Last week, two Americans earned the Nobel Prize for physics. Using a satellite, they observed a certain radiation that resulted from the Big Bang. This radiation helped show how galaxies formed and according to the Nobel Academy, “[The] results provided increased support for the big-bang scenario for the origin of the Universe.”
A recent New York Times article revealed the discovery of a 3.3 million-year-old girl. A nearly complete fossil, it confirmed her species “walked upright, like modern humans. But gorilla-like arms and shoulders suggested that it possibly retained an ancestral ability to climb and swing through trees.” This indicates a transition species, filling a missing link in our evolutionary tale.
Why do these things matter?
In August, Science Magazine published the results of a survey regarding evolution, given to citizens of the United States and 32 European countries. People were asked to respond “true,” “false” or “not sure” to the following statement: “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.” More than 85 percent of Americans responded “false;” only Turkey had more people who disagreed with the statement.
These things are important because people are taking the best scientific evidence and saying it doesn’t matter. It is disconcerting that we, as a nation, could see such drastic differences between observable truths and what people believe.
Various studies have shown that Americans believe there was a connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq prior to 9/11, despite numerous reports from our own government discounting that claim. A study in August found that 36 percent of Americans believe in conspiracy theories regarding 9/11; I admit, they are interesting, but they simply do not hold up when placed under the scrutiny of scientific investigation.
In science, facts are explained with reference to other facts; these larger models are called theories. The “theory” of evolution is really the “facts referenced by other facts” of evolution; it is not a guess. After more than 150 years of investigation, there is no hard evidence to suggest evolution is a trifle little thing; in fact, all the evidence points to its truth.
In “Letter to a Christian Nation,” Sam Harris writes: “When considering the truth of a proposition, one is either engaged in an honest appraisal of the evidence and logical arguments, or one isn’t.” As a whole, this nation is woefully disengaged.
Despite new evidence in recent years supporting evolution and the big-bang theory, Americans are increasingly likely to reject scientific truths. They supplant evidence with emotional responses.
Weapons of mass destruction? All Americans needed for convincing was a PowerPoint with computer animations and some fuzzy satellite photos.
Evolution and all other rejection of creationism? Despite fossil records dating back over 5 million years, despite geological records dating back hundreds of millions of years, despite human and chimp DNA being different by just 1.23 percent, despite the lack of solid, tangible, reproducible evidence favoring creationism… the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t believe it.
Could you imagine if you showed someone all the photos, all the news articles and all the first-hand accounts of Nazi concentration camps and they had the tenacity to say it just doesn’t make sense and therefore didn’t happen?
Where do we draw the line as to when it is OK to say demonstrable truths aren’t true? And why is religion, used to explain the creation of the universe before science could, exempted from logical scrutiny?
Ryan Speaker is a senior history major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.