They can’t start too early!

I have a four-year-old fan! An alert reader writes:

Dear Dr. Coyne,

I am writing to let you know how much I am enjoying reading your book ‘Why Evolution Is True.’ While I have long been interested in the sciences my eyes have been opened even farther with the evidence this book presents.

And if it wasn’t enough that I am enjoying your book, my 4 year old son keeps stealing it from me at every opportune moment. He can’t seem to get enough of all the pictures and diagrams in the book. He is particularly fond of the diagram near the beginning of the book that shows the evolutionary change from reptiles to dinosaurs to birds. Since I have explained the diagram to him he now goes around telling everyone that birds came from dinosaurs. You can never start teaching them science and critical thinking too early!

I’ve attached a picture I thought you might enjoy.

A young fanFig. 1. Evoutionist in statu nascendi.

60 Comments

  1. newenglandbob
    Posted August 22, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Four years old! Why did you wait so long? He would have understood dinosaurs -> birds at 2 1/2.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted August 22, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      I think reading the New Atheists put him off evolution for a year or so . . . . .

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted August 22, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        What is “the New Atheists”, and what is the connection to Coyne’s book on evolution?

        And please describe this in the terms a 2 1/2 year old would make sense of.

  2. Critical Rationalist
    Posted August 22, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    If only all young inquiring minds could find themselves in the right sort of environment as this kid.

  3. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 22, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Ouch! I think I pwned myself, I didn’t note the tag, ie the pun. Well, LOL! 😮

  4. articulett
    Posted August 22, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    They are so cute when they’re in statu nascendi!

    • Notorious P.A.T.
      Posted August 22, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      I’ll say! He reminds me of another curly-haired little guy who loved to look at dinosaur books )

  5. Wowbagger
    Posted August 22, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    [Gasps] Giving a child a book? How can you be so hateful and angry and new and militant?

    • ichspareenergie
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 3:36 am | Permalink

      Yes, yes… books are dangerous! And to make things even worse, it’s a science book too! Kids might learn to think for themselves, they might get educated! Oh the horror…

  6. Andrew
    Posted August 22, 2009 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    You can never start the indoctrination too early.

    • Spirula
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I’m sure these insidious parents started before this. I’m sure they did the whole “hand-washing” and “cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough” thingy, all because of their “belief” in that “Germ theory of disease” poppycock.

      No doubt they warn them away from balconys and cliffs too. Gravity, what a load of crap.

      It saddens me that they’ve wasted precious time when they could have been teaching them they were born in sin and rebellion and will be damned to eternal torture if they don’t believe in the Invisible Foreskin-Hating God and his Undeaded Son. All this time they could have been amassing guilty feelings (particularly about what they do with their naughy bits) and accepting the truth of fantasy, and looking forward to the day when they will accept Christ and finally be able to eat some Jesus.

  7. Posted August 23, 2009 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    I was finally able to locate a copy recently (after trying any bookshop I could easily get to – I’m in Sydney, Australia).

    No way am I so much as letting my kids know I have it until after I am done. I have put a plain cover on it, and I don’t read it in front of them. I want to read it in peace!

    My son (10) did ask me a question about evolution today though – one straight out of the creationist playbook (“if humans evolved from apes, why are there still apes?”). I explained it quite easily and he got it right away, but I wonder where he picked up the misconception. If it’s his own then it’s all to the good, since asking questions is exactly what he should be doing.

    • Notorious P.A.T.
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      People ask that question because they don’t fully comprehend evolution. That’s understandable in a kid; a grown adult has no excuse.

  8. Adam M.
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I can’t say there wasn’t any, but he didn’t describe teaching any “critical thinking”.

    • nick bobick
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Adam, so many people below have explained it to you so much better than I will be able to, but here goes:

      You don’t have to “teach” critical thinking per se. It comes as a result of explaining things, giving the evidence for those things, and why that evidence is currently the best explanation known. Religions “give a child a fish”; thinking parents and other educators “teach a child to fish”.

      Teaching a child to fish can begin at a very early age, and it is the exact opposite of (although more difficult than) giving him a fish. The critical thinking skills are not so much taught as learned over time.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        Actually, yours is the first reply that seems completely reasonable. (Perhaps because it’s not obscured by insults, etc. Thank you.)

        You’re probably right that critical thinking is best taught not directly, but indirectly. However it’s taught, I support it.

        I agree that “teaching a child to fish” can begin at a very early age, even 2.5 years. But I don’t think it follows automatically from teaching scientific facts. I’ve seen plenty of people who accept evolution and atheism but cannot articulate why they hold that position. Not average posters here, but average man-on-the-street types.

        Obviously they were taught some scientific facts, but that teaching method apparently failed to inculcate any deeper understanding of the subject, and their position to me seems analogous to that of the religious. They believe because they were taught it, and that’s all. They’ve only been given a fish, to use your analogy.

