Susan Blackmore is an interesting person. According to her Website ...
Sue Blackmore is a freelance writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol. She has a degree in psychology and physiology from Oxford University (1973) and a PhD in parapsychology from the University of Surrey (1980). Her research interests include memes, evolutionary theory, consciousness, and meditation. She practices Zen and campaigns for drug legalization.Yesterday she published an article in The Guardian (UK) [Opening Minds].
Sue Blackmore no longer works on the paranormal.
Should science teachers in Britain challenge their students' religious beliefs? Is it their right? Is it even their duty?This may illustrate one of the ways that education in the UK differs from that in the USA.
I say yes. This is (amongst much else) what education is for; to teach children how to think for themselves. And thinking for yourself is challenging, especially if your previous beliefs were based on dogma and ancient books.
I don't mean that science teachers should belittle religious beliefs, or scoff at them, or even tell students they are wrong. They need not even mention religion or creationism. What they must do is explain so clearly how natural selection works that those students, like one or two in Dawkins' series, begin to feel the terrifying impact of what Darwin saw. This realisation will change them. It will challenge what mummy and daddy told them, it will cry out against what they heard in chapel or synagogue or mosque. It will help immeasurably in their ponderings on human nature, the origins of life and the meaning of existence. This is growing up. This is learning. This is the process that skilful science teachers need to initiate, encourage, and help sensitively to guide.I'm all for challenging students to think. Problem is, you'd better make sure you know what you're talking about. I'd like to challenge Sue Blackmore to stop thinking about Darwin, Dawkins and natural selection and start thinking about the 21st century version of evolution.
They should never shy away from challenging their students' religious beliefs and opening their minds, because understanding the world through science inevitably does just that.
Next question is, how do we evaluate students in such a course? Can they still pass if they reject evolution and critical thinking?
[Hat Tip: RichardDawkins.net]