Sunday, June 18, 2017

Does Protectionism Work? Not Economic, but Theological Protectionism.

One of the limits on our Freedom of Expression is frequently described as "If you are going to yell 'Fire!' in a movie theater, there had better be a fire."  It's expressed this way to remind folks that freedom of expression isn't an absolute freedom, but one that comes with responsibilities.  Wisconsin is dealing with such an issue.  Here is something to consider:

Rep. Terese Berceau, a Madison Democrat, was quizzing Rep. Jesse Kremer, her Republican colleague from Kewaskum, at a hearing for his proposed Campus Free Speech Act before the state Assembly’s Committee on Colleges and Universities recently. . . 
“Is it okay for the professor to tell them they’re wrong?” Berceau asked during the lengthy session on May 11.
“The earth is 6,000 years old,” Kremer offered. “That’s a fact.”
"Gagging the UW: Critics worry campus speech bill is another attack on academic freedom" (The Cap Times, Madison, Wisconsin, 7 June 2017)
Granted Kemer also said:
“this bill stays out of the classroom.”
But then he immediately reversed himself suggesting that:
"So the law could potentially cover things that happen in the classroom."
Notice that Kremer never said whether or not the professor can tell them they are wrong or not.  How crazy is this?

You know, I can understand a student being unwilling to voice an opinion that differs from the curriculum, like trying to say the Earth is 6000 years old in a Geology class.  But it's a GEOLOGY class and religious-based opinions, no matter how factual anyone would like to claim, has little place in the classroom -- except for maybe a historical perspective.  If the student really, truly holds that as one of their core religious beliefs . . . then WTF are they doing in a Geology class?

But this proposed bill will not only make it easier to voice their religious-based opinion, but what happens when they answer a question on an exam using those fact-less religious perspectives?  If this law doesn't specifically forbid it, you know someone is going to use it to defend their religion.  That is not how science works!  A religious-based opinion is NOT the same as a scientific theory.  One is nothing but conjecture, the other is based on actual evidence!  While theists like to think so, religious writings are not evidence!

These sort of laws are designed to force a University to remain neutral when addressing such topics.  But that, to me, is a smokescreen.  Theists, particularly religious conservatives, know damn well they cannot compete with evidence-based science, so how do you fight against it, you get the politicians to pass laws protecting your viewpoint.  A point to consider, in the long run, how successful is this strategy? Anyone else remember these:
This is a short list, there have been others, like when the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) filed a lawsuit against the University of California.  Bottom line is the ACSI was using religious books to teach a variety of college preparatory courses and were unhappy when University rejected those courses.  The results:
On August 8, 2008, Judge Otero entered summary judgment against plaintiff ACSI, upholding the University of California's standards.  The university found the books "didn't encourage critical thinking skills and failed to cover 'major topics, themes and components' of U.S. history" and were thus ill-suited to prepare students for college.
There are a great many similar cases, where the religious try to use the legal system to protect their religious views.  Once examined objectively, the offered protection fails.  See what I mean?  In the short run this sort of protectionism ends up losing when challenged. What is really short-sighted is how much damage does this do to your belief set once you lose this challenge? Remember what St. Augustine tried to teach:
Augustine took the view that, if a literal interpretation contradicts science and our God-given reason, the Biblical text should be interpreted metaphorically. While each passage of Scripture has a literal sense, this "literal sense" does not always mean that the Scriptures are mere history; at times they are rather an extended metaphor. (Augustine of Hippo, De Genesi ad literam 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [408], De Genesi ad literam, 2:9)
Instead of learning that lesson, theists go the protection route, a route that has failed them over and over again.  You cannot claim that your religious opinions as fact without backing it up with real evidence!  Without the evidence, any temporary legal protection breaks down as that lack of evidence gets displayed over and over again.

The downside is this constant cycle of attempted protectionism fails, but the ones who get hurt the most are the students.  How many scientific careers are closed off because not only does a student hold outdated ideas, like the Earth is 6000 years old, but when a professor attempts to correct a student, a politicized protection law may make it illegal!

Tell me, other than working at place like Answers in Genesis (AiG), how much value with a Geology education that includes very little Geology?  Where do most geologist work?  Oil and gas drilling, mining, construction (dams and bridges) , hydro-geology (drinking water). . . don't such employers have an expectation as to the education of their employees?  How can that happen when protection of religious opinions take precedence over education?

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