        So I unwilling to give praise just because a parent is teaching some scientific facts. Obviously it’s good to teach them. But I think more is needed. What you described — “explaining things, giving the evidence for those things, and why that evidence is currently the best explanation known” — is exactly what I think should be done. (Although I still don’t believe a 2.5 year old could handle it.)

        I get the impression that most posters here praise or support the parent primarily because he/she’s teaching facts of evolution, and that they care little for the method. I think the method is more important. That’s all.

        Anyway, it’s bedtime for bonzo.

        And I still don’t understand your “Bravo!” response to articulett’s long string of insults and false assertions. 🙂 But oh well.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

        More “just-so” stories and opinions on how he thinks others were taught.

        Once again no facts, lets look at how Adam M. “argues” his case, in his own words:

        “But I don’t think it follows automatically…”

        I’ve seen plenty…”

        Obviously (???) they were taught…” – This is pure nonsensical speculation.

        “..and their position to me seems analogous…”

        They believe because they were taught it, and that’s all.” – Adam sets himself us as all knowing here.

        But I think more is needed…”

        “…is exactly what I think should be done…”

        I get the impression…”

        I think the method is more important.”

        From Adam there are no facts, no evidence, no logic, no reason, no critical thinking. All that is there are opinions of I think, I feel, I know, I assume and sentence after sentence of meaningless nonsense.

      • J.J.E.
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        And I still don’t understand your “Bravo!” response to articulett’s long string of insults and false assertions. 🙂 But oh well.

        The readership of this blog is highly biased towards people who are non-religious and who have read a considerable amount about biology in general and evolution in particular. Some of us are even professional scientists.

        Naturally, when you present false equivocations (“telling the kid facts which the child believes based on authority, it’s no different from indoctrination with religious belief.” followed by “I didn’t say there’s a comparison between scientific fact and religious fantasy.”) and make odious moral equivalences (between teaching dogma and teaching the current state of scientific evidence) people here will be bent out of shape and may not respond in a perfectly polite or even rational manner (although, politeness aside, most responses are rational).

        It is you who is muddying the water. The biggest difference between science and faith is that science can be challenged. The scientific method incorporates a self-critical recursive process of re-evaluation. While it is a trite and trivial thing to say that “scientists must have faith too”, it is by no means equivalent to the faith that the religious must have. The vast majority of things that individual scientists take on faith are regularly challenged and confirmed by other individual scientists. I haven’t verified the consequences of relativity because I don’t fully understand it, so I take it on faith. But my physics colleagues have verified it and can explain it to me if I ask. By the same token, they likely take on faith many of the tenets of evolution. But if they were curious, I could explain it to them. So, on an individual basis, science may in practice involve liberal doses of “faith” simply because nobody has enough time to verify everything. However, on an aggregate/social basis, religion is based ENTIRELY on faith (which is often internally inconsistent and contradictory to other faiths). In contrast, on that larger community scale science is NOT based on faith in principle or practice.

        And in practical terms, science has provided you the vaccines, the ability to post here, the processes that allow you buy cheap clothes, the word processing software that lets you spread your religious dogma more easily, the car/train/bus that gets you to work, etc etc etc ad nauseum. To then come in and make the comparisons you have done is simply offensive.

        People talk in shorthand, and teaching occurs in stages. So, your challenging of the superficial parallels between a brief lesson in science and religious indoctrination is disingenuous. Teaching a child about science (even using rote techniques) is not even remotely like religious indoctrination. And if you’ve read WEIT, you’d know that a lot of the prose in that book is devoted to explaining the scientific process that under-girds why we know evolution is true. So, even if we concede that rote learning of scientific facts is indoctrination (it isn’t, though), you’re still barking up the wrong tree. Jerry spent a lot of time giving examples of how we would know if evolution is false, for just one example. This is something that religious dogma does not offer.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 25, 2009 at 1:48 am | Permalink

        Perhaps you’ve noticed, newenglandbob, that I don’t reply to you. That’s because, like articulett, you’re acting like an asshole and are generally unreasonable.

        But lest it be thought that I’m incapable of responding, I’ll reply to your last email and explain my thinking in baby steps, just for you. Hopefully you’ll be able to understand it well enough to critique it in a less boring fashion.

        I gave the observation that some people can recite scientific facts about evolution, but do not display any deeper understanding.

        You’ll probably put some bold tags around “I gave” and claim it all worthless, but whatever. If you don’t believe such people exist, you can come meet them yourself.

        I then made the statement: “Obviously they were taught some scientific facts.”

        You replied “This is pure nonsensical speculation.” I think it makes good sense, and is even obvious, as I’ll attempt to show. Just because you’re incapable of making sense of it doesn’t mean it’s nonsensical.

        I begin to justify that statement as follows:

        1. Because they could recite the facts, they must know them.
        2. Because these facts are not innately known, they must have been learned.

        I think #1 is obvious. You may disagree, but I’ll let others be the judge. (Something you should try.)

        I think #2 is supported by the fact that evolution by natural selection wasn’t understood until about 150 years ago, and that most people even today are ignorant of it (considering the entire world population).

