February 11, 2006

"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"

Teaching kids to confront their teachers in the classroom:
Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.

"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"

The children roared their assent.

"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.

"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.

"God!" the boys and girls shouted.

"Who's the only one who knows everything?"

"God!"

"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"

The children answered with a thundering: "God!"
Nothing like teaching critical thinking.

65 comments:

faster said...

I find this to be profoundly sad. Some of these kids may turn their backs on religion later because of something like this (that's what happened to this kid). It's no different than the DARE program. Once kids (as teenagers) find out they've been lied to, they act out in all sorts of destructive ways.

TWM said...

Hmmm, does your last line mean the kids are not being taught to think critically by challenging the teacher on evolution or that they are?

I suppose if the kids are taught to only except "creation" then that would be the former, but if they are being taught to challenge teachers to back up their instruction so that they can make an elightened decision on which is right, then that seems like critical thinking to me.

I want my kids to respectfully question anything they are taught. And then make up their own minds. That is critical thinking defined.

TWM said...

Ouch, I meant accept not "except" of course.

I really need to get more sleep on Friday nights.

Drethelin said...

thinking critically is not the same as giving rote challenges. Being disagreeable is not neccesarily a sign of critical thinking.

TWM said...

I agree, but just because a person is religious does not mean that they are always just being disagreeable for the sake of it.

And blindly accepting anything you are taught whether it is religious or scientific in nature is not critical thought either.

Dave said...

I suppose I'll be derogated as a heathen but I'd trust science over religion any day of the week, including Sunday.

TWM said...

Don't know about the heathen part, but I think one should remember all the scientific "facts" that have been proven to be wrong over time. What is accepted as true now may indeed be false tomorrow, or next week, or 100 years from now. It may also still be true, but who really knows?

Add in the sad fact that many scientists seem to lie about their work (cloning comes to mind) and I believe there is plenty of room to challenge both worlds.

Oh, and I did not say that THIS particular program was teaching critical thought. Only that challenging teachers to back up their work is worthwhile and smart. I mean scientists look at each other's work critically otherwise so many frauds would not have been exposed over the years. Why should we act any differently?

Paco Wové said...

"Who's the only one who knows everything?"
"God!"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"
The children answered with a thundering: "God!"


twm, does that sound like critical thinking to you?

Earth Girl said...

"Excuse me, were you there? Can you remember that?"

And they are being taught to speak disrespectully to a teacher. If my sons ever talked to an authority figure or any adult in that manner, they would be in big trouble. Yes, we encourage them to question or even challenge authority, but always in a respectful manner.

Jacques Cuze said...

I wouldn't worry about it. He has no chance of success. We're skeptical of anyone trying to sell us anything, and we can't stop criticizing anyone with any power who tries to accomplish anything.

TWM said...

I agree one should be respectful when challenging anyone, much less a teacher. Especially since their grades might just suffer for the simple challenge, not to mention if it were done disrespectfully.

Still, it could be worse. There are some religions that would teach their kids to behead the teacher instead of asking them if they were there when it happened.

A sure way to getting suspended.

SippicanCottage said...
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Pete said...

Yes, yes, another story that makes us Christians look foolish. Not exactly difficult to do but there you are.

But it's important to note that this guy, Ham, in the story represents a small part of our faith. He's a Bible literalist, trying to instill in children the courage to question their teachers. Is he teaching critical thinking? Hardly. But then these are elementary school children, for crying out loud. There's precious little critical thinking going on at that age. And I see he provides guidance to parents and home-schoolers and I presume he's a little less bombastic with that. My take is he's fairly harmless, it's not the end of the world, etc. Have no fear, evolution is still quite safe to be taught.

Sebastian said...

Hopefully their teachers can come up with a bit more persuasive argument than the preacher. Faith is a tough thing to overcome, though.

I have to admit that lately, as much as crap like this annoys me, I tend to look at our religious whackos and think "Hey, at least they aren't issuing fatwahs against any teacher who teaches evolution."

