Archive for March 14th, 2009

Handy list of transition fossils: seven missing links for handy reference

| March 14, 2009 | 6 Replies
Handy list of transition fossils: seven missing links for handy reference

I’ve often wished that I had a short list of impressive transition fossils handy for the next time a creationist claimed to me that there were no such transition fossils. Well, here’s the list I’ve been looking for, published by the National Geographic. The first fossil on National Geographic’s list is the especially compelling find, Tiktaalik, the “fishopod.”

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Inoculation for Atheism

| March 14, 2009 | 4 Replies
Inoculation for Atheism

In the shadow of all the antivax buzz lately, I’d like to recommend a process of intellectual inoculation for children. This post is based on Best Practices 5: Encourage religious literacy from The Meming of Life. It illustrates the benefit of teaching your children about religion, to protect them from its excesses.

McGowan argues that parents who want their kids to follow in their secular (agnostic/atheist/ignostic/etc) footsteps should not obsessively protect them from all exposure to the churchy crowd. Rather one needs to gradually expose them to doses of gentle strains of all the relevant faith memes. If not, they will be vulnerable to the first virulent strain to come along when they begin independent thought, and have a “teen epiphany”. (Excerpt)

Struggles with identity, confidence, and countless other issues are a given part of the teen years. Sometimes these struggles generate a genuine personal crisis, at which point religious peers often pose a single question: “Don’t you know about Jesus?” If your child says, “No,” the peer will come back incredulously with, “YOU don’t know JESUS? Omigosh, Jesus is The Answer!” Boom, we have an emotional hijacking. And such hijackings don’t end up in moderate Methodism. This is the moment when nonreligious teens fly all the way across the spectrum to evangelical fundamentalism.

A little knowledge about religion allows the teen to say, “Yeah, I know about Jesus”-and to know that reliable answers to personal problems are better found elsewhere.

It is best to start early. Bedtime stories should have consistency for the comfort of the child, and variety to hold the interest of the child. Maybe do a month of “how we got here” stories from various cultures. Kipling, Torah, Norse, Navajo, Hindu, and so on. Show the richness of cultures and the similarities of ideas that underlie all the world religions.

But parents need to be prepared. Learn about oral traditions and the power of mythos. Read Joseph Campbell , Homer , and The Arabian Nights . Know of Gilgamesh and Beowulf and Odin , the Ring of the Nibelungen and the Bhagavad Gita , and certainly know the current local favorite, the Torah .

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