Thursday, March 19, 2009

Doggerel #178: "Silencing"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Given that woos like to compare themselves to great scientists, especially Galileo, many like to go on about how we're supposedly "silencing" them. Most seem unaware of the difference between criticism and censorship. You can indeed believe whatever you want, but we're free to criticize your beliefs. Or just laugh at them.

On the more subtle front, Creationists in particular like to equate keeping their ideas out of classrooms with silencing them. Cue comparisons to teaching alchemy alongside chemistry or astrology alongside astronomy. The problem with this is that science classes are supposed to teach science. Creationism isn't science, either for the reason that it's demonstrably wrong, or because it doesn't make testable predictions. The "Intellgent Design" variety doesn't even know what sort of evidence to look for, much less gained any sort of scientific support to be worth considering.

On the "subtle as a sledgehammer" front, many trolls equate banning them for offenses such as spam, flooding, foul language, or otherwise violating a blog or forum's comment policies with banning them for expressing a particular opinion. I shouldn't even have to include that in this entry, but I might as well spell it out.


Tom Foss said...

Something that bears mentioning here, since it ties into a lot of this, is that there's a big difference between "censorship" and "having standards." The reason that cdesign proponentism isn't allowed in school science classes is because those classes limit their curriculum to the best-validated scientific theories. The reason trolls are banned from message boards is because they're usually off-topic, abusive, and they contribute nothing to the discussion--in other words, they don't meet the basic standards of the forum.

Woo-ists, in order to get their woo legitimized, generally try to lower the standards to allow their woo in, or they set up their own cargo cult version of the legitimate organization, where they can set their own standards and pretend like they're part of the big boys' club. They then use the fake legitimacy of their cargo cult to try to wedge into the legitimate organizations. See: the DiscoTute, the NCCAM, the ICR and their journal, etc.

Anonymous said...

The annoying thing is that people with a persecution complex don't seem to know what it's really like to be persecuted. Being told your idea is stupid is not being persecuted. Having your house riddled with machine gun fire for your ideas IS.

Further, being fired for beliefs completely inconsequential to your job is persecution. However, being fired because your beliefs are directly impacting your job is NOT. If you believe in creationism and teach a math class, that's fine. Creationism isn't going to come up there. If you believe in creationism and teach science class, but you teach evolution and do it well, that's fine. If you teach creationism in science class, clearly against the curriculum and with no evidence to back up what you are teaching, you aren't a "rebel", or a "bad boy", you're just wasting the student's time, as they'll have to learn evolution from whatever teacher replaces you in a shorter period of time to make up for your failure.

Now, it's all well and good if you think that creationism should replace the curriculum in class so long as your efforts consist of valid complaints to your school district. Further, it's all well and good if you find you find yourself unable to teach evolution for moral reasons. There's the door. There's nothing very brave about taking a stand if you aren't actually sacrificing anything, and demanding you still get to teach so long as you don't teach certain things is kinda selfish. Are you going to actually stand up for your beliefs or not? What does it accomplish, if knowing you are going to be fired that very day, you just walk in and start teaching something like that? You're just doing that for yourself, it didn't accomplish a thing.

And while I just said it's all well and good if you push to have the curriculum changed OUTSIDE the class, I do of course have some important points about that. You can't just shout really loudly your opinion and demand for a change, you have to back it up. You can't just ignore logical teardowns of your arguments like they didn't even happen. Too often I see someone state that I "have a point" if I say that this or that argument is flawed, and they go on, only to come back later without actually having thought about my point and pretending like I never said a thing.

So keep your arguing out of the classroom itself, argue that the curriculum is to be changed. However, if you do it badly, expect to be told so and not listened to. Further, expect those who consider you wrong, and are able to back up WHY they consider you wrong, to actively attempt to keep your ideas from wasting time in class.