Thursday, March 27, 2008

No one was being expelled here...

... even though corrupting young minds like this should be a punishable offense, not a profitable business venture! Yes, BC Tours is a real business, which, apart from conducting these tours, also sells videos and more at their website.

A question to my students (esp. those who were asking me recently about my views on religion and science): what would you do if one of these kids showed up in your class? I wouldn't be surprised if there are people here on our campus who have been subjected to such a tour - and I am really curious what they think. Of course, the guide here has a very particular notion of how children should learn to think, doesn't he? Always ask "how do you know" - which is great thing for science students to learn - but then completely dismiss any real scientific explanation because it strays from a literal interpretation of a self-contradictory 2000 year-old collection of stories! What a recipe for life-long learning! One part that really got my goat was where the smarmy guide goes "now fossils are usually rather boring because they are piles of dead things"!! What a horrible way to close off a child's mind to the true wonders of the real world!

Several years ago when we visited the American Museum of Natural History, our (then) kindergardener daughter couldn't get enough of fossils after spending 3 entire days wandering among the exhibits, much of it in the Darwin exhibit. So fascinated and thrilled was she by all of it that she's been a fossil nut ever since - to the extent of demanding a fossil-themed birthday party last year (we obliged, and her friends had a lot of fun digging up and taking home real fossils as party favors)! Tell me - shouldn't I do everything I can to keep her away from these pious charlatans?


Steven Miller March 30, 2008 at 6:13 PM  

I could not agree more. It is however, unfortunate that the entire world does not agree with you that the Bible is simply a collection of stories. I agree that it is simply that - a fictional book that was created to influence people. And obviously had more than one intelligent person create it since there is a contingency in place for every possible situation. I think if people realize that the bible is simply a collection of stories, that contains a set of morals, some good, some bad - then people might be more relaxed about religious differences. There is so much evidence that historians have collected on when individuals have simply changed the bible strictly for their own advantage. King James couldn't divorce the wife he was miserable with, so he invented the King James bible which allowed divorce. The Baptists didn't agree if Christ was dunked under holy water when he was baptized or if he simply had holy water sprinkled on his head (even though it misses the point of the story, and who cares!) - so they came out with their own version. Sam Harris, a good friend of Richard Dawkins, cited some insane quotes from the new testament of the bible (since some christians defend accusations against their religion as only being part of the old testament) - the quotes came out in his book, "A Letter to a Christian Nation." One in particular still strikes me to this day ,"If you discover you wife is not a virgin on your wedding night, you may stone her to death." That is a direct quote from the new testament. I am often shocked by such quotes that are routinely defended. To me, there is no discussion about interpretation of that quote I just cited, it is simply, atrocious. On somewhat of a different topic than the abuse of young minds, what really bothers me is when religion is incorporated into legislature. Another story that Sam Harris quotes in his book, is when the Center for Disease Control was discussing the distribution of a HIV vaccine if a true vaccine (one capable of preventing all strains) was created - a high committee member said he would vote against its' use in Africa since he believed that would encourage premarital sex. I have thought of this scenario almost everyday since I read that section of Sam Harris' book. I have not been able to move past the fact that I have to deal with people like this on a daily basis. I am sure that member of the CDC would claim he is part of a religion that upholds life, but his statement (and vote if ever applicable) suggests otherwise. He would condemn millions in Africa to die simply because they are not observing the same religious practices as he is. A religion that disguises itself with compassion and tolerance - practices quite the opposite. The practice of, 'spreading the word of Christ,' does not suggest tolerance. It suggests superiority, condescending attitudes, and ignorance. Another story in the book talks about a man who was attempting to warn people in the south about a evangelist preacher who was telling people to throw away their wheel chairs, throw away their insulin and let god heal them. But when he had attempted to warn these people previously, the evangelists' group assaulted him. The man followed them to another city and went to the police to ask for their protection. The first policeman he spoke to said,"I hope the beat the shit out of you." The second said the same. Frustrated and surprised, the man did not know what to do. He returned to his hotel room and attempted to get a hold of the highest ranking individual in the precinct that he could. He was able to get a hold of a Sergeant. He asked the police official if he would be able to receive any protection while attempting to warn the public, and the police officer replied,"I hope they kick your ass, get the hell out of our town." Aside from the disgust I experienced when I read these stories, it bothers me more that this man in the CDC is involved in medicine. The fundamental principles of medicine only allow for the upholding of life at all cost - regardless of race and religion. I would like to think the scientific method allows for one of the most unbiased systems we have in place but I am always saddened when I hear stories such as this. People like this should not be allowed in medicine, politics, the center for disease control, or any other public position that allows them to impose their beliefs on others. So as a long answer to your question, shouldn't you everything you can to keep people like this from your children? I say, yes, to the core of who I am. Please do.

Steven Miller March 30, 2008 at 6:14 PM  

Also interesting to note: Sam Harris received several death threats from Christians for writing that book.

Madhu April 1, 2008 at 12:13 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madhu April 1, 2008 at 2:35 PM  

Steven -

That book by Sam Harris is quite a polemic, isn't it? I agree with much of his stance, but not all of it. I also wonder how devout christians, let alone fundamentalists, react to these arguments.

As for protecting my kids from these charlatans - well, I showed this video to my daughter, and she was fuming the whole way asking how these guys could be teaching such things. I wish I had a camera to capture her expression when they got to that "fossils are boring" part - her jaw about hit the floor! And apparently she's been telling her friends in school how absurd that notion is. So I'm not too worried about her gullibility towards such nonsense.

Steven Miller April 1, 2008 at 8:53 PM  

'A letter to a Christian Nation,' was definitely quite the rant. It was not exceptional but it did provide some interesting pieces of information. And I wish more parents thought the same way as you. Oh and as far as what Christians think about these arguments, if I had to bet, I would assume they simply dismiss the argument as someone who is ignorant to Christianity but as Richard Dawkins said,"I don't need to consult a fairyologist to know fairies probably don't exist."


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