the absurd observers

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bush leaves the door open for Travolta

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In a recent roundtable discussion, when asked whether he thought intelligent design ought to be taught in schools, Bush answered:

"You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas,
the answer is yes," the president said.

As an alumni of a liberal arts school I am all in favor of "different ideas" and "exposure". However, it seems necessary to put some ideas in context. For example, it would not take a Scopes Monkey Trial to realize that telling students that some people believed the moon was made out of cheese would be alright as long as it was predicated with "here's a funny idea which science, and the smell of the night sky, proves incorrect..." Or, using one of my favorite examples: would it be alright to have Jon Travolta visit schools and teach children about the aliens and thetans and other sci-fi elements of scientology? I think it would be fine, as long as it was put in the right context: "Do you remember that funny guy from Welcome Back Kotter? Well, he's going to be here teaching us about his cult that caters to celebrities and other glib-sensitive characters. Immediately following his presentation, we will have a slide show addressing personality disorders."

Exposure to different ideas is a good thing, but it is the context in which those ideas are presented that makes many people shudder to think of where the intelligent design pseudo scientists will next cast their wands set to prove biblical literalism.

Is it time to prove the existence of the Garden of Eden? Is it time to create a woman out of a man's rib? Is it time to cast doubt on the idea that dinosaurs roamed the earth for anything longer than a day, or half a day? Is it time to prove that angels and demons are behind all the phenomena that science has explained - gravity, chemical reactions, eclipses.

It certainly is fine, and appropriate, to teach children that blood letting used to be the cure for many an illness, but we also ought to teach them that science has taught us more since then. Blood letting is a theory, championed by medievial barbers, but not by modern scientists.

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