Besides coronavirus response, postal sabotage, health care, transfer of power, racism, economic devastation, global warming, and forest infernos, not to mention basic human decency, there is another issue I hope readers will consider on election day: science education.Some religious conservatives want to curtail the teaching of science in public schools. They say that educating children about things like climate change, different cultures, social justice, the history of the Earth, the human body, gender, and their own mental and physical potential is a form of “indoctrination” or some sort of sinister “leftist political and social agenda.” Well, if tolerance, knowledge, and human possibility are an agenda, I’m all for that one.
Other religious people find that science’s discoveries only deepen their faith in an underlying power. Some even feel a duty to study God’s creation in order to safeguard it. They find that outdated metaphorical concepts used by ancient writers do not detract from the essential message of love and understanding at the core of all religions. The word religion itself means to “relink” to this message.
Since the invention of writing, several professions have arisen whose job it is to find the truth by looking for tangible, real-world evidence. History tells us what happened, journalism tells us what is happening, and science tells us what always happens. All three are imperfect, of course, just as humans are, but they are also self-correcting. When someone adds a new fact, the whole system adjusts to incorporate it. The word science means “knowledge,” and passing along our current best knowledge is the true goal of education. Any attempt to curb the teaching of fact-based disciplines is part of an authoritarian religious agenda.
History records the efforts of dozens of “one true faiths” to suppress all others. The impulse to force one’s beliefs on everyone is why the framers of the Constitution were separated church and state in the First Amendment. They were inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment: religious freedom (that is, freedom from control by any one religious group) and thereby the freedom to investigate the universe all around us. These ideals gave us the Industrial Revolution and the modern world. Understanding that world and its people is the only way to a sustainable future. We must defeat any attempt to subvert fact-based education.
Before you cast your vote, find out what the candidates’ positions are on teaching unrestricted, undiluted science and history, then vote for those who favor it.
Let’s keep church and state separate. To forbid the teaching of things that conflict with someone’s interpretation of the Bible in tax-supported public schools would be to establish a minority religious position as a state creed and indoctrinate the defenseless young with it.
Some will reply that “science itself is only a godless religion,” but they’re confusing faith with fact, and they’d scream if somebody tried to put that shoe on the other foot. No one is going into churches and making the pastors preach evolution. Why make kids face the future with a medieval education? We already have too many science deniers in government. Let’s vote them out. After all, as science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick once put it, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
Gary Stimeling lives in Freedom