Recent polls show that nearly 50% of Americans believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. That conviction is either based on an ignorance of science, or a religious belief in some form of creationism, perhaps with a rejection of science. Accordingly the dismissal of evolution is also tied to some kind of religious fundamentalism that ascribes surety to Biblical creation stories.
Politics, more and more immersed in conservatism, finds Republican candidates for president, who court fundamental Christians, less willing to take bold stands against creationism or Intelligent Design, similarly rooted in a literal interpretation of the Old Testament’s Book of Genesis.
Seventeenth century Bishop James Ussher calculated on the basis of ages of generations in Genesis, starting out with Adam, that creation of Heaven and Earth occurred on October 23, 4004 B.C. As science developed from the 18th century onward, the debate grew — on one side creationism and the other evolution.
With advances in scientific knowledge regarding the earth’s age, most importantly the discovery of radioactive decay, radioactive dating generations ago had proven that the oldest rocks were over 4.5 billion years old and new scientific evidence pointed to the age of the universe being nearly 14 billion years old.
Many Americans choose not to believe in science because science could challenge the old and the worn. They prefer to live in a past filled with age-old belief systems, or at least the way they remembered the past, when marriage was between a man and a woman and self reliance ruled, epitomized in old western movies.
The new is to be feared, and the old has a certain comfort, at least in the mind, or more importantly, the memory. The icons of self reliance were embodied in movie stars like John Wayne and another actor who became president, Ronald Reagan. He became a shining god-like fixture to be emulated, especially by Republican politicians.
Furthermore, political and economic forces are motivated to badger us into an unproductive regressive state, a state which does not call on corporations to contribute to shared profitability and governments to plan for our future. This frees governments to fight wars and corporations to seek markets and opportunities outside our realm.
The scientific realm is tolerated for the economic gains its technology brings to the rich. It is not encouraged to invade our life space. For example, the media emphasis is on the wonder and the achievements of NASA’s space program, not what it means in a cosmic sense.
Our consumer economy doesn’t want us to engage in the perspective of 14 billion years of cosmic time or 100,000 light years of galactic space, the given diameter of the Milky Way. A representation of our Milky Way is a fantasy we can see but no force in education should encourage us to visualize our sun as among 1 of some 300 billion stars in our galaxy. That tends to demean our achievements.
A real interest in science was only encouraged when the pesky Russians sent up Sputnik, and our fledgling space program sputtered and failed. But that time is gone. Now we measure our nation’s success with the number of MBAs we graduate, the number of lawyers who can litigate for the powerful, not the number of scientists, and certainly not poets who could describe the vast reaches of space with beautiful imagery.
Dominating forces in our culture want us anchored in our fantasy existence of television reality with products galore and us as the center of our consumer universe with minimum wages and corporate control of our insular lives.
Republican candidates will get you in the right limited perspective, pampered and narcissistic – at one with guns, numerous possessions, a competitive mean-spiritedness, and rancor toward those not like us.
The future will take care of itself, what with our continued superiority. After all we fought more than 2 wars on a credit card.
Even the Democrat Barrack Obama tends to play in this constricted game.