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…»
In 2008, the Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, signed the Louisiana Science Education Act into law. The law contends that ”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.” The law gives permission to Louisiana’s teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” OK, I understand, we need a state legislature to mandate that more critical thinking is necessary for evolution and global warming; and we don’t need any more critical thinking in other areas of science (sarcasm intended).
Though the law sounds like it would help teaching of science in the state, it really was nothing more than an attempt to get creationism (along with global warming denialism) taught in Louisiana’s public schools. Creationism refers to the belief that the universe and everything in it were specially created by a god through magical , rather than natural, scientifically explained, means. Creationism implicitly relies on the claim that there is a “purpose” to all creation known only to the creator. In other words, 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 tenets 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–Louisiana»
With respect to evolution denying legislative activities, 2012 was a fairly good year for science. Of course, Tennessee passed the anti-science Monkey Bill, which encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of global warming and evolution. Of course, there is no “scientific weakness,” just political debates that have no scientific relevance. But states like Indiana (through a shrewd maneuver of a Democratic legislator), Oklahoma, Alabama, New Hampshire and Missouri failed to pass proposed antievolution legislation, mostly through parliamentary issues, but also in an up and down vote in New Hampshire.
With the conclusion of the recent Presidential election, newly formed state legislatures are planning their 2013 legislative programs. So that means right wing, anti-science legislators in more conservative states are going to once again push evolution-denying legislation.
In Montana, state Representative Clayton Fiscus (Republican) is going to introduce a bill that will require the teaching of “intelligent design“, a form of creationism. This requirement would be in conflict with the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, where plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the Dover school board policy violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The losing lawsuit against the Dover school district cost them over $1 million, money which could have been used for purposes such as teaching children real science. I can only conjecture whether the bill will include funding for school districts that implement this potential requirement to defend against the inevitable constitutional lawsuits.
Similarly, in Indiana, state senator Dennis Kruse (Republican) has told a newspaper that he plans to introduce a bill essentially written by the Discovery Institute (a non-profit religious “think tank” famous for its attempts at getting intelligent design taught in American schools). His bill will be similar to the aforementioned Monkey Bill in Tennessee and another one that was passed in Louisiana in 2008, the misleadingly named Louisiana Science Education Act.
I can only hope that as happened last year, either the state legislatures decide that the view of the American electorate has moved on from this anti-science viewpoint, or they just decide there are more important issues on the docket.
Unless you live in Antarctica and the satellite downlink is not working, in which case you probably aren’t reading this article anyways, there is an election in the United States between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. And unless you’re completely unaware of the news, you would hear that the election is close.
Major election analysts, those with long track records in statistical analyses in election polls, are not seeing a close election, and as we get closer to the election date, the errors are becoming smaller, and the confidence in the predictions are getting stronger. Here are the three best:
- Nate Silver, Five Thirty Eight–As of October 25, 2012, Obama has a 74.4% chance of winning, and leads the Electoral College (an antiquated way that the United States actually elects its Presidents), 295-243.
- Princeton Election Consortium–As of October 26, 2012, Obama has an 88% chance of winning, and leads the Electoral College, 297-241.
- Votamatic–As of October 26, 2012, Obama has a >95% chance of winning, and leads the Electoral College, 332-206.
In other words, from a statistical standpoint, and because of the unusual way that the United States elects its president, the President is almost guaranteed to be reelected, barring some strange statistical anomaly or world event that dramatically changes the election scene.
But why use mathematics, when we have psychics and their pseudoscience to help us out, especially since the pollsters have “been universally negligent in addressing the fact that on November 6 at precisely 7:04 PM EST, Mercury goes into retrograde.” The Atlantic, doing yeoman’s service to the political world, has polled psychics to determine their predictions for the upcoming elections.
Now you would suppose that most psychics are New Age liberals, so there would be some bias in this polling. But The Atlantic believes that “they would act in the interest of establishing a record of accuracy, as opposed to saying what they hope happens. Letting personal political leanings interfere with the veracity of their professional analyses also must go against the code of the trade.” Obviously, this is a serious business.
Some of my favorite predictions:
- “Mitt Romney will not win his home state of Massachusetts.” Well, that was a tough one. If that’s all I would need to do to become a psychic, I’m changing my career.
- “It might even look like [Romney] will or could win. He may even lead in the poles. But on the day of the election Obama has enough of an astrological edge to beat out Romney.” Is that “poles” or “polls.” You never know. So, this prediction has enough fungibility, that whoever wins, it won’t matter, the psychic will claim that they predicted it.
- “In a survey of 172 psychics at Psychic Source, 71.5 percent saw Obama.” So there’s a poll of psychics. I wonder if Nate Silver incorporated that into his research.
Well there you have it. Ignore the real scientific polling. The psychics are calling the election. And of course, since Obama is probably going to win based on real evidence, they’re all going to claim that they called it well in advance. Then you can call them up and find out how to win the lottery. Or if you’re going to meet the love of your life. Or when the world is going to end. Don’t waste your money. Please.
