Why pseudoscience is dangerous to our students

How a replica Noah's Ark is skewing the facts of the earth's history
 

Replica Noah's ark

You might have seen in the news in the last month about a “life sized” Noah’s Ark that has been built in Kentucky by Ken Ham of the Christian religious group Answers in Genesis ( AiG, who believe the earth was made 6,000 years ago exactly as stated in the Bible).  Ham and his group do not accept evolution, think that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth happily together and there was a catastrophic flood, none of which have any scientific basis or evidence to back up.  There will always be groups with their own unique ideas and everyone is free to believe what they want.  The danger with this Ark is that with the publicity it is receiving and the many tourists who are going to visit means they have a larger audience to spread their ideas that they present   as facts and real science, rather than opinion and the pseudoscience that it really is.  

Apparently all dinosaurs were peaceful herbivores according to AiG

Apparently all dinosaurs were peaceful herbivores according to AiG

 Scientists and most people know that the earth is over 4.5 billion years old, the dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago and went extinct before humans were even close to being in the picture.  But AiG presents history in a skewed and untrue way, and is undoing hard work that scientists and educators have done to teach students about the real history of our earth.  As I talked about in my blog post about the importance of teaching human evolution on the National Center for Science Education blog it is key for us to understand our place in this world, and the fragility of our species in the face of climate change so we are motivated to do whatever we can to curb its effects.  Putting forward the thinking that when things go wrong God will just send a flood or rapture all the god-fearing people and all will be better is not conducive to getting people to act to save our only home.  

Science is based in facts formed from testing and experimenting and coming up with conclusions from the results of these experiments and discoveries that are testable and repeatable.  Theories are formed from a collection of facts.   AiG uses a lot of their own imagination in creating the Ark as the length of the story of Noah’s ark in the Bible is only 98 verses and leaves out a lot of details. AiG tries its best to make itself sound authoritative and scientific by having scientists on their staff, but these scientists believe in this brand of Christianity, and one,  Nathaniel Jeanson, even said “Science is not the best tool for finding absolute truth”.  

The Ark received state funding and Ham announced that students on field trips from their schools could get in for $1 and their teachers for free.  That could be quite the incentive for cash strapped school for a field trip for their students but extremely detrimental to students learning about evolution, biology and history.  The Ark is set up like a museum would be and exudes this air of authority, it would be hard for a young person not get caught up in the lies they are selling.  This is why pseudoscience is so dangerous and detrimental to education, by trying to look like other, reputable educational and natural history museums, the Ark seems authentic but is not.  It is manipulative, using kids love of dinosaurs, animals and big Disney-looking attractions to get them to believe their ideas.      

Our children’s intellectual development and understanding is too important to taint with things like Ham’s Ark.  This is but one example of how pseudoscience can be subversive and manipulative.  Climate change skeptics are another example.  It is key to equip our children with the skills of critical thinking so they are not manipulated by pseudoscience and are able to make judgements for themselves about what makes sense and what does not.  That is why science and STEM are so important to a children’s education.   By giving them the tools they need to weigh evidence and ideas that are presented to them they can come to the right conclusions themselves.   

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