Diversity of perspective is a critical part of college, but not when it comes to empirical knowledge.
By Phillip Bugajski, Loyola University Chicago
The culture of the United States is one that’s based on reason, science and peer review.
So, then, isn’t it necessary that all the evidence concerning evolution, including alternative theories, is taught in schools? Teaching Creationism, sometimes called Intelligent Design, in addition to the theory of evolution is a way to better educate children, to have them critically evaluate ideas and reflect on their inner faith on a personal, spiritual level.
After undergoing many legal battles about what to teach as science, Creationism and Intelligent Design have had their places in American state curricula for years. Most famously, in the Scopes Monkey Trial, the definition of evolution was determined. Still, in a nation devoted to scientific fact, being skeptical of anything that claims to be unconditional truth is nearly an American value. After all, science has been changed and corrected time and time again, so how do you know that what you’ve been told is accurate?
In addition to scientific fact, the people of the United States have always prided themselves in being open to listening to different, often controversial opinions. The value of free speech is so fundamental in the minds of the American people that it is protected under the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. In addition to better educating children and preserving Constitutional freedoms, teaching the controversy will allow for students to better listen to new ways of thinking, as they will come from a background of diverse perspectives.
In an increasingly globalized and communicative world, being open to new ways of thinking, new culture and new theories is a crucial life skill. In a nutshell, this is why I believe that the Anti-Creationists have monopolized the school system, and why evolution needs to be taught alongside evolutionary theory.
And all of that was pure bullshit. I hope that you thought so too after reading for a little bit.
Full disclaimer: I do not believe in Creationism or Intelligent Design. I understand evolutionary theory to a significant degree, because it is a rigid scientific field of study that explains much of the natural world. The real reason why I’m writing this article is not because the U.S. has a deep culture of understanding regarding the sciences. I’m writing this because right now, the U.S. has unfortunately become stuck in the world of the “alternative fact.”
It isn’t a new development; there have been several debates on a lot of subjects, ranging from evolution and Creationism to global climate change or the true history of the Holocaust. While in theory, discussion and debate is good, in each of these areas, there is a clear, evidence-supported side that has been challenged by people who simply do not want to accept the truth of the matter, either because they want to remain ignorant or because they have even more sinister intentions.
Take, for example, the issue of climate change. Personally, I thought America moved past this back in the ’90s. Yet, there is a “healthy” debate around the nature of why the change is happening, whether or not it is really anthropogenic or whether it is merely part of the Earth’s natural cycle.
One side of the debate proposes a clear process that causes climate change, as well as evidence that shows that the release of fossil fuels (mainly carbon dioxide), coinciding with the use of coal during the first industrial revolution, has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The other side of the debate attempts to justify the change by claiming that the Earth has gone through its history of temperature fluctuations, though they fail to mention that there has never been this large of a fluctuation in such a short amount of time. Even worse than scientific ignorance, though, is the promulgating of false information to push a narrative that personally benefits you. The Koch brothers, a dominant political force in conservative politics, have funded studies that conclude that climate change is not caused by any human action.
Upon further examination of the Koch brothers, it becomes clear that they have significant investments in the fossil-fuel industry. Trying to change the fuel source of the U.S. to renewable forms of energy would no doubt hurt their bottom lines. So, instead of diversifying their portfolios, or investing in new technologies, they may as well create competing studies to counter the current scientific knowledge, muddying the waters.
Climate change is just one example, and that’s why it’s important to look deeper than the news headlines. America needs to teach applicable science in schools and, as a nation, needs to figure out how to personally educate its people with new issues. Isn’t that why so many people go to college in the first place? Students want to seek out both new ideas, and the truth about old ones? To both expand their horizons as well as cut out the nonsense?
Students want to become experts in their fields and understand everything about what they’re studying. On the most basic level, this is why universities and higher education exists in the first place. As a center of learning, college creates experts and individuals qualified to discuss matters in their fields. I will listen to the opinions of my political science professors rather than any celebrity or newscaster. I have seen that my professors are qualified to share their opinions.
Lately, it seems that the American people have been fed a lot of nonsense by large industries, political figures and celebrity opinions. If this article convinces you of anything, I hope that it’s to critically evaluate ideas of your own, and not to take every graph or dataset as a fact.
It’s not just a matter of seeing the positives of both sides or giving each argument its due. Just because someone presents information, it doesn’t mean that they’re right. Some arguments are wrong, and it’s time to acknowledge that so people can continue to progress.