Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Turtles All the Way Down: Why Mt Vernon, Ohio Will Learn No Lesson from the John Freshwater Mess

In perusing the interwebs today, I came across a couple of articles which rather succinctly illustrate the forehead-smacking futility of trying to deal with hard-core theists on the subject of religion in education. Both are from the Zanesville Times Recorder Opinion page. The first, by managing editor Len Lacara, explains the situation as both sides see it: from the point of view of Freshwater's supporters, and his detractors. He provides links to web sites defending the teacher's actions (or attempting to), and then explains that the defenders are wrong.

Enter concerned citizen Jeff Fraunfelter a few days later. I won't bother with a fisking of Fraunfelter's letter, as a casual perusal of it's content should be sufficient for any reader to see that it neither addresses the content of the original editorial, nor does it offer support for any cogent argument: it is merely a string of tired creationist tropes, from the label 'liberal' in the first sentence, to the 'why don't you go pick on Islam' gripe to the 'only a theory' saw. Not impressive.

But this illustrates the core problem: one side of this argument is just not interested in learning anything. He has been handed a set of talking points by the religious leaders he trusts and is simply asserting them as unassailable truth. Anyone who might provide information contradicting his claims is dismissed as 'liberal', 'secular-humanist', 'anti-Christian', or 'a member of the elite'.

One of the unfortunate results of the internet age is that religious conservatives, particularly creationists, have created a virtual reality of their own, a misinformation network in which they make bald assertions, and then refer to each others' assertions as 'evidence' in later writings/arguments. The phenomenon started with talk radio, which allowed them to ignore the newspapers and television, and spoon-fed them filtered Truth
. Now that we have the Web, they've got the WorldNutDaily, One News Now, Answers in Genesis, Conservapedia, and so on.

Which, of course, only drives home the argument that we need quality science education so we can drag these poor kids out of the morass of ignorance their parents live in. To do otherwise is not only to turn our backs on them, but to seriously hobble our future and that of our own children. And I don't give a rat's ass if that makes me an anti-Christian liberal commie pinko fascist Nazi atheist Satan-worshiping member of the homosexual agenda, or whatever.

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