Does the GOP Believe Science is Bunk?

We may be doomed. In a world that increasingly requires a more highly educated workforce to design and operate ever more complicated machines to produce more bewilderingly sophisticated goods, right wing demagogues are working overtime to dumb down the next generation by teaching them the silliest kind of rubbish. As part of their race to the bottom of the gene pool, Republican legislators in Tennessee have just passed an “I ain’t descended from no monkeys and I don’t believe in no evolution” law.

Thanks to Republican and Tea Party efforts, Tennessee has just became the second state, after Louisiana, to pass a law that enables teachers who really have no business being teachers to teach religiously inspired concepts such as creationism and the truly daft young earth theory. At least five other states have considered similar legislation.

The young earth theory teaches that the earth and mankind were created no longer than 10,000 years ago. I have ties older than that. It’s based on the work of people like the 17th century cleric Bishop Usher, who took the time to carefully go through the Bible and add up all the begets to arrive at the calculation that the earth was created on October 23, 4004 B.C.

If Bishop Usher and the right wing theocrats of today are right, then nearly every physicist, biologist, geologist, archaeologist, geneticist, and scientist working today is wrong about nearly everything from the theory of gravity to how Silly String really works. If Bishop Usher is right, then scientists today would have to be wrong about things like radioactive decay. All of physics must be wrong, which would have to mean that even math is wrong. Two plus two equals four is just a liberal opinion. And that would mean that we must not have gone to the moon, created nuclear medicine, or made ESPN available on satellite TV.

Along with nearly every scientist born in the last century, I personally believe that Bishop Usher is wrong, along with all the folks who believe that dinosaurs existed simultaneously with humans. And, sadly, there are lots of them.

A 2007 Gallup poll found that 39 percent of Republicans believe it’s definitely true that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.

What perhaps even more frightening is that last year, the journal Science published a survey of U.S. high school biology teachers, which found that about 13 percent of those surveyed “explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.” That’s like finding out that 13 percent of medical professors advocate teaching the use of leaches to cure miasma-borne fevers.

Just as there is virtually no question among scientists — or rational people in general — that evolution is true or that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, there is virtually no question that if the U.S. is to succeed in the global economy of tomorrow, we are going to need a lot more highly trained scientists. Just Google the terms “US vs. China science teaching,” and you’ll see things like this: U.S. Teens Lag as China Soars on International Test, China vs. USA: Who will win the 21st Century?, and Desperately seeking math and science majors.

That’s the hard truth we are facing: We need to get our work force and our graduating students a lot smarter. And fast. But right wing theocrats have enabled schools to teach ideas that are on a par with the belief that witches are the cause of sick livestock.

And the scariest thing is that some of the people who are pushing this drivel are the same people who want to run our country, the economy, and our defense policy.

Mitt Romney — and the more grown-up types among the Republican party leadership — seem to be simply afraid to call these people out and tell them to stop the nonsense. They should say out loud that they believe that the earth is over 4 billion years old. That evolution happened. That the Heliocentric model of the solar system is not just an opinion held by liberal elitists like Galileo. And that man-made global warming is real. Or else, they should just come out and admit that they think science is bunk, and if you don’t vote for them, they will turn you all into newts. We may be doomed.