Pogo said...

Disclaimer: I support the teaching of evolution.

I fail to understand the defensiveness and offensiveness of the anti-Creationists. While the example given is a silly method by which to express disagreement, those who believe God created the world have few cards to play in this debate.

All science teachers ever had to do was admit that the process of evolution is almost certainly correct, but that fact says nothing at all about the existence of God.

For this fight is not about whether the world was created in 7 days or 7 trillion years. This fight is over whether or not there is a God. Unacknowledged in the fight to permit/reject Creation scinece in public schools is the clear aim of scientists who are in fact promoting an agenda.

The true battle is about whether or not the fact of evolution proves that God had no hand in it. Anti-Creationists are invested in the atheist stance. Creationists say otherwise.

The attempt by Ken Ham is a little foolish, but other than disbanding public schools or homeschooling, what are parents to do? (And in California, teaching Creation science from home is unacceptable.)

I do not fear mentioning in public school what this disagreement entails. Others disagree, and hence the atheist flashpoint is to over-react to stories like this. They must be stopped!! Really, aside from never being able to teach biology courses, how would discussing Creationism cause any harm whatsoever?

Palladian said...

Sippican, don't worry, it's still quxxo. He's sarcastically quoting a post of Ann's from a day or so ago. Quxxo's comments are like an acidic belch the morning after eating a large pepperoni and sausage pizza and a half-gallon of grapefruit juice: corrosive and unpleasant.

Pass the Maalox.

Leptopus said...

Actually, I've been to a Ken Ham presentation for adults. This excerpt doesn't seem entirely representative. He puts an emphasis on critical thinking.

Jeff said...

Critical thinking? "Excuse me, were you there? Can you remember that?"

So I hear good thinks about this George Washington guy, but the bible doesnt mention him and I can't find anyone over 200 years old to tell me about him. Did he actually exist?

AlaskaJack said...

Maybe I'm missing something here but I think a good teacher could turn questions like these into excellant class discussions that would stimulate a great deal of "critical thinking".

For example, what is the difference between eye witness evidence and inferences about past events? What are the rules that allow us to distinguish legitimate inferences about the past from illegitimate ones?

As for trusting God or scientists, what is meant by "trust"? Should we believe everything a scientest says just because he or she is a scientist? What about those Nazi doctors and their experiments?

I think discussions about these kinds of questions would excite even the most bored students.

Mark Daniels said...

Stuff like this makes me cringe as a Christian and a pastor. I think that for one thing, Mr. Ham is majoring in the minors.

Historically, when the Church has summarized the core beliefs that anyone who claims to be Christian must adhere to, questions like when and how the universe came into being have been left to science. The Bible and historic Christian faith have been more interested in who created the universe and why.

Check out the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, for example, two summaries of Christian faith that are universally accepted by the Church. They simply affirm that God created. Nothing more is needed. Its sparseness may acknowledge the fact that the Old Testament contains six different accounts of creation, most notably the two different versions that appear at the very beginning of Genesis.

In the first, starting at Genesis 1:1, God's Spirit moves over a roaring, stormy ocean of chaos and makes life, culminating in the creation of people. In the second account, in Genesis 2 and 3, the primordial stuff from which God creates is a desert and Adam is the first creature brought into being.

Unless one assumes that the authors, editors, and original readers of the complex literature that composes Genesis were complete dolts, we see that they wouldn't have been unaware of the intrinsic problem with an overly-literalistic interpretation of two accounts that differ on whether things started with an ocean or a desert.

When Christians have said that the Bible is God's Word, we've never meant that God or an angel dictated the precise words to the Biblical writers, acting as human tape recorders. It's the Muslims and Mormons who have said this of their holy books.

Christians, in contrast, have said that the Bible is "inspired." (Or as a literal interpretation of Second Timothy puts it, "God-breathed.") That means that God has always spoken to people through the media of people, using their experiences and vocabulary. In order to reach us, God has been required to use this method to speak what for Him amounts to "baby talk."

