Should Holocaust Denial be taught in public high school? (yet another I.D. debate)

A less offensive one might be for American History- if the theory that the Creek Indians emerged from tunnels under the ground in a rock raised by their god is taught alongside the Beringia land bridge, BUT it isn’t taught as Creek Indian mythology but as a valid theory. (Unfortunately there were so many tribes and they each had their own origin story.)

Or that slavery really wasn’t so bad: slaves were like members of the family and no masters beat them because that would be like shooting a hole in a $20,000 tractor… Oh, wait, I was taught that in school… (The issue of families being sold apart and women being used as sex toys wasn’t addressed of course).

I would say that what offends biologists is that certain individuals are masquerading this argument from belief as actual science and are seeking to inject it into the classrom while circumventing the peer review process.

I find it hard to believe how anyone with healthy respect for rational inquiry could not find this offensive.

A list of “laws” regarding online discussion boards included one law saying that any debate will quickly break up as soon as the Nazis are mentioned. Analogies that involves a comparison to Nazi crimes are in the risk of faiilng, because you can’t really compare anything to it. Sure, you don’t really compare evolution and holocaust in this line of argumentation, but even the mere mentioning of something in the same sentence as Nazi crimes can cause this unpleasant feeling that someone was extremely unlucky in choosing his words.

Regarding evidence for the evolution: I’m not a biologist, and it wasn’t my intention to offend people who are. I’m very well aware that there is plenty of found fossils, experimental results, and observations that can’t be explained but by the theory of evolution. Others have found more apt words to express what I wanted to say, namely, that evidence for the holocaust is much more direct. There’s not reasonable way of doubting either one.

As an aside, that is not actually what the “law” says.

It has three fairly-well known implications:

In this context, none of the above apply.

Yes, I do think so. Not because I.D. is undoubtedly wrong, but because it’s portrayed as “science” and being pushed to be taught in science classes, along with scientific theory.

I actually believe that ID may be correct. I do think there is a Creator that is at least observing, and perhaps influencing, the evolution of all creatures. But I don’t kid myself and think that this is science. It’s faith. It’s religion. There is no way to prove or disprove such a thing using the scientific method. So it is not a hard science. There’s no way to prove or disprove such a thing using hypothesis and observation. So it’s not a social science. It’s not a science, period.

I’d be just as offended if someone came into my French class and tried to teach Auto Mechanics because some people think learning Auto Mechanics is more practical than French. We’re teaching French here - if you want to teach Auto Mechanics, get your own class!

ID has no place in science classes because it’s not a science. It could be taught, along with other religion’s theories, in a religious theory course, and I’d have no problem with that. But teaching it as a scientific theory shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what a science is.

Similarly, Holocaust Denial has no place in a history class, because it’s not historical fact. It may have a place in sociology or psychology classes, but it’s not history.

My guess is that the ID proponents would dismiss this idea because so few people actually believe in Holocaust denial yet many, many people believe in ID. This is, of course, classic* ]argumentum ad populum *, but the ID folks are not likely to know what you are talking about if you mention that.

That is why I feel we need to start teaching classes in public schools on critical thinking. This class would cover the scientific method, logical fallacies, the use and abuse of statistics, etc. Maybe I’m being naive about this, but I think if we can get our kids and the public in general to understand these basic ideas, then some of these more loony ideas will be taken care of.

Of course not. We have reliable evidence that the Holocaust occured and there is no reliable evidence that it was made up. If we allow intelligent design proponents or holocaust denial into our schools we might as well teach students that Pi equals 3, let the flat earth society or the hollow world proponents in, and teach them that cats are better than dogs. It’s bad enough that students don’t get a very complete picture of American history, or world history, and we don’t need to fill their heads with false information. So far as I know there are no serious scholars that debate whether the holocaust occured or not.


Being a Nazi has little to do with conservative ideology, so I really don’t like the particular word usage here. Nazism is a reactionary ideology, it really has very little to do with “conservatism.”

If we were going to teach about weird conspiracy theories like Holocaust denial, I think that the subject metter is too specific for a High School class. High Schools tend to focus on very generalized history. So under no circumstances would I see this as being appropriate for a High School class. The only type of class I can see something like this being taught in is some goofy history class like “History of Conspiracy Theories” but even then I think the ideas are so intellectually bankrupt it’d be a waste of time for any serious history professor or any serious students to participate in such a thing.

Should we teach kids that JFK was shot Lee Harvey Oswald or by some conspiracy between the Mafia, Cuba and the military-industiral complex?

Should we teach kids that man actually traveled to the moon. There is lots of ‘evidence’ that it was all fake.

Should we teach kids that if you foward this email, Bill Gates will send you to Disneyland?

I like this analogy a lot, BECAUSE of the negative associations stated above. They make the argument visceral.

