The Crimson White

Scientific facts and religion can be harmonious

Rich Robinson

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In the Oct. 26 edition of The New York Times, opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof called for America to “fix the escalator” of our broken education system. Citing data from a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study, Kristof made the case that American education is going backward. No longer the “egalitarian” beacon for education around the world, America has lost its way.

“We expect each generation to do better,” Kristof wrote in the piece. “But, currently, more young American men have less education (29 percent) than their parents than have more education (20 percent).”

I agree with Kristof and think the United States needs to make education reform the top national domestic priority. From expanding early childhood education to fixing the broken and exploitative student federal loan program, there is much work to do.

I’ve written about what the government should do on this issue many times before and believe it to be the most powerful prescription for large-scale change. But there is another problem that our country must confront in the fight for a more educated public: fundamentalist teachings that run counter to scientific thought.

No, I’m not trying to re-stoke the fires of the Scopes Monkey Trial for fun. A new University of Alabama study reports 37 percent of UA students believe that “all species, including humans, were created in their current form less than 10,000 years ago.” These so-called young Earth creationists are not uncommon across the country, and they have a big impact on the public discourse on issues ranging from public access to contraception to global warming and abortion. Biological sciences professor Leslie J. Rissler and two graduate students, Sarah Duncan and Nicholas Caruso, conducted the study over multiple years.

“Those distrustful of science are being left behind, not just in understanding how the world works, but in the work that elevates world 
economies,” Rissler’s report states. “One thing is above debate: a nation where high science standards and excellent public education are universal will improve more than just the acceptance and knowledge of evolution; it will improve society and well-being for all.”

I am a religious person and a strong believer in Christ. But I also like facts never talked about in the Bible and believe that God gave us free will and brains to figure out truths in the natural world. The idea that religion should be a limiting force in terms of human intelligence is troubling, but it’s also not new to our society or limited to America.

The 2011 HBO Films documentary “Koran by Heart” follows the journey of three young Muslims to the international Quran recitation tournament in Cairo, Egypt. One young girl from the Maldives named Rifdha wants to become an explorer, but her father only wants her to be a housewife and bases his view in his literal interpretation of what he sees as the word of God.

A literal interpretation of religious texts is usually dangerous and not in the best interest of a secular society. Instead, people of all faiths should strive to look for the deeper meaning in their sacred books and also embrace facts and science. If they don’t, their children can be the real victims.

Rich Robinson is a senior majoring in telecommunication and film. His 
column runs weekly.

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Scientific facts and religion can be harmonious