Monday, May 9

They blinded me with non-science.

Talk with your mouth full
Bite the hand that feeds you
Bite off more than you chew
What can you do
Dare to be stupid

Take some wooden nickles
Look for Mr. Goodbar
Get your mojo working now
I'll show you how
You can dare to be stupid

"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Dare to Be Stupid" (1985)

Sadly, No! brought to our attention The Poor Man's vision of a future in which attitudes like that of the Kansas Board of Education are allowed to take over.

Over at Daily Kos, however, Hunter has maybe the best and most succinct description of what's going on in Kansas: "My problem with this debate is that this isn't about being pro-religion or anti-religion or faith-neutral; it's about institutionalizing stupidity as a valid lifestyle choice." Like it or not, evolution is the strongest theory for how we got to be where we are, the one supported by the most evidence, and that's why we're teaching it in science classes. I'm sure that if you asked enough people, you could find any number of interesting and imaginative explanations for why it rains sometimes, but "water vapor high in the atmosphere condenses around tiny dust particles until their volume becomes such that clouds are incapable of holding them and the collected water falls to earth as precipitation" comes out way ahead of "the angels are crying" in terms of supporting scientific evidence, so that's the one we teach in science classes. If people want their children to graduate from high school still believing that God is taking a shower every time there's a thunderstorm, they can teach them that at home if they must, but they mustn't assume it's their Constitutional right to spread that ignorance to everyone else's kids. Or, as Hunter (once again) brilliantly puts it, "that doesn't mean that the rest of society needs to cater expressly to them, as some sort of least-common-denominator agreement that science can only move forward by the unanimous consent of the most absolutely, positively least interested among us."

You may think this idea of science as something achieved by individual community consensus, so that each little group of people gets to decide on what they're prepared to accept and declare it empirical truth, is just a far-fetched worst-case scenario -- but it isn't. Check out the MSNBC poll that Sadly, No! found:

Should public schools teach students about counterarguments to the theory of evolution? * 42709 responses

Yes- many Americans doubt evolution, and education should reflect widespread beliefs- 44%

No- evolution is a well-established scientific principle- 56%

Yup, that's right -- we're now talking about education in terms of widespread popularity, as in "you should only teach it if a lot of people already think it." I don't know what's scarier -- the idea that educational curricula completely restricted to "widespread beliefs" would even be offered as a choice in a poll like this, or that 44 percent of the respondents would look at that and think, "Yeah, I like this idea." "Many Americans" doubt that the United States actually put a man on the moon, or that AIDS can't actually be spread by a handshake, or that the Holocaust even freaking happened -- should we start teaching this stuff in schools, too, just so their delicate feelings don't get hurt?

That's what this really boils down to -- "I don't want to learn and you can't make me! Stop disrespecting my right to be ignorant!" Compare this to the Christian right's emphasis on moral absolutism and you really get a full, vibrant picture of just how effed-up their worldview is: They don't want tolerance of gay people taught in schools, they want pregnant students shunned and segregated from their classmates, they scoff at initiatives to bolster students' self-esteem because some things are just wrong! WRONG! WRONG! and they are not about to tolerate any asshole teacher telling their kids different! Morality is black and white, and that's how it's gonna be, sucka! But when you bring up science, a field devoted to discovering empirical truth and finding out why things are the way they are, and all of a sudden they're talking grey areas. You can't actually prove evolution happened, not to their satisfaction, so they want their explanation taught too. Otherwise you're not respecting them! You're not making them feel loved!

To these people, in other words, science is just the opinion of some guys who spend all their time in a lab, and as such is open to debate and any one person's "truth" is just as good as any other person's -- but morality is the Great Black and White. Good gravy, is my head ever pounding right now. But at least I don't live in Kansas.

At any rate, I think it's really interesting that so many creationists are trying to sneak creationism into the schools using the oh-so-coy explanation that they "only want to give students another option." Is that so? Then all those students in Sunday schools and private parochial schools are only getting one option, too -- guess we'd better mandate the teaching of evolution in those schools as well. After all, we don't want to keep anyone in the dark, do we?


Anonymous said...

Man, it's nice to see someone stick up for empirical science. I feel the love, man.

Anonymous said...

Both creation and evolution require a leap of faith when it comes to the orgin of life. In fact, the "central dogma" of the basic genetic processes gives rise to scientific questions about the "scientific" theories of the origin of life.
While it is an empirical fact that the evolutionary process of adaptive selection exists. It still does not satisfy without question how that first cell was created.

Anonymous said...

We shouldn't just stop at christian creationism, but should include all creation "theories" so that we give kids a ton of options instead of just adam and eve.... any krishnas out there?

ACG said...

I'm pretty sure I belched out the world and all of its many creatures one night on a bender. I was just so drunk that I didn't remember the next day. Are we going to include that? 'Cause I'd be, like, totally famous in Kansas.