The End of Reason?

I have glimpsed the future, and it is terrifying.  In America, President Trump rules with a rubber fist, changing his mind every five minutes to suit whoever he thinks the most influential section of the electorate are; a longer, higher, version of the Berlin wall stands across the Mexican border and anyone who attempts to cross it is ruthlessly shot down-especially if they are judged in that split second to look *possibly* like they might have the potential to be a rapist.  Being Muslim in America now involves meeting in secret, under cover of darkness, and communicating via special signals in order to stay out of the reach of the secret police, who are routinely arresting anyone caught practising Islam, accusing them in fake trials of being terrorists, and then feeding them to the lions-along with their families-in the brand new gold-plated Trump Arena.  Women are only allowed to be seen in public if they are deemed by an arbitrary Trump-approved standard to be “a 10,” and the Bible is being taught in classrooms as the literal truth.  Every single word of it.  Even the bit about Lot and his daughters.

Ridiculous?  Yes.

Possible?  Well, let’s just say that I doubt anyone was taking Hitler too seriously after he attempted to topple the government in a pub in 1923.

Anyway, let’s not worry too much about it.  We’re in England, after all, the Land of Hope and Glory, former imperial overlord of two thirds of the world.  IT’LL ALL BE ALL RIGHT, FOLKS.  If we end up leaving the European Union we might even get our Empire back and when the sea levels rise what remains of our island will be able to float around, untethered, like in the days of our great Navy, ruling the natives wherever we happen to lay our bowler hat, right?

Well, I’m not so sure.

A few months ago, I was walking through the city centre, when my ears were assailed by the sound of a man standing on his proverbial soapbox, haranguing the disinterested shoppers with his version of events that occurred at the creation of the world.

“WE ARE NOT MONKEYS!” was his opening gambit.  “WE WERE DESCENDED FROM APES, SO THE SCIENTISTS SAY.  BUT THEY ARE WRONG!  GOD MADE ALL OF US, IN SEVEN DAYS!  DON’T BELIEVE THE SCIENTISTS!

Oh, that’ll be the same scientists who discovered the world wasn’t flat, the sun didn’t orbit the earth, and invented the loudspeaker you’re shouting through to communicate your uneducated opinions to the city of Bristol.  Damn those pesky scientists!

I thought about covering the ears of the then 15 month old Piglet, concerned that, at best, he was going to start asking awkward questions about who this “God” person who apparently made us was, and at worst, was going to start telling the other kids at nursery that the earth was flat, and if they walked to the end of the street, they might fall off.  However, I decided that the best approach was to confront the issue head on.

“Don’t listen to him!” I declared, in a style not unlike Father Ted holding up a sign saying “down with this sort of thing!” as we walked defiantly into Marks and Spencer.  “This is not true.  EVOLUTION IS TRUE!”

Piglet was non-plussed.

However, he won’t be non-plussed forever.  Sooner or later, he will start asking questions.  And I want those questions to be answered reasonably and sensibly, using the best and most up to date information available.  I want him to be informed about the world, to ask questions, and to always question, as great thinkers always have, not to be stifled and presented with an idea and told that it is the truth, nothing but the truth and never to be challenged.

Especially if that “truth” comes from a collection of ancient stories written thousands of years ago and never intended to take the place of scientific enquiry.

Let’s imagine, for a second, that I believe in unicorns.  I believe the world was created by the One Great Unicorn, from whom all other unicorns are descended.  No one can prove that it wasn’t, as no one was around before the Big Bang, so no one can tell me that the Big Bang wasn’t the result of a huge great waft of fiery unicorn breath.

Do I expect my unicorn story to be endorsed by the scientific community?  Do I expect Stephen Hawking to add a new chapter to his seminal work A Brief History of Time, stating that there are various versions of the Big Bang story-IT’S ONLY A THEORY, AFTER ALL!-and that other interpretations exist, one of which is the idea that the Big Bang was caused by an explosion of unicorn breath?

Do I expect Richard Dawkins to hold his hand up and admit that maybe Darwin was wrong after all-EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES!  NOT EVERY FOSSIL OF EVERYTHING EVER HAS BEEN FOUND YET!  THERE ARE GAPS IN THE RECORDS, YOU KNOW!

No, I do not.

I’m not anti-religion.  Everyone has the right to their own personal beliefs, no matter what they are-even if they involve unicorns with fiery breath.  However, do I think opinions should be presented as facts?  No, I do not.  Do I think that a zoo aimed at children should be promoting and publicising these opinions as though they are on an equal par with scientific theories?  No I do not.  Therefore, imagine my reaction when I saw this yesterday, on a day out at a nearby zoo farm.

creationism
Yes, and the Earth is flat, people.
creationism
Looks like the man in the city centre with the megaphone, shouting about the “monkeys,” just found a new ally.

Do I think science has all the answers?  Of course not.  That’s why science exists, for us to question, to explore and to learn.

Do I respect the right of all religions to their own beliefs?  Of course I do.

