Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"And Another Thing Simpkins; Your Mother is Not Only Insane, She is Pig-Ugly"

Next, Newton's laws as they apply to Santa's reindeer

On NPR this morning there was a story about a conference for science teachers, at which the "tricky" subject of teaching evolution to a classroom full of poisoned minds was tackled by various presenters and educators.

One teacher interviewed said that she had found the conference helpful as it helped her answer "hard questions" like "But Miss, what about Adam and Eve?".

Even allowing for how my obvious lack of religious sentiment colours my view of the subject, how bloody hard can it be for a science teacher to point out that the Adam and Eve story is at best a parable? As Sam Harris pointed out in his recent book The End of Faith there are serious shortcomings with a book that claims to speak the literal truth of God yet places the date of the creation of the earth 2,000 years after the Sumerians had learned how to brew beer.

If I had my way I'd bring back the dunce cap for the kids and the scold's bridle for the parents who willfully lie to themselves and others like this.


Wes said...

Since I have a complete lack of religion maybe I just don't understand, either, but when we were kids could you imagine anyone asking such a thing? And if they did, can you imagine the teacher actually saying something other than, "That's something to discuss with your pastor." What is happening to the world? Sometimes it really, really frightens me.

Jim said...

I'm not sure who the writer (or the book; it might have been Morris Berman's, "The Twilight of American Culture") was who said that the U.S. was slipping backwards and was embracing superstitions and urban myths, much like residents of the Middle Ages.

If anyone ever stumbled across afternoon television (working at home, or sitting in a waiting room) and its bevy of simpleton programming, it's obvious that we've lost our ability to follow a cogent thought for more than 2 or 3 minutes.

I'm afraid anti-intellectualism isn't limited merely to the teaching of evolution.

weasel said...

I'm with both of you gents. My only consolation is that no matter what humans say or believe, they cannot arrest what actually happens in nature.

For me part of the problem is that religion (as opposed to spirituality: my crappy working definitions of both are adherence to a specific written or oral rules that ultimately rely on belief in the supernatural for enforcement vs. an understanding that while we are products of biology influenced by environment we have evolved both an imagination and the ability for abstract thought) gets a free ride in society. It is almost taboo to question any of the competing afterlife marketing plans at their core, especially when it comes to the "people of the book". Somehow three strands of one nomadic desert-born tribal religion perverted, mistranslated, and diluted by the absorption of native custom as it spread count for more than empirically demonstratable evidence and the simplest of logic.

Ultimately, more people need to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

I'm with Christopher Hitchens on this: What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

country mouse said...

Who decides what evidence is valid?
And to truly believe that everything in the universe can be explained through math and logic - that mystery doesn't exist because it isn't logical and doesn't make good sense - makes me want to shoot myself. What about just taking it in, appreciating beauty, and respecting that we can only understand the circle in which we move. That's not god, or gaia, or religion, it's a way of being that allows for the fact that we, humanity, don't truly know much of anything. Believing so whole heartily in logic - isn't that providing you comfort in the same way believing in God provides others?
Why can't we just be ok about living without answers.
But science is good too! I just think there is a place where you can believe in something more (although I don't yet know what more is... I'm open) and also believe in science.
And Christopher Hitchens - I'm sure he's a real treat to spend time with.
Maybe that's my real concern...

country mouse said...

"Pig Ugly"? Have you ever seen how cute pigs are? Not much of an insult if you ask me.

weasel said...

I agree CM: which is why I tried to draw a garbled and mangled line between religion and spirituality. Seeing as we only use a small proportion of our brains it makes sense to me that there is so much more out there on the periphery of knowledge and beyond that brings true wonder to us all. I mean, as we have discussed between us ad nauseam, I see the miraculous in the fact that various chemical combinations result in the massive diversity of human personalities, and even in the broad range of living and inanimate things on earth. To think that there is only a finite amout of matter that creates an almost infinite variety of things: can that not be mind blowingly amazing enough without spooks and goblins?

And as much as I hesitate to criticize my almost bride, you do me and my ideas an injustice in suggesting that I function solely on the plain of logic without any interest in the spiritual. That is just cartoon atheism, and it would also be the height of arrogance: almost as arrogant as those who insist the answers can be found in a holy book.

Where I call for the deployment of logic and rationality is in combating the lunacy of religion, which in all of its forms has taken some good moral precepts and made them sick and twisted.

In my book there are good religious people, and there are good religious inspired ideas. There just aren't any good religions.

As for Hitchens, he's an opinionated, stubborn Englishman who is fond of a drink and smokes too much. I know you would hate to live with one of those ;) (that's a wink as typing things without any way of representing jokey inflection is a sure fire way to trugger a domestic...)

Debbie said...

check this out

weasel said...

Debbie, I don't even know where to begin with Carl Weisland (who appears to be as much of a geologist as I am) from the link you refered me to. How about we just tackle his first point?

"Summarizing just some of the evidence that is consistent with a young age for the world:
1) The continents are eroding too quickly.
If the continents were billions of years old, they would have eroded by wind and water many times over. Mountain uplift and other ‘recycling’ processes are nowhere near capable of compensating for this." (He gives just one footnote citation for this).

Weisland and his cohorts (from organizations exclusively based in the USA: funny how the monopoly of scientific truth resides in the bible belt. I bet that's how god planned it. "I like that Kansas", he said; "Nice work by me. Except for the tornadoes") assumes that the earth, rather than being a slowly cooling ball of gas, has remained in a geological, climatalogical, and chemical statis since it was "created". He makes no allowance in his reasoning for dating the earth to be about 6,000 years old beyond that. Whereas the amount of matter has remained statisically constant, the forces that direct the form that matter takes have not. The rock cycle discusses how different eras of the earth saw the formation of different types of rock, all of varying ages (and more- it is worth reading). Does creationism explain this as God putting out unfinished work? You can also find out some interesting theories on the permutations of the various continents throughout the life of the earth here.

I see also that his dismissal of radiocarbon dating as a rough and ready guide for dating the age of things is based on evidence cited in "studies" from the magazine Creation, a non-peer reviewed publication of the creationist/ID movement. Funny how those who insist that evolution is "just a theory" and is "unproven" seem loath to apply the rigour they demand of real scientists to their own work. I also assume that they would be inclined to doubt the scientific dating of something from a more recent time period? Or would they cling like drowning men to a raft to something like this?

All of this of course leaves aside the idea that if your god is real, he's either not very nice or not very competent, or both. But that might have to be a discussion for another day.

Debbie said...

wow you actually read the article
Hey I never said I agreed with it in fact
In Genesis 1 and 2 "In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth and the earth was without form and void....."
This is interesting. I tend not to speed read the Bible and take in each verse with reflection. There is no time mentioned between this and the creation of man. Talk about reading the Bible thoughtlessly! It does mention later on that the world was in Chaos and the bible does mention dinosaurs in the book of Job. The World could be millions of years old or it could be thousands I have read many a national geographic magazine where experts prove (not form Kansas) that the world is not young but very very old
It's all irrelevant beleiving the world is 6000, 2000, millions or billions of years old doesnt matter in the grand scheme of things.:)