May 04, 2005

Countering System Bias --- Giving Credit to Nonsense --- or just sourcing your facts so your audience can make an informed decision

I'm been enjoying PZ Myer's blog Pharyngula.org for a few weeks now, a nice combination of science, social justice, intrigue, and moron-ass kicking, but I'm a bit upset as his knee-jerk attack at a poor CBS journo for just deciding to inform the public of the crap that creationist are using to brainwash kids.

He strikes out at MacDonald's article, alerting the public to the sad tragedy continually befalling the Kansas education board; hardcore conservative craetionists keep pushing their agenda into public schools, ignoring well known science. The latest problem is the so-called "teach the controversy", where already strained biology classtime is being set aside to teach alternatives to evolution (read: Answers in Genesis, or ID -- hardline conservative Christian religiously based doctrines that rely on fallacies, out-of-context quotes and pseudo-science to rival scientology... nothing on Buddhist doctrines, Muslim doctrines, Animist doctrines, or even scientology doctrines) which can blatantly seen as stupid, idiotic and detrimental to the future of American science (why do you think they are importing in a lot of scientists Canadians, Europeans and Asians? Because they aren't producing any good ones themselves anymore).

Philosophy belongs in a philosophy class, not science. I wouldn't even want "the origin of the world/meaning of life" being brought up in a bioethics class, not when human influence on biodiversity, life patents, cloning, IVF, commercial exploitation of third world countries, Monsanto, contraceptives, abortion and other real current applicable-to-my-daily-life issues are still bubbling about.

So what is PZM upset about (and me upset about him being upset) -- the CBS article dares to quote several *questions* directly from the Discovery Institutes website, that students are supposedly asking in science classes. PZM appears outraged that a legitimate media organisation dare quote D-Institute.
"[CBS] is running a sidebar that is simply propaganda straight from the Discovery Institute ...presented as if these are serious questions that are troubling biologists". Yes they are running a sidebar with ID propoganda... but they aren't presenting it as correct, they are just simply quoting it (and even sourcing it) as an example of the crap biology teachers have to put up with.

If I had read this article, and not a single one of these questions was contained within, I would be very dissapointed. The journalist would be printing a story about
"questions that are not science-based", without showing us these questions to let the reader see for themselves. You can't just call something crap, and not show your audience why (this is well used creationist-tactic). Hiding your opponents arguments just shows you are scared of them. PZ Myers appears frightened that broadcasting these is bad... why? Is the American public so stupid as to buy information being presented and science-less as true? (Please don't answer that).

Similarily biology teachers aren't worried about these questions because they are so hard to answer. PZ M does this himself in a later entry, showing how stupid they truly are. They are worried about these questions being asked, because it means their students are being conned into thinking they are legitimate. If you were a year 12 Maths C (hardcore trignometry and calculus) teacher and a student asked you why 2x -6 =0 means x = 3, while in the next question x =4, because 3x-5=7, but shouldn't x=x because its the same letter; you'd be worried. You wouldn't be worried because you don't know why x is different in those equations, you'd be worried because what the hell is a student who doesn't understand basic algebra doing in your year 12 advanced mathematics class, how the hell did they get past primary school, and it is a hard concept to explain to someone who obviously has no background knowledge, because its so freakingly obvious to you.

Now PZ M seems a smart wise man, who actually knows his shit... so maybe it might dawn on him that perhaps there is an innocent explanation to CBS's alleged sycophantic sidebar - its simply getting the message out there. Its odd that he doesn't also leap on the poll quoted in the article (and above the sidebar):
A Gallup poll last year showed that only 28 percent of Americans accept the theory of evolution, while 48 percent adhere to creationism - the belief that an intelligent being is responsible for the creation of the earth and its inhabitants
How dare CBS tell us that 48% of Americans believe in creationism, doesn't that give credence to Creationism, I mean if enough people believe it, doesn't that make it true? No. Its just stating the facts. Similarily quoting ID questions for students to ask teachers under the title of "Questions students ask teachers", isn't giving them credence, its an alert, a warning, a big flashing klaxon. I bet MacDonald would have liked to call it "Stupid questions kids are being fed by Creationist loonies", but editors might have warned it off for lack of space, as well as avoiding getting sued. CBS is not an outrageous indie news source like The Beast (currently trying its darndest to be sued by another religious wingnut: Tom Cruise)

I'm sort of dreading just dipping my toes into the web-wide evo-creationist debate. I've been happy knocking down small-time morons over SN-way, and now wisely avoiding questions I am aware I personally can't handle with people I can't personally handle -- but even dipping my toes in with the professionals is freaking me out. So please do not Destroy Me With The Powers of Your Brain (check it a new store, stock in later today). I'm too naive and trusting, and I still find it hard to believe that some people, even frothy religious nutters, are so stupid/ignorant/stubborn. And that sometimes scientists c
an be just as bad.


0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home