I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Happy Halloween, SAGLRROILYBYGTH! There were plenty of tricks and a few treats in the news this week. Here are some of the headlines you might have missed:

School scams? Orlando Sentinel reporters investigate public money going to private-school ripoffs.

B-ding! There’s another one: Rich smart person teaches briefly in low-income school, writes memoir.

The most expensive evangelical building ever? CT reviews Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible.Bart reading bible

A new gen-ed: “Patriotic Education and Fitness.” Will it help students at the College of the Ozarks be good citizens?

“Border science” and Nazi occultism. At Religion & Politics Michael Schulson reviews Eric Kurlander’s Hitler’s Monsters.

  • The takeaway? Schulson: “There’s the fascination with purity. And there’s the belief in secret histories, secret forces, and secret knowledge. These concepts are not fringe ways of thinking. They are familiar, I think, in one form or another, to most Americans.”

What should a conservative PhD student watch out for? Some controversial anonymous advice at IHE.

At HNN, Gary Nash asks why we have forgotten about white Christian anti-racist activists.

What’s a progressive parent to do? Do they have to support public education even if they don’t like public schools? One parent asks for progressive advice at The Nation.

How did Betsy DeVos change her daily routine when she moved from being a private-school activist to a public-school uber-administrator? According to the New York Times, she didn’t.

Schools are left-wing indoctrination centers, Newt Gingrich writes.

What do schools really need? At Flypaper, Michael Petrilli prescribes “a swift kick in the ass.”

Advertisements

Creationism for Liberals

We know the problem with science in America, right?  Ignorant groups cluster around pseudo-scientific claims; people cling to outdated and disproven ideas out of a false sense of moral purity and righteousness.  Worst of all, scheming charlatans profit off this manufactured ignorance.

Same old, same old.  But what if we’re not talking about religious creationists, but rather about secular liberals?  In The Daily Beast, Michael Schulson recently accused shoppers at fancy-pants Whole Foods supermarkets of succumbing to pseudo-scientific claims.  Worst of all, Schulson writes, such folks often do so while feeling intellectually superior to the rest of benighted America.

As Schulson puts it,

From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort (more on that later), Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares. And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there’s really no better place to go. Because anti-science isn’t just a religious, conservative phenomenon—and the way in which it crosses cultural lines can tell us a lot about why places like the Creation Museum inspire so much rage, while places like Whole Foods don’t.

Read the entire piece.  Schulson describes the more-than-questionable claims of many of the products on sale at Whole Foods.  When he invited a biologist to look at some of the probiotic claims, she offered a quick conclusion about their scientific accuracy: “‘This is bullshit,’ she said, and went off to buy some vegetables.”

Most compelling, Schulson asks why creationist institutions such as the Creation Museum cause such outrage among the mainstream scientific community, while the anti-science on display at Whole Foods doesn’t.  One thing he doesn’t consider is the difference of scale here.  Young-earth creationists claim that the earth is somewhere between six and ten thousand years old.  Such an idea is utterly at odds with the fundamental premises of today’s science.  Claims that probiotics can work medical wonders might be false, but they’re not so enormously out of sync with mainstream science.

But that doesn’t mean that the parallel between young-earth creationism and organic-food fetishism isn’t important and valid.  As I have argued elsewhere, too often anti-creationists take false comfort from calling their creationist foes “ignorant.”  Certainly, some creationists might be naively ignorant, but more significant are those who know modern science and simply reject it.  The real question, IMHO, is not simply who is more ignorant, but rather a question of which cultural authorities people on each side choose to believe.

Along those lines, I appreciate Schulson’s stirring conclusion:

The moral is not that we should all boycott Whole Foods. It’s that whenever we talk about science and society, it helps to keep two rather humbling premises in mind: very few of us are anywhere near rational. And pretty much all of us are hypocrites.