Open thread on episode #859

Matt and I did the show today, and though there weren’t any theist callers of note (we think the one we got might have been a weak troll), we had at least one feisty call with an atheist viewer, who tried to make an argument in favor of allowing creationism to be taught in schools. As you’ll see in the episode, we thought his whole argument was informed by a naivety in thinking that students who were only at an introductory stage in their education would be able to evaluate (and do so correctly) creationism’s claims without first having an actual grounding in the basics of skepticism and critical thinking (which I sure as hell wasn’t given in junior high or high school). It was essentially a recapitulation of the “equal time” arguments creationists themselves have attempted to use down the years, except the caller thought that science and evolution would benefit from it.

Leave your thinks below.


  1. says

    I was very frustrated by the “can’t we all just get along?” atheist caller (clearly you guys both were as well). Like you said, Martin – we’re talking about 13-18 year old kids; the whole “teach both ‘theories’ and let the kids talk it out and let them decide” or whatever variation of it that guy was on about is completely inappropriate for a science class. Early high school classes are almost by definition introductory; clarity regarding the current state of knowledge should be among the top priorities when introducing topics 90% of your students might never have heard of.

    I just don’t know why it wasn’t good enough for him that discussing creationism in a comparative religion/religious studies/philosophy/social studies/civics class was acceptable to the hosts. Creationism is certainly a significant problem socially & culturally, especially in the United States, but in most other developed nations and among working scientists globally, creationism is practically irrelevant. Science classes should be about teaching the tools and methods and relaying the most relevant information, not debating local skirmishes with fundamentalists.

    He may have been an atheist, but that caller just came off like an uninformed corduroy & Croc-wearing crunchy with no actual understanding or appreciation of the damage creationists have done and want to continue to do to science education using endless variations of the very approach he’s talking about. I don’t know what the creationists have attempted in Hawaii (where he was calling from) but mainland USA has been dealing with attempts by politically motivated creationists/ID proponents to dilute or gut science education for forty years. A tiny bit of research (which, in hindsight, I would’ve counselled him to undertake had I been talking to him) would tell him that.

  2. congaboy says

    In regards to Lawrence Krauss and William Lane Craig. They did three debates in Australia. During the third debate, Krause called Craig a liar, because he continued to put forth the same statements despite Krause and numerous others having shown that they are completely untrue and patently wrong. Krause called Craig a liar to his face, on stage, and gave specific examples.

  3. Grant says

    Hey Martin

    Interested to hear you talk about pre-suppositionist tactics in relation to how William Lane Craig operates in debates. I was the other guy in your mini-spat on Twitter with @jkolear the other day – a pre-sup who was intent on using those exact same tactics. Interestingly, on a closer look into his feed Joseph turned out to be an evolution-denier as well. I know that’s much more common in the States than it is where I am in the UK, but it galls me to listen to someone try to lecture me on science when their whole approach is an anithesis to the whole disclipline.

    You all have my sympathy in having to put up with so many of these people, including some who are in positions of power. For us here, whilst we don’t have separation of church and state, those kinds of views are generally treated with the dis-respect they deserve.

    For example, I think it may have been on the Non-prophets, but it was mentioned that a member of the UK Independance Party here (a fairly right-wing political party who) had blamed our recent flooding events on the changing of our laws to allow gay marriage. This guy was absolutely pilloried by our national press and pretty much told to shut the fuck up by his party leader, who then went on to suspend him.

    The religious people I engage with to tend not to have such world views such as young earth creationism, but getting an understandable definition out of them of what it is they do believe in is a darned sight more difficult than someone with more black and white literal views.

    They do wheel out the same accusations of persecution when they’re faced with repeated questions about what it is they do believe in though. There’s only so many times that the old ‘God is love’ non-answer comes back at you before your impatience becomse obvious.

    I think that’s why I’m interested in the tactics used by our Pre-sup friend. They’re obviously weasily in nature, so perjaps it would be worth working out our own methods in exposing them rather than trying to deal with them on the fly whenever one of these slippery characters reveals him or herself on Twitter or elsewhere.

  4. says

    I love that, despite being clearly explained what the problems where, he’d start right in on the “… but why not let …” again, as though it hasn’t been thoroughly explained in detail.

    And apparently the only reason to pick creationism over other possibilities is because the caller personally finds it interesting. But once we’ve included other possibilities, it may as well be a philosophy course, anyway.

  5. Robin Brown says

    Completely agree with the caller who said his previous worst movie was “Eyes wide shut”.

    It pulled off the remarkable coup of simultaneously filling the screen with gorgeous naked women AND being unbelievably boring.

  6. congaboy says

    I don’t know whether Krauss was the first to do it, but this was the first time I had seen anyone call Craig a liar. I’ve only seen about a dozen debates against Craig though.

  7. corwyn says

    without first having an actual grounding in the basics of skepticism and critical thinking (which I sure as hell wasn’t given in junior high or high school).

    Why not? We are moving to a new paradigm in education. Many of the facts that we previously had to drill into children’s heads, can now be acquired by a trip to Google. The problem with Google is that none of the information there is vetted, and in order to get *true* information from it, one needs a firm grounding in skepticism and critical thinking. I would put those skills as more important than knowing multiplication tables for example (not multiplication itself of course). It should be taught at the elementary school level or before, and please don’t tell me that can’t be done.

  8. corwyn says

    “‘teach the controversy”

    “You mean Darwinian Evolution vs. Lamarkian Evolution?”

    This has the various advantages of showing that 1) Yes, Darwinian evolution did have a rival scientific theory. 2) That Creationism is not the default should Darwinian evolution be debunked 3) Actually teaching something about the way that actual scientific theories are debated.

  9. jacobfromlost says

    I think I “kinda sorta” understand where the caller was coming from. I teach high school English, and multidisciplinary lessons are not only encouraged but quite helpful much of the time in helping students see the relevance of education and how it all connects.

    The problem is that creationism as such isn’t science, literature, or history. At best it’s mythology, but bringing it into a science lesson to “debate” the merits of the myth over the science is idiotic (it jumps disciplines, contexts, and scopes simultaneously). It undermines the very focus of what your teaching in the very context the subject is important. No, not just important. VITAL.

    It would be akin to reading Beowulf in mythology class, and having students object to scientific errors in the myth while you are in the middle of reading the story. The point of reading myth is to help us exercise our imaginations, understand who we are emotionally, how we interact with other people, how we deal with adversity, and how to deal with the difficulties of life through a “larger than life” myth. It’s NOT to discover how to hold your breath for a day so you can swim to the bottom of lakes to kill the mothers of monsters (who may or may not exist–why don’t we debate the issue?).

    Students GET that quite easily. The inverse is not so easily understood in a science classroom–at least not understood by enough students to be concerning, and a biology teacher who gives credence to creationism by introducing it him or herself is NOT teaching–they are misinforming and confusing about the subject, their subject, that the students are already often misinformed and confused about. (At least if they introduce it in a favorable or even plausible light and spend any significant time on it at all).

