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.
Continuing 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… Continue reading
Continuing 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:AFTER: Continue reading
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.This is a well done and highly recommended book. Continue reading
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): Continue reading
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)
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.Here is a summary of the poll: Continue reading
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: Continue reading
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.”
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. Continue reading
A bill designed to make it easier to introduce creationism into public school classrooms has passed in the Florida Senate by a 21 to 17 vote margin. The bill was proposed by Senator Ronda Storms, Republican, and is modeled after a template provided by the Discovery Institute. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
The 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 “email@example.com” …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.
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… Continue reading
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.) Continue reading
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: Continue reading
According to one of the leading experts on the human circulatory system, blood flowing through veins is blue. Continue reading
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.
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. Continue reading
Photosynthesis; This is how the British to it (teaching, not photosynthesis).
Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design is a must read for those interested in the Evolution – Creationism controversy. In particular, this volume is an essential part of the personal library of every science educator, for reasons that I will describe below. If you know a Life Science Teacher, this is a perfect birthday present. If you have a child in the public K-12 education system in the US, or the analog somewhere else, donate a copy of this book to the appropriate life science teacher!In this important book published by Oxford University Press in 2004, Forrest and Gross assert that there is a new strategy afoot among pro-creationists. What Forrest and Gross claimed four years ago is every bit as much true today. This strategy consists of …
… a no-holds-barred commitment to particular, parochial religious beliefs about the history and fabric of the world … This variant has eliminated brilliantly the obstacle of rational opposition to ideology … The new strategy is wonderfully simple. Here is how you implement it: exploiting that modern, nearly universal, liberal suspicion of zealotry, you accuse the branch of legitimate inquiry whose results you hate, in this case the evolutionary natural sciences, of — what else? — zealotry! … Crying “viewpoint discrimination,” you loudly demand adherence to the principle of freedom of speech, especially in teaching, insisting that such freedom is being denied your legitimate alternative view…This bold strategy is working, not just with religious fundamentalists, who do not need to be convinced anyway, but with people who have no such fundamentalist commitment and who are in principle well-enough educated to see what is happening. …This lusty new variant of creationism is advancing rapidly by means of a strategy called “The Wedge.”
…. Have you ever had this happen: You are minding your own business, teaching your life science course, it’s early in the term. A student, on the way out after class (never at the beginning of class, rarely during class) mentions something about “carbon dating.” This usually happens around the time of year you are doing an overview of the main points of the course, but before you’ve gotten to the “evolution module” (more on the “evolution module” another time … or come to the Bell on Friday to hear me rant about that in person).
The student is talking about C14 dating and how it “has problems.” But you are a life science teacher and can’t think of a single point in your class that you really touch on C14. Dating in the evolution section does not involve C14. This is for later time periods, more in the area of archaeology, and you know nothing about it. So you brush off the question but are left with an uneasy feeling.
Voters told urologist Barney Maddox to piss off, leaving incumbent and former school teacher Pat Hardy in her position on the school board representing District 11. The people of that Texas District were too smart to be fooled by an excessively expensive campaign by Maddox who spent over $120,000 to Hardy’s $10,000.Incumbent Mary Helen Berlanga, also challenged by a hard right winger in her own party (Lupe Gonzales) appears also to be holding her own in District 2.[source]