of adhering to their religion.
I don’t think it is entirely true that Darwinism's re-emergence into popular culture has made people think that they have only two options – faith and creationism, or science and atheism. I think power has landed in the wrong hands and has begun to advocate creationism in an awfully persuasive way – with the average Joe thinking something along the lines of ‘if something is being taught in schools, then surely it’s pretty important?’
Private Christian schools teach from the ‘Accelerated Christian Education programme’ which, one might argue, is fair enough. If you send, and more importantly pay ,for your kid to go to a Christian school, then what do you expect? But this isn't simply saying prayers and being told not to have sex before marriage. These kids are being taught that the Loch Ness monster exists in an attempt to undermine the theory of evolution. They’re literally making shit up.
Yes, the smart ones will realise, one day, that they were taught a whole lot of crazy in their science lessons. But why should a child have to unlearn? And what happens to the ones who never think to explore science independently of their religion? A child is a vulnerable creature. To teach them lies is a damage that might never be undone.
This isn’t just private education though. Creationism is seeping into the public sector. Last year nine states proposed anti-evolution education bills, with this year seeing two of those passed in Tennessee and New Hampshire. These suggest that scientific theory should be studied at ‘with a critical eye’, thus treating Creationism and Evolution as equals. This undermines the definition of scientific theory and allows faith to share ground with reason.
Whilst in Blighty we head towards a more and more tolerant secular society, it seems in the States fundamental Christianity is gaining leverage over the most impressionable thick and fast.
So why does this bother me? How does this affect us? Can’t we smugly sit this side of the pond and watch America live up to the dumb stereotype that us Brits revel in applying to them? I don’t know about you, but to me laughing at spray can cheese is one thing. Laughing at an entire country preparing itself to teach its children that evolution is a lie is quite another matter.
I don’t have a solution, and I'm aware that simply blaming Christianity isn't the answer. This is something that atheists and theists need to stand up against together; to stop the miscommunication of science to the young. America’s future doctors, lawyers and politicians are being taught that dinosaurs still exist, for goodness sake.
Indeed, It is entirely possible that this is what the future president of the most powerful country on earth is being taught right now. And that’s something that’s going to affect everyone on this planet.