This is an update of the post about antievolution legislation posted on 28 May, 2013.
The 2013 state legislative sessions are either coming to a conclusion or have adjourned. After a relatively unsuccessful 2012 legislative year (with the notable exception of Tennessee’s Monkey Bill), the conservative Republicans decided to try to bring unconstitutional anti-evolution (and pro-creationism) legislation to the top of their agenda in many states. The current forms of anti-science legislation attempt to allow teaching creationism (or more subtle forms, like intelligent design), usually combined with climate change denialism, and, strangely, anti-human cloning (which is not exactly a serious line of research today). But whatever the general anti-science bent of the legislation, it has always been clear that promoting creationism is the goal.
Creationism refers to the belief that the universe and everything in it were specially created by a god through magic, rather than a natural, scientifically explained, process. Creationism explicitly relies on the claim that there is a “purpose” to all creation known only to a creator. Without a doubt, creationism is a religious belief, and no matter what argument is made (and I could write 50,000 words on the topic), creationism is not science because it relies upon a supernatural being, which means it can never be falsified, one of the basic principles of the scientific method. The supporters of creationism attempt to claim that creationism is a scientific theory on the level of evolution, ignoring the fact that a scientific theory is ”a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” Creationism is generally based on a fictional book.
(more…) «Antievolution legislation update–2013 review. And…»
There is just nothing more frustrating than evolution deniers, sometimes called “creationists.” The body of work that constitutes evidence for evolution is literally mountainous, making up over a million peer-reviewed studies and books that explain what we have observed in current living organisms and the fossil record. In addition, over 99.9% of scientists in the natural sciences (geology, biology, physics, chemistry and many others) accept that evolution is a scientific fact (pdf, see page 8). If science worked as a democracy, it would be a landslide vote in favor of evolution.
The scientific theory of evolution is simply the change in inherited characteristics of a biological population over time and generations through the process of natural selection or genetic drift. Setting aside the misunderstanding, by intention or ignorance, by creationists about what constitutes a scientific theory, evolution is a scientific fact, about as solid as the fact that the earth revolves around the sun.
There is no scientific debate about evolution, although there is continuing discussion about all of the possible mechanisms that drive evolution beyond natural selection and genetic drift. These discussions are based on the observations and evidence that evolution lead to the diversity of organisms we see today, arising from a common ancestor from about 3.8 billion years ago.
Despite the ongoing debate regarding other mechanisms for evolution (which are all scientifically based, and none that include magical actions of mythical supernatural beings), the matter of evolution is settled. There are no disputes about the fact that evolution happened over 3.8 billion years amongst scientists. None. Other than literature published in self-serving creationist journals, it is impossible to find a peer-reviewed article that disputes the fact of evolution published in a real scientific journal over the past 25 years, if not past 50 years.
Despite the scientific facts, American politicians, almost exclusively conservative Republicans, continue to push legislation to force public school districts to teach creationism. Though rarely successful, Louisiana and Tennessee have recently passed antievolution bills. These right wing politicians are convinced that evolution and creationism are equivalent, and they conflate a ridiculous political and social argument with a scientific one.
(more…) «Americans are ignorant fools about…»
Usually, summer is a quiet time for state legislatures, so it was a chance to take a breath from the evolution denialism that many states were trying to force on some of the public schools. Of course, anti-Constitution forces won in Tennessee, continued to make fools of themselves in Louisiana, and failed to gain traction elsewhere, but it’s an ongoing battle.
Unfortunately, new activities in Missouri and Kentucky might attempt to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which explicitly prohibits state and Federal governments from showing any preference toward any religion, which includes creationism. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has reported that Missouri voters approved, by an 83-17 margin, a constitutional amendment (pdf) that adds a provision “that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.” According to NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau, the change is worrisome from the point of view of science education, because “those words give students the legal right to skip assignments related to evolution if the subject matter conflicts with their beliefs, Rosenau says.”
