Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, 12.15

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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23 Comments

  1. Ok, that Scientology link depressed the crap out of me. The kids don’t get it. They see the crap Scientology pulls and go, “Oh, that’s just religion, we can’t say anything about it.”

    Well, no. You CAN. You SHOULD.

    Fucking religious blind spot bullshit. No idea is beyond criticism.

    BAH. I fear for the future.

  2. “While the team for now has managed to reproduce only simple images from the brain, they said the technology could eventually be used to figure out dreams and other secrets inside people’s minds.”

    The time is nigh, unworthy maggots! Soon, you will see the face of Cthulu!

  3. I completely agree with the parents who were furious about telling the kids there is no Santa. The school should not allow teachers to hand out such blatant misinformation.

    Unless Santa doesn’t bring me a Wii for Christmas. In that case the bastard can hang.

  4. As to the people getting upset about Harry Potter in the Science museum: Eh.

    In many cases, science museums are one of only a few sufficient venues for such exhibitions. They have the space, the health and safety code stuff, and need programming. And (at least for the Star Wars exhibit that rolled through Boston a couple years ago) they often manage to squeeze in some science and technology information, so perhaps they’d do the same here. They could talk about the new nanotech stuff that might lead to “invisibility cloaks” and what have you.

    And even if they don’t: it’s getting people into the musem. Any reason to go back to the museum is a good one… odds are most of the families would make a full day of it rather than just visiting the Harry Potter bits. As long as no one is pretending that the “magic” of the Potter world is real, then I see no harm.

  5. How many 7 year old even believe in Santa? As I remember he and my group had given it up before then and only kept up the pretense in hope of extra presents. Also it seems like the parents then forced the school to deliberatly lie and mess with the kids heads to reinforce a belief in Santa, this is going to screw those kids up in a few years. Next thing you know they will wonder about their religous beliefs.

  6. And just what IS wrong with saying Santa isn’t real? Did they expect Peter Pan and Easter Bunnies to be real either?

    Seriously, there are kids that aren’t brought up in Santa-based cultures – yet still celebrate Winter Solstice, so it’s not like kids actually *need* an invisible Santa who travels around the world faster than the speed of light.

  7. I think I’m going to reserve judgement on that dream reader article until I can find out how they did it.
    Did they search for patterns in the signals that could be deciphered as images of the letters or was it a blind test where the decipher-ers didnt know what the word/image they were looking for was?

    If they were specifically looking for the word neuron, wouldnt that be much like the fabled bible code where because of the sheer numbers of letter combinations in every direction, you can find pretty much anything you want?

    The sensationalism : real info ratio was a bit high in the article unfortunately, but that last line where they said they figured out the brain patterns first gives me some hope :)

  8. At the moment, the only comment on the Santa article is

    Why on earth would anybody go out of their way to deliberatly destroy the magic of Christmas for children? Glad to hear she will not be used again by this school.

    I really wanted to make a follow-up comment along the lines of

    Yeah, how dare a teacher tell children the truth and try to make sure they understand the difference between fantasy and reality?

    but they required my full name, address, and phone number in order to register, so screw that.

  9. @Expatria:
    @jabell2r: Totally agree with the idea, you get them into the museum with Harry Potter, have them stay and see the rest.
    Also Mr. Weasley loved and respected muggles for their technology and science. The idea being that muggles don’t have magic so they must use their brains to understand the world in which they live. They can’t fly on brooms but understand physics and fly in airplanes. They don’t have potions and chants to heal the body magically but know medicine. If they could work that into the exhibit it could actually get kids interested in science because in the muggle world there is NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC. Hell, which might even make skeptics out of them.

  10. @skepticalhippie: My absolute favorite line in all seven Harry Potters was in Half-Blood Prince, when Molly and Arthur were asking personal questions through the door to make sure they were really who they said they were, and Molly asked “What is your dearest ambition?” To which he replied, “To find out how airplanes stay up.”

  11. @MarlowePI:
    Couldn’t agree more, kids should be thoroughly discouraged to have any fun or imagination. In fact I’ve actually taken it further. Not only do I tell kids that there is no Santa Clause, but I also and lobbied my congress person to do away with recess and have gym class be 20 minutes of running in place. If a child asks me what I think of his painting, I basically let him have it straight and tell him to give up any dreams as an artist. “Better to learn Excel spreadsheets know Jimmy and maybe you can get a career in data entry, maybe”. “You want to be President?!, Maybe the local president of the ditch-diggers union”
    I even took up a part-time job as a school bus driver so I would have the opportunity to yell these things at them on a daily basis. All in a days work to crush the imagination, hope, and sense of wonder in our youth.

  12. @skepticalhippie: There’s a big difference between kids having fun and being imaginative and telling them that fantasy is reality. Kids are perfectly able to enjoy stories (such as Harry Potter, of which I am an unabashed fan), create stories of their own, play make-believe, and be in many other ways incredibly creative and full of imagination without believing it’s real. A great discussion on this very topic can be found back in this post from July.

    Also, I’m a little bit confused as to where you stand on the issue: in one post you want to teach kids that there is no such thing as magic in the real world, and then in the next you seem to think it’s wrong to tell kids that Santa’s not real. Please understand, I’m not trying to be antagonistic; I just seriously don’t see how those two positions are reconcilable.

