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Opening minds - Comments

Thomas Byrne's Avatar Comment 1 by Thomas Byrne

Em.. but what if they don't want to understand just as much as they won't look at the evidence? And doesn't the evidence help one to understand? What if they're to dumb or close minded to understand? Y'know, the type you try to explain to the off-side rule in soccer and you end up using 2 cigarettes for the 2 forwards of one team and the salt and pepper to represent the goalie and last defender of the other and still have to explain it about 5 or 6 times before they get it and even then you're wondering did they get it or did they just say they did to avoid further embarrassment (true story between me and my born again Christian friend in the pub one day while watching a liverpool match which I missed half of because of him).

EDIT: Correction of spelling and added more detail.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:20:00 UTC | #229989

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 2 by robotaholic

right on!

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:21:00 UTC | #229990

mummymonkey's Avatar Comment 3 by mummymonkey

Good point but I wish she'd chosen a word other than design to make it.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:22:00 UTC | #229991

BicycleRepairMan's Avatar Comment 4 by BicycleRepairMan

Hear! hear!

As much as I admire Dawkins, I am in full agreeing with Sue Blackmore on this. A parable I use is that you can teach a child to say "3 plus 5 equals 8" but unless you teach them the old apples-in-the-basket example, you dont have any understanding, any old idiot can repeat a sentence , understanding the core principle is another matter.

By the way, like Mrs.Blackmore, I only fully understood the consept after reading "The Selfish Gene"

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:23:00 UTC | #229992

Darwin's badger's Avatar Comment 5 by Darwin's badger

Good article, and from one who knows how seductive the lure of mysticism is. For those who don't know, Sue Blackmore had a dope-induced hallucination of an out-of-body experience and spent many years as a believer in the paranormal, only to discover that the more one examined it, the clearer it became that it didn't exist. She now spends her time using her powers for good instead of evil. :)

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:29:00 UTC | #229994

righton's Avatar Comment 6 by righton

"Teach the controversy" right???

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:34:00 UTC | #229995

righton's Avatar Comment 7 by righton

Don't yell at me robot.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:35:00 UTC | #229996

KrisRamJ's Avatar Comment 8 by KrisRamJ

...and yet, even in Britain we're getting more and more faith schools and other pandering drivel on a daily basis.

The situation isn't much better overseas. Watching the Republican National Committee the last few nights made me realise that it's highly likely that McCain will be elected & promptly die of old age, and then we'll have a worse fundy at the head of the free world than the current one, plus the educated young people who are behind Obama will lose hope in the political process, thus leaving the field wide open to the IDiots for another generation.

Or maybe I just need a nice sit down and a cup of sugary tea...

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:36:00 UTC | #229997

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 9 by Border Collie

If I happened to be a science teacher (I was a teacher), I think I'd start off by not even mentioning evolution or Darwin. I'd start off with agricultural plants and animals. I'd show the students dogs, corn, cattle, cotton, whatever. I'd show them the different breeds and I'd put those different breeds on an approximate time line of when they originated by artificial selective breeding. That would at least give them a mental picture of variation, the actuality of change in form, etc. I don't exactly know how I'd jump the next gap from artificial selection to natural selection, but I think it would be easier if the students, for example, knew how and when chihuahuas showed up on the planet. They're not in the B book or the Q book, so they must have gotten here by some natural process after those books were written. To me, it doesn't seem like much of a jump from artificial selection to natural selection. The hardheads would still ignore the evidence and they would still say 'But, it's still a dog and a dog can't change to a rhino or whatever' and all that, but it might be a start. I mean, the agricultural selective breeding was the first sort of 'evolution' that I was aware of and it really did make it just a baby step over into natural selection for me.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 14:42:00 UTC | #230002

eellerto's Avatar Comment 10 by eellerto

I agree with Animavore. The evidence is what holds up the theory. I don't see how you can have one without the other, unless it is a hypothesis...which, as we know, is not what we mean by theory. But, I also agree that starting with the explanation of natural selection in other organisms besides humans is a good idea. It might prevent the initial knee-jerk reaction that stops people from listening.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 15:00:00 UTC | #230007

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 11 by mordacious1

I guess this article is saying the following in a round about way:

Teach science, teach rational thinking and the rest will follow. Doesn't seem like a new idea.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 15:17:00 UTC | #230010