        Having convinced myself of #2, I distinguished between the different ways they may have been learned. I considered these possibilities:

        1. They were taught the facts.
        2. They taught themselves.
        3. They independently discovered them.

        Given the observed lack of a deeper understanding, I judge their probabilities as follows:

        3. I consider this the least likely. If they had independently discovered facts about evolutionary biology, I would expect them to have some justification or knowledge of surrounding theory.

        2. If they were sufficiently interested and motivated to teach themselves, I don’t imagine themselves stopping after acquiring some facts and not progressing onto the theory, which is the most interesting part. Yes, this statement is biased because it assumes people who are interested in learning are interested similarly to myself. In any case, I judge this more likely than #3, and less likely than #1.

        1. Having seen parents and school systems at work, I consider this the most likely by far. Parents and school systems routinely teach facts. Almost everyone is raised by somebody, and almost everyone in my society attends school. And prior to the university level at least, public school systems are willing to pass people with only a rudimentary understanding of the topics. (Yes, I didn’t justify all of those. I can, but this is already ridiculously long.)

        Because I judge #1 to be substantially more likely than the others, I chose to believe it was the case. I even judged it likely enough to call it “obvious”.

        You may complain that I didn’t consider the case that somebody had a deeper understanding, but forgot it. I’ll do so briefly. People tend to forget things they don’t think about. In which case is a person least likely to think about evolution? I believe that they’re most likely to think about it when they’ve independently discovered parts of it, less likely when they’re merely interested enough to teach themselves about it, and least likely when they were simply taught facts about it. So this doesn’t alter my judgement.

        And remember that we’re only trying to establish that an “average man on the street” who can recite some facts about evolution but can’t explain them was taught those facts. You said this was “pure nonsensical speculation”, but I think I’ve established well enough that it’s at least reasonable to think so.

        You didn’t directly disagree with any other statements, just bolded words like “seems” and “I think”. I say “seems” because I don’t have direct access to reality, and can only express my perception. (I consider it honesty.) And I say “I think” because I do. I understand that you’re not a fan of thinking, preferring to just declare people totally wrong and back it up with bold text.

        But hey, I’m learning. I even added some insults this time. Those seem to carry a lot of weight around here.

        PS. Don’t try to read more into this post than there is (as though there isn’t enough already). I’m only demonstrating why I won’t reply to newenglandbob. Maybe then he’ll stop bolding all my seems and thinks and pretending it means something. As they say, don’t feed the trolls.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 25, 2009 at 2:26 am | Permalink

        > The readership of this blog is highly biased towards people who are non-religious and who have read a considerable amount about biology in general and evolution in particular.

        Well, that describes me quite well. I’m neither religious nor skeptical of evolution. I have read quite a bit about it, and wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t interested in it. People seem to assume that if you disagree with a post on Jerry’s site, you must be a young earth creationist (and a retarded jerk, a liar, a blight on humanity, and everything else).

        > Naturally, when you present false equivocations…

        You’re right; that was sloppy and a wrong thing to say. Wrong, at the very least, in that it doesn’t even mean what I meant to convey.

        > [A bunch of stuff about the benefits of science vs. faith, and the way science works.]

        I agree, and this was well-written. (But I’ve never disagreed with these points.)

        > So, even if we concede that rote learning of scientific facts is indoctrination (it isn’t, though)…

        I would never call it that, but I suppose I did equate them, and that was a misstatement. What I meant (and I think this was sufficiently clarified later) is that:

        1. Using the method of teaching “P is true because [person X / this holy book / this science book] says so]” is distasteful to me regardless of the truth value of P, and
        2. given the lack of critical thinking skills possessed by a 4 year old (and especially a 2.5 year old!), you won’t be able to teach facts like “birds evolved from dinosaurs” without resorting to #1.

        Because of posts like yours, I have to reconsider whether it really should be equally distasteful to me, because there’s more to consider than the truth value of P. There’s also the process which led to its formulation. A more robust process (like science) gives a higher confidence in P, such that repeating it on authority is a more reasonable thing to do. So as long as the teacher understands the details and/or can give them when asked, I withdraw my criticism.

        But if the teacher doesn’t really understand why P is true (not the case of in this article), then my criticism remains.

        Thank you for your reply.

  9. Adam M.
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I mention that because unless he really is teaching critical thinking as the primary thing, as opposed to telling the kid facts which the child believes based on authority, it’s no different from indoctrination with religious belief.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      A. No, that is clearly wrong. There is no comparison between scientific facts and religious fantasy. None. Nada. No. They do not even reside in the same universe.

      B. Just because he didn’t mention critical thinking is no reason to assume there was none. Do not fabricate something if you have no evidence. Use some critical thinking.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 7:40 am | Permalink

        You’re putting words in my mouth.

        A. I didn’t say there’s a comparison between scientific fact and religious fantasy. I compared teaching scientific facts that you believe to be true to a child, based on authority, and teaching religious “facts” that you believe to be true, based on authority.