  13. To be clear: I think it WAS wrong of the teacher to tell the kids that there’s no Santa, just for a different reason. I don’t think it was wrong because it squashes creativity and imagination (which I don’t believe it does), but I think it was wrong (or, really, more foolish) to say something that she had to know would stir up a tempest amongst the parents. However, I think it’s far more wrong for her to be kicked out of the school for saying something that is, and all the parents know to be, the truth, and THAT was what got me riled up.

  14. @MarlowePI: I didn’t say there wasn’t magic in the real world, I said there wasn’t magic in the muggle world. Santa is obviously in cahoots with the wizard community. Duh!

    The two positions are reconcilable to an extent by age. I was done believing in Santa by 5, I think most kids are done by 7 or so. From what I can tell, (parents tell me if I’m wrong) most kids don’t get into Harry Potter till around 10. The other big thing is what I like to call being an old stick in the mud. Let kids have some fun believing in Santa, I REALLY don’t think it hurts them or screws them up later down the line with understanding how the world works. I think it is totally innocent and kids do have a lot of fun with it. Also most kids are able to compartmentalize knowledge in which they can believe in a physical world, and a magical fantastical world without conflict. As they grow older much of the magical world fads away on it’s own and later critical thinking needs to be encouraged.

  15. Joshua: I didn’t read the Scientology interview that way at all. I loved the kids comments. Keep in mind that these are young kids, and it just became “OK” in the last 5 years or so to even say you might not be — eek! — religious. My own daughter is in middle school and has been on the receiving end of angry zealotry from classmates who can’t BELIEVE she’s not religious. I thought the kids were brave and wonderful and quite freethinking, especially for middle-school students (humans in their early teens are at their most narrow-minded, usually). I loved what Chaz had to say about how “born of a virgin” is impossible. I do not fear for the future. I see great hope in it.

  16. We live in a weird world. We always go to one extreme to the complete opposite. And often, one is not better than the other. It used to be ok for a kid to believe in all kind of things. But today, in our vision of the world, kids should be adult as soon as they’re 5 yo. That annoys me greatly.

    I’m a skeptic and a scientist. But, I used to believe in ghosts and UFOs and all that stuff when I was younger. I also have fond memories of believing in Santa as a kid. Now, I got a baby boy of my own and I’m wondering what I should do. Should I make him believe in Santa? Make him feel the magic of it, or should I just tell him that I’m the one buying the gifts and that’s it?

    My boy is a newborn so, I still have a few years to think about it but, when I remember of the time I used to believe in Santa, it makes me full of joy. It was fun and the world seemed a better place to live back then. I think that I want my kid to be able to live that feeling before waking up to some realities of our world. Who knows, that might have been what made me want to discover the truth to find what is it that is wonderful in this world. If my kid grows up to be a believer in UFOs and ghosts… Thats’s ok. I’ll be there to give him my advice on how to make his own opinion. I’ll tell him why I don’t believe in them anymore but, he’ll have to search his own truth.

    Until then, I think it will be ok for him to believe in Santa. I want to see that magic sparkle in his eyes. I want to see him look out through the window, in search of Santa’ slay… I don’t think he’ll be mad at me… He will understand that I just wanted to give him some joy… Just the feeling I have toward my parents.

    I still thank them today for those great memories…

  17. @Dan: Make him feel the magic of it, or should I just tell him that I’m the one buying the gifts and that’s it?

    ————

    My parents told us there was no Santa. Then they would tell us, every year, that Christmas was going to be short on presents. And then there would be a few “extra” presents on a shelf, or away from the tree, that were from “Santa”.

    They didn’t admit or deny that they bought those presents until we were in our teens.

  18. @ Dan: I have 2 kids, and we let them believe in Santa. Because they are SkepKids, they very quickly became … skeptical. We didn’t really push the Santa thing, just let them believe it because that’s what most kids believe, and they see Santa around, and so forth. Every year they’d say, “Is there really such a thing as Santa?” And we’d say, “What do YOU think?” and they’d say, “Yeah, I think so.” So that was the conversation. Eventually they came back with, “I want YOU to tell me the TRUTH.” Well, how can I lie at that point? So we told them the truth. The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy fell quickly thereafter.

    Check out “Parenting Beyond Belief,” essays collected by Dale McGowan. There’s a chapter on Santa.

    p.s. I think it’s mean-spirited and grinchy to get in your kids’ faces from the get-go with “there’s NO SANTA, DAMMIT!” It may be rigidly consistent, but misses the point. The point isn’t about lying, it’s about fantasy. They WILL figure it out. My friends who were raised with the “no-santa dammit” approach? They did not appreciate it.

  19. @sylvan.nak

    well, if my son grows to be like me, he will be skeptical although, like I said, I will let him make his own discoveries, unless he asks me specifically for what I think about different things.

    Since I was raised with the belief in Santa. I still love christmas today. I love the music and the spirit of it. I need to watch my christmas movies every year, etc. I don’t think I would feel the same if I wouldn’t have felt the magic around it all. I’m not saying that someone who didn’t believe in Santa can’t appreciate it but, it must be quite different.

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