Creationism in the classroom

Andrew Brown writes in the Guardian (with a picture of some bloke setting things up at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky)  …

At least creationists have given it some thought.

Would you rather an indifferent or a passionately wrong child in the science classroom? Let’s not simply sneer at Darwin deniers

If you read the article, you rapidly discover that he is not himself a creationist, and so he argues like this …

  • For at least 50 years we have not been teaching creationism as science
  • Lots of people are still creationists, but that is (so he claims) not the fault of religious belief, but is instead the fault of the education system
  • Children are natural creationists and so education is all about leading them away from this
  • We have lots of stuff in the Internet where real scientists argue rationally with creationists
  • So lets not sneer at such claims

Well, I’ve got a few problems with this. First up, his argument is a false dichotomy, it is not an either/or choice between “indifference” or “passionately wrong” children. Both will indeed be encountered; “Indifference” is a symptom that the teaching is not exactly inspiring and perhaps a different approach is required. “Passionately wrong” is a symptom of a child of parents that have been tragically feeding their offspring with a daily dose of “stupid”. Beyond these many other variations exist, I believe the real choice is to select neither.

So how should you generally deal with such insanity when faced with it? Having personally argued with some passionate creationists myself, the fanatical Islamic kind, I can assure you that it is indeed appropriate to deploy satire and ridicule such concepts, there is no room for reasoned debate. You need to remember that we live in a world where 99.9% of scientists involved in the life sciences (the folks who are truly familiar with the topic)  can indeed assure you that Natural Selection is perhaps one of the most fully established facts in modern scientific understanding, so while there are indeed books and YouTube clips that claim to refute “Darwinism” (as they call it), they have no data or real facts and only seek to befuddle the uneducated  with misleading quotes or claims that are (when examined) gibberish. Note that anybody can publish anything at all, citing such a book is not evidence of anything except lunacy. For example, if I should cite from books that make claims about all the world leaders being giant lizards, or perhaps cite Harry Potter as proof that magic is real, then mockery of such a position is indeed appropriate. The stark reality is that we have an almost countless number of papers that have been published in credible peer-reviewed journals that support natural selection, and nothing at all that refutes it. The importance of that fact is that anything published in a peer-reviewed journal is checked to ensure that the hypothesis that has been written up is indeed supported by the data (that’s what the term peer-review means), and until that is fully verified, they don’t get published.

If we should indeed not sneer at creationism, should we then also respect flat-earth beliefs in geography, perhaps alchemy as an alternative to chemistry, or teach Klingon as a foreign language?

Heck no, I’ll stick with reality. It is indeed quite appropriate to mock and ridicule utterly insane ideas that basically assert that 99.9% of scientists are complete idiots. I guarantee you that those listening in would be put to sleep by a dull dissection of yet another YouTube clip, but will be woken up by the satirization and mockery of crazy concepts, and it is also far more entertaining.

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