Monday, October 03, 2005

Should Absurdity Be Taught As Fact in the Classroom?

A well-written article in the Boston Globe a couple of days ago has gotten a lot of play around the Internet. The author, Jeff Jacoby, works up, slowly and deliberately, winning you over as a friend first, casually setting the context for his case. He wants to argue that, whereas in the 1920s Darwinisn represented liberal enlightenment and was opposed by closed-minded fundamentalists, today the Darwinists have become the close-minded ones, the "thought-controllers," opposing the liberal and open discussion of diverse ideas. It is very clever indeed. In his words:
When John Scopes went on trial in Tennessee in 1925, religious fundamentalists fought to keep evolution out of the classroom because it was at odds with a literal reading of the Biblical creation story. Today, Darwinian fundamentalists fight to keep the evidence of intelligent design in the diversity of life on earth out of the classroom, because that would be at odds with a strictly materialist view of the world. Eighty years ago, the thought controllers wanted no Darwin; today's thought controllers want only Darwin. In both cases, the dominant attitude is authoritarian and closed-minded -- the opposite of the liberal spirit of inquiry on which good science depends. The timeless truth of creation

It really sounds unfair, doesn't it? Those mean old scientists won't let anybody believe anything different from what they believe.

Let's take another theory, one that was just as controversial in its time. Let's say that some scientists insisted on teaching that the world was approximately spherical, and followed an elliptical path around the sun. But another group believed the earth was flat, and that the sun moved through the sky, up in the East and down into the West, to be reborn day after day. Those round-earthers insisted they were correct, and refused to even debate those who differed from them. They fought tenaciously to see that the schools taught their version, and kept the other guys' story out of the classroom.

This writer would call those Copernicans "thought controllers," wouldn't he? Why, they had no tolerance at all for other people's beliefs!

This is an exact analogy to the present time.

We will see the same thing in Montgomery County, when the Ones Who Sue will try to insist, in court, that the schools should teach that sexual orientation is a choice, and that it can be changed. The scientific evidence is accumulating, day by day, and it is showing that there is not a choice. Nobody believes it is a choice, except for those who must believe it for reasons other than the inherent correctness of the idea. The facts say it's not a choice, the logic connecting the facts says it's not a choice, but if your pastor insists that God says it's a choice, well, there you go, you have to believe that.

I sympathize with those who are put in the situation of having to believe things that are obviously just plain wrong, because of their religion. But you know, they will argue it passionately, they will want you to agree it's "unfair," that it's "intolerant" not to teach their absurd beliefs alongside factual ones.

No, it's not, it's neither fair nor tolerant. It's just wrong to teach absurdity as fact in the classroom. Just wrong. Flat earth, intelligent design, "ex-gays."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The scientific evidence is accumulating, day by day, and it is showing that there is not a choice. Nobody believes it is a choice, except for those who must believe it for reasons other than the inherent correctness of the idea."


What does questioning mean again? It's not a choice, you are either gay or you are not because that's the way you were born, but some folks are really still questioning whether they are gay or straight, because even though they were born gay or born straight - they haven't quite figured out which they are yet ?

Having a little trouble following this scientific logic.

And then there's ...

October 04, 2005 12:40 AM  
Anonymous Tish said...


In spite of the good work of science, human sexuality remains a glorious mystery. No matter how much we learn, we will never know it all. (At least I hope not. Perish the thought that my grandchildren will be matched to their ideal mates by bioinfomatics systems programmed to recognize the chemistry by which we fall in love with one person but not another.)

Questioning one's sexuality is not contradictory to a genetic/biological profile. Many, many young people are attracted to people of the same sex as well as the opposite sex. These attractions are usually fleeting. They are usually not acted on. But they represent a normal curiosity that comes with a developing self-identity.

Furthermore, we cannot discount the importance of society. All of their lives, our children have been told stories about girls and boys, men and women. We don't think twice about telling them that when they grow up they will be paired with someone of the opposite sex. Combine that clear expectation with the overt hostility to same-sex couples that pervades our culture and you get young people who really need to question why they have same-sex attractions.

The Queer by Choice folks are telling us that they--and we-- have the right to determine who we are. Does that trouble you? But even within their argument for choice, they doubt that they can freely "chose to turn hetero." If you are simply passing their webpage URL around as though it is by itself the foundation of your argument, I suggest you go back and read what they have to say.

October 04, 2005 9:19 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Hey Anon, it looks like you missed the TeachTheFacts forum. Sexual orientation has been shown to have a genetic component, it has been shown to have neurological components, twin studies confirm at the macro-level what the biological data show at the micro. Self-report studies, as well, show that people don't choose to be homosexual any more than they choose to be heterosexual. Do you remember choosing?

No peer-reviewed study has ever shown that sexual orientation can be changed.

Some people want it to be a choice, as that would be consistent with their other beliefs. But the empirical evidence strongly suggests otherwise.


October 04, 2005 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon said, " are either gay
or you are not..." but that is
not the entire truth.

There is a third sexual
orientation beside heterosexual and homosexual: bisexual. People
who are attracted to members of
the same AND opposite gender are bisexual. Many bisexuals are not
exclusively homosexual or
exclusively heterosexual, and the
gender of their preferred partner
may change over time.

We can either tell our teens that
in addition to heterosexuality,
homosexuality and bisexuality
exist (fact), or we can tell our
teens that there is only one way
to be and all other ways are
sinful (religious view).

I prefer facts be taught to my
kids health class. If I want them
to receive religious instruction,
I will arrange for that privately
outside of school.


October 04, 2005 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today, Darwinian fundamentalists fight to keep the evidence of intelligent design in the diversity of life on earth out of the classroom...

Can anyone tell me what "evidence" they're referring to? I hear this argument all the time from the ID folks. "We just want our evidence to be allowed on the same table." But WHAT evidence?

It seems to me that an abstract theory--without any physical evidence to accompany it--doesn't deserve to be discussed alongside a theory which has been tested scientifically over and over. (Albeit not PROVEN, but no teachers are telling kids that evolution is a fact.)

October 04, 2005 5:16 PM  

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