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…»
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»
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…»
The other day, I was watching some news story about climate change; it was mostly from the denialist point of view, but I was struck by what seemed to be almost the same arguments that the creationist folks say about evolution. I began to wonder if there was a religious component to the global warming denialists, maybe at the same fundamentalist belief level as the creationists.
While I was digging through the Huffington Post’s Science Section (which publishes story about how homeopathy works or how a bug jumping on a camera lens is obviously a UFO chasing the powerful Chilean Air Force, I noticed a couple of articles by Victor Stenger, a world-renowned particle physicist who writes about scientific skepticism of religion and faith. It’s possible that I’m too harsh about HuffPo’s general anti-science content, though Stenger only partially makes up for the rest of the anti-science articles on HuffPo.
(more…) «Religion and global warning denialism»
I’ve always considered the Deep South, which includes Alabama and Mississippi, to be a part of the country way out of step with the real world, including the rest of the country. Without the South, the United States would basically be a liberal, religiously tolerant, progressive country, similar in a lot of respects to Canada. Both Alabama and Mississippi are relatively poor with educational systems that rank at or near the bottom of the US. Other than college football champion, it’s hard to see that their educational system has done much positive.
(more…) «Alabama and Mississippi think Obama…»
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)»
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»
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»