Evolution Fight in Texas School Board Expected Shortly

This summer, in fact.Don McLeroy, dentist and chair of the Texas School board (a state-wide elected body) is a creationist. Of evolution, he says “I just don’t think it’s true or it’s ever happened.”The 15 member board is stocked with seven creationists. It could have been worse, but the outcome of recent elections was slightly favorable. The governor of Texas is a creationist. Hell, most Texans are creationists.The most likely creationist effort will be to insert a “strengths and weaknesses” clause … an academic freedom provision, into the language.Here is a current PDG essay on the situation by Joyce Anderson writing for the Jewish Times.Here is a recent post on the academic freedom issue, and here is Mike and me talking about it on the radio.

Ken Hubert, Hero of Life Science Teaching

i-68efa548cdb44e33126c5936c96fe3ed-evolution_2008.jpgContinuing with our discussion of the Evolution 2008 conference …Yet another item from the first day of the conference, the pre-conference teachers day sponsored by Evolution 2008 and the Minnesota Citizens for Science Education (MnCSE) …The Minnesota Citizens for Science Education presented Ken Hubert with an award. I am blanking on the name of the award right now, but eventually, the MnCSE web site will probably have a page on this, or an announcement about it. (We need time for some dust to settle.)Who is Ken Hubert?Well, when it comes to the Evolution – Creationism ‘debate’, Ken is Case Law 101… (more…)

Drs Myers and Decker: Advice on Teaching Evolution

i-68efa548cdb44e33126c5936c96fe3ed-evolution_2008.jpgContinuing with our discussion of the Evolution 2008 conference … many things have been going on and I have more to report than time to report it. But I will get to all of it, I assure you. Tonight, I just want to cover part of today’s Education Symposium (moderated by your’s truly) … not all of it at once, thought, as it is kind of complex.If you happen to work for the University of Minnesota or know anyone who does, best to not read this or let anyone know about it. This is a little to heavy to be spoken of openly. (Since there are only 11 of you who read my blog, I think we’ll be safe.)I want to comment briefly on two of the talks, one by PZ Myers and one by Mark Decker. The other talks in the symposium were excellent, but I want to address them separately.First, to dispel rumors that PZ Myers passed out on he lawn in the middle of the campus; This is simply not true. It is true that he had slept only four hours over the previous two and a half days, and had just flown in that morning from Vegas, but he did not pass out on the lawn. In fact, we were able to wire him up quite nicely. Here are before and after photos of a little treatment we applied to get him through the afternoon (This is me on the right and our techie in the middle, in the first photo).BEFORE:i-c8cfc6454ec454c5288df0e8b8bf56ae-PZ_Myers_Fixing_Up.jpgAFTER: (more…)

How birds fly (Book review)

Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines is a book by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Patricia Wynne for, I’d say, Pre-Elementary School kids and first/second grade. This is a good book to read to a pre-literate kid. Then put it away for later when the first grade academic report on birds is due … it will be an excellent reference.i-ef9e18512105a401e2989534c1e754a0-Arnold_birds.jpgThis is a well done and highly recommended book. (more…)

Home Chemistry: A New Guide for Hobbyists and Home Schoolers

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science) is a new book by Robert Thompson. The premise is simple. The coolest thing in the world is a home chemistry set like this one from Gilbert, which combined both chemistry and microscopy:i-54957dded8a5e4cd3fd35e02810c78e4-ChemMicroSet.jpg

Chemistry Set Combine the sciences of Chemistry and Microscopy in one big laboratory set! Microscope has a magnification of 60 power, plus unique Polaroid device that shows the brilliant colors of specimens under the lens. Set includes “Fun With Gilbert Chemistry”, “Gilbert Microscope”, “Glass Blowing” manuals and dissecting stand. From the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop

(more…)

How Society Will Accept Rational Science: The Best Way to Frame Global Warming and Evolution

There is a point that I’ve been trying to make for the last few weeks now, off and on, and it is not working. So I’m going to try something new. Please bear with me, and consider the following three scenarios regarding the idea that the Earth is Round (or, possibly, flat): (more…)

Internet Poll on Dropping Evolution from School Curriculum in Maine

Is a semi-organized effort to ‘crash’ obnoxious internet polls ethically acceptable? Is it boring? Is it stupid? I sometimes ask myself that question.But it’s complicated and will take a while to work out. In the mean time, PZ Myers points out this poll regarding the recent suggestion by a Maine school board member to drop evolution from the science classroom in his district.(Left side bar, two-thirds of the way down)

85% of Americans Want a Presidential Debate on Science

Despite the fact that the presidential candidates will not accept the invitation extended by Science Debate 2008 for a nationally broadcast science forum in May there is ample evidence to suggest that they should: A new poll … a real poll .. indicates that 85% of US Adults agree that there should be a debate.The poll results can be found here.i-8beaa33a490bc677a40038d3357b0f06-sciencedebate.jpg.gifHere is a summary of the poll: (more…)

