FAQs at my fingertips

You know that I am excited about my kids' great start of school this year. Today when I picked them up from school, Coturnix Jr. informed me that he needed a piece of posterboard and some glue for his debate class. Ah, he is going to be so good at that, the family he is growing in... It makes him a tough kid to raise but great fun to converse with. I bet he can get PZ to join Southern Baptists!

Anyway, that was a tangent. After depositing kids at home I went to the local drugstore to get his supplies. I go there all the time, but today there was a new cashier there, a guy of about 50, I reckon. He rang my stuff and while I was paying he asked:

C(ashier): Who's that?
M(e): Who?
C: That on you t-shirt? (I was wearing my AMNH Darwin shirt) Darwin?
M: A-ha.
C: I heard that, before his death, he recanted...
M: No. That is a lie pushed by Creationists. And even if he did, it does not matter. It's not about the man but the idea. He got it right and it does not matter if he changed his mind fifteen times, it will still remain true.
C: Weeeellll, that is one of those things that there is no proof for or proof against...
M: No. Science is not about proofs. Math is about proofs. Science is about evidence. And since there is a mountain of evidence for evolution and none whatsoever against it, we'd be smart to stick with the best explanation we have.

Then I stood there waiting for question No.3, the one about why there are still monkeys, but, not being DaveScot, he had reached the limit of his familiarity with the topic by then so there was nothing else to say but Good Bye.

I doubt I changed his mind, but I also doubt he ever heard the answers put that way, so perhaps I planted a worm in his head. What I found interesting is the way I behaved. A few years ago, in a similar situation, I'd be stumped at first, then I would start on a long angry tirade. But, after a couple of years of reading science blogs and hundreds of threads on Pharyngula, even though I rarely bash Creationists on my blog, I internalized, almost by osmosis, all the right answers to all the classical Creationist claims.

Thus, today I was able to respond quickly, with brief, easy-to-grasp statements, without ever losing my temper and the neighborly smile, yet with an air of confidence and authority on the topic. Even if I did not change his mind, the whole encounter made me feel better about myself.

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I had an almost identical episode with my Sister in Law the other day via Google chat.

It started off with, "It's just a theory, why do they teach it as fact!" Once I explained that, she sent me something about the impossibility of proteins suddenly springing up from nothing.

Thanks to my familiarity with Talk Origins, I quickly got her to accept theistic evolution.

All I have to do now is get her to drop the theistic, although maybe I've done enough damage for now.

The sad thing is that she's a brilliant girl, university grad, and terrific mom. It shows the state of American science education more than anything.

I find it really amazing that evolution is even up for debate. In Denmark, even the only well-known pro-ID person says that evolution is a fact, and should be taught in science class. He considers ID a good philosophical idea, which by no means should be considered scientific.

By Kristjan Wager (not verified) on 01 Sep 2006 #permalink

Exactly. Here in Brazil, even if the acceptance of evolution theory is even inferior to the USA, the people still know that it´s not their business to decide what´s going to be teached at school. Like, here people think, "I believe that and that, but in school is different, best to stick with what he know it´s true".
I think people here can separate belief and knowledge. I hope!

If I saw a person with a chemical structure of serotonin on the T-shirt I would assume that person knows more about serotonin than I do. If I saw a person with a U.S.Army shirt it would never occur to me to tell him about military strategy. But why my wearing a Darwin shirt makes people think they can teach me something (wrong) about evolution? Do they have no sense of shame?

By going to the Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC (or wherever it is travelling to these days). I do not think they sell them off site.