However (and I’m going to be horribly smug and obnoxious here), I think most people are not going to be able to appreciate the argument because they will fixate on these negative associations.

So in my everyday discourse on the topic of ID, which I unfortunately have a lot lately, I’m going to use the astronauts on the moon equivalent argument. Makes the point pretty well I think, with the added bonus of making the ID defender look pretty silly I think.

Sillier, I should say.

Flat earth, and geocentric universe. About as stupid, but less offensive.

I won’t use it because it creates the risk that someone who has already demonstrated himself to be easily led in the wrong direction will be introduced to Holocaust denial and start insisting it be taught in schools. Sometimes it’s safest to go through life assuming most people are as dumb as a box of rocks, or at least that half of them are of below average intelligence.

I think that if one were speaking to an audience of non-historians (or an audience with a typical American high school history education) it would be entirely possible to present evidence of the Holocaust as “questionable” in precisely the same way that ID advocates present evidence of evolution.

Yes, there are accounts by Holocaust victims and Holocaust perpetrators. But one could argue that the number of accounts is so small - compared to the purported number of victims - that the number of victims must surely be exaggerated. Certainly we have the remains of facilities in which the Holocaust could have been perpetrated. But one could argue that these facilities couldn’t have operated on the scale necessary to produce the claimed number of victims, or that the facilities could just as easily have been devoted to some other purpose. If someone is bound and determined to believe that the Holocaust didn’t happen, or didn’t happen as all reputable historians agree it did, few pieces of evidence will stand up to that person’s scrutiny. Instead, they’ll be explained away or simply dismissed out of hand. And those bits of evidence that can’t be explained away or ignored - no matter how numerous - will never be accepted by that person as a whole providing sufficient proof. Rather, they’ll be treated as a collection of things that can’t be explained away right now, but which will surely be explained away at some point in the future.

Similarly, it’s relatively easy to sell ID to non-biologists by choosing bits of evidence that appear to be discreditable via the faulty logic if ID. Those pieces of evidence that can’t be discredited right now can be dismissed as apparent anomalies which will be easily discredited in the future.

FTR, I was raised going to an Orthodox Jewish synagogue (we were Conservative), and I hold a reasonably freshly-minted PhD in genetics. I have been using the evolution-denial = holocaust-denial angle for many years and I think it is a good one.

Both arguments infuriate me. I’m not going to state which one does it more – they act on me in completely different ways. Holocaust denial, as a rarer and more fringe belief, leads to more of a visceral fear than evolution denial. But evolution denial inspires a lot of rage – here we have some self-professed pundit, sometimes even with a modicum of education, telling me that what I’ve devoted a good part of my life to is absolutely wrong. Instead of using the tools of the trade to advance his argument (which I would be forced to at least acknowledge and address), ID and evolution-denial people use obfuscation and spin and sometimes just plain-old dishonesty. The really infuriating thing is how often they win.

As a geneticist, I think this is a good way to sell things. ID people have as much credibility in the evolution world as holocaust deniers have in the study of WWII. ID and creationism have less merit as scientific theories as holocaust denial has as a historical field of study (because they are not even theories). And creationists use the same tools to circumvent the system, buy themselves free publicity, and whip up public emotion versus reason, as neo-Nazis have. “Teach the controversy” is an awful model for public schools for this exact reason. It is easy for the public to understand and it is not such a stretch from the truth.

What makes it so absurd to me is that among biologists and geneticists there is no controversy over whether evolution happened or not. The whole ‘scientific controversy’ was made up by the creationists/IDers.

I agree that it is a good analogy because both ID and the Denial of the Holocaust (DotH) are ultimately based on “A few Ph.D’s think this so it must be a valid possibility”. So why is there a serious effort to put ID in school and not DotH? Because ID is an intellectual exercise while DotH boils up peoples blood because of the racism involved. Let me ask this, why do most of the school’s neglect to mention all of the gypsies, Bohemians, Polish Catholics, etc. that were also slaughtered during the Holocaust - a number that likewise measures in the millions and collectively quite possibly outnumbered the number of Jews killed? Is it because to include other groups into the Holocaust may be perceived as anti-semitism? I was told once that the reason for this ommision was because Hitler was trying to eliminate the Jews completely. Well, Hitler was trying to eliminate many non-Aryan ethnic groups completely. Why deny them their victimization during the Holocaust?

Just look at this thread. Look how emotional people get when discussing the Holocaust as opposed to evolution. I’m a special ed teacher and most of my students have no personal buy-in to the Holocaust - until I mention that many of them may have ended up in the camps based on the fact that they are disabled.

Long story short (too late), an analogy can still be valid even if one argument has emotional connotations and another one doesn’t.

Hmm, I reckon that almost exactly half of them will be of below average intelligence, given a big enough sample…

Good idea. The critical thinking class could cover “beating the straw man” and “poisoning the well”, too. :dubious: