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Friday, Mar 24, 2006
Home-schooled Ben Feels the Science at Us
Although Pharyngula and The Supreme Irony of Life have already mined this post about the value of home schooling, there's enough residual idiocy for another pass.
Yglesias speaks about Darwinistic evolution as if it was a solid, undebatable fact, like 2+2=4. But the whole thing's a lot more complicated than that. An academic survey a couple of years ago found that nearly a third of hard scientists believed in theories other than the typical evolutionary construct - either something involving genetic mutation, or intelligent design, or something inspired by Stephen Jay Gould, or the like.
While elementary arithmetic is a fine skill, the whole thing's a lot more complicated than that. Any mathematician and those engineers steeped in coding theory are familiar with the concept of finite fields, also known as Galois fields, and can easily explain why in GF(3), 2+2=1. (Duh!)
While I was lucky enough to be introduced to the concepts of rings and fields in the 9th grade, perhaps they are too arcane. How about another topic, boolean algegra? This is a fundamental tool for each of the hundreds of digital hardware and software engineers who developed the various components of the machine at your very finger tips. Hundreds of thousands of engineers across the globe are quite familiar with the boolean equality 1+1=1, which equality would, like, totally blow young Ben's mind.
Perhaps we can glean a generalized moral, or a rule-of-thumb from this object lesson.
Young Ben offers the alternative of "something inspired by Stephen Jay Gould". Hmmm, could he mean Stephen Jay Gould the outspoken proponent of evolutionary theory? Perhaps Ben is confused by the notion that Gould's advocacy of punctuated equilibrium is inconsistent with Darwin's work. Richard Dawkin's dismantled that mistaken idea quite effectively in chapter 9 of The Blind Watchmaker ... some twenty years ago. Rather than being completely clueless, perhaps Ben is just slow on the uptake. Very slow.
It is discouraging that the Washington Post has given a pundit post to a young man who so clearly fails to understand his own limitations. But hey, the American people elected someone with a similar character flaw to the highest office in the land. Perhaps we're entering a new Era of Inadequacy, with people like young Ben at the vanguard.