Saturday, March 29, 2008

Scar Trek, The Next Generation

[Weekend rant, a day early because I may be out of touch tomorrow. This is about religion. Be warned.]

My reaction to the above video goes beyond anger: it makes me sick. These kids are deliberately being deceived. Brainwashed. And, yes, abused. In the name of some religion or other, they are being told to reject verifiable fact; told to ignore explanations that are literally right in front of their noses; given permission -- no, being required -- to reject the idea of thinking for themselves. Indoctrinated. In the guise of teaching, their idiot instructor is making them parrot a catechism of cluelessness. The bible says it. End of discussion.

Chill, Sid. It's religion. We have to respect it. Freedom of religion is a foundation of our country. Right. But I don't see a need to acquiesce silently to the hijacking of minds too unformed to understand religions, let alone choose among them; nor do I see a need to approve of intellecticide. Comforting make-believe is one thing. It's quite another deliberately to remove your children's reality-testing, to close off whole parts of their brains. Because in addition to harming them, it affects me; it affects us all. These people may grow up to become voters (if they don't also reject the science of medicine and the wisdom of looking both ways before crossing the street). They are being led to extremism which differs not from the kind that creates believers in paradise filled with virgins. And we know where that leads. (By the way, is their virginity self-renewing? Because eternity is a relatively long time. Seventy-seven copulations would be over -- by my reckoning -- in a decade or two. Then what? If sex with virgins is worth dying for, it seems sort of over-promised and under-thought. And seriously exaggerated, total-experience-pleasure-and-talent-wise.)

By "extremism" I mean thinking which willfully rejects fact; I mean belief that flies in the face of reality -- not to mention into buildings. The above-displayed sort of belief and that suicidal extremism differ only slightly, if at all. The one leads easily to the other. What is it but extremism that has these men trying to inculcate in children that which is demonstrably false? I don't doubt their motives: and that's the point. I'm sure those guys fully believe what they are saying, just as much as the 9/11 hijackers believed they were going to promiscuous paradise. They think that in getting children to reject rational thought, implanting in their brains blocks to thinking for themselves (which they describe, entertainingly, as "thinking for themselves") they are doing something wonderful. Saving them. Sincerely. Which is what's so sickening. The smug certainty. The rectitude of wrong.

There are people in the world (I know some!) who are religious and who find a way to reconcile their beliefs with wonder at the way the world is, as opposed to needing to bolster belief by harboring plainly incompatible and disprovable dogma. When religion requires one to deny the world -- no matter how sincerely -- and gleefully to dimish the ability of one's children to think for themselves, it endangers me. It pollutes our nation with people incapable of the clear-heading thinking required of a democracy that works. These are the people putting religious tests to our potential leaders, proclaiming their holiness above mine, placing more importance on the words of a person's pastor than on that person's own words, banning books and destroying public education. Rioting over cartoons. These are the people claiming our country needs more religion, even as their religion-above-all attitude is subverting the very foundations of our democracy and aiming us toward societal failure by substituting indoctrination for education. It worries me that there's no future in the future. So yeah. It makes me sick.


frylime said...

if you thought this clip was scary, watch the documentary "jesus camp".

narrow-minded people who push their beliefs on children repulse me. didn't God give everyone free will? just a thought...

Anonymous said...

Born again agnostic here *g*.

I wish we'd gravitate towards a restoration and valuation of the classic virtues (which are decidedly liberal, I know). They are universal across cultures, congruent with most religions and provide a foundation for ethics and science (specifically tolerance, benificence and generosity).

The creationist goofs, as far as I can tell, don't address the social justice teachings of their Lord and Savior. A little less time spent in creating dogmatic fiction in faux science and faux museums and a little more time helping their neighbors, staffing food banks, cleaning their neighborhoods and visiting those who can't provide for themselves would surely not hurt in the way of reducing cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy, either.

The saddest part to me is how they cheat themselves and their children out of futures in pursuing knowledge and wisdom, in engaging in science, logic and reason and in turning inward, destructive, self-isolating and tribalistic. It sort of looks like a meta symptom of group mental illness, doesn't it? What a loss.

Patrick Bageant said...

