In Which The Author Rambles At Length

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In Which The Author Rambles At Length

I really just felt the need to write on the subject of SB561.  I'm a little surprised by what came out.  



The governor of Louisiana has signed into law a bill which encourages the teaching of unscientific beliefs as scientific fact. The skeptic community railed against this bill; I must admit that I called the governor's office to speak out against SB 561. Many others placed calls and wrote emails as well, but it seems now the effort was for naught.

I have seen prominent skeptics in the online community lament the practical downsides of this law. Louisiana will see fewer high-tech companies choosing to develop there. The success of the bill will encourage other states to pass similar measures. Louisiana will slide, like an iceberg being shed by a glacier, back into ignorance and superstition.

Perhaps these things are true, but they miss the point. Science education is in a sorry shape in the United States, and it has nothing to do with the Intelligent Design movement.

I will never be a scientist. I am a skeptic, a freethinker, and an atheist. I abhor Intelligent Design as nonsense, fantasy that bears no resemblance to reality. I did not come to think this way, to think for myself, until very recently in my life. I was not taught the scientific method in school. I learned facts and ideas, gathering them up as though if only I accumulated enough of them, I would be prepared to face the real world. My schools failed me, and I failed at school.

I was never given the opportunity to be a real scientist. In all probability, I will never know what it is like to see something no human has ever seen before. I will probably never learn something about the universe that no one else even suspects yet. I will always satisfy my urge to know with the simplified summaries of those who discovered sooner than I how to learn.

This, I think, is the tragedy of SB 561. I do not doubt that some of Louisiana's children will be lucky enough not to feel the effects of this wretched law. I am saddened to think that many will. Many will be fed the wispy nonsense of “the controversy” rather than being shown how to think on their own. A tragedy greater still is that even without this law, I doubt many children of Louisiana would be taught the scientific method, or that it is a good thing to question what you think you know.

The sterile ennumeration of facts is not science. There exists a sorry state of affairs when one list of ideas is substituted for another and both are crowned “knowledge”. The things taught in my science class were as empty and misguided as what is to come in schools across Louisiana.

It could be argued, I suppose, that the learning of dry and lifeless facts is important. At least the facts taught in proper science classes correspond to reality. Again, that is not the important part of education. A child with an internet connection has at his or her fingertips whatever facts and figures may be necessary. A child with an open mind has at his or her fingertips the ability to add to that body, to wonder at the strange beauty of a distant star or a tiny microbe.

That is the battle we should be fighting. I am glad to see the good fight has just begun.

Religion is a virus.
Fight the infection.