Yet another weird SF fan


I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Much-Needed Gap in the Blogosphere Has Been Filled

I recently asked if there were any blogs defending Young-Earth Creationism. Orac left a comment pointing to The Narrow. This blogger uses out-of-context arguments that are reminiscent of the open letter to Dr. Laura from his nominal opponents. We see the same use of supposedly-irrefutable arguments that could be easily answered by anybody knowledgeable.

One of the comments can be applied elsewhere:

The worst part of all this is that our children are the pawns in this debacle. It is truly very sad.

I actually was one of those pawn-babies-- the better part of my youth was spent at an Evangelical missionary school in Ethiopia, where we were taught evolution, and then taught to "debunk" it. Here's the thing: that school was *kickass*. It really was. I learned more before eighth grade than I did for some time after that. Even their science curriculum was brilliant, and replete with real skeletons and elephant teeth and nasty slimy things in jars reminiscent of Severus Snape. We dissected bats, and there was much rejoicing. You get the picture.

...Except that we weren't really *taught* evolution, in retrospect, other than as a series of straw-man arguments.

Which is no way to teach anything. A bit of the right sort of omissions; a bit of the right kind of mis-information, and you've actually killed the real thing that "rights and freedom of information" are supposed to do for these kids: help them think, help them learn to *evaluate* things-- because if you don't give them *all* the facts they can reasonably understand (not just the ones you think you can argue with) and if you insinuate (even falsely!) that there is something *wrong* with the facts you are giving, you've not only confused the people you're supposed to enlighten, but you've deprived them of the core vocabulary that allows them to ask questions of you. And it's those questions that let people make up their own minds, *not* the presence or absence of pamphlets.

[See... making kids think there's a scientific controversy where in fact there is none only puts them in that confused state where they'll "decide" they "favour" the more psychologically comforting alternative-- the one that they feel gives them the most stability-- and there are plenty of clever techniques that can be (and are being) used to make sure the comforting alternative has nothing to do with science, or facts, or the actual state of knowledge (or confusion) in the field.]

Besides, I want to know if it's turtles all the way down. Do the kids get taught evolution? Evolution + information "critical" of it? Evoltuion + information critical of it + information critical of the information critical of it? Who gets the last word? And wouldn't the time be better spent actually teaching biology?

If you rearrange the above, you have an explanation of how students at supposedly “elite” schools can graduate thinking that depleted uranium is a weapon of mass destruction or that desalinization makes the sea saltier or that Love Canal is permanently uninhabitable or …

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