Monday, August 01, 2005

Religion and Politics

Since I've made several posts about creationism, and several about politics, I thought I'd combine the two with my views on teaching creation in schools.

I believe in special creation. It is a belief--it is not, and cannot, be scientifically proven. Nor can it be scientifically disproven. It was a unique event in history. A major advantage of creationism is that it incorporates the testable, repeatable, aspects of evolution: micro-evolution, mutation, natural selection, adaptation, population bottlenecks, the island effect, etc. Since I'm quite confident someone will bring up radiometric dating methods, you can read about them here. What I reject is evolution's unique historical events, which, let me stress, can neither be proven nor disproven.

I do not support teaching creationism in schools. I do not support it because of attitude inoculation: "How might we stimulate people to commit themselves? From his experiments, Charles Kiesler offers one possible way: Mildly attack their positions. Kiesler found that when committed people were attacked strongly enough to cause them to react, but not so strongly as to overwhelm them, they became even more committed." Myers, David G. Exploring Social Psychology. 2nd ed. p. 136. Having teachers who do not believe in creation teach creation will inevitably lead to its being argued for weakly. (Note, I am not discrediting the abilities of the teachers, nor their objectivity, but there are almost always verbal and nonverbal cues that let someone know, intuitively, that the person does not believe what they are saying.) Those students who accept evolution will have their beliefs weakly challenged, which will make them even more committed to those beliefs. Thus, in my hope for conversion, I would strongly prefer that we don't inoculate most of the population against my beliefs.

I would prefer, however, if we did not teach evolution either. No, I am not accusing schools of deliberately indoctrinating students, but the process of indoctrination has several aspects which are shared by education: attitudes follow behavior, the communicator, the message, and the audience. First, "people usually internalize commitments they have made voluntarily, publicly, and repeatedly." (Ibid. 132.) How could you better describe answering questions in a classroom? Second, the teacher is a very credible communicator. Since one's parents sent you to school, and, one assumes, one trusts ones parents, one should also trust the teacher. Third, the message, shrouded with the scientific aspects of evolution that I mentioned above, is readily accepted. Fourth, those who are in school are children. Their attitudes and beliefs are still maleable. They are surrounded by their peers, and therefore don't want to express any belief which might expose them to ridicule. Even if they didn't care about their peers, their ability to successfully counterargue against a far more knowledgeable and articulate teacher, is highly unlikely.

There is an enormous amount of extremely non-controversial science that can be taught. Add an extra chapter on chemistry. You can teach the geologic column, but add half a paragraph about lamination of sediments (though one does not need to use that term). Teach more about genetics. Spend the few days that would be spent teaching evolution teaching how mathematics (the least controversial of sciences) is used in this field. For example, give examples of how we calculate the variety of bird species using sampling. Show them how chemistry and physics are chock-full of calculations. In short, stop teaching about science and start teaching science. Teach the tools, and let them use those tools.


Anonymous Mom O. said...

I agree with you, as a teacher I do not teach either creation or evolution. When the unit comes up, I skip it completely because I refuse to teach evolution and I am not allowed to teach creation. I also agree that I would not WANT a person who does not believe in creation to teach it, because they would not teach it in a believable manner, and would therefore most likely cause the students to not accept it as a fact anyway. Good thoughts and well written!

9:56 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Good thoughts and well written!

How very teacherish of you. Getting back in the groove, huh?

7:35 AM  

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