        B. I didn’t say there wasn’t any. In fact, I said “I can’t say there isn’t any”. But his description didn’t include any, and in my experience, most atheist/secular parents teach their beliefs on authority. In fact, I’ve never met a parent that really teaches critical thinking to their kids. (I’ve only read about them on blogs like this.) But I’ve met plenty that teach their kids atheism or scientific facts on 100% authority, bundled with no critical thinking at all. And I’ve met a number of people who conflate scientific facts with critical thinking.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        Also, when you say “Do not fabricate something if you have no evidence. Use some critical thinking.”, it doesn’t follow that forming a belief in the absence of evidence is irrational.

        In the absence of specific evidence, your confidence in any given proposition should be equal to its prior probability. If probability is high, then it is rational to assume that the proposition is true.

        In my experience, all parents I’ve seen teaching have taught based on authority (that’s the easy way) and no kids whom I’ve asked “how do you know?” seem to have had any answer besides “my dad said so” or “Darwin/Einstein said so”. So in the absence of evidence, it is fair to assume that this is probably another instance of the same. In any case, I would withhold praise until I saw evidence to the contrary.

        My basic point is that people seem to be all too eager to overlook poor teaching methods as long as they agree with what’s being taught. And vice versa.

        And I disagree with the statement that you “can’t start too early”. A child of 2.5 can be taught that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but can you really expect them to critically and rationally evaluate what they’re being told? Having been around plenty of 2.5 year olds, I cannot. I have my doubts about 4 year olds as well.

        There are good reasons to teach a kid, for instance, certain matters of life and death importance based on authority alone. A good reason would be that you can’t cause them to understand why the rule should be followed without causing harm.

        But in general, I can’t respect teaching based purely on authority, and I think people shouldn’t be so quick to applaud teaching based primarily on the content, with little regard for the method.

    • Posted August 23, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      He? Who is he? The child’s parent? But it nowhere says the parent is male. What’s the thinking here – that women don’t read about science? That women don’t read? That almost everybody is male?

      Talk about assumptions…

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        Hah! You’re right! I also assumed the parent is male.

        Tell me, did you envision a female at first? Perhaps people envision someone like themselves, and most posters are male. That could explain it.

        In any case, I’ve had my consciousness raised. 🙂

  10. Posted August 23, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I think the mistake here is assuming that all forms of authority are de facto the same.

  11. Posted August 23, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    One of my favourite books as a young child was the LIFE magazine book “The Wonders of Life on Earth” (Special Edition for Young Readers, 1965) which is 200pp of profusely illustrated Darwin, dinosaur and drosophila goodness. I still have it, 40yrs later.

  12. newenglandbob
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Adam M.:

    A. I didn’t say there’s a comparison between scientific fact and religious fantasy. I compared teaching scientific facts that you believe to be true to a child, based on authority, and teaching religious “facts” that you believe to be true, based on authority.

    And you are still completely wrong. Scientific facts come from evidence and experiment. It is not argument by authority at all.

    Also, when you say “Do not fabricate something if you have no evidence. Use some critical thinking.”, it doesn’t follow that forming a belief in the absence of evidence is irrational.

    Yes, it IS irrational. It is the definition of the word.

    In my experience, all parents I’ve seen teaching…

    That is the argument from incredulity and a ‘just-so’ story.

    My basic point is that people seem to be all too eager to overlook poor teaching methods as long as they agree with what’s being taught. And vice versa.

    What is your source on that statement?

    And I disagree with the statement that you “can’t start too early”. A child of 2.5 can be taught that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but can you really expect them to critically and rationally evaluate what they’re being told? Having been around plenty of 2.5 year olds, I cannot. I have my doubts about 4 year olds as well.

    Again, no scientific basis for that paragraph. Also, what do you suggest – not teaching it to them until you feel they are old enough? Do you think that all children of a certain age have identical capabilities?

    Studies that show children as young as 10 weeks can comprehend solid objects and that they realize that they can not occupy the same space.

    Noam Chomsky and others have produced studies that show that “Children are hypothesized to have an innate knowledge of the basic grammatical structure common to all human languages”.

    • Adam M.
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      > Scientific facts come from evidence and experiment. It is not argument by authority at all.

      I don’t see how it’s relevant. Scientists may know all the evidence, but most parents don’t. They teach their religion or their atheism on authority, most of the time.

      > Yes, it IS irrational. It is the definition of the word.

      In which dictionary?

      > What is your source on that statement?

      Numerous posts on this site, RD.net, etc.

      > Again, no scientific basis for that paragraph.

      It’s as much common sense as saying that a 2.5 year old can’t do long division. Show me a single 2.5 year old with the critical thinking skills necessary to properly evaluate even a simple description of birds evolving from dinosaurs.

      When that 4 year old goes around telling people “birds came from dinosaurs”, can he back it up? I doubt it.

      > [Children are born with some impressive innate abilities.]

      I don’t believe properly evaluating the statement “birds evolved from dinosaurs” is one of them.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        So, Adam M. You have no real answers, just speculation and obstinacy.

        Sorry you don’t understand how to use real arguments in a discussion.

