The Hats We Wear

I believe in science.feynman hat

I believe that the natural world can be explained through careful and repeatable experimentation. I believe that many things which were unexplainable in 1414 are now well understood. I believe that many things which we cannot explain in 2014 will be common knowledge in 2614.

I believe in the scientific method. I also believe in Monty Python.

I believe we are prisoners of our paradigm and limited by our technology.

I believe that spirituality is an important part of mankind’s emotional make-up. I believe that attempts to explain science via religion, and vice-versa, are a waste of time.

I believe that I am that guy on social media who is always calling out hoaxes, pseudo-scientific horse hockey, and general BS.

I believe you get tired of that guy.

Science guy is a hat I wear.

As a high school science teacher, I was always proud to teach the theory of evolution. It is simple to understand. It is not mystical. Far more talented real scientists than Ken Ham have taken their stabs at alternative hypotheses to Darwin’s work, and they have all come up short.

A transcript of my introductory talk to my high school students about evolution:

“Kids, today we start to talk about the foundation of how modern organisms came to be. We’re going to talk about evolution. As Darwin called it, “change over time.” Organisms change over time. How? DNA doesn’t always replicate itself perfectly. Those imperfections are sometimes bad, like cancer. Usually, alterations in the genome are meaningless. But sometimes, those alterations can help an organism improve its rate of survival. Ergo, that organism; plant, animal, bacteria, fungus, whatever- can reproduce more readily than its brothers and sisters. And if you’re that organism, that’s a good thing.”

“Charles Darwin didn’t invent this idea. He came up with a mechanism, an explanation, for the process. It’s logical, and over the last 150 years, the science behind his original ideas has been further explained, and tested, and repeated. Remember, replication of an experiment is one of the keys to acceptance as a theory in the scientific method. And also remember, a theory is not a guess, or a hypothesis. It is a really well-tested, researched explanation for a big idea. Newton and his theories about motion and gravity. Einstein and his theory of Relativity. Big ideas.”

“Now, most of you are like, okay, whatever, this is school, teach us this stuff. A couple of you are probably pretty atheist, and a couple of you, probably, are pretty religious. Here’s the deal. We are talking about evolution. Science.  Not religion. There are a couple things in play here. “

“One, we don’t talk about religion because in a public school, all religions, and lack of religions, are welcome. So whose version of a creation story should I teach? The Judeo-Christian one? The Islamic version? The Native American one? The Buddhist? Hindu? So there’s that issue. I’m a pretty spiritual guy, and I can see the problem here, and I think you guys are smart enough to see it, too.

Two, no name calling. I get that the atheists and the religious folks don’t appreciate the other side’s point of view. Keep it to yourself. Quite frankly, I don’t want to be a referee. Plus, you know how I’m usually interested in your opinions? On evolution? Not so much.

Three, I also get that for those of you with a fundamentalist Christian background you might have an issue here. Here’s the deal. Evolution is required by the Board of Education in Michigan. An understanding of the mechanisms involved is also a huge chunk of our standardized tests in Michigan, like the ACT. You want to excel in the science section? You must understand evolution. Not telling you to “believe” it. Just telling you to know it. Be pragmatic. Get what you need to know so you can be successful in this class.”

I was shocked! shocked, I tell you, to overhear this conversation after class between Moe, Larry, and Curly; a trio of my students.

Moe: Who knew that Stanley was so religious?

Larry: I know, right?

Curly: Weird, huh?

Moe: The way he was going on about not teaching religion in school, you know he’s just gotta be at some Bible-thumper church on weekends.

Larry: For sure. I mean, why else would he be going on like that?

Curly: Seriously. It was like he was telling us “this is just some stuff I gotta teach ya.” That “not telling you to believe it” shit, I mean, why else would he say that?

Larry: I heard he was Jewish.

Moe: Yeah, maybe. Whatever. He’s always making us think about stuff weird, anyways, so this is no big deal.

 I believe I spent seven minutes and 400 words setting the ground rules for the discussion. Those students grabbed onto 9 seconds of my talk, and holy crap on a cracker, my religious neutrality and scientific methodology went into the dumpster faster than General Patton’s tanks ran through Nazi Germany.science hat

Science guy is a hat I wear. But maybe I should have worn this one.

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The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at http://dstan58.blogspot.com/

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This is what I think...

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