Friends, Children, and Science Education
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11-12-2014, 03:06 PM
Friends, Children, and Science Education
I've been lurking about here for a while now (both as a user and before as a simple guest) but this is my first post.

A bit about me so you can put my experiences detailed below in context.

I'm a PhD candidate in geophysics studying. I was raised in a secular home where of even my extended family only a minority were religious (mostly a rather lesser-faire version of roman catholics). The only thing you could say I was indoctrinated in was the scientific method. At age 8 I tested the existence of the fairy tales known as Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. I hypothesized that there was equal evidence of them all existing and as such if I could show that one didn't exist then they were all none-existant. So when I lost my next tooth I didn't tell my parents. When I didn't receive my usual loonie for the tooth I knew who the real tooth fairy (and by extension Easter bunny and Santa Claus) was.

Mostly I saw religion from the outside looking in. So much so that I chose to to go to a catholic high school so that I could "better understand why other people believed in god(s) and holy books" (my words to my Mom at age 14). Seriously, my rational for going to a religious school was so that I could study my classmates like an anthropologist might study a culture of a people in a far way country.

I've recently read The God Delusion which made me think...wait a moment how prevalent is biblical literalism. At least around here in Canada it didn't seem to be and I had only ever met a few people who were subscribers to the 6000 year old Earth and they were pretty low key about it as most other people seemed to think these views rather odd (for obvious reasons). I was surprised that when I lifted my head free of the Ivory Tower sand that this seems to be scarily common at least south of the border.

The first is a very good friend of mine. She was raised in a strictly christian household and by the time she started university she had never heard that the Earth could be more than 6000 years old (she was the first person I ever met to have held this view at one point in their life). She had also grown up near a very good fossil collecting location and had been fascinated by the fossils. So I met her when she was a first year geology student struggling with calculus and an Earth history class that was challenging everything she had ever been taught to believe. The mental dissonance led her to leave the geology program for a year. She returned to the program and finished it with a firm understanding of the true age of the Earth and why we can be certain of that age. In fact she is an excellent geologist.

I hadn't thought about her creationist background at all until I discovered that she had bought into the whole war on Christmas thing. It seems some of that childhood indoctrination is still lurking. This led to a long chat through text message about the origins of Christmas traditions and the roots of the use of Xmas (her whole rant stemmed from the fact that she find the use of Xmas insulting because it takes Christ out of Christmas). I was so frustrated to see so much Christian exceptionalism from someone I consider as close as a sister.

The second event happened this afternoon. I'm a volunteer with a science out reach group and I'm currently working with a group of home school kids ages 11-15. The come from a variety of social and economic backgrounds but at least three come from very religious families with two others coming from somewhat religious backgrounds. As such, I have tailored the material I've been teaching them to give them the tools to question what they are being told while staying away from topics that out right challenge their religious education. If I tread too close to the line I'm afraid that their parents will keep them from coming back. So we take about relative dating of rocks (Steno's principles), how oil forms and how we find it. We experiment and work through reasoning problems together. All told they are a bright bunch.

This afternoon they started talking about how much they had enjoyed the movie God is not Dead. I was a bit shocked they had even seen it as I had thought of it as a movie for kids but even the youngest had seen it. I have serious issues with the movie and its portrayal of atheism and non-christian religions in general. I was particularly shocked when I heard one of my students say "the professor died in the end but it was okay because he was saved". All I could do was stand there biting my tongue knowing that this was not a place where I could air my own opinions on this. All in all it took the shine off an otherwise really good session with these kids.

Its so hard not to say anything but at the same time how can I with these kids. At least with my friend I feel I can challenge her views without risking our friendship but it hurt to see kids who will have to face the challenges she has in dealing the results of her childhood indoctrination and do nothing.

Sorry about the length of this but I need to get it down somewhere and I wasn't sure where else to go.
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11-12-2014, 06:04 PM
RE: Friends, Children, and Science Education
(11-12-2014 03:06 PM)Elariel Wrote:  I've been lurking about here for a while now (both as a user and before as a simple guest) but this is my first post.

