Scheduled indoctrination

I read an article in Guardian this morning where Nathalia Gjersoe advocated for teaching evolution as early as possible. Her starting point was a BBC-survey showing that a third of the people surveyed either rejected the theory of evolution or they combined it with the idea that a supreme being is guiding the evolution.

According to Gjersoe children have a very elementary understanding of genetic inheritance. There is a strong belief that there is a core of something unchangeable in for example dogs. Chihuahua and Great Dane are very different, but they have something in common. They are both dogs. Therefore, we can know quite a lot about one of them if we know the other, but the idea that there is a core that never changes goes against the theory of evolution, according to Nathalia Gjersoe. It is a central idea in this theory that humans and apes evolved from the same origin.

Teleology is the idea that nature is governed by a purpose that has been determined in advance, and thus it becomes a scientific argument for the existence of God. Teleology was the dominating principle used in the Middle Ages to explain science. The article in the Guardian uses teleology to explain the great skepticism to evolution among children as well as grown ups today. The article refers to a study where children had to answer he following question: Why are rocks pointy? The majority of the children under eight years chose the explanation that it is to prevent animals from sitting on them. It couldn’t be random (nature/environment influencing); there must be a meaning behind. This is common in children, even though parents try to correct this view. I believe this is a part of a natural process, and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to interfer with it.

There are also studies suggesting that many stick to the teleological explanation as adults, and this is what Gjersoe wants to eradicate. She asks if we can overcome these psychological biases and sugggests a book that was recently published from Boston University. This is an illustrated book on natural selection and Gjersoe refers to it as a child-friendly intervention. The word intervention is a pretty powerful statement. We often use the word when we want to intervene, as a part of prevention, when we are concerned for someone. So Gjersoe believes that anything but this theory that offers one of several possible explanations for the historical development is a threat that must be faught.

The cover of The Origin of Species from 1959. According to Darwin all living things adapts to the environment they liev in, and natural selection is necessary to avoid overpopulation.
The cover of The Origin of Species from 1859. According to Darwin all living things adapt to the environment they live in, and natural selection is necessary to avoid overpopulation.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

She also asks whether they need to change the curriculum again. Schools in the UK started teaching evolution to children down to 10 years in 2015, but Gjersoe thinks that’s too late. This is starting to remind me of a taboo word in Norway, preaching.

When I went to school we had a subject called Christianity, and although the subject has allowed for freedom of religion since 1969, the atheist organizations keep complaining to this day. The subject is called Christianity, religion, belief and ethics now, and it’s a good introduction to the different religions and philosophies they are likely to encounter. When atheist organizations still want it removed from the curriculum it seems like they want philosophical illiteracy. The most common accusation is that the schools indoctrinate children, but it appears that some people are suggesting they do the same on behalf of the theory of evolution. I guess it’s acceptable when they hide behind science, but is it science? We are going to be forced to accept evolution, specifically one that has no room for intelligent design.

I have written several posts about intelligent design, and there are a lot of things suggesting that this theory deserves our attention, while evolution is still more speculative. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong of course, but it requires a fair amount of faith. There is a reason we still refer to evolution as a theory, almost 160 years after Charles Darwin formulated the theory in On the Origin of Species. The theory makes sense in combination with the theory of intelligent design, but how easy is it to prove evolution? It is often said that evolution is just as true as 2+2=4. It is nevertheless problematic to equate this theory with an observable calculation. The statement suggests that anyone can observe (and repeat an experiment over and over again) as easily as a first grader can add apples or other objects. Everybody knows it’s not that simple.

I don’t know anything about the celebrity atheists and defenders of evolution, but some of them have such a hateful and unforgiving attitude that I suspect there is something else behind. Some of the high-profile atheists in England talk as if there was an unfortunate encounter with Christianity in childhood that defined their entire life. They do in fact preach more than most Christians, and they want to force this proclamation on children.

What we need is an education where children get to ask questions and ponder the big questions they have, in short let them have a researcher’s attitude towards learning. This isn’t what we are getting if we force something on kids without giving them a chance to ask critical questions. I don’t think God has a problem with critical minds, because there is so much in the universe pointing towards an intelligent designer, but why is it so hard for some atheists to allow freedom of choice? Maybe they are worried that a free mind can only come to a conclusion they don’t like?

I think that’s what this is about. God reminds many people of something they don’t want to think about, because with God there are limits to how far we can go. Two medical ethicists in Australia have suggested that after birth abortion is just as valid as 12 weeks into the pregnancy, which is the time Norwegian women have to make the decision themselves. In Norway the political scientist Aksel Braanen Sterri seems to have a similar opinion. He wrote a comment in one of the major newspaper called Abortion is murder – That doesn’t make it wrong (my translation). Some people think the future will be a lot brighter without a religion to hold us back. I would argue that human history, either it’s with or without religion, shows that we need a certain moderation.

Evolution makes scientific sense. So why do many people reject it?


3 thoughts on “Scheduled indoctrination

  1. I’m a live and let live agnostic who believes evolution has been proven to be true.
    By that I mean the Darwin natural selection version. I don’t believe you can prove evolution was instigated by a higher power or indeed disprove such a hypothesis, but we cannot teach it as provable scientifically. We now have big bang Christianity and thats fine by me if it gives comfort to those who accept it.
    You must remember some atheists are fearful of losing their new found freedom. They believe, with some grounds, that should an evangelical government be elected seriously restraining laws would be enforced.
    Now they have a fine example to point towards in ISIS.
    I believe secular freedom is far more important to religious groups than they are prepared to admit.
    When it comes to life-style religion takes a backward seat even for the devout.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I think you are correct about people liking secular freedom more than they would admit. Most Christians don’t exactly stick to instructions Jesus supposedly gave us. What happens outside the Christian organizations, happens inside too.

      It would be good if we could agree not to go further than the evidence. I feel that some stretch Darwin’s theory too far, and even though it’s just a theory, I guess that’s what science does. It gives us theories, and natural selection makes sense if you don’t abuse it. I don’t know enough about it, but I suspect the eugenics movement did just that. Even today I get a feeling that many talk about evolution as proof against God. It should be taught as it is a good explanation, but together with alternative views.

      The rest I believe belongs in religous studies.

    2. Scientists in general don’t like supernatural explanations even for those things science cannot explain.
      Darwin was simply trying to give a scientific explanation as to how life progressed from simple duplicators to complex life forms.
      Natural selection says absolutely nothing about abiogenesis. In his excellent book ‘The Blind Watchmaker ‘ Richard Dawkins makes a bold attempt to explain that using chance. I found that part very difficult to follow.
      Darwins long term friend and fellow proposer of natural selection Alfred Wallace did not think natural selection could explain the mind of man. Look up Wallace’s Paradox.
      Unfortunately Alfred Wallace went of the rails and became a spiritualist.
      Darwin looked after his friend and persuaded the government to pay poor Wallace a small pension.
      Steven Pinker attempts to unravel the paradox in ‘How the Mind Works’
      I’m just an interested layman and find some of these expert subjects difficult.
      Thankyou for your reply.

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