Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Layer 64 Darwin, Dawkins and the Muppets.

People are even more staggeringly stupid than even I had thought. I don't even know where to start with this.

I was contentedly watching a Channel 4 programme made by Prof Richard Dawkins called The Genius of Charles Darwin. I'm no kind of a scientist, and I've no idea where and how I came to understand natural selection, but it clearly explains biological diversity and the origins of species. It’s logical, and it makes perfect sense.

What makes no sense whatsoever is the idea that everything was created by "God". It's blindingly obvious that 'creationism' and 'intelligent design' are complete nonsense.

And yet . . . Dawkins was doing his best to teach Darwin's ideas to what seemed to be a group of intelligent sixth formers. They were apparently 'bright' young people, who clearly understood the ideas behind natural selection and the origins of species. They considered the fossil evidence, and the evidence from the study of DNA. It all seemed to make perfect sense.

And then the majority of these students calmly let Dawkins know that the theory was all very interesting - but they couldn't possibly accept it as truth because it conflicted with the teachings of their religion.

Fucking hell!! Christians and Muslims. Closed minds. Crackpot ideas. Blind obedience to ludicrous nonsensical claptrap. Unquestioning subservience to religious doctrine and unscientific bollocks.

Doomed. We're all doomed. There's no hope. Multiple intelligences? There are millions of these muppets who don't have even a single intelligence. Logic, reason and enlightenment have no place in their poor brainwashed lives. They’d rather go along with some version of a creation myth than risk upsetting their elders and making waves in their family and their community. And things seem to be getting worse, not better. How can this be?

I suppose it’s understandable. These days there are plenty of communities, sects and cliques who feel alienated and persecuted, who cling together for support and reassurance, who feel beleaguered and threatened, and reject the orthodoxies of their supposed enemies and persecutors, for fear of becoming like them, which clearly mustn’t happen.

And of course people like Dawkins have long ago identified themselves as atheists, non-believers, godless infidels, and probably sons of the devil. This makes them the enemy - automatically. Forget their espousal of scientific truth, and their insistence on rigorously questioning and testing anything and everything. They might be RIGHT in logic and reasoning, but they’re WRONG to reject God and all his works, and therefore they’re just plain WRONG.

Jesus. There’s no hope. Turn back the clocks. Stick your heads in the sand. Refuse to contemplate plain old facts, which have no legitimacy any time they happen to conflict with what some ancient scribe happened to write hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Obviously the Big Bang is wrong. It never happened. God created the entire universe, and continues to be responsible for everything that happens under this and every other sun. He said ‘let there be light’, and there was light.

Hold on. I feel the need to find some common ground, some third way, some sort of compromise here. Why can’t the fundamentalists just say, “God created the Big Bang”? That’s something we might all go along with. Why not? God created the Big Bang as some kind of experiment, and then sat back to see what happened. He was curious to know what would happen if this mother of all explosions kicked off.

Let’s agree to go along with the religious folk (tee hee!) and agree that God created the Big Bang and therefore the universe, as long as they agree that everything that’s happened since then is down to physics and chemistry, biology and mathematics, and the processes that arise from them, including the self-directed actions of human beings, who alone are responsible for the things they do and the choices they make.

I’m happy to go along with the notion that God is observing us, like some kind of super-scientist, and long as religious folk agree to go along with my notion that God is NOT responsible for all the stupid, ignorant, superstitious, illogical, irresponsible stuff we get up to. And it’s not the Devil or some sort of evil force making us do the things we do and making us think the things we think. WE decide.

Look at it this way. Either God made everything and God directs all our actions, or he doesn’t. Surely an all-powerful God would be capable of defeating a mere Devil? Or is it God’s choice that there should be a Devil hanging around, tempting and corrupting, leading astray and spreading evil?

Is this what theologians and religious people get up to in their working lives and their spare time? Arguing and speculating about the powers of God and whether or not there’s a Devil, heaven and hell? Well it’s a WASTE OF TIME! I’m here to say - stop wasting precious time! Do something useful! Find a hobby that’s more enjoyable and more productive! Grow up! Stop being so childish and idiotic!

OK - you can have your God. He created the Big Bang, and then he either fucked off or He’s hanging around, taking notes, and putting bets on how long these idiot human beings are going to take before they manage to blow themselves up and exterminate the only intelligent, self-aware and self-directing life that’s ever existed in the entire history of time. End of.


Harold Rosen

Harold Rosen died on July 31st, 2008. He was a brave, committed, wise, visionary and wonderful human being. John Richmond’s obituary in the Guardian sums up his life and work and his impact on educational thinking.

Certain phrases and sentences stand out.

* a leader of thought in the world of English teaching in the second half of the 20th century. He and his colleagues forged and sustained a new understanding of the subject within the school curriculum

* Harold's own teachings, writings and activities illuminated many people's understanding of the relationship between language and learning, whatever the age of the learner and the content of the learning.

* In the politics of education, Harold fiercely resented - and, when he was still working, fought - the attacks on progressivism from within the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments.

* In 1936, (he) took part in the battle of Cable Street. It was the urgent clarity of the needs of those years - to defeat fascism and to liberate working-class people from every sort of poverty - that formed Harold politically.

* Returning to civilian life in 1947, it was clear to him, that the defeat of fascism must be only the necessary beginning of a shift towards more open and egalitarian societies in the victorious as well as the defeated nations.

* Mentally, he remained trenchant and analytical until the end, and joyful at news of gains in the long educational revolution in which he had played so prominent a part.

* Briefly put, the theory and practice that emerged at Walworth insists that the content of the curriculum that the teacher brings to the class must respect the culture and experience that the learner brings there. It sees the making of meaning in and through language as the essential act in which learners engage and which teachers help to bring about. It says that the best learning is a collaboration between teacher and learner, and between learner and learner.


Briefly put, this was what I most resented about my own school days, my contacts with teachers, at the first purpose-built comprehensive school in post-war Britain. The failure to show proper respect for the culture and the language that me, and people like me - my friends and relatives - espoused.

Fortunately it was a small minority of teachers that operated in a patronizing and dismissive way. I guess the majority of the staff were young(ish), idealistic, and very caring, very respectful.

But there was Mr Hottot, for instance: an Oxford graduate, as he so often told us, somewhat slumming it, in charge of our French department. It had to come out sometime, I guess. The man was a snob, an elitist, a patronizing, irritating twat. Who said things like, “I can’t understand your slovenly speech”. Yes - he’d like to have sent us to elocution lessons to cure us of our flat vowels, our insistence on having a baath instead of a barth, on following a paath instead of a parth. The fucker had the nerve to parachute into Shakespeare’s county and then try to condemn us for our Midlands accents, dialects and phraseology. Because we were working class. Because we used non-standard English and spoke with something other than Received Pronunciation. The Queen’s English.

So Harold - many thanks, and great respect, for all your work, all your efforts to show linguists and teachers how they should be going about their business - with respect for children and students, and a determination to help them their develop their own individual 'voices' and reach their own individual understandings of the world. It’s been a long and tortuous road towards enlightenment, and the enemies of equality and reason are still in the ascendancy, but the fight goes on.

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