    That being said, the issue still lingers even if a student or students do not bring it up. And if they DO bring it up, the teacher has to be ready to deal with it or both the teacher and the subject will be undermined. It can’t look as if you are “shutting down debate”–it has to look like, and actually be, TEACHING. You must quickly and seamlessly connect whatever the issue is to something they understand easily, employ the Socratic method, draw pictures, teach like your HAIR IS ON FIRE!

    But you can’t, under any circumstances, say OR EVEN IMPLY, “Maybe that thing that undermines all of what we know about reality (creationism), that thing that undermines everything that is the very purpose and focus of this class might be true…and maybe biology class is just wasting your time.” And just maybe all of science is a waste of time, too.

    That would be the epitome of incompetent teaching in any context. (Can you imagine teaching your 3 year old that maybe he doesn’t need to look both ways before crossing the street because the hand of god will protect him? Let’s debate the issue and see if the 3 year old wants to take the time to look both ways or if he wants to believe a loving god wouldn’t let him get run over. That’s the choice we are giving high school students with incompetent teaching. “Would you like to work hard and crack the books to learn about how wondrous reality is and how it actually works, or would you like to believe in a different reality and not expend any mental effort at all while getting the support of family, friends, and church? Your choice.” Guess which one the teens will pick?)

  10. kestra says

    I strongly dislike the pithy phrase that going to AA is “trading one addiction for another.” Going to AA every week may be tedious, and so far as an atheist I haven’t found a group that is at all helpful due to the god-talk. However! Unlike an addiction to alcohol, AA’s stilted conversations and weak coffee will not eventually kill you. A group that emphasized recovery and managing cravings, rather than Jesus, would be more helpful. But for those who do find the god stuff helpful, I’d much rather they sacrifice an hour or two a week than die of cirrhosis.

    I totally agree with the criticism that AA claims their BS 100% success rate by discounting everyone that AA hasn’t helped, or can’t help. I couldn’t be more outraged that, when confronted with a serious, chronic alcoholic, after treating the withdrawal symptoms, the best the doctor could offer was “Join AA, it is the only thing that works.” Fuck you, Dr. NoRealHelpWhatSoEver. Fuck You.

  11. Dagor_Annon says

    I think my question to this atheist would have been “Is there no other way to encourage critical thinking?”
    We could ask WHY a pen drops to the floor… exploring that can lead to answers and questions that strain our current understanding of physics.
    We could ask ‘Given this theory of selection, what would we expect to find in genetic analyses? This could lead to discussion of ‘junk’ DNA, expectations for where we would find nearly identical chunks of DNA, perhaps even come to developing expectations that there would be differences that exists only in populations descended from a ‘parent’ population, not in other populations.
    In other words… we could encourage all of the questions that would allow kids to counter creationists’ claims, without ever bringing up the topic, without giving creationist teachers the explicit chance to put their own spin on it, without giving kids who believe their creationists parents’ BS the easy ability to derail the entire class.

    TL;DR: We can help kids explore the subject without giving creationists an opening / taking extra time out of the class.

  12. AhmNee says

    Much like Starship Troopers 2. Not even full frontal nudity could save it from being nigh unwatchable.

  13. AhmNee says

    It’s not a matter than it can’t be done. It just isn’t. Disclaimer, I’m not an expert on education and only have my own experience and experience of what my kids were taught in school. But it seems that there needs to be a much, much greater focus on skepticism and critical thinking taught in schools.

    Personally, I loved science as a kid and still had an awful foundation mired in magical thinking. Simultaneously holding a respect for the scientific method and believing that there are just things that science can’t answer (Ghosts, Psychic phenomina, etc.) I even became an atheist for all the wrong reasons. I learned more about being a skeptic and critical thinker from Penn & Teller than I ever did in school.

    Since I learned a much better understanding of what it means to be skeptical, I’ve tried to instill those values into my children but half their lives they were being unintentionally indoctrinated into the sky wizard club. I still bristle when my daughter posts astrology links to her Facebook page.

  14. AhmNee says

    Since when does every addiction kill you? I’m pretty certain addiction is not defined by whether it’s detrimental to your physical heath.
    I’m nearly positive I’m addicted to video games. But I manage my addiction, though I’m sure I could manage it better at times.
    Some high functioning alcoholics are low-risk, social alcoholism for instance.
    Psychology Today – The High-Functioning Alcoholic –

  15. chrisrums16 says

    I believe the caller arguing for the teaching of creationism was the same caller from the Oct. 13th #835 episode who was trying to push for “out of body experiences” – his voice sounded like Hawkeye from Mash or like Lee Strobel the mega church pastor. He kept making the point that he was an atheist then stuck with pretty hardcore Christian debating tactics.

  16. Sadako says

    I was taught in middle school that ‘websites that end in .com are bad and are trying to sell you something–you should only trust .org, .gov, or .edu websites’ (and then if we ever had to do internet ‘research’, we weren’t allowed to have any .com websites in our bibliographies because ‘THE ‘.COM’ MEANS ‘COMPANY’, THEY’RE BIASED AND TRYING TO SELL YOU SOMETHINGGGG’).

    Yes, information literacy and technological literacy are increasingly things that go hand in hand, but Google isn’t the only source of information in the universe–students still have to be taught how to use their library’s resources, be taught how to ask informed questions to get informative answers out of experts, be taught how to do solid research, and be taught how to gather and process their OWN information. Google is just one tool out of many, and in almost every case, it’s better to not have to repeatedly search for basic facts. Sure, all of the equations and information you need to pass an intro-level college Physics final exam can be found in the 600-page textbook, but someone who has attended the class and been taught the material (and who has also taken the relevant mathematics courses to support their studies) will be able to complete the test in the allotted 90 minutes, while someone who hasn’t, won’t.

    Having a wide variety of basic facts immediately available to you because you learned them in school will pretty much always be better than having to say ‘OK Glass, google ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ and then having to study the material the moment knowing about it becomes necessary.

    …Though teaching elementary-aged kids how to be a literate and savvy Google-user would be an excellent use of time in a basic computers class–time which would otherwise be spent with the teacher saying ‘Okay, everybody go play Oregon Trail while I pass out for an hour’, if my elementary school experience is anything to go by.

  17. Sadako says

    Excellent points, all. Teaching that ‘God did it’ is not the default is incredibly important, since it’s assumed by so many people to be the case. (Also, I personally really like history of science, so any mention of it makes me smile.)

  18. kestra says

    As Matt said on the show, our medical understanding of addiction and treatment are still in their infancy, which means public literacy on these issues is much, much worse. For instance, there is very little understanding about the difference between having a *psychological* compulsion to do something (like video games) and having a *physiological addiction* to that thing (like heroin, which changes the chemistry of your brain, and as a result your body will manifest physical reactions when cut off from a source.) And most things that are *physiologically addictive* can and will kill you with habitual use, either through overdose or through long-term chronic health issues, like liver failure.

