Thursday, September 23, 2010

Baby Scientists

My daughter revealed to me the other day that young children and scientists are exactly the same. The same in how they go about doing what they do. A young child, say 1 year old or less, is constantly testing, trying, eliminating that which doesn't work, expanding on what does work, generalizing, hypothesizing, and then re-testing again and again. This is what science does. I know we are all supposed to learn the 'scientific method' in school (purpose, procedure. . . ) but I'm not sure any working scientist gives a hoot about it when she is busy testing, exploring, hypothesizing, etc. It's much messier than that and yet every bit as rational and logical in its approach.

I'm going to invent a pretend child who grows up being supported in their explorations by an experience explorer (teacher). As this child grows up they would gain knowledge about how the world works via the myriads of tests they perform every day and they would also become better explorers. They will take fewer turns down blind alleys and maybe suspect earlier on that a particular journey is going to bear little fruit. I know well seasoned physicists who can smell a rat in a proof (they've seen similar) way earlier than an apprentice will. The point is that if you ask reasonable questions, test possible answers, test again and so on, nature will 'teach' you naturally. It can do this because the workings of nature are based on repeatable, testable mechanisms. While they might be complicated they are always there waiting to be unraveled.

If you could let all that exploration with a qualified leader just go on and on would there be any point where the explorers would come up with God as an explanation to any phenomena? Understand that this explorer is my pretend person who has never even been given any idea about existing religions or the God idea. Their explorations would ultimately come up with all the laws of physics, evolution, DNA, the Copernican system, Big Bang, etc, but what phenomena would you unearth and come up with God. In what context would that happen? What would they be puzzled about and then go, "Ah. . .must be an invisible being living in the sky that caused this."

God exists in society because we teach it to very small children when they are too young to think critically. Even worse is that very small children's brains are wired to accept ANYTHING that adults say. This was a very key evolutionary trick to keep the kids with the herd. Using this wiring to infect kids with the God idea is, to me, a little cruel. This is key. You could NOT teach about god successfully to someone who was already thinking critically and skeptically to fantastic claims. They would keep asking annoying questions like, "Where is heaven"? Does God have a dick? Really? A virgin? How did that work? How does Jesus getting nailed to a cross do anything for me? And so on. . .

Understand that when people thought that God or the gods actually were the cause of everything from the origins of the earth to lightning, floods, and weather it would make sense to teach this to the kids. If God was your only idea of what caused things to happen, well, then might as well pass it on. But now we KNOW differently! We do because we are not ignorant shepherds any longer and yet we persist in teaching the God idea. Why do we do that?

Now you might say that as one explores one would naturally read the books of explorers that came before. One doesn't really have to sail around the south seas, re-tracing Darwin's journey to understand Darwin's theory and more importantly, one can read and understand that what is being claimed is testable and if one so chooses they can test the claims for themselves. Many have so chosen and THOSE findings can be read as well. So, you say, why can't one read the bible for it's lessons and learn about God from those that came before? Isn't that really the same thing? No. You can but nothing you read is TESTABLE. That makes a huge difference! What started out as the re-telling of lore and folk tales finally got written down at some point and became THE bible. This is a completely different document than any other investigative bit of writing. By its very nature the bible is to be taken as the true word of God because God (through man) says so. . . somehow.

As long as parents, and in most cases in an unthinking effort to be 'good' parents, drag their kids to Sunday school religion and the God idea will live long and prosper. You can put up all the billboards you like but I fear that you are preaching to the choir!

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