Lunar eclipse and the solstiversary

I wish I had pictures, but the cloud cover was too spotty and it was so cold that I couldn’t feel my toes. In any case, the lunar eclipse was lovely, and I’m glad we got up early to see it. According to The Bad Astronomer, it’ll be a few years before we get another chance. As usual, he has a great post about lunar eclipses that doesn’t include any “full moons/eclipses make you crazy” crap. I <3 Phil Plait.

Today also happens to be the winter solstice, which also happens to be my 2nd wedding anniversary. My husband has already gone back to bed, which is where I am headed. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our Solstiversary than to sleep in and snuggle after seeing his first lunar eclipse.

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone! The days start getting longer after today – hooray!

Separation of church (intelligent design) and state (science education)

Flying Spaghetti Monster

I really don’t need to go on about this. You can read a lot of funny, well written, and intelligent posts by visiting Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog, James Randi’s internet home, Skepchick.org, and The Flying Spaghetti Monster site, among others.

I just want to put it simply – religion is not science. I’m not not necessarily saying they’re opposites (though they often are portrayed that way), just that they are not the same thing. The differences are obvious, and I don’t think I need to lay them out for you.

We learn a lot of things in history and science class that aren’t absolute truths. I remember a textbook in high school that said that Spain blew up the USS Maine to start the Spanish-American War. We now know that the Maine blew itself up, tragically, and that Spain had nothing to do with it.

As new discoveries are made, information is changed and the things we teach evolve. There are now 8 planets, not 9. We’ve discovered more moons around Jupiter. The agreed upon model for an atom changed several times when I was growing up. And, yes, along with the information we’re teaching children, we need to say that nothing is absolute – that just because scientific evidence and research supports x theory above all others, now, doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

That’s part of teaching – instilling within your students a love of learning and a thirst for knowledge, and making them realize that “It just is” or “Because I (god?) said so” are wrong answers to any question. I firmly believe that children (and adults) have the ability to think for themselves and things don’t have to be oversimplified for them to understand. Of course some things aren’t developmentally appropriate, but that doesn’t mean the answer to a question should be a lie. When a child asks why something is so, telling them “it just is” is damaging – it sets them up to believe that anything they’re taught “just is”, which we all know is never true.

That being said, perhaps the Big Bang never happened and evolution isn’t really happening. I suppose anything is possible in the realm of all possibility. However, right now there is more evidence (by far) to support those theories, and most scientists agree that they are valid. Thus, they make it into text books and are taught in science class.

If somebody has beef with that, then they can make observations, perform experiments, and pour over research papers to back up whatever mechanism they claim happened, instead. Then they can write their own research papers, submit them for peer review, and start a scientific discussion about their findings. If it turns out that some other explanation has more supporting evidence, then texts will be rewritten, scientists will shift their support, and I will teach it to my students.

Until then, keep your religion out of my classroom. (And my body, my government, my pharmacy, my doctor’s office…)

This post is a part of Blog Against Theocracy 2007 – a chance for those who believe in the separation of church and state in the United States to speak out about how they think that separation has been or is being compromised. Anyone can participate, click the logo for more information and links to other such posts.
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