29 April 2006

The Axis of Evilution


It’s not news that many religious people oppose the theory of evolution; it seems that no other scientific theory meets with even a fraction of the resistance. So I want to know, according to religious persons, what are the worst scientific theories?

Here are some I came up with (I’m calling this list “Creationism’s Most Wanted” or “The Axis of Evilution”):

1. Evolution
2. Big Bang
3. Genetic/neurological basis for homosexuality
4. Genetic determinism (contributed by Ben--see comments)

What would you add to the list?

And a related question: What are the most religious-friendly theories?


13 April 2006

Disciplining Your Child

How do you discipline your child?

Almost every time I have been part of a group debating this question, whether at church or casually amongst friends, the discussion has dwelt on a few topics:
• Whether to spank or not
• The efficacy of time-outs
• Curfews
• “Be firm, but not overbearing”
• “Reproving betimes with sharpness….”
• Parents today are too lenient

And I think these are all terrible–albeit telling–things to bring up in a discussion about discipline. They would be good topics if you were discussing punishment, but the question is about discipline.

Enough with the semantics, right? Wrong. There is a big difference between discipline and punishment, and I think it is a problem when we get them confused.

Punishment is a response to bad behavior. We could debate the correct methods and it would be very helpful. We could discuss the points I listed above. But we’d be deluded if we thought we were discussing discipline. (By the way, when I say, “We could” in this paragraph, I mean, “We could–on another blog.” Please do not discuss punishment methods here.)

Discipline is the reason for good behavior. Look at the word–it’s the same root we use for the word “disciple,” which means “a follower.” Discipline teaches how to act in a given situation, and if the incorrect action is performed, then it may be necessary to exact a punishment. That means that discipline, if properly followed, will obviate the need for punishment.

Why do I say above that it is “telling” that discussions labeled as being about discipline are actually about punishment? Because it epitomizes the confusion we have about what is discipline. And if we are confused about what is discipline, then we are probably not doing a good job of disciplining.

So let me ask the question again so that we can discuss it: “How do you discipline your child?”


10 April 2006

Weighing the Experts

An anonymous lawyer said, “For every PhD there is an equal and opposite PhD.”

When a theory is debated among expert scientists, how are you to know what to believe? Both sides talk over your head and you have no way, short of becoming an expert yourself, of making a truly informed decision.

Could you just put it to a vote among the experts? See how many believe one way and how many believe the other; the majority must be right. Truth can’t be voted into existence, so that would be a bad decision. What can you do?

Here’s an idea: Don’t believe anything.

If you feel like you just have to know which theory is right–what to believe–then I suggest you become a scientist yourself and join in the search.

But if you just want to know what to teach your kids, how to spend your tax dollars for research, or which textbook to use, then I don’t think you have to believe anything. You just want to know which theory to accept, and you’d do best to go with the theory supported by the majority of scientists, especially if it is a vast majority.

What’s the difference? To believe a theory requires knowledge, time, effort, and study. To accept a theory just means that you act in accordance with it.

Someone might object, “But that’s indecisive and unscientific!” To which one could reply, “It’s actually very decisive: I decided to focus my thoughts on something else and let other people worry about this theory. And of course my decision isn’t scientific; is that a bad thing?”

Then you could point out that we do this with theories every day. Here’s an example:

How many people that are taking medications are taking a drug whose benefits are debated by scientists? The answer is: everyone who is taking medications. So why do they take the drugs if it’s not absolutely clear what to believe? Because they have decided to accept the advice of the majority of scientists who believe that that particular drug is worth taking.

(So swallow the pill and get on with your life.)