Lawrence Maxwell Krauss is a Canadian-American theoretical physicist who is a professor of physics, and the author of several bestselling books, including The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing. He is an advocate of scientific skepticism, science education, and the science of morality. Krauss is one of the few living physicists referred to by Scientific American as a "public intellectual", and he is the only physicist to have received awards from all three major U.S. physics societies: the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics.
Lawrence Krauss: It amazes me that people have pre-existing notions that defy the evidence of reality. But that they hold onto them so dearly. And one of them is the notion of creationism, or, in fact, Senator Marco Rubio, who’s presumably a reasonably intelligent man and maybe even educated, was asked what’s the age of the Earth, and ultimately, either because he actually believed it or he was trying to appeal to some constituency, had to argue that it’s a big mystery, that somehow we should teach kids both ideas, that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that it’s 4.55 billion years old, which is what it is.
If you think about that, somehow saying that, well, anything goes, we shouldn't offend religious beliefs by requiring kids to know - to understand reality; that’s child abuse. And if you think about it, teaching kids - or allowing the notion that the earth is 6,000 years old to be promulgated in schools is like teaching kids that the distance across the United States is 17 feet. That’s how big an error it is.
Now you might say, look, a lot of people believe that, so don’t we owe it to them to allow their views to be present in school? Well, as I’ve often said, the purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it. Fifty percent of the people in the United States, when we probe them each year with the National Science Foundation, think that the sun goes around the Earth, not that the Earth goes around the sun. When we asked the question - we provide the question: The Earth goes around the sun and takes a year to do it; true or false? Almost every year, 50 percent of the people get that wrong.
Now, does that mean in schools we should allow the anti-Galilean and Copernican idea that the sun goes around the Earth to be taught? Absolutely not. If, in fact, the very fact that people don’t know that, and the very fact that enough people are willing to somehow believe that Earth is 6,000 years old, means we have to do a better job of teaching physics and biology, not a worse job.
The last thing we want to do is water down the teaching of biology because some people don’t recognize that evolution happened. Evolution is the basis of modern biology and, in fact, if a lot of people don’t believe it, it only means we have to do a better job teaching it. So once again, I repeat, the purpose of education is not to validate ignorance, but to overcome it. And to overcome a situation where a United States Senator can speak such manifest nonsense with impunity is vitally important to the healthy future of our society.
Technology and biotechnology will be the basis of our economic future. And if we allow nonsense to be promulgated in the schools, we do a disservice to our students, a disservice to our children, and we’re guaranteeing that they will fall behind in a competitive world that depends upon a skilled workforce able to understand and manipulate technology and science.
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Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
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