A bit about me so you can put my experiences detailed below in context.

I'm a PhD candidate in geophysics studying. I was raised in a secular home where of even my extended family only a minority were religious (mostly a rather lesser-faire version of roman catholics). The only thing you could say I was indoctrinated in was the scientific method. At age 8 I tested the existence of the fairy tales known as Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. I hypothesized that there was equal evidence of them all existing and as such if I could show that one didn't exist then they were all none-existant. So when I lost my next tooth I didn't tell my parents. When I didn't receive my usual loonie for the tooth I knew who the real tooth fairy (and by extension Easter bunny and Santa Claus) was.

Mostly I saw religion from the outside looking in. So much so that I chose to to go to a catholic high school so that I could "better understand why other people believed in god(s) and holy books" (my words to my Mom at age 14). Seriously, my rational for going to a religious school was so that I could study my classmates like an anthropologist might study a culture of a people in a far way country.

I've recently read The God Delusion which made me think...wait a moment how prevalent is biblical literalism. At least around here in Canada it didn't seem to be and I had only ever met a few people who were subscribers to the 6000 year old Earth and they were pretty low key about it as most other people seemed to think these views rather odd (for obvious reasons). I was surprised that when I lifted my head free of the Ivory Tower sand that this seems to be scarily common at least south of the border.

The first is a very good friend of mine. She was raised in a strictly christian household and by the time she started university she had never heard that the Earth could be more than 6000 years old (she was the first person I ever met to have held this view at one point in their life). She had also grown up near a very good fossil collecting location and had been fascinated by the fossils. So I met her when she was a first year geology student struggling with calculus and an Earth history class that was challenging everything she had ever been taught to believe. The mental dissonance led her to leave the geology program for a year. She returned to the program and finished it with a firm understanding of the true age of the Earth and why we can be certain of that age. In fact she is an excellent geologist.

I hadn't thought about her creationist background at all until I discovered that she had bought into the whole war on Christmas thing. It seems some of that childhood indoctrination is still lurking. This led to a long chat through text message about the origins of Christmas traditions and the roots of the use of Xmas (her whole rant stemmed from the fact that she find the use of Xmas insulting because it takes Christ out of Christmas). I was so frustrated to see so much Christian exceptionalism from someone I consider as close as a sister.

The second event happened this afternoon. I'm a volunteer with a science out reach group and I'm currently working with a group of home school kids ages 11-15. The come from a variety of social and economic backgrounds but at least three come from very religious families with two others coming from somewhat religious backgrounds. As such, I have tailored the material I've been teaching them to give them the tools to question what they are being told while staying away from topics that out right challenge their religious education. If I tread too close to the line I'm afraid that their parents will keep them from coming back. So we take about relative dating of rocks (Steno's principles), how oil forms and how we find it. We experiment and work through reasoning problems together. All told they are a bright bunch.

This afternoon they started talking about how much they had enjoyed the movie God is not Dead. I was a bit shocked they had even seen it as I had thought of it as a movie for kids but even the youngest had seen it. I have serious issues with the movie and its portrayal of atheism and non-christian religions in general. I was particularly shocked when I heard one of my students say "the professor died in the end but it was okay because he was saved". All I could do was stand there biting my tongue knowing that this was not a place where I could air my own opinions on this. All in all it took the shine off an otherwise really good session with these kids.

Its so hard not to say anything but at the same time how can I with these kids. At least with my friend I feel I can challenge her views without risking our friendship but it hurt to see kids who will have to face the challenges she has in dealing the results of her childhood indoctrination and do nothing.

Sorry about the length of this but I need to get it down somewhere and I wasn't sure where else to go.

Welcome, where in Canada are you from?
Ya I've always been amazed by YEC. I recently found out that one of the guys at my school is a YEC which is kind of funny since he can name virtually every dinosaur. It didn't shock me that much since he is somewhat off. He has a minor case of aspergers. He is a genius and plans on being a historian. Strangely enough he doesn't reject science in anyway as I recall.

