Field of Science

Son of a "science" fair

Well I am 3 for 3 in attending the Creationist Homeschooling Science Fair at the Har Mar Mall in Roseville Minnesota. My first year was an eye opening disheartening experience. My second year was like a dull ache that won't go away.

This year was awesome!

Ok, seeing intellectual child abuse in action is not awesome but other aspects helped offset that.

First, the disclaimers.

1.If you happen to be a homeschooler and disagree with the hole I am about to tear the parents of these children, I want to highlight that this was the Creationist Homeschooling Science Fair, not the Homeschooling Science Fair. See that little word creationist means something and it means something important. I wouldn't mention it because its obvious, but clearly some people have a problem with this as seen here.

2. This is not an attack on the children. These parents and the organizations that front them (and use many of them) are the problem, the children are victims. When despots surround themselves with children, to prevent attack most people blame the despot when the children are hurt. Unless you're a homeschooling supporter, then you attack anyone who questions you, your methods, or your beliefs as attacks on the poor little children.

Alright, the short assessment is that like any school science fair the projects range from the good, the bad, and the ugly. I feel pretty good about this comparison since I had attended an evil public school science fair the week before. Except for the devil worship the similarities in projects was about the same.

I showed up when the kids were presenting their projects, although I was running late (see below) and decided to come back later and not ask questions about their work. (Plus, I was somewhat uncomfortable talking with these kids dressed in my gym clothes.) However, I made 2 quick assessments as I scanned the posters. By-and-large the posters were put together extremely well and the kids were well dressed and professional looking.

While I do not mean to joke about the posters, because any science fair (bullshit ones like this being no exception) have some truly hilarious attempts at science. My personally favorite was the student who compared gorillas, orangutans, and people by going to one of the local zoos (Como Zoo, it is a beautiful zoo highly recommended, current donations suggested at a measly $3.00) and making lists. Included in the dissimilar category included No writing, No cars, No jobs (Im assuming these are about the non-human apes), and We take care of them. The conclusion was that we are not descended from a related ancestor since the differences outweigh the similarities. Clearly, gorillas in the wild are more closely related to illiterate people in 1930s America. Another great one was the old music affecting plant growth uncontrolled experiment. Needless to say rock inhibited growth whereas classical promoted growth, which begs the question how does classic rock affect plants or christian rock. It would have been helpful to know the presenters musical preference...

Anyway, the awesome part was meeting and having lunch with a number of like minded people. I enjoy meeting new people and this was no exception. Big shout out to George, Tom, Lynn, Greg (or the guy if I screwed up your name), and others. It was a pleasure and I hope to see you all around at other venues. During these conversations I heard that there are essentially no science fairs in the high schools (although there is a state science fair) and that the state fair has posters on display in the education building, which basically come from the creation science fair...I need to look into this more and see if we can do more to promote science in the high schools/state (and we can).

When I went back to the posters after a nice lunch and tasty malt beverage, one of the organizers came up to talk to me. Actually, she seemed to be primarily interested in the notes I was writing down and was talking to me in order to steal glances at my notes...at least I hope that's what she was trying to steal glances at. The organizer described the process for selecting the best posters, which I found revealing. Not the process itself, but the way she described it. The presenters are judged on their paper (a written paper on their poster), the set up of their poster, their presentation and QandA, and their bible verse. I pointed out that it was a requirement to have a bible verse, so how could it be "scorable." Not surprisingly, the verse had to be appropriate for the project being done, which makes a superficial amount of sense. So if one poster scores lower does that mean there is a better verse? Is there a 65% verse and an 85% verse, too bad you missed the 100% verse? Are the organizers suggesting that every possible science project is rooted in a single perfect bible verse? Does version/edition of said bible effect scoring?

The organizer then told me about their esteemed judges (not my phrase). These were eminent scientists, and by that I mean not scientists. She told me they had someone who walked on the moon. When I mentioned that only 12 men did, and wondered which one it was she back pedaled to someone who worked for NASA. I buy that, but would point out Im certain NASA has a cafeteria. Said judge, likely not a line worker at the cafeteria, but if the organizers are first going with a moonwalker to be someone involved with NASA at the appropriate time, then its not far to include the cafeteria workers as NASA employees along with the rocket scientists. Another judge invented RAM and ROM (doubtful) and they also had some engineers.

Then it hit me. See the judges are not scientists, at least not formally trained scientists, but engineers and technicians. This is not to disparage engineers and technicians, I am neither and cannot do their jobs. But they are not scientists and cannot do mine. Yes, there are exceptions and yes in some minor way I do do some engineering and engineers do do some science. But its different. Engineers are trying to solve immediate problems using available resources and technologies. Scientists are trying to learn more about the universe, which is often geared towards a problem, but may not solve it. Scientists and engineers have overlapping spheres of expertise and work together frequently, but they are not the same. An anesthesiologist and a brain surgeon have some profound similarities in training and often work together, but I don't want one doing to the job of the other.

And this highlights one of the main problems with society's understanding and expectations of science. Most people seem to view science as engineering. Its a tool to solve some specific problem, its the hammer to cure cancer, its the scalpel of job creation. Its just a tool. Well, in a way I agree. Its a tool, a tool to understand the universe in the most accurate way available. Its not a tool to confirm your particular bias (although it may fortuitously). Science will not confirm that children should be baptized at birth and that those who think baptism should only occur upon adulthood should be burnt at the stake. Nope science will tell you about reality. The problem with tools, is that if you aren't trained and don't know what you're doing, you may cut your fucking hand off. Dont blame science because bats aren't birds, because T rex went extinct millions of years ago, and because people are good who have never heard of your little god.

(I would like to point out that the "son of a science fair" came after the "bride of a science fair," and thus represents the progeny of a wholesome union.)

1 comment:

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