Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: For Good Friday

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Another would be people taking a relativistic sense of 'balance' or 'fairness to both sides' and extrapolating it to science, where that kind of thinking doesn't really work.

    So should we be teaching students that light is a particle or a wave?

    There is a lot of science with various camps and competing theories. Was a single massive impact the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs, or sea-level regression, volcanism and the Deccan Traps, or some combination? etc.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    The "big" religions are over-represented in murderous rampage stats?

    You're kidding me, right?

    I was curious about that one too, actually. Unless you're referring to the Crusades?

    One thing that regularly fucks me off is how willing people are to cite the "Religion is responsible for more wars than anything else" line, without actually critically examining what they're saying. WW1 and WW2, both about about land and power. The Jews were a convenient scape-goat for Hitler, and if he hadn't had them he would've found something else - like the homosexuals, or the Gypsies. Vietnam and Korea, both about Communism, though I guess if you really stretched that out it's kind of religious. First and Second Gulf Wars? Land and power. Boer War? I guess you could call that religious, of a sort, but mostly it was about who ran the country. American Civil War? Power. Iran-Iraq War? Land and power, because Saddam sure as hell didn't give a fig about religion.
    The closest we've had to a religious war in recent history was Bosnia, and that was, really, about power and land. Religion just defined the teams, and if it hadn't been religion then there would still have been ethnicity, or some other way of picking the sides.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • John Fouhy,

    **Emma:** I'd kind of like to see this broken down a bit more. Are people saying they want other religions 'taught' like Christian Religious Instruction is now, or are they just saying they'd quite like Social Studies?

    Well, I wasn't surveyed, but I've often had this thought. I suppose I'm in the "social studies" camp, though I've never thought of it like that.

    For me, it's that, these days, you've got a pretty good chance of running into people from a wide range of religions. What do we know about muslims? Well, they're all arabic terrorists. Well, there's over a billion of them, so surely that's not quite right? But I certainly didn't learn that at school.

    So, since religion is still important to a great many people in this world, it would be nice if young people came out of school knowing what the major religions believe and how they all fit together. I don't think we need to indoctrinate the youth (and pantheistic indoctrination could be difficult :-) ), but would you count someone educated if they didn't know the basics of the Jesus story?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Tass,

    So more people believe in Hell than firmly believe in God. What on earth is that about?

    That's like the famous definition of a lapsed catholic "I don't believe in God, but I believe Mary is his mother".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2008 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I was going to comment that I'd never had any religious education in school, but I realised I did. It's just that it was so rubbish that none of the religious lessons stuck, and instead I just remembered the crazy-ass tutors.

    In primary school, a stocky old woman would come in (once a week?) and tell us stories from the Bible. If we asked questions ("Why did people live to such an old age?") she'd get annoyed.

    She got us to sing Christian songs as she played along on her autoharp and thumped her foot heavily on the floor to the beat. We weren't allowed to thump along.

    This included a song that was accompanied by a book with different coloured pages. We all got a little version, which was cool as one of the pages was gold and shiny.

    My heart was black with sin until the Savior came in.
    His precious blood I know has washed me white as snow.
    And in His book I'm told I'll walk the streets of gold.
    Oh wonderful, wonderful day! He's washed my sins away!

    Trouble was, my white page got dirty after a while.

    ---

    At intermediate school, we were visited about once a month by Gus from Youth For Christ. He was VERY ENTHUSIASTIC and walked up and down the stage, gesticulating wildly. See, when you buy a lawn mower, you get an instruction manual that tell you how to use the lawn mower. But where's the instruction manual for life? That's the Bible.

    But all I got from Gus was the knowledge that 11-year-olds can do really good, funny impressions of Christian youth workers.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Ah, yes, but, religious organisation is about power and land; its origins are tribal and hierarchical. The Wars of Religion were not fought over differences of theology but because the various sides wanted power and land that their opponents possessed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I was curious about that one too, actually. Unless you're referring to the Crusades?

    Has somebody introduced a statute of limitation on genocide while I wasn't looking? Crusades, the butchering of indigenous peoples, the inquisition, the systematic massacre of so called heretics, not to mention the fact that quite a few contemporary conflicts *are* in fact fuelled or exacerbated by major religions.

    (Plus, see under "Abortion clinics, attacks on")

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    I think of the crusades as the properly religious war. OTOH Terry Jones left me with the impression it basically started as something to do with all those knights Europe had kicking around.

    ...

    I recall Jim Mora's panel once agreeing on teaching the controversy in evolution. Of course I demand equal time for the flying spaghetti monster.

    Firstly, there's scientific controversy and then there's unscientific controversy.

    And then, most of the stuff they teach in school science has a lies-for-children quality compared to the actual state of the art. Which suggest the actual purpose of science class is consistent with judicious editing.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Apropos the attitudes towards homosexuality, I see this in the summary:

    "... young people are more tolerant of sex before marriage than older people; they are also more accepting than older people of homosexuality."

    We also learn that the "gay sex is wrong" figure has dropped from 50% to 40% since the last survey 10 years ago.

    I suspect this is a belief which few people change their mind on. But enough people have died in the last 10 years to make a difference. If 40% strikes you as implausibly high, perhaps your and your peers are in the younger half of the respondents.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    @ Graeme

    So should we be teaching students that light is a particle or a wave?

    There is a lot of science with various camps and competing theories. Was a single massive impact the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs, or sea-level regression, volcanism and the Deccan Traps, or some combination? etc.

