One of the joys of parenting is collecting your child from school on an afternoon, and hearing the news of the day. Last week my son said, "Dad, today we were encouraged to celebrate 'Black history month'."
"That's good" I replied. He continued by describing how in morning assembly, a head-teacher told them that even the students who are not black should celebrate black history month since "As we all know, the garden of Eden was in Africa, and that's where we all came from".
Well, I somehow managed to keep the car on the road as I laughed and tried to digest that little gem. I can think of many really good reasons why we all should study black history and any other kind of history in our fascinating world culture, but justifying it's celebration by using a myth? In a place of learning? Little did I know that more of this irrationality was around the corner.
|National Marine Mammal Foundation|
Two days later, my son related to me an incident that occurred during his integrated science class. The day's topic was about the sound frequencies that various mammals can hear. My son was curious as to why humans have a different range of hearing to other mammals and asked his science teacher to explain why humans don't hear as well as some other species, his teacher replied "Because god made us that way".
As an atheist, one of my main arguments against religion is that it extinguishes mankind's natural curiosity and desire to explore the cosmos. The basis of science and all our scientific and technological advancements are made possible by simply asking a question, thinking of a potential answer to that question and then testing that answer by experiment and observation. Religion on the other hand demands that we accept dogma, and rewards unquestioning faith. If we accept "Because god made us that way" why should we progress any further?
I explained to my son that humans hear the way we do because we have evolved. If having the ability to hear higher frequencies was crucial to our survival then those tendencies would surface through the process of natural selection.
I went on to suggest (tongue in cheek) that the next time he is unable to answer a question on his science test he should simply write "Because god made it that way" and let's see the reaction of his teacher...
"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence" - Richard Dawkins