    Alcoholism, unfortunately, is both psychologically and physiologically addictive.

    You can be an alcoholic and yet not have an alcohol dependency. Plenty of people drink to feel good, to escape worry, to be social (our society has maaybe one social ritual, “going for coffee”, where alcohol is not expected to be offered or consumed. In pretty much any other social situation, a lack of alcohol on offer is shocking, while a refusal to drink is strange.) However, many (most) alcoholics, over time, develop an alcohol dependency that will result in physical symptoms of withdrawal if they stop abruptly. This process is called detoxing and can be dangerous, even lethal. Plenty of alcoholics who can “quit whenever they want!” find that they have unknowingly become alcohol-dependent and fail to follow thru with the detox as a result.

    Again, unfortunately, once you’ve detoxed, you can go back to drinking without becoming physiologically dependent, but can re-develop that dependency if you don’t change your drinking patterns. Thus recovering alcoholics who try to drink “socially” and end up where they started. This is why there is such a huge emphasis in AA on how long you’ve been sober and being completely free from alcohol, because it is so easy to start back down that road, especially for people who have already habituated their bodies to steady alcohol intake once.

    I’ll also cynically add that any “high-functioning alcoholic” is just one bought of unemployment or martini lunch away from dependency, or is there already and won’t admit it. I mean, if any my friends were alcoholics, I would have *no way* of knowing unless they told me, because I almost *never* see them without beer or liquor being present. How do I *know* they stop drinking after the party/bar? How do I know they don’t have a three-vodka breakfast? I don’t, any more than they know those things about me. I’ll end with this: If you need to justify to yourself that you don’t have a problem because “I don’t drink before five!” or “I don’t miss work because of hangovers!” or some other arbitrary limit, you may already have a problem.

  19. jacobfromlost says

    “TL;DR: We can help kids explore the subject without giving creationists an opening / taking extra time out of the class.”

    What do you do if one, two, or 10 kids say, “But what about Intelligent Design Theory? Doesn’t that make more sense?”

    Simply ignoring that, or shutting it down without addressing it effectively/quickly, will not only prompt a knowing smile on the faces of those kids, but on the rest of them as well…and they will all start to think that science is just another faith, and that the teacher is just playing a game to hide the truth. All too often, this IS what happens in science classrooms.

  20. Monocle Smile says

    It’s only to be addressed if the kids raise it. And a quick “it’s untestable and unscientific” with a few lines explaining why is all you need.

    And then when parent-teacher conferences come up, there need to be policies in place such that teachers can advise parents honestly to stop poisoning the minds of their children without fear of a lawsuit.

  21. jacobfromlost says

    “It’s only to be addressed if the kids raise it. And a quick “it’s untestable and unscientific” with a few lines explaining why is all you need”

    That would not be effective (just think of the callers to AE; those are some of your students).

    And perhaps nothing would be effective with some people, but a better strategy (that would sway some) would be to use analogies and the Socratic method to lead them to the proper conclusion. Hopefully the science teacher would have a variety of previous lessons to point to (remember when we did XYZ and why we then concluded ABC?).

    Simply telling students, “This is the way it is, and that’s it,” won’t work. They’ve already been told that at home about god, Jesus, and Creationism, and for those who already bought it, you are not giving them a reason to change (or even making them aware that such a reason could exist).

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not saying you should spend a class period or periods on this, but the sad fact remains that if you don’t deal with it at all, you won’t be teaching ANY science to many of those kids. They’ll just parrot back to you what you tell them to, and leave the class marveling at god’s creation and pitying the poor, unenlightened science teacher. (Or worse, plant the seeds of doubt about science in some kids that had never thought about it much before.)

  22. Monocle Smile says

    I hate saying this, but it’s not the job of a schoolteacher to shovel the mounds of dogshit out of a child’s head that their parents plant there daily. There’s really not enough time to deal with religious bullshit in this manner.

    I’m not saying to sell the children a “just-so” story. Explain WHY ID is untestable, and that only takes a few sentences. It’s stupidly simple. Even doing this in Socratic fashion should only take a few minutes. Then move on. That’s all the teacher can really do. I could go into detail about how requiring science teachers to be fully equipped to answer every possible stupid creationist inquiry with rigor is extremely unreasonable, but as a teacher, you probably already understand this. I mean, to teach English, you’re not required to be a successful novelist and renowned literary critic, are you?

  23. Sadako says

    That last guy is against public education (in its current form) altogether–when you asked if history teachers should spend time debunking lunar landing hoaxes, he said ‘I think it’s all a waste of time anyway, so yes’.

    That call was physically painful. The caller clearly hasn’t spent time in the public schools for a long time, and probably hasn’t spent time around a lot of middle school and high school students. Yes, some of them will be particularly gifted in logic and/or STEM fields, and while I certainly believe that classes ought to cater to the highest level of achievement rather than the lowest common denominator, what he is asking for is not a reasonable expectation for middle and high school students. Even the most gifted among them are not properly equipped to debate the same questions that Ph.D-holding scientists, who have been conducting studies on the subject in question for longer than the students have even been alive.

    Case in point: One day in an advanced science class, one of my old high school classmates tried out this sort of naive assertion of his opinion on psychology in relation to genetics. My teacher DESTROYED him over the course of five minutes (turns out that if you’re teaching a class on genetics while pursuing a terminal degree in educational psychology, you’ve studied a lot more genetics and psychology that a high schooler–go figure). Being halfway through a high school level course in ANYTHING is not enough preparation for students to intelligently draw conclusions or debate these topics–especially not with someone who actually has the training, is actively participating in the research of that field, is reading journal articles on cutting-edge discoveries and techniques that most high school teachers, let alone students, don’t have access to, etc.

    Public middle schools don’t teach philosophy classes (they barely teach Spanish, for sobbing out loud), and I’d wager that the number of high schools offering philosophy is very small. Students at this level would thus be ill-equipped to have a philosophical discussion about the worthiness of creationism, even amongst themselves–at best, the teacher spends the allotted two minutes saying ‘There is this idea out there and thought I’m going to describe it in a way that makes it sound dumb, some parents and religious groups are going to claim it as a victory’. At worst, students come away thinking that the ideas have equal merit–or some smart ass whips out a half-baked version of solipsism and now the whole class thinks we’re just living in the Matrix, so who cares.

  24. Monocle Smile says

    Also, I think you’re portraying students as both smarter and dumber than they really are. I’m not that far removed from high school, and I have a hard time believing that the students sharp enough to see past a science teacher’s “weak” rebuttal of intelligent design wouldn’t also recognize ID for the specious, dishonest propaganda it is.

  25. rocketdave says

    Matt’s going to be debating Eric from Arizona? The same Eric who called a couple years ago wanting to debate, but couldn’t get past his first point about something being unable to come from nothing? Does this mean he finally figured out why the rejection of that assumption was not the same as saying that something can come from nothing and/or that he admitted it was dishonest of him to conflate those two things? Well, in any event, that should be an interesting debate to see.

