By Ken Kowald

I don’t know much about science except what I read. I took general science at JHS 73 in Maspeth. Somehow I got through Newtown High School without taking any science courses, but since I have an academic diploma and a Regents diploma and was elected to Arista, I guess I wasn’t cheating.

As an evening session student at City College, I was required to take two one-year science courses. I chose biology and geology and passed both. I enjoyed geology, including our weekend explorations of rock formations in the New York City area. Both of those year-long courses impressed me about the magnificent world — and universe and universes — we live in.

But even though I don’t consider myself scientific, I find that some of the reports I read about the anti-scientific attitude of too many Americans are cause for concern. I can refer specifically to evolution and climate change, but there are many other anti-scientific attitudes. I’m sure the readers can add a few.

Indeed, to my mind, there are too many anti-education attitudes in general.

My parents made my sister and me understand the importance of education. A doctor, a dentist, a teacher, a lawyer, were esteemed, as were all educated people and many public servants, of whom my father, in the city Sanitation Department, was one. A free education, my parents believed, was the great gift of democracy.

What has happened to that attitude in our country?

There have always been people whose attitude has been, “Whether it’s true or not, I believe it! Don’t confuse me with the facts!” In the 19th century, some of these Americans — the political ones, at least — were known as “Know-Nothings.”

Now their comments seem to be a mantra these days. When did Americans begin to deride education and public service?

I was reminded of this recently when I saw, once again, a famous photograph of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial in 1925. Tennessee passed a law banning the teaching of evolution in public schools. John Thomas Scopes was a teacher accused of flouting the law.

He lost the case and paid a $100 fine. The verdict was overthrown on a technicality. The so-called Butler Act was never enforced and laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution were defeated in 22 states.

So in the long run — but not for too long — Scopes had won.

The photograph shows Clarence Darrow, a famous lawyer, for the defense, in the packed, hot courtroom. His chief opponent was William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic presidential candidate and a U.S. secretary of state in the early years of the Wilson presidency.

Darrow got Bryan to be a witness and, according to most accounts, made a mockery of Bryan’s religious beliefs. Bryan was a Presbyterian but anti-evolution, a position his national Presbyterian church did not endorse.

H.L. Mencken was among the many reporters and columnists at the trial. His reports about the views of the local people were stinging, to put it mildly. A few days after the trial ended — it had to be moved outdoors for the Bryan-Darrow confrontation because of the large audience and the heat of the courtroom — Bryan died.

Thirty years later, a play, “Inherit the Wind,” appeared on Broadway and was turned into a film with Spencer Tracy, Frederic March and Gene Kelly as Darrow- Bryan- and Mencken-inspired characters. It is not a strict history of the trial, by any means, but it is worth seeing for what it says about the world we lived in and live in.

I believe in evolution. I believe in climate change and the need to act on what is going on in the world. I also am a regular church-goer, as readers of my columns and blogs know. I find no problem with these positions.

In the case of my religious outlook, I consider that a personal matter and I do not foist my opinions about religion on anyone else. Nor do I expect anyone to challenge me on those opinions.

It is interesting to look up the positions of various religions on topics such as evolution. You may be surprised.

What bothers me today is that those who do not believe in evolution or the possibility of climate change seem to be eager to shut down the teaching of those subjects. I knew someone who taught biology in two Queens high schools who believed in creationism. As far as I know, she did not teach it in her classes, although I would not take an oath on that.

The same “anti” attitude began to take shape many years ago in the political sphere and it is playing full-blast today.

Adlai Stevenson ran for president twice, losing to Dwight Eisenhower. Early in the first campaign, the erudite Stevenson was accused of being “an egghead,” which meant too smart and that, said the naysayers, was bad. Why, he could even speak in full sentences and paragraphs! Horror!

At the same time, in the first campaign, some extremists accused Eisenhower of being a communist. After all, he had been president of Columbia University and even defended the right of a leftist group to use Pupin Hall at Columbia — by invitation — for an event. You can look it up. You may get second thoughts about the “lazy” Eisenhower.

We’ve been through many of these scenarios in the past. Al Smith was a Roman Catholic who rose from poverty, but his religion was anathema to many — too many. John F. Kennedy had to make a public statement about how his religion would not keep him from his presidential duties.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was “that cripple in the White House” and “a traitor to his class.” Many people didn’t like Theodore Roosevelt. After all, he wrote books and he talked about a Square Deal.

Barack Obama, an African American, has borne the derision of people who do not like the color of his skin. They say nasty things about him — omitting the color of his skin when doing so, but that is what they mean. And he’s written books, too. So he is, at least, twice condemned to their censure.

There was a time when much of this nastiness, ultimately, meant little. Yes, Smith was defeated, but FDR won four terms, TR was a hero to many, Eisenhower served eight years, Kennedy was elected president and Obama won two elections handily.

But the ignorance in too many parts of our country goes on. Creationism is fostered by school boards. Evolution has to be defended. And I thought — and perhaps you did — that the fight against evolution ended with the Scopes Trial long before almost all of us were old enough to read.

In 1961, a distinguished English theologian, John Bertram Phillips, published a book entitled “Your God Is Too Small.” It might be worth reading these days. How small is your god?

Economic facts are disregarded today. Climate change is a theory. And so it goes.

The deniers of facts seem to have more of a presence in our country.

Where is the public acclaim for education for everyone? Why have we fallen behind so many other developed countries?

Why has this happened? What can be done about it?

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said we are all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts.

I have no problems with civil discourse on any issues which need discussion. I may not go as far as Voltaire when he said that while he might disagree with you, he would defend to the death your right to speak. There are too many guns in this country for me to embrace that point of view entirely.

Am I being too paranoid about this problem in our country?

Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?

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