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The Dallas-Plano Atheists Meetup Group Message Board › Interesting discussion I'm having on my facebook wall that I wanted to get t

Interesting discussion I'm having on my facebook wall that I wanted to get thoughts on over here.

Matt B.
user 11413756
Fort Worth, TX
Post #: 11
It started with me posting this:

Me:
Promoting an arena where science is supplanted by creationism should be a punishable offense. The supreme court has already ruled that Intelligent Design is NOT science, and is clearly of religious agenda. If we are going to uphold the right of freedom of speech to the foul people protesting at Westborough, they need to get the bloody fuck out of state affairs, and respect the constitutionally protected separation therein.

(link to the DemandProgress petition)

Matt K:
It will always be a contested topic, there's about 850 million atheists in the world, roughly 1.6 mil in America. Texas is conservative and a very religious state to put it mildly, so aide from atheists not being a majority the rest either... believe in a creator or don't care. So naturally when you have a majority who thinks that evolution isn't real they will want to teach their beliefs to their children. Especially if its in their religious text commanding them to do so.

Only Evolution being taught in schools is equally offensive because it leaves no room for the students to hear other views and potentially corners science for secularists who, once again aren't even a majority. Science class can deal with biology and geology and anatomy and everything else just fine without touting origins evolution or intelligent design, its up to the individual to believe, the teacher should simply present them both.

Me:
I appreciate that viewpoint, and coming from you I know it's trying very hard to be objective. The problem with not dealing with origins at all, even from a scientific standpoint, is that the entire picture of science to date wouldn't be presented. To understand modern biology and anatomy, evolution must be presented, for innumerable reasons (i.e. explanations of vestigial organs, evolutionary flaws [optic nerves that cross the retina, shit like that], and currently progressing evolutionary traits, even as simplistic as penicillin resistant bacteria). In order to understand geology, we have to have a clear picture of rock and earth formations that are billions of years old; ideas which nullify creationist theory.

We have an obligation in science class to present our current view of science, and with the understanding science is an ever-changing arena. Subjecting things to peer review, close scrutiny, tests, attempting to invalidate the evidence and see what holds up... I'm not trying to say that atheists or secularists should have control of the curriculum, even though I am one, just that the creationist viewpoint has no place in a SCIENCE CLASS. Let the theists educate their kids in the church that is separate from the state, if that is their calling (all creationism is based in deism, therefore you cannot teach it in class without implying a god, thereby invalidating constitutional premises).

The constitution needs to be upheld, and these two things need to be kept separate.

CG:
While I'm NOT a Creationist in any sense of the word, I believe that the teaching of pop evolution is more of a religion than a science. I think it's important to note, the "Creationist Theory" of which you speak is that of literalist, fundamental Christians. The general hypothesis of evolution fits in just fine with the teachings of the Catholic church, and those who have the brains to understand allegory.

The use of scientific method (which I support within the vacuum of a lab) is not just a way to objectively view natural phenomenon, but now a way to view morals and spirituality, teaching us to only trust what we can see, resulting in Nihilism and worse. In short, teaching that nothing exists outside of this framework is at best, bad practice.

As a clinical neuropsychologist, I have come to see that there is nothing that "excludes" any sort of design... just not the kind preached by undereducated religious philosophers.

RW:
A core curriculum should present only facts. Since religious ideologies cannot currently be weighed and tested empirically, the scope of religion in basic education remains limited to history classes (where its effects can be clearly noted by students). It is, after all, largely relevant to who we are as humans.
The teaching of the scientific method merely presents to students the way scientists have reached the conclusions presented by evolution- providing the student a way to test and question for himself- not necessarily leading to the exclusion of all mindsets outside the realm of critical thinking. That is up to the individual, along with their influences from other external factors outside of school.

CG:
I agree that it should only present the facts. However, while teaching college & graduate level classes like neurobiology it is always STRESSED to exclude unendorsed ideas, while incorporating some of the most risky ideas of homology as fact. My problem is not just the scientific frame of reference hammered into the heads of kids as the only legitimate means of measurement, but the agenda of those on the "other" side who insist that things that cannot be empirically measured are just soft and silly. I highly doubt the ability of the schools to teach critical thinking in conjunction with hypothesis testing if a good portion of kids are struggling to pass the TAKS. I know it appears I'm taking the side of the uber-Christians but I'm not. I'm just basically malcontent. ;-)

Matt K:
The fact that there has been prolonged debate over the both seems to proof enough that both theories seem to have enough grounds for an argument. Like Irreducible complexity and its bacterial flagellum of E. coli, the blood clotting cascade, cilia, and the adaptive immune system.
Other words if it was that clear cut, there normally wouldn't be an issue prolonged.

So now you have to decide a strict and narrow view of the constitution or a broad view. Which is a central point of debate since it was written.
Matt B.
user 11413756
Fort Worth, TX
Post #: 12
Me:
This discussion has quickly grown outside of it's original framework. I think we should define a few terms for the basis of fair debate. What we dub the scientific method is simply the process of using reason to acquire/understand new knowledge. A child can poke a stick in a badger hole, but will generally only do so once, after he realizes that he soon will become the recipient of an angry badger. The more refined ideas of science, one that take careful scrutiny and elimination of possibilities through tedious experimentation, and are conducted in labs as sort of an 'Edisonian' system of reduction is included in my point, but it is not exclusive to that kind of Science, knowing that "...a little theory and calculation would have saved him [Edison] ninety per cent of his labor." (Tesla) It's the failing of our teachers and schools (and the entire grading/passing system of merit) that one can potentially become a scientist, now often overspecialized into a microscopic field of study, without a broader view of nearly anything else.

