Where there's smoke: ID in Schools


Many Mapuche Indians of Chile live in or frequent thatched huts called rucas. (Image taken from http://www.cholchol.org). Mapuches are known for their strong resistance to Western culture and the fight to maintain their own. At the core of their culture is the ruca, where even if they do not live in the hut, Mapuches will likely have a hut next to their house where they tell stories, as much as possible in their native language, mapudungun. In the center of the dirt floor is a fire, and smoke is allowed to vent through a hole in the center of circular huts with a cone shaped roof, or out two vents as shown in the "A-frame" style.

Once while I was in Chile visiting a Mapuche family, I was sick with a cold. I was ushered out of the house and into the hut where I was told to breathe the smoke. This happened to me on another occasion when my allergies were flaring up.

It is not too crazy to think that smoke could be good for you. Obviously, fire was the source of warmth in the hut and the tool to cook food and kill off microbes in the water. So one could easily associate the smoke with all those healing things fire does and infer that the smoke itself was also a part of that.

But here's the issue: I've got scientific evidence that shows inhaling smoke over a campfire will exacerbate my illness. What is the responsible thing for me to do?

  1. I can politely tell them that I'm drowsy and I should leave.
  2. I can tell them I've got scientific evidence that goes against their beliefs.
Option number one is what an anthropologist (a scientist of culture) would do.

Option number two is difficult. Shouldn't I, in good conscience, for their health and the health of their children and their children's children, shouldn't I tell them to change their ways? As simple and basic as "don't breathe smoke" sounds to a Westerner, the gathering around the fire pit is central to the Mapuche. If you start telling them not to stand too close, you demean the mystique around fire.

I chose option 1. I was not about to get into it with a bunch of Mapuches.

For better or worse, Western culture -- MTV, gas guzzlers, medicine, this blog -- are accessible to the Mapuche. As they sit in their rucas, they also talk about what they saw on TV, and just like you and me sitting around a campfire, they squint their eyes and turn their heads when the smoke comes their way. Like all of us, they hold onto some traditions and incorporate others to make a new culture. This is a conscientious work in progress, performed formally and informally between groups of community leaders, families, and just kids. Many times there will not be agreement, but there is always discussion about what to hold dear balanced with what to assimilate.

I think it is naive of evolutionists to demand evolution to be taught in the classrooms without a debate on its ramifications. Yes, evolution is science and Intelligent Design (ID) is not, but you can't just tell a student "Your belief system is refuted by scientific evidence" and expect them to simply accept that.

My vote is that evolution should be taught in the science classroom and ID should not, but we need philosophy courses devoted to discussing the ramifications of any origin of life theory. Faith, by definition, is irrational. You will never get students to accept evolution when they are irrational. In this case, the science teacher will fail not only in teaching evolution, but can also turn students away from science itself.

Put ID along with other creation myths and evolutionary theory in the schools and let them duke it out in a philosophy course.

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Jade Graham said...

So one could easily associate the smoke with all those healing things fire does and infer that the smoke itself was also a part of that. I recently stopped smoking