    I'm not entirely sure of the relevance of such observations.

    Wouldn't it be more relevant to ask: should we teach children that things fall because of gravity, or because God intervenes and makes them fall?

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • LegBreak,

    The paranoid, disenfranchised, fundamentalist fringes of the "big" religions are over-represented in murderous rampage stats.

    Is that a compromise?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1162 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    The denial that religion plays a part in violent conflict has a flavour of No True Scotsman about it.

    I find it hard to see how one could see, say, the partition of India apart from its religious component, or the English civil war, or the Shia vs Sunni struggle in Iraq. If we always excuse these conflicts by saying "ah, that's not really religious", then I begin to suspect that we have a definition of "religious" that includes "can't ever be a contributor to violence."

    Now, I'd accept that the claim that religion is responsible for more violence than other causes is unprovable, let alone true. But equally, it sure does help.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • James Coe,

    I'm not entirely sure of the relevance of such observations.

    Wouldn't it be more relevant to ask: should we teach children that things fall because of gravity, or because God intervenes and makes them fall?

    This seems right. Presumably what we want children to learn in school science class (at least up to a point) is not, say, the structure of an atom or whether light is a particle or wave. We want them to learn something of scientific method, and what the appropriate ways are to work out whether something is 'true' or not.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2009 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • James Coe,

    I find it hard to see how one could see, say, the partition of India apart from its religious component, or the English civil war, or the Shia vs Sunni struggle in Iraq. If we always excuse these conflicts by saying "ah, that's not really religious", then I begin to suspect that we have a definition of "religious" that includes "can't ever be a contributor to violence."

    Now, I'd accept that the claim that religion is responsible for more violence than other causes is unprovable, let alone true. But equally, it sure does help.

    Substituting 'ideology' for 'religion' seems to me to work better. It neatly evades the common religious comeback that Stalin or Mao's crimes show that atheism is worse than religion.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2009 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    I collected some data on religion for a study I ran recently (as yet unpublished). In addition to asking about religious affiliation, we had a question on the extent to which religion influences your daily life, on a 7 point scale. Fully half of participants went with the "no influence" endpoint, and 70% were under the midpoint.
    It was interesting, because in overseas research on the same topic, religion/religious influence had been quite a strong predictor. Here, nothing.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Just to be contrary about science education, aren't there two parts to it?

    In maths, we mostly want kids to learn arithmetic and useful techniques - we don't in fact teach them much if anything about induction and proof. And in science, don't we really also want to impart a lot of handy basic facts? I'd say that evolution just squeaks in on that count, if only to make sure they understand why they have to finish all their antibiotics, but I reckon a curriculum that was really focussed on applying empirical techniques to establish a body of provisionally provable "knowledge" wouldn't bear much resemblance to school science as we know it at all. Plus all those skeptical experimenting kids would drive every adult in the vicinity insane.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Giovanni, I was referring to more recent murderous rampages given the context of "current state of religious whatnot" and was thinking more along the lines of individual murder than war campaigns.

    At which point, yes I was serious in my question.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    I think the point is that if your ignore the theological aspects a lot of conflicts make sense anyway. Looks like promising lines of dispute are a) this might be wrong and b) non-theological aspects can be religion-related.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    At which point, yes I was serious in my question.

    I was equally serious in my answer - abortion clinic attacks and quite a few other acts of murder and terrorism around the world are motivated by religion. 9/11 wasn't an act of war.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    I certainly don't discount that many murders are religiously motivated, it was more a case of given that (in NZ at least) 60% of people identified with a religion, are significantly-more-than-60% of murderers religious? (Or whatever percentage lines you wish to draw around "depth of religious belief)

    And in those, we could of course separate religious as an adjective vs religious as a driving motive.

    Honest question re statistics with no bias to do it.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    </quote>I certainly don't discount that many murders are religiously motivated, it was more a case of given that (in NZ at least) 60% of people identified with a religion, are significantly-more-than-60% of murderers religious?</quote>

    I doubt that a lot of people kill in New Zealand for reasons that can be tied to religion. I was referring in broader term to the proposition that religion is being replaced worldwide by flim-flam, by making the point that I find flim-flam a lot less dangerous.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Eddie Izzard on God:

    I believe in the six point five billion people, I believe in people and I don’t believe in the organised God upstairs because I’ve never seen anything organised that he’s done. He’s never done "today God’s arranged a whole party for everyone, oh shit God’s forgot the tea…"

    You know, I’ve just never, it’s all haphazard, and then "God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform". That’s just a fucking cover-all, it’s spin, that is religious spin ‘cause that means shit can happen and that’s part of God’s plan, to have cheese turn up on the third of July … and so I’ve decided lets us do it and if he comes down and says, "I was here all the time, I really am God and I’ve just been watching and I’ve been a bit lazy", we’ll say, "Fine, we’ve got a lot of stuff going already, come and join us, what can you do, mush?".

    But until then, I believe in human beings and I’ll wait for him to turn up.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    I find flim-flam a lot less dangerous.

    That's what they WANT you to think. Nobody expects the Landmark Forum Inquisition.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Eddie Izzard on God:

    Cake or death?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    So should we be teaching students that light is a particle or a wave?

    That's an unfortunate choice of example, as physicists have known for nearly a century that waves and particles are just different manifestations of the same phenomenon... the real point is that "fairness" and "balance" in science education needs to be judged on something other than the number of newspaper column inches devoted to two opposing sides of the argument. Number of column inches of peer-reviewed research, maybe?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

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