3 to 10 classroom hours
May 19, 2008 9:09 PM   Subscribe

16% of US science teachers believe human beings have been created by God within the last 10,000 years. 25% of science teachers spend some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design. 12.5% teach it as a "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species". 2% say they do not cover evolution at all. Teachers who have taken more science courses themselves devote more time to evolution - "This may be because better-prepared teachers are more confident in dealing with students' questions about a sensitive subject."
posted by Artw (205 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
In other words 16% of US science teachers have no idea how science works.
posted by inoculatedcities at 9:16 PM on May 19, 2008 [15 favorites]


"16% of US science teachers believe human beings have been created by God within the last 10,000 years. 25% of science teachers spend some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design.."

The former does not have to lead to the latter.
posted by oddman at 9:21 PM on May 19, 2008


23% of US science teachers are also the football coach.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:21 PM on May 19, 2008 [46 favorites]


This is in keeping with the established educational standard. For example, it seems obvious to me that at least 16% of English teachers do not believe in spelling, grammar or punctuation. And 16% of Social Sciences teachers do not believe in "gays".
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:22 PM on May 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


I was sort of joking at a recent meet-up about homeschooling my daughter so that she actually learns about, you know, science and stuff. Scientific method, basic stats, that kind of thing. Sometimes I wonder if that's less a joke and more of a thing I wish I could do. Certainly I'm going to be cramming as much as possible into the weekends and evenings, because I'm not sure I have much faith in the schools to do it. That last bit, implying that Teachers shy away from teh subject because they are worried about questions, kind of chills me.
posted by Artw at 9:24 PM on May 19, 2008


Just be patient. 16% of 15th century science teachers thought the world was flat.
posted by netbros at 9:24 PM on May 19, 2008


41% of Americans believe Saddam tied to 9/11

33.3% of the major presidential candidates confuse Sunni and Shiite

etc etc
posted by ornate insect at 9:29 PM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


All I can say is that it's a better percentage than we saw at one of the early Republican candidate debates.
posted by semifamous at 9:29 PM on May 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Just be patient. 16% of 15th century science teachers thought the world was flat.

And it was.
posted by mr_book at 9:30 PM on May 19, 2008


That "intelligent design" would be brought up in a science class is disturbing, but what if it's mentioned in the context of discussing how there is physical evidence that humans, and the earth are much older than 10K years?

By the way, netbros, the whole Middle Ages flat earth thing is a crock. The Greeks knew the earth was round.
posted by BrooklynCouch at 9:36 PM on May 19, 2008


and you people send your kids to school. WTF?

/obligatory homeschooler snark
posted by RedEmma at 9:36 PM on May 19, 2008


By the way, netbros, the whole Middle Ages flat earth thing is a crock. The Greeks knew the earth was round.

Yeah, but didn't they figure it was circular, not necessarily spherical?
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:38 PM on May 19, 2008


Yeah, but didn't they figure it was circular, not necessarily spherical?

No, they thought it was a sphere. It wasn't until at least the late 17th century (IIRC) that it was discovered that the earth was not a perfect sphere.
posted by delmoi at 9:44 PM on May 19, 2008


I wonder what percentage of History teachers think people in the middle ages thought the earth was flat.
posted by delmoi at 9:47 PM on May 19, 2008 [14 favorites]


Having recently been at university alongside secondary education majors I can say that I am not surprised. My personal experience is that the major didn't attract the brightest people by a long shot. But then again, given the low pay they will earn as teachers, I guess it isn't that surprising. Furthermore, though it depends on the school, these programs are designed so that prospective teachers are majoring in education and not the field they will be expecting to teach. Thus, the would-be social studies teacher takes a fraction of history courses that a history major would take and so forth. So, I don't find it surprising that some of our teachers aren't up on their fields.

(And on a side note, the most dim-witted students were law enforcement majors... scary.)
posted by boubelium at 9:48 PM on May 19, 2008


and you people send your kids to school. WTF?

/obligatory homeschooler snark
posted by RedEmma at 12:36 AM on May 20


Yeah, where they learn life skills, too.
posted by stresstwig at 9:48 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


See, again, just be patient. In the 1950s the history teachers taught me that science teachers in the middle ages thought the earth was flat. See how far we've come?
posted by netbros at 9:51 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I recall my 8th grade biology teacher talked about creationism.

In a "ha ha, that's what some really stupid people believe" way.

I often wondered since then if he was required to bring it up by some stupid policy and that was his way of getting back at the system, or if he felt it was necessary for students to know what they might face in the future.

I also wonder if his words in those early years are what made me so passionate today on the subject. Though raw stupidity does just rub me the wrong way, so it might just be that too.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:52 PM on May 19, 2008


Creationism or intelligent design is only stupid if the 10K years part is part of it. There is no reason, no proof to demostrate/explain who/what set evolution in motion, or what caused the universe to come into being. Atheists need to grapple with that.
posted by BrooklynCouch at 9:55 PM on May 19, 2008


Creationism or intelligent design is only stupid if the 10K years part is part of it. There is no reason, no proof to demostrate/explain who/what set evolution in motion, or what caused the universe to come into being. Atheists need to grapple with that.

This would be perfectly interesting material for a philosophy course, but, as you yourself have noted, is not suitable for a science course.
posted by maxwelton at 10:01 PM on May 19, 2008 [16 favorites]


6 out of 4 people know that you can use statistics to prove anything that's even remotely factualized. 97.1% of people know that. The other 2.9% feel it in their bellies.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:03 PM on May 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


There is no reason, no proof to demostrate/explain who/what set evolution in motion, or what caused the universe to come into being. Atheists need to grapple with that.

Why? Given that, as you say, there is no reason or proof to explain what set evolution in motion, so-called 'weak' atheism is the most reasonable belief, rather than creating some kind of sentient, omnipotent, omniscient creator that demands worship and obsesses about what you did as a child.

Most atheists aren't dogmatic "There is no god!" types, but rather of the view that there's no evidence justifying a belief in god. Dawkins is loud, but I haven't ever seen anything to lead me believe that he speaks for the majority of atheists.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:03 PM on May 19, 2008


obligatory homeschooler snark

63% of home-school science teachers teach creationism. Made up statistic, but nonetheless true (give or take).
posted by msalt at 10:04 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Brooklyn couch: Biologists, atheist or not, grapple with what set evolution in motion: descent with modification, or in other words, the first self replicating structure and the first error in replication set evolution in motion.

Biologists studying evolution, atheist or not, do not have to grapple with the origin of life, abiogenesis, not evolution, grapples with that.

Respecting the origin of the universe, it is cosmologists and physicists grappling, atheist or not, who grapple with that question, it is a question outside the domain of biology or the theory of evolution.

Creationism and intelligent design are STUPID in a science class, not in a philosophy class. Creationism and intelligent design proponentists refuse to play by the rules of science.

On preview: Creationism and intelligent design may have a place in science class, specially in a brain science or psychology class.
posted by Dataphage at 10:06 PM on May 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


Creationism or intelligent design is only stupid if the 10K years part is part of it. There is no reason, no proof to demostrate/explain who/what set evolution in motion, or what caused the universe to come into being. Atheists need to grapple with that.

I would agree with you if ID/Creationism sought to be a theory for the origin of life. It doesn't, it seeks to be a replacement for evolution.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:07 PM on May 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


No, they thought it was a sphere.

Well, shit. I must be thinking of someone else. I guess I could look it up but...ehh. Learning is for dorks.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:10 PM on May 19, 2008


There is no reason, no proof to demostrate/explain who/what set evolution in motion, or what caused the universe to come into being. Atheists need to grapple with that.

That is perfectly true but that doesn't mean we must automatically assume God as the prime mover. I believe they call that "needlessly multiplying entities". What set the universe and, subsequently, evolution in motion? We do not know. Does that make God (in this context, popularly referred to as "The God of the Gaps") the logical explanation? Well, not quite.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:12 PM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


True, but it doesn't give one license to ridicule those who believe in God, which is what many seem to do.
posted by BrooklynCouch at 10:15 PM on May 19, 2008


Yeah, it's a pity that we're probably going to be focusing on that comment for the next 100+ posts, because really I don't think it really needs grappling with all that much at all. Certainly not within the context of a science curriculum. Certainly if on average only 3-10 hours are spent on the subject in total.
posted by Artw at 10:20 PM on May 19, 2008


Meh... the US has had its period of technical competency. It's obviously time to move over and let the others have a go.
posted by pompomtom at 10:20 PM on May 19, 2008


I wonder what percent deal with the Spaghetti Monster. Is it just baptists and conservative-christians who believe the earth is 6K-10K years old, or do the Mormons and Jehovah's witnesses believe this crap too? I mean, Glenn Beck (a mormon) just signed a $3 million dollar book deal....which is insane in and of itself, but there should be a salary cap on anyone who isn't intelligent enough to accept realities like the age and shape of the earth, natural selection, etc.
posted by whatgorilla at 10:22 PM on May 19, 2008


Oddly enough, I don't have any recollection of actually learning about evolution in school. I mean, I know it happened, but I'm pretty sure it was in the context of a larger biological education, rather than being a concentrated unit of any course.

We did the requisite fruit-fly mutation thing, and the acid-rain pond, but that wasn't anything like the first time evolution and associated mechanisms came up.

This was Canada, and it was 20 years ago. I don't think we have anything like the emphasis on jamming religion's feet into science shoes that exists in the US.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:24 PM on May 19, 2008


True, but it doesn't give one license to ridicule those who believe in God, which is what many seem to do.

I agree. Unless it's in a science class (not the ridiculing part, but the fact that supernatural deities should not be popping up in scientific conversations at all).
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:24 PM on May 19, 2008


This would be perfectly interesting material for a philosophy course, but, as you yourself have noted, is not suitable for a Natural Philosophy course.
posted by Rubbstone at 10:27 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


True, but it doesn't give one license to ridicule those who believe in God, which is what many seem to do.

Except when they use their belief in God as an excuse to subvert responsible public education and in an attempt to actively hinder or destroy scientific progress, which is what many seem to do.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:28 PM on May 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


16% of US science teachers believe human beings have been created by God within the last 10,000 years.

This is actually quite a bit less than I expected.

Also, I Summoned Bevets in a thread today, so I'm a little disconcerted that this FPP shows up out of nowhere. It makes one superstitious, it does.
posted by Avenger at 10:33 PM on May 19, 2008


6 out of 4 people know that you can use statistics to prove anything that's even remotely factualized. 97.1% of people know that. The other 2.9% feel it in their bellies.

This joke about statistics is so played out and irritating to me that I wish we could have some type of Godwin's Law for it.
posted by autodidact at 10:34 PM on May 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


Heh, I was sent to Catholic school from kindergarten through 12th grade, and I can't remember a single time when creationism was even mentioned in a science class. They saved that claptrap for religion class, where we were told that believing that the Bible contains truth in no way requires us to read it as [i]literal[/i] truth, particularly for Old Testament chapters. Up yours, Reformation.
posted by TrialByMedia at 10:36 PM on May 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


Last year I attended a home-schooling convention.

Row after row of booths all hawking various gospel-friendly "Science" curriculums, packed cover-to-cover with bunk "biology" of Dr. Gene Scott quality.

It just depressed me to see these kids there, browsing these books with their parents, fated to get an education no better than what is available to children of the Third World. The difference is that children of the Third World know how substandard their education is, and dream of going to an American class school. Whereas these children at the home-school convention all believe they are getting the best of all possible educations.

Sigh.
posted by sourwookie at 10:37 PM on May 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


True, but it doesn't give one license to ridicule those who believe in God, which is what many seem to do.

However, the ridiculous things that people who believe in God do and say do give one license to ridicule them.

I would also add that if many religious people weren't so terribly intolerant of other beliefs, constantly trying to push theirs on everyone, and so vocal about the contempt they feel for others, perhaps we'd cut them a little more slack.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:37 PM on May 19, 2008 [27 favorites]


I graduated high school in 2000, in the US. I remember distinctly that in several science classes, the teachers mentioned they were required to "teach the controversy" although they did not to put creationism forward as anything resembling a reasonable theory and would leave it to the students to mock it so that they wouldn't get in trouble for doing so. Then again, my health/sex ed teacher also had to spend one class talking about how "abstinence was the only true safe sex" and then spent the rest of the time talking about birth control.
posted by SassHat at 10:40 PM on May 19, 2008


I work can point to a goodish amount of doctors and nurses who don't believe in evolution, even when you point to something like penicillin G and you get a dumbfound look like "it's just new and improved, with 50% more, and in no way relates to my belief that my god can kick your god's ass".

Which really doesn't disturb me, but the cognitive dissonance does.

And they still function in their careers, but that dividing line between a public and private life seems to be more at stake than an argument as to whether genetic adaptation is consistent with a Judeo-Christian ethic.