Here is the news story of the week that chapped my ass in this department:

Diabetic Girl Dies as Parents Pray Instead of Calling For Medical Aid.

. . . . and even more infuriating, the Church's response:

Press Release from Unleavened Bread Ministries Regarding the Death of 11-Year-Old Madeline Kara Neumann and Our Experience with Her Parents, Dale and Leilani.

As you alluded to above, there is something important about the freedom of ideas (including religious ideas). There is intellectual value in allowing departure from the cultural norm (think: Galileo) and there is 'justice value' in not telling other people what to do with their lives, how to raise their children, etc.

But there is also a tremendous social value in a basic level of education, in training young people how to get by in the modern world, and in allowing our children to reach an age where they can make their *own* choices.

The state of Wisconsin is looking into criminal charges. I hope they can make them stick -- not so much to get the parents, but to go after the Church on a theory of complicity/conspiracy, and I hope the extended family (aunts, grandparents, etc.) goes after the church in Tort.

Something tells the that the 'word of God' would change dramatically if it meant the Church had to start paying zillions in tort damages in in criminal defense fees every time their "faith" had and adverse affect on the health of a child.

Patrick Bageant said...


They pulled down the press release!

I would, too . . . it made them look like idiots.

Here is another version, culled from my browser's "back" button.

"[explaining that the AMA 'admits' to medical mistakes, but nobody goes after that organization] We know that the doctors do the best they can with what they have and we do not condemn them. We would like the same consideration"

Dr. Rob said...


As a Christian, I probably wince more than anyone. This is extremism. This is wrong and bad.

However, don't paint all of us with this brush.

Do I teach my kids my beliefs? We all do. I believe it because I think it is right and true. I believe it because my view of the facts leads me to and even compels me to.

What you have here (and in other extremist cases) is cultic behavior that is more about mind-control than about teaching your beliefs to your kids.

Again, please be careful not to generalize. When you do, you end up resembling those you demonize.

JP said...

“Boring piles of dead things” = fossils. Good luck convincing a group of kids that the awesomeness of T-rex is anything but real (and carnivorous), especially as they stand under it. Pretty clever of the museum folks to allow the tours, when you think about it.

Lynn Price said...

Geez, this makes me want to cry for all the impressionable kids these two idiots are brainwashing. Their idiocy is quite impressive. And depressing.

And to briefly change the subject; as one of my favorite medblog docs, I wanted to wish you a happy National Doctor’s Day

Anonymous said...

My fiance is one of these kids all grown up. Evolution is one of our sticking points. When I ask why he doesn't believe in it, he can't answer me. He can only say "the Bible says it isn't so." I ask what in the Bible contradicts it. He can't answer me. Yet he's so indoctrinated he can't begin to doubt what he was taught.

Anonymous said...

I read the article and the press release Patrick linked. The church's press release seems fairly reasonable...until you get to that part about how they are praying that she'll be resurrected. I'm pretty sure that, even in the opinions of Christians, that hasn't happened in about two thousand years.

The really sad that is that the state has a clause in the law about harming children that basically says it's okay if it's because your praying. And this is not the first child in that state who died and whose killers were protected by that clause.

SeaSpray said...

I am in total agreement with Rob.

Anonymous said...

It's the religious liberals and moderates liek Rob that help maintain an environment where dangerous religious fundamentalism is allowed to flourish. Nothing positive that comes from religion requires religion. It is uneccesary and the world would be a better place without it. Imagine that.

Anonymous said...

well, i was abused as a child and i don't think this is even close to what i was subjected to.

yes, i think the theory being sold here is not what i would want my children to be taught. right now, these children do not have the choice of their own religion. they are being taught what their parents want them to believe, just as i sent my children to catholic school to give them a foundation in that faith.

when they grow up and go to high school and perhaps college and read independently about all the other views there are, they will have a chance to form their own opinions.

just like my children did.

just like i did.

and i think most of us turn out pretty well, even though it's not a perfect world.

Anonymous said...

Well, I see this has started to turn from a blog about religous extremism into demonization and hate speech of all religion. As most of these topics on religion go, I guess I shouldn't be suprised that the conversation always tends to gravitate towards a generalized hate. The constant teaching of loving everyone, the admition that no one is perfect, that we should work to improve ourselves. Learning the difference between wrong and right, that stealing is wrong, adultry is wrong, etc. Who needs those lessons in this world. Let's just get rid of religion and see how long it takes for the morals of the majority to deteriate into relative chaos.

