Teaching Science in the Anti-Empirical
March 2, 2005
Satire by Mark W. Bradley
I've often heard it said that "You can't teach an old dog
new tricks," but I, for one, find this platitude insulting
and offensive. Not only is it ageist and speciesist, it's nothing
but a load of old hogwash. Quadrupedal senior citizens can be reeducated
and retrained. But first they must undergo the difficult and often
disorienting process of de-education. This involves a complete and
thorough divestiture of outdated notions acquired in the canine
subject's formative years, mostly as a byproduct of painstakingly
learning the old tricks they erroneously assumed would serve them
well right up until the moment they were subterraneously reunited
with their favorite dirt-encrusted calcium treats.
The same holds true for us increasingly featherless bipeds as
we toddle off into the sulfur-dioxide-enhanced sunset of our iron-pyrite
years. More and more, we discover to our chagrin that the things
we learned in school turn out not to be true at all.
Were we wrong to spend so much time studying all those discredited
theories like Darwinism, Humanism and Dialectical Materialism? Wouldn't
we have been better off spending our time hanging out with the really
cool guys, the guys who never even bothered to go to class because
they were too busy packing their noses with blow, drinking bong-water,
branding each other with red-hot coat hangers, and spanking their
monkeys blindfolded in open coffins?
Personally, I know I'd be better off. I'd probably be a district
court judge by now, or maybe even Ambassador to Malaysia, instead
of spending six-and-a-half days a week down at the Honeywell-Halliburton
Adult Reeducation Camp for the Criminally Outspoken.
Oh, don't get me wrong, it's a nice enough place. It used to be
a public high school, but that was before the Department of Education
was abolished and the schools were taken over by the Department
of Defense. Of course, the DoD has its own schools (they call them
"Boot Camps") and they really don't need to keep the DoE's
schools open any more, so last year they turned them over to the
Department of Homeland Security. Other than the razor wire and the
Surveillance Towers, the place looks pretty much the same as it
did back when I was a student.
But what was I talking about, anyway? Oh yeah, teaching old dogs
new tricks! Let me give you an example of how it works here at Honeywell-Halliburton.
Today is Tuesday, and Tuesday is "Science Day." Last
Tuesday we learned how Charles Darwin spent the early part of his
life sailing around to different places in the world, killing small
children and stealing their bibles. And that's not the half of it.
In his later years, the bloodthirsty madman developed a diabolical
plan to subvert and destroy the voluminous and irrefutable evidence
proving that the entire universe, from neutron stars to dung beetles,
was created in less time than it takes to watch a Ken Burns documentary.
And to think he almost got away with it!
But that was last week's lesson. This morning we learned about
how, for over three hundred years, scientists were hoodwinked by
anti-clerical Humanists into believing in what we used to call "Empiricism,"
or the "Scientific Method." Even smart guys like Sir Isaac
Newton and Louis Pasteur fell for this one! I'm not exactly sure,
but I think it went something like this:
1. You observe a phenomenon.
2. You formulate a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon.
3. You employ the hypothesis to predict the occurrence of other
4. You conduct experiments, carefully observing the results.
5. If the predictions match the results of the experiment, you
have a scientific theory.
Talk about a recipe for disaster! With a system as full of holes
as that, how can scientists be sure about anything? Theories will
keep changing, people will be confused all the time, it just isn't
Now, compare that to the "Faith-based Method":
1. Have your friends observe a phenomenon.
2. Have them formulate a hypothesis that can be reduced down
to a short sentence or a simple drawing.
3. Develop a visceral feeling about the hypothesis.
4. Have your friends gather evidence from a variety of sources
that supports your visceral feeling (Tarot cards, Magic 8-ball,
Ahmed Chalabi, whatever.)
5. Skip the theory phase altogether, and leapfrog from unsubstantiated
hypothesis to immutable truth.
So much for the idea, but how does it work in real life? An example
from the authorized biography of Our Supreme Highness, Field Marshall
Doctor G. W. Bush, President for life of North America will serve
to illustrate the concept in its entirety:
From his earliest days as a cheerleader at Yale University, Mr.
Bush's friends observed that he rarely, if ever opened a book,
nor was he the least bit curious about the contents of one. Yet
they also observed that in spite of this lack of curiosity, George
was so well liked he was tapped to join the Skull and Bones Society.
So his friends (and his father's friends) approached him with
a hypothesis. "You are a leader among men," they told
him, "You will be president some day."
"But what about the fact that I have never read a book?"
he asked. "Shouldn't presidents read books, or at least Presidential
So they explained to him the corollary to their hypothesis, that
Presidents who read things tend to have bad things happen to them.
Abraham Lincoln, for instance, liked to read Shakespeare, and
he had the back of his head blown off, for God's sake. Woodrow
Wilson and FDR were notorious readers, and they got us into two
world wars. John F. Kennedy liked books so much he had his dad
hire a guy to write one for him, and look where that got him!
Richard Nixon actually wrote books and he died in disgrace.
But Reagan, ah, Ronald Wilson Reagan, of whom it was said that
he owned more tuxedos than books, now there was a president who
wore felicity like a satin-lapelled smoking jacket.
So Governor Bush (who had a visceral feeling that his advisors
were right), was careful to avoid reading anything over a page
in length, and all was well with Texas. In fact, he was appointed
to the presidency of the United States! Still he honored his sacred
pledge to refrain from the written word as faithfully as is humanly
possible for the most powerful man in the world. And all was well
with the nation.
And then, George W. Bush made a fatal error in judgment. He delved
into a book for the first time in many years, and the hypothesis
became terrible and immutable truth. If only he had never spoken
those fateful words, "The pet goat..."
Mark W. Bradley is a history teacher and political satirist
in Sacramento, California. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org