These images have been floating around the internet for a bit: it’s a 4th-grade science quiz from Blue Ridge Christian Academy, a private religious school in South Carolina, and according to snopes.com it is all too real. It’s horrifying that kids anywhere are being taught, in school, as science, things that are patently wrong.
As our favorite Angry Richard Dawkins is so fond of reminding us all, religion is not science. Now, I have no problem with religion; I may not believe in a Higher Power, but lots of people do and those people probably have a lot more peace of mind than me, and many of those people continue to do perfectly rational things in their everyday life. Religion can be very important and very healthy. But regardless of that, religion is not science.
If you believe in a Higher Power, fine. You may well even be right; there’s really no way to know. If you believe that the universe was made in 7 days or that dinosaurs were the size of sheep and lived with humans, that’s wrong. It is just incorrect, there’s not really another way to put it. For adults, I may not approve of believing wrong things, but it’s a choice. Teaching kids those things is not okay; they don’t have a choice if they’re only presented one side (and if that side happens to be incorrect, they will always make the incorrect choice). Yes, it’s a topic on which a lot of people harp. Because it is super-important. This quiz is especially heinous because of the last question: kids are not only being taught wrong things, but they are also being taught to treat people who question their beliefs with disrespect. Kids being taught to defend incorrect beliefs with rudeness leads to adults who have incorrect beliefs and are not amenable to conversation.
Even if we go past the fact that dinosaurs did not live with humans, any belief that they did is just that: a belief. It is certainly not science and shouldn’t be taught in a science classroom. Neil DeGrasse Tyson said about a similar situation to this (I don’t remember the exact quote, so this is a paraphrase: “It’s not because it’s religion that it shouldn’t be in a science classroom; it’s because it is not science.” You wouldn’t teach The Great Gatsby in a class on British literature, and you wouldn’t teach religion in a class on science. Science is about experiment, exploration, and evidence, and teaching something with no empirical evidence in a science class defeats the entire point. Teaching kids to be intolerant of new ideas is exactly the opposite of what we need to do if we want a society with citizens who are able to think. And that’s what we want, isn’t it?