Friday, March 24, 2023

What's a Kid to Think?

What’s a kid to think in American science classrooms?

If the teacher dares to present evolutionary science, which few dare to do here in Oklahoma, many parents tell their kids to not believe the teacher. They may have no reason for this other than their staunch membership in the Republican Party. The parents may know nothing at all about science.

On the other hand, if the teacher is a creationist and openly teaches creationism while dismissing evolution as evil (something that at least one high school teacher does in Durant, Oklahoma), the better-informed parents may have to explain to their kids that their science teacher does not, in fact, understand science—which, in this case, is true.

Nor are these the only examples of issues that must be confusing to kids.

  • One example is sexual orientation. Conservative teachers or parents might tell the kids that God made every person either male or female, and that’s that. But some chromosomal conditions cause people to have ambiguous gender. Therefore these conservative parents are wrong. But progressive parents and teachers may say that gender is entirely a social construct, which is also wrong if by this they mean that biology has nothing to do with it.
  • Another example is genetic engineering. Progressive parents and teachers may say that it is evil because it opens up a flood of “Frankenfoods.” But this is not true. On the other hand, some scientists refer to genetically engineered foods as the salvation of the poor of the world. One example is golden rice, which provides vitamin A, developed by Ingo Potrykus as a remarkably selfless service to humankind. It turns out there are far easier and more robust ways to provide vitamin A. Also, the vitamin A in golden rice is of no use unless people are also able to eat a sufficient quantity of oils, which is often impossible.
  • I have known irrational anti-vaxxers from both ends of the political spectrum.

I can understand the kids’ confusion. I do not have a solution to this problem. I am just glad that my grandchildren will be growing up in France, a culture which has greater respect for science. The French aren’t perfect, of course; many French people vehemently oppose genetic engineering based on unfounded fears. But in France, the extremes are less extreme, and are at least open to hearing evidence.


The only way to avoid errors at both extremes is to cultivate a sense of honest inquiry in our next generation.

Friday, March 3, 2023

More about Gorilla Lawyers

In an earlier essay "Gorilla lawyers and jury abuse" I wrote about the evolution of gorilla lawyers in the Oklahoma justice system. Then, in September 2022, there was an interesting new development not in the case but with regard to the District Attorney, Steve Kunzweiler, who argued the case against the accused rapist.

I described my experience in the jury pool for a case that Kunzweiler was arguing. It was clear to me that he was enamored of his male-gorilla role over the jury. He insulted all of us, particularly two women who both ended up being excused, and who left the courtroom in tears and hugging each other. This is the sort of thing that a gorilla-lawyer loves to do. Another woman told me, “I felt like I was on trial.” The only person who was worse was the defense attorney, who even looked like Edward G. Robinson.

The interesting new development is that, on September 27, 2022, Steve Kunzweiler was stabbed by his mentally unstable daughter. There had to be a story leading up to that event, which at this writing has not been publicized. Is it possible that Kunzweiler was such a strict and negative person that he drove his daughter to the crime? Or would it have happened anyway? All I can say is, he was not a humble person and may have precipitated the crime in some way, although neither he nor anyone else deserves to be stabbed.

This makes me wonder if, that day in March 2022, Kunzweiler came to the courtroom with family matters on his mind. He took out his stresses on us, the jury pool. This was unprofessional. The jury pool was made to suffer from his anger.

One can only hope that, as he recovers from the nonlethal wounds, Kunzweiler will learn a little humility, and it might make criminal justice in Tulsa County a little more efficient—for lashing out at the jury is a waste of time if their job is to determine the innocence or guilt of the defendant. As a Republican, Kunzweiler is a hard-liner against not only defendants but, it appears, against the jury as well. Might he reconsider his stance? Considering how few Republicans ever change their minds about anything, I am not holding my breath.

Update: The very next day, Kunzweiler broke ranks with all other Republicans in calling for more, not less, government spending—on mental health interventions. Republicans tend to be mean on everything unless it affects their own lives directly, as in these two other examples: