This Explains November 8, 2016
You may have caught the story over the weekend that stated that 7% of people polled by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy said they believed chocolate milk came from brown cows. Now, maybe those responding to the poll were just pulling the Innovation Center’s legs but there are some other polls that have revealed that many of our neighbors also hold odd(?) viewpoints about a number of other subjects.
Did you know that roughly 33% of Americans (according to Pew Research) do not believe in evolution? Their statement is “Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” (NY Daily News, June25th). Now this may be the 30% that a Gallup poll found to believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, transcribed by “prophets” and handed down to us over the ages. And those are also the people who believe that global warming is simply the result of “natural changes in the environment” (Like our EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt). No scientific evidence can apparently sway this 30% to 33% from these beliefs, despite hard evidence to the contrary. Of course the evidence is, no doubt, the product of “fake news” --- or, as I like to call it: rational, scientifically proven thinking.
A National Science Foundation study found that more than 25% of our fellow citizens believe the sun revolves around the earth and, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, 49% still believe that vaccines cause autism (and if you missed John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight story about this on Sunday, June 25th, please “On Demand” it). Apparently (according to Dot.com) about 30% of people in the U.S. are now relying on Facebook (i.e., their friends) to bring them the news (though we don’t know what their viewing habits might be). We can certainly see how misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories are thriving in our current environment.
A Washington Post survey back in 2006 found that 95% polled could identify what day 9/11 happened but only 30% knew what year --- which may be nitpicking on my part but, having taught U.S. History in some form or another for 42 years, I still do believe knowing some dates is important in understanding cause-and-effect as well as historical context. I’m not nitpicking when I cite a 2012 Pew Research poll that revealed 35% of those surveyed believed that homosexuality was a “lifestyle choice.” Yup, more than a third of our fellow citizens believe that people choose to be gay. Think about that for a minute. To me, it’s like choosing to be Black in America --- who would do that? “Yes, I’d like people to hate me just because of my color or my looks or my sexual orientation. I love being discriminated against, called names, getting bullied, and so on. Who wouldn’t make this ‘lifestyle choice,’ given the opportunity?” Which leads me to the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case next fall that involves just such discrimination.
You may know about the Colorado bakery that refused to make a cake for a gay wedding, claiming it violated the owner’s religious beliefs. While those on the right are claiming this is a “religious freedom” case, I’m trying to figure out how that can be. If you own a business, open to the pubic, what right do you have to turn anyone away based on your personal religious beliefs? Does that mean Orthodox Jewish storeowners in Williamsburg will now be able to deny service to any patrons who are Muslim --- because they feel it violates their religious beliefs? Were luncheonette owners in Charlotte, North Carolina allowed to deny service to African Americans because the Bible justified slavery and seems to imply there is a racial hierarchy in the Old Testament? It is an issue if a Catholic hospital is asked to perform abortions --- I get that, it’s a Catholic hospital. Are we now going to allow bakers (and any other shopkeepers) to advertise, “I am a born-again, devout Christian” and, therefore, will not serve gays or atheists --- or, perhaps, “papists” (Catholics), or Jews (they killed Christ, after all)?
That the Supreme Court is even hearing this case (the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against the baker) is troubling --- unless they believe it is necessary to make a national statement on gay rights, as Brown v. Board of Ed did for African Americans in 1954. But given the composition of this court, it might be shaky ground --- John Roberts, after all, led the charge for Citizens United. As we watch this Administration trying to roll back basic civil rights and liberties while doing whatever it can to “un-do” the Obama administration, I think we have to be concerned when anything goes to the Supreme Court these days. As we have seen, about a third of our citizens believe bizarre and false information --- or simply don’t know basic facts. Given that, we might just assume we’ve already got three Justices in the tank for prejudice and ignorance.