“The gift of thinking”

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In response to the post on the Scepti-kids, regular correspondent Luxinvestor was moved to relate her own similar experience in which some teachers, and her Dad in particular, were able to give her the ‘gift of thinking‘. She says:

I have a lot of teachers to thank who took the same type of initiative. And my Dad, for undoing the Sunday School damage each and every week.

Having a mom who grew up in the church, you can understand her believing that her child possibly burning in hell was a true fear for her. God was a big part of my youth. Every Sunday morning and Wednesday night at the Mega church (actually built in the shape of a crown, on the top of a hill mind you) spent being told to be good or else burn for eternity.

But, what I saw as just fun time with Dad the engineer was really learning to question everything. Even Sunday school teachings. To understand the why’s to what my eyes see everyday. My questions were rarely answered by him. I was directed to a primitive Google, known as the library. If my answer was still wrong, I was sent back. That taught me how to properly research and not just believe the first answer that seemed right. And, to show my work. Despite a few calls to poison control, I was still allowed to experiment freely.

He fostered a love of science and critical thinking through PBS afternoons, Carl Sagan specials, science fiction stories (still my favorite genre of books) and a life long subscription to Popular Science/Mechanics. It was fun. It didn’t seem like I was being taught. Unlike the hell fire and damnation of the church.

Needless to say, the Pastor of my mothers church found me exasperating. I demanded to know how these “miracles” were possible. “Have faith” just wasn’t cutting it. Once I was old enough to decide church wasn’t for me, I did investigate the “spiritual” sides of life, herbals and all other types of pseudo-science. Who wouldn’t? It’s sounds awesome! So easy, you don’t have to learn anything. Until you realize it’s complete crap and would probably kill you.

I am thankful to have been given the gift of thinking for myself and to never be afraid to demand proof. He opened the door but let me make my own evidence based choices. These lesson I still use everyday.

Excellent contribution, thanks Luxi.

It’s exactly the sort of thing we need to be doing with kids, but it takes guidance and mentoring and Luxinvestor was lucky enough to get enough of both to break through.

I’m happy to post any similar stories from other readers, so please send them in.

The other take-aways from this story are that 1. Dads are cool, and, 2. Engineers are cool.  Just sayin’.


2 thoughts on ““The gift of thinking”

    rational follower said:
    May 26, 2013 at 5:44 am

    I have a similar story. My father was also an engineer and a rational thinker. Although I did not attend Sunday school and my mother was not (overly) religious, I did do Religious Education at school, and i did attend Orthodox church with my grandmother. Although my father was an atheist he did not oppose my going to church with my grandma, probably because a) he saw no harm in it, b)he knew it made her happy, and c)he knew that the time would come for me to make up my own mind about my beliefs.

    Although he did not pressure me to adopt his views, he definitely invested a lot of time and energy into showing me how cool and fun science and science fiction can be. As a child we used to watch shows together like ‘lost in space’, ‘Twilight Zone’ and ‘Sliders’. When he tucked me in at night he would read to me from sci-fi novels, such as “Enders Game”, Ray Bradbury books and “hitch hikers guide to the galaxy.” I remember as a kid having a poster on my wall of the solar system and learning all the planets with him. When i got older he bought us a telescope and we would spend so much time up the farm star gazing, and even became members of the astronomical society of Victoria.

    When ever I had a problem with maths or physics at high school, we would spend hours on end at the white board (bought specifically for this purpose) problem solving. He never told me the answer, just helped me to find a way to work it out. My teachers were good- but dad just had a way of explaining things so that they just made sense.

    We would spend a lot of time discussing in detail the universe, possibilities of other universes, space, why we are here and what it all means. I had so many questions and the only person’s opinions i wanted to hear were his. These conversations usually ended with either moving to the white board for a more in-depth analysis, or dad pulling out a couple of books he had read relating to the discussion at hand, and telling me to “have a read”.

    The most important thing he taught me was to always question it. To never take anything at face value. Ask for the evidence. Demand the evidence. I ended up following in my fathers footsteps with regards to my love of science, my need for proof, and my dislike of all things pseudosciency. To this day, although i am an adult, I still call my dad or email him random questions from the other side of the world “hey, whats your view on…” “hey did u hear…” or “have you seen…. and what did u think?” because his opinions and answers regarding ‘it all’ are the ones which i value most. That plus he is the most interesting man i know.

      rationalbrain responded:
      May 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      Wow, nice story.
      I’m sure he would be proud to know that’s how you feel.

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