        Your statements:

        “I don’t see how…”

        “It’s as much common sense as saying…”

        “Show me a single…”

        “I doubt it.”

        “I don’t believe…”

        None of these are arguments with facts or evidence or logic or reason or critical thinking. They are opinions, nothing more.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        > You have no real answers, just speculation and obstinacy.

        They are observations.

        > Sorry you don’t understand how to use real arguments in a discussion.

        Well, I could try your strategy: attack a strawman, repeat some irrelevant statements, cover up an incorrect statement by redefining “rational” (despite dictionaries and AI researchers disagreeing), try to support the contention that kids can understand evolutionary biology at the age of 2.5 by noting that they’re hardwired for learning language, and declare victory.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        No Adam, I did it with facts and evidence. My statements are relevant facts. Others here have mocked your statements but you have no answer, so you pretend not to see them.

        I do notice that you always ignore my real points. The ones that show you to have empty opinions. You are the one who goes for the picayune and use straw statements starting with “I believe…”.

        I guess it must be easy to be you, since you KNOW all your baseless opinions are right. Facts and evidence have no effect on you. Critical thinking is apparently beyond you.

      • articulett
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, but I bet you cavalierly toss of totally unsupported statements like “god exists” or “hell exists” to the kiddies with nary a thought.

        Here’s a free clue for you: http://www.biology-online.org/articles/geologists_first_clue_tyrannosaurus.html

        http://www.ncsu.edu/news/press_releases/05_06/133.htm

        If you think it’s smart to tell your kid facts like it takes 365 days (one year) for the earth to around the sun, then you should feel perfectly fine telling your kids that birds evolved from dinosaurs. These are equally valid statements from a scientific perspective. You don’t have to know why the oceans don’t spill out to confirm for your kids, that the earth is, indeed, round– even though it doesn’t seem that way. The same goes for dinosaur bones. Trust the scientists for your science; not your clergy.

    • Adam M.
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      > Also, what do you suggest – not teaching it to them until you feel they are old enough?

      Sure. Or if they asked, I would tell them what I thought about it, but I would tell them that I might be wrong, and try to point them to more information.

  13. articulett
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I remember trying to dig a hole to China as a kid, but then I got scared, because I thought I might accidentally dig to hell.

    Kids can’t tell the difference between facts and beliefs. Praise to the parents who can, and take the time to inform the kiddies.

    Science finds out the answers to questions; religions assert them and then threaten those who have questions.

    Indoctrination is necessary when there are no facts to support your claims. It is not necessary when objective reality shows that your claims are true (for example, the earth is a sphere even if it doesn’t look like it–you don’t need to be “indoctrinated” to believe this–just educated.)

    Religious folks get very confused on this issue no matter how carefully explained. Like Andrew and Adam above, they have a huge problem separating factual information from “everything else” (belief, conjecture, myth, parables, mottoes, notions, opinions, etc.) Thankfully, the red-haired tykes in the photo won’t be so encumbered. Jerry’s book is no more “indoctrinating” than the Magic School Bus episode that asserts that the sun is just another star. Only those suffering religious brainwashing would think otherwise.

    • Adam M.
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      > Kids can’t tell the difference between facts and beliefs. Praise to the parents who can, and take the time to inform the kiddies.

      Quite often, the process goes something like this: the parent was taught P in school or by their parents. They believe P is true, but if pressed wouldn’t be able to give a decent explanation of why it’s true. Nonetheless, they tell their children that P is true.

      I don’t respect this much, even when P is something I also believe.

      > [Adam has] a problem separating factual information from … belief, conjecture, myth, parables, mottoes, notions, opinions, etc.

      On what is this statement based? Is it simply the fact that I didn’t chime in with support like everyone else?

      • newenglandbob
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        Once again, opinions from Adam M. Not one fact. Not one study cited.

      • articulett
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        Adam, you don’t make any more sense than Andrew, a known Young Earth Creationist who lyingly came here “dying to be convinced that macroevolution is true.” It’s not our fault that you sound like a loathsome dolt.

        Parent teach kids all sorts of untrue scary things like stories about hell and god killing his kid because some women ate from a tree. I think that really sick crap to tell a kid–and I’m appalled that religionists do this so blithely.

        But telling a kid that birds evolved from dinosaurs is a fact. It’s as much as a fact as telling a kid that the earth is round or that the sun is another star. Yes, I think the best parents share the wonders of these amazing things we humans were able to find out about the world. I think it’s a pity when they don’t or they can’t because of their own ignorance.

        You can’t tell the difference between these types of information. I blame your religious indoctrination for making you stupid like this. A kid can’t tell the difference between claims about hell and claims about a round earth– but an adult should be able to and can.

        You, however, can’t– you don’t even understand that atheism is not a “belief”… it’s not something you can “indoctrinate”– it’s a lack of belief… it’s the equivalent to your lack of belief in Scientology. Can you indoctrinate against Scientology? I think my lack of belief in your myth is a way of inoculating my child against manipulative cults just as your lack of belief in Scientology would be. Are you “indoctrinated” against Scientology or “inoculated” against it? If you can’t tell the difference between these two things, blame your faith for your confusion. Theists have a really hard time understanding that the atheist just feels the same way towards their beliefs that theists feel towards all the beliefs and superstitions they don’t share. And for the same reasons!

