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Ignoring Scientific Realities is Not Good for America

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If believing in Darwinian evolution is an indication of irreligiosity, the following chart can be construed as an indication of a negative correlation between the extent to which people believe in religion and the economic status of the country in which they live. That is, the higher the country's economic  status--the per-capita GDP (gross domestic product)--the lower the level of that country's religiosity.   

However, surprisingly, the United States is the only wealthy country that does not conform to this dynamic. In spite of being the richest country in the world overall and having one of the highest per-capita GDPs, the United States is considered to be a religious country with a considerable percentage of its population oblivious to scientific theories such as evolution and the Big Bang despite overwhelming supporting evidence. As the chart shows, the U.S. is ranked parallel with many lesser-developed countries.        

Belief in Evolution VS National Wealth by Tony Piro

It seems that people who live in less affluent countries are more religious and, consequently, unreceptive to intellectual pursuits perhaps because religion keeps them preoccupied. In addition, religion serves as a safety net for and a solution to their problems, especially emotional problems. In the absence of adequate social entitlement programs in such countries, religion serves as an alternative in time of need. However, as governments, particularly those of wealthier European countries, provide their citizens with adequate social and economic safety nets, they no longer have the need to petition a religious deity to meet their basic needs and they also become more open-minded and receptive to scientific facts. In other words, before the advent of government entitlements, people may have prayed to God so he would give them food, shelter, and other necessities; however, now that their basic needs are taken care of by social institutions, they don't need to pray to God or take him that seriously.

Ominously, America is the only country among industrialized nations in which people have to be at the mercy of the private sector for almost all of their essential needs, including some of the most important ones such as healthcare. These days, the voices of steadfast anti-government Republicans and Tea party demagogues can be heard loudly excoriating social programs. They try to convince the rest of us that the government is the source of our troubles and not the solution to them. They have more than ever brainwashed naïve people into buying their nonsensical claims, such as Obamacare is really bad for America while the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may be good, confusing the fact that these two terms identify the same thing. This video clip , while amusing, is testimony to this verity.

Obviously, in this age of the Internet and a hyper-connected world, people are bombarded with information on a nonstop basis by everyone who can access a computer and log onto the Internet and there is no way to winnow factual from fictitious information. Many people are prone to accept ideas that are in line with whatever brings them comfort, or support what they are already committed to, or accept ideas that have been embedded in the brain via repetition. Right wing religious fanatics, who have unfortunately infiltrated our political system, have successfully utilized such syndical tactics. They refuse to accept scientific theories such as evolution or the Big Bang simply because these invalidate the claims they are trying to compel Americans to absorb and accept.  Republicans and the Tea Party scare-mongers, who are beholden to the religious right, have a vested interest in keeping people ignorant of scientific realities because this paves the way for them to remove social safety nets, which they aspire to by defunding entitlement programs and repealing the ACA. These political entities believe that by luring people to ignore scientific facts and promoting a certain brand of religiosity, more people will come to expect God to take care of their needs and not the government.

Ideological and religious biases often cloud one's opinions; however, scientific claims should not be mired in ideological and religious biasness. They should neither be denied nor undermined. Promoting such a mentality does not serve America well, especially in the long term.

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Reza Varjavand (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma) is associate professor of economics and finance at the Graham School of management, Saint Xavier University, of Chicago. He has been an avid participant in many professional organizations and active in (more...)
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