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I'm a consulting geologist for a small company in the Denver area. I study problems related to active tectonics, using geomorphology, structural geology and remote sensing.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"dogmatic indoctrination"

what a load of crap. i've just run across a story published by the bbc about a new group in the uk who are attempting to introduce the concept of intelligent design to public school curricula. like most well-funded religious groups, they have 'freely' distributed learning materials to many schools... middle-schools mostly. the group calls itself, "truth in science" and states that much of what is, "taught in school science lessons about the origin of the living world has been dogmatic and imbalanced."

now... to hear a group (which touts intelligent design and creationism as having valid scientific value) call a system, based on empirical evidence and which has withstood the rigors of the scientific method and community at large for nearly 150 years, "dogmatic and imbalanced" just cracks me up. granted, the bible (among other religious texts, but specifically the bible) has been around for well over a thousand years, but was never written based on observed data. it was written by a large group of men about what other men had said, and has been subsequenty subject to innumerable interpretations because of this. moreover, little or none of what is stated in the bible about the creation of the earth and species was directly observable by anyone involved in writing it. strictly speaking, it could qualify as hearsay. i know that is a harsh term (one that i'm sure some people would be willing to kill over), but one that i think applies and is impossible for anyone to logically refute.

"truth in science" does bring up some interesting points on their website about the fact that school curricula are limited in their scope... but these are 10-year olds, for god's (facetious pun intended) sake! I fully agree that discussing the short-comings of darwinism and exploring the scientific ramifications of the idea of intelligent design is a completely valid and potentially very useful exercise, but that discussion has a place and time: college philosophy, ethics, molecular biology and divinity courses, to name a few. civilizations have risen and fallen before philosophers or religious groups have been able to agree on any universal truth, while science has 'designed' a reasonable explanation for probably 90% of our level of understanding of reality (allowing that there is potentially much we still do not understand).


I think the issue of "indoctrination" is an interesting one, especially when it concerns two groups of opposing (or at least mutually exclusive to a certain degree) 'understandings' of reality (rather than use the terms 'knowledge' or 'belief'). one group's education is another's indoctrination, when said education excludes an understanding held to be 'truth' by one group or another.

i argue that a well-balanced curriculum should be attempted, but that 6th grade classrooms are not the place to introduce complicated metaphysical concepts to our children. for now i would focus on observables; dna progressions & gaps, taxonomical evidence for (and against) evolution, age determintions based on scientific (radiological and cosmological) evidence, etc. most importantly i think, is that children be taught to question things, to resist indoctrination... which of course includes questioning religion from a critical and scientific standpoint (something which i think is often glazed over by religious interests), as well as questioning our ever evolving science-based understandings of the world around us.


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