(more…) «Antievolution legislation: Missouri and Kentucky…»
The state of Louisiana is doing everything it can to force feed its students creationism despite numerous constitutional restrictions that prevent religious activities in public schools. It also passed the Academic Freedom Act in 2008 which allows “science” teachers to teach creationism as a “theory” equivalent to evolution to students. Of course, I also discussed how Louisiana provides vouchers for students to attend private Christian universities, some of which use textbooks that think a real Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution.
According to an article in the the Lafayette, LA Independent Weekly, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education considered a set of accountability guidelines for private schools at its July 24, 2012, meeting. Zack Kopplin, “an 18-year-old Rice University student best known for his efforts during the last two legislative sessions to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, was one of several people who addressed BESE recently in opposition of the controversial voucher program”, testified that of the roughly 6600 spaces available for students under the program, 1350 will be filled ”at private Christian schools that teach creationism and peg evolution as ‘false science.’” Kopplin claims that Louisiana is about to spend almost $12 million to fund the teaching of creationism through this new voucher program that uses public school funds to pay for tuition and certain fees at private schools for students who attend low-performing public schools and whose family income is below 250% of the federal poverty level.
(more…) «Louisiana will spend million…»
As long as the Republican Party runs the state of Texas, then its strategies and beliefs are equal to the beliefs of the state itself. The Texas Republican Party just published its platform of beliefs (pdf), filled with nonsense, craziness, and denialism. I’ll stick with the anti-science junk, but you can amuse yourself with everything from immigration to voter ID.
Protection from Extreme Environmentalists – We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. We strongly support the immediate repeal of the Endangered Species Act. We strongly oppose the listing of the dune sage brush lizard either as a threatened or an endangered species. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.
Obviously, a knock against global warming, or at least, that Texas’ oil and gas interests take precedence over global warming, endangered species, and the EPA! Apparently, the dune sage brush lizard is of critical importance to the Texas political process!
RU 486 – We urge the FDA to rescind approval of the physically dangerous RU-486 and oppose limiting the manufacturers’ and distributors’ liability.
It is not physically dangerous, because out of 1.52 million uses, there were around 2200 adverse events (pdf), or around 0.14%. That’s less than smoking. Or drinking. Or walking across the street.
Morning After Pill – We oppose sale and use of the dangerous “Morning After Pill.”
Fetal Pain – We support legislation that requires doctors, at first opportunity, to provide to a woman who is pregnant, information about the nervous system development of her unborn child and to provide pain relief for her unborn if she orders an abortion. We support legislation banning of abortion after 20 weeks gestation due to fetal pain.
There is little evidence that a fetus feels pain prior to 30 weeks of gestation. This is merely a method for anti-abortion and anti-women individuals to promote some sort of viability in a fetus.
Religious Freedom in Public Schools – We urge school administrators and officials to inform Texas school students specifically of their First Amendment rights to pray and engage in religious speech, individually or in groups, on school property without government interference. We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents.
Actually, the First Amendment prevents the establishment of religion by government, which includes government sponsored institutions like public schools.
Health Care and Nutritional Supplements ― We deplore any efforts to mandate that vitamins and other natural supplements be on a prescription–only basis, and we oppose any efforts to remove vitamins and other nutritional supplements from public sale. We support the rights of all adults to their choice of nutritional products, and alternative health care choices.
Because real medicines that actually do real things require regulation. Vitamins and supplements that don’t do anything and have no evidence supporting their efficacy prefer not to be regulated. And the Republicans want that dishonesty to continue.
Immunizations ― All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves or their minor children without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent.
Vaccines save lives. Any other rationalization does not save lives.
Well there’s your Republican lunatics in Texas. Maybe one day the demographics change enough that a more progressive group of people run the state, removing the insanity.
Well, it had to happen–one pseudoscience, creationism, is using another pseudoscience, the nonexistent Loch Ness Monster, as proof. Herald Scotland is reporting that a book, produced by the A.C.E. Curriculum Program and called Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education, informs students that Nessie is proof that evolution never happened.
According to the book,
Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.
