Monday, June 20, 2005

What we all "know" to be true

If I suggested to you that highschool students were in a reasonable position to rewrite the rules of English grammar to their own liking, or to insist that complex mathematical calculations could proceed without recourse to calculus, you would laugh and point out that students have to learn the basics before they can even understand the reasoning behind the more complex concepts, let alone defy common wisdom and pioneer a new way. And yet somehow large groups of people think that it's reasonable to present gradeschool and highschool children with advanced scientific theories and wobbly objections that have been raised to them, and trust that the students can decide for themselves whether to accept the consensus of a century of specialists. This quote from a recent article really captured this insanity for me:
"It takes less faith to believe that God put this all in place for me," Dill said, "than for the amount of faith it takes that a blind-chance combination of atoms over how many billions of years" created the universe.
Well sure. It's also easier to believe that daylight just emanates from the sky, rather than that it arrives at the earth in discrete units of energy from a huge ball of gas in outer space. It's easier to believe that time is an absolute than that its experience depends on the observer's reference frame. Ease of comprehension is not the proper measure of the validity of a theory.

And yet that's how Intelligent Design, as an "alternative" to evolution and natural selection (or even to basics of chemistry and physics), is being presented. It should be obvious that this isn't good pedagogy, and probably a waste of the intellectual potential of our youth, and yet somehow science is enough outside the realm of the average person's experience that they're willing to believe it's all up for debate (or maybe even irrelevant to life). Genuinely not true, any more than correct subject-verb agreement or solution to a simple equation. Intellectual laziness leads only to mindless acceptance, which is bad not only for academia but for the functioning of a participatory citizenry.

1 comment:

r said...

That's a great concise explanation of why this approach of teaching ID as science is so misguided. You should maybe submit this argument, esp. the boldfaced line, as a letter to the editor to Inquirer? The Inq's piece was such a puff piece, totally uncritical.