Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

There's just no speaking truth to the deliberately ignorant

Panda's Thumb has a post on how the sincere belief that science education puts children's souls in peril is the major roadblock to establishing good biology education in schools. A quote from the writer's conclusion:

In fact, I’ll go further: Basing the effort to defeat attempts to weaken the teaching of evolutionary theory solely on scientific arguments is both a tactical and a strategic mistake. It increases the fear and reinforces the resistance by making the threat appear stronger and therefore more menacing. A defense of teaching good biological science that does not take into account the fear of the parents who oppose evolution might win in the school board or in court, but it does not address the fundamental reason for the resistance to science. A defense of science that directly addresses the fear has a better chance of both winning the battle and preserving the community.

I am afraid that's a good point, but how? If you can't use reason, if the only language they speak is Fundie Christian, what can you tell them? That their children won't turn away from God? You can't promise them that, even if you take evolution away completely. Fundamentalism is so unreasonable, so ridiculous, so alien to the normative culture that it's china-delicate. Their only protection is censorship; not letting their children hear anything but their viewpoint is the only way to protect their viewpoint. How can you address the fears of all-or-nothing types? Anything that is outside their belief system is automatically a threat. An example from the same post:

During the Q&A Ed told of meeting a biologist at a conservative southern university (that I won’t name here) who said that when evolution is being taught in a biology course required for pre-meds, students of the fundamentalist Christian persuasion make a practice of staying in the back of the lecture hall and holding hands and praying. No amount of scientific reasoning is an antidote to the kind of cognitive blocking exemplified by that behavior.

No amount of reason, but I would argue that no amount of emotional appeal or anything else will get through. If they compromise their delicate belief system on even one point, the whole thing will come crashing down. That's why fundamentalists pull away from society and create their own, because their religion doesn't withstand criticism. Their beliefs are only protected by the hardening of their beliefs, there is no support structure there.
So, what to do? I don't know. It's obviously wrong to let a minority of religious fanatics dictate public policy because they have set their own selves up to be crushed by even a hint of dissent. But of course, by forcing them and their children to have to live in the real world, we are crushing their religious beliefs. Well, too bad. They set the rules--either they take over the country or else. And letting them have the country is not an option.

Via Prometheus 6.

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