Antievolution legislation update–now six states kill anti-science bills

teach creationismThis is an update of the original post about antievolution legislation from March 11, 2013.

It’s a new year for the individual US state legislatures, and after a relatively unsuccessful 2012 in passing anti-science laws (with the notable exception of Tennessee’s Monkey Bill), the conservative Republicans are back trying to remove real science teaching from our kids. The anti-science legislation comes in the form of either 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 the goal is, and will probably always be, to teach creationism.

Creationism refers to the belief that the universe and everything in it were specially created by a god through magic, 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 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 bookContinue reading “Antievolution legislation update–now six states kill anti-science bills”

Antievolution legislation update–five states kill anti-science bills

antiscience9llThis is an update of the original post about antievolution legislation from February 19, 2013.

It’s a new year for the individual US state legislatures, and after a relatively unsuccessful 2012 in passing anti-science laws (with the notable exception of Tennessee’s Monkey Bill), the conservative Republicans are back trying to remove real science teaching from our kids. The anti-science legislation comes in the form of either 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 the goal is, and will probably always be, to teach creationism.

Creationism refers to the belief that the universe and everything in it were specially created by a god through magic, 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 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 bookContinue reading “Antievolution legislation update–five states kill anti-science bills”

Antievolution legislation updates–seven states attacking science

Quality of educationIt’s a new year for the individual US state legislatures, and after a relatively unsuccessful 2012 in passing anti-science laws (with the notable exception of Tennessee’s Monkey Bill), the conservative Republicans are back trying to remove real science teaching from our kids. The anti-science legislation comes in the form of either 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 the goal is, and will probably always be, to teach creationism.

Creationism refers to the belief that the universe and everything in it were specially created by a god through magic, 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 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.  Continue reading “Antievolution legislation updates–seven states attacking science”

New Orleans School Board bans creationism

new_orleans2008Louisiana is at the frontline of the religious war on science and evolution. With its ironically named Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows the teaching of creationism and evolution in public schools, the state is attempting to circumvent the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits state and federal governments from “establishing.”

Teaching creationism, which is solely based on religious beliefs that lack any scientific evidence, in public schools is definitely an attempt to establish a religion by the government. Court cases, such as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and Edwards v. Aguillard are critical court decisions which have rejected teaching of creationism because it is a religious belief.

Well, one part of Louisiana understands the constitution and science. According to the National Center for Science Education, The Orleans Parish School Board, which controls the curriculum and teaching policies for schools in New Orleans, voted to ban the teaching of creationism as science. The new policy specifically bans teachers from including “any aspect of religious faith” in science courses and from using history textbooks adjusted to include Christianity (in reference to Texas textbook guidelines which use  historical revisionism).

The actual wording of the the new policy is what all school boards should support:

No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories.

Yes. Yes. And yes. Simple and to the point, and clearly stating what should be taught to children. If they want to learn about some false history based on religions, or anti-science beliefs, learn it at home. The public school should not enable it.

But there’s more:

No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.

The outgoing President of the Orleans School Board, Thomas Robichaux, stated that “when this was done in Texas, all this talk was what massive influence would do in other states. We want to make sure kids are taught history that has been properly vetted by academics and prepared for their consumption…. I have no problem teaching [religion] in a religion or philosophy class, but the science class is not the appropriate place for it.”

Yes!

New Orleans is just one part (a big part) of Louisiana, so it’s a good step in the right direction. And the students in that district will benefit from this policy, because they can be researchers, scientists, doctors, or just educated with proper critical thinking skills. 

Thanks New Orleans.

Antievolution legislation updates–Indiana and Montana

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.

 

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science–an update

Aliens cockpit ©HR Giger, 1978

For some reasons, the new movie Prometheus by Ridley Scott has struck a nerve with the skeptic blogosphere. I’m pretty certain, based on what I’ve been reading, that there is a distinctive creationist or intelligent design (as if they’re different) thread within the movie. And the overt religiosity of the characters who should have solidly denounced their anti-science religion once they discovered an alien being who seeded the earth with DNA (even if it was bogus science).  Continue reading “Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science–an update”

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science

I am a big fan of science fiction with a few caveats. Make it fun or horrifying, preferably both, and scientifically plausible. Science fiction by its very nature is fiction and should stretch the bounds of human imagination, but it should, at least, follow the basic principles of physics. For example, many science fiction movies require faster than light (FTL) travel, which is right at the edge of impossibility unless we are able to harness massive amounts of energy, suspend some of our current laws and understandings of physics, and adjustments for substantial time-effect conundrums, where someone traveling faster than light will be much younger than those who do not. But at least the writers of those shows make up terminology and gadgets that deal with it. Warp drives. Subspace communications. They try. Continue reading “Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science”

Americans believe that dinosaurs lived with humans

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.”

Continue reading “Americans believe that dinosaurs lived with humans”

Creationism dies–at least in Missouri

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.

via Antievolution legislation dies in Missouri | NCSE.

Where Louisiana Republicans hate the Constitution and Business

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.   Continue reading “Where Louisiana Republicans hate the Constitution and Business”