Most people think of education as a teaching of facts, one plus one equals two. Many in the West also identify education with the teaching of logic and critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, in many instances, facts and logic have been replaced by indoctrination — indoctrination into specific thought processes or belief systems.
Whether in the primary schools in the remote parts of the world, or a graduate study program at the finest university in the West, there is always an inherent bias due to the evolving nature of human understanding. Nevertheless, it is expected that those who devise the curriculum and syllabus do it in an unbiased manner using the highest standards. Yet this is often not the case. In the specialization of undergraduate and postgraduate studies, this can lead to a dangerous lack of counter perspectives and, where debate and discussion are not present, the indoctrination of students.
I completed my undergraduate studies in India, and took environmental sciences during my freshmen year at the university. The emphasis of the syllabus was largely on the reduction of pollution levels, the 'sustainable' use of natural resources, the conservation of forest resources, and the effects of human population on ecosystems. The impact of human activity on the environment (pollution, depletion of resources, etc.) and prescription of methodologies for the conservation of natural resources (wildlife protection, switching to bio-degradable products, etc.) were the dominating themes.
Climate change and its associated impacts were not given much importance in the curriculum during my undergraduate studies (2004 to 2008). My instructor for the subject was a chemistry graduate who knew little about environmental sciences. But critical thinking about course materials was not a part of the class either. Grades were awarded based on the ability to replicate the material presented in the prescribed textbook. There was no room for an open academic discussion or analysis about the subject, nor was there any time allocated for discussions among students and instructors.
The syllabus itself was highly polarized. It demonized the human population as the source of resource constraint and the reason for degradation of the environment. This accusation goes well beyond the call for reduction of pollution levels and sanitation. It has undertones of the ideology implemented by the country's family planning commission and prescribes a small family to control population growth.
The curriculum failed to mention the after effects of population control programs and what they mean for the economy. The solutions lacked clarity and the science behind them were not holistic. The positive relationship between the environment and human development was rarely addressed. In general, the curriculum neglected the positive impacts of the Industrial Revolution, and the contribution of fossil fuels to the development of human life.
My Master's in Environmental Science was from the University of East Anglia, in the United Kingdom. I specialized in ecological responses to climate change — basically how organisms and the ecosystem in general respond to fluctuations in global temperature levels.
While my undergraduate study did not leave any room for critical understanding of the science behind environmental sciences and climate change, my postgraduate study was at the other extreme. Climate change science was introduced to me as a settled fact, i.e. there is an extreme increase in the temperature levels due to carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, and this is predominantly due to anthropogenic (human) causes. (The instruction included the famous and fallacious 'Hockey stick' representation).
Professors did not present the pros and cons of climate change science, or any opposing viewpoints. They solely assumed the veracity of climate change, and began our courses with instruction on mitigating the impact of climate change on ecological systems.
Yes, it's true, one cannot expect a university, or its instructors, to spoon feed the foundational aspects of science to its grad students. But to present anthropogenic extreme warming or, for that matter, "climate change" as a scientifically established and settled fact is a gross misrepresentation of the actual science of climate change. It does injustice to the scientific method and deprives inquisitive minds of the opportunity to delve deeper into the science. Such an attitude inhibits scientific advancement in a subject area (climate change science) that is critical for determining economic and energy policies central to global human development.
None of the curriculum in my undergrad and post-grad addressed the following subjects:
- Poverty level and alleviation,
- The impact of climate change mitigation policies on the economic development of developing countries and their population,
- The science behind actual contribution of CO2 to the warming of climate in the post-industrial era and the models that were used for it, or
- The cost-benefit analysis of different environmental issues and policies and the disadvantages of limiting resource utilization.
Remarkably it portrayed an ethical perspective where the suppression of human life for the good of the environment was deemed the most desirable way forward.
Can this be attributed to the influence of worldview on the sciences? I would answer in the affirmative.
The conflict of interest due to this worldview arises at a number of points, but most notably on the subject of the sacredness of human life and how resources should be utilized. Even on purely naturalistic terms, it strips humans of their rights from being equal shareholders with the rest of the living organisms (including their entitlement to flourish).
I would assert further that there is no ethical basis in a naturalistic framework to limit the growth of human population. The naturalist and the atheist invoke theistic moral values (specifically from the Judeo-Christian worldview) to hold humans responsible for the supposed depletion of the environment.
The Christian perspective on the other hand, calls for a responsible stewardship of earth by humans, based on the Biblical mandate. The Christian worldview promotes human life — to develop and promote activities that will address the livelihood of humans, the flourishment of human life and the utilization of the resources to aid in the same. It also lays the ethical principles for stewarding the creation — thus discouraging abuse of the environment and the creatures therein.
Indoctrination in education is a cancer that kills the inquisitive and renders the intellect paralyzed. It's unfortunate that the scientific methodology is being dominated by political entities.
There will never be a conflict between science and my faith. But the perpetrators who have twisted the scientific system to their gains, will always be a challenge to my moral values regarding truth, integrity, justice, equality and desire to have an educational environment that is free from indoctrination.