Do I think that those beliefs should be presented in a place that claims to be an educational setting, as though they are facts, corroborated with “evidence” that is either discredited, cherry-picked to suit an agenda, or simply false?  No, I do not.  I fear for a world where ignorance and superstition is allowed to take the place of reasoned argument, for that is a world which could all too easily end up like the dystopian future United States of Trump.

 

Life with Baby Kicks
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33 Comments Add yours

  1. This is fab! I am genuinely amazed by the support Trump has and for a very rich man he is blindly and unbelievably ignorant and uneducated. My eldest is now three and I am kind of dreading the days (which are likely to be soon) when I have to try and explain things like this to him. Me and my husband have decided to be as honest as possible. If he asks us about God, for example, we will give him our opinions and tell him those of others in order that he can, unlike a lot of people in America at the moment, make an informed decision 🙂 #effitfriday

    1. Min says:

      I completely agree. I’m not sure that Trump is as ignorant as he makes out, actually. I think a lot of it is very carefully constructed to appeal to a certain type of voter. I’m not sure even he agrees with everything he’s saying, which is why he seems to change his mind about things so much! I feel the same way about informing my son about things and then letting him make his own decisions.

  2. Beta Mummy says:

    Oh my goodness – where is this farm place, so I can avoid it?!
    I have very similar thoughts to you re science and religion, I can’t stand it when the “theory” of the Bible is put as an equal alongside scientific theory, as though scientists have literally just made something up without any thought whatsoever.
    I don’t mind telling my children about religion, and I don’t mind them singing hymns in assembly or whatever, but I will be telling them that I don’t personally believe in it.

    1. Min says:

      It’s Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, near Bristol. It’s a shame as it’s actually an amazing day out for kids, but the many posters giving so-called “evidence” for the literal truth of the Bible made me quite uncomfortable. I feel the same way as you. I fully respect people’s religious beliefs. I just don’t think they should be presented in a way that implies that they are scientific.

    1. Min says:

      I know-I can’t believe people don’t make more of a fuss over it!

  3. Brilliant post – I’m slightly terrified too. We’ve already begun informing my 12 year old stepson about Trump, he felt really strongly that we should all be a bit nicer to him as he’s almost 70 and elderly and we should always be nice to elderly people (I love his kindness!). But it’s great to inform him and let him make his own decisions. #FabFridayPost

    1. Min says:

      I love that he thought you should always be nice to elderly people-that’s quite sweet! It is scary though, isn’t it. Thank you for commenting.

  4. I can not believe that such place have presented this kind of thing in an educational place. It is ridiculous! I would personally write a letter of complaint and also please pass this blog post to your local newspapers to let everyone who that there is a place and time for God!

    Co-incidentally, Ethan asked me before we went out to visit The Lost City today – on the spur of the moment he turned and asked as tried to get everything ready for the trip. “Are we used to be monkey?” I answered “Yes, a long time ago.” He continued… “Who made you Mummy? Did Grandma made you?” “Yes” I replied.

    Then at The Lost City – he asked “What is Buddha?” I must say I wasn’t quite prepared for that. So I told him that Buddhist is a religion – a belief. Like all other religions. At this point I haven’t mentioned what other religions are – I just don’t want to confused him yet – even though he did take part in the school Christmas play and we have Christmas Tree, etc. I just said that if you be good you got to heaven and if you are a naughty boy, you’ll go to not a very nice place. I then asked him if he is a good boy. He just said “Yes”.

    I am a Buddhist by inheritance, and so is my partner as a Christian but we don’t practice it and we don’t intent to pass any religions on to our kids – they can decide on their own. And if they want to be an atheist then that is fine too.

    Sorry – it is a long one! 😉 These people made me mad!!

    Thank you so much for linking up your lovely post with us. #FabFridayPost

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, I’m surprised people haven’t made more of a fuss about it to be honest. It is a great day out for kids so I think people just don’t pay attention to it or think well, it’s a good day out anyway so never mind, but it is worrying I think.

  5. Mrs Tubbs says:

    Hey, don’t blame us Christians for Trump! We’re as confused – and scared of him coming into power – as everyone else. I think that religion offers explanations for the the why questions in life whilst science does the same for many of the how ones. They’re two sides of the same coin and aren’t mutually exclusive at all.

    It’s worth noting that Dawkin’s definition of faith isn’t one recognised by anyone else other than Dawkins. Alistair McGrath has written some very interesting things unpacking this in more detail than you might find interesting if you want a slightly different perspective.

