Thursday, August 25, 2005

Um ... about that "equal time" argument in the classroom ...


I realize this is belabouring the obvious but, to my American readers, when some right-wing dipstick starts yammering on about presenting "both sides" of the evolution controversy in the classroom, ask them whether it's all right to similarly present "both sides" of sex education -- that is, the obvious alternatives to those ridiculous "abstinence-only" programs.

Come on, folks, I shouldn't have to explain this stuff to you.

11 comments:

dAVE said...

not just abstinence only, but equal time for the Stork, Cabbage Leaf, and the usual explanation for reproduction.

As Bill Maher said on his show last week "You don't have to teach both sides if one side is a load of crap."

Anonymous said...

or labour history

or history of european/first nations interactions

i'm sure they'd support equal time for those issues, too...

CC said...

not just abstinence only, but equal time for the Stork, Cabbage Leaf, and the usual explanation for reproduction.

No, that's not going to work, because the reply will be, "Oh, come on, that's just being ridiculous, everyone knows that's just nonsense. See, that's just those liberals, making silly suggestions again."

What you need is a real-life example where the right has made it clear they want only one perspective presented in the classroom, and it has to be a legitimate example that you can back up from their own literature.

As I asked, how hard can this be?

M@ said...

I agree with you, CC, and I'd love to see someone fight this fight. However, there's a reason the evolution argument has become such a strong issue for the non-superstitious crowd: there's no way to get around science.

When it comes to things like "what should we teach children about sex?", patterns of belief typically become part of the argument. When it comes to science, belief has very little to do with an understanding of the world around us (and science is committed to minimizing the effect of belief, too).

To look at it another way, evolution is the first step of secular thinking into school sytems traditionally dominated by religion And this is the battlefield chosen by secularists because it's the easiest fight to win. (Evidence for that: the god folk try to use sciencey-talk to move their agenda forward.)

CC said...

I would avoid even making this an issue of the underlying "science." The majority of arguments you hear don't even try to address the science -- those people (your standard letter writers to the local paper) are way too fucking stupid to even begin to address the science.

The only issue they harp on is the one of "fairness" -- equal time, presenting both sides, etc. So all you have to do is blow a hole in that argument, and what that effectively forces them to do is try to deal with the science after all. And that's when they implode.

Don't make this any more complicated than it has to be. Demonstrate the hypocrisy of the "equal time" argument first, and let the rest of it just happen.

mergenow said...

I'm going to have to argue with M@ on his comment that:
"However, there's a reason the evolution argument has become such a strong issue for the non-superstitious crowd: there's no way to get around science."

Honestly, dude, for those who don't have much of a science education, it seems like the only difference between science and religion is who is the authority making the claims. It's all "holy proclamations" to them.

I just had the "then why are there still monkeys?" discussion with a good friend of mine the other night, who is by no means stupid, and is pretty much a big sci-fi geek. When I have these conversations with my dad or some religious fundie, it's hardly interesting, but that one just floored me. It's more pervasive than you'd think. (at least south of the border...)

Anonymous said...

"then why are there still monkeys?"

or, indeed, single-celled organisms?

yup, that's a stumper. them evolushunists sure is whacked.

dAVE said...

Clearly, the generally shitty quality of science education that's been going on for a while is coming to a head. The really irritating part about the creationists and Intelligent Design folks is that every single argument that they bring up against evolution has been answered and refuted over and over and over and over and over again.

If anybody cares to educate themselves, they need only check out pandasthumb, and talkorigins. Or, (gasp!) read a book.

In regards to holy proclamations by scientists: this is often a problem with the press. Scientists rarely say things without qualifiers.

For example, "according to this study drinking such and such amount appears to raise your risk of cancer by X%."

By the time it makes it into the press, it comes out as "DRINKING CAUSES CANCER!!!"

There's been a really good discussion of ID stuff on Pharyngula lately. Scroll down to the one about Deepak Chopra.

jedwards said...

"When it comes to things like "what should we teach children about sex?", patterns of belief typically become part of the argument. When it comes to science, belief has very little to do with an understanding of the world around us (and science is committed to minimizing the effect of belief, too)"
M@:
let's get down to basics here: you cannot get away from patterns of belief - whether is has to do with teaching science or sex. Beliefs affect everything we say,think, act, etc. It is what separates us from all other creatures. Having an awareness of that helps to minimize it presentation of material, but even so, it colors the delivery. (acknowledgement is always a good idea)

As an example, a friend of mine is struggling with her 16 year old daughter and what to say about sex. She doesnt want Devon to have sex so when Devon comes home sat night with a big fat hickey on her neck,my friend doesn't react, but is tied in a knot about it. she calls me to find out what to do.
My response was, well, i think it's already done. My friend (who had sex by age 17,) doesn't want her daughter to do the same (hint: belief system in effect), so she asks me "do I tell her 'I do not want you to have sex because you are not emotionally ready for it'?
and then hope for the best?

bottom line, by the time people are soaking up the information (both sides or not), they have their own belief system in place - that stuff starts at a pretty early age, at home.
That's not an advocation of presenting only one side, or only the "right side", its just a fact, IMHO.

Zorpheous said...

CC,

You are evil, very evil, so evil that I think your great ;-) What a wonderful debating point, mind if I steal it and use it liberally with clue-by-four?

M@ said...

@CC: Hey, I'm with you. I have nothing against using their own BS against you. I question whether it'll be that easy but that doesn't mean I'm not gonna try.

@mergenow: I see what you're saying, and I know that it's the appalling general level of science literacy that has put evolution on the defensive at all. However, as you get more and more into the facts (or throw more talkorigins stuff at a believer), the weight of science in the question becomes apparent -- until they cut off the argument with some obvious illogicality ("I believe what I was programmed to believe!").

@jedwards: I agree with you, and your example is just the kind of point I had in mind. When beliefs are allowed to come into play, then the equal time argument is easy to dismiss. They play the "You ain't got the right to tell me how to raise my kids" card, and you're no longer arguing because they have taken the subject out of the argument in a totally acceptable way.

Jus' spitballin' here, folks. As I said, I'm willing to give CC's tactic a shot and you know I'll be bragging about it here if I'm successful...