Friday, January 20, 2012

What Would You Do About…

Note: I am posting a new Darwin video on my YouTube channel StanEvolve. It is not showing up on the main channel page, but if you click on videos, you will find it. It is called Charles Darwin and airplanes. It is about the difference between science and religion.

Note: I am now on Twitter @StanEvolve.

In the previous post, I asked for your input of ideas for this blog. Due to a Blogger website error, you may have missed that posting. If you missed it, take a look at it. I really want to know your input.

But I will also be asking your advice about specific situations. To start: please let me know what you think I should do in the situation I describe below.

I wrote a book review for the National Center for Science Education, which was read by a long-term prisoner in California. He wrote a letter to me, laboriously and carefully and intelligently. We began exchanging letters about evolution. He shared some of his questions and observations, and told me about some conversations he had with his fellow prisoners. I could not send any of my books—prisoners cannot receive hardcover books—but I printed out my summary of the Origin of Species for him, as well as the PDF file of Life of Earth.

I began to notice in his letters that he was dedicated to communism. I suggested to him that communism failed in part because it made incorrect assumptions about human nature (capitalism also makes mistakes, but not the same ones). He wrote back and said he was familiar with the Lysenko story (click here for the Wikipedia summary), but that The Great Stalin and The Great Mao were not responsible for the collapse of communism: it was the fault of infiltrators. He was not angry at anything I said, nor am I at anything he said, and our correspondence will probably continue.

But it is clear to me that he is a fundamentalist communist as unaffected by evidence as any fundamentalist creationist. Fundamentalist faith deflects all contrary evidence by making special accommodations; for example, creationists may say that God nudged the organisms around in the Flood to make the fossils end up in an evolutionary order.

So, what would you suggest that I do? Should I mention to my correspondent that he is using the same patterns of thought that fundamentalist creationists use? My inclination is to simply not discuss such matters any further with my correspondent; I am sure other topics will come up from time to time. But if you think I should write to him about it, let me know—and let me know how—in the comment box.

I look forward to your input on this and other things, and your responses to one another, rather than just waiting for it to happen. I have learned much of what I know by simply listening to others. I have the habit of walking right up to clusters of colleagues and just listening. Sometimes I tell them that I just want to listen and learn. Sometimes it is gossip (which, according to some studies, is nearly always good gossip rather than malicious gossip), sometimes it is major scientific or political insights. In fact, I have learned some things from the intelligent prisoner with whom I correspond.

1 comment:

  1. Caution is recommended because like playing peek-a-boo with a kid on an airline, correspondence with a prisoner is a game that never has an ending as they have little other to do and your time is better spent elsewhere. You've provided some materials, so politely answer any legitimate questions, but don't get dragged into philosophical debates.