Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling is Up

The 12th week of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up--but don't tell the homeschool haters over at Atrios who apparently think homeschooling is evil. I guess the idea that some kids might get away from being indoctrinated by the state is more than they can bear.


Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Actually, they're against state indoctrination. Ben Domenech himself is a government propagandist and that's why they don't like him. As for home schooling, I'm sure it's a fine experience for some children. It seems to have fallen a little short for Ben Domenech, who has a confused and propagandized understanding of both evolution and astronomy.

11:04 AM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The amusing part of Professor Kuperberg's post above is that, if you follow and analyze his posts, he (Kuperberg) refers to another person as a "know it all."

Pot. Kettle. Black.

8:28 PM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, my aching head. Sorry for the long post, all.

I don’t want to defend Dr. Kuperberg, but let’s be clear.

In Dr. Distler’s (Physics professor in Austin, part of the Group Theory mafia from Princeton) weblog:

Dr. Kuperberg made the one and only reply to Dr. Distler’s pretty self-congratulatory schoolyard sort of attack on Mr. Domenech---calling the man “innumerate” and so forth. Dr. Distler also referred to Mr. Domenech as a “knuckle dragging creationist” and then congratulated himself in a footnote about the aptness and cleverness of the description.

That approach is surely going to change minds, isn’t it?

Anyway, Dr. Kuperberg defended Mr. Domenech. He did refer to Ben Domenech as a know-it-all (a trait Dr. Kuperberg does indeed share with Mr. Domenech---I would argue that most of the press and all of academia suffers from that affliction). But then he attempts to defend Mr. Domenech a bit. It was a “damned by faint praise” kind of defense, but it was both thoughtful and fair. There was even a gentle chiding that many otherwise brilliant people can make innumerate statements.

But the second “criticizer” of Mr. Domenech cited by Dr. Kuperberg is P.Z. Myers (a professor of biology at an undergraduate institution, the University of Minnesota at Morris) at his blog:

Now, I am a Ph.D. scientist in Dr. Myers’ general area (in fact, I knew his Ph.D. advisor quite well), and I have the greatest respect for his knowledge and love of biology, and his ability to write wonderfully and well on that subject. I also have to say that I consider both Dr. Myers and Richard Dawkins to be among the greatest threats to the acceptance of evolutionary theory around. Why? It’s isn’t the kneejerk liberal politics. I expect that level of snobbish elitism and self-congratulatory “holier than thou” (if you will forgive the pun) attitude from some academics.

As everyone surely knows, a Ph.D. doesn’t give its proud owner absolute knowledge of much, nor license to preach to others (including me, I add wryly).

What I object to is the guttersnipe and classless attacks Dr. Myers continually makes on people of faith. And that, my friends, is the source of Dr. Myers’ very unprofessional hatred of some blogger/journalist who has little real impact in the world.

I don’t mind the atheism. That is Dr. Myers’ right, though I think that being an agnostic is a fairer view of the world---to be truly atheist infers a level of knowledge of the universe and its workings that I don’t believe humans can possess (stealing another line from J.B.S. Haldane: the universe is not stranger than we imagine; it is stranger than we can imagine).

So to be so utterly sure and contemptuously dismissive of other points of view rankles me and my scientific reflexes. History has shown that kind of certitude to be the enemy of free thought and inquiry, in fact.

Sorry for the digression. The point is that Dr. Myers is rude, snide, and personal in his attacks. It does not merit his position and profession; I have to believe he is better than this kind of nonsense. College and university professors need to teach students who come to our lecture halls---those of us who teach, that is---who don’t often share our background or training. We need to educate, not propagandize. We need to present the facts, rather than attack the student for a lack of information, or even slowness of learning.

Examples abound. Dr. Myers repeatedly insults Mr. Domenech, an individual I am quite sure that Dr. Myers does not know personally. Well, he is an evil Republican, so I guess it is okay to attack him personally (at least, that is the constant drumbeat I get from reading Dr. Myers’ blog). In reading Dr. Myers’ screed, we learn that Mr. Domenech is unintelligent (because, obviously, believers in Creationism are, by definition, stupid), “an ignoramus,” “dumb as a post,” “dishonest,” “fraudulent,” and “a frothing idiot.”

As he was making the “frothing idiot” statement, he did go on to state that only the right wing produces such people. Hmm. Isn’t naked prejudice a wonderful thing to see? I can think of several Democratic representatives, to use a scientific example, who have in the past claimed in public statements that the US government “created” the AIDS virus and purposefully spread it among African Americans. Or how about Democrats---including, I believe, a sitting Senator---who claimed that G.W. Bush ordered the bombing of levees outside New Orleans?

This is why I get angry at the Left: there is no monopoly on thoughtless, politically-motivated, irresponsible, and just plain incorrect behavior on the right side of the aisle, people. They are politicians, folks. They lie like rugs.

Dr. Myers even works in yet another dig at home schooling in this attack piece. It is true that Mr. Domenech has written that he was home-schooled. Yes, he was home schooled so poorly that he was accepted to and attended the College of William and Mary, a highly selective and top ranked university. He claims that only people with “no training in education” would avoid teaching evolutionary theory and thinking to homeschooled children. That is amusing on all kinds of levels, but let’s start with the important one: how much evolution is taught in public schools?

Look, I believe in evolution, and I am not a Creationist. But to say that only stupid people do not believe the way you do is….well, stupid. Actually, it is outstandingly stiff necked, judgmental, arrogant, inflexible, and completely lacking in empathy toward others. In other words, the sorts of things that Dr. Myers tars Republicans with often.

I do not believe the way that Mr. Domenech does on this subject. But the reason that there is so much heat and so little light on this subject is that we do not properly teach evolution in schools. A parent who is uneducated about evolution might fear sending their kids to schools to learn about dreaded evolution, especially when the “major defenders” of evolution are out and out atheists who call people of faith stupid and project a demeanor of thoroughly unpleasant superiority.

I am a college professor as well. I have long thought Dr. Myers was irresponsible and loved to see his own name in print, loved to hear his own voice. This is but one good example.

I would never use Dr. Myers as an authority, other than on the neural development of zebrafish.

He is a fine scientist and quite a wonderful essayist on scientific matters. But anything that even remotely touches politics, he begins to slaver and howl like a werewolf at full moon. How much better to use his skills to convince and persuade, to make up for the bad education that most people receive in biology, instead of being yet another victim of Bush Derangement Syndrome, laughing with similar minded people about how stupid other people are.

A lesson for all of us, perhaps, to not allow our politics (or other personal beliefs) to stand in the way of our ability to discuss and share our thoughts with others.

Again, sorry to go on so long. This started with defending Dr. Kuperberg, and that is where I will end.

12:13 AM, March 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is something else about Ben Domenech that should be taken into account:

I don't know quite what to say. Well, I do, but I won't write it here!

10:36 AM, March 24, 2006  
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