Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Science for Fundamentalists

Many Christians of the Poor Oppressed variety home-school their children to keep them away from dangerous ideas such as those found in actual science. It's not that there's necessarily a conflict between science and religious belief in general, but rather between scientific explanations of phenomena and literalist beliefs that attribute the activity of natural processes to supernatural forces. The simplest conclusion to draw from this should be that where literalism conflicts with science it is almost certainly incorrect, but many fundamentalists are far too attached to their beliefs to admit that this might be the case. Likewise, many of them who home-school act as if they can shield their children from real science for long enough somehow the contradictions inherent in their religious beliefs will go unnoticed. The mass exodus of children raised in such households from literalist churches provides ongoing evidence that this approach is misguided at best.

The above image was recently circulated on the Internet as actual material from a textbook for Christian home-schoolers. After some research I was able to determine that it is in fact a parody, but I decided it was too funny not to post anyway. The scary thing is that while it's a bit over-the-top, at the same time it's not inconceivable that it could have been part of a real textbook. This next image was circulated back in August, and apparently is genuine.

Suffice it to say that there really is little question among scientists about what electricity is and how it works. It transfers energy through the movement of electrons, the sub-atomic particles that carry negative charge - full stop. If you understand that, you can understand everything else - the difference between charge and current, between direct current and alternating current, and the meaning of measurements such as voltage and amperage. While this is supposed to be a text for fourth-graders and therefore the author may have been attempting to simplify, it wasn't actually that hard to explain the real workings of electricity to my daughter at that age. Implying that "nobody really knows" is flat-out wrong.

Aleister Crowley once wrote that he advocated "the method of science, the aim of religion" for the simple reason that if something is indeed true, belief in it is not necessary for it to remain so. You can disbelieve in electricity all you want, but being exposed to it can still electrocute you. While spirituality is inherently more subjective than the physical sciences, a belief that cannot survive critical scrutiny is weak at best and flat-out wrong at worst.

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Hypnovatos said...

The genuine picture from the text book just gave me cancer. I think my body is trying to kill itself when it found that people are pursuing that line of education...

Scott Stenwick said...

It kind of makes your brain want to jump out of your head and escape to a better, smarter world, doesn't it?