Friday, February 23, 2007

A datapoint against some homeschooling

I know that there can be many good reasons for homeschooling, but this letter in the Pike Country Courier is an good example of the dangers of homeschooling. You are not always properly exposed to other peoples' views. Blockquotes are from the letter, my comments are non-quotes.

Should creationism be observed?

To the editor:

I am a homeschooled freshman in high school in the Delaware Valley school district, and I am disturbed by the predisposed approach to the origin sciences that I see when I talk to my friends who are uninterested in hearing about my creationistic point of view.

It dismays me to see that one theory is taught and another discarded, especially when the theory of evolution has many holes that simply don’t allow it to hold as much water as is suggested by scientists in that field.

Oh, dear.

You know you are in for a lot of pain when the letter starts of making the following clear:
1) She is a creationist.
2) She tries to convince her friends over to creationism.
3) She doesn't understand what the word 'theory' means when talking about science.
4) She appears to think that either she knows more about the subject than the scientists in the field, or that they are part of a great conspiracy to cover up all the flaws.

Take for example the geological column, which is commonly studied in high school textbooks. Darwin suggested that fossils were arranged in layers of strata in a progression from more complex organisms to gradually less complex organisms as you dug deeper. This is not proof for evolution, as most professors of science suggest.

Several occurrences in the past, including the Cambrian Explosion, are proof that these creatures are not necessarily imprinted in only certain layers of rock. The geological column is rarely found in the form that Darwin suggested, to be mixed up, with all kinds of rocks on the same level. In other words, it very well could have been formed by a series of catastrophes and cataclysms.

I don't understand her argument. Is she saying that the Cambrian Explosion is some kind of proof against evolution? I guess she is focusing on the word 'explosion' here, and doesn't understand that it's ment realtive. It probably took somewhere in the region of 5-10 million years.
Also, while evolution predicts that the same type of organisms should lie in the same type of layers, it doesn't say anything about organisms becoming necessarily more complex. And the out of order arrangement of layers, are due to thrust faults, a well-known phenomenom, that in no way causes a problem for the theory of evolution.

Another case in point that is widely acclaimed is the embryonic drawings that Ernst Haeckel created to demonstrate similarities between the embryos of humans and animals. The drawings he presented showed the embryos of a fish, a salamander, a tortoise, a chick, a hog, a calf, a rabbit, and a human. However, his sketches were counterfeit and enormously over-embellished. Haeckel was disproved in 1868, and again in 1997, yet we still read about his drawings in modern science textbooks!

Oh, come on, don't make PZ cry.

Yet another instance of the same problem is the Miller-Urey experiment. Stanley Miller and Harold Urey tried to create life in a laboratory by using water, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sealed in a number of glass tubes connected in a loop. However, the experiment was a flop. It did not prove anything, except that the substances would have to be separated in the universe to produce the few building blocks of life that were created in the lab. A laboratory is far different from our universe, and far less stable in terms of what can be produced chemically.

Can anyone explain the difference between abiogenisis and evolution in a way that creationists can understand it?
And for a more informed view of the Miller-Urey experiment, I'd suggest this page. As the article also explains, there have been several experiments since that particular experiment, all showing the same result. Oh, and incidentially, the experiment had to be made in a laboratory, otherwise it would not be possible to make an environment similar to how the earth was presumed to be like at the time.

If, in fact, our universe was created, we could explain so much more.

Uh-oh. Trouble ahead.

There would be no need to explain the absence of intermediate species, because there would be no need for them.

True. Of course, this would only be good if there actually was an absence of intermiediate species, which there are not. This is one of the major reasons why creationism doesn't hold up - we have all these great transitional fossils.

There would be no question as to why the axis of the earth is tilted at a perfect 23 degree angle, which allows equal global distribution to the rays of the sun.

And what if we told you that the Northern hemosphere receive the sun rays at more direct angles than the southern latitudes? Or that the Earth is titled at a 23.5 degree angle? Not exactly a 'perfect' 23 degree angle.

We wouldn’t need to know how life can be created at random, because it would not have been created at random.

True. And if yellow was blue, we wouldn't have to waonder what blue looked like.
Does that argument make sense to anyone?

We wouldn’t have to wonder why there are only a few inches of dust on the moon rather than fifty feet, because we would not have billions of years to accumulate it.

Something we wouldn't have to wonder about, if we understand science either. Oh, right we do.

Moreover, we would not need structural homology, because each individual living thing would have been created with its own unique purpose in the scheme of life, the universe, and everything.

Yes, yes. But how does wishful thinking for lack of understanding explain anything? Remember, this is an example of how "we could explain so much more".

Gabrielle Cerberville, age 15


A brain is a horrible thing to waste, more so when you are so young. Hopefully she'll get to understand why her friends are not interested in hearing about creationism.



Blogger Theo Bromine said...

I certainly appreciate the measured way in which you say "A datapoint against some homeschooling", so I don't feel compelled to jump to the defence of my kids who were partly homeschooled (a-religiously), and are currently being very successful at college/university.

I think that fundamentalist Christian students in regular group schools are just as likely as homeschooled students to be impressively unclued about evolution and science in general. My theory (hemhemhem) is that the fundy homeschoolers are simply more likely to be visible in public since their "school" assignments often include such things as writing letters to the editor defending creationism by regurgitating the arguments they had been fed.

February 24, 2007 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this after doing a search with the term 'pro-science homeschool' because my husband and I intend to 'outschool' our kids, (educate them outside a school, but with no intention of keeping them sequestered from diverse ideas) but we value science, reason, and the Scientific Method and all it stands for.

Yes, for the exercise of our critical thinking skills, it may be worthwhile to consider seriously, arguments in support of a Flat Earth; an Earth that is only a few thousand years old; or a widespread conspiracy to cover up alien abductions. But to present these arguments as science is irresponsible. Retrofitting science in order to make the facts match political/religious agendas and dogma is unacceptable. I have no problem with Christian Creationist religious belief being taught, in its proper place: a course on creation myths, which would include the creation myths of many religions and cultures. A native American traditional belief that the world rests on the back of a giant turtle is just as valid a tradition, culturally speaking, as the Christian creation myth. But to call either one factual and demand its institution in place of science is absurd.

January 10, 2009 3:04 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home