Sid Schwab said...

Rob: I don't think I was painting everyone with the same brush. In fact, I said "There are people in the world (I know some!) who are religious and who find a way to reconcile their beliefs with wonder at the way the world is, as opposed to needing to bolster belief by harboring plainly incompatible and disprovable dogma. When religion requires one to deny the world -- no matter how sincerely -- and gleefully to dimish the ability of one's children to think for themselves, it endangers me."

It's a difficult zone of separation: we all teach our kids to be good, to be moral; and most teach them whatever religious beliefs they have (generally those that were taught to them.) My problem is when teachings close the mind, and most especially when they close the mind to reality. If children are taught to think for themselves along with the morals and words to the wise, and if they are allowed to do so when the time comes, that's all anyone could ask. In the case of the kids in the video, there seems not much hope. In the case of my kid and, I'd guess, yours, the notion of thinking for oneself, the ability to recognize BS and to form opinions based on observation and data-gathering and thinking, are central aims of upbringing. I think it was clear I was talking about extremism.

And whereas I may rant, I don't think I'm becoming like those about whom I rant. It's like saying there are two sides to the question of gravity and each is due equal respect. When people are so ill-informed and when they insist on passing it on to their kids, I don't think it's wrong to point it out. It's not taking their approach to point out they're wrong. Some beliefs don't deserve respect.

Sid Schwab said...

anonymous 2:36 pm: the idea that without religion there are no morals is one of those concepts that is plainly false and which is the standard response to those who question religion. For one thing, it makes complete evolutionary sense that man has evolved a sense of right and wrong and values. For another, it's much more "moral" to do right by one's fellows for no other reason than that it's right, than out of fear of punishment or belief in ultimate reward. Look at those countries that have a much higher rate of non-belief than ours, and see how they care for their old, their poor. It's in no one's interest to ignore common rules. Those that do (in theory) get punished; on the other hand, some belief leads people to blow themselves up, to drown witches, to start Crusades. Or to go on TV and sucker people in to sending millions of dollars while living in huge houses and driving fancy cars. Or form militias and blow up oil lines. Or kill doctors. I don't know of any one who called for killing in the name of atheism. I know of many who do it in the name of their god. People are imperfect, frightened, petty, easily deceived, easily brought to mob behavior. Religion hasn't stopped that. The only thing that will (if it's possible) is a sense of common humanity that doesn't build up differences such as religious ones, and another few millennia of evolution. If we don't destroy life before that.

Anonymous said...

I always want to say to the Creationists, imagine you're Moses. Imagine God just took you to the top of the mountain and showed you the whole of His creation, in a huge, mindblowing sweep. And now you have to try to go present what you just learned to some people who are not far past the Stone Age, really. Christ taught by parables, right? So, that shows that God teaches by metaphors, right? You see where this is going?

There are a lot of us who are religious, who are Christians, and who think evolution is a beautiful manifestation of the power and creativity of God.

My daughter's recent college roommate never learned a thing about the theory of evolution, only the idea that it was "bogus," before she met my daughter (which totally blew my daughter's mind). That is shameful. And she went to public schools! Well, she's heard of it now.

Dr. Rob said...

Yes and no.

I do agree that you don't "indoctrinate" your kids. You teach them to think and show them the value of your own faith (or whatever you have). You live it out before them and that validates what morals you teach. Again, I think most of these self-proclaimed Christian groups are very much against what I see as the main message of my faith: loving the weak and downcast without judgment. Christianity should be a servant's religion (like Mother Theresa and others). These folks are all about wrath and judgment.

On the other hand, if I harshly judge these people (who are generally not very smart people), aren't I doing the same thing? I have very narrow-minded people come through my doors and don't agree with most of what they say to me, despite being supposedly in the same religion. Yet I must love the unlovely, and these are some of them. They are repulsive, but I still need to demonstrate love. Hopefully through my example of gentleness, I will show the folly of others.