InfuriatedSciTeacher's Avatar Comment 12 by InfuriatedSciTeacher

Border Collie> interesting take, and one that might work.. I started (when I taught within my discipline, also read "before the other person with a decent knowledge of basic physics retired") with genetics and human variation, took the class for a walk in the nearby woods and had them examine plants and insects, brought in artificial selection from there (woods are rather scant.. city kids), and let their questioning from the walk as tied to artificial selection make the jump for me. Once you get the students to examine the diversity of life, and the fact that not everything can possibly succeed (refer back to bacterial cultures from cell bio unit here), the basis for natural selection becomes apparent. Having them do internet research on the phylogeny of some fairly charismatic organism (whales are a good choice here) introduces forms of evidence, which they then have to research in order to understand. I did find myself wishing I had more fossils for them to examine, or better yet some fossil beds and rock strata for them to see.
Despite all this, those with a DEEPLY ingrained religious tendency have a hard time accepting that natural selection is a viable reason for human existence... the ego gets in the way (the quote from Bruce in the NY Times article from last week is a good representation of where that comes in).

Mordacious> It isn't, and it works... not sure why any of this should be earth shattering, other than the fact that it needs to start with the teachers themselves. I have colleagues (and had students in the university sci ed class I TAed) that simply refuse to accept the evidence for evolution. On the other hand, one of those also tried to convince me the Earth was flat, so there may only be so much you can do for flat out stupidity.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 15:34:00 UTC | #230013

jshuey's Avatar Comment 13 by jshuey

"Or maybe I just need a nice sit down and a cup of sugary tea..."

Better yet, an old claret with a wedge of Abondance.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 15:42:00 UTC | #230016

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 14 by Dhamma

You may call it a straw man, but if you tell a christian that the evolution is true, you're saying the bible is wrong. The bible clearly says the world was created in six days. There's no reason to believe the six days can be a metaphor for 3,5 billion years.

If the evolution is true, then the bible is wrong. And we all know the evolution is true. Tough luck.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 15:52:00 UTC | #230017

vesihiisi's Avatar Comment 15 by vesihiisi

Teach children zen meditating.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 16:01:00 UTC | #230021

InfuriatedSciTeacher's Avatar Comment 16 by InfuriatedSciTeacher

Dhamma> can't really argue with that... that's certainly how they view it. I also found, the last time I chose to beat my head against a brick wall and discuss this with a fundamentalist, that anything that says the bible is wrong suddenly becomes an ad hominem... It took me a couple of exchanges to discern why I was being accused of such attacks when I thought I had refrained from letting my frustration get the best of me.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 16:06:00 UTC | #230023

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 17 by Laurie Fraser

Interesting article, and a challenge to teachers. Where I work, in the New South Wales department of education, it has always been considered "unethical" to promote one's own political or religious opinions. I have always ignored this rule; I tell my students (sitting for their matriculation) that I will present them with ideas that I hold as "true", and will ask them to consider these, research the issues, formulate their own ideas, and debate me in class.

These students are generally very intelligent, and find this challenge rewarding. In quite a few cases students have changed from being creationists to "evolutionists" (I know - a bit of a silly term) and in some cases have turned away from religion altogether. I have never had a student who is an atheist suddenly become religious as a result of their research.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 16:17:00 UTC | #230027

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 18 by Don_Quix

the last time I chose to beat my head against a brick wall and discuss this with a fundamentalist, that anything that says the bible is wrong suddenly becomes an ad hominem...
I happened to be thinking about this today. Many fundies (if not most of them) take any criticism, or even polite challenging, of their beliefs as a personal ad hominem attack on them personally. Pointing out any instance of inconsistencies or demonstrable lies in their beliefs or holy books is akin to hitting these people in the face with a shovel or saying extremely vulgar and vile things about their mother.

It's really hard for me to grasp, but occasionally I'm able to partially wrap my head around it, and I find it terrifying. It's completely crazy and irrational behavior, and you can't argue or reason with crazy.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 16:23:00 UTC | #230030

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 19 by mordacious1

Hi Laurie

Your method is probably better done at a level where the students are already adults. In an elementary setting, I'm not sure it would be OK. I don't want my daughter's 8th grade teacher telling her, "I hold creationism to be true, research it and get back to me with your thoughts". We'd be in the Superintendent's office the next morning.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 16:25:00 UTC | #230033

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 20 by Dhamma

Infuriated: I pity you. Calling it an ad hominem would not just be wrong, but also not an argument for not debating it, anyway.