  26. Sadako says

    This is an especially big concern since the kids who are trained to ask their teachers ‘Were you there?’ and ‘What about Intelligent Design?’ are being trained to do that specifically to undermine the teacher’s authority on the topics. They’re told ‘These questions are magic bullets that will prove that your teachers are idiots who are the tools of SATAN, and that YOU are the smart one because you believe in GAWD. Then everyone in your class will want to come to our church, and you’ll win brownie points with Jesus!’

    The questions are, more often than not, inherently dishonest. The student doesn’t have a genuine interest in how ID stacks up, they’ve been told by a pastor or their parents that evolution is evil and if people ‘believe in it’, they will go to hell, so they have to be David to their teacher’s Goliath and win souls in the classroom. The child doesn’t understand that they’re being used as a tool in a dishonest game.

    A quick response clarifying that ID is a religious idea, not a scientific one, will help keep the class on track. But it should only be a RESPONSE–teachers don’t need to bring up the idea of Flat Earth or Holocaust Denial, they merely should be ready to address it should it come up.

  27. rocketdave says

    I recall liking that movie as well, though I only saw it one time, fifteen years ago when it was in theaters, so I guess I haven’t been super anxious to watch it again and I’m not sure what my opinion would be if I saw it now.

  28. jacobfromlost says

    From my experience as a teacher, there are several things that people outside just don’t seem to get.

    One: critical thinking is HARD. Most adults can’t do it very well. Kids today are immersed in magical thinking constantly, and then we expect them to enter the classroom and have it magically disappear. It doesn’t. (Many teachers stand in front of them every day and directly or indirectly wallow in magical thinking as it is–it may, in fact, be why they got the job. Cronyism, nepotism, and failing upward is rampant in education.)

    Two: we drill into kids that there is always a “right answer”, and so “I don’t know” becomes anathema to learning in school…when, in reality, “I don’t know” is the starting point for any authentic learning. Pushing standardized test as extremely high stakes and extremely important reinforces the idea of a “single right answer” as what education is all about. (Pass the test and that must mean you are fine.) Common Core is trying to address this a bit, even with all its other faults.

    Three: there are political realities to being a teacher, and any lesson that attempts to examine any pseudo-scientific claim will end up stepping on a lot of toes. This has a chilling effect on direct teaching of skepticism in relation to critical thinking. Should teachers just say, “The hell with it,” and do it anyway? Probably. But we are under such a barrage of attacks as it is, only the very best of us risk it. (The attrition rate of teachers is extremely high–most leave before 5 years, and many of those aren’t leaving because they sucked. They’re leaving because there are too many factors that make it impossible to do your job and they could make twice as much elsewhere with half the effort.)

    Four: quite often a curriculum is already planned out for you via the school district. Depending on where you teach, you might have a lot of latitude to do something else (like teach skepticism directly), or you might not. This circumstance isn’t under the teacher’s control.

    Five: The kids who need the most help get the least resources, and the teachers who teach the kids who need the most help are either 1) kept as happy as possible (whether an effective teacher or not) so they don’t leave because no one else is there to replace them (since no one wants that job), or 2) blamed for every problem the kid comes in the door with until they get promoted, become an administrator, or quit. (Whether 1 or 2 usually depends on who your friends are, and not much else.)

    Six: Many kids barely come to school, and yet you are still held responsible for teaching them critical thinking and everything else (BTW, it is impossible to think critically about something you don’t know anything about; the basic facts must be taught first, and very often this is a slow, difficult slog that outsiders just don’t get). In my last school, everything that was “required by law” was done in English class because everyone had English. And since that was the practice for REQUIRED stuff, they just did it for everything else, too. What did that mean? 3 days for MAP Testing (measure of academic progress) in the fall and 3 days in the spring. 8 days of WASL/HSPE state testing. 2 days for AIDS awareness. 2 days to schedule classes for next year. 1 day for Jostens. 1 day for health survey. (And half a dozen others I can’t remember.) So if you were a student and came every single day, you’d miss a month of instruction in English class. Imagine the average student who is gone 30-50 days a year.

    Seven: I don’t know what the answer is, but there is a culture of anti-intellectualism and anti-education in this country that is apparent in everything from politics to school funding, and “critical thinking” is just another casualty piled on the rest.

  29. jacobfromlost says

    “Also, I think you’re portraying students as both smarter and dumber than they really are.”

    Sure, because you have BOTH kinds of kids in your classes–the kind that would be able to see through it instantly, and the kind that don’t quite get it and think, “Well the teacher doesn’t seem to be able to address why evolution makes sense. Maybe there is something to creationism. (shrug)”

    Our job as educators is to be as effective as possible at educating.

    You might say, “but it’s not the job of a schoolteacher to shovel the mounds of dogshit out of a child’s head that their parents plant there daily,” but in reality, it is.

    Teachers are held responsible all the time for grades, test scores, etc, and all of those things (good OR bad) may not be connected to ANYTHING the teacher did or didn’t do. The heat is being turned up on us all the time. I just found out that my third professional certificate (that I’ll renew in 2017) will require me to do FOUR professional growth plans in the 5 subsequent years. This is the first time I am aware of that requirements have changed retroactively for anyone in the middle of their career (people are still working on “lifetime certificates” they got in the ’70s and ’80s with no adjustment; I started teaching in 2002, so I guess I’m thrown under the bus). I was required to do ONE professional growth plan for my first pro-cert, which took at least 100 hours (I’m guessing much more but I’ll be conservative), and now the four professional growth plans are only giving us credit for 30 hours each. Not to mention the fact that they are upping our number of evaluations (by people who never taught our subject), and mudding the waters with a convoluted new evaluation rubric (which could easily be used to say you are great or terrible, depending on the eyes of the person who evaluates you).

    When this is how you are treated as an educator, it becomes palpable how little society values education…which makes it even more difficult to instill the value of education into students. For the first time in my career, it has become very difficult for me to recommend to any of my students considering teaching as a possible career choice. (Although I’ve already heard back from some I had last year that I inspired them onto this very path. What am I supposed to say if they ask me about it directly?)

  30. says

    Happy Birthday Matt!

    BTW I thought of you yesterday when I noticed the ‘Threadgill’s’ sign hanging behind the stage while watching a video of Eilen Jewell performing there on YouTube. I kept saying to myself ‘Where do I know that name from?’ until I noticed the ‘Austin, TX’ on the sign LOL

  31. AhmNee says

    To add to what Monocle Smile has said here, it’s also not necessary for the Science Teacher to debunk the ID argument in class. Just point out that science class is not the place for that debate. A quick description of why ID/creationism isn’t science, especially since this class is where we’re teaching the scientific method in the first place, should be enough to demonstrate that fact.

  32. scourge99 says

    Lamarckian evolution and “Darwinian” evolution both assume evolution. Lamarckian evolution isn’t really and alternative to evolution. Its still evolution, just evolution with a different mechanism. Creationists often reject that evolution even happens or they try to push for the micro/macro distinction. So from a creationists point of view, teaching Lamarckian evolution isn’t really teaching an alternative.

