From: email@example.com (Dave Jones)
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com
(Georgia L. Winward) writes:
GW> So, let's teach Creationism along with Evolution and let
GW> the kids decide. Do you want to believe you evolved from a
GW> lower[sic] life form, or do you want to believe that a
GW> loving God[sic] created the first man[sic] as a companion?
Why not ask them also if they would prefer to believe that water is
composed of hydrogen and oxygen, or would they prefer to believe
that it is one of the four elements? Why should teachers be allowed
to make any judgements at all? Practically any fact that might be
uttered is in conflict with the tenets of some religion or belief-
system. Is education to be predicated on the motto, "Facts can
offend; Therefore, they should not be asserted"?
I was in a junior high school biology class in Texas, ca. 1958, when
I heard the question that is posed above, "Do you want to believe
that you evolved from a lower life form?" I had mentioned some fact
of evolution that I had naively assumed was common knowledge. There
was an immediate uproar, which the instructor eagerly joined.
He was very stupid football coach who justified his existence to
the school boards and such by "teaching" math and science. He could
not do simple arithmetic involving fractions, and once beat me with
a paddle constructed from a shaved baseball bat when I corrected his
elementary math in front of a class. His name, incredibly, was
"Angerman". Stupidity, and its constant companion, Anger, perhaps had
been in his family from the time the surname was first assigned. I
wonder, was it a bureaucrat in the Middle Ages or a bureaucrat at
Ellis Island who made the peculiarly apt choice? Perhaps it originally
meant something else altogether, but for him the name was apt none the
On the occasion in question, Mr. Angerman roared out at me, "Do you
want to believe you are related to a monkey?" I didn't say anything,
but I thought to myself, "Only if it is true."
It was years later when a very different kind of instructor, the
legendary R. L. Moore of the University of Texas math department's
"third floor" put the matter in focus perfectly.
He had asked me if I thought a certain mathematical proposition was
true. After I had had a few days to think it over, he asked me again.
I said, "Dr. Moore, I don't know yet for sure, but I sure hope it is
true." (If the question were true, I would be able to prove various
other interesting mathematical facts.) He looked at me with a stern
intensity. He fained incredulity. I imagine now that there were
touches of kindness and impishness in the mix also. I will never
forget what he said.
"WHAT?! You hope it is true even if it ISN'T?"
Indeed, how could I? How could I hope it was true?
Well, as it turned out, the proposition was not true. It was
therefore not surprising that other "interesting" theorems might
be derived from it.
The world is full of people who hope things are true, even if
they are not. They want things to be true that would prove that
they have not been narrow-minded, that the norms of behavior they
seek to impose on others are the only defensible ones. They seek
to validate their morals and moral certitudes. Through it all and
for all kinds of self-serving reasons, they hope things are true
even if they are not. They soon go beyond hope to the very pinnacle
of intellectual cowardice: faith. They not only hope that things
are true, even if they aren't, they have faith that they are true,
even if they aren't. It is the ultimate intellectual capitulation.
With faith, even verification of the hoped for is dismissed as
unnecessary, indeed evil.
Those who honestly and eagerly pursue truth, regardless of how
it may be in conflict with their perceived best interests, with
their prejudices, with their self-images, are very rare. There
are many more Angermans in this world than there are Dr. Moores.
--- Dave Jones