Recently a lot of people have been talking about the Ham/Nye Evolution vs. Creationism debate . I haven’t actually seen it yet so obviously I don’t have any comment on the debate itself.
There is another issue that should be addressed that is somewhat related however.Both before and after the debate there were a great many comments about whether it should happen at all.
There seem to be a lot of people saying that Nye shouldn’t have agreed to do it. The rationale seems to be that a real scientist agreeing to debate people like Ham validates or legitimizes them in some way. This seems to me a fundamentally flawed outlook.
Perhaps the disagreement with taking creationists like Ham seriously stems from a wrongheaded notion that they represent a small group of harmless kooks. Yet aside from the fact that you could characterize much of what they believe as kooky this assessment is sadly incorrect.
Some estimates have said that 1 in 10 people in the U.S are Young Earth Creationists. That’s 31 million people. With another one third of the population leaning toward literal creation if not wholly committed. These are staggering numbers. Huge swaths of the population of North America dismiss, deny or are ignorant of the scientific realities of our existence. These people are robbed of the truth of reality by a creation myth which even a basic understanding of physics, biology, geology, palaeontology or a host of other disciplines completely blows out of the water.
If the percentages given are accurate this is clearly not a small group. Nor are it’s effects harmless. Right now there are grown people walking around convinced of the fact that the earth is 6000 years old. This in spite of the fact that there are documented trees older than that growing at this very minute.
There are, as the map below (compiled by Slate Magazine) points out, thousands of schools in the United States that teach Creationism as part of their science curriculum regardless of the fact that they receive federal money. There are proud creationists serving in high ranking positions in government all over North America , including a U.S congressional panel on science and technology(!) There are text books which spread lies about the reality of the Loch Ness Monster in bids to discredit Evolution and that’s before we even get to the purposeful misunderstanding of what evolution is or how it works. Teaching children mythology in place of science is wrong, and it does them harm. Not only does it teach them that truth has no value but it also keeps them from learning the tools of discovering genuine truth, and denies them the knowledge and understanding necessary to compete and thrive in a world ever more dependant on science and technology.
Regardless of the popular movement to deny it the fact remains that our beliefs inform our actions, and our core beliefs all the more so. That being the case shouldn’t the things these people believe be discussed and dissected by as many actual experts as we can find? Shouldn’t we be delighted when people with the talent of making complex knowledge and facts approachable to lay people decide to explain why wrong ideas ARE wrong?
Personally I think if one kid is inspired to go find an out how something works it’s a win. Beyond that though as long as we hold any pretensions toward wisdom or respect for truth and what that battered and broken word is meant to mean we should raise our voices in support of those people who are out there battering at the wall of self imposed ignorance so many of our fellow primates have built around themselves. Without champions of reason from Nye and Dawkins to the science teacher who refuses to teach the bible as fact we will lose the struggle and truth, knowledge, exploration, and actual understanding will die in favour of the easy comforting lie.