  33. scourge99 says

    A friend of mine who has dealt with substance abuse and worked in abuse centers told me something that changed my perspective. He said, once you become an alcoholic or drug abuser (for example, pain pills) you are always one. Its just something you have to live with and manage the rest of your life. You have to cut yourself off from them completely because just having one often causes relapse.

    I had thought substance abuse was just something you could get “cured” of and then return to casual use of. Apparently its not.

  34. jacobfromlost says

    You must have seen those “Malibu Treatment Centers” peddling “the cure.”

  35. Monocle Smile says


    Both of my parents and one of my sisters are educators (the other sister is the director of communications for a school district), so I I feel you. This country continues to demand more and more from its teachers and compensate them less and less. It’s truly sad. In fact, my parents were just part of a protest because the district wanted to slash salaries drastically despite a big equity.

    That’s why I say it’s not your job to beat the stupid out of your students. I say this DESPITE the country placing that burden on you. It sucks, but educators have enough shit in their lives without having to cater to every chunk of woo kids bring into class.

  36. corwyn says

    Neither *assume* evolution. Both *observe* that there is a great diversity of creatures on this planet, and try to explain that. Creationism either doesn’t explain it, or uses evolution to explain it. 7000 ‘kinds’ of animals must have gotten to the current diversity in 4000 years somehow.

  37. kestra says

    Yeah, this is another perception that people who aren’t addicts or don’t know any (or know that they know any) often have. A lot of people seem to think that if you go thru withdrawal/detox, attend rehab, and get clean, then you’re “fixed”. Therefore, if you relapse, it is your fault for not being “strong enough” to stay away from your addictive substance.

    Yeah, no. Addiction is a disease, but it is often the result of people using addictive substances to self-medicate other issues. Classic example: the many people who start seeking pain management and end up addicted to opiates. So now you’ve got two problems. Which is another reason I find AA and the doctor’s advice to “just go to AA” to be unhelpful. The addiction is real, and exists, independent of the underlying issues that caused the addiction, and you have to treat *both* if you hope to have any progress.

    And sometimes the sad fact is that the pain (physical or mental) that the addict was using their substance to treat is just worse (in their opinion, which is the only one that counts in their path to sobriety) than the consequences of the addiction. A lot of people have a “come to Jesus moment” or “moment of clarity” which was really the point where the addiction consequences finally became worse than the thing driving the addiction. Tragically, a lot of these moments are perceiving the pain the addict has caused others, rather than seeing what the addiction is costing the addict in terms of health.

  38. AhmNee says

    I don’t know about calling him a liar on stage, but here’s his youtube follow up where he essentially calls him a liar.

  39. says

    I can’t recall that caller’s voice but they both seemed to be of a similar woo-y bent. Yet more proof that atheism isn’t a stone-carved guarantee that you’ll give up all your bullshit.

  40. rodney says

    It’s actually one of my favorites, I have the special edition DVD and everything. Oh well, I didn’t care for the Lord of the Rings (gave up after the first one), so to each his own I suppose.

  41. says

    I think my dad, a public high school science teacher for 30 years (now retired), would’ve responded to a request to talk about creationism in his biology class thusly: “If you want to talk about mythology, talk to your Classics teacher.”

    Then again, here in Oz we don’t have nearly the same kind of trouble with creos as you do in the US. We might have an ultra-conservative god-bothering corporate slave of a Prime Minister who’s intent on gutting public education (among other razor-gang policies), but the creationist culture never really got a foothold here (case in point: Ken Ham left Queensland and hung his shingle in the target-rich environment of the US Bible Belt). We’re only 22 milliion; not quite enough for the nutters to form a critical cultural mass able to influence policy. That’s not to say they don’t try and that’s not to say religion has no influence in schools – it certainly does (chaplains in public schools & occasional “religious education” seminars [read: sermons in the library] paid for publicly, for example), but we don’t see school boards infested with creos and science gets left to its own devices.

  42. Monocle Smile says

    I agree entirely. High school is far too early to be messing with this, at least with our current system.

    Parker is advocating for a version of a Montessori school for older kids. And this is fantastic for teaching kids HOW to think, but in science and math, there’s just a bunch of raw information that needs to be communicated and it’s a waste of time to sit around and “speculate” (minus the implied bong hits).

    Furthermore, Montessori-type education only ever works with kids who have families that make education a priority. You take a kid whose parents or guardians don’t give two shits about their academic performance (and probably don’t have books in the house) and put them in a Montessori school, and they’ll drown. They simply won’t be able to keep up.

  43. bigwhale says

    It’s not true that alcoholics will always be alcoholics and can never have a drink without relapse. I know my good friend quit drinking for a few years, but now can have a drink or two and be fine. I know I’ve also heard of a study. It’s interesting how much AA ideas have become cultural fact.

    It’s not a matter of just detoxing and then it’s okay to drink again, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent problem either. Some people do know one drink will lead to a dozen, but it’s not a universal truth.

    Saying “alcohol changes your brain” bothers me because playing video games changes brains, too.

  44. bigwhale says

    Yeah, the caller sounded like he was coming from a place of education killing creativity and putting us in the little boxes of society, man. He just wants to rage against the machine.

  45. pac1261 . says

    The original statement, where Krauss openly calls Craig a liar, is in his brilliant opening remarks from (I think) the third Australian debate. The whole presentation is worth watching and starts about 23:00 in the following link. Please ignore the idiotic title of the page, it was the only link I could find. The video itself seems legit.

    Krauss/Craig debate

  46. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Video: Beating Cigarette Addiction, The Latest Evidence (38:30)
    Lecture by Prof. Robert West (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health)

  47. Sadako says

    Oh man, this. Montessori is a GREAT approach for young kids to teach them how to enjoy the process of learning. But if a child isn’t a self-starter, isn’t motivated (and as you said, if parents don’t care about education, how can the child?), then they’ll never get far in a Montessori setting, and getting ANY students to be motivated in middle school is a ridiculous challenge.

  48. b. - Order of Lagomorpha says

    I had thought substance abuse was just something you could get “cured” of and then return to casual use of. Apparently its not.

    It can be. AA treats everyone as if they have a drink, they’ll plunge into rampant alcoholism again. I was an alcoholic–a “functioning alcoholic”, but one never-the-less. I got drunk at least once most days. Faced with the possibility of losing my husband, I stopped. Dead stop–no alcohol for about two years. As it now stands, several years down the road, we have tons of alcohol in the house–I don’t sneak any of it. I have the occasional beer, sometimes two at the most. The last time I had a (as in one) beer was during the Superbowl (Go Hawks!). I missed having a Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day because it just didn’t sound good that evening.

