Hey Bill, I saw your video on why creationism is bad for children. I’m a scientist too, albeit I’m a bit younger than you, and I wear a little less concealer. Despite our inherent differences, I totally get why you made this video.
It’s an election year in the USA, and as always in the media the campaign has boiled down to a showdown between baby-killers and bible-thumpers. Fox News is slinging poo at MSNBC, and terms like Obamunism are making it onto Webster’s new word short list. Chaos abounds as the poor are hating the rich, the rich are vacationing in the South of France, and the average American doesn’t care enough to vote. I understand, it’s a confusing time for everyone involved, but you really missed the mark with this video. It makes me a little sad to see my childhood idol slinging poo at the religious folks.
Your message isn’t the problem. Kids should be educated in science and in evolution. Evolution is a fact and it needs to be taught in schools as such. The issue I have with your video is the delivery. I understand the need to be controversial in the hyper-politicized heat wave you all have been experiencing in the US of late, but this video doesn’t pave the way for a more open dialogue about evolution in schools. If anything, this is ammunition in the hands of school boards and religious institutions to argue against teaching evolution.
The flashy title “Creationism is not appropriate for children” is grossly over sensationalized. I understand that that was the point, that’s how you get a million hits on YouTube. Nonetheless, the statement has the same effect on religious people as the statement “equal pay for women is wrong” has on me. A statement like this backs people into a corner, it puts them on edge, and it breeds negativity and hostility. Statements like these are why people don’t trust scientists. It perpetuates a stereotype that scientists are all-knowing and elitist and should therefore be distrusted. This stereotype is the entire reason people don’t listen to scientists! No one likes to be told they’re dumb, and that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Sure, scientifically literate people on the Internet are rallying to your cause, but the people you really need to convince are the ones who have already decided you’re out of touch. And fine, you can argue that this video created some kind of a dialogue through its inherent controversy, but I feel like an Internet flame war rarely leads to social change.
The way the evolution “debate” is handled by scientists infuriates and disgusts me. When I sit at my bench during the day and do science I am constantly reminded and humbled by how little I know about the world around me. This fascinates me and drives me to learn more, discover more, and observe more. As people who are literate in science we need to spread the joy we get from discovering we were wrong, and the passion we have for learning something new. We can’t point our fingers at others and say, “You’re wrong!” even if we know they are, because its hypocritical. How many times have you been incorrect in a hypothesis? More importantly, if you were ridiculed for it, called stupid, and been shamed, would you have ever learned?
Instead, we need to teach our children to be skeptics. If you want a scientifically literate populous we need to teach our children to question everything they’re told, whether that be creationism or evolution, government legislation or overseas trade. It is legislation like the anti-critical thinking policy by the Republicans in Texas that needs to be stopped. If our kids are taught to question everything, it won’t matter if they’re told about creationism in the classroom; once they’re done asking questions about it they won’t believe it anyway.
I’ll have to give you an A+ for effort here Bill, but an F in public relations.
Sydney is a 4th year Honours Immunology and Infection student with a passion for science and writing. Follow her on twitter @SPResistant