The reach of the crazy creationists always seemed like a southern thing. Mississippi and Alabama are backwards states with bad education where they invest more in football than science education. Tennessee is trying to relive the Scopes Monkey Trial. Oklahoma and Louisiana are trying to have their students deny all kinds of science from evolution to climate change.
But we have always assumed that the northern progressive parts of the USA were resistant to these science denialists. Unfortunately, the stupidity has reached north into the New York City Department of Education, by far, the largest public school district in the United States with over 1.1 million students. They have decided to ban the following words for testing, because it might offend some of their students:
(more…) «Antievolution and anti-science education–New York…»
As we discussed previously, Tennessee is doing all it can to violate the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution by pushing an anti-science legislation onto the public school students of the state. They want teachers to allow discussion of the non-existent “scientific controversy” regarding the origin of life, evolution and climate change. The only controversy is in the deluded brains of Republican legislators pushing the religious agenda of the fundamentalist Christians.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Tennessee ACLU update»
Tennessee Senate Bill 893, which, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
There are no scientific controversies about biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming or human cloning. The only controversies exist if you add political expediency, religious faith and corporations who want to pollute without restrictions.
Unfortunately for the science side of the equation, the Tennessee House passed the bill in April 2011, so after a conference between both houses to resolve small differences in language (the Senate amended the bill), it will be sent to the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, for final approval. Haslam is a Republican, but has stated in the past that the State Board of Education and not the legislature who should be responsible for educational standards. Nevertheless, even if he signs it, the state will be sued soon thereafter for violating the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, costing the Tennessee school system millions of dollars. Undoubtedly, the legislature did not fund the bill to help school districts fight the inevitable lawsuits.
Again, it’s nice to live in an area of the United States that lacks this overt religious dominance over the body politic.
There’s been lots of news this week regarding anti-evolution legislation. Republicans in various state legislatures are starting to push their religious agenda in violation of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. Remember, according to the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, teaching religion in public schools is prohibited, and numerous court rulings have clearly stated that creationism is a religious doctrine, not a scientific controversy. These Republican legislatures are trying to push a full anti-science agenda, forcing school children to think that abiogenesis (the origin of life on Earth), global warming and evolution are somehow scientifically unsound principles. In the real world, these is no controversy, except with regards to fine-tuning mechanisms, rather than on the broad theory.
In 1925, in the state of Tennessee, the most famous legal proceeding in the battle between evolution and anti-evolution occurred. In what became known as the Scopes Monkey Trial, a high school science teacher, John Scopes, was accused by the State of Tennessee for violating the Butler Act,a Tennessee law that required school teachers to not “deny” the Biblical account of the origin of man. The trial grabbed the attention of the whole country, and two of the greatest attorneys of that era, William Jennings Bryan (a three time Democratic candidate for President of the US) prosecuted the case, and Clarence Darrow defended Scopes. Even though the trial is often considered a science vs. religion battle, in fact, it centered around a “modernist” view, that evolution was consistent with the bible and religion, against a “fundamentalist” view, that the bible is the “word of god”, which would exclude evolution.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Tennessee, or The Return…»
One of the two anti-evolution and anti-climate change bills, introduced into the Oklahoma legislature earlier this year, died in committee. The remaining bill, HB1551, was passed by the Oklahoma House Common Education Committee in February, so may be scheduled for a floor vote soon. The surviving bill is modeled upon the Louisiana Louisiana Academic Freedom Act, which states:
…the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.
When Republican climate change denialist, Ken Cuccinelli, was elected as attorney general of Virginia, he decided that his position entitled him to squash science that didn’t meet his limited, and clearly anti-science, viewpoint of the world. Just three months after being elected, he decided to go after Dr. Michael E. Mann, at that time, a University of Virginia geophysicist and world-renowned climatologist. In other words, Dr. Mann, a real scientist with numerous studies published, offended the Republican anti-science and global warming denialism credo. That must have spurred Cuccinelli to use his vast powers to suppress such knowledge from the world.
(more…) «Academic freedom prevails over Republican…»
Alabama’s House Bill 133, which would “authorize local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students”, cleared the Alabama House Education Policy Committee on February 29, 2012. As discussed previously, this legislation is probably unconstitutional, violating the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, mainly because the school boards would be responsible for setting the curriculum. I didn’t realize this before, but each child could have access to studies about their own religion. So there would have to be credit given for Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian (and which sect of christianity would be taught). And what about atheists? I guess those kids could actually study something real, like science. Then get the great jobs. And discover the cure for a disease. Then the anti-science religious student will come begging for the cure.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Alabama (update 2)»
Recently, Springer, one of the largest scholarly scientific book publishers in the world, was considering publishing a book entitled, Biological Information: New Perspectives. In a purely scientific context, a book with that title might be interesting, because there is so many new ideas in biology. For example, though there is no dispute about the Fact of Evolution, there’s still a lot of discussion about the mechanisms of evolution, one of the most fascinating and vibrant fields in biology these days.
(more…) «Major scientific book publisher is…»
Yesterday, the Supreme Court “declined to hear an appeal Tuesday from a former high school student who sued his history teacher, saying he disparaged Christianity in class in violation of the student’s First Amendment rights.” The case, C. F. v. Capistrano USD, involved a high school student who was insulted that his history teacher, James Corbett, didn’t think much of creationism and religion. Some of Corbett’s comments (which deserve some sort of hero’s award) are:
“Conservatives don’t want women to avoid pregnancies — that’s interfering with God’s work.”