Or perhaps they had piss-poor science teachers.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 10:44 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Scientific theories explain and predict. Evolution is a scientific theory because it explains the origin of species. Intelligent design also explains the origin of species. Both theories explain.

Both theories do not make testable predictions. Evolution predicts the fossil record that allows us to trace connections between the past and present state of life on the planet. When the fossil record matches up with evolutionary theory, evolution is strengthened as a theory. When it doesn't, it's weakened (but still retains usefulness since it has held up in so many other places).

Intelligent design says there is an intelligent designer that created life on this planet. This implies...what, scientifically? What testable prediction can be made from that basis? There is none. That doesn't mean it's not true, but it doesn't have any right to be held up as an alternative to evolution.

Evolution, true or false, is science. Intelligent design, true or false, is not.
posted by anifinder at 10:44 PM on May 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


> It makes one superstitious, it does.

Oh, it's not "superstition" it's "intelligent credulousness".
posted by pompomtom at 10:48 PM on May 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


How does the ToE not make predictions? Forms and kinds of past life forms have been predicted before their discovery - that counts as a prediction, even if the species is long gone.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:48 PM on May 19, 2008


Sigh. How can they not teach evolution at all? That's a bit ridiculous. Where is the standard curriculm?
posted by Raynyn at 10:49 PM on May 19, 2008


It's important to remember that we need to separate the observation -- the evidence -- from our interpretation of it.

There's no doubt whatsoever that creatures change over time, and that the earth is billions of years old. This is as certain as the sun rising.

What we're guessing about, and should be very clear that we're guessing, is why. Survival of the fittest is probably true as a general observation, but when you get down to the actual question, 'does the mutated creature reproduce successfully?', much of the answer may be simple luck. Humans may look the way we do because our ancient forebear, Bogstrok of the Proboscine Nose, slipped on a rock and fell to his death, allowing Hamgrar the Impaired Smeller to have all the women. Speciation events really could come down to events that small, having little to do with actual fitness, and everything to do with blind, dumb luck.

Now, over the very long span of history, luck averages out, and the fittest creatures survive... but being able to make large-scale observations does not mean we can make small-scale explanations. We will probably never really know why we look the way we do. We can certainly trace back our genetic history, but while we can see the branches, and can tell stories about what might have happened, that's all they are -- stories. We may be assigning explanations to things that are purely random events.

I think it's important to communicate that basic uncertainty. Creatures change over time. This is absolute. The theory of evolution, though, is something we added to that. It's an explanation of evidence, and all explanations can change.
posted by Malor at 10:50 PM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


True, but it doesn't give one license to ridicule those who believe in God, which is what many seem to do.
posted by BrooklynCouch at 10:15 PM on May 19


I wasn't aware they were inspecting licenses at the door. Does my passport from the People's Republic of Not-Needing-A-Fucking-Permission-Slip-to-Ridicule-People work?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:52 PM on May 19, 2008 [41 favorites]


The reason for this, in my experience, is that principals have a great deal to do with who teaches science, directors of instruction and/or district superintendents have a great deal to do with who gets to be principal, and school boards have a great deal to do with who gets to be superintendent. Every once in a while you get a fundamentalist school board, which appoints a fundamentalist superintendent, who appoints a group of fundamentalist principals, who appoint a group of fundamentalist science teachers. It's agenda politics. And they think they're "saving" the kids.

Don't get me started on the fundamentalist principal at my daughter's elementary school who wouldn't let the kids dress up on Halloween. Made some cockamamie excuse about "costumes possibly getting damaged". You can imagine my conversation with him:

"It's new staff policy"
"The staff voted for this?"
"They nodded in agreement."
"&%WTF*?()$"
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:59 PM on May 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


...."alternative to Darwinian explanations"... i.e scientific or should I say Scientific.

Anyway it's the Best of the Web having this discussion every other day.

It's seriously Serious
posted by vapidave at 11:10 PM on May 19, 2008


I think it's important to note that when you talk of "religion" in this topic, many of you are actually talking about "American Christian folk tradition", in which only America and Liberia seem to take part. The rest of the religions in the world seem to have no problem with science, and think 'Creationism' is a load of crap.
posted by nightchrome at 11:22 PM on May 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wasn't aware they were inspecting licenses at the door. Does my passport from the People's Republic of Not-Needing-A-Fucking-Permission-Slip-to-Ridicule-People work?

Optimus wins the thread by far.
posted by Talez at 11:31 PM on May 19, 2008


The rest of the religions in the world seem to have no problem with science, and think 'Creationism' is a load of crap.

Yeah but we can bomb those people.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:45 PM on May 19, 2008


Nothing says "you're doing it wrong" like when the Pope has a more reasonable and enlightened policy on science than your local secular public school.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:46 PM on May 19, 2008 [19 favorites]


This is as certain as the sun rising.

Heh. Does the sun rise?
posted by Rumple at 12:01 AM on May 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Having recently been at university alongside secondary education majors I can say that I am not surprised. My personal experience is that the major didn't attract the brightest people by a long shot.

I can't speak as to the general intelligence of teachers, but I do know many people for which this was the career of last resort. ("oh well, I guess I can always teach school [insert fatalistic sigh]")

Quite frankly I'm boggled how creationism could possibly be taught alongside evolution. The two don't even belong in the same room as each other. Even though evolution, as it stands, has some holes (which, I must admit, I have absolute faith (heh heh) will be plugged soon), creationism has NOTHING other than the "WORD OF GOD" tm to back it up. How the holy hell did the two become competing theories? I realize the idiocy of my inquiry...but...WHAT THE FUCK?!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:08 AM on May 20, 2008


True, but it doesn't give one license to ridicule those who believe in God, which is what many seem to do.

Yes it does.

The above is about as succint as I can put it, but as others have indicated - when your "religion" steps over the boundary of "personal faith" and into dangerous territory like "theocracy" or other forms of ignorance-by-edict - oh, hell yes it's time for a mocking and a ridiculing.

Also, likewise if someone comes up to me and goes out of their way to tell me that they believe the moon is made out of purple cheese and inhabited by invisible Oompa Loompas of limitless powers including the creation of our entire universe - without so much as being asked or in any way indicating that yes, I would like to discuss their faith with them - then, yes, they just opened themselves for debate and possibly ridicule*.

I've avoided mentioning Christianity... but, hey, Christians? Grab a freaking clue already. Science is not oppressing your religion. Science exists outside and apart of religion. Science isn't a belief system or an article of faith. Science is a methodology to turn rough guesses into facts through experimentation and observation. Science and rationality is what Christianity has been oppressing for - what is it now, fifteen centuries? Twenty?

If you don't want to face that long-standing collective frustration, combined with the ever-increasing curiosity of humankind armed with the tools of logic and rationality then I'd strongly suggest getting out of the way.

And if your faith is so unfirm and shaky that it can't even stand existing in the face of what science proposes to teach you then your faith wasn't very strong to begin with.

All that being said? Tremble not, Christian Soldiers. The Universe is a vast, magnificent place full of beauty and wonder. There seems to be more than enough room here for your faith if you'll allow yourself to take it.


*Look, I've always been polite when approached by people of all faiths with a mind to share them. If I'm short on time or attention, my response might be a curt "no thank you" or even a more forceful "I'm agnostic and/or aetheist", but in that case you'd likely get the same curt response for any topic. But if you fail to take a hint you really shouldn't act so shocked or surprised if I respond with a tirade about Christianity's roots in mushroom-worshipping fertility cults, ok?
posted by loquacious at 12:47 AM on May 20, 2008 [29 favorites]


Does the sun rise?

That would depend on your frame of reference, but for most usual purposes - yes.
posted by Artw at 12:58 AM on May 20, 2008


23% of US science teachers are also the football coach.

I was going to post this exact sentiment. This really needs to be emphasized. In US public schools, gym teachers and coaches have to teach a non-athletic class in order to be considered teachers. Most of them just teach "health", which is a required blowoff class consisting of "follow the food pyramid" and some cursory, useless sex education, or something equally mindless like shop. However, many of them end up teaching an actual class like biology or history, despite having no knowledge of it whatsoever besides what they get from the teachers' edition of the textbook. I had more than a few totally useless coach/teachers, one of which couldn't properly pronounce most of the European place names in the World History textbook. It's just another shitty aspect of the horrible public school system. When/if I have kids, they're going to private schools by junior high at the latest, if I'm lucky enough to find a school that isn't run by fundamentalist Christians and is thus even worse.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:01 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think it's important to note that when you talk of "religion" in this topic, many of you are actually talking about "American Christian folk tradition", in which only America and Liberia seem to take part.

Though they're spending large sums of money trying to export their folly to the rest of the world. Channel 4's Dispatches last night was on the tiny rump of mouth-breathing fundies here in the UK who believe that Islam is the word of Satan, and are taking money from US organizations to fight pro-discrimination lawsuits against gays in the British courts.

What's that someone was saying? These people are somehow deserving of my respect and should be immune from ridicule? Despite the fact that they're convinced the world is only 5000 years old?

You're having a laugh, right?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:14 AM on May 20, 2008


I think it's important to communicate that basic uncertainty. Creatures change over time. This is absolute. The theory of evolution, though, is something we added to that. It's an explanation of evidence, and all explanations can change.

The explanation has changed and it is still changing. The modern synthesis incorporates other mechanisms than Natural Selection (ie. Neutral Drift and Sexual selecion).

Whereas Darwin struggled with what he thought was an intractable problem with his theory of evolution via natural selection - namely that variation should be diluted in each generation - this problem was solved with the (re)discovery of genetics.

"the Modern Synthesis is a theory about how evolution works at the level of genes, phenotypes, and populations whereas Darwinism was concerned mainly with organisms, speciation and individuals"

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/modern-synthesis.html

Evolutionary Biology is full of debate about the mechanisms of evolution - a healthy sign and one that gives lie to the hypocrisy of creationists who accuse 'Darwinists' of being dogmatic. The fact that evolution occurs is beyond rational doubt as you said and all things being equal I accept that the modern synthesis of evolution is the most plausible explanation for life's diversity - and it only gets more plausible with each passing year
posted by JustAsItSounds at 1:21 AM on May 20, 2008


The Light Fantastic writes "I can't speak as to the general intelligence of teachers, but I do know many people for which this was the career of last resort. ('oh well, I guess I can always teach school [insert fatalistic sigh]')"

It is obvious to anyone intelligent and questioning that there is a lot of truth in the adage "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
posted by Mitheral at 1:33 AM on May 20, 2008


I attended a Christian private school. Not in the US, if that matters. Ostensibly Methodist/Anglican, but the Pentecostals had gained a bit of a foothold. Anyway, we were taught evolution. We had a mild disclaimer - "Next week we're going to start discussing evolution - ask your parents to let the school know if they have a problem with that and we'll get you to write a 3,000 word essay on something instead of attending class..." It was just a required part of the state curriculum. If you didn't learn about evolution, you wouldn't do to well in Biology. No-one complained.

At university, I did see the effects on people who did have a problem with it. I did a degree in Environmental Science. One of the students was pretty seriously into Jesus. On field trips, when the rest of us were drinking box wine and sneaking up into the forest to pull bongs, he was in his tent with a torch and a bible. He was a nice fella, though. But talking to him, you could really tell he was confused. Here he was studying biology. Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution. Every lecture, every essay, every text book, every exam, was associated with evolution and natural selection in some way, and it was really restricting his choices in what he was happy to study, particularly when it came to honours year, where he was stuck with some pretty low-level plant physiology while the rest of us were out combing the deserts of catching possums in forests. I don't know what happened to him. I guess there are jobs in biology that can handle people who don't understand evolution, but on the tech-o side rather than the research side.
posted by Jimbob at 2:35 AM on May 20, 2008


"... many of them end up teaching an actual class like biology or history, despite having no knowledge of it whatsoever besides what they get from the teachers' edition of the textbook."

Why?

I don't understand, surely the voters look at those policies and say "that's fucking stupid, lets not do that" and have proper teachers. Oh, hang on, they all had fucking idiots as teachers.

I suppose it's a little bit like natural selection, ironic eh?
posted by fullerine at 2:37 AM on May 20, 2008


Actually, come to think of it, we had a lecturer at university, in botany, who wasn't really into evolution. He was a pretty committed Catholic - not that this has much to do with believing in evolution, but in his case, at a personal level, he didn't accept it. But at a professional level, he taught it. He taught it, as a theory, as a viable explanation of what was going on in the world. But personally, he thought God was responsible, especially at the level of (I hate this word) macroevolution. In my opinion, thats the way people can go, if they're smart enough (or hypocritical enough). Teach what's supposed be taught, don't let your personal biases intrude in your professional duty.
posted by Jimbob at 2:40 AM on May 20, 2008


"... many of them end up teaching an actual class like biology or history, despite having no knowledge of it whatsoever besides what they get from the teachers' edition of the textbook."