I'm homophobic in the same way that I'm arachnophobic. I'm not scared of gay people but I'm going to scream if I find one in my bath.

I'm. Also homophobic in the same way I'm arachnophobic. I'm scared of spiders but I'd still fuck'em.
- my friend Marc
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11-12-2014, 07:52 PM
RE: Friends, Children, and Science Education
Sounds like your friend and by extension you live near Drumheller. The mind of YEC is something to behold. On a side note the initials for Edmonton, Alberta airport is YEC. - lol

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
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11-12-2014, 08:31 PM
Re: Friends, Children, and Science Education
I was surprised there weren't more literalists. When I was still in Nova Scotia, even the town priest didn't think the world was only a few thousand years old. In fact, no one I knew did. Not many really sat around thinking about or discussing it, though.

I'm not sure I know any YECs, but I have the feeling an ex-girlfriend is. My immediate area isn't a big science area, but a short drive away is home to lots of research centers.

(Minor thing: it's "laissez-faire." Smile )
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11-12-2014, 11:27 PM
RE: Friends, Children, and Science Education
(11-12-2014 07:52 PM)Rahn127 Wrote:  Sounds like your friend and by extension you live near Drumheller. The mind of YEC is something to behold. On a side note the initials for Edmonton, Alberta airport is YEC. - lol

That is somewhat funny as the YEC guy I know is from Edmonton.

I'm homophobic in the same way that I'm arachnophobic. I'm not scared of gay people but I'm going to scream if I find one in my bath.

I'm. Also homophobic in the same way I'm arachnophobic. I'm scared of spiders but I'd still fuck'em.
- my friend Marc
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12-12-2014, 05:56 AM
RE: Friends, Children, and Science Education
(11-12-2014 06:04 PM)TarzanSmith Wrote:  Welcome, where in Canada are you from?
Ya I've always been amazed by YEC. I recently found out that one of the guys at my school is a YEC which is kind of funny since he can name virtually every dinosaur. It didn't shock me that much since he is somewhat off. He has a minor case of aspergers. He is a genius and plans on being a historian. Strangely enough he doesn't reject science in anyway as I recall.

(11-12-2014 07:52 PM)Rahn127 Wrote:  Sounds like your friend and by extension you live near Drumheller. The mind of YEC is something to behold. On a side note the initials for Edmonton, Alberta airport is YEC. - lol

I'm originally from Ontario but I'm currently living in Newfoundland. Actually, Alberta is the only province I haven't been to. My friend is from southern Ontario.

(11-12-2014 08:31 PM)Clockwork Wrote:  I was surprised there weren't more literalists. When I was still in Nova Scotia, even the town priest didn't think the world was only a few thousand years old. In fact, no one I knew did. Not many really sat around thinking about or discussing it, though.

I'm not sure I know any YECs, but I have the feeling an ex-girlfriend is. My immediate area isn't a big science area, but a short drive away is home to lots of research centers.

(Minor thing: it's "laissez-faire." Smile )

If the break down of Nova Scotia is similar religiously to Newfoundland most religious people are either catholic or main stream protestant. With the catholics at least they have been told by their higher up to accept evolution and an old earth. I think the leadership of most main stream protestant groups have said the same. This is why I never ran into YEC in high school.

Thank you for the correction its been a long while since my last French class!
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12-12-2014, 10:15 AM
RE: Friends, Children, and Science Education
Elariel,

Yes, that's a difficult position that you are in and I don't envy you. However, these kids are going to continue to receive the indoctrination at home and, I agree, if you overstep your boundaries, the parents may take them elsewhere. So, I would look at it this way. As long as they keep coming to your group, they have a chance to learn about science. That itself may plant some important seeds that will help them see things differently than the indoctrination they are getting at home. I think that's the most important thing that you can give them right now. So I think your priority should be on doing what you can to keep them coming.

I am not accountable to any God. I am accountable to myself - and not because I think I am God as some theists would try to assert - but because, no matter what actions I take, thoughts I think, or words I utter, I have to be able to live with myself.
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