As Mr. Ham says, no human being could have been there at the beginning of God's creation. But using terms and notions human beings might understand, the Biblical writers were inspired by God to affirm that God created the universe. With this understanding, it's okay for Christians to think that paleontology, biology, and other scientific disciplines, though finite and as prone to error as any other human pursuit, might have something to say about the when and how of Creation.

Of course, for the Christian, the core of the Bible's message is summarized in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." That's the major on which we Christians should major. Everything else, by comparison, is unimportant.

Mark Daniels

Walt said...

This is how jihadis are made.

Kurt said...

I'm with Pogo and Alaskajack on this question. Encouraging a bit of skeptical discussion in science classrooms only strikes me as a good thing. And a science teacher who doesn't know how to handle skeptical questions with grace and ease is should probably find another profession.

For that matter, let's not forget where the uncritical acceptance of scientific dogma can sometimes lead. If you're not sure what I mean, you might appreciate this lively and interesting discussion over at the Dr. Helen Blog.

RogerA said...

Palladian--ummm, that sounds like the breakfast I just had--what's your point? Except it was Papa Murhey's chicken garlic and cran-grape juice..:)

Ross said...

Skepticism about scientific truths is itself the core scientific truth. "Trusting G-d" ain't skepticism, though.

I have a friend, a newspaper reporter who is a very devout Christian (yes, they exist). He is an ace reporter who very much believes in empirical facts. He also thinks Answers in Genesis, um, has all the answers in its realm. The cognitive dissonance just baffles me.

Jacques Cuze said...
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Jacques Cuze said...
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lindsey said...

I've never understood why some people get their panties in a twist about the whole earth created in 7 days issue and evolution. Nowhere does it say 24 hour days. It's not so much as people are being literal so much as they're being unimaginative. And I don't see why evolution is incompatible with god creating man. Nowhere does it god created us fully formed. It makes sense to me to see God as a sculptor endlessly refining and molding his work.

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: You're even less comprehensible than usual here.

Jacques Cuze said...
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Jacques Cuze said...
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Ann Althouse said...

I still don't get it.

Jacques Cuze said...
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Jacques Cuze said...
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downtownlad said...

So evangelical Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and that God created the world in 6 days.

I have two questions for those evangelicals?

Excuse me, were you there? Can you remember that?

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: That was a ridiculously roundabout (and unfunny) way to say you didn't like a post yesterday. Why it belongs as a comment here... well, you know damned well it doesn't. You waste much too much time. I have stopped reading your longer comments. Why I read this one today, I truly don't know.

Anyway. I'm warning you that I'm going to start deleting your irrelevant and time-wasting material. It's clogging up the blog. I'm starting with all the crap you just put here today.

Ann Althouse said...

And I will just observe that Quxxo's comments were full of gay-baiting and homophobia, which he thinks doesn't count against him (her?) because he's on the left.

People need to stay reasonably on the topic of the thread. This space isn't here for people to engage in random free-expression. Get your own blog and see if you can get anyone to show up and read it. Stop exploiting my readers with your nonsense and hostility.

Steven said...

The following five statements are attested to in the Bible

1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2) The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us, in the person of Jesus.

3) Jesus spoke in parables.

4) The parables of Jesus were not literally true.

5) The reason Jesus spoke in parables is to hide his teachings from those in whom knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven had not been granted, for 'they look but do not see and hear but do not listen'.

We can conclude from these statements that the Word of God, who is God, spoke in nonliteral parables in order to deliberately obscure meaning; a literalist acceptance of the Word of God in at least some instances is to miss the point.

With the result that insofar as the Old Testament is the word of God, we should logically also expect it to include additional parable material to hide its meaning from those who look but do not see. Accordingly, any narrative text in it should be considered potentially a parable instead of a history.