Why?


Do you know how hard it is to find teachers who actually have experience in what they teach? Here's a tip. They all work at real, real expensive schools. In an ideal world, I think it would be a requirement, just as I think, in the government, the minister/secretary for science should have been a scientist, the minister for agriculture should have been a farmer, the minister for defense should have been a soldier, the treasurer should have been in finance / economics. Alas, things rarely work out like that.
posted by Jimbob at 2:43 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
As opposed to

1. Those who can, do
2. Those who can't, don't.

and if that's true, then it follows

1. Those who can teach, teach.
2. Those who can't teach, don't teach.

and indeed that's true, most people don't know how to teach effectively and efficiently, yet the importance of teaching is almost always underestimated. Jesuits, which aren't exactly the most progressive minds, understood that by manipulating the education of a children one could easily form a soldier of christ, who could be a form of well educated self-exploding suicide bomber, but a lot smarter and ready to deny evidence or attack disconfirming evidence as their spiritual leaders deemed fit to.

One quite smart point is that of convincing people that there is no evidence that god doesn't exist, therefore it follows that god exists or at worst may exist and we are not aware yet.

The missing piece is that lack of evidence doesn't prove possibility of existence ; for instance, the fact that there is no evidence of the existence of a green tiger doesn't prove that a green tiger may exist at all, but that's exactly what is suggested to say that a god could exist.

When attacking evolution theories, as it is not convenient or not possible to attack evidence, the conclusion and theories and their authors are presented as unreliable, or a simpler theory is proposed that is a lot easier to buy into , such as "god did it and it's fine because it's made by a god".
posted by elpapacito at 2:50 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


or what caused the universe to come into being.

this question in itself really captures the ignorance of the God Squad. It is a non-sensical question.

Based on current scientific theory, Time is a property OF THE UNIVERSE and hence there was no 'before' the big bang. Hence there was no need for a cause. the Universe simply was. without the BigBang there was no being. no time, there was nothing.
posted by mary8nne at 2:53 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


You have to admit, that's never really been a very satisfactory explanation, mary8nne. But then, I don't get physics. There is more to it, though, isn't there? Something about there being the potential for a universe to spring forth at any time from the vacuum when some forces fail to cancel each other out exactly? I mean, I'm an agnostic-bordering-on-atheist professional scientist, and theories on the beginning of the universe always leaving me feeling a bit empty and disappointed.
posted by Jimbob at 2:58 AM on May 20, 2008


PeterMcDermott, I saw that Dispatches programme last night, too. A review of it in the Telegraph contained a nugget that perfectly sums these wingnuts up:

But another thing strikes me while listening to [their] depiction of Islam as a dangerous fundamentalist belief: [they] could be describing the beliefs of the Christian fundamentalists I've met. [They] say these crazed fanatics believe any non-believer is destined only for hell (check). That they must convert all non-believers to their belief (check). That they think society must be built on their beliefs alone (check). [They don't] see the irony.


This complete incapacity for self-scrutiny is essential in holding these extreme beliefs. It also renders believers almost immune to rational input from the reality-based community.
posted by Jakey at 3:01 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


This would be perfectly interesting material for a philosophy course, but, as you yourself have noted, is not suitable for a science course.

I don't think Creationism would be especially interesting in a philosophy course, and I've taken a few. Can we please stop treating philosophy like science's wastebasket?
posted by PM at 3:10 AM on May 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


Something about there being the potential for a universe to spring forth at any time from the vacuum when some forces fail to cancel each other out exactly?

see again you talk about time and vacuums which are two aspects of our universe. As far as we know all time 'as we know it' only exists within this universe. hence there was not necessarily any before the universe.

Its a fundamental change in your way of thinking. - its not like the universe could have appeared at a different time.there wasn't a different time. There was perhaps a primordial soup of dimenstions / mess of times and spaces and nothingness.
posted by mary8nne at 3:13 AM on May 20, 2008


I agree Creationism is a boring and dull topic for Philosophy.

its basically a religious version of the brain in a vat / Matrix problem that is exhausted after 5-0 mins... it lacks depth.
posted by mary8nne at 3:18 AM on May 20, 2008


Pew Research - Polling has regularly found that the public favors the teaching of multiple perspectives on the issue in the schools. While solid majorities believe that evolution should be taught in science classes, roughly two-thirds of Americans favor adding creationism to the school curriculum.

Surveys are also fairly consistent in their estimates of how many Americans believe in evolution or creationism. Approximately 40%-50% of the public accepts a biblical creationist account of the origins of life, while comparable numbers accept the idea that humans evolved over time.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

USA Today / Gallup Poll

6/1-3/07

"Evolution -- that is, the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life"

Definitely True 18%
Probably True 35%
Probably False 16%
Definitely False 28%
Unsure 3%

6/1-3/07

"Creationism -- that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years"

Definitely True 39%
Probably True 27%
Probably False 16%
Definitely False 15%
Unsure 3%
posted by sophist at 3:54 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Based on current scientific theory, Time is a property OF THE UNIVERSE and hence there was no 'before' the big bang. Hence there was no need for a cause. the Universe simply was. without the BigBang there was no being. no time, there was nothing.

If the word "before" is bothersome, one can still ponder "Why isn't the universe older/younger than the precise age it is now?".
posted by 23skidoo at 4:19 AM on May 20, 2008


theories on the beginning of the universe always leaving me feeling a bit empty and disappointed.

Well, that's inevitable. You have two choices:

1. The universe just exists. It's a brute fact and there is nothing more that we can say about it.
2. God created the universe. God just exists. It's a brute fact and there is nothing more that we can say about it.

Neither is fulfilling in an intellectual way or a deep emotional way. But the people saying atheists need to "deal with" the brute fact of existence (upthread) don't have a better answer, they're just camouflaging the same situation by adding God into the mix.
posted by graymouser at 4:22 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Its a fundamental change in your way of thinking. - its not like the universe could have appeared at a different time.there wasn't a different time. There was perhaps a primordial soup of dimenstions / mess of times and spaces and nothingness.

Aah, but a universe could appear at any time, just not this universe. And that universe, most likely, will not follow our laws of physics. There are many solutions to Einstein's 10-dimensional field equations...oh shit, I'm getting out of my depth again. My point is, "The universe just happened" is unsatisfying, whether you believe in God or not. Thankfully, lots of people smarter than me continue to work towards clarifying things.

"Evolution -- that is, the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life"

That is a loaded question. As I've pointed out in previous threads on evolution, bringing humans into it is the whole problem, as far as the theological debate goes. Humans are a miniscule part of evolution. You might as well as "Evolution - the idea that magnolias developed over millions of years from less advanced formed of life". The concentration on human evolution - this was never taught in my highschool evolution section. I still really don't know anything about human evolution, except a few terms...Australopithecus, Homo erectus. As an ecologist, maybe it just doesn't interest me, and never really did. Evolution and natural selection is much broader than that, and most people, if you lay it out step by step, are forced to admit they do believe in it.

1. Individuals of a species are different. Some people have red hair, some people have blonde. Some people are tall, some people are short. Some people have brown skin, some people have white.
2. The physical attributes of a child is related to the attributes of the parents. Two brown-skinned parents are likely to have a brown-skinned child. Two tall parents are likely to have a tall child.
3. These various attributes may, in animals in the wild, affect their abilities to survive. If a polar bear is born with not much hair, it may not do too well. If a polar bear is born with no teeth, it may not do too well. If a polar bear is born with brown fur, it may not do too well.
4. These factors that affect the health of an individual may affect it's ability to produce children. If a polar bear has attributes that mean it's not very good at hunting, isn't eating very well, is weak... it probably won't have many, if any, offspring.
5. The attributes of offspring are, again, related to the attributes of parents. Therefore, unhealthy, unsuitable parents won't produce many offspring, so there won't be many unsuitable offspring around. Suitable parents - those that have the attributes suitable for their environment - will produce lots of similarly "fit" offspring.
6. These attributes are controlled by genes - we know this. We've seen them. We've experimented with them. Genes are chemicals. It's an imperfect system. Sometimes they get messed up, mixed up, mutate. Therefore, new attributes will constantly be appearing.

Very few people would be unable to debate these points, individually. Together, we have evolution, more or less. But the debate, as always, focuses on "humans came from monkeys", and unfortunately that stirs some emotions in some people that make them ignore the facts.
posted by Jimbob at 4:24 AM on May 20, 2008 [8 favorites]


So, we haven't actually reached Peak Stupid yet?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:31 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think Creationism would be especially interesting in a philosophy course, and I've taken a few. Can we please stop treating philosophy like science's wastebasket?

To be clear, I wasn't suggesting that creationism itself, alone, would be interesting philosophical fodder, but rather "why are we here?" and/or "what is the reason we're here?" which is what I thought the comment I was referring to was hinting at.
posted by maxwelton at 4:35 AM on May 20, 2008


100% of these sorts of polls are 99% useless.

The other 1% is this thread.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 4:57 AM on May 20, 2008


Heh. Does the sun rise?

Well it certainly wobbles a really, really small amount due to gravitical pull from the planets iirc.
posted by longbaugh at 5:02 AM on May 20, 2008


23% of US science teachers are also the football coach.

I was going to post this exact sentiment. This really needs to be emphasized. In US public schools, gym teachers and coaches have to teach a non-athletic class in order to be considered teachers. Most of them just teach "health", which is a required blowoff class consisting of "follow the food pyramid" and some cursory, useless sex education, or something equally mindless like shop. However, many of them end up teaching an actual class like biology or history, despite having no knowledge of it whatsoever besides what they get from the teachers' edition of the textbook. I had more than a few totally useless coach/teachers, one of which couldn't properly pronounce most of the European place names in the World History textbook. It's just another shitty aspect of the horrible public school system. When/if I have kids, they're going to private schools by junior high at the latest, if I'm lucky enough to find a school that isn't run by fundamentalist Christians and is thus even worse.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:01 AM on May 20 [+] [!]


The head football coach at my high school was also the instructor of 'Global Issues' and, wait for it, AP PSYCHOLOGY. I had the pleasure of taking the latter, and what a painful time it was. He would repeatedly make inappropriate jokes about his youth or use anecdotes relating to football camps and somehow relate them to Freud. I shit you not. Fortunately the textbook was good so I came out of it with a 4, but it was mind-numbing, it was.
posted by nonmerci at 5:11 AM on May 20, 2008


Back in the day St. Augustine practiced Manichaeanism, a Gnostic religion you don't exactly hear much about today. They, of course, promised him all the knowledge of the universe, etc. I'd go on, but rather than put my spin on it, I'm just going to quote NewAdvent.org:

But, worse than all, he did not find science among them — science in the modern sense of the word — that knowledge of nature and its laws which they had promised him. When he questioned them concerning the movements of the stars, none of them could answer him. "Wait for Faustus," they said, "he will explain everything to you." Faustus of Mileve, the celebrated Manichæan bishop, at last came to Carthage; Augustine visited and questioned him, and discovered in his responses the vulgar rhetorician, the utter stranger to all scientific culture. The spell was broken, and, although Augustine did not immediately abandon the sect, his mind rejected Manichæan doctrines.

I find this so ironic I keep waiting for a Rod Serling voice over.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:33 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jimbob -- Humans are a miniscule part of evolution.

Humans are a miniscule part of the Universe. A big part of the problem is that people can't really comprehend geological time or astronomical distances (and those of us who fancy we do have to make use of metaphors, like compressing the history of the universe into a single year and observing that all of human history is then a few minutes) to get some sense of just how insignificant everything ever done by humans is.

Of course, most of the people who don't understand deep time or just how far 13 billion light-years is will readily admit to not being able to understand the deep teachings of their religion either. Several of my religious acquaintances have stoped arguing with me about it because they admit I know way more about the Bible than they do.

But faced with two beliefs they don't really understand, asserting more or less equal authority from the standpoint of one who can't really evaluate their claims, one of which makes them feel like an important part of a personal creation and one of which says we are insignificant dust motes living on an insignificant dust mote and that our entire history is less than the flash of a firecracker in a coliseum, well they'd prefer to feel important.
posted by localroger at 5:50 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Petty point: Min*u*scule,

It's one of those words where the natural iconicity of vowel space contributes to a conventional misspelling, as the popular "min*i*scule" rendition actually sounds smaller and more picayune with its high front vowel giving it a nice little mousey squeak in the middle!


There are amazing science teachers out there (and I know a few who can light kids up with the beauty of the real), but the overall standard of American primary and secondary science education is utterly appalling and a sign of our imperial decline.

I read online that some of the kids in the earthquake region of Sichuan Province who survived the terrible series of school collapses are *already* back to makeshift "school" with volunteer reachers flying in from all over China (am I alone in being very impressed by the Chinese response to date?). Now that is some hardcore competition, and we are getting our asses kicked.

