when the real world just isn’t enough…

According to the Huffington Post, teaching kids science is the same as brainwashing and should be considered a form of abuse.

After talking to the NCSE’s Steve Newton for this blog and following his articles defending science and good scientific education, I know he has a tough job. And recently, this job involved taking on a pervasive force in left wing woo and New Age platitudes: the Huffington Post. Aside from serving as a repository of barely coherent alt med quackery, hosting Deepak Chopra’s vapid pontifications, as well as his most absurd tryouts for the role of an anti-science Don Quixote, while giving lazy philosophers a platform to spout off pseudoscientific nonsense, HuffPo is also a popular news blog, which is why scientists feel the need to correct the woo that’s been so utterly permeating the site’s op-ed section. And in this case, Mr. Newton had to tackle a doctor using his column space to let loose with such vapid inanities, you can literally feel the flames of what can only truly be described as weapons grade imbecility trying to burn your corneas. Yes, it really is that horrendously awful.

According to the doctor in question, Larry Dossey, science teachers trying to explain the scientific method and bloggers like me who try to tackle claims and questions about the natural world with hard science in a format that kids could stumble upon, are actually damaging and brainwashing children, forcing them to give up their identity, and doing nothing less than engaging in child abuse. Really? Teaching science is child abuse? Not even Deepak Chopra with his seething hatred of all things scientific and a typical post-modernist mind-way- too-open attitude ever sank to such a low. And it shows. Virtually every comment in reply to Dossey’s inanity is a dismayed or passionate disagreement across all points, complete with chants for HuffPo to build a science section to be staffed by real scientists writing about actual research and discoveries; a commendable notion, but one highly unlikely given the blog’s current management which eagerly gives bandwidth to anyone hoping to indignantly rant about the “cold sterility of modern science and medicine,” or let fly with conspiracy theories about vaccines. Viewed in this context, Dossey’s ridiculous screed stuffed to the gills with Mike Adams quality nonsense seems right at home.

Now, I could try and address the offending column point by point, but since Mr. Newton already did just that so thoroughly that any attempt on my part would be redundant, I’m going to pursue an important tangent instead. Over the last year, this blog took apart attacks on science by those who either don’t understand the scientific method or just loathe it with a primal, visceral passion. Many of these anti-science crusaders happen to be from the far right and devoted to religious dogma over actual facts, but despite often having numbers on their side in any Quixotic quest against scientific education, they don’t have a monopoly on utter disregard for what scientific advances offer society. Just replace “faith” with “spirituality” and “the necessity of God” with the “need for open-minded exploration,” and you’ve successfully turned an Evangelical fundamentalist’s fuming into the vague platitudes of wannabe New Age shamans. Both have equal disregard for the facts and to both, the idea of being able to describe the mechanical processes of the world around us is equally terrifying. Unable to see how knowledge doesn’t necessarily take away the beauty or the excitement of the universe we inhabit, they’re fighting with reality itself, looking for some sort of grand, divine meaning without which they can’t imagine their lives. And that’s what it’s really about to both fundamentalists and post-modernists.

On both sides, humans are seen as unique and our evolution is considered to be a predetermined outcome of the last 13.7 billion years. Yes, it’s pretty arrogant to think that more than 100 billion galaxies with trillions of planets spinning around hundreds of billions of stars, stretching for over 558 billion trillion miles were made especially for us, and every single event that has ever happened in the history of the universe was just a warm up to our appearance. But then again, when you picture yourself at the center of all existence and pretend that it makes you somehow humble to do so, of course you’ll look back at every facet of scientific knowledge with a selfish bent, focused for all the ways that you might’ve never gotten here to tackle each and every mutation and coincidence that lead to your existence as some sort of sign that you’re meant to be alive here and now. Going solely by science, which shows that in the grand scheme of things you’re a random organism on a speck of a planet floating in the nearly unimaginable vastness of space, seems so cold and alien by comparison. And to appreciate our good fortune to exist while possessing the capacity to understand important insights about the universe around us is just not the kind of humility that our anti-science zealots would want to consider…

# education // fundamentalism / new ageism / science education

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