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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Truths not Worth Knowing

Each of us has numerous beliefs that we hold essential. A Truth not worth knowing is one that refutes a belief that we hold essential. Though each of us has many essential beliefs, it is very difficult for me to give an example of one because, of course, all my essential beliefs are True and irrefutable. Nonetheless, consider the following hypothetical example.

One Truth I hold essential is that all races, ethnicities, and genders have virtually identical distributions of intelligence due to genetic composition (i.e. the nature component). In addition, the distributions of genetic based intelligence are identical for all subjects (science, math, literature, etc.). Now even though this is unprovable with certainty due to interfering factors (such as nurture), it is unarguably True.

However, let's say that in an alternate universe, I held this same belief, but it turned out to be false. In addition, somehow, irrefutable evidence (the “Truth”) was discovered that my belief was false. That evidence would qualify as a “Truth” not worth knowing because of the damage it would cause to society. I would simply choose to ignore it and continue to believe my essential belief regarding intelligence.

Now let's turn to the case of the Kansas School Board and Evolution. Let's say someone holds the following premises as essential:
  1. Morality M is a critically important component of society
  2. The adoption of M by the general public critically depends on Traditions T
  3. Belief in Religion R is a critically important component of T
  4. Creation Myth C is a critically important component required for belief in R
  5. Evolution critically weakens C
From these premises it would follow that Evolution is a Truth not worth knowing because it would impede or prevent the adoption of M, a critically important component of society.

Obviously, if one disagrees with any of the premises (1) through (5), then the conclusion that Evolution is a Truth not worth knowing would not follow. I happen to disagree with several of those premises. Unfortunately, the people of Kansas, by and large, firmly believe all of those premises, and, as a result, will do whatever they can to weaken the impact of Evolution when presented to their children. Indeed, if I believed premises (1) through (5), I would do the same.

If parents believe that what is to be taught to their children will greatly damage (their) society, whether or not what is being taught is true, they have a right or even a duty, as parents, to prevent those things from being taught to their children. And if those things such as Evolution must be taught, then such parents have a right or a duty to mitigate the impact of that being taught as much as possible. In this case, they've invented an untrue story called ID for that particular purpose.

So why teach Evolution at all? There are certainly other topics that could be taught during that science slot. Perhaps that is the best solution. Just don't teach it.

However, let's say that you believe premises (1) through (5) but you think that micro-Evolution coupled with other biological sciences are important from the perspective of forward looking technology. Then, perhaps the best approach is to teach Evolution, but use something else such as ID as a method to blunt the historical implications of Evolution. Perhaps that is what the people of Kansas are doing.

At this point, I've firmly concluded that neither I, nor anybody else, will be able to convince the people of Kansas to drop their belief in premises (1) through (5); that Evolution from a historical perspective would rationally be a Truth not worth knowing given those premises and the use of a false pseudo-science such as ID gives them the best of both worlds in that it enables the introduction of an important science to their children while blunting the impact on their religious beliefs. Lastly, I don't think it my place to meddle in the parenting of the people of Kansas.

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