Friday, July 22, 2011

Science Camp -- Proceed with Caution

Thoughts for a friend who recently posted a link to a science camp:

I know you have a science background and will not be mis-led, but to others, I would suggest, "Proceed with caution."

Many parents are looking for help teaching science because they do not have strong backgrounds in science, themselves. Because such parents do not have science expertise, then it is especially important to identify strengths and weaknesses of the available programs.

I agree that religion and science can co-exist, but I'm concerned by the references to Creation and apologetics which I've seen associated on the websites for some popular science camps. Perhaps there is something I don't understand about this particular camp, but in general, it seems unlikely that these programs can be scientifically sound, when conflating Creationism with science. Beginning with Creationism means that many scientific discoveries cannot be discussed, and the scientific methodology cannot be adequately explored.

Decades ago, I grew up in a scientific community where many if not most of the researchers held religious beliefs, but kept them separate from science in the interest of scientific integrity. In my family and community, we saw no conflict in taking this approach. To the contrary, there is a very great likelihood of arriving at false conclusions when one approaches science without relying solely on well established methods of scientific inquiry. Starting with the Bible as a literal guide will inevitably lead us astray, because those stories were written within the social context and understanding that existed more than 2,000 years ago.

When I lived in Egypt, religious research was focused intensely on discovering what the words of the Bible meant to those who lived in Biblical times. There is a rich new understanding that can be obtained by reading the Bible within its temporal and social context. My own religious teachers advised us to approach the Bible within its context so that we could become closer to God; and to study science with an open mind -- without trying to tie that back to the literal words of the Bible. The Bible was written for that era, and we understand it best by learning more about that era. It follows that we cannot apply the Bible literally to our own era. There may be a metaphorical but not a literal connection, and when we force the second, we lose something of precious value.

It is not my intention to cause offense to anyone, but I feel I must speak up. As someone who has been trained in science, and as wife, daughter, sister, cousin, and niece of scientific researchers, I am so very concerned by many recent misrepresentations of science (and of historic figures) by some in the religious community -- however positive their intentions may be -- that I feel I must overcome my reticence to speak up. Science is not anti-religion, but religions are often anti-science, and it is a red flag to see religion directing the rules of science. Science is objective: it must not be directed by religious belief.

Studying science requires humility, courage, and honesty, qualities which are consistent with those taught by all religions. We may not understand everything right now -- we may feel confused because the Bible's words may not match our understanding of science -- but that does not mean the science is not true. It may simply mean there is more that we don't yet understand. We may see through a glass, darkly -- but we should accept what we find, and not seek to re-interpret those findings simply because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

Please understand that I am not judging anyone for their religious beliefs. Likewise, I hope you will not judge me negatively for speaking up on behalf of scientific integrity, which is not a matter of belief but of evidence, of seeking honest answers to difficult questions, of suspending our expectations in order to find what Mr. Rogers called "the real truth."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Audio books - FREE

Gutenberg and LibriVox offer FREE audio books for download or streaming. Our favorite so far is P.G. Wodehouse's Love Among the Chickens.

Do you have a good reading voice and a few hours to donate? LibriVox needs more readers.
* LibriVox Catalog
* LibriVox - to volunteer


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who are scientists, and where do they work?

Research scientists agree on the methods of scientific inquiry, and on particular conclusions based on objective evidence, but don't expect them to agree on much else. In fact, this diversity among researchers is one of the safeguards of science -- there is little room for global bias among a body of competing researchers which represents all religious beliefs and non-belief, the range of human and cultural perspectives, and various national backgrounds.

Consider, for example, the location of (and national funding sources for) the world's physics communities, versus the religious and cultural beliefs and national interests of the countries in which those universities are located.

Adhering to the sometimes tedious processes of scientific method and review, including repeated testing by various parties to ensure the validity, consistency, and predictability of results and conclusions, has proved to be the best way to discover -- eventually -- the real truth about the way things work.

World History

Here are some nice sites which introduce world history.

* The origins and migration of human species
* The history of western civilization in 4 minutes - see minute 2:48 to minute 6:48
* World history - short videos by Glencoe publishers
* The Neanderthal Museum's kids pages (in English)
* UNESCO Map of World Heritage sites
* International World History Project
* International World History Project -

Friday, November 13, 2009

FREE Learning Resources

Following are additional learning resources -- free!

The Gutenberg Project
The Gutenberg Audio Project
Gutenberg offers text and audio books free on line.

Harvard Classics On-line
Bartleby's offers books free on line, organized by bookshelves such as "Harvard Classics" and more.

Free Children's Books On-Line
These beautifully illustrated works offer materials suitable for every reading level.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Kid Safety

Here's a great website on keeping kids safe, sponsored by John Walsh (father of kidnapping victim Adam Walsh) and other parent advocates.
This site also links to a map of registered offenders which includes photos, registered addresses, and other information.

Also, I found the Safe Side organization's DVD "The Safe Side: Stranger Safety" at my local library. Of the various materials I've seen, this is by far the best -- practical, straight-forward, yet non-threatening.

The DVD includes helpful information, carefully considered suggestions, and practice in knowing what to do and how to respond to inappropriate behaviors by (1) Don't Knows (people the child does not know at all) and (2) Kinda Knows (people whom the child knows, but who are not part of the child's completely-safe circle). "Safe Side Superchick" -- an engagingly goofy character who offers physical comedy, sound effects, and a lightly delivered but serious message, all reminiscent of Bill Nye -- introduces a very useful analogy: unknown dogs. In an exaggeratedly funny way, she demonstrates that a cute, adorable little harmless-looking dog, may not be harmless after all. Children are introduced to the idea that harmless-looking people may not be safe. Gently, she explains that no one can tell by looking at someone, whether that person is safe or not. Learning how to recognize early warning signs of inappropriate adult behavior and how to respond safely and appropriately are important skills introduced by this video series.

If you are interested in helping children who have been traumatized, please consider supporting Operation Fuzzy, a non-profit which provides care packages to offer comfort and reassurance to children who have experienced trauma. Read about their work here: The Franks Foundation. "It's the goal of the Franks Foundation to expand "Operation Fuzzy" to a nationwide program by January 2010."

Site Statistics