    I realize that anecdote doesn’t equal evidence and this is somewhat long-winded, but it is perfectly possible for a person without AA, without appealing to some “higher being”, without some weird-ass therapy/rehab to stop being a drunk and to have a beer or two or whatever from time-to-time without being a habitual drunk. A large part of that is relearning to trust yourself and your judgement. As I told a friend who’s a “graduate” of AA: “Look, I’m not any stronger or better than you. You stopped drinking for precisely the same reason I did: by virtue of your own damned willpower. You just needed some extra trappings is all; the achievement is still yours and yours alone. Take the credit for it.”

  49. houndentenor says

    High 5 to Martin for his “forced to gay marry an anchor baby” comment. Bravo, Sir!

  50. houndentenor says

    It’s too rare an occurrence. People are hesitant to call someone a liar even when they are caught in repeated bald-faced lies.

  51. says

    Ooh, Matt’s got some interesting debates coming up. Eric from Arizona is not backing down from his “something from nothing” stance and I look forward to hearing them grind away at it for another 40 minutes (because they couldn’t get anywhere in two whole shows). Of course, the best part of those eps was Tracy, sitting there silently the whole time, then stopping everyone cold with the simple conjecture: “Can you actually have a nothing to examine? Can non-being be?”

    But the big one — mark your calendars — is Sye Ten Bruggencate, May 31.

    And you know how this one is going to turn out because Sye is a mono debater with exactly ONE debate tactic , and he’ll repeat it to you over and over again until you give him the answer he wants. Matt, I don’t know if you read these comments, and I know you don’t like to do any research, but I implore you to make an exception in this case.

    Sye has been in a lot of debates, and they ALL end up the same way. He is vile, antagonistic, arrogant and conniving, and he will ask you the same question over and over again. He’ll attack you with Munchausen’s Trilemma, and he and Eric Hovind have come up with a succinct system of wordfoolery.

    He will ask you, in these exact words: “Is it possible that you could be wrong about everything you know?”

    This is a trap. I’ve watched Sye debate a lot of atheists and they all give the same answer (“yes”), because they want to be honest about the limitations of their knowledge. The yes answer is the trap — he will then follow up with “if you could be wrong about everything, then you could be wrong about anything, thus you’ve given up knowledge and I don’t have to listen to you anymore.” The debate is done for him from that moment forward. Everything you say after that, he will interject with “but you could be wrong about that.” And he will repeat that line over and over again you give up or he is kicked out of the room (which has happened to him on occasion. His dismissive and antagonistic style is not well-received by moderators”).

    Of course, his conclusion is faulty on its face because, if you noticed, he did the ole switcheroo of the words “everything” and “anything”. As if they mean the same thing. He and Eric Hovind like to do that a lot. To them, everything/anything/nothing are interchangeable words to be used to assert knowledge claims. Be aware when they do that.

    But you don’t even have to go that far to refute his conclusion. The better answer to “could you be wrong about everything” is a resounding NO. And if he asks you what you could know for certain and aren’t wrong about, simply tell him that you are certain that you know that you could be wrong about everything you know. But more importantly, that you derived this knowledge absent from God. Because that is ultimately the point he wants to make: That all knowledge comes from God, and without God you can’t know anything. But if you can prove to him that you can know something that did not come from God, his whole argument falls apart.

    Expect to argue in circles over this point for 2 hours. He doesn’t go down without a fight. He has a hard-coded script and he doesn’t deviate from it. THIS is what you will be debating about. It’s all he wants to talk about. He’s not interested in anything else. You won’t talk about evolution, science, biblical accuracy or anything else. He will brush it off in a single line (“I’m not a biblical scholar/I’m not a scientist/I’m not a historian, but I’d like to get back to my point…”) and get right back to his script. He is remarkably inflexible at debating anything outside his scripted comfort zone, which is a single presuppositional apologetic: The veracity of knowledge claims.

    He’s not much of an Apologist, either.

  52. gshelley says

    I think the main argument against Creationism (other than it is entirely religious) is what would you teach? you can say people think the earth is only 6000 years old and nearly all life wipe out in a global flood 4000 years ago, but you can’t give the children any scientific evidence for this, you can’t tell them about experiments or observations that led to the conclusion, because there aren’t any

  53. Robert, not Bob says

    They don’t want to teach consideration of evidence. They want to teach pronouncements from authority. Most of them can’t even imagine any other way to think.

  54. Sean H. says

    I’ve often wondered what would happen if the creationists got their way, and even just the bare minimum of ideas on the subject found their way into the science classroom. Would it not result in a very strange and awkward convolution of science mixed with mysticism? It’s an interesting thought experiment to entertain, and a scenario from which a certain level of cognitive dissonance would most certainly emerge. The mere mention of such antithetical notions assures that a level of critical analysis would ensue. Perhaps this is what the caller had in mind. What he is not seeing is the havoc that is likely to ensue, the outcome of which would be subject to far too many factors to be predictable. In short: interesting idea, bad in practice unless your primary objective is to elevate “free thinking” over that of science. And that of course is not the objective of the study of biology, at least in the context of the current teaching methodology. There are however, different methods of teaching which do cross disciplinary boundaries. Todays’ students by and large, however are not properly prepared for these alternatives, unfortunately.

  55. jacobfromlost says

    “He will ask you, in these exact words: “Is it possible that you could be wrong about everything you know?””

    I may be wrong, but I believe someone called the show once with that very question, and Matt didn’t fall for it. And I can’t imagine that Matt isn’t abundantly aware of Sye and his tactic (does he have more than one? lol)

    PS: I remember someone suspecting a known apologist probably called the show under a fake name, and for some reason I’m thinking it was Sye. Anyone remember more clearly?

  56. Sadako says

    I went through that phase in middle school, too. What I wasn’t taking into account at that time was that I was in the gifted program, I was highly motivated to learn, I had enough experience with libraries and research to really get something out of self-directed study, and I had a home environment that was very supportive of education. I didn’t understand at the time that most other people didn’t have all of those features in their lives. What was ideal for me would have been hell for most other students. My personal ‘best system’ would have failed to effectively educate around 90% of public school students.

    I think the caller also thinks that teachers have free reign in their classes, that they can pretty much teach whatever they want, that state curriculum standards are more like guidelines, etc. In short, he probably hasn’t talked to a teacher lately. Or maybe ever.

  57. Sadako says

    That’s why we’re so often accused of ‘Well YOU believe in evolution because someone wrote it in a book! You’re just as silly as I am!’

  58. Robert, not Bob says

    Tu Quoque, I think it’s called. I’ve been trying to explain the scientific method to my dad for decades, but he still thinks scientists just look at stuff and make up a guess, and the most prestigious scientist’s guess is dogma.

  59. allan says

    In science we should teach the controversy – but only where a scientific controversy exists. There is an endless number of crackpot ideas relating to science that should never enter the classroom: Creationism, young earth, climate denialism, aids is not caused by a virus, smart meters cause illness,

  60. Deesse23 says

    All you need is the ability to count to ca. 5000, or knowing another person who has this ability:

    The oldes trees (by counting the annual rings) like Methuselah and Prometheus are ca. 4800y. I repeat: these trees still exist (Well not Prometheus, because of some student….a short but sad story).