        Hopefully, people will inculcate critical thinking skills into their children so they don’t grow up to sound like you. I’m sure that the parent of the kid in the picture is glad that his child is likely to grow up to be a more logical, intelligent, educated, and honest person than you. It’s not because you disagree with anyone… it’s because you aren’t coherent. You sound like a garden variety theistic boob, and I’d be embarrassed if anyone I was responsible for educating sounded like you. You are clueless, and you are too clueless to realize how clueless you are.

  14. articulett
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I wonder how many people who would be upset with a child reading Jerry’s book would have no qualms giving their kid Children’s Bible Stories filled with such horrors as God telling Abraham to kill his kid…

    Religion makes people insane. They inflict the most vile memes on their spawn and have a tantrum when science gives them the tools to think their way out of the quagmire. Sad.

  15. articulett
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    The sad thing is, a fully indoctrinated theist such as Adam cannot tell the difference between an objective fact: “Birds evolved from dinosaurs” and a completely unsupportable statement such as: “God exists”.

    No amount of evidence is enough to convince them that the former is a fact and the latter is no more likely to be true then the statement “gremlins exist”. And yet the truth of both of these statements is not at all dependent upon whether anyone believes them or not.

    • Adam M.
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      This is hilarious. I’m a “fully indoctrinated theist”? I never knew! Am I a Hindu? A Muslim? You seem to know…

      And how did you find out? Have I been posting love letters to Jesus or Allah in my sleep? Or is it the mere fact that I disagree about parenting techniques which leads you to jump to unwarranted conclusions, slander me, etc?

      Take this hypothetical situation: Christianity turns out to be true. God comes down from the clouds and makes it unambiguously known that the universe is 6000 years old, he and just made it look old, geologists are all wrong, etc.

      Now, are you going to turn around and say “Gee, those Christians weren’t indoctrinating their children after all! They were being good parents! It looks like we were the ones doing the indoctrination!”? If you want to be consistent, you should.

      As for me, I would maintain that even if Christianity turned out to be true, those Christian parents were still indoctrinating their children, because of their method of instruction. And any atheist who uses that same method is also indoctrinating, even if their teachings turn out to be true. The apparent truth value of the teachings are irrelevant in my consideration, not least because religious parents obviously believe their statements are true as much as you do.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Except that atheists do not indoctrinate anyone.

        This is because the definition:

        Atheism is the lack of belief in any gods.

        That is all. It is not an ideology. It is not a dogma. It has no rules, no funny hats or gowns and no where are atheists told to kill people who believe otherwise like Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. have been told.

        Once again Adam, you seem to be too dense to understand facts due to evidence that is testable is different from dogma and belief that have no evidence whatsoever. Those are just fantasies, stories, make believe.

        Apparently you do not understand the scientific process.

      • articulett
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        You are just transparent–like all the “woo” who post here. There’s only so many ways people can lie to themselves when they have no facts to support what they want to be true.

        You can’t tell the difference between an objective fact (the earth is round) and a subjective unfalsifiable opinion (god exists). You are upset that people would teach their kid the facts of evolution, because you don’t think it is a fact. But all the evidence in the world could not convince you it is a fact. If evolution is as much of a fact as the fact that the earth rotates around the sun, then shouldn’t we be teaching that to children? Why have you come to trust people who would obfuscate your learning of these facts?

        The only people who are immune to this knowledge are fundamentalist theists of some stripe who feel “saved” for believing some alternate unfalsifiable myth. They don’t agree on the myth they are supposed to believe, but they are all equally immune to the scientific evidence. The Muslim fundamentalists are as scientifically ignorant as the Christians, Raelians, and Scientologisits. People without such indoctrination are excited and eager to learn about the facts, just like that 4 year old boy. They thank people for information instead of getting angry about facts.

        Moreover, atheism is equal to your lack of belief in Scientology, astrology, demons, Zeus, etc. It’s not a belief. Teaching your kids about evolution is akin to teaching them that stoves are hot and lions and tigers are in the “cat family”. It’s basic science. Period. I know you can’t understand this because of your brainwashing, but I have hope for others who stumble upon these words.

        Like all theists, you don’t really have a point. You’re pissed that a kid is interested in evolution because you believe a myth is a more accurate representation of reality even though there are no facts to support that myth. You are glad to force that myth down the throats of children, but you don’t want anyone countering your silly story with actual facts. You are hypocritical, because you sure wouldn’t want some other religion’s creation story shoved down the throats of kids– but your lie is fine You have no facts to support your beliefs and you want to believe that science is similarly bereft of facts. But when it comes to the truth that is the same for everyone no matter what they believe, science wins again and again. Religion has zero successes.