It would then at least seem to be reasonable to assume a high potential of parable probability in such areas where the narrative shows significant divergence from the best available scientific evidence, like the dates extrapolated from the presence of long-half-life radioactive decay products in certain crystal formations.

Jacques Cuze said...

Hey it's your blog, but let me get this straight. I riff for three lines on a link posted in this thread by someone else, and you drag a torturous explanation of it out of me, and I am a villain that needs bannination?

And banninate me, or delete this, but I absolutely state there was no gay baiting or homophobia expressed, and if you think there was, then restore those statements and discuss them.

Kirk Parker said...

If you're taking a vote, I'm all for sending quxxo off the comment island. He (or she) is something much, much worse than disagreeable or argumentative--he's boring.

Kirk Parker said...

On the other hand, the reference to StrongBad does speak in quxxo's favor, so I dunno.

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: You were making inexplicable references to gay people. I have no idea what the point of it was or what your intention was and I'm not interested in discussing it. It had no place here!

TWM said...

Walt said:

"This is how jihadis are made."

It takes a lot more than telling kids to question their teachers to make a jihadis. Even if the questions are silly ones.I don't see this guy teaching them to make bombs or blow people up.

Even the most nutty Christians are a far cry from jihadis.

By the way, is that a word?

TWM said...

Just found this and thought it fit here:

“There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.”

gj said...

The American version of the Madrassas that are so useful for breeding terrorists in Pakistan?

These people shouldn't be allowed access to prescription medicine. Or maybe the prescription drugs should just come with shrink-wrap license agreement calling on the user to acknowledge that science was involved in the drug's creation.

So this is what's happening in America. Meanwhile, schools in Egypt are moving away from rote memorization towards teaching critical thinking.

RogerA said...

Mr Ham has clearly given the kids a false dichotomy--Geez, I mean Thomas Aquinas dealt nicely with this issue in the 14th century. His formulation respects both human kind and God.

DavidV said...

True... This ain't exactly critical thinking. However, Ham's other material indicates that this is more a function of the audience than anything else. The issue with five-year-olds is that they will swallow anything, whether creation or evolution. Imagine that you are a parent who believes in intelligent design- your kid is being fed evolution at school every single day, and you can't do anything about it. (And, obviously, our education system is just as dogmatically evolutionist as Ham is creationist.)

When you're five, logic and reason don't convince you. Happy songs, enthusiasm, and what "grown ups" believe convinces you. I don't see why creationist parents fighting back with the same tools that the school system uses is so outrageous.

As for intelligent design itself, there's a lot more support out there than people think. Without getting into irreducible complexity, the complete absence of evidence for macroevolution, or other more complicated evidence for ID, I'll just ask a question that I find convincing. How is it possible to get something from nothing?

From nothing, nothing comes. If we currently have something that could not have existed forever (see entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics), then at some point in the past it must have come into existence. It must have been created.

Bruce Hayden said...

I would fall in line with Mark Daniels about the Bible being God inspired, versus God written. And that is why I can't ever get upset with evolution - though I do think that its limitations should be pointed out and not glossed over, as seems to be the case in the public school systems.

Bruce Hayden said...

DownTownLad,

I think that there is a big difference between believing that Jesus was the Messiah and that the world was literally created in seven days. I, and I suspect many others here, believe the first, but doubt (in my case, very strongly) the second.

One big difference is that Jesus lived well within recorded human history, a mere two thousand years ago. Some of what is in the New Testiment was (supposedly) written by those who knew him personally and followed him, while the rest was written shortly thereafter, with those who experienced him personally as witnesses for those who didn't.

The New Testiment, almost from the first, was written. The first books in the Old Testiment, in particular, the first five in the Torah, were originally oral, and were only written down centuries, if not a millenium, later. My understanding is that it was only really right before the Babylonian Exile, that writing became commonplace enough that the Jewish writings thereafter were contemporaneous as opposed to transcription of oral traditions. (I am sure that the Biblical scholars here will correct my timeline).

elliot said...

