In every poll, a majority of Americans believe that the Biblical creation story is the literal truth about how humans came into existence. And according to the Harris poll, 55% of Americans think that evolution, creationism and intelligent design should all be taught in science classes.
The flaming (but accurate) title notwithstanding, this is indicative of a serious proplem in America: the continued denigration of science, which apparently is not limited to the Bush administration’s actions. As I’ve written before, this type of attitude is soon going to cost the United States its place as the world’s leading nation for technological and scientific innovation, because these attitudes filter down through school administrations and affect how high school students view science. This view of how science should be treated will end up creating a generation of people who cannot think critically about scientific issues, because they have, at best, been conditioned to believe that all points of view deserve equal time, even in scientific disciplines where the point is to filter out the wrong theories and retain the right theories, and, at worst, been conditioned to believe that science is altogether false (whatever ‘false’ means in a scientific context).
Case in point: one of the polls mentioned above (I think the Zogby one) found that 88% of 18 to 29 year olds felt that ID and evolution should be given equal time in classrooms. The number is high enough to cause me to question the survey’s methodology, but any substantial number indicates that too many people take the idea of equal time seriously: there is no reason why any point of view necessarily deserves to be treated on an equal footing. If ID were a real science and had evidence to back it up, then it would warrant consideration as being a legitimate theory and might be taught alongside evolution (ID’s primary motivation notwithstanding). But it isn’t a real science, has no evidence, and is not a legitimate theory. (It is in fact designed to obfuscate the motives for its own introduction into classrooms.)
I recall a case from a few years ago in which a reporter for the LA Times was reprimanded for covering a story about abortion and an argument that having an abortion could increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer (the details might be off, though) and not giving ‘equal coverage’ to those that felt this was legitimate objection to abortion. Where do you draw the line between being objective and not reporting on garbage? This particular hypothesis (it does not qualify as a theory in the scientific sense of the term) has no evidence to back it up. Why should this reporter have given it equal time? That’s exactly the problem that faces American school districts: give everything equal time, even the garbage, and turn the US into a nation of idiots, or teach real science, make sure this generation knows how to think, and leave ID where it belongs: at church, as a matter strictly of faith, or, preferably, in the trash heap.