Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

7th place — Nat Rogers: Logic and myth in American schools

Vol. 35 No. 9 November 2018
Nat Rogers                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

FFRF awarded Nat $400.

By Nat Rogers

When it comes to discussing the dangers of bibliolatry and the burgeoning American theocracy fostered by unprecedented access of evangelical Christians to the current White House administration, there are countless examples of bigotry, misogyny and attacks on reason from which to draw. However, the overt attempt to install the bible into public school curricula should be met with outrage and condemnation by citizens across the United States.

Aside from lauding the amorality displayed in the infanticide, rape and genocide ordered and condoned by the Christian God, this challenge to secular education will subvert students’ ability to cultivate robust critical-thinking skills, especially in the sciences. Christian apologists contort themselves in a vain attempt to fend off the ever-growing mountain of scientific evidence against their myths, and Intelligent Design embodies the latest in a long line of pseudoscientific impediments that Christians have haphazardly proffered to stanch the exodus from the church in favor of reason. Intelligent Design matches evidence to a predetermined conclusion, and, to a mind raised free of this brash breach of scientific integrity, this assault on logic is readily apparent. Therein lies the reason that bibliolatry in schools must be stamped out.

Ignatius of Loyola is credited with saying, “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will give you the man.” Modern psychology has demonstrated the truth in this disquieting aphorism of the power to brainwash children from a young age. Children are incredibly trusting of familiar adults and will generally accept information without question, right or wrong, that becomes integrated into how the child processes its surroundings.

In society, teachers are implicitly afforded additional trust in regard to the accuracy of the information they present, so when a teacher presents pseudoscience and myth as fact, one can recognize the potential for a heightened propensity to poison a child’s ability to view the world in a rational manner. Thus, the danger of an authority figure presenting the bible as fact is evident. Yet, however unpalatable it may be, the interweaving of myth and fact pales in comparison to the deleterious effect of convincing children that the bible is beyond reproach.

To those who preach Intelligent Design, the bible is unassailable, and all evidence must be cowed into submission such that it aligns with scripture. Dragging Intelligent Design into classrooms promulgates the insidious notion that mountains of scientific evidence can be freely discarded should that evidence diverge from scripture. Instead of teaching students to gather evidence and subsequently develop a theory based on that, Intelligent Design suggests to students that fitting evidence to match a predetermined conclusion is an acceptable standard. The importance of keeping that notion separate from our secular school system cannot be overstated. Freedom of religion is protected by the First Amendment. Yet, American children in the public school system have a right not to be subject to enduring the death throes of demonstrably false religious claims as they are (slowly) eclipsed by reason.

Students taught at a formative age that it is admissible to reject evidence-based theories in favor of faith-based delusions will persist in this mindset as they become eligible voters. Prominent politicians in respected political offices depart from reason by brushing aside climate change, evolution and any number of well-vetted scientific theories. Believers can then feel legitimized when they reject the evidence due to inconsistencies with their religious beliefs. For instance, reliance on the bible as fact has given rise to the wholly unsubstantiated claim by evangelical Christians that God controls the climate. When it comes to climate change, pinning the source of rising temperatures on God not only relieves them of responsibility, but allows Christian leaders to instill fear in the populace by claiming these changes signal an impending apocalypse. By teaching children the correct way to reach a conclusion based on evidence, such assertions will hold sway with an ever-decreasing percentage of the population.

Supplanting superstition with reason is inherently a gradual process that must be predicated on sound logical foundations taught in schools. We must make every effort to convince the American public to push back against pseudoscience and to remove bibliolatry from public school curricula. Unless we teach young Americans how to detect faulty reasoning, the United States is doomed to a future where science continues to be ignored when it casts light on inconvenient truths.

Nat, 24, of Baltimore, attends Johns Hopkins University as a second-year student in the biochemistry and molecular biology master’s program. He does volunteer work with underserved community members in Baltimore and is also an avid hiker and photographer.