This video from the John Stewart show plus this article by Lawrence Krause are appropriate for this forum. No wonder such unsubstantiated ideas continue to flourishhttp://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-o ... s=share_fbFaithand Footishness
Religious leaders should be held accountable when their irrational ideas turn harmful.
Every two years the National Science Foundation
produces a report, Science and Engineering Indicators,
designed to probe the public's understanding
of science concepts. And every two years we
relearn the sad fact that U.S. adults are less willing to
accept evolution and the big bang as factual
than adults in other industrial countries.
Except for this time. Was there suddenly a quantum leap in
U.S.science literacy? Sadly, no. Rather the National Science
Board, which oversees the foundation,chose to leave the section
that discussed these issues out of the 2010 edition, claiming the
quecstions were"flawed indicators of scientific knowledge because
responses conflated knowledge and beliefs." In short, if their religious beliefs require
respondents to discard scientific facts, the
board doesn't think it appropriate to expose that truth.
The section does exist, however, and Science magazine obtained it.
\When presented with the statement "human beings, as
we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,"
just 45 percent of respondents indicated" true." Compare this
figure with the affirmative percentages in
Japan(78),Europe(70),China (69)and South Korea(
64).Only 33percentof Americans agreed that
"the universe began with a big explosion."
Consider the results of a 2009 Pew
Survey: 31 percent of U.S. adults believe
"humans and other living
things have existed in their present
form since the beginning of time."
(So much for dogs, horses or H1N1
flu.) The survey's most enlightening
aspect was its categorization of responses by
levels of religious activity, which
suggests that the most devout are on average least willing to accept
the evidence of reality. White evangelical Protestants have
the highest denial rate (55percent),closely followed by the group
across all religions who attend services on average at least once a
I don't know which is more dangerous, that religious beliefs
force some people to choose between knowledge and myth or that
pointing out how religion can purvey ignorance is taboo. To do
so risks being branded as intolerant of religion. The kindly Dalai
Lama, in a recent New York Times editorial, juxtaposed the statement
that "radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those
who hold religious beliefs" with his censure of the extremist in
tolerance, murderous actions and religious hatred in the Middle
East. Aside from the distinction between questioning beliefs and
beheading or bombing people,the "radical atheists" in question
rarely condemn individuals but rather actions and ideas that deserve to be challenged.
Surprisingly,the strongest reticence to speak out often comes
from those who should be most worried about silence.Last May
I attended a conference on science and public policv at which a
representative of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences
gave a keynote address.When I questioned how he reconciled his
own reasonable views about science with the sometimes absurd
and unjust activities of the Church-from false claims abour condoms
and AIDS in Africa to pedophilia among the clergy was
denounced by one speaker after another for my intolerance.
Religious leaders need to be held accountable for their ideas.In
my state of Arizona,Sister Margaret McBride, a senior administrator
at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, recently authorized a legal
abortion to save the life of a 27-year-old mother of four who
was eleven weeks pregnant and suffering from severe complications
of pulmonary hypertension; she made that decision after consultation with the mother's family, her doctors and the local ethics committee. Yet 1W the bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olmsted, immediately excommunicated Sister Mary, saying, "The mother's life cannot be preferred over the child's." Ordinarily, a man who would callously let a woman die and orphan her children would be called a monster;this should not change just because he is a cleric.
In the race for Alabama governor, an
advertisement bankrolled by the state teachers' union attacked
candidate Bradley Byrne because he supposedly supported teaching
evolution. Byrne, worried about his political future, felt it necessary
to deny the charge.
Keeping religion immune from criticism is both unwarranted
and dangerous. Unless we are willing to expose religious irrationality
whenever it arises, we will encourage irrational public policy
and promote ignorance over education for our children.
Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist and science commentator, is
Foundation Professor and director of the Origins Initiative at
Arizona State University (tuwtu. krauss.faculty.asu.edu).
Issue 36 Scientific American August 2010