Friday, August 19, 2016

Barbara King Responds to the Critics of Her NPR Post

Barbara King, in a follow-up post to her plea to teach evolution to promote science literacy on NPR, responds to critics that her suggestions promote only one view of many different viable options to teaching evolution, and, therefore, deprives students of different views of a complex subject.  She notes:
With more than 4,100 entries in the comment section plus hundreds more responses on Facebook and Twitter, and private email messages arriving at my inbox, too, I haven't attempted to categorize the responses in any formal way. More than a few were startling, like the warning that came to me via email that because I was supporting "programming children" in my views on evolution, God "will have to allow you to go to a particularly brutal place (yes there are levels of torment in hell), and you will consciously have eternal regret."

But there was also genuine concern that evolutionary scientists, including me, advocate forcing children to learn one way and one way only. In response after response, the idea was put forth that all views about how and when life appeared on Earth should be taught so kids can make up their own minds.
She also takes direct aim at the John Ellis article on PJ Media, which I also addressed.The responses she cites, however, indicate something very ominous: many, many people out there have no idea how science proceeds, or even what it is.  One response she quotes is this:
"Shouldn't we leave people to decide what they believe? Our nation is too large and too diverse to have a nice black and white, right vs wrong answer to group everyone into. It was a nation founded upon religious freedom. Freedom to believe, freedom not to believe. We're all losing sight of that and creationism vs evolution isn't the only place."
This is so backward, I don't even know where to start. As I noted in my post on this subject, science is not democratic. You can't vote for the kind of science you want. Teaching alchemy is not a viable alternative to modern chemistry. There is no justification for teaching the theory that there is a giant vacuum cleaner inside the earth that is responsible for things falling to the ground. There is no empirical justification for it. She reiterates this:
Freedom to believe anything one wants in the religious sphere is incredibly important. I'll have no part of scientists' religion-bashing. People who celebrate a 6,000-year-old Earth and the sweeping effects of a "great flood" on Earth and its inhabitants in church have as much right to do that as any of us have to espouse our particular brand of religiosity — or of agnosticism or atheism.

In my Ark Encounter post, my point is different: When it comes to science, we shouldn't let our children believe anything they want. Science isn't about belief.

Children need to be taught the facts from geology, biology, anthropology and other sciences, how those facts were determined, and how those facts will be refined with new knowledge over time. Ark Encounter, its sister attraction the Creation Museum, and their creationist supporters push religion as science; they claim that evolutionary "theory" means the science is wishy-washy on facts, which is a major misunderstanding of what theory means in science; they push false information as fact. None of that is OK.
This message is lost on people like John Ellis, who think that teaching evolution as modern science constitutes “scientism slurping” and “science worshipping.” What would people like Ellis have us do? There seems to be very little realization that the same methods that we apply to engineering, astronomy, geology, biology and medicine, we also apply to evolutionary science. For some reason, evolutionary science is separated as if it were some wholly different enterprise.  I rather suspect that Ellis wouldn't describe an aerospace engineer as “scientism slurping” in working out the construction of a rocket engine. Yet, he has no compunction at doing so for evolution.  How do you reach people like this?  Especially people like Ellis, who has no science background at all? 

I'm open to suggestions. 

1 comment:

  1. "There seems to be very little realization thatt he same methods we apply to engineering, geology, biology, and medicine, we also apply to evolutionary science."

    Good point. In fact, I wholly blame creaiotnist's attack on the integrity of evolutionary science for opening the door to allow geocentrism to become a thing again. If you can successfully confuse the evidence in one arena, you can do so in others.