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for you comment. I completely agree with you. I wasn’t trying to attack Christianity or Christians so I apologise if that’s how it came across. I don’t think I explained the Trump connection particularly well in my post, but I think that he is trying to appeal to a lot of the very right-wing Christian fundamentalists that there are in the US-who I know are not representative of the vast majority of Christians-with his statements on things like abortion, and it tends to be these same people who are pushing a creationist agenda in schools over there. A very tenuous connection I know, but when I saw the creationist stuff in the zoo, I immediately thought of those particular American Christians. I agree with you about religion answering the “why” questions as opposed to the how, and I don’t think science and religion are mutually exclusive-but putting across a creationist agenda in a way that suggests it is scientific has the effect of trying to polarise the two in a way that you are either one or the other, which I don’t think is helpful to either. I may take a look at Alistair McGrath-I have read a few things by him (although not recently) and I quite like some of his views.

  6. ShoeboxofM says:

    It’s really difficult to work out the best approach for an adult let alone a small one! The best we can aim for is to give our kids the tools they need to evaluate what they read and hear. All this at the same time as being aware of our cognitive biases and not falling into those traps.

    Easy! Now bring on the unicorns!

    #justanotherlinky

    1. Min says:

      Completely agree. Luckily Piglet is still a bit young to take in this sort of thing anyway so I have a bit of time to work out my strategy!

  7. I know what you mean about this sort of thing. It makes me feel really uncomfortable. I used to go to a lovely playgroup in a church, and so as expected there would be a song and a story, but even that story being “preached” to my 3 year old made me feel a bit awkward. It’s not that I’m anti religion. I’m open to the idea of a greater force (possibly unicorn related), but I’m a believer of science and making an informed choice. Let my children chose their own faith and beliefs as they grow.

    Great post.
    #marvmondays

    1. Min says:

      Yes, I know what you mean. Thanks for commenting.

  8. Karen says:

    Great rant! It is scary isn’t it? I have a little bit to go until my little man asks questions but I think it’ll be quite difficult to explain! Hopefully it will go okay! #marvmonday

    1. Min says:

      Yes, me too. Need to be prepared for those questions-I know he will catch me unawares though, no matter how prepared I try to be.

  9. That is terrifying! All of it! Your imagining of a distopian Trump-led future in particular! WE’RE ALL DOOMED!
    I am really surprised my son hasn’t started asking who Go dis, especially as we spent the day at my Parents’-in-law, and they both “God!” and “Christ!” an astonishing amount. Only a matter of time, I will have to try to work out what I am going to say…
    x Alice
    #kcacols

    1. Min says:

      It’s a tricky one isn’t it? I guess we all have to face those questions, sooner or later. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Oh this is a tricky one isn’t it. And I’m guessing it would be pretty awkward trying to discuss something you don’t believe in. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for commenting!

  11. We’ve started having questions recently. Living in Dubai where Islam is so prominent and I don’t know much about it other than the basics, my son knows what the mosque is, he knows that people go there to pray, he asks what God is, what Allah means, what prayer is. He is interested in everything. I just hope I answer him in the way to acknowledge his interest and keep his curious nature as I think it’s important to ask questions. The same way I will be explaining the same when we move back and the predominant religion is Christianity, with churches though having practiced I will hopefully be a little bit better about answering questions!!!

    1. Min says:

      I am actually a Religious Studies teacher so I get asked questions a lot. My students are old enough to have their own opinions though so it’s not the same as an inquisitive toddler, but hopefully I will be used to the topic. Piglet will probably have no interest whatsoever and only want to talk about football!

  12. Very interesting post!! I’m also very worried about Trump. I hope your vision does not happen!! It is really scary!! My eldest daughter now asks a lot of questions and I’m pretty sure she will start asking me pretty soon all these questions about God. I better be prepared for that! Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS. I would love to see you again on Sunday! 🙂 x

    1. Min says:

      I hope it doesn’t happen as well. It’s terrifying isn’t it? Thank you for commenting and hopefully I will be able to link up again this weekend.

  13. Clare says:

    Very interesting post lovely. We aren’t at the questions stage yet thankfully. I’m probably going to try and give them the facts and let them make their own choices. Thank you so much for linking up to #KCACOLS Hope you come back again next Sunday

    1. Min says:

      We’re not quite at that stage either. I’ll be taking the same approach and hoping for the best. Thanks for commenting!

  14. Really interesting and topical post! It is a very scary thought when you think about what the world could look like if Trump was actually successful in his campaign. For such an astute business man, he has some very archaic and scary views and opinions. I have assumed, and I supposed hope that some of them are as far fetched and ridiculous as they are all becuase of the publicity and interest they generate. I really do hope that is the case, but more so, I hope we dont see a future led by Trump. Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Emily

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for hosting and commenting. I think they are mainly manufactured to get votes, but even so, clearly the terrifying thing is that there are enough people who actually agree with those opinions to actually vote for him-and that’s what’s scary.

  15. Alex Fihema says:

    I think if the Big Bang was created by a unicorn the universe would be all nice and rosey where Trump wouldn’t exist with his chihuahua living on his head.
    It’s sad when one of the most developed countries in the world supports such ignorance and hatred.
    As you can tell I agree with your opinions 😀. There should be more tolerance in this world

    1. Min says:

      Thanks. Chihuahua head really made me laugh (as in your comment, not the man himself!)

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