Johnson: Maintain a wall between church and science

Matt Johnson

In a talk to his constituents at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet in September of 2012, Paul Broun, U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 10th District said many things. He stated “that talk about evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell…the Earth is but about 9,000 years old.” And Rep. Broun is not alone.

In the 2012 Republican primaries for the Republican nomination for the President of the United States, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota’s 6th District and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas’ 14th District all agreed that intelligent design was the preferred mode of science education for American children and that biological evolution was just a theory.

Biological evolution is not just a theory. It is a scientific theory that is supported by experiments, facts, observations and mathematics. Intelligent design, on the other hand, is not supported by any scientifically validated procedure. Applying such public policy as intelligent design could have devastating results.

Americans ought to be concerned with the policy decisions of their U.S. representatives, senators and state governors. In the same way, Americans should be concerned if their representative is applying his or her respective religious beliefs to science and public policy. Such a religious belief system is currently being utilized by Rep. Broun, who sits on the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. Consequently, both are subcommittees for the United States House Committee on Space, Science and Technology. In addition, Americans ought to be concerned for their economic, educational and technological future as the United States economy faces stiffer competition and innovation from expanding European and Chinese markets.

In the future, it will be increasingly difficult to compete in the global economy with representatives who share a similar paradigm to that of Rep. Broun. This particular type of fundamentalist point of view is dangerous. It is the main culprit targeting biological evolution and its supportive scientific, engineering and mathematical disciplines and applications. Rep. Broun and his type of thinking are an example of the necessity of the separation of church and state.

What these types of politicians tend to do is muddy the waters with nonsensical details. If one says it enough, it must be true, “Evolution is just a theory.” This type of thinking, lack of scientific understanding and ignorance in scientific literacy could potentially, if not already, create dire consequences on American science policy and America’s scientific future and competitiveness.

If America continues to fall behind in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) literacy and fails to properly educate its future workforce, unemployment could rise, trade could decrease, Fortune 500 companies like Apple, ExxonMobile, General Motors and General Dynamics could theoretically leave the American shores, and American pride and exceptionalism could fade away into the sea of history, never to return.

This is not an implication or demonization of religion or religious beliefs. In fact, religious beliefs are as much the fabric of the United States as bottled Coke and cheese burgers, or going to the moon. Rather it is discourse in support of a system that has been built on the technological foundations from the mathematical and scientific discoveries of the past 400 years — a system in which measurable facts and evidences are engineered to improve the lives of all Americans, including those of faith.

We are a society where Americans are free to express their opinions, but are also free to take advantage of scientific literacy while discovering the competitive edge that Lady Liberty provides for her children. That is what drives the audaciousness of American exceptionalism and innovation.