Science Fair Thoughts

Cynthia Donahey cdonahey at FREENET.COLUMBUS.OH.US
Sun Mar 5 00:59:38 EST 1995

On Sun, 5 Mar 1995 DARBEN at wrote:

> I don't have much experience in the way of science fairs, but religious 
> incursions into school curriculum tends to attract my attention. I think 
> I'm at risk of starting off a debate which is best suited to 
>, but it's something that I think we have to address. I went 
> to a state high school here in the deep north of Queensland at the time 
> when the state government brought in "equal time" legislation for 
> creationism. This legislation has now supposedly been removed, although 
> there are still quite a few teachers downgrading the teaching of 
> evolution in science classes. The government's current position is to not 
> enforce equal time, but not to stop teachers including creationism in 
> classes, resulting in a pot luck situation for students. At my school, 
> both science subject masters were heavily involved in the Creation 
> Science Foundation - one of them taking leave for most of the time I was 
> there to work his ministry. In addition to this two or three more of the 
> staff were also creationists, including my senior biology teacher. The 
> result was a wide range of creationist literature on our library shelves, 
> including the laughable "Creation Ex Nihilo" which filled my idle lunch 
> hours with much mirth. So What ? Well there was also an amazing dearth of 
> evolutionary works - no Darwin or even Stephen J Gould. Whilst I was in 
> lower grades they even managed to remove Macbeth and The Tempest from the 
> shelves and senior curriculum because of the occult content. Books on 
> stage magic were removed from the shelves whilst I was there for similar 
> reasons. All this in a state run high school in the state capital.
> There are a few disturbing surveys being done down in Melbourne - exact 
> numbers escape me, but I think it's around 25% of medical students 
> reportedly reject evolution. After a similar survey we performed at this 
> university, we found around 33% of a class of close to 200 second year 
> applied science (molecular biology/medical laboratory science) students 
> felt the same way. The cons and cons of creationism have been done to 
> death many times before and I hope that I haven't started off another 
> annoying thread here. However, what we should be questioning here is the 
> analytical capacity of students who have made it so far with such a 
> handicap. perhaps even more sinister is the ability of these students to 
> parrot off the facts that they know the lecturer wants to hear, even 
> though they don't believe it themselves.
> I accept the roles that such churches play in society, but when they 
> start to tread on my turf, I get more than a little shirty. The story you 
> related of that poor kid at the science fair is probably the most 
> sinister thing I've heard a fundamentalist church do since they shot 
> Santa last Christmas (no kidding !). If it were the Moonies or the Branch 
> Davidians that sort of control would be called brainwashing.
> peter

Well. I'm not disagreeing with you.  At the same time, I do believe that
overall religious organizations contribute to the stability of a society -
without them, chaos would rein.  I also think we need police for the exact
same reason.  Many (most, all ?) human beings need some higher authority
to tell them how to behave.  There seems to be varying degrees of
irrationality in everyone. admittedly some more than others.  It's too bad
that ministers and other religious authority figures can not come up with
science projects with a less theoretical tinge than angels dancing on the
head of a pin.  i.e water filtration, sewer sludge.  A lot of technically
oriented people attend these churches.  Maybe, these types of parishioners
could play a more active role in their church by helping their minister expand
his list of acceptable projects. 

I'm probably getting a little off base here, but the historical
relationship between science and religion is a perfect example of chaos
theory in action. 


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