Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Science vs. indoctrination

Indoctrinate (v.) -- to teach someone to accept fully the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group, in an uncritical fashion; to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle.

Objective (adj.) -- based on facts rather than on feelings or opinions.

There.  I thought I'd get a couple of definitions out of the way right at the outset.  It's not that I think my readers are in any particular need of refreshing their memories on the meanings; it's more that I want to be completely clear about how asinine Missouri State Representative Rick Brattin is being.

My reason for saying this is that, yet again, we are seeing an attack on the teaching of evolution in science classrooms, this time by a lawmaker who not only has no apparent understanding of science, but could use a refresher on how to use the Concise Oxford.  He has introduced a bill into the Missouri House of Representatives that would mandate that schools notify parents if evolution is being taught in biology classrooms -- and allow parents to take their children out of those classes while the topic is being covered, with no grade penalty or loss of credit.

"Our schools basically mandate that we teach one side," Brattin said, in an interview with Kansas City's KCTV News.  "It is an indoctrination because it is not an objective approach.  It’s an absolute infringement on people’s beliefs.  What’s being taught is just as much faith and, you know, just as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion."

Okay, let me get this straight, Rep. Brattin.  We have, on the one hand, teachers using a curriculum that is based on the work of countless scientists, is supported by every scrap of hard evidence that there is, and has the support of damn near 100% of working biologists.  On the other hand, we have the creation myth of a bunch of illiterate Bronze-Age sheepherders, who also thought that bats were birds (Leviticus 11:19) and that god created day and night before he created the sun (Genesis 1:5-14), and teaches a worldview that is only still around because it's hammered into children's heads incessantly along with the message that questioning the logic of the whole thing is equivalent to listening to Satan.

And the biologists are the ones who are guilty of indoctrination, and of not being objective?

Predictably, scientists are outraged at Brattin's bill.  Glenn Branch, of the National Center for Science Education, said, "The bill would eviscerate the teaching of biology in Missouri.  Evolution inextricably pervades the biological sciences; it therefore pervades, or at any rate ought to pervade, biology education at the K–12 level.  There simply is no alternative to learning about it; there is no substitute activity."

No.  No, there isn't.  Evolution is the founding principle of biology, the idea by which (along with genetics) all of the rest of the science is understood.  Just as chemistry is not comprehensible without atomic theory, and physics is not comprehensible without the concept of forces and energy, biology becomes a meaningless jumble of vocabulary and terminology without the unifying model of evolution through natural selection.  Allowing students to "opt out" of learning about evolution is denying them the opportunity to find out how science actually works -- in essence, allowing them to remain ignorant.  That Brattin thinks the evolutionary model is "faith" and "pulled out of the air" shows that he has no real understanding of the science of biology.

Nor, apparently, does he have all that solid a grasp of the English language.  Religion relies on indoctrination, and a faith-based, subjective approach; science is the opposite.  Scientific principles stand or fall solely on the evidence supporting them.  Calling science indoctrination is as ridiculous as... as...

... as thinking that the sky was solid and made of glass (Job 37:18).


  1. somehow I missed this one the first time around, for a second opinion check out Mary Midgley's Evolution as Religion.

  2. I highly recommend Professor Jerry Coynes' "Why Evolution is True".