$4 Million Raised for Kentucky Ark Park

Unfortunately, the fundraising goal for this creationist project was $24.5 million. The groundbreaking of the park has been delayed numerous times.

LEO Weekly tried to find out from the state Tourism Cabinet what was going on, and their representative claimed that they’d heard nothing from Ken Ham’s organization. But, they lied. Emails obtained via the Freedom of Information Act indicate that there has been communication, and that the situation for the Ark Park is not good: (more…)

Abducted by Aliens…and Dropped Off at the Grand Canyon

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North American Geology. It’s complicated.
I’m pretty sure Amanda and I were abducted by aliens this morning. This is not the first time for me. I was abducted with two others about 20 years ago in Southern Maine while looking for antiques, back when you could still get them cheap even in antique stores (inexpensive antiques, not aliens). You can tell you were abducted because one moment it is a certain time and the next moment is it much later in time and you have no memory whatsoever of he ensuing span of minutes or hours. Since that is essentially impossible, alien abduction is pretty much the best possible explanation.

Back in Maine, it caused us to miss a critical turn just by the Big Red Barn antique store. This morning, it caused Amanda to go rushing out of the house only half ready for a day of teaching Life Science and me to sit here wondering, “Why did I just spend 20 minutes reading pages in this creationist web site called Answers in Genesis?”

Well, I’m not sure how Amanda’s day is going to go, but I’m going to make use of this abduction and talk about the Grand Canyon.
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Seattle-ites: Strawberry Theatre Workshop does Darwin

Click Here to get tickets while they last!

Here’s a review: ‘Inherit the Wind’ airs current creationism debate

Last month Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a top candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, remarked, “Evolution is just a theory out there.” He also claimed Texas schools teach both evolution and creationism.

Perry was mistaken: In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled public teaching of Bible-based creationism (or “intelligent design”) unconstitutional.

The creationism vs. evolution in schools debate has reared back into our national political dialogue, which may be reason enough to revive “Inherit the Wind,” a 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.

We don’t see many revivals of this sturdy courtroom drama…

Read the rest here

“No Dinosaurs in Heaven”

The latest film by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Greta Schiller “No Dinosaurs in Heaven” will be screened September 26 at 6:30 pm at the Black Box Theater on the Healdsburg High School campus.

Schiller’s film explores the issue of creationists who earn science degrees in order to present their anti-evolution beliefs in the classroom. Schiller is also a science educator and came up with the idea for this film when one of her graduate school biology professors commented that evolution was a “theory” he didn’t believe in.

The movie will be shown in conjunction with the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, a non-profit organization whose stated goal is “promoting and defending the teaching of evolution in our public schools,” said Robert Luhn, the group’s director of communications.

If you get to see the play, write write up a short review and we’ll post it here!

Fox News: Americans are mostly wrong about science, other things.

Fox News has just come out with a new poll that shows that 77% of Americans believe that prayers “literally help someone heal from an injury or illness” and 15% think Darwinand other scientists are right about evolution and creationists are wrong (but 26% believe that both are correct). The poll has a sampling error of about 3% and appears to have been conducted correctly.

Could someone please tell me why this is interesting?

Duluth News Tribune: Seriously?

The Duluth News Tribune is supposed to be the number one newspaper in the Northlands of Minnesota. Or at least, that is what they say. Over 4 million people visited their web site in August 2011. That’s a lot of visits. Earlier today, the Duluth News Tribune, ironically (go look up “Tribune”) posted a letter to the editor chastising an earlier run piece from the Washington Post that confused Presidential Candidate Rick Perry’s belief in creationism with a belief in “Young Earth Creationism.”

The letter written by Dan Erickson says:
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Clayton Williams: A Reasonable GOP Voice

At least with respect to one issue: Science.

You all know that Texas had a messy Board of Education fight over whether to teach good science or something else (creationism) in Texas schools. You also know by now what Texas Governor Rock Perry, whom we count as a presidential contender, made the statement in public that “we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools — because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.” (This is totally incorrect, of course.)

Perry is now raising funds in Texas for his run at the Oval Office, and there is a fundraiser coming up hosted by wealthy Texan and former GOP gubernatorial nominee Clayton Williams. It turns out that Williams was concerned some time back about the effects of hitching the statewide Republican Platform to the anti-science unicorn, and told Perry this in a letter, which said:

“If Texas enters into a debate on the teaching of fundamental religious beliefs in public schools, it will tarnish our strong academic reputation, set our ability to attract top science and engineering talent to Texas back decades and severely impact our reputation as a national and global leader in energy, space, medicine and other high tech fields … Governor, this is a very important issue for Texas. I urge you to quell this issue quietly, firmly and permanently.”

Perry ignored this advice.

The story is here. That news site allows comments, so you may consider taking the opportunity to put a word in for science!

Why do newspapers still publish anti-evolution crank mail?