        But there is only one truth and lots of stories and myths regarding how birds came to be. If a kid or anyone else wants to understand that singular truth, then they ought to talk and learn from people like Jerry, while avoiding the clearly indoctrinated such as yourself. And it is only religionists who have an brain lock against understanding evolution, and I believe this is because they are afraid of being punished if they get a clue.

        You are blind to how you come across to a person who understands evolution. But I’m sure the parent of that child isn’t. And I congratulate them on inoculating their child from people who sound like you.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        You’re so silly. 🙂 I don’t see how you can continue to make claims about me personally, despite knowing nothing about me.

        It’s ridiculous. But at least I can answer these authoritatively.

        > You are upset that people would teach their kid the facts of evolution

        Nope.

        > because you don’t think it is a fact.

        Incorrect.

        > But all the evidence in the world could not convince you it is a fact.

        Not true.

        > Like all theists

        Bzzt!

        > You’re pissed that a kid is interested in evolution

        Nerp.

        > because you believe a myth

        Nothing like you imagine.

        > You are glad to force that myth down the throats of children

        Nope, I don’t want anyone forcing anything down the throats of children.

        > You are blind to how you come across to a person who understands evolution.

        I’m blind to how I come across to myself?

        Stop trying to turn a discussion about parenting into a (failed) guessing game about me.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        > Except that atheists do not indoctrinate anyone.

        They could very well say “There is no god.” Is that testable?

      • newenglandbob
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        They could very well say “There is no god.” Is that testable?

        Except, moron, atheists do NOT say that. They say there is no evidence of any gods. Once again you make up crap.

    • articulett
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Saying “there is no god” is as scientifically valid as saying “there are no fairies” or “there’s no such things as ghosts”. Those statements aren’t testable either, but they are good explanations for the lack of evidence. Heck, we can’t prove Xenu doesn’t exist. But the lack of evidence FOR Xenu certainly suggests it to most smart people. We also can show that there is no more evidence for Xenu then there is for God. They are both cut from the same invisible cloth. When there is zero evidence that something exists then it is indistinguishable from a non-existing thing or an imaginary thing as far as reality is concerned. All untestable beliefs are equally unscientific, that’s why most scientists ignore such conjecture when doing science.

      Saying “there is no god” is the same as saying “there is no Xenu” as far as the evidence is concerned. The same. Yet, you’ve been indoctrinated to believe in one brand of invisible entity but not the other so that one brand seems more true to you. But it still doesn’t have any more scientific validity. Sorry. That’s reality for you.

      And this thread was never a discussion about parenting until you hijacked it into such with your imagined expertise on the topic.

      Good parents share fascinating scientific facts with their kids and smart kids are eager to learn them. This is true whether you are telling them the earth is round or that dogs descend from wolves. I don’t think anybody here would be interested in your parenting advice or discussion, Adam, because you sound like the sort of ignorant person no one would want their child to become. I gave you a link showing you proof regarding the evolutionary ancestry of birds, and you ignored it–perhaps you are too stupid to understand it’s implications. Somehow, I don’t think the smart 4 year old would miss it.

      So what exactly is your point again? Did you have one? And why are you so incurious about evolution again? And why do you imagine you have parenting skills we’d be interested in? Why did you think this was a “parenting discussion”? Why don’t you use the word “indoctrination” the way the smart people do to explain “inculcating a belief for which there is no evidence?” Is it because it helps you feel good to dismiss atheism as another “faith” like all those other wacky faiths you dismiss? Why can’t you understand the difference between something that is true no matter what people believe and everything else? You understand that the earth was round even before scientists discovered this was so, right? And it will be after humans are gone too.

      Why can’t you seem to understand that atheism is identical to your lack of belief in unprovable untestable entities and things? Does it make you uncomfortable to understand that the atheist feels the same way about your unstated but heartfelt beliefs that you feel about Scientologists? And for good reason? (Methinks that is what is really causing your ire.) You religious wackaloons should stick to your woo magisteria inflicting your silly beliefs on each other and leave science to the scientists.

      So, what did you think you were communicating to people here, Adam? To me, you may as well be ranting because someone told their kid that the earth was round or that the sun was another star. You sound just as silly and confused as such a person would be. It’s not indoctrination if it’s true, you “woo”! (And it is.) Say, would you WANT to know if evolution WAS true? Or would that destroy your “faith”? Your faith is on some pretty shaky ground if it depends on evolution not being true.

      Birds came from dinosaurs just as surely as 2+2=4 and we are lucky enough to live in a time where this can be demonstrated factually. Explaining the former to a child is no more “indoctrination” than explaining the latter. People in the past COULD NOT have known the former. And now, a 4 year old can, thanks to science. That 4 year old kid understands more than you, Adam, because he wasn’t indoctrinated with ignorance promoting myths. It’s possible he understands more than you ever CAN. That’s a harm that only religion seems to inflict upon it’s followers.

      Someone indoctrinated you, Adam, so that you imagine yourself humble while coming across as horribly arrogant, dishonest, and ignorant. Like Andrew. But, if you are lucky, you may one day have a good laugh at the silly guy you once were.

