America, more than any other developed country in the world, has constantly witnessed the clash between religion and science in education, politics and our everyday lives. In fact, America is the only developed country in the world that is still predominantly religious. According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, countries that are wealthy or have higher GDPs tend to be less religious. I mean, it makes sense right? Poorer countries tend to have a greater faith in religion to give them hope and wish for future prosperity. Most countries follow this general trend, but America is a stark outlier.
You would think that America, being the wealthiest country in the world with a GDP of around 19 trillion dollars, would be more secular. Apparently not. Nearly 54% of Americans say that religion plays an important role in their lives, a percentage that has remained fairly constant over time. Therefore, despite the concrete evidence backing up evolution and climate change, many Americans still refuse to believe in the phenomena. For them, God has either created their present form or guided humans along evolution.
It's a sticky subject, I get it. Being brought up around religious parents and institutions can make it difficult to perceive the facts. It can make you unable to formulate a concrete opinion or make you ignore the truth altogether. When students from such backgrounds enter college, they experience a huge cultural shift because they are exposed to nothing but hard science and academic discourse in which evolution and climate change are entirely synonymous with reality.
Since the 1960s, the Supreme Court has imposed several decisions that prohibit state governments and schools from banning the teaching of evolution. However, even 40 years later when a national survey was conducted in 2007, it was reported that about 22% of high school biology teachers spent class time teaching and/or endorsing creationism. Today, teachers around America still continue to preface their lessons by warning their students that the topic they are about to cover may be controversial. School is an institution to learn truths about the world, regardless of whether the subject matter disagrees with personal beliefs. In science, we learn facts and theories. Biology is as much a science as chemistry and physics. If students are not questioning chemical reactions and Newtonian physics, why are phenomena like evolution and climate change up for debate? And no, professors are not indoctrinating their students with their own biases. They are informing the truth which is backed up by meticulous evidence and scientifically proven research.
In 2013, a Pew Research Center survey found that while six in ten Americans do credit evolution for human life, a remaining 33% still believe that humans have existed since the beginning of time. Of course, in any college-level biology class, we are taught that life evolved around 3.7 billion years ago, our genus Homo around 2.5 million years ago and humans appeared about 200,000 years ago. Hear me when I say evolution and climate change are not controversial topics in education. They may be controversial to discuss among the general public because of religious and individual beliefs, but they are pretty much regarded as universal truths within the scientific community.
In terms of climate change, NASA reported that almost 97% of the scientific community is in consensus that it is real and a result of human activity. It is concerning (and hilarious!) what some politicians have to say when it comes to climate change. Everything from President Trump backing out from the Paris accord to several GOP politicians referring to climate change as a “hoax” is indicative of American ignorance of the truth.
Time and time again, we have witnessed scientists challenged and alienated from society for their “controversial” findings. Almost 400 years ago, when Galileo proposed the heliocentric model to explain that the planets moved around the Sun, the Catholic Church shut him down. In the 19th century, Darwin’s theory of evolution caused great controversy. A more contemporary example is the clash between the tobacco industry and scientists who linked smoking with serious health risks. This is not to deny that some level of opposition always exists within the scientific community because scientists need to be skeptical for the greater good, but opposition is meaningless if it is not backed up by evidence.
Biology is built upon evolution, and being tentative to teach evolution and climate change because it clashes with religion is withdrawing a critical and enormous part of a child's education. Students need to be aware of the truth, otherwise, we will raise a generation that will throw around unfounded statements and pass on ignorant beliefs. Stop rejecting reality. If you are afraid of getting offended, then college probably isn't the right place for you because it is the place where intellectual discussion thrives, unpopular opinions are brought forward, and the truths about the real world are explored. We are in charge of taking care of Earth, and if we choose to reject reality, we are all doomed.