Posts Tagged ‘History’

Why Atheism Should Be Taught In Religious Studies

Wed Dec 02, 2015 7:44 am by Laurens

This week we had news that secular views being left out of GSCE Religious Studies was a mistake. Of course this has got some conservative commentators backs up. Why should we teach non-religion in classes about religion? To answer that first we should ask why we are teaching children about religions in the first place. Clearly, or at least hopefully we don’t teach Religious Studies in order that children can decide which is the right one, or be told what to believe. We do it to encourage harmony and understanding. So we don’t remain ignorant and all become massive Islamophobes (although I’m not sure that is working out so well).

In light of this, it is very important to educate people about those who have no religion at all. To complete our set of understanding. No one is advocating that Religious Studies classes teach kids that God is imaginary, just that people are made aware of what atheists are all about and why. To neglect this is to leave people open to all sorts of nonsense that gets said about atheists by the religious. That atheists have no morals for example, or that atheists believe in nothing. The only way to counter such misinformation is to educate people. If Religious Studies has a purpose at all, it is to nurture understanding between faiths and beyond to the irreligious. Otherwise there is really no use in teaching it.

I also think that it should not be called Religious Studies, but rather Philosophy and Ethics or some more inclusive title. Again not to marginalize religion, but to encourage an understanding of world views that extend beyond religion and the broader context in which religions and philosophies interplay and relate to each other. Just teaching kids what each different religion believes is not truly insightful. It would serve us all well to learn about the cultural context in which these beliefs evolved. It doesn’t undermine belief in Christianity to learn about Jewish Messianism and the Roman occupation of Judea (and subsequent corruption or perceived corruption of the Jewish temple authorities), but it surely teaches us something about humanity, our history and how we cope with change. We would all do better if we were educated on all different kinds of Philosophies and their cultural and historical heritage, a vital part of that is those who have rejected religious belief in favour of a rational and empirical world view.

This is not a case of sneering liberals wanting to turn your children into God-hating communists. Its about giving the next generation the best possible understanding of what it is to be human, our struggles, and cultural heritage in the hope that it will iron out any prejudice and tribalism. Really, including atheism in Religious Studies should be the first in a step towards teaching a broader humanities subject. Not because we want to remove religion from your children’s lives, but because religion doesn’t have the monopoly on things humans believe and should therefore only comprise a part of their education on the subject.

UPDATE 04/12/2015 – It has been pointed out to me that I was perhaps unclear about my usage of the term atheism. To be clear I do refer to the wider definition that is probably better defined as Secular Humanism that simply atheism—which could apply to religions such as Buddhism. So whenever I use the term atheism in the context of it being taught as part of a Religious Studies syllabus, I mean Secular Humanist views, not just lack of belief in God.

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:10 pm by he_who_is_nobody

I volunteer at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, which was created in 1986 and is made up of two floors of exhibits. There are several different halls to the museum, some change over time, but the main thrust of the museum is found in eight halls that make up the Walk Through Time. This section of the museum focuses on the geological history of New Mexico from Precambrian to the present. The exhibits in the halls may change, but the overall theme of them stays the same.

In this blog post, I am going to give a general overview of the museum by describing the eight main halls that make up Walk Through Time. I will provide the map of the museum so one will be able to follow along while reading this post. In addition, this post is the beginning of several posts I will be doing about the museum. Some will be about specific halls, while others will be about specific exhibits found in the halls. This post will always be referenced, thus one will know exactly which part of the museum I discuss in the future.

Walk Through Time starts on the second floor and works its way back down to the first floor.

Hall One: Origins

In this hall, one is given a brief overview of the formation of the earth and how life might have started. It covers the Precambrian and Paleozoic periods of the earth. Walking farther into this hall one is shown fossils of some of the first life forms on earth and modern creatures that resemble that life. This hall also briefly covers the origin of land-based life. At the end of this hall is the beginning of the major theme of this museum, and that is the natural history of New Mexico. There are fossils, displays, and murals that cover what New Mexico was like at the end of the Paleozoic and beginning of the Mesozoic.

Hall Two: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

In this hall, the first thing you see is a wall talking about the largest extinction event in earth’s history. Next to that, they show what the oceans looked like (with fossils and art) in the Paleozoic and compare with what it looked like in the Mesozoic. The beginning of the hall deals with the early Triassic and has displays of living fossils featuring lungfish (including a live specimen) and coelacanth. Phytosaurs and Placerias, which made up the bulk of the land base life forms during the late Triassic, dominate the late Triassic part of the hall. This hall also includes a display of the earliest mammal (Adelobasileus) and talks about how exactly scientists are able to classify mammals using their ear bones. This hall also includes an exhibit on Coelophysis, New Mexico’s state fossil.