We need year-round schooling in the US, with the summer months entirely devoted to math and science and language work. And we need to stop talking about education and practical competence as opposed (as, say, "elite" and "working-class" values, respectively), a rhetoric which ranks among the real travesties of our current political debate and its requisite stereotypes, because without a cultural embrace of science and reason, soon, we are all going down with the metaphysical boat. Together.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:19 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


It is obvious to anyone intelligent and questioning that there is a lot of truth in the adage "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
Or at least obvious to those who toss facile and trite barbs at whole groups of people.

The post could well have said "87.5% of US science teachers do not teach creationism as valid science." And I would venture to guess that most in that majority are pretty frustrated with their colleagues. But hey, fuck them, they're obvious losers. Why else would they be teaching?
posted by Killick at 6:27 AM on May 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


I was taught evolution, and only evolution in high school biology (small, poor, public school in Southern Illinois). When one kid in class brought up creationism, everyone else in class mocked him. And the teacher basically said "This is science class...Moving on!" When I went to college at a Jesuit university, the priest teaching one of my history classes mentioned Darwin and evolution. Without even hesitating he said "I'm talking about the evolution of the human form from apes, not the origins of the human soul." And as he said it he rolled his eyes in such a way I could almost hear him thinking "stupid creationists making all religious people look like fools..."
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:47 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


In sixth grade, Sister Maurice taught us evolution. And biology. And geology. And,

"The kingdom of the Animals Whose phyla number ten,
Can easily be mastered by quiet study in your den.
Each animal in Nature is classified for you,
This system of Taxonomy you can easily persue." etc.

Later in the day, she would teach us Genesis. And that the spirit of the stories was more important than the letter.

How fucking hard is that?
posted by notsnot at 6:52 AM on May 20, 2008


nonmerci writes "Fortunately the textbook was good so I came out of it with a 4, but it was mind-numbing, it was."

That kind of fun is exactly why I took no AP courses. I had zero faith that my high school could offer me anything approaching a college-level experience in anything. I'm sure there are some well-funded AP programs out there, but in my mind if you aren't taking a college-level course with a college-level instructor, you aren't getting what you think you're getting.

Also, apparently 16% of US science teachers should have their licenses revoked, pending enrollment in a remedial class in which they learn what science actually is. I don't have any problem with a teacher that does not wholeheartedly believe in evolution, so long as that teacher (a) understands science well enough to tell a scientific theory from theologically-based horseshit, and (b) does not bias his or her curriculum based on personal beliefs rather than actual science.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:52 AM on May 20, 2008


fourcheesemac writes "we need to stop talking about education and practical competence as opposed [...] a rhetoric which ranks among the real travesties of our current political debate"

That's a damned good point. The accessibility of education in the US is historically one of the country's greatest strengths. Education is supposed to be the great equalizer, a right of all people, not restricted to the elite. There's a reason that public education is so heavily funded and mandatory to a certain age. I can't understand why we currently have such a large percentage of the population that has willingly and enthusiastically embraced willful ignorance. The (god how I hate the phrase) "Ivory Tower" myth of detached elite academia is pushed by people (ironically, usually fairly wealthy and well-educated people) who wish to appeal to the "persecuted" working-class majority, yet no one ever points out that in this country the door to the tower has never been locked, and that anyone willing to put in the work can climb to the top. It's insane. Historically speaking, when have Americans ever rejected hard work and self-improvement as an American ethic? It's the core of the country's democratic character, the Horatio Algers "poor boy makes good" meme writ large in our collective consciousness, the dream that every little kid can become President some day if only he or she works hard enough. It isn't the work of Evil Scientists that have taken this dream and smashed it. The American dream is being trampled by the religious conservatives - the same people that scream the loudest about preserving the very thing they are destroying. Evil Scientists aren't the ones destroying traditional faith in religion. Megachurches have taken God and monetized the idea. Any "attack" on religion (read: traditional folk Christianity) is an assault on their income streams, and they happily promote the Christian persecution myth while fanning the flames of outraged anti-science rhetoric.

Sure, scientists need to protect their own income streams too, but while scientists may make money, they don't make televangelist money. Scientists have to pay taxes.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:12 AM on May 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Eh, whatever. fourcheesemac is right - the Chinese are *really* impressive. And after an inexpensive, superior education paid for by the Chinese people, we'll import the best of them to do science and engineering here. This has always been a nation of god-bothering morons with pockets of educated immigrants doing all the real work. Go back and look at the names of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project or the moon landing. The road to the IAS runs through Vienna, not Newark.
posted by bonecrusher at 7:13 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


We'd better teach our (US) children science so they will be better equipped to serve our new Indian overlords. All those wars we fought against the Indians and they still keep coming back at us.
posted by Mister_A at 7:19 AM on May 20, 2008


I've been teaching twenty-five years and have never met a science teacher who did not believe in evolution. Of course, I live in a big modern city and only know a handful of Republicans, so my anecdotal evidence suggests that the ID science teachers are catering to the Christians that live in the suburbs and the small towns.

BTW, in defense of teachers, 90% of them know what they are doing. The others are, yes, the football and basketball coaches. And don't dis the shop teacher: we need electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and mechanics. Unfortunately, high-stakes testing in "literacy" and math haave displaced most of these useful subjects, along with music, art and drama.
posted by kozad at 7:24 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.
posted by BrooklynCouch at 7:36 AM on May 20, 2008


But excluding science and reason?
posted by ND¢ at 7:40 AM on May 20, 2008


Wow, deep.
posted by Mister_A at 7:47 AM on May 20, 2008


Yeah I am wishing I had just stayed out of this. The thing is, I am having a kid in about two months and I live in South Carolina, so this stuff worries me a lot. I plan to take her to church on Sundays, but I want her to learn about the real world in school during the week, and not be "taught" evolution the same way I was in South Carolina public schools. My fifth grade teacher said "Now, some people believe that monkeys turned into snakes that turned into birds that turned into you. You don't believe that do you class?"
posted by ND¢ at 7:52 AM on May 20, 2008


BTW I went to Catholic HS in the '80s and was taught evolution. The Catholic church is pretty reasonable on this issue. To clear the air at the start, my teacher said, "Now of course, in Genesis, the story goes that the world was created in seven days. Most people look at this as an allegory."

We were smart, we knew what allegories were. He went on to explain that it is not heresy to teach/believe in evolution through natural selection; that one can still have faith in a God that created the heavens and the earth, animals, people and so on, but that it doesn't matter how long it took. I don't know that he believed any of this stuff personally, but he felt it was important and appropriate to address the creation story in biology class. It actually helped that most of the kids there had already received a fairly thorough religious education, and had been involved in discussions about literal vs metaphorical meanings of the scriptures. I hope that at least some of the mentions of intelligent design, creationism, etc. are along these lines. My bio teacher had respect for the students, respect for the church (his employer), and respect for the science, and was able to get the job done.

The real trouble arises among sects that hold the bible to be the literal revealed truth; there is no room for interpretation among people who adhere to these beliefs, and evolution of any sort is incompatible with their cosmology. The interesting thing is, these folks pick and choose which parts of modern science to believe in–they generally believe in the parts that make life easier, like the science behind cell phones and microwave ovens.
posted by Mister_A at 8:00 AM on May 20, 2008


ND¢, now is a good time to start investigating schools. I guarantee that not every school district around you teaches that poppycock; this is the sort of thing that is worth moving to the next town for.
posted by Mister_A at 8:01 AM on May 20, 2008


I wasn't aware they were inspecting licenses at the door. Does my passport from the People's Republic of Not-Needing-A-Fucking-Permission-Slip-to-Ridicule-People work?

....That particular republic, and others like it, have fallen, and it's been reabsorbed into the older and more all-encompassing United-Federation-Of-Republics-of-Pretentious-Assholishness.

Come on. Has no one considered that part of the reason why Creationists and ID supporters are as rabid as they are might be because they're being openly mocked and ridiculed instead of debated? Of COURSE they're going to be aggressive, if their dissenters resort to mocking them instead of actually engaging in serious debate.

And before anyone mocks ME for saying that, no, I think it's a load of hooey as well. But hear me out -- if we did subject the ID theories to the very kind of scientific inquiry that they're asking for, wouldn't it fail? Hey, if they're asking us for their own noose, why aren't we giving it to them?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on May 20, 2008


When I took high-school biology back in, uh, 1982, I recall the teacher saying something like "This textbook used to have a better section on evolution, but some people made them tone it down."

In college, there was a kid in my dorm who was apparently a bit of a prodigy—he entered at age 16. Majored in astronomy. Was a young-earth creationist. I always marveled at the contradictions he must have been holding in his head. The idea that even the red shift of remote stars is just one more trick by God to test the faithful amazed me. The Old-Testament God is often described as vindictive, but this goes way beyond vindictiveness—God has structured the entire universe, right down to subtle phenomena, in an active effort to trip you up. Not to mention all those "fossils" he buried in convincingly layered strata on the Earth. That is one twisted mofo.
posted by adamrice at 8:05 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, I had a very interesting, well taught, and insightful paleontology class in college taught by a man who let us know on day one that he personally was a creationist, but that he would not let his personal views deter him from teaching the material we had signed up to learn. He didn't. He was honest and upfront when he had personal issues with materials, but taught the material anyway and we often stayed long after class to discuss his opinions, which he made sure to enforce that they were, about what we'd covered. It was actually one of the best classes I took in school. If that 16% of teachers are like my teacher, I'd say we've got no problems. Unfortunately, I think he was, by the nature of fundamentalism, a rarity.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:08 AM on May 20, 2008


But hear me out -- if we did subject the ID theories to the very kind of scientific inquiry that they're asking for, wouldn't it fail? Hey, if they're asking us for their own noose, why aren't we giving it to them?

Every ID objection has been scientifically answered. If you follow the work, for instance, of Michael Behe — one of the main proponents of ID — you will see a string of "objections" to evolution, such as the evolution of the eye or the flagellum in bacteria, that are scientifically refuted. The response of ID proponents is to come up with another spurious objection to evolutionary theory. The problem is not in answering these folks, it is the fact that they continue their spin and misdirection when every attempt at a hypothesis that they come up with fails miserably.
posted by graymouser at 8:10 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


ND¢, now is a good time to start investigating schools.

I left the small town that I grew up in when I was 18 Mister_A, and I ain't going back. The schools are better here in our state's capital, but still well below national average. The next house my family buys will be decided based on the quality of the school it is zoned for, and I plan on trying to be involved in my child's education so that I will know if she isn't being taught in school, but I can only do so much, because I don't know science too good. I mean, the quote above is all I was ever taught about evolution!
posted by ND¢ at 8:13 AM on May 20, 2008


There is no reason, no proof to demostrate/explain who/what set evolution in motion, or what caused the universe to come into being. Atheists need to grapple with that.

Cool. I think the hindu cosmology makes much more sense than the Jewish one. Where's the nearest ashram?
posted by tachikaze at 8:16 AM on May 20, 2008


There are 31 charter schools in Columbia, SC. Good luck!
posted by Mister_A at 8:18 AM on May 20, 2008



I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.


ehh . . . 2/10
Try again harder. Put a bit more effort into it.
posted by anansi at 8:19 AM on May 20, 2008


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

After putting a lot of thought into it, I've decided that I love being evil.
posted by COBRA! at 8:22 AM on May 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


...atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

See, THAT'S why we have a license to mock you.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:23 AM on May 20, 2008 [8 favorites]


My fifth grade teacher said "Now, some people believe that monkeys turned into snakes that turned into birds that turned into you. You don't believe that do you class?"

I would have been able to buy that explanation eaiser than my sex education classes, which taught me a lot of latin words in such wishy washy terms that I still didn't know about the mechanics of sex after the class finished but could label anatomy diagrams.

Somehow I probably missed the point.
posted by Deep Dish at 8:23 AM on May 20, 2008


COBRA!
posted by Mister_A at 8:28 AM on May 20, 2008


Petty point: Min*u*scule,

It's one of those words where the natural iconicity of vowel space contributes to a conventional misspelling, as the popular "min*i*scule" rendition actually sounds smaller and more picayune with its high front vowel giving it a nice little mousey squeak in the middle!


Loved that, fourcheesemac!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:29 AM on May 20, 2008


This is either (a) a totally misguided discussion in which people are trying to bandaid over a complex problem or (b) a dishonest discussion in which people are using what's taught in school as a token to vent about other topics, e.g how stupid Christians/Atheists are.

The U.S.-public-school system is fundamentally broken. It's broken in more ways than I can list here. Sure, I'm an atheist who believes in Natural Selection. So I get "my way" and we start teaching that in the schools. So what? So then students will graduate and remember as much about that subject as they do about Geometry and Shakespeare. Judging from most of the people I know who were forced to read Shakespeare (and forced to take Geometry) in school, kids who get taught Evolution will probably wind up hating it.