Unpatriotic Missouri Academic”Freedom”Bill Advances Through Committee

A Missouri House Committee has just approved for consideration of the House an Academic Freedom Bill drafted with the aid of the Discovery Institute.The bill has a nice twist to it in that it prohibits the consideration of any boundary or difference between religion and non-religion in regards to what to teach or how to teach it. In other words, the bill requires that state agencies, school administrators, and teachers ignore the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America in deference to state law. Therefore, challenges to this particular form of the bill would be a challenge to state’s rights.Such a challenge would result in the bill being struck down as clearly as any with any other challenge, but it could take longer. If there are sympathetic judges in the right places, a school district that obeys the higher level Federal law (or a teacher or a particular school) could be forced into the court system for one or two rounds of slash and burn lawyering.The best way to fight this sort of thing? Probably to make sure that individual legislators who introduce such bills, and who chair the committees that approve them, and so on, are held accountable for the legal fees that will be paid by cash-strapped school districts. Of course, such elected officials can’t be held accountable in any pecuniary way, but they can be made to pay by being tossed out of office by disgruntled taxpayers.The stamp of the Discovery Institute is obvious in both the wording of the bill and the fact that not a single news outlet has coverage of this event, but it is covered on the DI web site. They really ought to be a bit more discrete as I’m sure they will later want to deny involvement in this particular effort (at about the time the legal bills come in).This is just more of the Wedge Strategy, more of the Trojan Horse approach, and more of the same attack on our public school system, it’s children, and their teachers.Here is the main text of the bill: (more…)

Flock of Dodos

i-0a8b7afd0bfaf6a76c5a689042a8d800-dodo2.jpgWith all this talk about Expelled!, the creationist movie, I thought it was about time to resurrect the review I wrote many moons ago of Flock of Dodos by Randy Olson, along with some updated information.Flock of Dodos is a much better film than Expelled!, and explores the same issue, with somewhat different conclusions. So, for instance, if you are going to use one of them in a school or church to explain the ID/Evolution controversy, I recommend Flock.(That’s a picture of Randy with some big birds at the Tribeca Film Festival.) Plus, since its been out a bit longer, Flock of Dodos is a bit cheaper than Expelled! (more…)

The sun is riz, the sun is set … and we ain’t outta Texas yet.

But plans for the Institute for Creation Research Masters Degree in Creationistic Biology for High School Teachers is out of Texas.

Members of the Academic Excellence and Research Committee and the Participation and Success Committee voted unanimously to approve the recommendation of Raymund Paredes, the state’s commissioner of higher education, not to approve the Institute’s application. The full Coordinating Board will vote on the committees’ recommendation on Thursday.”The issue before the Coordinating Board isn’t about academic freedom or free speech. The issue is whether the state will sanction the teaching of religion as science. Committee members today recognized that doing so would be a disservice both to science and to faith.Just as important, our state’s leaders have said that they want our public schools to do a better job preparing students for college and the jobs of the 21st century. If we’re serious about that goal, then we must be serious about how we train our teachers. Approving an advanced degree in science education from an institution that doesn’t really teach science would represent a huge step backward.”

Texas Freedom Network

Yeee hawww!!!!!

i-b98efa4a0fb86733a75b3169cee7b3f2-bronco.jpg

Institute for Creation Research Masters Degree in Biology

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has, some time ago, filed for approval to run a masters degree program in life science education. The purpose of the degree is to train educators to present biology in a way that is consistent with Christian Biblical beliefs, as opposed to actual scientific knowledge. The Texas board in charge of these matters is taking the proposal under consideration this week. (Please sign the petition linked below!)The Texas Freedom Network has recently conducted a survey of Texas colleges and university faculty to get their opinions on this proposal. (more…)

Expelled! Induced Conversations and the Future of Science, Medicine and Hollywood

Despite the fact that the producers of Expelled! have the most nefarious of motives in mind, and that we can expect more from them (we are waiting for the other shoe to drop), it is interesting to note how many conversations this documentary about Intelligent Design Creationism has sparked. Ultimately, the intended purpose of Expelled! is to silence real scientists and set back scientific research that is on the verge of filling one of the most important “gaps” in which the Christian God of the theistic evolutionist currently lives. In the long run, conversations that arise from movies like Expelled! will help us fill those gaps more quickly.What the heck am I talking about? (more…)

Louisiana’s Stealth Creationism Bill Takes A Hit

Louisiana State Senate Bill 561 is an “academic freedom” bill intended to push discussion of creationism, global warming denialism, and so on into state public schools. This is the latest in a long series of efforts of right wing fundamentalist christians to indoctrinate public school students in their particular religious (and political) beliefs. (more…)

