Friday, October 14, 2005

If intelligent design prevails?

The Highest School is vision of what high school might be like if "intelligent design" creationism advocates prevail. In such a school, they don't just "teach the controversy" of "intelligent design" creationism, but they teach a lot of other "controversies" that aren't. After all, why limit the teaching of one religion-inspired pseudoscience with no scientific evidence to support it as being a equal "alternative" viewpoint to an established science with 150 years worth of evidence from multiple disciplines to supporit when you could teach other ideologically motivated pseudohistory or pseudoscience as equal "alternative" viewpoints as well?

The Highest School explains it this way:
Highest School is an organization dedicated to making sure that our children are exposed to all sides of scientific and historical issues, and not condemned to hear just what an elite group of special interests wants them to hear.

It would also teach other "ways of knowing" than the scientific method, because of its "failings":
Let's look at another famous failure of science. When people started bringing the first meteorites to scientists, claiming that the rocks fell from the sky, scientists thought the idea completely ridiculous. "Rocks can't fall from the sky," said the scientists, and encouraged the poor ignorant folks to put their rocks back in their heads from whence the came. Eventually it was proven that the rocks did indeed fall from the sky, showing once again that the scientists didn't know what they were talking about. But did the scientists change their minds? Well, yes they did, but only after the evidence was so significant that they really had no choice.
Consider the Highest School's approach to American History:
It would be bad enough if schools limited their restrictions on the truth to the space program, but there are many areas of historical "fact" that experts call into question. For example:
  • Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman who shot President Kennedy. There is copious argument on this subject, and the number of people involved in Kennedy's assassination likely rivals the population of some countries.
  • The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise. Many experts agree that the U.S. government knew about it all along but wanted the attack to succeed so that it would get people upset enough that a war with Japan would be popular, giving the government an excuse to go to war with Nazi Germany.
  • You have to pay federal income taxes. On the contrary, many people do not pay income taxes by simply declaring themselves residents of a state instead of the country. According to some books, it's not only legal but it might also teach you something about the American judicial system.
  • Columbus discovered America. Actually, Native Americans were here first, and if you ask any LDS member they will tell you that Native Americans are descendents of the lost tribe of Israel, so really the Jews discovered America.
  • President is the most powerful elected office in the country. It's the highest ranked elected office in the country, but there is plenty of evidence that the President really has no power because he is completely beholden to the Trilateral Commission.
  • American Idol isn't fixed. Seriously, does anyone believe this?
There are many, many more examples we could cite, but what would be the point? Special interests have a hammerlock on history, and we have to tip it over and let the truth spill out.

Or what about such a school's approach to the Holocaust:
These "Holocaust revisionists" point out that the testimony of tens of thousands of "survivors" of the Nazi camps is purely anecdotal and therefore not compelling. They note that historians do not agree on the number of people who died in the Holocaust, and if historians cannot agree on the details of their theory, the whole theory must be called into question. Revisionists also gain some measure of legitimacy from the fact that some countries fear their view of history so much that they have made it illegal to even discuss.

But, some ask, why should our children be exposed to doubt about such an important subject? True, legitimate historians believe that the Holocaust occurred, but our children deserve the chance to weigh the evidence and make up their own minds instead of leaving such an important subject to the "experts." But how can young ones do that when the "fact" of the Holocaust is taught as an accepted historical truth, without giving equal weight to all of the questions and objections that revisionists have brought to the table?

Let's look at an example to illustrate this point. I think we all agree that creationism and critiques of evolution need to be part of every child's public-school education. Well, Holocaust revisionism has just as much right to be heard in our schools as creationism! Consider these similarities. Creationism and Holocaust revisionism are both:
  • Discussed in great detail in copious books and newsletters written by strongly opinioned individuals who have a degree in something.
  • Supported by logic and reason custom tailored to support their conclusion.
  • Promoted by individuals who are careful to deemphasize the religion-oriented roots of their beliefs, preferring to discuss the matter solely on scientific grounds.
  • Popular with certain groups of Americans but oppressed because they are in conflict with "accepted" theories.
There are also significant gaps in records of what happened to people during World War II. Historians might, for example, have evidence that a certain person lived in Poland, and evidence that this same person died in a concentration camp, but unless there are specific records of the route that person took to get to the camp, how can it be proven that he was sent there? It is agreed that mass graves were found, as were the remains of large ovens, and that there are thousands of photographs that seem to verify elements of the Holocaust theory, but really is this gargantuan mountain of evidence enough for us to conclude that the Holocaust happened with enough certainty to tell our children about it? Of course not.