We don't need people to teach Evolution. We need GOOD SCIENCE TEACHERS teaching in school systems that LET THEM DO THEIR JOBS. Good science teachers are not "people who understand science." Of course they DO understand science, but that's not what's most important. What's most important is that they know how to TEACH. Almost every battle I ever see waged over schools is about which textbooks we should use, which subjects we should teach, whether prayer should be allowed, etc. We're trying to cure skin cancer by covering the moles with cosmetics. Maybe one day we'll be ready to talk about textbooks. But right now we need to deal with stuff that's much more fundamental: the fact that teachers are mostly miserable, underpaid people existing in systems that thwart the rare real attempts to help student learn and develop a life-long love of learning.

If you want to be brave and cut through the bullshit, talk about how school isn't about learning, it's about popularity contests, force-feeding, busy work, socializing and grading. If schools REALLY valued and encouraged learning, it wouldn't much matter what they taught. Students would naturally become scholars. They would learn on their own. They would grow past their schools (a school only succeeds when students outgrow) and, when necessarily, prove school-learned facts wrong.

Babies and young children LOVE to learn. They are full-time, joyful learning machines. The US school system, which should be devoted to feeding, maintaining and celebrating that urge, instead manages to kill it in nine cases out of ten. School does the opposite of what it should do.

This discussion is a culture-wars battle, not a battle about real learning. It's like people are arguing over which is better, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" or "Happy Birthday To You." You know what's better? Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
posted by grumblebee at 8:30 AM on May 20, 2008 [13 favorites]


Maybe the teachers who answered that way were not taking the survey seriously? Maybe it was a joke?
posted by onepapertiger at 8:33 AM on May 20, 2008


When did the Catholic church become the reasonable ones anyway? My sister-in-law-to-be was just yanked this year from her scary Lutheran private school (where she was informed her mother was going to hell because she was divorced and re-married) and put into a nearby Catholic school. My future in-laws are thrilled with the new school. I went to her choir concert a couple of nights ago - it was a medley of show tunes.

I happen to be re-reading Ivanhoe right now, and things sure have changed since the 11th century.
posted by bonecrusher at 8:38 AM on May 20, 2008


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

A poverty of thought? I really don't understand. Did you just call aetheists dumbasses?

So Einstein - as an agnostic or aetheist - is someone impoverished of thought and appreciation of the Universe?

Come on. Has no one considered that part of the reason why Creationists and ID supporters are as rabid as they are might be because they're being openly mocked and ridiculed instead of debated?

Well, sure. We could debate anything. We could invite the Hollow Earth supporters, too. It would make nearly as much sense.

The problem with even attempting debate with Creationists (IE, intelligent design) is that they want to use this mostly fictional, wildly interpretive book called The Bible for the fundamental support of their arguments, while willfully ignoring (or at best, cherrypicking) the scientific data that refutes their argument.

That isn't actually "debate". Anyway, they have been debated. Almost 100 years ago in a court of law no less - in the Scopes Trial. The Creationists lost, and they've been poor sports about it ever since.

Why does it feel like we're sliding backwards from a point nearly 100 years ago?
posted by loquacious at 8:43 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Almost 100 years ago in a court of law no less - in the Scopes Trial. The Creationists lost, and they've been poor sports about it ever since.

Um, the creationists won. Scopes was found guilty. The Butler act was upheld and remained in place until 1967.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:52 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

The only part of that which I will agree with is the 'rather than being smarter'. It's a different way of looking at the Universe, and can be just as transcendent in its magic as the view of the most devoted theist. The only real problem between atheism and theism is when theists force a theological worldview onto everyone else. Having non-theistic worldviews promulgated in school, through the government, etc, doesn't cause a problem--those of us who are grownup theists (the vast majority) see our religious views as, to borrow another MeFite's phrase, a 'nifty prism to bend thought through,' and can quite easily reconcile our metaphorical/allegorical worldview with the facts as they are in the real world. Few Christians and Jews think that Genesis is literal, for example; it's just that the ones who do think it's literal are the ones with the loudest voices.

Atheists and theists are much, much more the same than we are different. What most atheists are up in arms about is the insistence, most egregiously in the USA, of the theists ramming their mythology down everyone else's throats. As soon as that goes on the wane, I suspect--hope, I guess--that atheists will also become somewhat less strident.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:52 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


or something equally mindless like shop.

Just dropping in to say that without shop, I would absolutely have failed geometry. I'm sorry you had a shitty shop teacher.
posted by rtha at 8:55 AM on May 20, 2008


Few Christians and Jews think that Genesis is literal

If by "few" you mean 60%[1], yes (at least talking about Christians . . . Jewish people seem to have retained some thinking capacity).
posted by tachikaze at 8:57 AM on May 20, 2008


tachikaze, that's 60% of Americans, not 60% of American Christians, according to the article. Yes, I realize that most of the 60% are self-described Christians.
posted by Mister_A at 9:04 AM on May 20, 2008


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

Don't be such a narrow concern-troll! What about the evil misguided billions of Hindu devil-worshipers and Muslim hell-bound polygamists and superstitious Buddhist who are totally ignorant of the evil of their ways and their lack of God's love.
posted by hexatron at 9:05 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ahem, tachikaze...
Belief in the literal veracity of these biblical accounts was highest among the fastest growing segment of American faith, evangelical Protestantism (nearly 90% acceptance).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:12 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

This is just plain wrong. Atheism is reflective of a lack of belief in god or gods, and very little more. In reality atheism can be a window to a far deeper appreciation of the universe than theism, as a fully natural place, as what it really is instead of how we wish it were. This is not an automatic consequence of atheism, but instead one of the many possibilities that are open once you eliminate superfluous supernatural entities.
posted by graymouser at 9:16 AM on May 20, 2008


graymouser, please. That's exactly the sort of atheist superiority bullshit that we need none of. Atheism is a window to appreciation of the universe, period. So is theism. Neither is inherently better than the other as a general worldview. In terms of science, obviously atheism is the only acceptable route. In terms of everything else? No.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:19 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Almost 100 years ago in a court of law no less - in the Scopes Trial. The Creationists lost, and they've been poor sports about it ever since.

The case you should be pointing people to is Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. It features Michael Behe on the stand where he conceeds "there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred", and that the definition of 'theory' as he applied it to intelligent design was so loose that astrology would qualify as a theory by definition as well.

The court ultimately concluded, among other things: "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."

Creationism/ID had its day in court, and lost. But it wasn't the Scopes trial.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

How extremely rude. And how very inaccurate.

For that matter, where are your contemporary theists who are rich thinkers? Who appreciate the universe, or love?

In fact, an underlying theme in Christianity is that the material universe is unimportant, "dross" as the phrase goes, compared with God's Majesty, and many Christians certainly act as if this is true.

In US today, prominent Christians foment war, destroy the environment, make many forms of love illegal. Please name the prominent atheists who do these things?

You must have a sad life if you find such contempt for such a large portion of your fellow humans. I really think you might want to take a closer look at your Bible, as I don't remember Christ saying, "Love your neighbor as yourself (except atheists)."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:24 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


TD strange, it is a pity that more people do not know about this case. But hey, Britney's gone mad again, so there you go.
posted by Mister_A at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2008


graymouser, please. That's exactly the sort of atheist superiority bullshit that we need none of. Atheism is a window to appreciation of the universe, period. So is theism. Neither is inherently better than the other as a general worldview. In terms of science, obviously atheism is the only acceptable route. In terms of everything else? No.

No, you're misrepresenting what I said, which is: atheism opens up the possibility to understand the universe without mapping our desires and wishes onto it. This was in direct rebuttal to a foolish and ignorant statement about atheists having a "poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe." It has nothing to do with "atheists are superior" and everything to do with defending the ability of atheists to have what I think is an ultimately better understanding of the world we live in. I was quite clear that I don't think this follows immediately or inevitably from atheism, which would be "atheist superiority bullshit."
posted by graymouser at 9:42 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Killick writes "Or at least obvious to those who toss facile and trite barbs at whole groups of people."

The only people with cause to feel slighted are those who got into teaching because they weren't qualified to do what they teach.

kozad writes "The others are, yes, the football and basketball coaches. And don't dis the shop teacher: we need electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and mechanics."

That's just it, being able to kick a ball in no way preps you to teach shop. Yet there is a strong cross over between the two at least in part I think because of a lack of standardized testing in these areas. Probably the same reason so many PE teachers also teach Health and Typing (do they still teach typing in high school?). I've often thought it's one of the reasons that practically every working machinist you see is a first, or occasionally second, generation immigrant.
posted by Mitheral at 9:45 AM on May 20, 2008


I feel sorry for those who are atheists.

Dude, I have a friend who's an atheist who makes the most awesome hamburgers. For realz. I will give you the recipe if you want.
posted by rtha at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


It has nothing to do with "atheists are superior" and everything to do with defending the ability of atheists to have what I think is an ultimately better understanding of the world we live in.

If they have a better understanding, doesn't that make them superior?

Atheists need to stop characterizing theists as stupid. Theists need to stop characterizing atheists as soulless and immoral. There are plenty of smart (and stupid) theists; there are plenty of moral atheists with strong senses of aesthetics (and there are also plenty of horrible, boorish ones).

These are infantile prejudices.
posted by grumblebee at 10:15 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I went to public school in Georgia and I had a 7th grade biology teacher named Mr. Davis. He was probably the most passionate science teacher I've ever had. I learned tons about human anatomy, plant biology and viruses. He used to make students with the hiccups stand on their desks and it never failed to get rid of them. Once or twice he would scare the crap out of us to demonstrate some of the quirks of the Limbic system.

At the same time, he was an unapologetic creationist, and I was the only kid in class to challenge his beliefs.

Ever since I could read I was a dinosaur nut. I learned all of the Greek and Latin translations for all of the dinosaur names. I'd memorized the the different eras in the Mesozoic period and knew what animals lived during which. So, I knew a little more about evolution and the fossil record than the average 7th grader.

Mr. Davis was not a dumb guy, but he would say some of the craziest, most inane things when it came to evolutionary biology. When I asked about why dinosaurs fossils were never found with human fossils, he replied that the heavier animals were swept to the bottom in the great flood first and humans tried to swim. (Never mind those baby dinosaurs found with their parents or all of those smaller dinosaurs, or even the aquatic ones...) Or one time when he brought up the lack of transitional fossils, I told him about the archaeopteryx that I'd seen at the natural history museum the week before. He responded that it was just the fossil of a lizard that had died on a bird. Aaaaah!

In the end, it wasn't the nonsensical responses that I got from someone who was supposed to be my teacher that really got to me, but the deafening silence from my classmates. No one else asked questions or disagreed with Mr. Davis's evolutionary beliefs, not even my best friend who agreed with me in private. She would do her best to study whatever was on the desk in front of her when the topic of Creationism came up. That's the part that still scares me as an adult.

And yet, somehow Mr. Davis is still one of the few teachers I think of fondly when I look back at my middle school education. Maybe that says something about the rest of the teachers in my crappy school.
posted by Alison at 10:17 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Atheists need to stop characterizing theists as stupid. Theists need to stop characterizing atheists as soulless and immoral. There are plenty of smart (and stupid) theists; there are plenty of moral atheists with strong senses of aesthetics (and there are also plenty of horrible, boorish ones).

These are infantile prejudices.


vs.

"An ABC news exit poll taken on Election Day 2000 found that among the 42% of voters who attended religious services at least once a week, 58% voted for Bush.

Conversely, Gore won 61% among the 14% of Americans who reported they never attended religious services."

from my link above.

Anybody who actually believes that the Noah's Ark story actually happened is none-to-bright. Fundamentalist Christianity either tends to make one selectively stupid, and/or it attracts stupid people (Fundies broke for Bush in 2004 at the ~80% level).

Sorry if this offends your sensitivities.

But to address your immediate point:

Obviously, "theists" as a class aren't stupid. The universe is a mysterious place and there is certainly room beliefs in the supernatural.

I have a close friend who is home-schooling his several bright children. I don't ask, nor do I worry too much about their science education since a) it's none of my business and b) if they are smart enough they'll figure out the BS about creationism eventually.
posted by tachikaze at 10:29 AM on May 20, 2008


Um, the creationists won. Scopes was found guilty. The Butler act was upheld and remained in place until 1967.

DOH!!! DOOOOOH!!! *head-desk, repeat*

Sorry, my mind is a jumble. Too much data in there.
posted by loquacious at 10:31 AM on May 20, 2008


If they have a better understanding, doesn't that make them superior?

