Defending Science

Posted By on April 30, 2007

“Remember That Guy In My Political Science Class?”

.: You do remember him, right? It was only two posts ago, so it should be fresh in your memory. Well, he said a few more silly things today.

.: Today (the last day of class) we covered various court cases on religious expression in public places, which eventually segued into court cases about teaching evolution and creation science in classrooms. You can guess which side our dear friend The Jester took. His character asked a typically clueless creationist question, in pitch perfect tone, “Why can’t we just teach both theories in the classroom?”

.: Initially I wasn’t going to respond to his hilariously moronic statements, but fearing that someone would actually take his stultiloquence seriously I raised my hand:

“Because it isn’t science.”

.: It was a simple response, and though I did feel a tad bit silly for engaging with an obvious parody, I still felt I did the right thing. Would you believe me if I told you that was it and the lecture quickly moved on? If you would, then you clearly have little faith in our dear friend’s comedic abilities, for he shot back with a classic creationist ripost:

“Yes it is. And besides, 80% of our taxpayers believe in God, and only 40% believe in evolution, so why not teach both?”

.: I was nervous, and I was also thankful I was sitting in the backrow where people couldn’t see my leg bouncing up and down.

.: Should I really continue with this clown? Would I be advancing an understanding of science if other people couldn’t see he was clearly not being serious? He really wasn’t being serious, right? Was I wrong in my original assessment?

.: By then other students were chiming in with their own thoughts, so I told myself, “Fuck it. You can’t tell a creationist from a parody anyway, might as well treat them both the same way.”

.: And on it went, for the rest of the period. After about five minutes, some people would ignore the professor and ask questions their questions directly to me instead. After about ten minutes, if a student happened to ask the professor a question, she would simply direct them to me. It’s an odd feeling you get whenever an entire class of students is deeply skeptical of everything you say.

.: I tried to focus the discussion on the legal aspect of teaching evolution and creationism, but in any situation like this it always comes down to “Where are the transitional fossils, HMM?!” For every pertinent point I could bring up (“Look up the ‘Wedge Document’ and you’ll see a clear case of religious motivation”) they would always counter with something from the asinine (“For some, science is just as much of a religion as Christianity, so if you’re not going to teach creationism then shouldn’t you not teach science as well?). I was reminded of a passage I read from a new blog I discovered this morning:

We don’t argue with cranks. Part of understanding denialism is knowing that it’s futile to argue with them, and giving them yet another forum is unnecessary. They also have the advantage of just being able to make things up and it takes forever to knock down each argument as they’re only limited by their imagination while we’re limited by things like logic and data. – denialism blog

.: And here I was, arguing with people who thought differently from me. I wouldn’t consider them cranks (save for Mr. Jester), just mistaken people. I did my best to keep my tone civil and measured. I didn’t interrupt anybody when they were talking, I didn’t belittle anyone’s deeply held beliefs, and I even pointed inquiring minds to Baylor’s very own biology department for further information.

.: When I recommended the writings of Ken Miller, Jester responded, “And I would recommend the writings of MOSES!” People laughed at that, which made me think, “Good, they don’t take him seriously.” He did say he was a religion major, so for all intents and purposes — Jester or not — he probably did mean it. I really can’t tell at this point.

.: All in all, it was a fun period. I got to talk for half an hour on a subject I find interesting, and I got to experience the thrill and entertainment of That Guy In My Political Science Class for one last time.

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