We should remember that, if ID advocates want schools to "teach the controversy" of "intelligent design" creationism, how long would it be before other nonexistent controversies are considered fair game? Why ID and not "alternate" versions of American or Holocaust history? The scary thing is that the Highest School doesn't always sound like the parody that it is intended to be, not because it isn't a parody but rather because it seems to hit a little too close to home the direction that education today seems to be going.

7 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 10/14/2005 10:26 AM, Anonymous Mark Paris said...

As I read this, I was thinking, "I have to go to this Web site because I can't believe this is not a parody. Or is it?" I was relieved to read in your post that it is a parody, but I agree with you that it cuts so close that I could believe someone was actually serious.

 

At 10/14/2005 11:16 AM, Anonymous Skeptico said...

You know, I'm 99% sure this site is a parody. I hope it is - I have it as "humor" link from my site.

Look at their page on astronomy: http://www.highestschool.com/astronomy.shtml

The science of astronomy dates back thousands of years. It is one of humanity's oldest scientific disciplines, with ancient monuments such as Stonehenge a testament to its importance to cultures around the world. But consider this: a rising number of high school students cannot tell you what their star sign is. More than half of them don't know what a star sign is. And a full 95% are unable to pair the appropriate sign of the zodiac with a given date!

(Snip)

And what about the fact that 90% of general-interest newspapers (as well as other important periodicals, like "TV Guide") run horoscopes every day. Do you think that these publications, publications that have the power to turn the tide of politics with their reporting, would print something they did not believe in? And more importantly, do we really want our children receiving an education that isn't even preparing them to read a newspaper!

As a first step to remedying the situation, we recommend that astronomy textbooks and science textbooks that discuss astronomy have a sticker placed on their cover that reads, "Stellar evolution is a theory, not a fact. Educators impel you to seek out other explanations for the movement of the stars and to look for their influence in your life."

 

At 10/14/2005 3:38 PM, Blogger dubiousbiologist said...

Given that *real* high schools teach st*ff like psychology and PE, why not teach astrology and creation science? Besides, potions was my favorite class at Hogwarts--Severus Snape was a fr*cking genius I tell you what.

 

At 10/14/2005 6:55 PM, Blogger Ereshkigal said...

If the "teach the controversy" people had any claim to credibility, they would insist that the controversies in sex education should be brought to students as well.

As it is, they are some of the biggest abstinence-only proponents.

 

At 10/14/2005 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams.

It is a darned good parody, too. I believed the authors were serious until I read the What Can I Do page, which reads in part:

"Lobby your local school board for change. Loud protests outside a board member's home with banners about "A child hater lives here" are particularly effective, as are the photos of you in jail for trying to speak your mind."

The parody speaks directly to the current suit by the Association of Christian Schools against the University of California, over UC's refusal to accept biology courses that teach creationism and deny the validity of evolution.

 

At 10/15/2005 5:19 PM, Blogger HEADoc said...

The genius of parody is the core of truth used to amuse and entertain. I think Mythology possesses the same magic. Both the scholar and the nit wit can relate.

 

At 10/15/2005 6:28 PM, Blogger Prometheus said...

The "teach the controversy" argument falls apart once you realize that "controversies" about evolution don't necessarily support "Intelligent Design".

The common error (actually, one of many) that I see "ID" supporters make is to assume that dismantling evolution would make "Intelligent Design" the de facto successor. In reality, not only is evolution far tougher to dismantle than they think, disproving evolution does nothing to support "ID".

The "ID" supporters' reasoning is as faulty as assuming that if you can prove that my car is not a Ford, that it must be a Toyota. In a way, they have fallen into a version of the "false dilemma" fallacy.


Prometheus

 

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