CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Louisiana and Tennessee have passed laws that allow public school teachers to teach alternatives to the scientific theories of climate change and evolution and several other states are considering similar measures.
Conservative non-profit groups funded by energy interests develop curricula for public schools to confuse students about climate science. American high school students, rank 17th in science and 25th in math compared to other modern economies.
The American Physics Society reports "not enough U.S. students graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math."
As a longtime science teacher in both high school and college, I find these facts very disturbing. What is happening here? I grew up in the 1950s and '60s when the United States was the world leader in education, particularly in science and math. We put a man on the moon, built computers, developed the internet and began the quest to read the human genome.
And today we would rather believe in fairy tales than to think rationally. We have become intellectually lazy. We think we can ignore scientific theories simply because they make us uncomfortable or conflict with our religious or political ideology.
Scientific theories are not "just theories." They are the end product of years of research, experimentation, hard work and much debate. Literally thousands of scientists working around the world agree that the world is getting warmer and humans are the cause. This idea does not become controversial because some commentator on Fox News or some conservative think tank disagrees. That is not a debate among equals. If 10 doctors tell you that you have cancer and need chemotherapy, but the guy at the health food store tells you to take vitamins instead, what would you do?
Scientific theories are powerful instruments because they work. Theories are as close to the truth as we can get. They may be, at some point, replaced by better theories when we learn more. But they will not be replaced by faith or pseudoscience.
When I read that only 39 percent of Americans believe in evolution, I find that truly amazing. You should not believe in science; it is not a religion. It is not based on faith or anonymous, ancient texts. It is based on experimentation, data collection and analysis.
Fields is a former high school science instructor for Kanawha County and West Virginia State University, who now teaches biology in northern Virginia.