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Needed: a new high school and college course of instruction

The previous two columns addressed the erroneous belief in coincidences as scientific proof of the healing power of prayer and the belief in the baby Jesus as a solution to ills and accidents. (See previous columns)

The fundamentalist Christian lady describing these three so-called prayer-proofs lacked any knowledge of the scientific method, even though I had earlier introduced her to the 70 pages on this subject found in one site alone (Wikipedia) on the Internet.

I have since discovered that during high school she had attended and passed three science courses, one each in biology, chemistry and physics. In college, she had taken a 101 type course in biology. The fact remains that while otherwise seemingly intelligent, this woman had and has no idea of what constitutes real proof of something or evidence that would or would not, might or might not, lead to proof.

This is despite the fact that throughout our lives all of us depend on the safety and testing of ideas and products through the Underwriters Laboratory, Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Drug Administration, American Medical Association, etc.

Without evidentiary proof – as above - of common everyday things in our daily lives, we would be living lives of superstition, guesswork, ignorance, hocus pocus and stage magic. Some of us (fortunately not all!), are living in a 1st Century period of Israelite goat herders and tent makers. We are not using our brains or availing ourselves of the many advances of our 21st Century technology and knowledge.

What is needed is a new course that should be taught to ALL students in high school, college, or both, with varying degrees of intensity, examples and scrutiny. I am not sure what to call it, but it should include serious efforts on teaching critical thinking, the scientific method, observational study, critical skepticism, experimentation, the dangers of cognitive dissonance, separating fact from fiction, etc.

The Scientific Method basically involves testing through a test group and control group, whether using inanimate objects, mice, men or annelids. Pasteur used a control group and a test group of sheep when testing his vaccine for anthrax.

Test and control groups were used by Salk in developing his polio vaccine. Different designs – all failures – were used by aircraft inventors before Orville and Wilber flew their plane at Kitty Hawk NC.

Continued testing is also a must. The discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick continued and continues to confirm the basic idea and theorem of Charles Darwin. Detailed studies and research in paleontology and comparative anatomy do the same thing.

Observational testing and checks and balances of such tests by peers and experts in the field confirms the proofs of science and makes the scoffing religionists a laughing stock of educated civilization and society.

Cognitive dissonance is another suggestion for such a general thinking course. This is a 1950’s psychological concept developed by Leon Festinger to explain how humans can hold two or more completely different and contradictory viewpoints or “facts” in their head.

Can anybody walk on water? No, but Jesus can. Can donkeys or snakes talk? No, but they can in the Bible. Can people be resurrected into the sky? No, but Jesus was. Can you adequately feed over 5,000 people with scraps of bread and a few fish? No, but Jesus can. Can the sun stand still in the sky (or the earth stop moving)? No, but it did for Joshua when fighting the Amorites. We could go on, but you get the point.

The religionists keep on playing checkers with their Bible verses and musical chairs with the facts and truths of life. They are trying to prove that those of us who are logical, educated individuals with critical thinking skills are wrong. That’s sad and debilitating to civilization and society.

I guess that three science courses in high school and a 101 biology course in college are not enough to help in today’s world.

Where is this new thinking course, now that we desperately need it to straighten out the confused and delusional religionists?

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