“When you pray for divine intervention, you’re hoping that the spaghetti monster will help you get what you want.”
Referring to creationism as “religious, superstitious nonsense”, which lead to the lawsuit.
The New York Times article, Heartland Institute Leak, a Plan to Discredit Climate Teaching, obtained some leaked documents from the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that denies the link between second hand smoke and cancer; and denies anthropomorphic global warming (human-caused climate change). These documents outlined “plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet.” According to the Heartland Institute, “Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective (pdf file).”
A few weeks ago, Memorial University of Newfoundland’s student newspaper, the Muse, published an article, “MUN to offer creation science program next year.” It appeared that one of Canada’s top comprehensive universities, which has a some very good science programs in biochemistry and marine biology, had lost all sense of reality and decided to offer bachelor’s and graduate degrees in “Creation Science” (not a science).
The story was picked up by the Canadian University Press Newswire, “University to offer creation science program next year,” though clearly marked as “humour.” Then it was published in an atheist/skeptical blog, “Canadian University to Offer Creation ‘Science’ Degrees.” Then I read it, ready to publish it here.
But I have a policy about anything I write. I go read the original sources to make sure that I’ve got my facts right, something that the pseudoscientific lunatics rarely do. Memorial University’s website lacked any mention of it, except in the student Newspaper, where it was clearly labelled as “satire.” Oops. Very good satire too!
Oh well, I guess right-wing congressmen are not the only ones that get caught by satire.
❝The culture wars have been fought in the classroom for decades, waged over such issues as school prayer, the teaching of evolution and whether the Pledge of Allegiance should include the phrase “under God.” But the conflict usually pits backers of religious instruction against secularists. The latest skirmish, by contrast, is centered on a scientific issue that has nothing to do with religious teaching: climate change.
(more…) «Climate change denialists targeting classrooms»
An antievolution Republican Oklahoma legislator has introduced another anti-science bill in Oklahoma House of Representatives. The bill, if passed by both houses and signed by the governor, encourages teachers to teach the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution” and “global warming”. This is actually a slight modification to an original bill that was rejected by the House Education Committee last month, but the full house can ignore that vote and vote on it as a whole.
According to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), in its article Credit-for-creationism scheme unconstitutional?, the new creationist legislation being introduced into the Alabama House is probably unconstitutional. Incredibly scandalous news.
As discussed yesterday, Alabama is trying to pass legislation that would ”authorize local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students.” In the landmark Supreme Court 1948 ruling, McCollum v. Board of Education, the court struck down a Illinois release time program as unconstitutional because of the public school system’s involement in the administration, organization and support of religious instruction classes.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Alabama, the Constitution update»
Not all anti-evolution legislation has been introduced in the southern or midwestern areas of the USA. Two bills were introduced in New Hampshire, one of the few Republican areas of the northeastern part of the country. Today, it was reported that a New Hampshire House committee dismisses bills on evolution.
The first bill, House Bill 1148, would have forced the state board of education to “[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.” Of course, from a scientific point-of-view, a scientific theory is about as close to a “fact” as you will find in science. Evolution is a fact. Although most atheists accept evolution (I’m always shocked to find a few atheists who dispute the fact of evolution), not everyone who accepts evolution is an atheist. Like the whole Catholic Church, whose doctrine accepts evolution.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–New Hampshire»
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is reporting that antievolution legislation has been introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives. Alabama isn’t known for their progressive attitudes towards the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution given some past events like trying to put the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court building and forcing prayer into schools. The bill allows local school districts to give credits to students who attend religious courses.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Alabama, shocking news»
The right wing push to subvert the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution has been put on hold in Indiana. According to the Indianapolis Star, Indiana’s creation science bill is dead . This is good news. Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, an Indianapolis Republican, moved the bill to the rules committee, a procedural step that all but assures it will not make it to a vote this year. According to Bosma, “I didn’t disagree with the concept of the bill, but I hesitate to micromanage local curricula. Secondarily, I didn’t think it was prudent to buy a lawsuit the state could ill afford at this point.” A pragmatic Republican is rare these days, since it really should be up to the school district to teach science in the best way possible (which is completely ignoring the religion of creationism). And there will be lawsuits which the state would lose.
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Indiana update»
Recently, the National Science Board (NSB) published its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report for 2012. This report comprises quantitative data on the U.S. and international science and engineering by objectively reviewing science and engineering progress in both the US and internationally. The report does not make policy options and recommendations, but it is used by different governmental and non-governmental entities to formulate their own policies and recommendations. This report is required by law.
(more…) «National Science Board’s Science and…»
The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that focuses on Intelligent Design, has issued a press release that “condemns passage of creationism bill by Indiana Senate as bad science and bad education.” The irony is so thick that it’s displacing oxygen in the atmosphere, since Intelligent Design is simply a flavor of creationism that purports to be a scientific theory that proposes that evolution is controlled or directed by an intelligent designer. They state, in the release that:
“Instead of injecting religion into biology classes, legislators should be working to promote the inclusion of more science,” said Joshua Youngkin, a law and policy analyst at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “There are plenty of scientific criticisms of Darwin’s theory today, and science students should be able to hear about them, not about religion.”
(more…) «The Discovery Institute opposes Indiana’s…»