Vesihiisi: I'm not sure Zen per se would be necessary, but meditation is something we truly need to adapt in the western society as it's been proven very useful. I will start doing it on a regular basis when I move close to a meditation-center. I'm eagerly looking forward to it as I've tried it before, and love the sensation.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 16:28:00 UTC | #230034

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 21 by Laurie Fraser

Hi Mord, I agree. Such rules are right and proper in their place. Indeed, I have been in the principal's office on more than one occasion demanding that certain cretinist teachers be summarily crucified.

True, I teach in an adult education environment. And I don't lambast students with my ideas. I tell them my ideas, and ask them to think about it. Leads to some *very* lively debates, let me tell you!

Edit: actually, Mord, if a creationist asked students to research that topic, that at least would be "educational", in a sense. The problem of course, is that at 8th grade level there is too great a disparity in social power between teacher and student. By the time they get to my level of education, they think teachers are open season. (And that's all for the good.)

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 16:34:00 UTC | #230038

InfuriatedSciTeacher's Avatar Comment 22 by InfuriatedSciTeacher

Dhamma> no pity needed, I walked open-eyed into that mess... thanks anyway though

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 16:34:00 UTC | #230039

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 23 by Dhamma

You're welcome, Infuriated!

Hi there, Laurie! I bet those debates come with various things being tossed at you, as well!

I just had a discussion with an old friend, the only christian friend I have, and he got pretty pissed at me when I told him the evolution is true, no matter how much he denied it. I said there are tons of evidence(in contrast to evidence of god), but he was very suspicious.. I'll nail the bastard soon. Muahahaha!

Edited for some badly chosen words, and grammar. Again.. Maybe I should get some sleep instead. Or learn English.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 16:44:00 UTC | #230045

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 24 by Laurie Fraser

No, don't change anything, Dhamma. I especially love it when you talk about "the" evolution. That's a nice, quirky foreign-language mannerism! Is it late evening in your part of the world?

Edit: The only time an official complaint was made about my teaching methods was when a creationist nut-job couldn't take the pressure. He stormed into the college director's office demanding action. The director (who told me the story later) asked him what his complaint was. He said that I had been ridiculing his religious beliefs by suggesting that creationism was nonsense, and that I was insisting that evolution was true. The director weighed things up for a bit, then said: "Well, it seems to me Laurie's doing a damn fine job, in that case."

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 17:05:00 UTC | #230050

Darwin's Teapot's Avatar Comment 25 by Darwin's Teapot

I teach ESL in Korea. I have to say the english program here is a joke, but I have a feeling that science is taught with a bit of rigor. I am curious though as to how/if they teach evolution. More generally, I am curious how/if evolution is taught in the Asian world at all. I'd answer my own query, but my Korean is extremely weak. The country is 44% Catholic.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 17:16:00 UTC | #230051

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 26 by Dhamma

Ha - Fair enough, Laurie!

I had no idea it wasn't possible to use "the". If I instead would have said "..when I told him evolution is true", would that be correct? Or would I have to rephrase it? It doesn't sound correct in my head to drop the "the" :)

Yes, it's very late, it's 3 am. Occasionally when I've got nothing to do the day after, I stay up late! I've been to Australia, but I can't remember if it's morning or not now?

Edit: Ha - I'd love to see your smile after hearing that! Must've been an awfully nice feeling!

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 17:16:00 UTC | #230052

Hellene's Avatar Comment 27 by Hellene

Try this one on for size. A physics teacher who shows "What the bleep do we know?" and quotes it in class as a source.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 17:22:00 UTC | #230053

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 28 by Dhamma

It's pretty funny with languages as it becomes obvious when listening to foreigners of various languages speaking English what particular mistakes they make. I always here the French making their mistakes and the Swedes making their.

I think the "the" for example could be because we always put "en" or "et" at the end of nouns. So I'd say "evolutionen är sann" in Swedish which I'd translate into "the evolution is true", because I can't say "evolution är sann". Well, I really need to learn it properly, but I'm too lazy!

Edit: The Swedish I wrote looks bizarre in my viewer.. I suppose it does in yours too. Maybe it's got to do with the script on

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 17:37:00 UTC | #230058

kkelly's Avatar Comment 30 by kkelly

27, holy bleepballs!

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 17:47:00 UTC | #230061

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 29 by Laurie Fraser

11.30am here, Dhamma.

there's lot's of cases in English where we drop the definite article "the", especially when we're talking about group or abstract nouns like "evolution".

Anyway, TTFN, gotta go.

Thu, 04 Sep 2008 17:47:00 UTC | #230060