Weird Science, Bad Jobs

The Hidden Threat Of State-Endorsed Creationism

Most parents would like to think that the future holds something better for their children than a part-time, minimum-wage job at a theme park.

Yet as the economy continues to struggle, some political leaders will take whatever they can get. How else to explain Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s decision to enter into a partnership with Answers in Genesis, a band of creationists who plan to build a replica of Noah’s Ark in north central Kentucky?

Beshear may think he’s bringing jobs to a depressed area of the state. In reality, he’s helping a militantly fundamentalist ministry evangelize Americans and putting his state’s economy at a real risk.

During his January State of the Union address, President Barack Obama talked about our nation’s need to do a better job teaching science. The good jobs of the future, Obama said, will emphasize science and technology. He noted that already countries like China and India threaten to surpass the United States in some high-tech fields.

Around the same time, two professors at Penn State University issued a disturbing report. They found that only 28 percent of high school biology teachers emphasize evolution in class. Thirteen percent favor creationism. A whopping 60 percent worry that stressing evolution will lead to community dissention, so they downplay it.

Religious Right pressure groups have generally done a poor job getting creationism affirmatively taught in American public schools. They’ve done an excellent job, however, of spreading confusion and intimidating teachers and administrators to the point where some are afraid to even mention the “e-word” – a concept scientists say is key to understanding biology.

Members of Americans United understand why teaching a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis in public schools and calling it “creation science” violates church-state separation. Courts have agreed with us consistently on that.

What Americans also need to understand is how the Religious Right’s anti-science campaign threatens our nation’s competitiveness. When high-tech companies come looking for scientifically literate employees, will they likely even consider a state like Kentucky, which is already home to a creationism museum and will soon house the “ark park”?

It’s not likely. And therein lies another grave danger of the creationist crusaders. Not only do they undermine church-state separation, but states that cozy up to their ideas could become scientifically backward laughingstocks that lose the high-tech jobs that are emerging in the global economy.

Beshear should be advocating for these jobs. Instead, he’s kowtowing to a band of extremists whose understanding of science comes out of the “The Flintstones” and who have nothing to offer aside from dead-end jobs hawking hot dogs at yet another creationist tourist trap.