OT: language origin and creationism

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 2 14:12:46 UTC 2010

Much of this may be considered OT, so feel free to delete now.

When I was teaching that sort of freshman assignment, mostly before ID burst
on the scene, I found that a great many students simply had no sense of how
to evaluate sources. When I was eighteen, I had very little myself, but
these kids often assumed that it was actually illegal to publish anything as
fact that was not true. (The Internet has doubtless made them more skeptical
- in principle, if not always in terms of what they already think.)

Influenced by democracy, the students' general attitude seemed to be that a
majority claim is always correct.  Creationist students often come from
backgrounds where the local opinion on evolution is
unanimous. Creationism's appeal is enhanced by the suspicion that many in
the evolutionist "minority" are twisting the evidence because they have been
enticed to reject God, and denying His creation makes them feel good. So
they may assume, among other things, that if you're the honest intelligent
person you seem to be, you probably believe in creationism already. An easy
A!  If not, they've at least struck a blow for Truth and you've confirmed
what they've heard all along about liberal professors.

The most controversial papers they turned in undoubtedly were about
abortion. In those cases I felt that my job was to show them how to analyze
the arguments of both sides, see what they were based on and how they were
conducted (loaded language was a frequent and telling factor). I figured
that after that the students would at least know why they believed what they
believed, and why others differed, which was as far as I felt I needed
to take it.

The students in my experience were far more likely to be incredibly naive
than perversely adversarial.


On Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 9:00 AM, Amy West <medievalist at w-sts.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Amy West <medievalist at W-STS.COM>
> Subject:      Re: OT: language origin and creationism
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Since not one of 42 students was able
> >to tell me what Focus on the Family was, I had them Google it, and we
> talked
> >through looking at the website itself, and then looking at other sources
> to
> >learn more.  I know academics are supposed to hate Wikipedia, but it's
> >really their friend in this (we spend a fair amount of time on the
> strengths
> >and weaknesses of Wikipedia, and how to use it well).  I stress that
> >identifying an author's (or publisher's) agenda is really important to an
> >evaluation of a source.
> Thanks very much, Kari.
> The use of the FSM and the TreeOctopus are all fabulous ideas. Yes,
> I've pushed using Google to check out the creds of sources as well
> and some students have. And they are also supposed to be evaluating
> the sources as sources in the annotated bib, but not with a
> particular rating system. Maybe I should be more specific.
> ---Amy West
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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