“You’re interested in religion; what do you think of creation/evolution?”

. . . and why I absolutely hate being asked that question.

Read this, an account of an incident at the screening of “Expelled” which was linked by a friend as being hilarious (which it is . . . if it’s true).

Now read this, a retelling of the same incident from a different perspective.

When I put the two accounts together and try to reconstruct what probably happened, everyone involved looks like an idiot or a jerk. This is why I more or less try to avoid questions of evolution/creation/intelligent design/whatever as thoroughly as possible: they bring out the worst in people, allowing them to mock and denounce and foam at the mouth over something that has absolutely nothing to do with the daily lives of most of the people who get outraged about it.

(Yes, I am sensitive to issues of academic censorship and the tendency of some fields to criticize people who approach the subject matter from a different perspective. But you don’t see nationally released documentaries about the hostility of historical-critical methodology in Biblical studies to literary criticism.)

((I am aware of the mild irony of this being my first blog post in ages, given . . . everything else that’s been happening. I’ll be posting about “everything else” at some point, I imagine.))

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2 comments on ““You’re interested in religion; what do you think of creation/evolution?”

  1. Alex R. says:

    Mm, siege mentality on everybody’s part…

    Y’know, I can see why people get so contentious about evolution/creation/ID, even if it’s not directly related to the everyday life of adults. It’s a pretty important policy issue, from an educational standpoint.

    And it’s such a hard issue to deal with, because everybody knows that they’re absolutely right, and people who have the wrong position are being actively destructive. And are typically unreasonable jerks, with bizarre value systems.

    One position: If public schools are telling our kids Wrong Things about the origins of the world — which, given what we know about God, can’t fail to have a teleology to them — this could confuse them about their faith, which could be dangerous not just for the short term, but also for our moral fabric as a people in the long term. And what if they turn away from the faith for good? We just can’t risk it, and we certainly shouldn’t be paying taxes to have Wrong Things taught to impressionable children.

    Another position: If public schools label science textbooks with “THIS IS JUST A THEORY” and start spouting about this “intelligent design” business, then we’re paying taxes to have religion taught to the kidlets, and not all of us share that same religion. And we’re throwing into doubt what the scientific consensus really is, legitimizing beliefs that are really pretty fringe in the biology community. And schools are muddling what scientists mean when they use the word “theory”, which is a very important point. Don’t we need every kid to have the best possible science education we can muster, so we can have really good scientists and engineers and doctors? I for one sure want to get that whole cancer thing sorted out. And I’d rather not look like a backwater yokel on the international stage. You could hear all of Europe laughing at us over the stickers on biology books in Georgia…

    The worst part, I think, is that we don’t separate out science classes from philosophy-of-science classes. The question “what can we investigate with science?” is pretty important. The question “what is intentionality, and is there, or can there be, any of that to the universe-as-a-whole”, that’s also really interesting. “Can we make a hypothesis about that and test it out empirically?”. When I’m elected, we will confront the childrens with these questions.

  2. BetentacledBrad says:

    Le sigh… So much wrong… Now I won’t deny that there are jerks on both sides (and PZ Myers can go a little far at times), but this is a film produced by someone who’s clearly never heard of Godwin’s Law and that has been plagued by dishonesty at every turn. Despite what Expelled‘s website implied (but didn’t outright state, once you sort through who’s saying what and who’s actually on the payroll), the showing wasn’t invitation-only, though shortly after this incident the ability to sign up for the subsequent ones was removed (the jury is still, however, out on whether the reason was so that they could make the later showings invitation-only or because of some copyright trouble from Harvard). And, of course, the producer later admitted to specifically booting Myers (I’ll be charitable and assume he was being honest, since the major alternative is that it was supposed to be a lie for damage control), who even appears in the film (and who thus, at least as far as the argument over the movie goes, didn’t even start the fight).

    Sadly, love, the truth of the matter is that this isn’t about academic freedom and acceptance of alternative viewpoints, because that argument no longer works when one side is demonstrably wrong.

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