I recently criticised some creationists for misrepresenting scientific knowledge and lying about evolutionary science to children (see “Biblically correct” child abuse?). This upset a few commenters. I know people have all sorts of issues over the term “child abuse” but found one of the commenters justifications disconcerting.
Referring to teaching 6 day creationism to children he says: “Let’s say that I taught my children a lie. But that lie gave them hope and joy and purpose to their dying day. What have I done wrong?”
Now, I think there are several issues here:
- The assumption that “6 day creationism” will somehow give “hope and joy and purpose to their dying day.”
- The assumption that a real understanding of our world, and humanity’s endeavours to understand it somehow doesn’t give hope joy and purpose. My observation and experience is exactly the opposite.
- Alongside these lies about science go lies about fellow humans. Scientists are presented as delusioned, if not outright evil atheists. Great thinkers like Charles Darwin are presented as responsible for the evils of Nazism. Scientists are presented as suppressing the truth – as in videos like Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. This creates a dangerous “Them and Us” situation for children (unfortunately not uncommon with religious traditions).
- How will children judge such parents? It’s one thing to recognise that a parent was honestly prejudiced, misinformed or blind on scientific issues. It’s another to realise that one’s parents were dishonest and actively set out to deny you access to science, to an understanding of reality, as a child.
- The belief that children remain children, and therefore gullible to believing fairy stories, for the rest of their lives is silly. Our children do, in fact, grow up to become completely autonomous human beings. They think for themselves. Parental beliefs and prejudices are only one amongst many inputs to the opinion-forming processes of individuals.
You know, one’s children may even grow up to accept scientific knowledge, while at the same time preserving the better parts of the religious tradition. They may even value the creation mythology of that tradition.
But I can’t help feeling that they will resent parents who attempted to use that tradition and its myths to deny them access to the great wealth of humanity’s scientific knowledge. They might even feel that they have been a little but abused.