They need to understand what's happening in the real world in order to deal with very real problems.
Do they really have a need to understand?
Generally speaking, most people don't understand what's happening in the real world, and for the the most part they get along just fine. If that means they make poor decisions about economics, global warming, when to go to the doctor, or who to vote for, then so be it.
People who insist that Genesis literally describes how creation happened are just fine not becoming scientists, so scientific reality simply does not intrude on any activity they have any desire to take part in.
The bottom line for most fundamentalists is that evolution, big bang cosmology, geology, paleontology, etc. are completely wrong about everything. Why scientists are in those fields are wrong scarcely matters, so if it turns out that some easy to believe explanation of why they are wrong is incorrect, then the correct explanation, which they would barely understand is out there. Digging to far into things may risk a Faustian outcome.
Further fundamentalism comes with the ultimate rebuttal. From 1 Corinthians 3:18-20:
quote:18Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
20And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
So yeah, the empirical evidence may show something, but a fundamentalist can cite the verses above and others if needed to simply dismiss such evidence.
For those few fundamentalist that deal with addressing creation/evolution topics in a scientific fashion, I believe that many of them are not simply willfully ignorant. Many of them are simply dishonest.
OK. So how do we keep them from screwing up science education for the rest of us? And for their kids after they deconvert.
We have a fight on our hands.
We should probably expect to see more court battles about science education. Our only real armor is the First Amendment and the fear of the great expense involved in losing a first amendment case. Congress has come close on several occasions to passing laws that would remove the monetary penalties and lawyer fee awards for losing "religious freedom" first amendment cases. Republicans generally hate the ACLU. If such laws are ever enacted, expect more school systems to take on the risk.
If there is popular sentiment on the side of science education, it is not a strong majority. Apparently we live in a country in which there is a remarkably low acceptance of evolution. In many school systems, the sentiment is decidedly anti-evolution.
So far we've been fortunate that school boards and state legislators who have come up with these anti-science curricula have been fairly outspoken outside of the courtroom about their unconstitutional agenda. The more recent batch of laws are phrased as attempts to protect academic freedom, and the evidence of a purpose to promote religion may be a bit harder to find.
What I find more troubling is that the willfully ignorant creationists seem to be to a large degree the same people that are willfully ignorant etc. concerning other issues. They seem to be prominent in global warming denialism and, in general, denialism of man's adverse environmental impacts.
I agree with you about the alarming correlation with denialism, but I don't think willful ignorance is the issue. Coming to an informed opinion on climate change, for example, based on a personal review of the evidence is pretty difficult for laypeople, even technically trained ones. There are plenty of "experts" on both sides of the issue, so most people decide what to believe using unscientific means. Not surprisingly, most laypeople form a decision that is pretty much aligned with their other beliefs. For some people the fact that Al Gore won a Nobel Prize is enough to convince them that there ain't no man-made climate change.
But yeah, the denial trifecta, (denying HIV/AIDs, evolution, and global warming while believing in global conspiracy theories surrounding all three) is pretty common, and disturbing.