NASA Science Web Site

i-d269cc6ac49e47d81fa755821b3acbe2-NASA_web_site.jpgThe Open Source content management system PLONE runs the newly released NASA Science web site.The site has something for everyone (researchers, educators, kids, and “citizen scientists”). The Plone seems to be working quite nicely.Some of it is still a little rough. The Space Calendar link seems to be broken, and the email to the “responsible government official” for the site (who, by the way, is Greg Williams) gets you an email to “noone@nasa.gov” …There appears to be a number of distinctly different ways to navigate on this site, including a main in-your-face graphical orientation to four main topics (Earth, Heliophysics, Planets, Astrophysics) each of which leads to a page with a “Big Questions/FocusAreas/Missions” dynamic side bar menu. (These sub-sub topics, big questions, missions, etc., are re-grouped on thier own pages accessible from the top menue as well)Many of the links seem to lead to fairly specific questions or NASA programs enveloping lists of missions that address those questions or are run by those programs, or to the missions themselves with a sidebar indicating what the “related big questions” are.The site has actually done a pretty good job of assembling, correlating, and cross-indexing the myriad components of NASA.So what about the NASA.gov site? This looks to me like an eventual replacement.

Expelled Busted

Things are happening exactly as I predicted…(Expelled! The Movie To Be Pulled From Theaters Following Myers/Dawkins-Gate Screwup)The movie “Expelled!” with Ben Stein (you may have heard of it) includes a segment consisting of the animation of the inside workings of a cell. It is said to look a lot like a production that came out of Harvard and a private animation firm last year or so:People who saw the clip used in Expelled! were beginning to think that the video Expelled! used was not the Harvard video because there were some differences. However, this remains unclear. My thinking on this was that it was the original video but somehow filtered through a process that may have rendered it a little different. Sort of like copying and pasting some text from a copyrighted source, changing the type face and font size, and declaring that it was different.Well, the other shoe has dropped, the shit has hit the fan, the cows have come home to roost… (more…)

Minnesota Governor Pawlenty Smashes Hopes for Better Bell

Tim Pawlenty has demonstrated, in many ways and on many occasions, that he is the worst governor the State of Minnesota has ever had. The most recent proof was his line item veto of funding for the Bell Museum of Natural History, and his line item veto of the funding necessary to further develop public transit in the Twin Cities. Neither surprises me. This is the governor who gave us a creationist education director, and this is the governor who let the bridge fall down. Education and transportation are not his bailiwicks. But one has to ask, if he can’t understand these two important issues (which habitually top various lists of what is important to the citizenry), when what is he good at? (See below for one possible suggestion.)i-0458ced870d6b46dedb3d19abd566c74-bridge_photo_3.jpg (more…)

Florida Citizens for Sanity: Take Note!

Florida Senate Bill S2692 is up for discussion and a decision to pass to the floor by the Senate Judiciary Committee.BELOW YOU WILL FIND LINKS TO EMAIL EACH MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE (except one, for whom I provide a phone number).I’d say you don’t need to be a Florida resident to let them know what you think. In fact, let them know that the whole world is watching!I’ve got to say that this is one of the scariest bills I’ve seen in a while. Have a look: (more…)

Louisiana Academic Freedom Act

Louisiana now has an Academic Freedom Act in the works. Academic Freedom Acts are right wing ploys to force specific issues … or more commonly, specific politically or religiously motivated version of issues … into the classroom at various levels. Academic Freedom Acts also typically are designed to silence faculty who teach things that conservatives, evangelicals, global warming deniers, and so on do not want to hear. (more…)

Neil Turok: 2008 TED Prize wish: An African Einstein

Accepting his 2008 TED Prize, physicist Neil Turok speaks out for talented young Africans starved of opportunity: by unlocking and nurturing the continent’s creative potential, we can create a change in Africa’s future. Turok asks the TED community to help him expand the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences by opening 15 new centers across Africa in five years. By adding resources for entrepreneurship to this proven model, he says, we can create a network for progress across the continent — and perhaps discover an African Einstein.

(more…)

Saving Science from Creationists and Framers: In support of a diligent, relentless critique

When you get a chance (not right now) have a look at this video. This is a piece done by Brian Rooney, a professional TV journalist with ABC News Nightline. He follows around Billy Jack and Rusty Carter, two young earth creationists who are leading a school group through the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. (Young earth creationists, or ‘YEC’s’ believe the earth and all forms of life that exist today were created over a six day period 4004 B.C.) In this piece, the YEC’s are showing exhibits to the young students, asking them questions, teaching them, and so on. Rooney also interviews the two YEC’s in the absence of the children, as well as Kirk Johnson, a scientist who works for the museum. (more…)

A Broken Pipeline: Unprecedented Funding NIH Stagnation Can Only Lead to Harm

There is a campaign to bring attention, of the public and of congress, to a five year long stagnation of NIH funding, which is being called a broken pipeline. NIH funding had been increased significantly prior to that, to address major shortfalls in funding for mostly medical research in key important issues. However, over the last five years, the dollar amount of funding has remained flat, not even keeping up with inflation, where it really should have increased further, even more than inflation. (more…)