Monday, February 8, 2010
Let me tell you a story.
So we finished the show, which involves mention of "millions of years" and that birds descended from dinosaurs, and come out to the audience line to talk to the kids waiting there. Two girls come up to me, sisters, the older maybe nine years old, the younger maybe seven. The older, who did the majority of the talking, starts off by telling me that dinosaurs aren't really extinct and that there are still some alive in the jungles of Africa. I of course began to explain how there's no evidence supporting that, and all the available evidence pretty clearly points the other way, but alarm bells were already going off. The girl went on to tell me how cave paintings accurately show dinosaurs, even down to circular markings on their skin (an argument I haven't even been able to find on creationist sites), and that scientists, by saying things such as "may have," "could be", and "most likely" really are just guessing. I tried explaining how science works, by guessing and testing and rejecting guesses that don't fit the evidence, but she didn't really seem to be listening to me. She seemed almost to be reciting, without stopping to comprehend the responses.
They talked to me for maybe ten, fifteen minutes without giving me any indication that they'd heard a word I'd said, repeating many things from the tract word-for-word. They then gave me the tract, and walked away into the library. Their parents, who'd been standing at distance but well within earshot, came up and apologized. "As you can probably guess," they said, "We're Young Earth Creationists. We really didn't intend to have them ambush you." Maybe not, but they sure didn't stop it, and I'm sure that she just happened to have the proper tract on her of her own accord. I was wearing the uniform, though, so I just politely accepted their apology.
Of course, I don't know what will become of those two girls. Maybe they'll grow up to love ignorance too, or maybe they'll grow up to reject it. It's possible something I said could spark a little bit of doubt in them. Not very likely, I know, but possible. If not me, maybe a teacher somewhere. Maybe a book they get out of the library. Maybe a website they visit. Maybe something, somewhere, will make them start question what and why they believe. Maybe.
But I've still got that Chick tract. I keep it in the bag I take with me to work every day, and have since that night. It reminds me why I've spent nearly nine years now working in science education. It reminds me that there is no idea so ridiculous, so ignorant, so over-the-top crazy, so harmful and hate-filled, that some parent somewhere won't teach it to their kid. And we need to fight back against that as much as we can.