Only to the degree that you can say this about any worldview at all. I don't think atheists are superior, but as an atheist I think that a not insignificant part of the value of atheism is in being able to see the world more closely to the way it is. This is very, very different from saying "all theists are gullible morons," which I think is very far from the truth. What you seem to be overlooking is that I am not making statements about atheists as a group, but about the possibilities that exist in a worldview that is often pilloried for reasons that are dramatically wrong. Please don't try and misinterpret it into something that it isn't.
posted by graymouser at 10:33 AM on May 20, 2008


No, you're misrepresenting what I said,

No. You said that being atheist opens you to a deeper understanding of the universe, which is clearly presenting it as the superior option. Which you then go on to repeat, while claiming I'm misrepresenting you:

has nothing to do with "atheists are superior" and everything to do with defending the ability of atheists to have what I think is an ultimately better understanding of the world we live in.

Clearly, a better understanding is not superior, right...?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:35 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mitheral, you're wrong about that. Most teachers that I know -- and I know a lot of them -- are pretty tired of hearing the "can, do, can't teach" equation. For the most part, they are people who are very good at what they do, and what they do is teach. It is a craft in and of itself, and it's what they've chosen to do with their lives, despite the financial disincentives and the lack of respect they know comes with the job.

I know a very talented English teacher who likens his decision to go into teaching to Huckleberry Finn's decision: "I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself, "All right, then, I'll GO to hell."

Here's the thing. We _all_ would like to see better teachers in public schools, and nobody wants that more than good teachers. But by repeating that stupid comment as if it's a deep and wise statement about teaching, you contribute to the problem. You are doing your small part to discourage talented people who might otherwise go into teaching, and encouraging people who are already teaching to leave. You've made a categorical error about teaching because you don't seem to recognize it as a skill in and of itself that goes beyond the requisite content knowledge.
posted by Killick at 10:40 AM on May 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


The National Academies of Science and UC Berkeley have excellent resources to help teachers understand and teach evolution. And a new site coming later this year to address science in general. Also, 2009 is the Year of Science.

The current school year is the first year in which science test scores count in No Child Left Behind. Students graduating from high school this month have been taught during their entire high school career in an environment where science doesn't count on the test, and teachers are strongly pressured to teach to the test.

For most future K-12 teachers (in fact, most college students period), their introductory science courses are terminal courses. In biology, this is a major problem. Introductory biology at most schools in the U.S. does not currently inspire great love or understanding of the discipline. That two semester course that is structured for maximum content at a great loss to synthesis and understanding (and what is evolution, if not both?) is likely the only biology course a future high school teacher ever gets. Is it any wonder that we are training teachers who do not understand basic science? That the majority of our population is scientifically illiterate? Do people honestly think this is due to innate stupidity or accident? Scientifically literate people can distinguish between rhetoric and evidence, a scientific consensus and politics, reliable statistics and spin with numbers. Our education system in general does not provide students with an opportunity to develop scientific literacy.

High schools are struggling to find new science teachers who majored in science. If you have a college degree and majored in science, there is demand for you in K-12 teaching right now.

I majored in science, as did many of my friends. Math, biology, chemistry. Advanced degrees. What do we all have in common? We all had a science teacher who nurtured our interests. Taught us creatively. Showed us science could be interesting and fun.

I think most of those teachers have left teaching now.
posted by Tehanu at 10:45 AM on May 20, 2008


and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

So... people who follow religion appreciate evil?

I knew it.
posted by quin at 10:45 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Appreciate Evil.
posted by Mister_A at 10:49 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dumbledore taught me everything I needed to know about love. And then JoAnn Rowling killed him, and it taught me everything I needed to know about evil.
posted by Tehanu at 10:56 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it any wonder that we are training teachers who do not understand basic science? That the majority of our population is scientifically illiterate? Do people honestly think this is due to innate stupidity or accident?

Pretty much, yes. Stupid is what stupid does. Given the choice of a sterile, cold, impersonal universe vs. the eternal existence of a loving Creator who sent his only-begotten Son to suffer torture and death to redeem us lowly sinners, if the public opinion polls are accurate most people in this country prefer to believe the fairy tale.

Americans are very good at believing our own BS. It's what got us to send 500,000 troops to Vietnam, and rah-rah when our troops marched off to war to remove the Baathists from Iraq.

Jefferson wept.
posted by tachikaze at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2008


tachikaze, you responded to my comment about atheists and theists by claiming Fundamentalist Christians are stupid. That's not a valid response to my comment, since I didn't say anything about Fundamentalists, one way or the other.

You then went on to say...

Obviously, "theists" as a class aren't stupid. The universe is a mysterious place and there is certainly room beliefs in the supernatural.

I'm not sure why you put quotation marks around theists, but I don't think your "Obviously" statement is all that obvious to many people. I've heard so many of my fellow atheists suggest that anyone who believes in God is stupid. Or, when they discuss religion, they only want to discuss Fundamentalism. Yes, Fundamentalists have large numbers and wield power, but they are not representative of all the faithful.

It's really worthwhile avoiding the suggestion that all believers are stupid (or forgetting that there are believers who aren't literalists).

It's a problem in the same sense way that "black people are criminals" is a problem. It doesn't help things if I say, "Well Obviously I don't mean ALL black people."

Finally, it's pointless to spend too long debating the definition of "stupidity," by I question the utility of categorizing Fred as stupid because he espouses an obviously erroneous fact as truth. There are all sorts of reasons people might do that.

For instance, some people might feel socially pressured into doing it.

Other people might just not have thought certain things through all that carefully. It's possible to be generally smart without being the sort of person who uses his intelligence in all areas.
posted by grumblebee at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Clearly, a better understanding is not superior, right...?

Stop trying to read things I didn't say into what I said. Let me clarify things for you: I do not feel that atheists are smarter or better than theists just for being atheists. I do not feel that atheists have a better understanding of the universe or the world just for being atheists. What I think is that atheism offers an understanding of the universe that is, quite simply, free of theism and all of its attendant ideas. And I think that this offers a potential for a better understanding of the world, but not the actuality. I do think that, in this particular way, atheism is "superior" to theism as a philosophy. But this is miles away from the "hurf durf atheists smart theists dumb" position you're trying to make it out to be.
posted by graymouser at 11:08 AM on May 20, 2008


I do think that, in this particular way, atheism is "superior" to theism as a philosophy

an important component of theism is the fact that people tend to inherit their particular theistic beliefs from their parents.

Science is not mutually exclusive -- its very definition is that anything in the body of Science knowledge is consistent with everything else within it -- while the world's religions most certainly are mutually exclusive WRT truth value.

Theists don't (generally) believe in abstractions, they bring BS fairy tales and constructed BS morality (eating lobsters is SINFUL!) to the table.

Science -- materialism -- secular humanism -- is simply the attempt to remove unsupportable BS from philosophy. It is not always successful, but we try.
posted by tachikaze at 11:18 AM on May 20, 2008


graymouser, I'm not trying to make it look like that. I am confining myself to precisely what you have said: you feel that atheism is superior. And that is precisely what doesn't help.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:18 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Given the choice of a sterile, cold, impersonal universe vs. the eternal existence of a loving Creator who sent his only-begotten Son to suffer torture and death to redeem us lowly sinners, if the public opinion polls are accurate most people in this country prefer to believe the fairy tale.

I go to science education meetings kind of regularly. I interact with science faculty who teach evolution quite a bit. They all take a clear stance on the culture war (they call it the war on science, and in many ways it is), but their religious beliefs are all over the board. One biology department I was in was well represented in Sunday mass.

Some of the more fundamentalist religious groups are trying to kill science. You are helping them by refusing to see that many, many people practice both science and religion. Science is not against religion. It's just that in the U.S. it's religious groups that have attacked science the most publicly and successfully in recent years. The two approaches are not at odds with one another. The Clergy Letter Project is just one example of this:

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

posted by Tehanu at 11:21 AM on May 20, 2008


graymouser, it's my position that it's not an "infantile prejudice" of mine to consider fundamentalist Christians (and religionists of all stripes, for that matter) as, for lack of a better term, seriously fucked in the head.

Public polling shows that Fundamentalism is, in fact, the dominant stream in modern Christianity.

We go around and around on this topic every time it comes up, but the fact is that the Billy Graham evangelical fundamentalist strain of Christianity has taken over the present Body of Christ in the US, with liberal theologians fighting rear-guard actions most unsuccessfully.

Evangelical fundamentalism offers a thoughtless, and essentially mindless approach to living in the world. It is also the driving force behind Creationism/ID.

It is making this nation stupider by the day.

Just wait until November when the Fundies re-write the California state constitution to exclude homosexual couples from the full benefits of state-sanctioned civil partnerships.
posted by tachikaze at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


See also: Sermons given in various congregations on Evolution Sunday. SUNDAY! SUNDAY!
posted by Tehanu at 11:30 AM on May 20, 2008


We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

This is the BS that PZ Myers rails against. All the secular world asks is to be able to call BS where we see it. For most of the previous millenium this was quite hazardous to our health, and because of this the Enlightenment has still got a tough roe to ho'.
posted by tachikaze at 11:33 AM on May 20, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy: I honestly think that anyone who doesn't think that their worldview has any aspect in which it's superior to any other worldview is being dishonest, either in how they present their worldview or in the fact that they hold it. I think that atheism gives one the possibility to see the big picture of the universe better. And a number of things in day to day life, as well. If I didn't think these things, I wouldn't be an atheist. In a culture where the chips are against atheism, I see nothing counterproductive about being an atheist and saying that it has elements that are worthwhile, and even better than theism.
posted by graymouser at 11:36 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Killick, quoting someone else: "It is obvious to anyone intelligent and questioning that there is a lot of truth in the adage "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
Or at least obvious to those who toss facile and trite barbs at whole groups of people.


Thank you, Killick. Many science teachers work their tails off trying to teach to a class peppered with good kids, along with a bunch of spoiled upper-middle-class teenagers whose parents frequently call and try to wheedle a better grade for their inattentive, logic-impaired children. These same teachers have advanced degrees in their subjects and are required to continue their education throughout their careers, but are paid less than half of what software engineers and lawyers and doctors are. They're entrusted with getting these same kids up to the Bush administration's standards, along with babysitting.

These same teachers, in my state, anyway, would teach creationism about as soon as they'd teach a section on gargoyles or zombies.

So I think the creationist-teaching "science" teachers are assholes. And so is anyone who insults all science teachers and other teachers with that moronic saying.
posted by theredpen at 11:50 AM on May 20, 2008


You're missing the point, graymouser, but it's clearly fruitless to try and explain it to you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:57 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


So Einstein - as an agnostic or aetheist - is someone impoverished of thought and appreciation of the Universe?

odd choice. Einstein often spoke of his religious understanding, a belief in Spinoza's god, deism, pantheism, Nature's God or however you want to describe it. He was usually quite dismissive of atheists who did not appreciate what he believed to be the unity and manifest harmony of the universe, and quite sure of a true order or original source in the philosophical sense.

Many atheists don't accept this level of religiosity as "real" religion, because it's harder to make fun of, but some portion of churchgoers are essentially in this camp. It's not as much a black/white question as these threads paint it.
posted by mdn at 12:33 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is a lot of truth in the adage "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach

I agree. The next step is to make teaching better paid than doing.
posted by fullerine at 12:46 PM on May 20, 2008


"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."
Albert Einstein
posted by elpapacito at 1:10 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Note to both theists and atheist: (Please, WILL EVERYONE IN THE WORLD STOP WHAT THEY'RE DOING FOR FIVE SECONDS AND LIST TO ME?)

It makes no difference what Einstein thought.

If Einstein thought there was a God, that doesn't mean there was or wasn't one. Same if he thought there wasn't a God.

So if you want to have an intelligent conversation about religion, leave Einstein out of it. Of course, if you want to score points in a game of one-upmanship, ignore my advice.
posted by grumblebee at 1:15 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


But what about all those random pithy sayings, false personal histories, and dirty jokes attributed to him? WHAT ABOUT THOSE, grumblebee?
posted by Tehanu at 1:21 PM on May 20, 2008


I agree. The next step is to make teaching better paid than doing.

FTFY. What teachers are doing is teaching, which is fucking hard work. They should be paid more for it, accordingly.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:22 PM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


It makes no difference what Einstein thought: Grumblebee's Corollary (to Godwin's Law)
posted by msalt at 1:39 PM on May 20, 2008


grumblebee is God! Or Einstein. Wait, that's it.

grumblebee is Einstein!
posted by Mister_A at 1:52 PM on May 20, 2008


grumblebee is Einstein!

I was going to disagree with you. Then I saw my hair in the mirror.
posted by grumblebee at 1:53 PM on May 20, 2008


It makes no difference what Einstein thought.
That's true, perhaps sadly so, that the Wu Tang or Paris would be a lot more influential, or the cast of Friend and Desp Housewives would have a lot more "cred". Not that there's anything wrong in these fine actors and let me underline _actors_ acting a script.