Bigfoot is not real, yet there are many believers.  And some of these believers write letters to the editors of local newspapers.

No one has ever been abducted by aliens.  Alien abductees certainly write letters to newspapers.   I knew a guy who could see and hear scenes from ancient times on the surfaces of some round rocks he found, and as his disease progressed, on the tiles in his bathroom.  I know he wrote letters to the editors because he cc’ed them to me!

Yet, we do not see these emails published in the newspapers. The newspapers weed them out.

Evolution is real.  Creationism is not.  Why are emails from creationists often published in respectable newspapers? There is a reason, and I’ll tell you what it is below. (Preview: It is your fault.)

Yes, yes, I get that creationism is part of certain religions, and therefore newspaper editors may feel obliged to print this material. But there are many other things that are part of various mainstream religions that we do not see in letters to the editors of modern newspapers.  Newspapers are not printing any rants about food taboos not being followed; or about people failing to take their hats off or put them on in the correct setting, or forgetting to cross themselves at the altar or eating fish on Thursday instead of Friday.  Few letters say anything overt about being saved by Jesus, and none that I know of say what I hear the street-corner soap-box preachers telling me as I walk by them.  These are all things that are part of religion but being part of religion does not get them on the editorial pages of modern newspapers.

OK, a quick caveat.  Yes, you do see crazy stuff in the letters to the editor section of newspapers, and perhaps you know of (and can point to) examples. But major cities have “local” newspapers that are supposed to be above all this. Minneapolis’ Star Tribune (“The Strib”) is one of those.  

Yet we saw this just the other day:

EVOLUTION
What is unobservable is a theory — no more

Within the species, evolution can be observed and scrutinized in the development of new life forms such as variants of corn and cattle. … However, evolutionists and creationists diverge where observation ends and ideology takes over.

… One does not actually see a life form generating the next level from conception to birth outside of its boundary that serves as an invisible wall.

But where it is unobservable, it may still be considered a construction of the mind — a theory. Political candidates who refer to creationism in less than a negative manner need not be demeaned.

JAMES SCHACHER, Blaine

In this case, the Strib ran this rant side by side with an “evolution is for real” letter written by Arnold Erickson of Mesa, Arizona. Nice. The two letters were debating the validity of a point made by Richard Dawkins concerning the lack of understanding of science by Michel Bachmann, Ron Paul and other political candidates running for the Republican nomination this election cycle.

The Strib has demonstrated that it subscribes to the policy of there being “two sides” to every story (even though this is not true) and they’ve demonstrated that they can’t find anyone in Minnesota who thinks evolution is real. Thanks for that, Star Tribune.

But enough complaining. It seems to me that it is quite possible to do something about this, and here’s where we see how this is all your fault, and that only you can fix it.

The logic is simple: Major, credible newspapers do not publish letters to the editor from those with delusions, poorly informed individuals, or plain old cranks who think they’ve seen bigfoot, were abducted by aliens, have proof that Jimmy Carter was seen in Fukushima’s nuclear power plant just before the meltdown or insist that rocks speak to them. Why, then, would they publish letters from people who deny basic science, including well established aspects of Evolutionary Biology as well as the firmly established findings of Climate Science?

They avoid the former because it would be embarrassing, they practice the latter because it brings in readership and so far has not brought sufficient ire to bear on the editorial staff. Because you haven’t told them that they are doing it wrong.

As a person with fingers and an internet connection (or equivalents) you can tell them how you feel about this. If you happen to subscribe to a newspaper that has published this sort of drek, you can tell them that their credibility is at risk and this causes you view renewal of your subscription as unlikely. This might be especially effective if you currently subscribe to your local newspaper via one of these new, experimental iPad or Smart Phone apps.

In this case, the offending newspaper is the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can send off a few emails and tell them what you think. I make it easy for you:

The letter in question, quoted in part above, is here. Right at the top of the page.

Here are some suggestions as to whom you might email:

Michael J. Klingensmith
Publisher and CEO
612.673.7576
michael.klingensmith@startribune.com

Nancy Barnes
Editor and Senior Vice President
612.673.7937
nancyb@startribune.com

Scott Gillespie
Editor
612.673.4516
sgillespie@startribune.com

Jeff Griffing
Chief Revenue Officer, Advertising
jeff.griffing@startribune.com

Don’t just sit there. Take action!

Should a teacher be sued for describing creationism as “superstitious nonsense”?

Steven Newton has an interesting piece on the case of James Corbett, who was sued for “improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.

In 2009, a judge considered Corbett’s statements and found only one — that creationism is “superstitious nonsense” — to be an “improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause,” and therefore an infringement of the student’s rights. To the amazement of educators and scientists across the country, the court ruled against Corbett and found this one statement in class to have been unconstitutional.

One issue raised by this case is how far educators should modify class content to anticipate potential offense to the faith of their students.

I feel a chill running up and down my spine. And not in a good way.

Have a look at the original piece.