My last post certainly brought out some passionate if occasionally odd responses. Usually I don’t respond to comments in depth. Other commenters are often more than willing to call people on the odd responses, but I’d like to try to figure out just where we all stand. We’re librarians. We’re supposed to be able to read and evaluate information.
First, there’s the “theory” of young earth creationism, which is the belief that the earth is 6,000 years old. I don’t think any of the commenters were defending this belief as such, but it was hard to tell. But let’s be clear. Young earth creationism is baloney, and if you actually believe the earth is 6,000 years old you’re hopelessly ignorant. Don’t bother commenting. Get ye to a library as soon as possible and read up on geology.
Even though no one was defending young earth creationism as a belief, one misguided commenter claimed that I didn’t know the “difference between a scientific law and a scientific theory” and that I “may not like the idea that some people think the Earth is 6000 years old but they are free to theorize as much as people that think one species can, over time, morph into another.”
Woo boy, where to start with that one. Other commenters did a pretty good job of setting the record straight, but I’ll have a go as well. Young earth creationism might be a “theory” in the way that laypersons use the word theory, but young earth creationism isn’t a scientific theory. Period.
To be very simplistic for beginners, science at a basic level works inductively, starting with empirically demonstrable facts and then trying to find explanations to fit those facts. Sometimes it posits hypotheses and then runs experiments to test these hypotheses. Both practices lead to scientific theories.
A scientific theory is the best plausible explanation of a set of given facts that scientists can come up with at the time, and many of them are problematic and full of gaps. They change over time as new facts or new interpretation of facts emerge. They’re just explanations, but explanations that try to be coherent and fit the facts as they are currently understood.
Scientific theories are also falsifiable or they’re not scientific. There has to be a fact or set of facts that, if proven, would upset the theory.
For example, we think the earth is a molten rock hurtling through space that developed over billions of years. Astronomers, geologists, cosmologists, are all pretty sure of this based on all kinds of evidence. However, if we were to find incontrovertible evidence that it was a giant machine designed by white mice to run experiments on human beings, we would have to change our theory.
Young earth creationism works the exact opposite of science. It begins with a claim about creation that isn’t empirically demonstrable at all and ignores or tries to explain away what facts are demonstrable about geology, biology, etc. And it’s not falsifiable. Young earth creationists will always believe God created the earth 6,000 years ago and there’s no possible evidence that can dissuade them from that belief. That’s not science, it’s faith.
If your faith forces you to believe things that are demonstrably false, then your faith is inadequate, but there’s no reason why any religious believer, Christian or otherwise, has to believe the earth is literally 6,000 years old.
The same commenter, in the same comment, also felt compelled to lambast my understanding of the homeschooling movement. I’d opined that some percentage of homeschooling parents weren’t really interested in education, but in protecting their children from things like science and ideas they didn’t already believe.
If you’ve seen the documentary Jesus Camp, or read about the Quiverfull movement, or seen examples of fundamentalist Christian homeschooling science textbooks, or talked to the survivors of far right-wing fundamentalist Christian homeschooling efforts, as I have, then you’d know there’s some scary, anti-science, anti-education homeschooling going on out there that’s basically cultish indoctrination. In addition to indoctrinating their children to believe that people who don’t participate in their cult are evil, they’re also teaching their children young earth creationism.
Again, there’s nothing particularly Christian about it, and I find a lot of the teaching coming out of this movement about as unChristian as it can be.
The response? “Home-schooled children routinely score higher on college entrance exams and in standardize testing. IQ tests also show them achieving high marks.”
That’s dandy, but it has absolutely nothing to do with my claim whatsoever. That there are plenty, or even the vast majority, of homeschooling parents successfully homeschooling their children neither refutes nor even addresses my assertion. I assume that’s not the sort of logical training the successful homeschoolers are getting.
Supposedly, making fun of people who don’t know anything about science trying to teach science to kids is “nasty bashing of anything conservative and Christian.” That’s only true if you equate conservative and Christian with stupid and ignorant, which I don’t. There’s nothing particularly conservative nor Christian about teaching children balderdash science.
I’m a product of Catholic schools myself, and I was never taught that gobbledygook. Of course, the cults who teach this junk often don’t think Catholics are Christians, and there’s a slew of fundamentalist gibberish along those lines. Just shows they don’t know any more about Christianity than they do about science.
Apparently I failed to be fair and balanced, but then again I’m not Fox News, so I don’t have that obligation. For certain people, “balanced” means presenting one side, then presenting the other side as if they had equal weight. But they don’t. Young earth creationism is ridiculous in light of known facts, and pretending it has equal weight to any scientific theory which tries to explain the changing of the earth or species over time is absurd.
As for the commenter who claimed that “biological evolution is idiotic” because “One animal turning into another animal belongs in the Odyssey, not serious science,” that’s certainly quite a comment. I’ll just say, I think you meant Ovid’s Metamorphoses, not the Odyssey, and leave it at that.
Anyway, I think my point still stands. Skip the textbooks and the indoctrination. Give kids freedom in a library and let them read all sorts of books, not just the ones their parents agree with. They’ll be better off.