Despite what some people may think, the coronavirus pandemic remains a serious threat. We’re seeing a spike in cases in some states that rushed to reopen, and public health officials are warning about another wave of in infections this fall.
Nevertheless, some continue to ignore recommendations about wearing masks and taking other common-sense precautions.
What causes such recalcitrance? Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked about this recently by CNN. Fauci was blunt: Some Americans simply reject science.
“One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are – for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable – they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority.”
Fauci added, “So when they see someone up in the White House, which has an air of authority to it, who’s talking about science, that there are some people who just don’t believe that, and that’s unfortunate because, you know, science is truth.”
Predictably, Fauci’s comments set off evangelist Franklin Graham, who refuses to accept the idea that science leads to truth because that conflicts with Graham’s fundamentalist beliefs that only his narrow interpretation of the Bible can do that.
On Facebook, Graham listed some examples where scientists failed to agree and then reeled off this gem: “And, man did not evolve from apes. … That’s just not true – God created man and woman as the Bible says.”
One of the most frustrating things about creationists like Graham is that they presume to lecture the rest of us about evolution when it’s obvious they don’t know the first thing about it. Evolution does not say that humankind evolved from apes, rather than apes and humans share a common ancestor. This is the sort of thing you learn in Biology 101 in any half-decent university. Was Graham asleep that day?
Furthermore, the idea that science is perpetually at war with religion and that one must choose sides is a tiresome trope embraced by fundamentalists. Most religious people long ago reconciled their faith with modern science. For many believers, God gave us intellect and reason precisely so that we can discover things about the world around us.
Finally, the fact that scientists sometimes disagree about a certain topic is a sign of health and vitality in that discipline, not a weakness. Eventually, the scientific method, including the use of double-blind experiments, leads to a consensus. It’s all right for a scientist to challenge a prevailing theory, but he or she had better be able to produce some research and back it up with experiments that can be replicated by others under the same conditions – or those ideas will fall by the wayside.
Fauci is right about resistance to science being an undercurrent in American society. It isn’t always motivated by fundamentalist religious beliefs but often is. We see this a lot from Christian nationalists who want to force public schools to teach unscientific, religion-based curricula, such as biblical creation stories in science classes or abstinence-only sex education in health classes.
Americans United continues to protect against efforts to insert anti-science religious beliefs into our public policies and our public schools – join us!