So I’ve published 124 posts since I started this blog in the end of September 2013. I’ve made all sorts of arguments–evidentiary, constitutional, philosophical–and I figured it might be helpful to review and summarize. To be a bit selfish, this post is mostly to help me clarify my own thinking.
For starters, I have two overarching goals for my writing. First, a la Jamelle Bouie, I want us all to acknowledge the deep subjectivity of our beliefs on this topic. I want scientists especially to recognize and admit to the aesthetic and intrinsic reasons we care. And second, I want to spark a debate about this topic among scientists and journalists.
To these ends, I’ve focused my writing on these categories:
- Evidence: Journalists and scientists argue that believing in creationism and its variants is an intellectual shortcoming that affects other areas of your life (just one example here). Is that conclusion true? I’ve argued that it’s not, and used both indirect evidence from cognitive psychology and direct proof, almost entirely from the research of Dan Kahan. This sentence–approved by Dr. Kahan himself–exemplifies why I think journalists like Mark Joseph Stern are just flat out wrong: “It is a brutal fact that creationists are just as capable of scientific thinking as anyone else.”
- Science Education: What are the goals of science education? Why should everyone be forced to learn evolution? How do we balance the tradeoffs between educating for future scientists and non-scientists? My fairly deep reading in this field (at least 50 peer reviewed papers plus a few books) suggests that at the very least we should be cautious and not answer too strongly. Some of the leading experts in science education and public science literacy would argue that learning evolution may not be necessary for everyone.
- Political Theory: How much freedom should individuals have and how much can society override that freedom? What does religious freedom mean in a diverse, pluralistic democracy? How do you balance the tension between societal and parental interests in public education? As with science education, I think we should tread carefully here because the answer is not obvious.
- Fairness and Hypocrisy: Society increasingly adopts the no-harm principle. We believe people should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as their actions don’t cause harm. That standard should be applied equally to everyone. So, given the empirical evidence, it should be perfectly okay to be a creationist. The fact that it’s not is profoundly unfair and hypocritical.
I have pretty strong opinions about the first and last category. I believe know there is no evidence to support the empirical claims we make about creationists. Therefore, we are definitely being unfair and hypocritical. I am more circumspect about the other two categories. I personally don’t think evolution should be mandatory and believe parents should be given very broad latitude in raising their kids. But I get why others disagree. I just hope we recognize there can be reasonable disagreement on these points.
Along the way I’ve touched on electoral politics and diversity, made countless sports analogies, and celebrated Jamaican food. Mmmmm…Jamaican food.