But to the teleevangelist/pious audience what the last predicator said is a lot more important and digestible than the math and physic one needs to appreciate fine details of Einstein theories ; similarly the next one who is Born Again is likely to come from that audience and needs an alternative identity, lacking the instrument to build one.

We need more Sagans, Feymans, Hawkings, Dawkings simply being themselves, articulate and interesting, fascinating. To quote Pink :
What happened to the dreams of a girl president
She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent
They travel in packs of two or three
With their itsy bitsy doggies and their teeny-weeny tees
Where, oh where, have the smart people gone?
Oh where, oh where could they be?

Disease's growing, it's epidemic
I'm scared that there ain't a cure
The world believes it and I'm going crazy
I cannot take any more
I'm so glad that I'll never fit in
That will never be me
Outcasts and girls with ambition
That's what I wanna see
Disasters all around
World despaired
Their only concern
Will they **** up my hair
posted by elpapacito at 2:11 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Of course God created the universe. Look upon the Standard Model and see His Design. Random variations may have created bipedal apes, but it didn't create particle physics.

But take heart, skeptics. Our God is a wise and benevolent creator. Having created relativity to guide the stars in the sky, and quantum mechanics to form the ground below, He smiled upon man and created classical mechanics, too. Pushed us from agriculture to space in the blink of an eye!

So don't get too depressed over some high school biology curriculum. And whenever the fundies get you down, just remember—God's got your back.
posted by ryanrs at 5:37 PM on May 20, 2008


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

It is better to keep one's mouth shut, and be thought a fool, than to open it and prove it to be so.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:07 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

Hell. I accept. Sure as hell no one else gives a rat's ass about me.
posted by notreally at 6:55 PM on May 20, 2008


Yeah, [school is] where they learn life skills, too.

i don't know where you grew up, but where i come from, life skills is what you learn *in spite* of school, not because of it. i'm always fascinated at the number of otherwise perfectly well-reasoning people who will actually say that kids should learn "life skills" from a couple hundred other kids of their own age (who are equally clueless) and a handful of education majors who are often more interested in their petty dictatorships than fostering the love of learning. i think i'd rather my kid learn life skills from... um... *living life* and a variety of adults who've managed to make a satisfying, successful example of one.

63% of home-school science teachers teach creationism. Made up statistic, but nonetheless true (give or take).

possibly so. but i certainly know a great number of homeschooling parents who go to great length to secure non-creationist science curricula and other materials. it is a main, frequently repeated topic of discussion on all secular or atheist homeschooling discussion groups. and many of those parents are refugees from christian-dominated public schools, for what it's worth. they are *obsessed* with getting their children a proper science education free from the equivocation participated in by so many science teachers who are trying to avoid controversy and criticism from the crazies. (i think that there are probably a lot of those, too, who are *not* creationists at all, but simply afraid for their jobs.)

while homeschooling conferences are often dominated by the fundies, since their customers are often the moms who are a little less educated and seeking "school in a box" sort of curricula, i think you will find a large number of independent sorts who are winging it with every intention of educating their children above and beyond what is possible for a teacher with a classroom of 30 differently abled students.

in any case, our homeschooled child is doing so if his free choice, and has been since third grade. his sister chooses middle school. if you met them, you'd be struck by the freethinking and curiosity still alive in the one who chooses to school himself with the loving support of more than three well-educated adults. (his science education is hands-on in a way that is, by the way, impossible in a classroom.)

We need year-round schooling in the US, with the summer months entirely devoted to math and science and language work.

right. let's take an overburdened, obviously and repeatedly unsuccessful, fundamentally fucked up system, and force kids to be incarcerated there all year long, whether they like it or not. that ought to work real well.
posted by RedEmma at 6:57 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


It makes no difference what Einstein thought.

No, of course it doesn't make a difference in terms of what you ought to think, but the point was simply, it is possible to have a more complex opinion than just "Jesus is real and he loves me" vs "religion is bullshit & we have everything figured out". You can be scientifically minded without rejecting all notions of god. Einstein's a good example because he's recent enough that people don't write it off as just historical accident, but it's sort of hard to claim he's just stupid. So maybe it's a legitimate opinion.

elpapacito, that quote doesn't disagree with what I said. Einstein had a nuanced, third-way sort of view of religion. He didn't think the bible was the answer. But he did not consider himself a fan of atheists for the most part, either.
posted by mdn at 7:19 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I'd like to see is ID taught in science class... as an example of how not to use the scientific method.
  1. Hypothesis: God Someone (or something or someones, but not aliens, that's just silly) did it, rather than genetics and / or mutation.
  2. Observation: Some things in nature are really, really complicated. There aren't useful transitional forms.
  3. Experiment: The transitional forms that weren't useful had other uses that helped the organism.
Somehow they never talk about that data that blows their hypothesis out of the water. Science is really humble when it includes the possibility that it's wrong.

Science isn't about memorizing data or even learning the latest scientific paradigms. It's about refining your ideas. Teach people to think critically, and no amount of propaganda will pass for science. Of course, everyone is willing to think critically about most things. But you shouldn't talk about that one subject. It's special.
posted by Monochrome at 9:07 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I'd like to see is ID taught in science class... as an example of how not to use the scientific method.

The first section of my astronomy course was astrology for that very reason. How's that?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:35 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


it is possible to have a more complex opinion than just "Jesus is real and he loves me" vs "religion is bullshit & we have everything figured out".

DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING

We have a winner.

Example: it's possible to see a metaphorical beginning to the Universe, and some sort of purpose outside of that which can be measured, while still thinking "Well of bloody course we evolved from an apelike ancestor, what are you smoking?"
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:59 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I find it somewhat embarassing that we've given ID/Creationism 200 comments of our time and effort. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't give the time of day to flat earthers or time-cube dude.

The correct response to those suggesting ID/Creationism be given space in the science curriculum is to laugh and laugh and laugh. And then say "No."

There really is no discussion to be had. ID/C is not scientific, period.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 PM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can throw up a native color picker dialog...
posted by ryanrs at 10:19 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


wrong thread
posted by ryanrs at 10:20 PM on May 20, 2008


I'm pretty sure we wouldn't give the time of day to flat earthers or time-cube dude.

Yeah, well, they don't run our country.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:48 PM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can throw up a native color picker dialog...

That's what happens when you mix your drinks.

Yeah, well, they don't run our country.

The "moral majority" and "fundamentalist right wing" are minority populations. There is absolutely no reason for them to be running your country provided the rest of you get out and vote.

Otherwise you're going to get shafted time and again by their bully-pulpit tactics.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 PM on May 20, 2008


But he did not consider himself a fan of atheists for the most part, either.
Not at all, but indeed Einstein is quite nuanced
There lies the weaknesss of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but "bared the miracles." (That is, explained the miracles. - ed.) Oddly enough, we must be satisfied to acknowledge the "miracle" without there being any legitimate way for us to approach it .
It seems to me that he was amazed by the level of order that one could find in the universe that couldn't be attributed to human mind ; that is, a thesis concocted by an human brain doesn't cause universe to conform or verify the thesis, nor to change its order, add or substract to it.

Whereas some would not only reject fairy tales, but also rejoyce in the idea of having obtained a "dominion" over everything by mereley rejecting the notion of unexplained. As they needed the notion of an "benevolent ordered" to feel safe, having discovered it may not exist that still want their own brain to be the a "well ordered, explainer of everything".

Certainly some atheist belong to that category, but not every atheist detest the mere idea of the unexplainable/unexplained.
posted by elpapacito at 2:25 AM on May 21, 2008


Science teachers aside, I remember reading Dianetics at my Catholic high school. What was up with that? I thought it was the dumbest book ever so I skimmed it and got a B on the report. I had no clue it was Scientology. Thanks Queen of Peace for shoving even more mystic bullshit down my throat.
posted by dasheekeejones at 3:47 AM on May 21, 2008


I feel sorry for those who are atheists. Rather than being smarter, atheism reflects a poverty of thought, and a lack of appreciation of the universe, including of love and evil.

Gee, thanks for your concern, BrooklynCouch. Where can I go to find proof that this "god" exists? I would really like to appreciate love and evil before I go to hell.

Nearly everyone I know who is a serious atheist has a post-graduate degree and a professional career in the knowledge industries. The largest number are PhD scientists. Now, I know a few smart believers (including members of my own family), and of course there are scientists who "believe" (though when you probe that belief, it's very vague and non-specific, a sort of "to each his own" or "these are different domains" belief).

If a social scientist ran an experiment to see what the most effective way of convincing people to be docile followers, to believe anything their social superiors tell them, to accept oppression, to justify/rationalize killing and cruelty ("God is on our side!"), or to avoid thinking rationally about hard subjects like where we come from, religion would emerge as a clearly effective tool for social cohesion and control. Indeed, social scientists have been saying this for a few centuries, certainly since Durkheim, based on the comparative study of world religions and their (innumerable) explanations for "love and evil," the origin of the earth or of mankind, or the moral agency of "god." You'd think all "believers" would be on the same side, yet differences over "belief" are among the strongest bases for "war" in human history.

So, as a social scientist, and an atheist, who has friends and relatives who believe, I am willing to say that in the aggregate, atheists are not the ones with a "poverty of thought." They are the ones who are willing to think as individuals and go against herd beliefs, as has been true of science's inexorable assault on the mythological beliefs of "traditions" since the origins of rational thought. You can make a rational argument that most people are not able to endure individual doubt, separation from the herd, or the sense of anomie that comes from realizing that most of your fellow members of society will punish you for saying something they don't want to hear.

Merely 100 years ago, most people (in the west, anyway) believed unquestioningly in the theistic explanation for the origin of life on earth. Science has effectively made that a marginal and crackpot belief, and very few people (even those who claim to) actually believe most of the creationist line.

The truth has a funny way of proving itself over time. As for me, I'm done waiting for "god" to show up and mete out justice, succor the righteous and smite the infidels, and all that. And I challenge first and foremost *any* claim you theists make to moral superiority, by asking you simply to prove either that we atheists are immoral or amoral a priori, or that societies governed by religious institutions and beliefs are better societies than those governed by science and reason. You put your hand on the scale when you equate being "spiritual" with being "moral" or "ethical," before you've bothered to find out whether you are "right" or "wrong" about the facts of nature and history.

And I guess, right down to it and speaking only of rough aggregates, it is clear to me that atheists, in general, *are* smarter than believers, in general. Or less delusional. Maybe it's "smart" in some evolutionary sense to follow the herd, not question received wisdom or ideas, or to believe in a fantasy that gets you through the night. But as I understand "intelligence," it entails grappling with what's true and real directly, and that's our best hope for survival as a species now that irrational behavior and belief has led us to the brink of species suicide.

Done.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:47 AM on May 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Here's the mistake that you people are making: you are conflating theism and fundamentalism. The latter is a subset of the former--a minority subset, more to the point.

And I challenge first and foremost *any* claim you theists make to moral superiority

The only claim to moral superiority I'm making here is that I'm not judging you for your choice of worldviews. Pity you can't do the same.

or that societies governed by religious institutions and beliefs are better societies than those governed by science and reason

That's a really lovely strawman you've got there. Nobody here has said that. In fact, everyone here has been saying why that's bad--including us poor widdew dewuded theists. So... try again?

You put your hand on the scale when you equate being "spiritual" with being "moral" or "ethical," before you've bothered to find out whether you are "right" or "wrong" about the facts of nature and history.

Ah, but I don't. Ethics and morals exist in both theistic and atheistic belief systems. Neither is inherently better than the other.

And I guess, right down to it and speaking only of rough aggregates, it is clear to me that atheists, in general, *are* smarter than believers, in general.

It would seem that you're the exception that proves the rule, then. Oh no, wait, sorry... you're just rude and unbearably smug, much like the rest of the shrill MeFi atheist brigade.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:36 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The only claim to moral superiority I'm making here is that I'm not judging you for your choice of worldviews.

That's mighty big of you. I also do not judge people for the belief that 2 + 2 = 4, or that the Earth is a sphere and that it revolves around the sun rather than the reverse. You might have trouble, OTOH, not judging people who think that 2 + 2 = banana, or that the Earth is made of fondue cheese and sits atop a giant turtle. But if you're up to the challenge, well then you're a bigger man than I.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:28 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


And that was you entirely missing the point.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:53 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


And that was you entirely missing the point.

I'm sorry, but I really think all this "you're missing the point" verbiage is condescending nonsense. Being an atheist means that one of my beliefs is that I am right and you are wrong about a minor, but relatively important in modern society, fact about the universe. Seriously. You, being a theist, think that you are right and I am wrong about a very important fact in the world. Seriously. And that means that, at the end of the day, you think that you understand the world a little better than I do, and vice versa. This has nothing to do with some kind of "atheist superiority bullshit." It's how worldviews work. Get off your high horse about it. The atheists in this thread are mostly defending our collective godlessness against charges that it is a "poverty of thought."