You know what I mean about the religion-bashers being just as judgmental and closed-minded as those they are bashing. I am just sad to see either of them ranting in their narrow-mindedness. I wouldn't have posted a comment if I saw you as one of those. It just scares me when my friends start to sound that way. Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

@ Rob:
"On the other hand, if I harshly judge these people (who are generally not very smart people), aren't I doing the same thing? I have very narrow-minded people come through my doors and don't agree with most of what they say to me, despite being supposedly in the same religion. Yet I must love the unlovely, and these are some of them. They are repulsive, but I still need to demonstrate love."

What's that old adage: hate the sin, love the sinner?

I don't read that commenters or Dr. Schwab are judging the people who are advocating creationism, but rather, are judging the actions of them around the indoctrination of their children, and the willful exclusion of the use or respect for science, logic and reason.

Anecdotally, except where ther actions harm others (the education of their children, beliefs which interfere with obtaining legitimate and essential health care, etc.) I am content to leave everyone to his personal beliefs and belief systems. It's where those beliefs intersect and/or overlap mine that my interest lies.

The use of ad hominem judgmental terms, such as not very smart, narrow minded, unlovely, and repulsive aren't terms used by the post author or most of the commenters. No one here is generalizing the actions of the creationists to all who profess to believe in the Christian tradition.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schwab - You write too well. :) Whether describing the thrills of surgery, or laying into a group you dislike, your words are well-aimed. I invite you to read my (lengthy) response on my own blog, since I figured it wouldn't be fair to go into such lengthy disagreement in your comment section.

Anonymous said...

I'm an atheist, and I would not call indoctrinating your children in this way "abuse." Will it limit their future prospects? Sure. Pursuing a profession in the sciences will be nearly impossible for them, college classes (unless they go to a religious college) will require a great adjustment in thinking, and many people throughout their lives will shun them as unthinking. But is it abuse? Nah.

Allowing your child to suffer and die from an easily treatable disease while you wait on a faith healing is abuse. Teaching your child that they must sleep with the leader of their religious cult is abuse. Belittling your child and telling him that you will not love him unless he thinks the exact same things that you do is emotional abuse. But, for the most part, the parents I've known who are similar to those depicted in this video are well-meaning, good parents who truly believe they are doing the best for their children. When we start slinging volatile words about people whose beliefs differ from ours, we only divide ourselves further and give the other side validation that we are narrow-minded and judgmental.

It always disappoints me that people think you must have religion to be a moral person. I have a strong sense of right and wrong, I try to do what I can for my fellow man, and I try to make myself a more loving person every day. I don't need religion for that. My striving to be good to others stems from my belief that we are all in this together, and every person is worthy of understanding and kindness. In fact, I never had any religious faith. My parents tried and tried, I was sent to religious school, church four times a week...and I just never felt it to have any truth to it. I was scared because I had been operating on the assumption that religion was necessary to be kind and good. Then I got to high school and actually started meeting people who were atheists and who were good, kind, moral, and loving. And I finally became comfortable calling myself an atheist.

Unknown said...

Many of us survived all kinds of brainwashing and/or abuse, and certainly in a generation or two - recovered. The brain is a difficult organ to turn off. Those virgins might be tempting, but usually the brain prevails.

However, I do believe praying a person to death is truly awful. No G-d responds well to testing.

Anonymous said...

Remember, gravity is just a theory as well. A new theory is being pushed through schools. They termed it intelligent falling. Meaning God or some high being is pulling objects toward Earth. I would say light is intelligent seeing. Sound is intelligent hearing, etc. This is unfortunate and sad. But I won't disagree with it being taught through home schooling. That's the parents choice, but these theories have no place in public schools.

Ros said...

I think you're approaching this in the wrong way. These people want you to be angry, they want you to rant and rave to oppose them, and claim they're abusing children. They feed on that. Christianity probably wouldn't still exist if it's early advocates hadn't been so vigorously persecuted.

You also have to realize that the whole reason they're trying so hard is because they're so very rarely succcessful. Their sole resource is the appeal to authority, and intelligent human beings reject that instinctively. They have to indoctrinate children, no adult without that indoctrination can listen to them without laughing.

