Where science and tech meet creativity.

georgeandfsm.jpgIt is the third and sleepiest day of Dragon*Con. At some point the adrenaline of my first two days went away and now the simple “I’m sleepy” feeling that comes from averaging a little under 6 hours of sleep per night for over a week has taken over my body. For that simple reason I decided today is the day to sit in talks and enjoy what people have to say. Currently I’m sitting in a session rudely blogging (because that’s what I do) while someone talks about debunking haunted houses. In addition to this session, I also walked around the vendor room, and I attended a session on proving the Earth is more than 6000 years old, presented by George Hrab (left with FSM) of Geologic. This morning’s “Age of the Planet Proving” session was very much a case of preaching to the choir, but there were some very powerful things that happened that I think also enlightened.

Perhaps my favorite two moments in the session both involved a woman dressed as a petite pirate in the back of the room. About 40 minutes into the talk this woman commented on the condition she faces as a science teacher in Florida. When she said she is a high school teach a spontaneous round of applause broke out.

How cool is that! This crowd of folks so respect education that they applauded this women they didn’t know for teaching. Favorite moment 1.

This woman talked about the struggles she faces in Florida: She talked about not being allowed to rock peoples faith, and asked rather pointedly if the under-emphasis of geology in our schools could be related to the daunting evidence for an old Earth and evolution that just may be too controversial for a conservative republican state. It was a powerful question. Could our science classes – geology, biology, astronomy and physics – be shrinking in emphasis because our education community if getting beaten down by the fundamentalist right? I don’t the answer to this question. I don’t know how to answer this question. I wish I did.

And the dialogue continued. People tried to turn the question to attacking good rather then attacking science. George Hrab earned my respect by advocating that we approach our dialogues with new Earth Creationists from a position of respect. While we may disagree with someone’s belief system, and in some cases think that the person we’re dealing with has a just loony belief system, we have to address strictly the problem at hand (for instance a belief the Earth is young), speak with evidence and not emotion (state the reasons the Earth is old rather than name calling) and address them as though they are someone whom could be our peers if the situation were only different.

One of the points that was brought up is the ability scientists have to take in new data and recognize the need to change their scientific schema when new discoveries are made. This is a very different view point to the one taken by most of the subset of Christian’s who see the Bible as immutable, and deny the possibility of new information to alter the meaning of the words (this is to say, if new archeological information comes up that implies reinterpretation/retranslation of some Biblical content is required, that reinterpretation/retranslation is unlikely to occur.) This discussion was initially highly vague, with general condemnation for anyone of any religious belief, and I have to admit my tummy wasn’t happy with the direction things were going. But then the petite pirate jumped in again, pointing out how the Jewish tradition has regularly reviewed Talmudic law and has been willing to evolve. This sparked the fascinating and explicit comment: “The jews aren’t f***ing with our schools.” Favorite moment 2.

And, as far as I know, it’s true. The new Earth Creationists (a group of Christians), the anti-evolution conservatives (a group of Christians), and anti-homosexual moralists (a group of mostly Christians) have all tried to limit the books in libraries, to limit the content in the classroom, and to limit the thinking of our students so it is tuned to their belief system. I have heard Mormons (technically a branch of Christianity) have worked against some schools, but I can’t identify in a 30 second google a time when people of Islamic faith, Jewish tradition, or Hinduism have fought to limit a schools content. I have found stories where both jews and muslims have fought to open schools to allow head coverings, but not to close schools to experiences other then pre-marital sex (and really, lets teach abstinence and birth control and scare kids to death with too much knowledge about viruses and the mention condoms help, but on condoms truly work [stepping back off soap box now].) Why have we allowed, in this nation of freedoms, for one really whiny set of sub-segments of one religion to have such an effect on our education system? The old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” only goes so far.

I think at least part of an answer was brought up. The fundamentalist Christian right is organized and indoctrinated by their church. They have one voice. They have (for evolution) a catch phrase (teach the controversy) and they have a full chain of command in place.

The rest of us, um, don’t. We have a bunch of slightly different moral foundations, belong to a bunch of fragmented communities, we launch into lists of evidence rather than catch phrases… yada yada yada. We don’t have one voice. We don’t have a catch phrase (“Science is my Authority?”) We don’t have a weekly time to meet with the local leader of a local pro-science movement. We need to figure out how to get organized. I don’t know how.

Wow – that passage is going to get me flamed in the comments I think. But that’s what I heard saw and thought.

And now I’m in the podcast room getting inspired to listen to podiobooks. I want to pay attention, so I think it is time to stop writing potentially inflammatory content.

Be skeptical. Think critically. Follow the facts. Build a well thought out moral foundation on what ever you choose, but leave room for factual observations to describe the physical world you live in.