I went to Catholic school for grades 1-5. It’s one of the main reasons I’m an atheist/agnostic today. We had a religion class three days a week, sang religious songs in music class and went to church every day. But, to their credit, the religious aspect of the curriculum never bled into the academic aspects. (That didn’t happen until I switched to public school in sixth grade.) We did things that kids do in science class. We made papier-mâché planets. We had a science fair. We learned about atoms. Never once did anyone misrepresent or deny existing and accepted science. I didn’t realize how lucky I was.
Really, I shouldn’t consider myself lucky to have teachers that didn’t actively thwart the education system. However, it seems like more and more people are just making stuff up and teaching it to kids. Case in point: Christian fundamentalists are using Nessie to disprove evolution.
Yup. That Nessie. That most Scottish of cryptozoological creatures said to live in the murky depths of Loch Ness.
Stop laughing! This is serious!
It’s all about disproving evolution. You know, that totally uncontroversial theory that is woven into all biological specialties. The idea is that if they can prove that dinosaurs and humans lived together on Earth, then that means that the theory of evolution is fatally flawed. Or something. According to the Herald Scotland:
One ACE textbook – Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc – reads: “Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”
First, a plesiosaur is not a dinosaur. It was a gigantic aquatic reptile, which is not the same thing. Any science textbook worth its salt would make this distinction.
Second, no. There is no monster in Loch Ness. It was a hoax. All the evidence points to it being a hoax. Have you ever heard of Occam’s Razor? Basically it says that, among competing hypotheses, we should choose the one that makes the fewest number of assumptions. Now, think about Nessie. Either we can believe that a giant, Mesozoic, marine reptile lives in a lake in Scotland that has managed to stay hidden despite a whole bunch of people looking for it, or we can believe the far more reasonable explanation that what people see are picking up are rocks and logs and other detritus that is commonly found in lakes. The rational choice seems obvious.
I’m sure I don’t have to explain this to you. Because you are a reasonable person who lives in, you know, the real world. It’s really easy to laugh this off as a lunatic fringe. But it isn’t. It’s believed that crazy teachings like this is going on in 13 states, and children who are home-schooled often get this type of information. Not only that, but our tax dollars go to support this type of clap-trap in religious private schools.
This is dangerous. Not only does it make us a laughing-stock, but it makes us less economically competitive. We can’t graduate the next generation of scientists who are going to solve all the world’s ills who think the Earth is 6,000 years old. If public money is going to go to fund private religious schools, those schools need to impart accurate and up-to-date information to kids.
It drives me bananas to think that the joy and wonder of science is basically being stolen from children in these schools. By pushing an ideological agenda that ignores science and scientific progress, we are regressing to a pre-Enlightenment state where critical thinking is discouraged and blind faith is considered a virtue. All on the state’s dime.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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