(The following conversation is one I imagine having with DavidV. DavidV did not say any of the following.)

DavidV, "From nothing, nothing comes. The physical universe cannot be eternal, therefore there must be a Creator!"

I say, "OK, where did the Creator come from?"

DavidV says, "Oh, he was around forever."

Why is it logical to accept a Creator without a beginning, but not a physical universe without a beginning?

AlaskaJack said...

Since we are putting words into David V's mouth, his answer to Elliot would go something like this:

"Matter has a contingent existence; its existence is dependent on abstract (non-material) mathematical laws.

The Being I am talking about has necessary existence"

elliot said...

You're not going to make me pull Immanuel Kant out of the closet are you?

Ross said...

The existence of matter depends on mathematical laws? Says who? It's a nifty trick how physicists have devised mathematical laws that describe (much of) the physical universe, but since when does the matter need the laws?

Ross said...

I mean, it's an interesting way of thinking about the world. Do philosophers have a name for it?

AlaskaJack said...

elliot, I'll make you a deal: If you agree to leave Immanuel Kant out of this, I'll agree to leave George Berkeley free to work in his garden.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Ross said: "It's a nifty trick how physicists have devised mathematical laws that describe (much of) the physical universe, but since when does the matter need the laws?"

What the hell does that mean? Do you think of science as a "nifty trick"?

W said...

Trust in my penis, fool.

DavidV said...

elliot: Point taken. But your point is also my point. :)

The fact that our present experience must have been caused, and that cause must also have been caused, etc., merely degenerates into an illogical and impossible endless regression. Thus, at the end, we need an uncaused cause - something supernatural. No, this argument doesn't show that the uncaused cause is necessarily the Judeo-Christian God, but it does indicate the need for some sort of supernatural diety.

Essentially, we both recognize that the world as we see it cannot have existed forever, but the laws of nature and logic prevent it from having ever spontaneously come into existence. My worldview has an coherent explanation; I'm not sure that yours does.

Brad said...

And when God says "those cartoons are blasphemy" should the children questions? Oops, forgot, entirely different God, sorry about that.

Ross said...

Althousefan,

By "nifty trick" I mean inspired stroke of genius. See "ironic understatement."

Johnny Nucleo said...

Ross said: "By "nifty trick" I mean inspired stroke of genius. See "ironic understatement."

Point taken. I apologize for my snotty tone. Rough day.

anonlawstudent said...

1) What's the harm if some footloop brainwashes a bunch of brats into being less productive citizens? We still need people to sweep the floor of the lab.

Details-->

2) Kant answers Berkely quite sufficiently. In fact, Kant was writing to respond to Hume who in turn had taken Berkely's premises to their logical conclusion, something Berkely was unwilling to do.

3) I believe that the oldest strains of text in Torah are significantly older than the Babylonian Exile. Particularly the Elohistisc strain. While even among academic circles it is rather heretical to say so, the use of the plural Elohim is evidence of a very early strain to the mythology that is still semi-polytheistic. But linguists have better reasons based on the morphology of the language to regard the oldest strains as reaching back to nearly 1200 BCE. This doesn't contravene the initial point, though. The books are not as old as some claim. Don't quote me on this one though. It's been a while since I've looked closely at the timelines.

anonlawstudent said...

Sorry about that first point. THe comment about frootloops and brats. It was in poor taste and I apologize.

Rudolph A. Carrera said...

I can't believe that critical thinking and religion can't find good common ground in the Evangelical world (or in its more radical forms).

Do you know about Jaroslav Pelikan? He's a wonderful example of modern science and religion blending well together.

Barry Kearns said...