All things considered, while I think that the approach taken by some of the major proponents of atheism these days is skewed and one-sided, I do think that there needs to be a greater consciousness of the idea that atheists have some positive, worthwhile ideas about the universe. And you know what? I'm not uncomfortable saying that I think I'm right. Atheism has had such a hard time outside of the academic world for so long, it needs the chance to assert itself. Sometimes that'll offend sensitive religious types; but that'll happen when an idea has been misrepresented and casually undervalued for so long.
posted by graymouser at 9:48 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


fourcheesemac, we're on the same team, in that we're both atheists, but I'm bothered by quite a few things you wrote. I'm bothered, because you evoke science while making quite a few pseudo-scientific claims (or at least claims for which you provide no evidence). Those of us on the "science team" have a particularly strong responsibility to play by its rules:

If a social scientist ran an experiment to see what the most effective way of convincing people to be docile followers, to believe anything their social superiors tell them, to accept oppression, to justify/rationalize killing and cruelty ("God is on our side!"), or to avoid thinking rationally about hard subjects like where we come from, religion would emerge as a clearly effective tool for social cohesion and control.

If I understand your claim, you're saying religion makes people accept oppression and fuzzy thinking. Which controlled, repeated (repeatable) experiments prove this? I'll buy it as a hypothesis, but I can't see it being much more than that. I'm sure that if you look at history, there are many cases of religious cultures in which people accepted oppression. So what? Again, what should that do for us other than suggest a hypothesis? History is an extremely dirty test tube . Are you sure religion was the cause? Maybe it was a byproduct.

What you need to do is select people at random and form them into two groups. Put each group on an island and don't allow either to have contact with each other or the outside world. Then you need to (somehow) make one group religious and the other group agnostic or atheistic. Finally, you need to try to control both groups and see which group more readily becomes sheep-like. Call us back once you've done that!

yet differences over "belief" are among the strongest bases for "war" in human history.

Every book I've ever read about a war has made it clear that the war had many causes. What caused the American Civil War? Slavery? That would be an naive answer. I'll buy belief as a contributing factor, but I'm guessing most wars were also caused simultaneously by lusts-for-power, poverty, patriotism, fear, religion, etc., etc.

If we got rid of religion, would war stop? Evidence?

And I guess, right down to it and speaking only of rough aggregates, it is clear to me that atheists, in general, *are* smarter than believers, in general.

Based on what? Anecdotal evidence from your social circle? The major-league players who publish books (Dawkins, etc.)? Have you selected 100 atheists and theists at random and given them intelligence tests?

My anecdotal evidence has shown me many examples of angry atheists. Ones will never forgive mommy and daddy for forcing them to go to church. These people seem about as smart (and stupid) as most people I meet. I also meet plenty of smart theists and smart atheists. And plenty of stupid ones.

But as I understand "intelligence," it entails grappling with what's true and real directly

You're stacking the deck. You're proclaiming The Truth to be that God doesn't exist (and I'd agree with you there), and then you're saying that atheists are smarter because they face the truth. By definition, atheists are people who don't believe in God. So all you're saying is that atheists are smart because they're atheists. A theist could just as easily say, theists are smart because THEY face the truth -- the truth that God exists.

The saddest thing to me is that discussions like this turn into a pissing match about who is smarter. Shame on BrooklynCouch for dissing atheists. Shame of the rest of you for rising to the bait. Come on! Rise above this stuff. If you atheists care about facing the truth, then rise above your anger and face it! Do you think chastising BrooklynCouch will make him see the light? If not, what are you trying to do, win points?

I'll be convinced that atheists are superior to theists on the day they start acting more grown up than theists.
posted by grumblebee at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2008


You, being a theist, think that you are right and I am wrong about a very important fact in the world.

Actually, no. I think that I'm right for me, and the way you view the world is different. I see no inherent superiority in either camp.

I do think that there needs to be a greater consciousness of the idea that atheists have some positive, worthwhile ideas about the universe.

I never said otherwise.

Sometimes that'll offend sensitive religious types; but that'll happen when an idea has been misrepresented and casually undervalued for so long.


Could you please do me a favour and show me where I misrepresented and/or undervalued atheism?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:38 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually, no. I think that I'm right for me, and the way you view the world is different. I see no inherent superiority in either camp.

I really don't understand how you can say this is a serious position. There either is a god or there isn't. I'm not trying to boil all religious people down into fundamentalists, and I recognize that there can be some shadings (theists who aren't sure but have faith that there is a god, atheists who aren't certain there is no god but don't believe in god) but in material reality one position or the other is correct.

Could you please do me a favour and show me where I misrepresented and/or undervalued atheism?

No more than you could show me that I said anything that might be construed as saying "atheists are superior to theists" without twisting it beyond recognition. You seem to have developed a tremendous blind spot to the fact that BrooklynCouch was saying outright that atheism is a belief without value right in this thread, and the larger fact that this sentiment and much worse are commonplace in American society today. You have nothing to do with it, other than overlooking these facts.
posted by graymouser at 1:42 PM on May 21, 2008


I'm not interested in engaging someone who mocks me with baby talk spelling, so there's no point responding to dirtynumbangelboy.

Grumblebee, you have several points, and a nice peroration to bring them home. Of course there's no real "science" on which to base my claim, but then again I don't need to prove a negative, since we know of no society that is not organized, even if hypocritically, around some state (or tribal) religious identity, even if that means a state religion like communism. I'm just stating the obvious Durkheimian explanation for why humans believe in Gods, what it does for us in evolutionary terms (ensures group cohesion, manages anxiety, creates moral sanctions, enhances aesthetic pleasure, gives "meaning" to material existence, etc).

My basic view is that science is the perfection of the human religious impulse, actually. We're evolving culturally (and amazing quickly, actually) and have -- since the dawn of agriculture and animal husbandry, and continuing on to genomics -- gotten our own hands on the power of "God" to alter nature. We're way ahead of ourselves in coming to terms with it, however, and might just manage to off ourselves with our new powers before we ever do. For me, the bad stuff happens in the gray area between traditional and modern worldviews; I respect both, think both have a place in the world and society, but that their fusion under conditions of domination brings out the worst in each. It's why we have religious zealots pursuing the building of nuclear weapons in Central Asia today. Good times, all around.

So I was being an asshole about the "atheists are smarter" claim, mostly because I was in a bad mood this morning watching the news start to mention the spreading famine we are sure to see in the coming couple of years in Africa and Southeast Asia, at a minimum, and marveling at the idiocy of the foreign policy debate about having tea with Raul Castro or not.

May the best explanation for the material reality of our existence win; I doubt any of us will be here to argue about the outcome.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:15 PM on May 21, 2008


(But in the meantime, I want my kid to learn about evolution from someone who authentically understands that there is no way most of the creationist/ID stuff could be true, and who correctly recognizes that it is disingenuously cloaking faith in the mantle of science for political reasons, not in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake).
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:21 PM on May 21, 2008


It's a shame that bit of atheist-baiting by BrooklynCouch worked.

Because if it hadn't it would have been some kind of miracle and thus ABSOLUTE PROOF OF GOD.
posted by Artw at 2:24 PM on May 21, 2008


I really don't understand how you can say this is a serious position. There either is a god or there isn't.

I believe there is. You don't. It's an inherently unprovable thing. There is no superiority in either position. It's okay that you don't get it, but stop being a jerk about it.

No more than you could show me that I said anything that might be construed as saying "atheists are superior to theists" without twisting it beyond recognition

But you did say that, in several different ways. 'Smarter', 'deeper understanding', etc etc. But clearly words like that don't imply superiority. I must remember to get the dictionary that you're using.

You seem to have developed a tremendous blind spot to the fact that BrooklynCouch was saying outright that atheism is a belief without value right in this thread, and the larger fact that this sentiment and much worse are commonplace in American society today. You have nothing to do with it, other than overlooking these facts.

Um, no. Thanks for playing, but I never at any point said he was right. In fact, you might notice if you actually read what I fucking wrote that I said both positions are equally valuable.

I'm not interested in engaging someone who mocks me with baby talk spelling, so there's no point responding to dirtynumbangelboy.

Ah, right. You're allowed to insult me, but I can't mock you. That must be nice.

So I was being an asshole about the "atheists are smarter" claim

Yes, yes you were.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:53 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, this is certainly going well.
posted by msalt at 3:18 PM on May 21, 2008


Most teachers that I know -- and I know a lot of them -- are pretty tired of hearing the "can, do, can't teach" equation. For the most part, they are people who are very good at what they do, and what they do is teach. It is a craft in and of itself, and it's what they've chosen to do with their lives, despite the financial disincentives and the lack of respect they know comes with the job.

Thanks for defending us, Killick. People have absolutely no idea how much work it takes to be a teacher. It requires a great many hours outside the classroom improve our practice. I read professional journals on the toilet, in bed at night, talk to more experienced teachers before and after school, keep a "what worked today, what didn't" reflection journal, maintain piles and files of articles and ideas for lessons, and attend conferences and workshops on my own time and with my own money.

Teaching seems so easy when you watch a teacher doing it, but when you're up there with 60+ eyes staring at you, it's hard fucking work to provide 6 hours of instruction every single day. Even providing shitty instruction ain't all that easy.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:10 PM on May 21, 2008


P.S. I'm sprinkling you with my atheist sparkles right now.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:12 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I believe there is. You don't. It's an inherently unprovable thing. There is no superiority in either position.

No superiority to believing something, absent proof, versus refusing to believe in something, absent proof?

Wow. Ok. Yeah, you're right, I didn't get you. I was giving you entirely too much credit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:33 PM on May 21, 2008


But you did say that, in several different ways. 'Smarter', 'deeper understanding', etc etc. But clearly words like that don't imply superiority. I must remember to get the dictionary that you're using.

1. I didn't say atheists are smarter than theists. You are putting words into my mouth that I didn't say.

2. If you actually read what I said, I don't actually think that atheists have a deeper understanding of reality than theists. Atheism is quite a mixed bag, and I definitely don't think this is true of all atheists. However, I do think that there is an appreciation of the universe without illusions that you couldn't have without being an atheist, and that this appreciation is closer to reality.

You have proved something in this thread, though. Condescension and absurd relativism make for a very ugly mix.
posted by graymouser at 4:35 PM on May 21, 2008


HotPatatta writes "People have absolutely no idea how much work it takes to be a teacher. It requires a great many hours outside the classroom improve our practice. I read professional journals on the toilet, in bed at night, talk to more experienced teachers before and after school, keep a 'what worked today, what didn't' reflection journal, maintain piles and files of articles and ideas for lessons, and attend conferences and workshops on my own time and with my own money."

Oh, I know. I've been working in a supporting role in education for a long time (albeit at the secondary level). And it's great that you exhibit a high degree of professionalism in teaching, though not unusual (especially for someone who would hang around here). However there is a noticeable subset of instructors who either just don't care or are unable to exert that level of professionalism.

Like my 10th grade Social Studies teacher who would expound at length on the latest conspiracy theory straight from the page of the National Enquirer. Or my cousin's 11th grade CS (former typing) teacher who literally didn't know how to get hard copy out of a computer. Or those teachers who read the text book to the students (or even weaker have the students read it to each other) every single class.

Can you not think of even a single example from your education and among your colleagues of a instructor who probably couldn't do the stuff the curriculum requires from their students. The gym teacher who can't run the laps they require of students? The french teacher that speaks in broken english. The math teacher who can't solve problem not presented in the back of the book?

Or a Science teacher teaching ID? And not in a mocking, this is bad science sort of way but as an actual legitimate theory.
posted by Mitheral at 7:06 PM on May 21, 2008


However, I do think that there is an appreciation of the universe without illusions that you couldn't have without being an atheist, and that this appreciation is closer to reality.

That is, actually, not what you said. Good impression of a weasel, though. Well done. I can't be bothered with your insanity anymore.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:30 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I believe there is. You don't. It's an inherently unprovable thing.

God could prove it, if He wasn't such a pussy.
posted by ryanrs at 12:45 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cue: fainting spell
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:09 PM on May 22, 2008


Hey baby, I am what I eat!

knowwhatimsayin?

- God
posted by ND¢ at 1:05 PM on May 22, 2008


Put a Little Science in Your Life
posted by homunculus at 12:17 PM on June 1, 2008


Opponents of Evolution Adopting a New Strategy
posted by homunculus at 11:41 AM on June 4, 2008


Here's an article about PZ Myers: Blogger spreads the gospel of science, And controversy follows evolution's staunch champion

Myers expands on the article: Local Boy Gets Obnoxious
posted by homunculus at 11:11 PM on June 6, 2008


Richard Dawkins/PZ Myers tag team fantasy (possibly NSFW).
posted by homunculus at 11:14 PM on June 6, 2008


« Older Urban Pasifika, a sub-genre of hip hop which combi...  |  Leslie Low... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments