Friday, September 23, 2011

Fooled By Pseudoscience

Why Evangelicals Are Fooled Into Accepting Pseudoscience - Huffington Post 9/23/11

Great article here that really exposes  some of the issues we rationalists are trying to deal with here in America. There is a base of people, a fair amount, that has trouble discerning what actual, real, solid evidence is. Of course part of the reason is they have been brought up in that culture so it just seems natural to want to oppose something that may not sit well with them personally. Anything that may take away from their secure feeling about the universe is immediately dismissed as evil and false and with the help of like-minded religious leaders, these points get hammered home so the blind public has no idea what is real truth from what is not. We must make a concerted effort to raise our children in a way that helps them understand scientific inquiry from pseudoscience, help them learn critical thinking. Teach them to know how to accept information as evidence opposed to information obtained through revelation (personal or second-hand), accepting information because of family or cultural tradition or accepting information just because it was given by some authority. Science literacy is critical not just to understanding truth from non-truth in a personal way. As a collective, it drives the future of innovation and economic progress as a whole and plays an integral part in how we make our public and foreign policy moving forward.

"In our new book, "The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age," historian Randall Stephens and I look at the widespread and disturbing inability of American evangelicals to distinguish between real knowledge claims, rooted in serious research and endorsed by credible knowledge communities, and pseudo-claims made by unqualified groups and leaders that offer "faith-friendly" alternatives. Across the board we find evangelical Christians attracted to indefensible views in many areas: American history (the Founding Fathers intended America to be a Christian nation), sexual orientation (you can "pray away the gay"), climate change (not happening), evolution (never happened), cosmology (Big Bang is a big joke) and even biblical studies (the bible tells us what is about to happen in the Middle East).
The tragedy is that nothing within the faith commitments of evangelicals requires the adoption of these various knowledge-denying views. There are authentic and contributing evangelical Christians within every knowledge community. Francis Collins, for example, is a committed evangelical Christian and an important leader in the scientific community. He is also an outspoken critic of Intelligent Design and has written widely on the reconciliation of his faith and his science."

I found this great letter written by Richard Dawkins to his then 10 year old daughter on this very subject.  I have often wondered how I would approach teaching my children in a way that keeps them open-minded yet exposes them to areas of potential fallacy without going overboard. When they are old enough to make their own decisions, you want them to be capable of knowing how to discern fact from non-fact, how to process information: what to hang on to as important and what to dismiss as pseudoscience or unreliable because of lack of supporting evidence.

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