Discussion by: rod-the-farmer
I watched the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham with considerable interest. There were some points I thought Bill (and especially Bill, of all people !) could have raised. When Bill made some comment to the effect that "We just don't know the answers to a lot of things" Ken Ham threw in several times his standard response "I have just the book for you"– meaning the bible. I would have jumped in with a reminder of the curiousity of children. How many times have we seen & heard a child asking "Why ?" about something. Remember that phase they went through? You may recall the Bill Cosby album "Why is there air ?" "Why is the sky blue ?" "What are the lights in the sky ?" "Why are most plants green ?" "Why do tadpoles turn into frogs ?" And surely we have all at one time or another reverted to the parental response "Because I said so." Please don't say "God created the universe in six days." That is no answer at all. It's no help. It doesn't tell us or them anything. and the risk is you frustrate the children. You persuade them there is no point asking questions, as they won't learn anything from the answer. Who wants to damage their children like that ?
While we may have been too busy at the moment, or not sure of our facts, we run the risk of crippling, if not killing, the adorable sense of curiosity in children. Let's treasure that wide-eyed innocence. We need to take a minute to sit down with them, and say something like "Well, let's see if we can find a book or some other reference where we could look up the answer together. First, we could try the dictionary." When you think about it, it was the first primitive 'internet' device. Find a word, and you often learn not just the explanation, but the root of the word, as well. Maybe you even stimulate the curiosity of the child to check out some of those references. "What is a Greek, Daddy ?" Next, we try the library. You may even have a personal collection of reference books in a sort of home library. Think about what you might have lying around. Old National Geographic magazines. Science books you've had since you were younger. Sure, some may be slightly obsolete, but they are better than nothing, which is what you get with Ham and his book. Even that obsolence is a lesson worth discussing. Science marches on ! How about literature – adventure stories, history. No so much material at home ? OK, how about the town library ? Any of these will help instill in your child a love of reading, and an appreciation for what you can learn from simply reading a book. Once you light that fuse, stand well back !
I am intrigued by the potential of giving a child an e-book device, and loading it with reference material about the world around them. I almost wish I had one of suitable age to try that ! Then, if you have a computer, you can show them how to look things up on the internet. Every door opens into a room with more doors, leading to more rooms, and still more doors. An explosion of knowledge – or at least information.
Compare this with "God created the universe in six days." The End. No further discussion, no links, no footnotes, no references to pursue, nothing. End of story. "Everything you need to know is in that book." Almost no question a child might come up with regarding the world around them will be answered in that one book. How much have we learned about the world around us since 500 BCE ? The bible is simply not big enough physically to contain all the knowledge humans have accumulated over the past 2,500 years. Pick a subject – any subject. It is not there. Come to think of it, it has been translated many times over the intervening centuries, and I for one cannot recall reading about any efforts to update it to include sections on using soap & water, cooking meat until it is done, brushing your teeth, or anything like that. Something useful, that might have saved a life or two, and that became common knowledge during the intervening years. Actually, there is no mention of any of that accumulated knowledge at all. The contents were frozen, and they stopped collecting useful info 2,500 years ago. And what's with the bit about not eating shellfish anyway ? Children whose curiosity was discouraged when young, when they grow up and become adults, what level of participation will they have in society generally ?
I bet many of us have met people who seem singularly incurious about the world around them. And how do we react ? We tend to draw back, to avoid having any conversation with them, as having little to contribute. They are not really functioning members of society. Do we really want to raise our children so that they turn out like Sargeant Schultz of the TV series Hogans Heroes ? "I know nothing, I saw nothing!" Society requires we all participate to the best of our abilities, to be aware of what is going on around us, and to perhaps have some level of interest, if not high levels of knowledge, about the issues of the day. Let's not cripple them with "Goddidit" – no further discussion required, or even allowed. Those of you who have small children in these times should consider yourselves lucky beyond description. YOU get to help create a wonderful human being, knowledgeable about many things, and curious to learn more.