  16. articulett
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Indoctrination is what is used to get people to believe in things without or despite evidence. It’s required to get adults to believe in invisible undetectable entities or supernatural powers. Without indoctrination, most people outgrow magical thinking and learn to reason.

    Science educates with facts that are the same for everyone no matter what they believe. It works. It solves problems and answers real questions. The only punishment for not understanding it is ignorance. Airplanes fly whether you believe it or not and birds evolved from dinosaurs even if believing it goes against your religion.

    Reality doesn’t give a shit about what your pastor told you was “the truth”. There is nothing in atheism or science that encourages anyone to believe in magical beings, that is why there is no indoctrination even if your pastor lied and told you that there is.

    People don’t like you here, Adam, because you are a pompous jerk bent on proving your assorted religious lies to yourself via confirmation bias. You have nothing to teach about evolution because you have no clue, so you are left spinning little snits about something you are too ignorant to understand, much less have an opinion on. You’ve made it clear that you don’t understand evolution and you don’t understand that birds did, indeed, evolve from dinosaurs and nothing can make you understand that. You don’t even want to examine the evidence. You prefer your ignorance. So you have nothing to say regarding a 4 year old who DOES understand the facts– except to express embarrassment that the kid is clearly more scientifically literate than you. He’s right thanks to Jerry’s book and you are clueless and impenetrable thanks to your indoctrinators. Who has the more promising future?

    And yet you are arrogant enough to think you have something to add to this discussion and cry when you are called on your dishonesty and hypocrisy. Clearly you have nothing to add to a scientific discussion since you are retarded in the field, so what in the world do you imagine you have anything to offer anyone here? We don’t believe in your magic man or creation story any more than you believe in Scientology’s creation story and we take you as seriously as you would take the average Scientologist. And for the same reasons. There is no more reason to believe that your Jesus scenario could come true than for Scientology’s Xenu scenario coming true. And yet, I’m sure you consider Scientology parents to be indoctrinating. I consider YEC parents to be similarly abusive and crazy.

    The more you type, the more obvious the depth of your ignorance becomes, Adam. Are you, by chance, trying to get points in Dembski’s class in trolling?

  17. nick bobick
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Holy asshole ream, Articulett! What can one say but “Bravo!”

    • Adam M.
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Why? It’s just a “ream” of unsubstantiated false assertions.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

        The truth hurts, doesn’t it Adam.

        We have substantiation right here in your own words for all to see.

      • Wowbagger
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

        As opposed to your bible?

    • articulett
      Posted August 23, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      (Blush)– thanks. Reaming creationists is a bit of a stress-relieving sport of mine. I don’t think they realize how obvious they are and how much they sound like each other and other “woo” that they would never want to listen too even for a moment.

      I just think they are a blight to some of the coolest information humans have come to know.

      It’s hard always biting my tongue in regular life; so I let loose when they invade my science blogs.

      But this cheered me up a bit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVES4a9Zq4M

      One day soon perhaps, they’ll learn to keep their assorted superstitions to themselves, and we can just presume everyone is rational until they reveal otherwise.

      The thing I thought was funny was that Adam seemed to think that the YEC story with Jesus coming out of the clouds is as likely as scientific fact (old earth, etc.)… he didn’t seem to realize that his imagined scenario is much more the equivalent of a Hindu or Scientologist creation story… on par with imagining Zeus popping up and claiming responsibility for lightening bolts. It’s one of millions of stories humans have invented over the year and it has no more bearing on the facts than any of the other ones.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        Of course it’s unlikely. That’s why I said it was hypothetical. The point of hypothetical situations is to allow a look at things from another angle. You missed the point, but I’m glad you were amused anyway.

        Take care.

      • articulett
        Posted August 23, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

        What was your point again?

  18. nick bobick
    Posted August 23, 2009 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I answered you above under your first post.

  19. newenglandbob
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    Adam M., you have made it obvious that you still do not know how to argue your case. I got half way through your silly ‘proof’ and I was laughing so hard at the nonsense that I stopped reading. Seriously, you ‘argue’ against things I never said. You are pathetic.

    You fail again and again to respond to my valid criticism where I point out you make no arguments. Now you think if you put more specious feelings instead of critical thinking that the bulk of your words have any meaning.

    I will no long read any of your stupid comments. My time is too valuable to waste it on someone who failed at being educated.

  20. articulett
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Ugh, Adam!
    You didn’t even explain why teaching kids about evolution is any different than teaching them to wash their hands because there are microscopic things called “germs” that cause disease.

    There are lots of scientific things we tell our kid that we or may not understand. I don’t understand how airplanes fly, but I know that they do. I trust science. Everyone does. Except when it conflicts with their religious indoctrination.

    Your hypocrisy was revealed, and now you are pouting. I think you need to worry more about how you are coming across and less about how others are treating you.

  21. articulett
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    And Adam, why don’t you cite the very non-authorative but valid reasons your parents gave you when telling you that god exists? Surely that is not as evidenced as evolution–nor as likely to be factual.

    Why the double standard?


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