Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Comforting Ignorance of Myth

In most situations, I am an optimist when it comes to the potential of the people I come into contact with on a daily basis.  Most of these people are knowledgeable, to a degree, of everyday conversational topics.  Other than the great people I follow via books or the internet (bloggers, newspaper columnists, authors, etc.) I rarely, if ever, come into contact with real experts in a given field.  This is not a knock on any of my friends or colleagues, because I count myself in that statement.

However, I'm beginning to think that I may have taken the optimism I have for my fellow man for granted.  Over the past few years of my life, I have noticed a disturbing lack of common scientific knowledge among people in my generation as well as the generation behind me.  Yes, there are still scientific experts that I idolize; there are still motivated youngsters that keep me enthusiastic; and there are still tenacious fighters trying desperately to keep science education as a top priority.  What's depressing me lately though is this: there just don't seem to be as many of these people as I remember when I was 20 years younger.

In my recent conversations with those in my social circles, I find that an uncomfortable number of adults - let's say ages 21 to 40 - have no idea why the Northern Hemisphere is cold in the Winter and warm in the Summer.  They could not explain what causes the tides.  They could not give a reasonable explanation for why things float on water.  Nor could they tell you how a rainbow is formed or for that matter, when the conditions are right to go looking for a rainbow.  (That last example is true considering that most adults will tell you that rainbows come after rainfall; they just can't explain WHEN it's a good bet to look for one.)

I find all of this a bit disconcerting considering the direction that the religious seem to be trying to impose on our society.  Religious activists have essentially declared war on modern science.  Am I being overdramatic?  Then I'll give you an example.  There is a concerted effort in the state of Texas to exclude basic evolutionary biology from public school science classes.  Why?  It's simple really, these people see science as a threat.  Even if you discount the talking snake part as a myth, a fundamental understanding of modern biology ultimately removes the need for an activist god.  It also completely disproves the biblical creation story, which in turn negates the myth of the fall of man.  No fall of man... no need to nail a human being to a cross for a blood sacrifice.  Get it?

Besides that, ignorance is a necessity for controlling the masses.  I don't believe that many will argue against the point that an uninformed, uneducated people are far easier to control than a society that knows what their rights are and when their rights are being trampled.

Now, before I conclude, I should take a moment to admit that I have recognized something about myself lately as well.  The older I get, the more I worry about the education of the generations behind me.  In particular, I worry about the generation of my children.  (In other words, this is most likely what spawned this post.)  Because the older I get, the more I believe that as a society, we are failing in our responsibility to our children to educate them in basic math and science.  And I firmly believe that the cause of our lack of math and science education lies in the sudden embrace of Iron Age beliefs.

So, I consider my generation and the one behind me somewhat "lost" in this comforting ignorance of myth.  It doesn't matter how intelligent I consider each of them to be, they are lost in their absolute acceptance of modern religion.  (I live in the deep South, I should expect it, right?)  Also, their religion has become something of a pathetic, puerile security blanket for them.  On a weekly basis, I hear these people gushing to one another about their respective anecdotal religious experiences - right outside my cubicle at work.  I also hear about how praying causes a sense of peace to wash over them, or about a guiding hand that has given their life direction, or about a medical miracle that saved one of their loved ones.

Then I hear how science is not the only way to gain knowledge, how we weren't there millions of years ago so we cannot know for certain, and how the entire universe was created for man.  Thus, they've convinced themselves that since there are gaps in our current scientific understanding, there must be room to squeeze in a god.

It's because of all of this, that I can no longer sit back and watch a select few ruin another generation.  I refuse to become accustomed to people that argue against vaccinations as if they are just as versed in immunological sciences as professionals.  I will not allow people to mistakenly boast that there are "gaping holes" in the fossil record.  And I will certainly push back when my children are fed inaccurate, factually unsupported and overtly religious concepts at their school.  We, as a generation, cannot afford to allow the embracing of ignorance to continue.

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