    I would LOVE to see someone denying annual growth rings of existing trees.

  61. Narf says

    Sadly, some of them think they actually have evidence. I’ve heard explanations of how the erosion patterns in the Grand Canyon are absolutely evidence for the Biblical flood. You get these pronouncements from people like the Discovery Institute … geological evidence constructed with an agenda, by people who don’t understand a damned thing about geology … biological evidence constructed by mathematicians.

    When you take 2% of the data and then spend weeks with the thumbscrews and hot irons doing things that should not be allowed by the laws of mathematics, you can create a real monstrosity. One favorite tactic is taking the edge cases that are messed up by some phenomenon or other and then presenting them as being representative of the entire system.

    It’s just like the population-statistics abuse I’ve seen from some apologists.
    They grab one or two tiny details that they can use in completely inappropriate ways to construct a narrative that has pretty much nothing to do with reality. In the case of those two videos, you have someone taking population growth statistics from our modern era and applying them to the entirety of human history.

    Watch the rest of Logicked’s videos, too, particularly his Hello, I’m a Scientist series and the other videos in his Science in the 12th Century series, which is what he’s currently working on. He does a fairly good job of ripping the nonsense apart while being very funny about it.

  62. says

    Seems to me that his little trap is easy to avoid simply applying common sense. It is not possible that I could be wrong about everything I know, because one of the things I know is that I do not know everything.

  63. says

    According to my local paper, the installation of smart meters caused a local substation transformer to explode, and caused frequent power outages.

    Because, you know – correlation/causation.

  64. Robert, not Bob says

    What would happen is that science classes would be converted to Christian madrassas, with children memorizing King James Genesis and questions punished. Not instantly, of course, but teachers everywhere would be punished (often informally) if they actually taught science. And then different denominations would start fighting over curriculum details…

  65. Narf says

    Ohhhhhhhhh. Smart electricity meters? How are those supposed to cause illnesses exactly?

    And I’m guessing that there was a spike in transformer explosions and outages, because they got the smart meters installed just in time for peak usage season … during which you get more brownouts, transformer explosions, and power outages?

    There’s such a thing as cascade failures in mechanical systems, sure. Take an old car that had 200 horsepower when it was new, but it’s old, has most of its engine components running at less than 50% efficiency, due to things falling out of tune, parts partially wearing out, etc.

    It runs fine if weakly, but then you get a few components replaced and get the whole thing tuned up to run tighter. Suddenly, 3 other parts all break spectacularly. The increased force and pressure can cause breakages in systems that would have handled things fine for another few years, at the weaker standards before you started replacing stuff.

    I doubt that’s the case here, though, since smart meters should decrease pressure on the system, not increase it.

    You know, when I first saw smart meters, I thought it might have something to do with Scientology.

  66. Narf says

    Ummm, dude, I think they’re already punished for teaching actual science, in some parts of the country. 🙁

  67. corwyn says

    I’ve heard explanations of how the erosion patterns in the Grand Canyon are absolutely evidence for the Biblical flood.

    I have never understood WHEN (over the course of the flood) this was supposed to have happened. When was there a few thousand cubic miles of water that needed to run *down hill*? The water was all at one level, the entire world over.

  68. Narf says

    Well, yeah. We’re talking about a hypothesis constructed by someone who isn’t honest and doesn’t understand a damned thing about geology or fluid dynamics. I’ve never heard a coherent model of how it happened, just proclamations about how awesome God is, that he created a flood with both the power and the precision necessary to create something like that in weeks.

  69. Monocle Smile says

    I haven’t heard or read any creationist apologetics concerning actual science that exceed the level of ad hoc nonsense.

    I mean, just check out the starlight problem. Suggested solutions include:
    -light used to travel millions of times faster and has been “decaying” in speed ever since
    -starlight billions of light-years away was created in transit 6000 years ago
    -light travels at an infinite speed towards Earth and half the currently known speed away from Earth

  70. Narf says

    -light travels at an infinite speed towards Earth and half the currently known speed away from Earth


  71. says

    I like the phrase ‘derived this knowledge absent from god’ as it leads on nicely to ‘present me with an example of knowledge which we acquired, or could acquire, only from god’.

  72. Sadako says

    I’m not sure if we should ‘teach the controversy’ even where there IS a controversy. When it’s a made-up controversy, like anti-vaxxing and Creationism, teaching the controversy undermines the real, established, tested science by giving the crackpots time in the classroom next to real science. When it’s something that the scientific community has not yet reached a consensus on, like the various camps of theoretical physics, it’s generally far beyond the ken of high school teachers–trying to address them effectively would be very difficult, both because of the rapidly changing nature of such controversial areas and because they’re very advanced fields that someone with just a Master’s in Secondary Education is probably not trained in, and just mentioning them in passing would be pretty unsatisfactory, because any questions that students have couldn’t be answered.

    …Of course, some of this issue could be dealt with by having people with a reasonable level of expertise in the field teach at the high school level. People who have expertise in the fields they teach, at least a Bachelor’s, could better address ‘controversies’ in their classrooms. (I remember my high school biology teacher telling us that we would just be skipping the chapter on evolution in our book because it wasn’t on the state standardized test (!!) and he didn’t want any controversy.)

  73. Sadako says

    Are you kidding? The denominational fights would begin IMMEDIATELY. They would begin as soon as the teacher declared they would be using the New International Version because that’s the version the teacher studied from in college; then all of the Catholic students and their families would be offended that the Catholic Bible wasn’t being used, the fundies would say that they should only be reading from the original King James Version because that’s how Jesus wrote it, and the Mormons would object to not using the Mormon-certified correctly translated version of the Bible, etc.

    Check out Katherine Stewart’s ‘The Good News Club’. In Chapter 3, she goes in-depth into the extremely violent sectarian conflicts which resulted in us having secularized public schools in the 1800’s. Teachers were forbidden by Catholic principals to read from the King James Version, students were beaten by Protestant teachers for reciting the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments, people burned homes and churches, there were riots and murders, and these conflicts went on for decades in the mid-1800’s. (The foundation of Catholic schools and Lutheran schools–and the subsequent loss of students forcing the public schools to shutter–lead to the declaration that the public schools would be completely secularized in 1876.) America has already been there, done that–we decided that secular was BETTER. Now these regressives want to take us back to the torch and pitchfork days.

  74. Steve Brian says

    Unless I’ve missed it, nobody has mentioned the flip side of the issue.

    In, iirc, 1973, my high school biology teacher had occasion to address the hypothesis of God being responsible for evolution. He dismissed the hypothesis with his usual laconic style by writing “God” on the chalkboard, pointing at the word and saying, “This is faith, not science.” Unfortunately, one devout Catholic in the class heard, through Mr. Lapthisiphon’s Thai accent, “This is fake, not science.” And the shit hit the fan. It was sorted out with a minimum of sturm und drang, but could have been much worse.

    Do we really want high school biology teachers to explain in detail why some student’s cherished fairy tale is nonsense that has no place in a science classroom?

