Let me start by saying that I am a liberal and that I believe in God. I believe that there is an all-encompassing force that is responsible for creating the universe and that plays a subtle, but powerful, role in our lives and destinies.
But I also have no trouble believing that this same omniscient force created the universe through the incredibly complex and beautiful process of evolution. In other words, God created the scientific processes and physical laws that govern our existence, and it is those that gradually gave birth to everything else, and there is absolutely no contradiction between those two things.
Yet this simple and elegant possibility cannot be accepted by the religious movement in this country, mainly because it goes against dogma and words written thousands of years ago, which by themselves were almost certainly meant to be parables and not dogma at all.
In Kentucky, for example, there is a battle raging right now between religious groups and those who support Next Generation Science Standards -- an initiative to create more uniform curricula across the nation and to enhance the quality of education for children. The religious groups object to the new standards because they treat evolution as fact and discuss climate change. Earlier this year, Barbara Cargill, the chair of the State Board of Education in Texas, argued in front of the Senate Committee on Education for toning down the teaching of evolution and conveying the other side of the debate.
First of all, what other side? Evolution is science, and it is that simple. Creationism, the belief that God snapped his fingers and it all just came into being, is fine, but it is not science. To teach it in a class on religious beliefs is acceptable but to teach it in a science course would be akin to advocating ghosts as a possible explanation for the motion of objects in a physics course! The only thing that would accomplish is to render our students unable to compete in the scientific disciplines, not to mention unable to distinguish between the physical world and a theological one.
Secondly, as I said above, the only contradiction between the existence of both God and science is in the minds of dogmatists, who find it easy to believe blindly in one force that they cannot even see but somehow cannot wrap their minds around something for which there is ample evidence in the physical world. It is even more ironic that some of the greatest scientists in history, including Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, had a deep reverence for a higher force (although Newton believed in a personal God whereas Einstein believed in a pantheistic God that is, in essence, all of creation itself) and were able to reconcile this with their belief in scientific principles without compromising either.
Climate change, of course, is a matter of politics and money.
The Republican party, which is the premier sponsor of religious groups fighting against scientific education in America, does not want to lend credibility to the science behind climate change because it will force the party's wealthy corporate donors to take responsibility for how they make money and for the damage they inflict on our environment. And so, driven by these considerations as well as their own aversion to scientific 'facts', religious groups want to keep an honest discussion of climate change out of school textbooks, and out of our children's minds.
That is not just disturbing but downright dangerous considering the statistics:
- Average global temperatures have increased by 1 degree Celsius over the last century and scientists are projecting a 3-10 degree Fahrenheit rise by the end of this century
- Sea levels have risen by 4-8 inches over the last century and are projected to rise between 4 and 36 inches over the next 100 years
- Storms are increasing in intensity all over the world
- A quarter of the planet's species face extinction by 2050
If we don't warn our children about climate change today, they will surely pay the price for it when they grow up, and that is what is really ungodly.
Science and religion are not enemies, they just have a different role to play in education, and different lessons for our children. There is no reason that the two cannot be taught side by side but corrupting one to conform to the other is insanity. Without scientific understanding and without technology, mankind would still be living in the caves and getting slaughtered by beasts of prey; and man's evil is certainly not the fault of science. What right then do religious groups have to restrict the teaching of science in our society?
None. What they do have is sheer dogma, an unwillingness to separate the essence of God from the literal interpretation of texts written by humans, a lack of the wisdom that religion is supposed to provide, and a political agenda that has nothing to do with God and everything to do with power and money. By controlling our education system, they can bias the understanding and beliefs of the next generation, and thus continue to move the country in a direction that gives them and their sponsors the maximum benefit.
If these groups really cared about the future of our children, they would be preparing them to compete effectively in the technologically advanced world of today and enlightening them on the catastrophic dangers that await their generation if climate change goes unchecked, not to mention educating them in tolerance and the ability to consider beliefs different from their own.
Instead they are trying to set our children back by centuries and turn them into political pawns.
I wonder what God would say to that? SANJAY SANGHOEE is a political and business commentator. He has worked at leading banks, appeared on CNBC's 'Closing Bell' and HuffPost Live on business topics, and is the author of two novels. For more information, please visit www.sanghoee.com and follow him on Twitter @sanghoee