America has a science problem

According to Zack Kopplin,  America has a science problem. In 2008 the Louisiana Science Education Act was passed, making it easier for teachers to introduce creationist textbooks into the classroom:

Outraged, he wrote a research paper about it for a high school English class. Nearly five years later, the 19-year-old Kopplin has become one of the fiercest — and most feared — advocates for education reform in Louisiana.

The pivotal moment for Kopplin came when religiously motivated activists began lobbying for the removal of science textbooks:

Soon after the act was passed, some of his teachers began to not just supplement existing texts, but to rid the classroom of established science books altogether. It was during the process to adopt a new life science textbook in 2010 that creationists barraged Louisiana’s State Board of Education with complaints about the evidence-based science texts. Suddenly, it appeared that they were going to be successful in throwing out science textbooks.

Here we have devout Christian believers declaring the incompatibility of science and religion! Of course, they are not using arguments that I would use. Indeed, they are not even being rational in their denunciation of science, since they seem to be especially irked by the emphasis on evidence in the textbooks. As creationists, they assert that evolution is false. As an evolutionist, I assert that creationism is false. Who is right?

My assertion can be backed up with evidence, and while this will convince a rational person it will not necessarily sway someone who believes a proposition on faith. This, for me, is at the heart of the incompatibility between science and religion.

There isn’t space here to rehearse the evidence for evolution. There are plenty of good books that do this very well (see, for example, Coyne 2009). Note also that when this teenager decided to write a letter urging the repeal of the LSEA, while many of us would have got our mum to help us, Kopplin called upon Sir Harry Kroto, a British chemist who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. And not only did Kroto help him to draft the letter, it has now been signed by 78 Nobel laureates.

Kopplin is a passionate defender of scientific inquiry, and vociferously rejects the notion that creationism and evolution should be taught side-by-side:

“Creationism is not science, and shouldn’t be in a public school science class — it’s that simple,” he says. “Often though, creationists do not, or are unwilling, to recognize this.” Science, he argues, is observable, naturalistic, testable, falsifiable, and expandable — everything that creationism is not.

America may have a science problem, but it most certainly does not have a religion problem — in the sense that there’s no shortage of people sticking up for their religious beliefs. More’s the pity.

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