  75. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    In your anecdote, it sounds like the teacher was invoking non-overlapping magisteria, just to categorize doctrinal assertions as off-topic, without refuting them.

    Do we really want high school biology teachers to explain in detail why some student’s cherished fairy tale is nonsense that has no place in a science classroom?

    That specific details in various theologies are nonsense?: No.
    That science is about stochastic processes that do not involve large-scale divine meddling?: Yes.
    I showed a creationist uncle an excellent BBC documentary called “What Darwin Didn’t Know”. A day later, he floated the idea that maybe god was the evolutionary pressure that changed the color of a moth species. I said, sure – if you want to say “god is birds”: birds ate the moths that weren’t camouflaged well, leaving the rest to flourish in their absence.
    You haven’t understood biology if you think god’s directing it.
    You haven’t understood cosmology if you think trees existed before the first star.
    You haven’t understood chemistry if you think freshwater and saltwater do not mix.
    You haven’t understood physics if you think the earth is flat.
    Technically god never needs to be mentioned in class, but if taught well, students should comprehend the subject without including god… and ideally recognize that god is either insignificant or superfluous.

  76. AhmNee says

    I just wanted to point out that it’s not the teachers that I blame. It’s the institutionalized ignorance that keeps a more focused look on skeptic and rational thought out of classrooms. As you say, there’s a culture that interferes by looking down on education and intellect.

  77. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    -light used to travel millions of times faster and has been “decaying” in speed ever since

    Pulsars show this is wrong.

    -starlight billions of light-years away was created in transit 6000 years ago

    Can’t do anything about this one, just like you can’t do anything about saying the devil put the fossils there. Last Thursdayism. (Ok, you can, but it really long and involved.)

    -light travels at an infinite speed towards Earth and half the currently known speed away from Earth

    The anisotropic synchrony convention. It’s undetectable IIRC, but only if it’s along cardinal directions. As soon as it changes along radials from a central point (Earth), then that totally has predictable consequences – which – guess what – we don’t see.

  78. says

    How could teachers ever be expected to teach some kids about the differences between science and pseudo-science when it’s their narrow minded parent(s) who should be taught the truth.

  79. says

    The one thing I have noticed about being both a former Christian and an active alcoholic is they both require a willful ignorance of the truth. When I was drinking I was always ignoring the truth and making excuses for my alcoholism and the same was just as true about being a Christian. The similarities are uncanny and as an atheist I refuse to have someone who is addicted to god tell me how I should handle my addiction to alcohol.

  80. says

    I once asked a Christian if faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains then can they move a mustard seed with their faith? This demonstration shouldn’t require much faith at all according to the bible. In other words; put up or shut up.

  81. aljones909 says

    I learned about the smart meter stuff because my brother watches that nut Alex Jones. Smart Electric Meters are part of the government plot to……. (you can fill in the blank with any nonsense you care to think up). Related to this is the idea that the transmissions from the smart meters are damaging to health. This is despite the fact that they transmit for about 2 minutes a day with a signal similar to a mobile phone. If you’re worried about that then you need to go to a cabin in the woods and live of the land. The most damaging electromagnetic radiation we are exposed to (by a large multiple) is UV from the sun.

  82. mike says

    +scourge99 Your friend is just plain wrong, this concept of once addicted always addicted may be true for some people but such a sweeping generalisation cannot be used on everyone. I have my own friends and firsthand experiences that contradict this very notion. Some can never touch the substance again and others can.

  83. Elisabeth says

    I am still amazed and confuzzled at what appears to be your reality over there in the United States after watching a couple of your AE shows on YouTube. Most Nobel Prizes for natural scientific achievements from the last decades went to scientists working in the USA, but still rational and critical thinking and the education for it appear to be frowned upon by the vast majority in the country. I find that baffling. How can a society that brings forward and supports great scientific minds be so – excuse my wording – backwards?

    Regarding the issue of creationism or rather the concept of intelligent design being taught in school, none the less in science class: that’s ridiculous to me. It simply makes no sense and serves no purpose. I think it is okay and might even be called for to educate children about religion, even in school – or probably it’d be best do have them learn about religion in school instead of just elsewhere, where scepticism is not encouraged – but there should remain a clear distinction between faith-based teachings and sciences. Where i live and also grew up (i.e.the former GDR), atheists are in the majority, but being religious is still tolerated and religions are viewd as part of our heritage (culturalwise, in all their positive and negative aspects) – I myself was raised as a lutheran protestant, by – ironically as that may sound – rather critical thinking and scientifically well eduacted parents. Identifying as religious used to be a way of setting oneself apart from the rest and protesting against the system (where I live), so even though I also started out as a christian theist and only after about 20 years turned atheist, I guess my experience couldn’t be really called similar to Matt’s. Hearing of his story made me think about my path away from theism or at least deism, though. I didn’t even realize I was never a real theist until I had read the definition, how stupid .. I grew up with biblical stories, but I never believed there was more truth to them than to other fairy tales; I had a strong feeling about it being true that a god existed, but never attempted to put it to the test with my otherwise strong scepticism towards every other thing I learned. I simply separated those issues completely in my head. And I am saying I was a good student, I was excellent in science classes, in philosophy and history, foreign languages, political studies and so on; I was even good at debating my own and other religions’ teachings and had a fairly good understanding of what the bible and other scriptures contain .. still, I stood by this religion against better judgement. And I can’t tell you a good reason why. It made me feel good and I managed to block out the real concerns I had with it for the most part, anyway. So that might be due to my own lack in consequential thinking or my fear of loosing emotional support from religious friends and family members; although, we really don’t have a culture of shunning apostates, so..
    So no, I don’t think it’s a good or valid idea to teach/confuse children by telling them about intelligent design in science class. It could only promote inconsequential thinking even in intelligent little brats who don’t suffer from dumb/uneducated parents. Schools should instill a good sense of selfworth into children, let them develop in an environment where they dare question everything and keep them away from anything that could destroy that, including religious doctrine – as anything other than just something interesting to look at.

  84. GreetingsfromGermany says

    Sorry, for my bad english.

    Maybe on day Theists understand, that science (e.g.cosmology) cannot give us a proove of any creator, and never was meant to:
    We learn about the physics in our universe, by prooving them. That way we lean to understand our universe.
    But science cannot say anything about the “universe – world” before the Big Bang. There is no “playground” for that “world”. So we can not do any experiments and cannot proove anything.
    And that is why science cannot answer the question of any creator, if there even was one, at all..
    Maybe now, one can understand, why scientists ask Theists for any proof of their “reasoning”.

  85. corwyn says

    But science cannot say anything about the “universe – world” before the Big Bang.

    Actually, it can. What science currently says is that no information passed from whatever existed before the big bang (if that even makes sense) into this universe. That is distinctly different from knowing nothing. For one thing, it makes the idea of a creator deity with omniscience and no interference after the big bang, impossible. Also any creator deity who intended us, and yet does not manifest in the universe is impossible.