Questioning beliefs is a good thing to do

Dr. Brady Phelps

Dr. Brady Phelps

I recently asked one of my 100-level courses, “How many of you have accepted Jesus or some other god as your personal savior?”

Then more tellingly, I asked, “How many of you will continue to believe as you do now regardless of any scientific evidence you will encounter in your future?”

Both times, the show of hands was nearly unanimous.

What are college faculty supposed to do with students who state, in effect, they will only learn and believe information that compliments their existing prejudices?

The fact that students enter a university with such prejudices will no doubt be heart- warming to some, who would not call these positions prejudices.

But prejudices are what such beliefs are and the various institutions that instilled such prejudices should be accused of child abuse. Some will obviously complain about my last statement and inflammatory as it is, I stand by it.

This university is trying to be committed to diversity in terms of people but are we committed to diversity of ideas and values?

Is scientific thinking to be used in the classroom but once at home, are students just putting it all away and hoping or praying some god will reveal the “real truth” to them?

If a student enters and leaves this university with exactly the same beliefs and prejudices, the university has done them a great disservice; such a student should demand a refund.

Students should be provoked into thinking about their beliefs, what the basis for their beliefs is, what the adoption of their belief system completely entails and why other people don’t hold the same beliefs.

In the early 1990’s, the UPC brought a gay couple to speak at SDSU. Handsome, happy and obviously in love, the young men talked about how they met, how they fell in love and how much they wanted to be married.

If one of the male voices had been disguised as a female, a blind listener would not have been able to distinguish the pair’s story from that of any heterosexual couple.

But truly blind people were present and tried to provoke the two men with intellectually sterile comments like “I read about Adam and Eve in the Bible but I didn’t see any references to Adam and Steve.”

It was clear to some present that these men were not normal, were not to be treated as just two people in love, and were only fit to be treated as an abnormal abomination.

Now if such beliefs are not prejudices what are they?

On a more recent occasion, the attorney Phillip Johnson was brought to campus to say that evolution was nothing to worry about since in his eyes it was extremely flawed.

One would hope that an educated audience would know when a speaker is out of his or her area of expertise. Johnson clearly was and used legal machinations to make his points sound credible. However, one of my colleagues proudly shook Johnson’s hand afterward.

Now what is a professor to do with students who only want to learn that which compliments what they already “know” is “the truth?”

Some may see my “preaching” here as a threat and seek to further weld some minds shut.

My colleagues and I are not here to threaten or necessarily change beliefs, but we are here to try and make you think and question everything.

4Dr. Brady Phelps is a professorof psychology. Write to him at [email protected]