Hall Three: Age of Super Giants

In this hall, some of the largest dinosaurs to ever live are displayed. This hall is about the Jurassic, which is the period that dinosaurs truly became the dominant animal on the planet. Two of the dinosaurs on display in this hall are Seismosaurus, the longest dinosaur to ever be discovered, and Saurophaganax, the largest carnivorous dinosaur of the Jurassic.

There is also a display showing the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. It compares the anatomy of Archaeopteryx with that of a pterosaur, a small dinosaur, and one of the first true birds in order to show the homology between the bird/dinosaur and dissimilarity between bird/dinosaur and the pterosaur.

Hall Four: New Mexico’s Seacoast

In this hall, one is able to find a display that shows the movement of the sea that once covered most of New Mexico for all of the Cretaceous period. Because of this sea, the Cretaceous period is one of the most fossiliferous periods in the whole state. When first walking into this hall, one sees into the bottom floor, which has a mosasaur sculpture surrounded by blue floors and walls, representing the sea that covered the state. Next to that is a coastal jungle, which is filled with fossils and sculptures of the creatures that once inhabited the coastal region of the inland sea. One walks down a ramp passed other fossil displays and the coastal jungle. When walking into the first floor one comes into a room entitled “A Bad Day in the Cretaceous”, which shows a film projected on the wall of a meteor striking the earth. Once one leaves this area one walks closer to the mosasaur display.

Hall Five: Volcanoes

In this hall, one is treated to a walk through a generic volcano. New Mexico has more extinct volcanoes than any other state. Inside this hall, it discusses all four different types of volcanoes and the lava they produce. It also shows examples of all four volcanoes with ones found in New Mexico. This hall has been here, virtually unchanged since the museum opened in 1986 and is still one of my favorites along with most of the people that visit.

Hall Six: Rise of the Recent

In this hall, one is able to see a brief overview of much of the Cenozoic of New Mexico. This hall contains some of the most beautiful murals in the whole museum. The best mural in this hall is the mural showing the evolution of the horse. There are a few fossil exhibits found in this hall including Diatryma, which was discovered here in New Mexico by Edward Drinker Cope.


Hall Seven: Cave

In this hall, an artificial cave is created to show all the different aspects of caves. There are different displays that light up and tell one about the different formations found in caves. This exhibit also discusses the life forms that one would find in a cave. In addition, a display talks about Carlsbad Caverns, which in my opinion is the most beautiful cave system on earth.

Hall Eight: New Mexico’s Ice Age.

In this hall, there are several different displays of the different animals found in New Mexico during the Pleistocene. This hall includes erected skeletons of a Columbian mammoth, two dire wolves, and a saber-toothed cat. It also has a mural, which depicts how lush New Mexico would have been during the ice age. This is also the only hall that contains depictions of human activities in the Museum, which is a mural of the Clovis People butchering a Columbian Mammoth.

Edited by Dean, 11/04/2013
Reason for edit: Spelling/word-choice alterations, all images but the first reduced in size by 50%.

The Good and The Hatred

Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:02 pm by Dean

Just recently I discovered various videos of Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett on YouTube (surrounding the AAI). They echoed opinions that are similar to mine and are quite harsh in their views on religion. I rediscovered this stance for me just recently again after a long time on hiatus. Now my experience is this: arguments on the ‘crimes’ of religions and their negative views are often met with justifications and relativizations; It is suggested that a position as mine is driven by hatred and intolerance.

There is the old question: How much tolerance for the enemies of tolerance?

Also recently, I found a documentary on the German church-critic Karlheinz Deschner (unfortunately not in English yet). It was titled: “the Hatefilled Eyes of Karlheinz Deschner’. The documentary is some kind of meta-discussion on his body of work which is, alas, not yet available in english, either. He basically wrote for 30 years, alone, on the “Criminal History of Christianity’ in 10 Volumes (!), currently writing the tenth and last one. Hopefull the whole is translated when he is done.

The title “the Hatefilled ‘¦’ is a quote of one of the Christian interviewees, who also appears in regular public TV sometimes. It reflects how some of the other Christian participants think. They are quite obsessed in trying to find a reason for Deschners engagement, trying to pull Ad Hominem Arguments against him. Deschner on the other hand is a rather gentle (very) old man, speaking softly and supports his work with tons of supportive evidence. He will probably not witness how his work is received and it may appear to him that it happens what the other side wants: that his book just collects dust (one of the christian interviewee says so).


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