Teaching of creationist ideas (i.e. Intelligent Design) as science is one of the absolute best ways to warp the idea of science altogether. Science is content to say that 'we don't know yet, but we are working to that end,' whereas the Design oriented thinking requires no evidence whatever to state a fact. Matt mentioned irreducible complexity, which is an idea that really doesn't hold up, even though it sounds workable at first, and it certainly doesn't prove or disprove anything whatever. It's a reiteration of the ages old argument for god: "This thing [insert thing here] is beyond our current understanding, and therefore must have been conceived metaphysically." You're the logician, you should know that this is called reductive fallacy. It would be equally fallacious, for example, for me to assert that I am completely correct in stating that you are wrong, I simply ask that you or someone please produce a shred of evidence for me that is valid in this context.

Science doesn't waste its time trying to make a case for or against god, though the religious often seem offended when others try to understand the world around them without referring to their preferred flavour of religious text.

Evolution is elegant, and often produces hypotheses that are found to be true (i.e. what rock to look for and what area to dig in if you need to find a specified fossil that would have been an evolutionary link at a certain point in history; much more difficult than finding a needle within a haystack), and despite over a hundred years of beating and bashing still holds up. It shouldn't be taught as a mere 'viewpoint', which is often what teachers are forced to do now, but as something that has been scrutinized from nearly every sort angle and subjected to rigorous attempts at disproval and yet still remains as Science's explanation for life.

The very last thing I wanted to mention is that to suppose a Nihilistic view is the end result of thinking that the materialistic world is all that exists is probably erroneous. One simply has to approach the smallest edge of the unknown and all of the possible things that may exist, or to even attempt to conceive of the scope of the universe, both micro and macro, to find millions more amazing and incredible things that we could ever think up to put in a religious text, or try to explain using that fearful, everlasting fallback of 'god'. I was thinking in the shower yesterday that the only thing that must surely have predated the invention of god was the question of 'Why?' Serious difficulties come immediately when we start dabbling in why questions, and they probably should be left out when dealing with the natural world. The problem is this: to ask 'why' implies a motive of some kind; an original mover or idea. The problem of our minds and language, the way our intelligence works, etc. is that it projects itself onto everything. Suppose we could create a tree. We would have a motive. Therefore, it is natural for us to (fallaciously) assume that everything in existence is predated by motive, just as we are moved to action by motive, and motive alone. Long way 'round to the idea, but Nihilism is a (reversible) predisposition, or a habit of negative thinking spiraled out of control, not due to lack of meaning actually existing in the material world, but of rational or cognitive error and/or mental illness. The mind that desires meaning will find it wherever it looks, and the mind that does not fear the lack of current answers will not need to turn to god to do so.
A former member
Post #: 38
-- my thoughts -- mine alone --
The argument that people teach their children what they believe in is not valid. Simple substitution tells us that it is wrong and should be stopped. You cannot teach your children that murder is okay. You can't teach them that having many wives and physically beating them and the children is right. You cannot teach them that an old man getting married to 9 year old girls is right.

Sure, you can try to teach them these things, but you are teaching them to break the law, and under that law not fit to be a parent. Your children will be taken from you at gunpoint if necessary. Just because it's in your holy text does not mean that you get to break the law of the land. 'give unto ceasar....'

Clearly, the law has some say in what you should or should not be teaching your children. That say should apply to religions as well. I personally think that if the government is not going to prevent religions from teaching clearly wrong things to their flocks, then stop giving them money and tax breaks. You can't teach your children to hate glbt citizens, nor the misogynist point of view that women are less. Religions should not be able to teach it either. If it's in their holy texts, then send the preachers to jail with the holy texts.

If you wouldn't hire a mechanic that thinks working on cars is beneath them, would you? Why hire a religious person that believes women are less, or that gays should be killed? They are in violation of the laws you have to uphold to start with. Why waste time with them. Why give them deference or respect?

On the other hand, pop science of evolution should also not be taught in schools. Facts. Simple, hard, scientific facts should be taught, not pop science. Schools should not be teaching what it is they think the purpose of humanity is. They should teach the differences and similarities between religious cults.... Jesus, Mithras, and Horus should all be in the same chapter along with others. You know, forget teaching the controversy, teach the facts as we know them. Children need to make up their own minds - we need only present the facts and teach them how to think about and investigate the world around them.

Science is science and has some quite clear boundaries. Often text books may be outdated by the time they are printed. Pluto and other examples show this, but they are solid foundations. Science is not going to answer what the purpose of humanity is, only what we can know of how we got to this point. If the facts conflict with religious dogma that is a problem for philosophy classes and questions of religion at home or in the church. See what I mean by boundaries?

When people try to cross the boundaries because it supports their dogma, they have broken the laws of common sense. People that want the controversy taught should be made to pass high school examinations before being allowed to present their proposals. If you cannot demonstrate knowledge of the subject at hand, you need to STFU already. This will prevent much of the problems by forcing people to consider whether they are even vaguely qualified to comment, never mind demand what the curriculum should be.

The aesthetics of one side or the other is moot. The facts are what needs to be taught and the ability to think critically about the world and how to investigate that world. Critical thinking will prevent you from creating a fire hazard holiday display - religious dogma won't. See the difference? Public schools should not be teaching ANYTHING about another life, only this one. The facts known about origin of humanity are not 100% but we know a lot of things. If that invalidates religious dogma, that is simply too bad. You are not allowed to ignore the law without being penalized. Ignoring the facts gets you the same problems.

Of course, if you believe in religious science, then fucking go invent a prayer based earthquake early warning system. For FUCK sake, people are dying and you could be saving them. What are you waiting for. Get that prayer based early warning system built!!
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