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.
The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier reports that Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed a bill that would have provided sixth- and seventh-graders with information about the HPV vaccine. The vaccine would have been provided at no cost to all seventh-graders whose parents allowed them to have the vaccination. The bill had strong support from both Democrats and Republicans in the South Carolina legislature.
The HPV vaccine provides immunity to men and women against several types of human papilloma virus which is associated with with over 20,000 cancers in women and 11,000 cancers in men every year. Governor Haley defended her veto by calling the bill unnecessary and a “precursor to another taxpayer-funded healthcare mandate,” the Charleston Post and Courier reports.
State Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg, S.C.) sponsored the bill and blasted Haley’s move, calling her decision one that…
puts her own selfish political ambitions ahead of the people of South Carolina. This bill had bipartisan support and gives optional education and preventative vaccines to adolescents in an effort to thwart cervical cancer. This is a common sense approach to a very serious problem. To call this measure unnecessary is demeaning and insulting to the heroic women who fight this cancer everyday. I am deeply disappointed that politics once again has prevailed over women’s health.
In 2007, Haley actually co-sponsored a bill that would provide mandatory HPV vaccinations. It failed to pass through the legislature because it failed to provide opt-outs, which was corrected in the 2012 version.
Let’s be clear here. Haley did not veto this bill because of bad medicine or bad science. She vetoed it purely for political expediency and by doing so, she stands firmly against a simple inoculation that would prevent a deadly cancer. This is not a political issue, it is an anti-cancer issue.
Vaccines save lives. I guess Nikki Haley doesn’t understand that! Maybe she’ll provide cigarettes for free to the school children of South Carolina.
Shocking news once again–a new Gallup poll claims that the rate of acceptance of evolution in the United States is “essentially unchanged” over the past few years. The recent poll from Gallup asked “which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin an development of human beings:”
- 32% of the respondents accepted “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process,”
- 15% accepted “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process,” and
- 46% accepted “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”
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»
In most industrialized countries, global warming is considered to be a fact supported by not only personal observations, but also because of the scientific evidence. In fact, there is an overwhelming level of scientific consensus on this matter, including nearly every scientific organization in the United States. But the American mindset is quite different than the rest of the world. The reasons are many: conflating political debate with scientific debate, poorly understood economic trade-offs, badly written articles in online encyclopedias, reliance on confirmation bias, and just plain ignorance.
(more…) «American attitudes about global warming»
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»
In 2008, Louisiana passed the Louisiana Science Education Pact (LSEP)which allowed public school teachers to present “scientific criticisms” of evolution and climate change. Most scientists considered the law to be anti-evolution, since it was supported by the Discovery Institute (the Seattle based promotor of the evolution denialist Intelligent Design belief). The law’s sole purpose was to allow the teaching of creationism in public schools. Also, since it is very similar to Tennessee’s Monkey Bill (or more correctly, the Monkey Bill “apes” the Louisiana bill), it also allows teachers to instruct students about those non-existent scientific controversies in global warming and abiogenesis too.
(more…) «Where Louisiana Republicans hate the…»
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»
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»
There’s really not much more to report, except that House Bill 368 is still sitting on Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s desk, awaiting his signature or veto. Actually, there’s a third way, he can just ignore it, and it will become law after a set period of time.
The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, Tennessee’s attack on the teaching of evolution, makes a few more points that were intended for the eyes of Gov. Haslam, if only we could be sure that he read the LA Times.
In deciding whether the bill advances a religious agenda, the governor needs to look at context and history as well as the text. A useful reference work would be a 2005 decision by a federal judge in Pennsylvania striking down a school board policy requiring that students be made aware of “gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.” In that case, Judge John E. Jones concluded that intelligent design and teaching about “gaps” and “problems” in evolutionary theory are “creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism.”
(more…) «Creationism legislation–Tennessee Monkey Bill (Update…»
If you’re looking for a cure for your cancer, don’t look to evolution-deniers for hope. As for me, I give thanks to Darwin and the researchers who have stood on his shoulders.–Leslie Brunetta
If you’re looking for a cure for your cancer, don’t look to evolution-deniers for hope. As for me, I give thanks to Darwin and the researchers who have stood on his shoulders.–Leslie Brunetta
A quick update on Tennessee’s “Monkey Bill”, which is a Republican-led anti-evolution and global warming denying bill. The bill, HB 368, was sent to Governor Bill Haslam this week for consideration. Gov. Haslam has until April 9 2012 to either sign it, allow it to become law without his signature or veto it. The bill encourages teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” in topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life (known as abiogenesis), global warming and human cloning.” The scientific weaknesses are nearly nonexistent, except in the mind of the science denialists that inhabit the Republican Party, particularly in the South.
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»