Why the US is Falling Behind in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

I read an interesting article on why the United States is no longer leading the world in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It seems we’re having to import talent from China, Iran, and India.

We put men on the moon in 1969 with mostly American engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. We did it with slide rules, clunky computers, and without a Federal Department of Education.

The nation that was the educational envy of the world is now having to import talent from abroad:

The essential problem is that the quality of mathematical education in the US has been declining for half a century. This decline now affects the entire scientific and engineering enterprise. To make up for the poor education we Americans give to our own children, we have been bringing in huge numbers of foreign (mostly Asian) international students to fill our graduate programs (81% of graduate students in electrical engineering are foreign). Some go on to be our leading faculty and researchers.

The following response caught my attention.

For an answer to the main question you are asking, just look at your present government and its leadership.? All science denying, all mathematically ignorant, all creationists, all believing in end times coming soon, all pretty much Bible thumping, all ignoring the state of the union (the real state of the Union) and living in their own hubristic bubble. And of course, last but not least all, corrupt to the core.

There are lots of claims to unpack. “All science denying”? What does this mean? Who is denying science? I guess if a scientist disputes the findings of climate change theorists, then he or she is a science denier. Questioning studies about climate change (formerly global cooling/global warming), you deny science. Questioning certain scientific studies makes a scientist a scientist. Refusing to consider the findings of other reputable scientists is denying science.

Not accepting the studies of scientists pushing global warming theories is not the same as denying the effects of gravity.

John Coleman was a meteorologist, TV weatherman, and co-founder of The Weather Channel. He wrote the following in the Foreword to The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change:

We meteorologists are well aware of how limited our ability is to predict the weather. Our predictions become dramatically less reliable as they extend into the future. When we try to predict just a few weeks into the future our predictions become increasingly inaccurate. Yet the “climate change” establishment that now dominates the UN bureaucracy and our own government science establishment claim that they can predict the temperature of the Earth decades into the future.

Their global warming scare is not driven by science; it is now being driven by politics. So today anybody who defies the prevailing “climate change” scare puts his career and his reputation into extreme danger.

The claim that men can become women and women men and that there are dozens of genders, now that’s denying science. Some scientists are beginning to speak out against the anti-science gender wars. “More than 2,200 signatures of supporters from across the political spectrum are currently affixed to a petition that calls for the federal government to uphold the “scientific definition of sex” in federal law and policy.” (Breitbart)

As we’re beginning to see, science is being questioned at some of the most basic empirical levels. Some parents are letting their children decide their own genders. They are being raised as “theybies.”

“A theyby is, I think, different things to different people,” Nate Sharpe told NBC News. “For us, it means raising our kids with gender-neutral pronouns — so, ‘they,’ ‘them,’ ‘their,’ rather than assigning ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘him,’ ‘her’ from birth based on their anatomy.” (NBC News)

Young people are being told, “Our sexual lives and identities are determined not by our genes but by our cultures.” How does a belief like this affect the teaching of science? It’s almost as bad as teaching the foundation of evolutionary theory based on spontaneous generation.

Did you know that math is considered to be “racist” because “algebra and geometry perpetuate privilege because ‘emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi’ give the impression that math ‘was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans’”? (Campus Reform) But what if it’s historically true? The “whiteness” of math didn’t stop the three black female mathematicians depicted in the film Hidden Figures from working at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Space Race.

Why would someone want to engage in the rigors of STEM studies when science and rationality are being denied to support a social and political agenda?

What about the claim that they are “all creationists”? If it’s one thing tenured scientists aren’t are creationists. Anyone who questions the operating assumptions of evolution is not hired, and if there are any creationists or advocates for Intelligent Design remaining in today’s major universities they won’t be there for long.

The history of science is the history of Christianity and science. The facts are, as Loren Eisely points out, “it is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear, articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself.”1

The late atheist and author Isaac Asimov was honest enough to acknowledge that early scientists were Christians. For example, he mentions John Ray who developed an early classification system for animals. “He declared fossils were the petrified remains of extinct creatures. This was not accepted by biologists generally until a century later.”2 Science was birthed in the womb of the Christian religion. A quick reading of James Hannam’s The Genesis of Science, that carries the subtitle How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, makes the case quite well

Ray did not see that there was a conflict between his Christian beliefs and his scientific work. “In fact, he believed that scientific investigation ‘was a proper exercise of man’s faculties and a legitimate field of Christian inquiry.’” (McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973), 9:118. Quoted in Ann Lamont, “John Ray—founder of biology and devout Christian,” Creation Ministries International.)) Ray wrote:

“A wonder then it must needs be,—that there should be any Man found so stupid and forsaken of reason as to persuade himself, that this most beautiful and adorned world was or could be produced by the fortuitous concourse of Atoms.”3

Natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor Robert Boyle (1627–1691), who was born the same year as Ray, spent a portion of his fortune “to have the Bible translated into various languages.” In his will and testament, Boyle

addressed his fellow members of the Royal Society of London, wishing them all success in “their laudable attempts, to discover the true Nature of the Works of God” and “praying that they and all other Searchers into Physical Truths” may thereby add “to the glory of the Great Author of Nature, and to the Comforter of mankind.”4

The title of one of Boyle’s many books was The Christian Virtuoso, that is, “The Christian Scientist.” Boyle was not a single Christian voice crying in the wilderness of secular science. The membership of the Royal Society was made up of many Christians who shared Boyle’s view that “the world was God’s handiwork” and “it was their duty to study and understand this handiwork as a means of glorifying God.”5

Before science could get started in proposing theories, certain assumptions about the way the world works had to be assumed to be valid and operationally consistent. Isaac Newton’s encounter with a falling apple, if the story is true, and the theories that followed did not immediately change the way people lived. Everyone knew the effects of gravity, even though they did not always understand it enough to give the “scientific law” a name. When people stepped outside, they never considered that they would float away. Rain always fell from a dark, cloud-filled sky, and sailors knew the daily change in the tides. Water was wet, and when it got cold enough, it froze, even if no one knew its precise freezing point in degrees.

For millennia, people from around the globe operated in terms of these assumptions even though they did not always comprehend them theoretically or scientifically. They came to be designated “natural laws,” the “laws of nature,” or the “laws of Nature’s God,” a critical assumption that did not exist in India, China, or among the Islamic nations.

These universal laws operated predictably because the majority of people — scientists included — accepted that they were God’s laws, established and upheld by Him.

It has even been suggested that such a view played a key role in the successful development of science in the Western cultures, and did so because they were influenced by the Judaeo-Christian tradition which fostered faith in the underlying rationality and orderliness of Nature during periods of history when human ideas were inbred by all manner of magical and occult notions.6

Life is predictable because God is predictable. Even those who did not embrace a biblical worldview knew that they could not develop an ordered world without the shared belief that God was necessary to make it happen.

  1. Loren Eisely, Darwin’s Century (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1958), 62. []
  2. Isaac Asimov, Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology: The Lives and Achievements of More Than 1000 Great Scientists from Ancient Greece to the Space Age, 3rd ed. (Garden City, NY: 1982), 137. []
  3. John Ray, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation: Heavenly Bodies, Elements, Meteors, Fossils, Vegetables, Animals (1691), 36. []
  4. Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the end of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 158. []
  5. Stark, For the Glory of God, 158. []
  6. John D. Barrow, The World Within the World (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1988), 23. []
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