Vlog: The War on Reason

In this week’s vlog, I discuss the way ACE attacks logical reasoning within its curriculum materials. This is not something I expect from a good educational system.

I should note that when I said reason is the only means we have for discovering the truth, I was being rather imprecise. I meant for that term to include the scientific method, consideration of evidence, and rational inquiry more widely.

Some of my Christian readers will take issue with my saying that it’s the only method for discovering truth; some of you will want to give faith a place for that too. I’m not sure I agree, but let’s find some common ground. I think liberal Christian readers will agree that, if God gave us the power of reason, He intends for us to use it. And that we use our powers of reason in judging the right interpretation of faith and revelation.

ACE’s take on reason makes their religion entirely unfalsifiable. They’re saying that, even if you could logically disprove their beliefs, it would make no difference. Your logic would simply be wrong, because it’s not God’s logic. That means your beliefs could be untrue, and you would have no way of knowing. This was the single biggest thing that made me lose my faith. I just could not accept that the path to truth and the path to deception should look identical.

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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on July 23, 2012, in Accelerated Christian Education, Christianity, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. All they can do is rationalise, or think their way through life.

    I’m sure there’s a name for this kind of argument, a subset of the strawman, where a false definition is implied, and then used to discredit the opposing argument.

    ‘Rationalise’ does not mean ‘think rationally.’ Rationalisation is the act of constructing a logical-sounding support for a position already held. It’s actually irrational. It sorta looks right, though, so someone looking unsceptically might not spot the problem.

    I suppose it could be merely bad English, but cynical-me tends to think they’re deliberately setting “think[ing] their way through life” up as irrational, in the minds of any who know, or later discover, the true definition of ‘rationalise.’

    • And on re-watching, I notice that the quote came from a pack which is part of the English curriculum. So, even minus my cynical conspiracy-esque theory, it’s a failure within the very subject it’s supposed to teach.

      Jesus, to coin a phrase, wept!

      • What I didn’t say in the video is that questions from Wisdom Packs form part of the tests! So if you fail to learn that stuff, you can get marked down, and it shows up in your English grades. That seems fair.

        I’m not sure about your conspiracy theory; I hadn’t considered it before. I can think of other times they do things like that. I’d always assumed they meant “rationalise” to mean “think rationally”, but your suggestion seems equally plausible (if they’re clever enough for that).

  2. Jonny, that was great! What an excellent way to get your point across-fantastic delivery too.

  3. That was a pretty good country accent you pulled off.

  4. For someone who has had such a terrible education you are very bright and articulate. Great post by the way. Love the drinks cabinet too looks like you need a few of those after what you’ve been through!

    • Ha! Thanks Jeremy. I’d like to point out, for anyone who might think my presenting skills come from ACE, that I was only educated by them from when I was 11 until I was almost 15. Since then, I’ve had a decent education, and worked as a musician and teacher. I don’t want the credit going to the wrong people!

  5. When I was in a fundamentalist church (19 years of my life, from uni) we were taught that our minds were contaminated by sin. Hence, even though we believed we were thinking rationally, even though it seemed logical, we could never trust what we thought or believed. It could equally well be the devil trying to trick us.

    This is a kind of Christian Existentialism which essentially says you cannot know anything, since anything you think you know, any evidence you see, may actually be a construction of your sinful, devil-inspired mind. So, for instance, if genetic science or paleantology appeared to come up with stuff that was contrary to Biblical literalism, the most likely explanation was that our minds were being tricked by Satan.

    The result of this teaching is that you can never be sure of anything at all – reality is shifting sands and nothing can be trusted, except the Bible, of course. It is deeply anti-rational, and very destabilising of a person’s sense of self and sense of reality. It literally drives some people nuts.

  6. Very good.

    Since I commented on your presentation style (particularly your enunciation) in an earlier thread, I’ll add that you have overcome those problems very nicely.

    • Cheers Neil. I had your comments in mind when I made this video; glad you liked it. I’ve had an email from a sympathetic viewer saying he thought my point about Aristotle was not all that strong. He didn’t have time to expand, so I don’t know what he meant, exactly. I don’t know a lot about Aristotle, so I may well have made a slip there. As a philosopher, did you have any thoughts like that?

      • I’m not a real philosopher. I’m a mathematician and computer scientist.

        I watched the video again. Most of what was said about Aristotle was quoting from the ACE material. Your own added comment was small and mostly sarcasm. I didn’t see any obvious problem there.

        Most people probably do know of Aristotle mostly as using faulty reasoning by not checking the evidence – they would have learned this when studying Galileo. You could have made a stronger case by pointing out that the ACE materials were based on the same failed idea of not checking the evidence, but instead just accepting authority.

        However, I think that’s a minor point. Overall, you made your case quite well.

      • One thing really stood out in the ACE material…how the HECK could Aristotle, who predated the modern Bible by centuries, rely on The Bible (PBIN) for understanding? Given that he was Greek, not Hebrew or modern Christian?

        Or…am I misreading what the ACE material states? Because that is a downright painfully ridiculous thing to state if that is what they claim??????

  7. It gets my brain reeling with conspiratorial thoughts, who began this, who came up with such a cunning and destructive method to maintain such levels of control, how is it yet to have been seen by everyone as such, why would nobody realise in the beginning…when was the beginning, when was it created?

    • About 13 years ago, I met a dyed-in-the-wool ACE advocate. He bored me and my mother stiff for some minutes banging on about the ACE system, even though I already went to a school and didn’t need to be sold it. He would actually be very useful to me now, but I doubt he would speak to me!

      Anyway, he said, and I’ve always assumed he was right, that ACE was based a on a secular curriculum of identical structure, and the first edition PACEs were just those secular books photocopied with Scripture verses added on. Very interesting if true.

      Either way, ACE’s founder, Donald Howard knew what he was doing. In one of his first books on the subject, he described the curriculum as being “designed for programming the mind.”
      [Edited for clarity]

      • My first thought after reading that, something along the lines of where is his conscience…and I remembered a friend of mine who recently became far more religious as a result of a missionary-bible-camp experience and it truly is as if she has replaced the concept of conscience with scripture…it wasn’t her conscience that suggested she stop attempting to convert close friends who clearly didn’t want to be converted, it was god telling her she should stop…I don’t think I had a point. Just thinking aloud in the hopes someone else will realise a conclusion.

  8. The exact same information about Aristotle appears on page 30 of Chemistry 1121. A question from this info. appears on the first page of the PACE test as well. Again, volunteering m

  9. *made me remember that.

  10. Thank goodness my children never reached that level in the ACE curriculum! That was an eye wateringly confusing humdrum. It all sounds to me like some kind of tangled subliminal message for self lobotomisimg, or how to aquire a vegetative state! It goes to show that without rational thought everything goes t**s-up, and many of those went up at CEE!

  1. Pingback: Leaving Fundamentalism Vlog: The War On Reason « The Dixie Flatline

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