Friday, October 06, 2006

Red Rover

There's an especially infuriating scene in Jesus Camp showing a mother home schooling her young son. The kid learns from good ol' Mum that global warming is just a "political" issue, creationism answers everything and, "science doesn't prove anything." She then proceeds to walk into her kitchen, crank up the radio and pop something into the microwave oven. She might even have a GPS system in the vehicle -- probably an SUV -- that sits in her drive way. If she doesn't have GPS, she probably thinks it would be great to have.

Of course, science never claims to "prove" anything anyway. Science is a process by which theories about the nature of physical phenomena are supported, or not, by observational evidence. If not, such theories are quickly tossed. Good scientific theories are used to actually make predictions about how something should behave, predictions which test the validity of the theory itself. In this way, a scientific theory is a self-correcting system. Scientific theories can be further employed, usually via technology that is the direct product of previous scientific theories, to actually make working things, like televisions and radios and, well, everything else we use in the modern world. Scientific theories never actually "prove" anything per se, and in this sense the mother was correct. The scientific method is means to create the best approximate models of how the physical world works. The physical world proves the theory, not the other way around.

Of course, this is not at all what the woman meant and, like most anti-intellectual creationists, she clearly has no idea what science is or what it does. Which makes her the ideal fundamentalist teacher, the kid doomed to a life of Christianist proselytizing. He'll never know anything else.

It is surely no wonder that such a young mind, starved of intellectual endevour, would not be fascinated by the scientific enterprise if he were aware that the human adventure had a couple of robot crawlers on the surface of Mars and that another machine, orbiting the planet, was in space and taking pictures of the Opportunity rover sitting at the edge of the Victoria crater and beaming those pictures back to Earth. He might further be amazed that the robot crawler on the surface, pictured as it was by the orbiter, was simultaneously sending its pictures of that same crater back to Earth

We might further wonder how long it would take before such a young mind would begin to question, in the best sense that curiosity and skepticism provide, his mother's teachings. I expect we all know the answer.

Sadly, there are far too many children in this country being deprived of exposure to science and the intellectual rigour it demands. We know that young minds are ready -- anxious -- to embrace and entertain new thought and the possibilities it affords. This is the cruel injustice presented by Jesus Camp. The children being so taught by know-nothings will never be allowed such exposure, their intellectual curiosity stunted before it ever has chance to blossom. And that is the true and fiendish nature of fundamentalist home schooling: it seeks not to instruct, but to indoctrinate and retard.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

But just think of how much Jesus will love them!

9:43 PM  

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