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It's Time to Stop Validating Ignorance

What's the Big Idea?

In protesting the Kansas State Board of Education's decision to allow intelligent design to be taught in public schools as an alternative to creationism, Bobby Henderson audaciously argued that "Flying Spaghetti Monsterism" ought to be given equal time in classrooms as well. 

The idea behind this colorful parody was simple. Religious tolerance is one thing. It is quite another thing to teach children unfalsifiable claims. 

According to the physicist Lawrence Krauss, author of A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing, the notion that the earth is 6,000 years old, as opposed to 4.55 billion years old, is simply an error, and a very big error indeed. To teach such an error, Krauss says, has consequences. It would be like "teaching kids that the distance across the United States is 17 feet. That’s how big an error it is," Krauss tells Big Think. 

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

As Krauss is fond of saying, "the purpose of education is to overcome ignorance, not validate it." In other words, we can't water down our teaching of science, Krauss argues. In fact, we need to be more bold.

"The very fact that enough people are willing to somehow believe that Earth is 6,000 years old," he argues, "means we have to do a better job of teaching physics and biology, not a worse job."

Krauss takes particular issue with the fact that some politicians are compelled -- for whatever reason -- to promulgate the idea that Earth is 6,000 years old. He signals out Marco Rubio, a United States Senator who made headlines several months ago when he said we do not know how old Earth is.

In qualifying his remarks, Rubio also said this: "I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow." Krauss strongly disagrees. He tells Big Think:

Technology and biotechnology will be the basis of our economic future. And if we allow nonsense to be promulgated in the schools, we do a disservice to our students, a disservice to our children, and we’re guaranteeing that they will fall behind in a competitive world that depends upon a skilled workforce able to understand and manipulate technology and science.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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