10 November 2005

One each way, so far

While Dover, PA parents evict the Intelligent Design advocates from their school board (and presumbly any replacements were elected on a “We will teach only the One True Faith” platform rather than any ambitions to actually do schooly stuff — but maybe their predecessors were elected on a similar basis anyway), Kansas elects to “teach the controversy”.

There are a number of surprising and disappointing features in this.

One is that the arguments being presented on the Evolution-only side of the PA court battle seem to be decidedly weak, which is pretty disappointing. They should have no trouble coming up with strong arguments, but «shrug» seem to have missed that boat.

They also told some direct lies, which to my mind was entirely unnecessary and won’t help their case. The transcript makes interesting reading (in places, in other places it’s as dry as dust). A couple of different accredited witnesses explained experiments they’d done in their fields, and then a day or so later a lawyer states categorically in his summing up that no experiments along those lines have ever been done, nor can they be done. Was he asleep at the wheel, or trying to snow the judge?

The final disappointment from PA is still only a potential one, but seems kind of inevitable: the new school board might pull the plug on the case entirely, and then we’ll never know what the judge decided.

Then we turn to KA, and discover that the zealots are at work here as well. The BBC stated that an Intelligent Design decision had been rendered, but the decision explicitly states that it is not an endorsement of Intelligent Design, nor does it mandate the teaching of ID.

Again, it comes down to: was the reporter asleep at the wheel, or lying? Either way, the report was wrong. I’m betting that he simply failed to do his research and simply reacted to a few keywords or amplified someone else’s opinion.

I’m in favour of as few restrictions as possible, but that has to be set in the context of not exposing minorities (or majorities, for that matter) to abuse.

Forcing an Atheist’s child to sit through science classes which will admit nothing but course material stating that this world and the life on it was fabricated from nothing in six days is wrong. Forcing a Christian’s child to sit through science classes which will admit nothing but course material stating that this world was fabricated from an exploding monobloc all by itself over the course of half a million million million seconds is wrong. Each course is based on a fundamental and untestable basic assumption which is hostile to the family’s culture.

The obvious answer in each case is to home-school your child, which on average also produces distinctly higher academic grades, but this option is not always available, and even when available it is often badly misrepresented; people make brainless claims about needing to be a qualified teacher or needing to set up a formal classroom situation and stay in it for six hours a day, or needing to buy expensive sets of textbooks. D’oh? But typical of our society.

The most reasonable solution I’ve yet seen is to include a variety of material on the topic and also to teach the often unspoken assumptions behind each position. That’s the biggie. Anything less is shortchanging the student, requiring them to accept stuff prima facie rather than investigating it and reasoning about it themselves.

Consequently, I’m basically satisfied by how KA turned out, and I’m satisfied that the PA attempt seems doomed to fail — but not satisfied by the way it will probably fail. Doing an end-run around due process is cheating, and I’m afraid neither side’s hands are entirely clean on this one.

FOSS people should be all for fair play, and maximum freedom of choice. Letting a situation devolve into a mindless Red-vs-Blue kind of polarisation is hardly the best way to accomplish either. It becomes a fight for freedom for a particular belief (in this case, for opposing beliefs) rather than a generalised freedom of belief.

This is the nub of the vast majority of politicially correct stupidity we see around us.

In case you can’t see a FOSS connection, consider how much Microsoft polarises every confrontation with FOSS, and FOSS advocates echo that. Pretty soon formerly reasonable advocates wind up unreasonable, and the clear moral advantage they started out with has all evapourated.

What we should be shooting for is a level playing field. What a lot of people miss in that statement is that a playing field with a 400 kilo gorilla on it cannot be naturally level — it doesn’t matter whether the gorilla is Microsoft or simply an entrenched point of view, the effect is the same.


Alpha said...

This almost sounds like operating system racism...

Leon Brooks said...

alpha, it sounds like insert-bigotry-here.

At some point in any argument, one or both protagonists may find themselves in what it pleases me to call “Red vs Blue” or “Football Team Theology” mode, where they’re arguing to win, not really reasoning about any facts or observations related to the overt issue.

The same principle holds true for dish-flinging marital disputes, OS wars, the burning of heretics at the stake and the ostracism of teenage peers or scientists for not being the right kind of cool.

Alpha said...

Red Vs Blue, Novell Vs IBM??

Interestingly I do not support one side nor the other. I will do the best for my customer that suits the requirements, their ability to support the system, and provides them a long term cost effective solution. I always drive the application first to solve the problem, then choose the best version and platform for it to sit on, based on the above criteria. There are cases for both proprietary and open source, you just can't be blinded to one or the other :-) as both are very relevant for different reasons to many customers.

The part I can't stand is the intense almost hatred from either side, blind faith etc...Coolaid to use a Ballmerism can come in many flavours and for follwers it can have the same result, see Jim Jones