A Prescription for Fear Revisited

18 July 2013 by Markus Dahlem, posted in Uncategorized

"A text was not something fixed and eternal but the product of the reader’s mind in conjunction with the author’s". That's just one sentence in the ongoing debate on Virginia Heffernan's text "Why I'm a creationist" from a week ago.

I follow Virginia (@page88) and every now and then read her articles ever since she wrote a good piece about health information online—should we worry about hypochondriacs or rather hypocrisy? February 2011, Virginia, then still writing for the NYT Magazine, offered a critical perspective on health sites: "A Prescription for Fear". A corporation, which provides health information services, being attacked responded. I also commented back then.

To date, she is being attacked and she as others responded, too. Good. That's how it works. Here are my two cents again.

The sentence I liked most—if only the conclusions were more clear—is from Tim Stanley: "Music should be taught in music class, maths in maths and science in science". A deliberately cool approach. In Germany, we have religious education at school. I am not a fan of this at all. So the remaining question is indeed what should be taught in schools. Tim's conclusion is that "somewhere on the curriculum there should be space for philosophy so that every child is given the critical tools necessary to understand both the beauty and limitations of the wisdom that they receive from teachers". I couldn't agree more, but I do not see any place for creationism or, in general, religious education at school.

Let's revisit the first text I read from Virginia, because a text is not something fixed and eternal ...

Health sites are hugely influential in how Americans think about their health and may even play a part in public debates over health care, as they aggressively shape how would-be patients consume medical information and envision treatment.

Quite right. Also schools are hugely influential in how we think about our world in general and may even play a part in public debates over how we spend money, as they aggressively shape how will-be adults consume any information and envision the future.

I'm afraid teaching religious education at school—which is, dear non-German readers believe it or not, in Germany even divided along religious lines—is nothing but a prescription for fear. I hope that this is not only in this author's mind but in agreeing conjunction with the original author’s. If not, that is a debate worth having.


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