Introduction

13. Why Is It Important?

Sometimes, people acknowledge all of the problems with creationist arguments, but they make a curious objection: "why should we bother fighting it?" They might even continue to argue that in the average person's daily life, the origin of species really doesn't matter, so there's no point fighting the very determined forces of the creationists. That may actually be true, but it speaks to what is ultimately an anti-education mindset. Apart from political "thin edge off the wedge" and "slippery slope" retorts, there are two practical problems with the argument that you don't need to accurately teach science to students:

The first problem with the "only teach them what you think they'll need" approach is that you don't know in advance what any given child will do in life, and you should not artificially limit that child from a young age. There is nothing to stop someone with a good science education from throwing it away and deciding to publish illustrated Jehovah's Witness books about Noah's Ark, but a child who was given a substandard science education is at a serious (perhaps insurmountable) disadvantage if he wants to pursue a scientific career later. Giving every child a good science education expands their options in life; failing to do so can only hurt them.

The second problem with the "only teach them what you think they'll need" approach is that society has needs too. To put it in stark terms, in a democratic nation, a plumber is more than just a plumber; he is also a voter. And this means he (or she) is empowered to periodically choose the leadership of his country based on perceived administrative competence and whatever issues are current at the time. That kind of decision is extremely important, and requires people to be as thoroughly informed as possible, even about things that do not concern their private needs. This means they need to know about matters such as history, geography, economics, and, yes, science. In ancient Athens, the term "idiot" referred to people who did not bother to participate in public life and concerned themselves only with private matters. Perhaps it would be beneficial if we resurrected the original meaning of this term.

This is not a strictly left-wing or right-wing issue. The scientific ignorance of the "common man" has proven to be a disastrous factor in many political issues on both sides. Nuclear power plants have been demonized by the left-wing, due largely to public ignorance. Evolution has been demonized by the right-wing, also due largely to public ignorance. These attitudes affect public policy; nuclear power plant construction has been at a virtual standstill in the United States since the 1970s, and peoples' understanding of major issues such as AIDS/HIV is seriously impacted by their rejection of evolution (HIV is a result of natural evolution, not sin). Even widespread public health problems such as a disregard for loss of biodiversity or the overuse and abuse of antibiotics are related to incomprehension of evolution.


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