Sunday, 10 May 2009

Nit Picking

I have been listening a lot to a podcast called the Skeptics Guide to the Universe. This is a great show from New England in the US of A all about the skeptical movement in the States. That's the consensus of people that are pro science and common sense and set themselves to counter the dangerous myths that pervade society. That may be stuff like bad medicine of the homeopathic kind, creationists, charlatan psychics and so on. Basically it tries to promote the concept that when presented with an idea people should be able to understand what a good scientific and logical approach to analysing the worth of that would be.

Its presented in a very informal yet informative manner with great guests who have relevant and interesting material. There is a sense of friendship and humour that pervades the show without detracting from its important message.

However, as with many things I take an interest in, I worry that I am immersing myself too deeply in it. When I walk the streets or travel on the bus I listen to it. I started in at about episode 170 and there are all the back episodes available to catch up on. I even go to sleep listening to it. I will listen to the same show a few times as I am normally interrupted or have fallen asleep part way through and miss bits.

What effect is this show having on me? Well I am definitely a lot less tolerant of namby pamby spirituality. I'm talking about the kind of view that says that it is better not to try and explain the world because that'll make it less magical. Bollocks. I am finding contempt for the people that when faced with that which they do not understand decide it has to be magic or God that was the cause and or solution.

I'm a governor at my daughter's school and we had a meeting to look policy documents of some of the curriculum areas. One of those being checked was the science policy. Point 2 said that children should be encouraged to look in wonder at the precision and diversity of creation. In the States this would have been a massive thing as the Creation vs Evolution debate in public (state) schools is huge. Over here it is not nearly such an issue and I am sure that it was put in without thinking.

BUT that not thinking is precisely the thing that I have a problem with. This is a document about science, not religion. I had the sentence changed so that it said a sense of wonder at the world around them. But the looks I got from the other people there were terrible. Maybe I was imagining it but there was definitely an air of "what the fuck is he making a fuss about this for?" It is however lazy thinking and wrong. Creation may just be a word to some the word but having it there allows teachers to interpret it and use it in the lessons providing avenue for passing on their own skewed view of the world.

I am sure that some teachers are doing this anyway. My five year old son told me that he knew who had created the universe and that it was God. I asked him how he knew this and who had told him? Detecting that I was not agreeing with him he denied being told it and said it was nothing. He then followed up and said "actually dad, God didn't make the world, he designed it." I find this even more disturbing.

Creationism is a busted balloon as far as many people are concerned. There are those that stay clutching the string but some Christians have accepted the overwhelming weight of the evidence of evolution. Where does this leave them in their view of God the creator though? They step God down to the role of designer and first initiator and sit smugly back as they know this, as with most religious claims cannot be disproved. The very fact that it cannot be disproved makes it a poor theory in itself but that is by the by.

That my five year old son is spouting Intelligent Design bullshit is a concern for me. Not so much that I am going to march into the school and slap the headmaster, but enough to make me think I need to step things up at home. I don't want to indoctrinate my kids in any kind of belief but I would rather it was me than anyone else. Hopefully my children will grow to develop the analytical tools to be able to make sound judgments about the validity of the different claims they come across in their lives. Making mistakes is fine and part of growing up but they certainly don't need to have their heads filled with other peoples badly thought out crap.

If all I did was make a couple of people think twice about that statement in the policy then that in itself is not a bad thing. Words have power and those written into policy should be thought about better. I am probably labelled a crank but so be it. Better that than let sloppy science sneak onto the curriculum.