The creationist logic is apparently that this lone plesiosaur got captured in Loch Ness during the biblical flood. Thus, we can assume, Nessie proves that dinosaurs didn’t die out 65 million years ago.
(more…) «The Holy Merger: creationism and…»
The United States has been a battleground this year in several states as right wing fundamentalists try to push antievolution legislation that would force children to be taught that evolution is controversial, or that creationism is scientifically equivalent to evolution. In most cases (except for Tennessee) these laws were pushed back, even in some fairly conservative states. The problem with education in the USA is that there are 50 states (plus DC) and 16000 school districts, each with full control over the science curriculum. Thus, children in northeastern and Pacific coast states have strong science educations, while other states, especially in the south and midwest, have a nascent antievolution movement. There are some minimal standards across the US for science education, but when you find school boards that think that creationism is a science, or that evolution is a scientific controversy, it’s hard to make certain that children get an well-rounded education in the biological sciences.
(more…) «England wants children to study…»
Creationism sometimes considered a purely American issue resulting from right wing Christian fundamentalism. Of course, many people understand that fundamentalist Islamic states have a similar point of view towards evolution. Ironic, isn’t it? Antievolution forces do exist in other countries, but they seldom have the ability to push their religious beliefs into the educational system of those countries. Except, that’s not quite true.
(more…) «Creationism in South Korea–evolution denialism…»
The Oklahoma legislature adjourned for the year on May 25, 2012, and all three legislative attempts to force the teaching of the nonexistent “scientific controversies” in evolution and climate change. The first antievolution bill was SB 1742 died in committee in March. The second science denialist bill, HB 1551, died in the Senate Education committee in April. The third attempt, which was an amendment to a school funding bill, HB 2341, died because the amendment could not be added in time.
Once again, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education led the charge to kill these bills. If Oklahoma citizens can do it, it should be possible everywhere.
Since the beginning of 2012, Republicans throughout the country tried to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by pushing religion into public schools. They lumped evolution denialism and global warming denialism into the broad terminology of “scientific controversy” (in case you’re reading, there are no scientific controversies over these theories, just political ones). And those Republicans tried their best to give the children in those states the worst science education ever. Evolution is the foundation of biology, that field of science that is the basis of our health, of medicine, of agriculture, of our environment, and of every living thing on the planet.
So far, in 2012, there have been several attempts by Republican controlled state legislatures to force religion into public schools. It’s been a mixed bag, with several close wins for the science side, and a notable loss.
(more…) «Evolution vs. creationism scorecard: 2012»
You have to hand it to the antievolution folks. They don’t give up and they try every method possible to get their evolution denialism into the educational system despite every constitutional argument going against them. They tried to use intelligent design to force creationism into public schools, but lost in Federal court, costing the schools district over $1 million in legal fees. The have tried to push creationism in several states, succeeding in Tennessee, failing to do so in others. They keep trying, mostly failing.
(more…) «Private school scholarships–gateway to creationism»
After the disaster of Tennessee’s science-denying Monkey Bill being signed into law, there has been relatively (and possibly temporary) good news in Oklahoma and Alabama, who did not vote on the anti-science legislation prior to the adjournment of their state legislatures. Of course, they could bring it up again in 2013, but a win is a win.
Yesterday, the Missouri legislature also adjourned, and two antievolution bills died in the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education before getting a hearing. House Bill 1227 would have permitted teachers ”to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution.” House Bill 1227 would have required “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design,” both in public elementary and secondary schools and in “any introductory science course taught at any public institution of higher education” in the state.
Again, to be absolutely clear on the point, there are no “scientific weaknesses” in the fact of evolution. There is some ongoing debate about the mechanisms of evolution, but the basic principle of change in a population of organisms over time by the mechanisms of natural selection and genetic drift is sound and fully accepted by a huge majority (about 99.6%) of scientists. And intelligent design is not science, it is creationism with different clothing. It is pseudoscience.
A win, hopefully permanent, for science education.
