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Sunday, November 16, 2008

On teaching creationism in the schools ...

Climb down from the drapes, you idiot! The pattern looks better without you in the middle of it.

In the combox here, in response to this post at Uncommon Descent, "scottrobinson" wanted me to be more clear as to where I stand on teaching creationism in science class.

I see now that my comments may require some unpacking if the reader is not familiar with the point of view that underlies them. So here goes:

1. I do not think that creationism should generally be taught in science classes because creationism is by nature an apologetics project: It harmonizes scripture or tradition with current findings of science. Hugh Ross (Christian), Gerald Schroeder (Jewish), Harun Yahya (Muslim), and Vine DeLoria, Jr. (Native American) have all written in this area. I understand that there is a work in progress from Hare Krishna as well.

What should be obvious from my list is that a demonstrated harmony between current science and a scripture or tradition is of interest only to those for whom a given work or way of life is scripture or tradition. Otherwise, it will sound like an attempt to introduce the religion itself in a more favourable light than other religions.

And how shall we address the Dalai Lama's obvious disappointment with Big Bang theory in his book The Universe in a Single Atom? (Buddhists are happier with an eternal universe, or perhaps a Big Bounce universe, as recently proposed by Roger Penrose.)

I live in a multicultural society, and I will not attempt to prescribe for a monocultural society. But I would say that the obvious solution for a multicultural society is just not to have any such material on the curriculum.

2. That said, I am intrigued by the neo-fascists who want their government to hound creationist teachers. I worry that these people themselves would be perfectly happy teaching vast reams of Darwinian or Dawkinsian nonsense. Here are some examples of stuff they don't like and have to teach around:

The history of life has not been the long, slow “survival of the fittest” transition that classical evolution theory requires. Life got started on Earth soon after the planet cooled. All the basic divisions of animal life took shape rather suddenly in the Cambrian seas, about 550 million years ago. Later, there was, for example, the "Big Bang" of flowers and the Big Bang of birds, where many life forms appear quite suddenly.

Modern human consciousness is one of these leaps, judging from the superb cave paintings from recent millenniums.

... the peacock’s tail did not evolve to please hen birds; hens don’t notice them much. The allegedly yummy Viceroy butterfly did not evolve to look like the bad-tasting Monarch (both insects taste bad). The eye spots on butterflies’ wings did not evolve to scare birds by resembling the eyes of their predators. Birds avoid brightly patterned insects, period. They don't care whether the patterns resemble eyes. Similarly, the famous “peppered moth” of textbook fame has devolved into a peppered myth, featuring book-length charges and countercharges.

And remember that row of vertebrate embryos in your textbook years ago? It was dubbed in the journal Science one of the "most famous fakes" in biology—because the embryos don’t really look very similar. And Darwin’s majestic Tree of Life? It's now a tangleweed, or maybe several of them.


I wouldn't be the least surprised to hear that they were teaching the Big Bazooms Theory of Human Evolution .... yawn ...

I would be more impressed with these teacher-hounds if there was a Darwinist theory so flamingly and obviously stupid that they actually didn't believe it. So stick a fork in their persecutions!

(Note: The only time anyone actually tried, they fell for the hoax.)

3. If students ask questions, teachers can either discuss them intelligently or lose respect. "Discuss intelligently" does not mean quacking some idiocy written by a consultant, Dover-style. Consultants are bigger idiots than teachers because they do not deal directly with students and therefore do not need to live in the real world.

I also think that teachers should briefly give their own opinion if asked, but then insist on moving on to the curriculum at hand. My teachers always did that, and students respected them the more for it*.

4. Here in Canada, thugs, snitches, and nannies are rapidly outwearing their never very generous welcome. I, in particular, am an unusually hard sell on the subject of firing anyone for their opinions. I'd prefer to fire the thug, the snitch, and the nanny, and vote that other guy a raise. It appears that 99% of the Canadian Conservative Party convention thinks somewhat like me ...

If that is an accident, it is an accident with consequences. Good thing the Eurocracy never tried taking over Canada. Bad timing, that would sure be.

Did humans and dinos live at the same time? Yes, fur sure, ... at the movies! Here's a great Jurassic Park trailer for your enjoyment:



(*I was very lucky because in my day, many intelligent people could not attend U for financial reasons and ended up in teacher's college. It was a Grade Seven teacher who first told us about Fred Hoyle's spontaneous creation of hydrogen atoms and a Grade Eight teacher who told us about tectonic plates while the theory was still being routinely trashed at Yankee U's.)

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