Eventually you have to face the fact that you can't guard other people's kids. I was raised a Baptist in a very religious family, all of whom are still very religious... but reason will out. I have confidence that for most of these children the obviousness of the truth will strike them.

Oh, and the really hard, uncomfortable truth is that these memes are more visible because they're dying. The porn industry is stocked overwhelmingly with former home schoolers from strict upbringings. 'Intelligent design' is such a pathetic hodge-podge compromise that getting any ten ID proponents in a room is a sure way to start a fight. You see, they lack any method for determining truth, so all they can do is make it up as they go along. That's destined to fail, though there's no denying it's going to hurt a lot of children along the way.

Whew, I talk too much. Short form: Be nice to creationists, they'll soon be just as extinct as the dinosaurs and fighting them just draws out the suffering.

Sid Schwab said...

Ros: perhaps you're right. But the US has a higher percentage of people who disbelieve evolution than any western nation; and it seems to be growing. We elected and re-elected a president who's among them. And look how critically he can think.

Anonymous said...

I'm more concerned about the anti-vaccine lobby than a fringe cult arguing about the earth's age. However, I liked what Annie had to say about religious folks benefiting from a moral-teachings focus, rather than a misguided emphasis on a literal interpretation of poetry and parables. Let Christians take the admonitions of Christ to love their neighbors literally first, and worry about the age of the earth on the other side of eternity.

And Sid, you have some Christian readers and fans it seems - so we're really one big happy family.

Onward, moderate Christian soldiers?

Anonymous said...

Scientists aren't immune from accepting strange theories on faith. In the late 1800s it was believed there was a "Luminiferous Ether" that filled the entire universe, invisible, but necessary to explain the propagation of light waves. 2 physicists at Case Western did an ingenious experiment to measure the Earths velocity through the ether. The unexpected result was either that the Earth was motionless, or that the Ether didn't exist. Despite winning a Nobel prize, the 2 went to the grave believing that their experiment was flawed, and trying to find the elusive Ether.

mark's tails said...

The difference is that Science and Medicine is dynamic and is forced to change when the facts do not agree with the theory which is in stark contrast to most Religions.

I agree with others that have commented, Religion and Science are not incompatible, it is extremism that is dangerous.

Sid Schwab said...

cstew: I'm not ashamed; nor did I say they were exactly the same. I said one sort of extremism easily leads to the other, and that's demonstrably true. To have beliefs (to have had them bored into your brain when you were too young to resist) that are easily refutable, but to need actively to ignore the refutation is of a piece with the ability to justify horrible actions. Not all Muslims fly into buildings and not all Christians demand that the earth be 12000 years old. The ones that do have similar lacunae in reasoning.

Mr Drackman: the fact that scientists have gone down the wrong path and later have been found to be incorrect is exactly the point. Science is, ultimately, self-correcting; its goal is explicitly to continue to refine, revise, redirect in whatever direction the facts lead. To dispense with the disprovable and to find and correct its errors, based on process and proofs. So it disturbs me not at all that science -- and, of course, medicine -- have been wrong about things. That there are those who seek constantly to question and rethink is why scientific method is so powerful and exciting. Discovering what is true about our world is much more thrilling than denying it.

gay CME guy said...

So much to say, I'll try to be succinct. I was raised in a very mainstream (i.e NOT extremist) united methodist home. In this mainstream church, I was taught that who/what I knew myself to be was an abomination; the feelings I had were going to doom me to burn in hell. No amount of 'praying' would change me, leading me to the conclusion that being gay was such a horrific thing that even God wanted nothing to do with me. Again, not extreemist, very mainstream, midwest, protestant brand of christianity.
Oddly enough, when I came out, I didn't leave the church but became more heavily involved to try to create change from within, to hopefully prevent other GLTB people from having the same experiences.
It has been other things that have led me to agnosticism/athieism.
I don't know to whom this quote should be attributed, but you are familiar with it: "All it takes for evil to happen is for good people to do nothing." For those mainstream, non-estreemist christians who sit back and don't speak out and take action against the estreemist, you can not play "Pontius Pilot" and wash your hands/turn your head. I believe the catholics call it 'sins of ommission'.

Anon 3/29 10:01. This is one of the true frightening and sad aspects of religion--the oral tradition mythology of 'what they think the bible says. Perhaps people should actually read the book they are suposedly quoting. When someone tries to pull the 'creationism' card, I asked which creation story in the bible they are referring to, because the book of Gennesis has two creation stories.
If you're going to try and condemn with the Levitical code, you best not be wearing blended fabric clothing, eating shellfish, or borrowing money on interest.
I try to not paint with a broad brush, Rob. But I believe you have a responsibility to your faith to do more than wince.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schwab,
As I was reading all the comments that were written, I noticed an interesting pattern that I would like to share with you. It seems to me that some people make comments/ accusations/ judgements without really understanding what the other part is commenting on. I am not talking about you, Dr. Schwab, of course.
There are some commenters, who maybe because of certain experience they have in their life, seems to be on the defensive side. There seem to be a tendency to hear only what they want to hear, usually the negative tone. This is a pity, because i don't think extremism is the only thing that makes dialogs impossible. I think the inability to listen and understand your opponents is a more crippling charcateristic to having a dialog. Not to mention, it is embarassing to hear/ read stupid people debate.

xxnemesis2010 said...

Wow. *insert anger and bad feeling* I think the tour people might be doubting what they're teaching. Or they're intentionally trying to etch what they're saying into those children's minds. They are constantly emphasizing and telling the children to repeat that evolution is false, and the fossils are art, and not science!

My father is christian and we used to go to church every sunday. And I was taught stuff...
Yet there were and are things like this, clear science strongly contradicting. And then I said(and decided) I don't believe in god, so I don't go to church anymore.

*I* think its so sad how that girl with the bandana shook her head and grinned that evolution is ridiculous.

Please don't be offended if you're religious...

Sid Schwab said...

sciencekid: well said.

Jeffrey Parks MD FACS said...

I almost feel sorry for the tour guides. A desparate attempt to halt the inevitable; that those healthy, beautiful children will grow up into free thinkers, guided by reason and individual choice rather than mindless dogma....

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schwab, I agree with Alice -- you write too well. :) I enjoyed your story about the plane trip. I'm also looking forward to reading your book (just ordered it from Amazon, so they'd better give you your cut). I sure think you (and your atheist fan club) are off the mark on Christianity but I like how you say what you say. And sciencekid was right on the mark in his comments about the ability (or inability) of people to see what the other guy is saying instead of what they think he's saying. Anyway, thanks again for engaging with me on Alice's blog.


Sid Schwab said...

Thanks, Wes. I like your style.

SnowLite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Freedom of religion also includes freedome from religion.

Anonymous said...

1. Creationism is bunk.

2. Evoluiton is bunk.

3. Folks on both sides of this issue will happily rape and torture science to support their points of view.

A request to all the debators out there. Learn what what science can and cannot teach you. Science tells us about anything we can see and measure.

Relegion and world view talk about thinge we cannot see and measure.

There can and needs to be a constructive and powerfull relationship between science and religion. Both sides in this debate need to stop manipulating science to justify their world views before that relationship can be developed.

Les, I have an extra set of adbestos underware I can lend you if you if people start flaming you over this.

Sid Schwab said...

faded: the difference between science and religion is that the former starts with questions, and the latter starts with answers. Science goes where the facts take it, and is self-correcting (which is why your "rape and torture" comment is ridiculously wrong as it applies to science. Some abuse the idea, but they're not really scientists; their abuses and errors, by the process of real science, get corrected; at least for those open to seeing it.) Religion has its answers and ignores what it needs to in order to keep them intact. Some religionists are able to incorporate what is known about the world into their beliefs; with those, I have no problem. Some scientists are believers, and that's fine as long as they keep their minds able to follow facts. The world can exist with both; but they no more need each other than, as has been said, fish need bicycles.

Anonymous said...

Sid you read my comments exactly backwards. We are really in agreement. I said "Learn what what science can and cannot teach you." You are correct that science works by process of asking and answering questions. That is how science teaches you.

Science however does not have all the answers. This is where world view becomes important.

My comment about the "rape and torture" of science is based on observing people who reject or manipulate the factual answers of science becuase those facts disrupt or threaten their world view.


Moving this post to the head of the list, I present a recently expanded sampling of what this blog has been about. Occasional rant aside, i...