DavidV wrote:

As for intelligent design itself, there's a lot more support out there than people think. Without getting into irreducible complexity, the complete absence of evidence for macroevolution, or other more complicated evidence for ID

I'd recommend exercising a bit more credulity. So-called "irreducible complexity" has been shown repeatedly to be little more than a smoke-screen... a poorly defined concept that is continually redefined whenever concrete evidence is pointed out that contradicts it. It comes down to little more than "I think it looks like it could have been designed, therefore it only could have been designed."

As to "complete absence of evidence for macroevolution", I'd recommend reading more. There's mountains of evidence for macroevolution, including speciation seen both in the lab and in the wild.

I suppose by "more complicated evidence for ID", you mean Dembski's "complex specified information" or the like? It has also been shown to be riddled with conceptual and mathematical errors.

The link that you included is also fraught with fraudulent and intellectually dishonest distortions. Consider the first "graph" in Figure 3 (you know, the one that is conveniently missing units on the Y axis?).

That's allegedly a graph of the radiant output of the sun. But it doesn't come close to matching reality. The graph would have you believe that all solar output outside the visible spectrum is a constant value, regardless of wavelength. In fact, it uses identical graphs for Figure 3.1 and 3.2, which are allegedly the "radiant output of the sun" and "radiant output of biological utility".

The article then goes on to claim that the output of the sun is thus "fine tuned" for biological utility.

In reality, solar output is closely approximated by a blackbody radiation curve of an object at roughly 6000 degrees Kelvin. It's a smooth curve, not some ridiculous "straight line, massive spike, straight line" exactly bounded and centered on the visible spectrum.

The graph and the assertion is a fraud, plain and simple.

It's also more than possible to have life exist with a planetary surface temperature below 0c, and life has already been found living at 169 degrees C, so the assertion that we have to have only a 0-100C window is obviously right out as well.

There are a great many other ridiculous assumptions in the article, which fall well in line with the same fatal flaws that ID and irreducible complexity engage in over and over.

I'll just ask a question that I find convincing. How is it possible to get something from nothing?

From nothing, nothing comes. If we currently have something that could not have existed forever (see entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics), then at some point in the past it must have come into existence. It must have been created.


You're making some assumptions there that might not be valid. we don't know, for instance, that the universe could not have existed forever. I happen to believe that the universe is infinite in duration.

You elaborated later with:

The fact that our present experience must have been caused, and that cause must also have been caused, etc., merely degenerates into an illogical and impossible endless regression. Thus, at the end, we need an uncaused cause - something supernatural. No, this argument doesn't show that the uncaused cause is necessarily the Judeo-Christian God, but it does indicate the need for some sort of supernatural diety.

Essentially, we both recognize that the world as we see it cannot have existed forever, but the laws of nature and logic prevent it from having ever spontaneously come into existence. My worldview has an coherent explanation; I'm not sure that yours does.


Again, I don't agree with your fundamental premises. There is no need for an uncaused cause if we assume infinite duration. Infinite duration does not, however, imply necessarily that nothing ever changes. So the local observable universe might not look the same today as it did ten billion years ago, but that doesn't mean the universe as a whole must therefore have been created.

Regression of causes is a logical trap, and can be escaped in the same way that Zeno's paradoxes can. Zeno's paradoxes are logically consistent, but that doesn't mean that they constrain reality.

Every point on a circle has another point that is immediately counter-clockwise of it. Should logic therefore tell us that circles can't exist, because they must have infinite length (never reaching the farthest counter-clockwise point)?

The universe needs no cause if it has always existed.

anonlawstudent said...

An alternative to both the theory of a first cause, and the theory that the universe must exist eternally, is simply the possibility that causation is not applicable in some realms of the physical world. I'm no scientist, but there are particles that apprear to come into bieng without cause. Additionally, in time-before-light it is said that the laws of physics were different. Gravity did not exists for some split second after the beginning of time. Why should the beginning of time require a cause, then? The world as we percieve it appears to be dependent on causation, but that's a particularly human method of organising perceptual data. It may well be limited and innacurate in some circumstances.