Creationist Wisdom #440: Philosophy Teacher

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Herald Journal of Logan, Utah, home of Utah State University. It’s titled Present all sides on evolution.

Ah yes, teach all sides — the science and the Oogity Boogity too. We’ve seen such letters before, but this one is somewhat different. You’ll see.

We don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures), so we’ll just use the letter-writer’s first name, which is Gary. We’ll give you a few excerpts from his letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

I have no personal ax to grind in the debate between biological creationist Rex Spendlove and evolutionary atheists.

We’ll overlook that “evolutionary atheists” remark, although it’s a powerful clue regarding Gary’s thinking on the subject. Here’s the Spendlove letter he’s talking about: HyClone founder Rex Spendlove discusses Scientists Supporting Religion group. We saw it a few days ago and briefly considered using it, but the thing was too chaotic, and we couldn’t get a grip on it. Now we have a letter responding to it, which says:

It is only when one side or the other tries to impose their beliefs into our public schools that I become concerned.

Oh — Gary only gets upset when those uppity science people try to “impose their beliefs” in the public schools. Let’s read on:

As a former philosophy instructor at several colleges and universities, I tried to present all sides to my students. My goal was not to persuade them to accept one “ism” over the other, but to encourage them to think for themselves.

We tried to find an academic reference to Gary in Google, but without success. He makes it sound like his classes were all mush. With profound apologies to Barbara Forrest, we’ll remind you of the old joke about the cost of equipping a professor of math compared to a professor of philosophy. The latter is less expensive because he doesn’t need a wastebasket. Gary continues:

We should question not just religious doctrine, but also fundamental assumptions that lie at the very foundation of science. The enemy is not faith or reason, but dogmatism.

Great outlook! Science is just a bunch of assumptions. Yes, dear students — you shouldn’t dogmatically accept reality! Here’s more:

When Einstein was asked how he came up with his theory of relativity, he reportedly said, “I took nothing as given.” Unfortunately, he failed to follow his own advice and stubbornly rejected quantum mechanics.

If only Einstein had Gary as a philosophy instructor, things would have been very different. Moving along:

Likewise Niels Bohr, the father of quantum mechanics, summarily rejected Hugh Everett’s multiverse theory as complete heresy.

Hugh Everett isn’t known for the multiverse theory. He proposed his many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics — the idea that all possible alternative histories and futures are literally real. It’s fun for college bull-sessions, but a wee bit weak on data. Another excerpt from Gary’s letter:

The point is this: Only in an intellectual climate where all views are heard and all knowledge claims are suspect can religious faith grow and scientific revolutions occur.

Maybe. But we’ve heard more than enough creationism to know what it is — and what it isn’t. What it is, is a waste of everyone’s time — well, maybe not for a philosopher like Gary. The letter ends with a plug for what we assume is a creationist website:

For those who wish to examine the theist-atheist debate further, I suggest the website [link omitted]. The site moderator impartially presents a wide range of views on cosmology, consciousness, and the meaning of God offered by leading scientists, philosophers, and theologians of our day.

Thanks for the tip, Gary, but your Curmudgeon already visits enough strange websites. Oh, and thanks for the letter. In some other universe, it thrilled us.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #440: Philosophy Teacher

  1. Guess this “Gary” is not a signer of The Gary List. Oh, Gary. What are we going to do with you?

  2. “and stubbornly rejected quantum mechanics”
    Ah, this is a nice little gem. Einstein received his Nobel Price for the photo-electric effect – a key experiment in the development in that same Quantum Mechanics. Greg has heard something about it, but doesn’t know the rights about it. Einstein disliked abandoning causality as implied by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.
    Greg’s lack of clue is confirmed by him confusing multi world with multi universe. Well, physics is even harder than Evolution Theory for our dear creationists.

    “where all views are heard and all knowledge claims are suspect .”
    Great slogan, Greg! Will you join me on my campaign to introduce Flat Earth Theory in public schools? Let’s start in Logan, Utah.

  3. @mnb0: It’s Gary, not Greg. Frankly, I wish his name was Greg. This Gary has brought shame on The House of Gary.

  4. And if I say “Gary” any more, we’re going to have the Gary version of a certain Monty Python skit.

  5. Sorry, but Gary’s musings sound like a crazy old man talking to the pigeons in the park as he scatters birdseed for them. I seriously doubt that any of his students were ever human beings.

  6. The whole truth

    Present “all sides”, eh? That would amount to many thousands of “sides” (if not millions or billions). In general, many people agree that evolution occurs but they don’t necessarily agree on all of the details, and when it comes to religious people presenting their anti-evolution ‘side’ it would take until the end of time to present all of their individual religious beliefs and arguments against evolution. It isn’t just ONE ‘theistic side’ against evolution that would have to be presented, it would be every individual version of theism that is anti-evolution (which is all of them), and it would also be every individual, non-theistic, anti-evolution belief and argument.

  7. Self-confessed “former philosophy instructor” (FPI) Gary should mind his epistemological Humes and Kants. When he freely writes of “an intellectual climate where … all knowledge claims are suspect…”, it comes as a surprise because among several other things, he is clearly and blithely unaware of two crucial points: One, Pyrrhonism is no longer considered a sustainable philosophical position, and two, the term “knowledge” is understood to mean “justified true beliefs” when used in philosophical discourse. It seems (FPI) Gary is advocating Pyrrhonism in order to remove the “justified” and the “true” requirements of “knowledge”. As a FPI, he really should know better.

  8. anevilmeme

    Interesting that religious apologists try so hard not to sound like religious apologists. Are they lying just to other or also themselves?

  9. “Present all sides”? The only “sides” worthy of presentation in a SCIENCE course are those “sides” supported by evidence. And judging by the evidence, it seems there is but one side that qualifies — evolution by natural selection.

  10. @retiredsciguy: You beat me to it — that’s just what I was going to say. The only “sides” in science are those with data. I assume the former philosophy professor didn’t deal with a philosophy of science course.

  11. Okay, let’s “present all sides” on evolution vs. creation. Then let’s do the same with the Holocaust, heliocentrism vs. geocentrism, and the round Earth vs. the flat. Let’s throw in astrology and spiritualism while we’re at it.

    No? Let’s focus on the evolution issue only? Then “fairness” isn’t what this is about, and saying it is violates at least one of the Ten Commandments.

  12. Let’s talk important stuff. Present all sides in football and basketball. In golf and track, the lowest score wins. Why the arbitrary decision to favor the highest score in football and basketball? Present all sides, including Calvinball. Why worry about history and biology when there are important issues involved.

  13. @abeastwood: Goes to prove great minds think alike. Actually, I’m sure every regular commenter on this blog was thinking the same thing but didn’t say it because it was obvious. But being a retired 7th grade science teacher, I never shy away from stating the obvious.

  14. My sincere apologies to all Gregs in the world.