Ignorance is Dying

Yesterday, while I was procrastinating on Facebook a news article crossed my feed about a mother in Tennessee. This mother is upset that her 7th Grade child is learning about Islam (she doesn’t appear to be upset that her child is learning about Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism as well) and decided to voice her concerns to the local school board. She feels that her child’s “personal religious beliefs were violated” by being provided an education about different spiritual beliefs and they are proud of the zeroes received on the corresponding tests.

It is easy to get angry or stereotype Tennessee as a backwards place, but there is actually one line in the article that makes me incredibly optimistic.

“Edmisten was the only parent to speak about the issue.”

One parent. We are at the point where this type of craziness in a conservative state is down to one person who is outraged enough to cause a fuss. This woman clearly does not represent most of the school district. It is angry people who take the time out of their day to scream at bureaucrats and elected officials, and most of the people in this town aren’t angry about the school curriculum, and it appears the school board is going to kind of brush this woman off (as they probably should).

In some ways, I grew up in an “ignorance is a virtue” form of Christianity. I was taught explicitly anti-science things and my house were filled almost solely with books and music by Christian authors. I even remember writing a long paragraph protesting that my science class in seventh grade had a question about evolution on it and how it was “only a theory*”. That upbringing was self-defeating, though. Science easily won out when ignorance was encouraged and I was only given a strawman defense against scientific theories. For example, I heard many times “if humans evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?”. This seemed like an airtight argument until I actually learned about evolution. When I found out that scientists don’t say that at all, what they say is that humans and monkey share a common ancestor (just like my siblings and I share a common ancestor) it shattered my beliefs on the subject and encouraged me to re-evaluate everything that I’d been told.

In addition, my “God of the gaps” (if humans don’t know the answer then the answer must be God) got smaller and smaller as those gaps were filled by scientific inquiry. Quickly I came to the conclusion that if a God exists then his followers should be focusing solely on the spiritual and not the physical. The study of “earthly things” like history, science, and economics should not be viewed through a theological lens because religion doesn’t have the tools to adequately study them. When Christian “science” and secular science conflict only one will be left standing because only one actually relies on logic and inquiry and is self-correcting.

This parent is doing her children a disservice and someday they may come to see it as brainwashing, and possibly resent her for it even if she is doing what she thinks is right. In today’s connected age you can’t fight information unless you go to dictatorial extremes. Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin may be able to shut off information to their citizens, but parents in the United States cannot. If people really want their children to grow up as healthy adults they need to be open and honest about the world and not try to isolate them from dissenting opinions. If your views can’t survive exposed to light and the marketplace of ideas, then your views should probably die.

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Moving Forward

Today is the last day that I’ll be on holiday “vacation”, and that means when we get back to Dallas it will be time to start the routine again and ring in the new year. While on this break I intentionally neglected a lot of my habits as a reward to myself and as a way to minimize my stress and guilt that comes from holiday gorging, playing video games, and slacking. The three notable exceptions are that I still took my daily nootropics/supplements, I did some Duolingo German work daily, and I completed the work and classes for my writing Coursara course. Other than that, I just let myself roll with each day and didn’t worry about exercise, meditation, etc. Thanks to this break I have a clearer idea of what and how I want to make 2016 my best year yet.

First, I am going to take my health more seriously. That means not making excuses for bad eating habits. Just because I am biking almost daily that does not mean I should consume unhealthy foods or lots of beer. I also need to make time for strengthening exercises using body weight or the equipment I have available. I should be able to easily improvise weights with what I have on me.

Second, I want to really learn German. I have a three-pronged approach that is cheap and should be successful. I will continue with daily Duolingo, I’ll listen to the Pimsleur lessons on Audible, and I will watch a German language film 1-2 times per week. I am also going to research other free options online to see if any would fit my lifestyle.

Third, Anna and I are going to get started on “The Adventures of Higgins” (tentative title), a series of children’s books about our bike travels from the perspective of our dog. It will be a picture book that tells his stories exploring the US and will have basic lessons about geography, different cultures around the country, history, fitness, etc. I am going to use the “Isaac Morehouse Method” and try to do one thing daily to keep this project moving forward. This will provide me with an outlet for creativity, writing, and entrepreneurship. And maybe if it is a success it will bring in some cash too. I hope to have our first short book out this year and ready to send to friends who have kids for product testing.

Fourth, get into a regular meditation practice. Meditation, like flossing, is one of those things that I know I should be doing but somehow have a hard time getting into the habit. I know there are incredibly health benefits to mindful meditation and I have time to do it. I need to make it a priority.

So, those are my goals for 2016. I might create some sort of milestone for each with small daily or weekly tasks, or maybe I’ll just wing it. My current spreedsheet that has a point system seems to be working well for me so far. 2015 was the best year of my life and was filled with incredibly adventures and wonderful growth that comes from trials and success. I can’t wait to see what the new year will bring me.