Earlier this year, the Republican dominated Alabama legislature tried to enact a bill, House Bill 133, that would have established a scheme to allow high school credit for creationism. HB 133 would have authorized ”local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students.” The purpose of the bill was to teach creation “science” as equivalent to evolution. The bill died in the legislature, since it did not come to a floor vote before the legislature adjourned on May 16, 2012.
(more…) «Good news for science education…»
As discussed before, Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature undertook a last-ditch attempt to push evolution- and climate change-denialism into the Oklahoma educational system. The two original anti-science bills, HB 1551 and SB 1742, died in committee in March, 2012. Republican Oklahoma Senator Steve Russell then attempted to amend HB 2341, a bill originally intended to extend by two years a deadline for local school districts to meet standards for media, equipment and textbooks, to add language from HB 1551. The amendment “encouraged” teachers to present “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of controversial” topics such as biological evolution and global warming.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Oklahoma update 5»
As you recall, Tennessee’s governor, Republican Bill Haslam, did not veto HB 368, but allowed it to become law. The legislation allows public schools to teach the scientific controversies about evolution and global warming. Once again, there are no scientific controversies regarding evolution and global warming (though admittedly there are ongoing discussions about mechanics and other issues, as there are with all scientific theories). The only controversies are political and rhetorical, and evolution-denialism is based in religious beliefs, not in real science. Tennessee now will allow the teaching of creationism, a religious dogma, in publicly funded schools in direct opposition to the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. In every single case, when these religious laws were brought before State and Federal courts, the laws were overturned. This law will also be thrown out.
(more…) «Tennessee’s Monkey Bill–harmful to education»
Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam refused to sign or veto HB 368, which protects anti-science teachers who insist on pushing creationism or global warming denialism. By not signing or vetoing the bill, the governor has, legally, allowed it to become law.
The bill claims there is a scientific controversy about evolution and climate change, which, of course, is completely untrue. Science accepts the evolutionary basis of biology. It accepts that the planet is warming faster than it should because of human activities. There is only a political debate on these matters.
The key provision of this bill is to support creationism, which is a religious belief. According to the Establishment Clause of the Unite States Constitution, as confirmed by numerous court rulings, creationism is religion, and teaching religion in public schools is not permitted.
This is a huge disappointment. If you care about science, you won’t learn real science in Tennessee public schools.
Recently, we discussed how science works. It’s not a belief. It’s not a random set of rules. It is a rational and logical process to determine cause and effect in the natural world. Pseudoscience, by its very nature, ignores the scientific process; instead, it claims to come to conclusions through science, usually by using scientific sounding words, but actually avoids the scientific process. They tend to use logical fallacies to make their case. Just to be clear, logical fallacy is essentially an error of reasoning. When a pseudoscientist makes a claim, or attempts to persuade the public of this claim, and it is based on a bad piece of reasoning, they commit a fallacy.
(more…) «How pseudoscience makes its case-Part…»
According to the Nashville News, Governor Bill Haslam told reporters that he will probably sign antievolution bill, which allows teachers to discuss the scientific “controversies” regarding the fact of evolution and the fact of climate change. Not to be overly pedantic, there is no scientific controversy over either theory; however, there is a political one. Another problem with the bill is how will a teacher discuss everything there is to know about evolution in a few hours. How can you critically analyze evolution or global warming denialism in just a few minutes? That would be like teaching someone to be a surgeon in a couple of days. It’s almost impossible.
Stay tuned. We’ll see if Governor Haslam actually signs the bill. Republicans rarely keep their word, so who knows what will actually happen.
There’s good news, modified with a bit of bad news, out of Oklahoma regarding the ongoing Republican legislative push for evolution and climate change denialist opinion to taught instead of real science. Oklahoma House Bill 1551, which passed the House, died in the Oklahoma Senate, since they were unable to report out of committee in time. Similarly, Senate Bill 1742 also died in the Oklahoma Senate. Both bills essentially required Oklahoma public schools to teach their students about the “debate” between creation and evolution, and about global warming.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Oklahoma update 4»