Response to a Concerned Teacher’s Comment

Recently a (very amusing) comment was posted on the video page for Natural Selection, which deserves a comprehensive response. Catherine Borgard writes:

I loved this and I would really like to use a version of it in my high school biology class; however, I can float the whole thing until the mention of god is a jerk off or jerking off? I don’t suppose you have a slightly modified version that will only have half the town after me instead of the entire community burning a cross on my front lawn? Just curious from a mildly religious conservative community of nutty. . .

Catherine,

Thanks for your comment on the Natural Selection video. The problematic line you mentioned is: “If there is a personal god, then he’s been jerkin’ off,” and I’m aware that the line will not be appropriate for some classroom settings, but I still stand behind it, and I’m sorry I don’t have a “radio friendly” version! Teachers will have to use their own discretion as to which videos are appropriate for which age groups and demographics, and at the very least my intention was to provoke debate.

If you look on the video page and scroll down to the annotated lyrics, you’ll see I’ve made a note on that lyric: “A somewhat crude way of expressing the fact that there is no reliable evidence for the existence of a personal God, hence ‘he’ can hardly be said to ‘do’ anything of interest.” In this context “jerkin’ off” is just used as a slang term for “wasting time” or “being inactive” as in “stop jerkin’ off and get some work done”. It just happens to be a nice rhyme for “personal god” so I decided to use it.

Inappropriate or not, this line is meant to delve into the debate as to whether Darwin’s theory, which in principle explains the origins and details of every living thing, both in terms of behaviour and anatomy, leaves anything interesting for god to “do”. Personally I think not, but everyone gets to make their own decision based on their understanding of Darwin’s theory.

By way of further discussion, here’s a lecture from a philosopher (Eliot Sober) who believes Darwin’s theory is not, in principle, a logical refutation of the existence of god, personal or otherwise. And here’s another lecture, this time from a philosopher (Dan Dennett) who believes Darwin’s theory doesn’t leave anything interesting for god to do, hence belief in god becomes pointless and illogical once you understand the theory. Whichever way each of your students leans, I hope they will all agree it’s an interesting debate to have.

I’m posting this response as a blog since I’m sure you won’t be the first or the last teacher to raise this concern. If you deem the Natural Selection video inappropriate (as is your prerogative) I recommend the videos for Worst Comes to Worst or DNA or I’m A African as more universally age-appropraite.

All the best,

Baba

5 Responses to Response to a Concerned Teacher’s Comment

  1. Jeff Barbose says:

    You are the man, as always.

  2. Greg P. says:

    KUTGW.
    A complimentary comment code I use when assessing student work: keep up the good work, Baba boy. It’s incredible stuff.

  3. Tucker M. Mollers says:

    Can’t she just bleep out that phrase? It works for the radio stations, and the stuff they play is much more contentious than this . . .

  4. @GeekiestWoman says:

    There is no scientific ‘proof’ that any of the Quantum ‘theories’ are truth either. But people believe that bullsheat now don’t they? As for Darwin, please remember that he, like so many men before and after him, tend to find a way to ‘make truth’ out of ‘suppositions’. DYK that his statement about ‘survival of the fittest’ actually meant survival of the economically ‘fit’, aka ‘stinkin’ rich’ folks. Now it so happens I’m one of those stinkin’ rich folks but I don’t think that makes me superior nor a ‘fittest’. I also believe in a Creator, yes, that’s right, a DIVINE CREATOR. God Exists and FISH DON’T FLY. Does that ‘jar’ with the Bible? Not really. God created everything and then said ‘Y’all have free will, go, learn, and grow”. So evolution can work quite well in harmony with a believe in God because one does not negate tother, dui bu dui?
    But this piece of sheeat you made I’d never share with any of my students, because it IS a piece of sheeat and you probably made it so you could ‘excuse’ things like any abortions you were involved in or other negative choices you made in your life. Karmic payback exists even for atheists, it’s called ‘old age’. I will pray you live long, very very long.

  5. @GeekiestWoman says:

    I screenshot my comment (noticing a couple of typos which I will fix) and then post on all my blogs, in a wired article, on all my social media sites, so I don’t care what you do regarding ‘moderating’ my statement. It is clear you only post publicly comments that agree with your juvenile hubris.

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