The Battle Between Science and Faith
America was looking for a showdown and found it in Dayton, Tennessee. The battle for who would dominate American culture riveted the attention of the nation on one lone schoolteacher named John Scopes. July of 1925 the Scopes "Monkey Trial" swept the nation in a roaring battle between science and faith. The legality of Tennessee's anti-evolution statute, and the guilt or innocence of John Scopes, were not the real issue of the trial. The issue then, as it is now, is which side rules America.
There is a crisis brewing in America. Science is under assault from a new wave of revivalism. We are once again at the crossroads of faith, and must choose to include truth or plunge blindly into an era of fear. Issues of global warming, environmental protection, the teaching of evolution, the legality of abortion, stem cell research, the origins of the universe, gay marriage, even the fate of Terri Schiavo revolve around the larger issue: whether we are "a Christian Nation", or if we are, as Darrow argued in the Scopes trial, "opening the doors to bigotry equal to anything in the Middle Ages."
The Religious Right has worked very hard to gain political power. Their success is evident in the Republican Party. No Republican, including President Bush, can afford to ignore their views. This was made abundantly clear in the Terri Schiavo case and the stem cell debate. The political power of "Christian Nation" believers is growing. Last week's poll shows that 51% of Americans don't accept the theory of evolution. As a result, our children are being taught the pseudoscience of "intelligent design" alongside real scientific theory. Worse yet, more and more children are being pulled out of public schools and taught in exclusively Christian classrooms, a trend that is widening the gap between faith and science.
Both science and mathematics are poorly taught in U. S. schools, leading to a shortage of good scientists and a general lack of scientific knowledge. We have already reached the point where only 20% of the nation is scientifically literate. Universities across America bemoan the fact that there are not enough American applicants qualified to be accepted in graduate programs.
The implication of this knowledge gap on the political scale is enormous. If our nation continues to widen the political, social, religious and philosophical rifts between fundamentalist Christians and other citizens, we will not be prepared to deal with the 21st Century. Much of our legal and political decision-making will have be based in biological fact, and we will be found lacking. Ignorance is never the solution to a problem. Our children need the best science education possible, or they will not be equipped to make the important decisions they must face to secure a future for themselves and the generations that follow.