Thursday, February 26, 2009

Teaching the Controversy: Astrology & Genesis

 
Here's how Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches us about astrology. The idea is to get people to realize that astrology is bunk.



My daughter's teacher (with an M.Sc. in chemistry) used this technique on her Grade 5 class. I dare say it did some good in promoting critical thinking.

Why can't we do the same with some other pseudoscience topics, like Young Earth Creationism? Why can't we teach critical thinking by getting young students to think about the consequences of a deluge that wiped out all of humanity in 2600 BC?1 They could discuss why the Egyptian records failed to notice that every single Egyptian lost their life sometime during the third dynasty when the pyramids were being built. They could do a simple calculation to see how you get from Noah and his family to 45 million people in the Roman Empire. (And possibly 300 million people in the world at about the time when Julius Caesar was born.)

Why can't we do that? Because religion has special protection from this kind of critical analysis. You can attack astrology but you can't attack anything religious no matter how silly it might be.

We should try and change that. Let's have more classroom discussion about the conflict between science and some religious beliefs. The well known seminar by Ricky Gervais (below) shows how you could do it. It should be required viewing in all Grade 5 classrooms!




1. They could also think about the kind of God who would do this.

[Hat Tip: Friendly Atheist: The Quick Astrology Test]

7 comments :

  1. This may be of topic, but I bought a book for my 10 year old niece called Charles Darwin, by Alan Gibbons, published by Kingfisher, 2008. The book is the story of Charles Darwin's voyage on The Beagle told using the extracts from the diary of ten year old James Kincaid, a ship's boy. Both Kincaid and his diary are fictional, but the story seems accurate. (I'll know for sure after I finish reading Janet Browne's 2 volume biography of Darwin.)

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  2. Neil Tyson who insists that Issac Newton was the greatest scientist who ever lived!

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  3. "They could discuss why the Egyptian records failed to notice that every single Egyptian lost their life sometime during the third dynasty when the pyramids were being built."

    C'mon, Larry. Don't you realize that Yul Brynner deleted those files when he expunged Charlton Heston's name from Egyptian history?

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  4. I did an astrology related parody of the National Academy of Science apologetic defense of 'religion and science' a few weeks back which makes just as much sense as the religion one. Unfortunately it just seemed to attract the woo crowd - who rather thought I was being serious.
    http://sneerreview.blogspot.com/2009/01/arent-physics-and-astrology-opposing.html

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  5. Anonymous says,

    Neil Tyson who insists that Issac Newton was the greatest scientist who ever lived!

    What do you expect? He's a physicist/astronomer.

    He's wrong about some other things too.

    Nobody's perfect!

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  6. Larry Moran who thinks that Charles Darwin was the greatest scientist who ever lived. What do you expect, Dr. Moran is a biolgist.

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  7. SLC says,

    Larry Moran who thinks that Charles Darwin was the greatest scientist who ever lived. What do you expect, Dr. Moran is a biolgist.

    Exactly. It's time to put a stop to the myth that physics is the one true science and it's not surprising that biologists are leading the charge.

    Nor is it surprising that physicists are fighting back.

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