Throwing Old Ladies Into Ponds

Once upon a time in America, not all that long ago really, when bad things happened in a community, such as cattle dying, carts overturning or teenagers acting badly, the favored response in certain quarters was to throw some poor old lady in a pond. If the old lady floated, it meant she was a witch and you could hang her, since it was widely known that witches were responsible for nearly all bad events and negative outcomes. If the old lady didn’t float and she drowned, well then, she was innocent. Drowned, but innocent, praise the Lord.

I think that if we want to fully understand today’s political climate, we need to come to grips with the fact that, for all our pride in our scientific and technological know how, the “throw-the-old-lady-in-the-pond” crowd is still very much with us. We may have a space station, big screen TVs, Twitter and the rest, but the understanding of the real world in certain quarters has not really advanced much since those pond-throwing days of yore.

I don’t mean to scare the little old ladies among us – but consider:

And what’s more, that 2010 Gallup poll on the “earth was created 10,000 year ago” notion found that 37 percent of American college graduates believed it.

In an increasingly high-tech, science-based world, none of this bodes particularly well for our country. For instance, in order to believe the “10,000 years” idea, you really have to believe that not only was Darwin wrong, but it requires believing that almost everything we know about biology, genetics, physics, geology, anthropology, math and science is wrong. Not just a little wrong – but totally wrong. Because the fundamental understandings of all those disciplines and more, strongly support the mainstream, science-based believe that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

So, given how many Americans graduate from college and blithely deny basic, demonstrable, repeatable science, is there any wonder we may be losing our economic edge or that so many folks today hold such loopy believes, such as that Obama was born in Kenya? If you can deny virtually all of science in order to believe in witches, or believe in a 10,000-year-old earth, then believing the birthers or what Donald Trump has to say must be a piece of cake.

If America hopes to lead the world in prosperity, we will have to lead the world in science and technology. And if we are going to do that, we are going to have to get serious about reforming an educational system that currently produces a staggering percentage college graduates who deny science and are not particularly well tethered to reality in general. Let’s stop “enabling” the loopy and finally get past that “throw-the-old-lady-in-a-pond” stage of human evolution.