Antievolution legislation: Missouri and Kentucky attack science education

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.” Continue reading “Antievolution legislation: Missouri and Kentucky attack science education”

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”

Project Steve hits 1200 signatures

Not this Steve

Project Steve goes over 1200 signatories this week.  Wait, you might enquire, what is Project Steve?  No, not Steve Jobs. It is a tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, humorous parody of the various “lists” that evolution deniers use to “prove” there is a controversy about evolution. One of the most famous is the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism (SDD), set up by the Seattle based, intelligent design think-tank (yes, you probably see all the irony).  The SDD, which was started in 2001, states:

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

Continue reading “Project Steve hits 1200 signatures”

Creationism legislation–Alabama, the Constitution update

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. Continue reading “Creationism legislation–Alabama, the Constitution update”

Indiana creationism bill passes the Senate

The Republican dominated Indiana Senate passed, by a vote of 28-22, a bill that allows school districts to teach creationism.  The bill’s language states:

❝The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.❞

First of all, evolution doesn’t cover the origin of life, but that’s just one of those mistakes creationists always make.  I’m not sure why they’re including all the religions, possibly to show that it’s not just Christian-oriented creationist myths.  But Scientology? Continue reading “Indiana creationism bill passes the Senate”

Update from Missouri | NCSE

Update from Missouri | NCSE.

The chief sponsor of this bill says the “jury is still out on evolution.”  Uh, what jury is that?  The one in Kitzmiller v. Dover, where a Federal Judge ruled that Intelligent Design is not science?  Or the scientific community that say’s evolution is basically a fact?  Or that intelligent design was “designed” to circumvent the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

In case anyone forgot, that clause states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

So, Intelligent Design is a religious doctrine.  The State of Missouri (well, at least some do) want to have that religious doctrine taught in public schools (run and funded by the State of Missouri).  Sounds like they might have a legal challenge ahead.

“Intelligent design” bill in Missouri | NCSE

“Intelligent design” bill in Missouri | NCSE.

Not that anyone needs reminding, but just in case, Intelligent design is not scientific, it is not a scientific theory, and it is religion.  In Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, the US District Court held that:

Teaching intelligent design in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (and Article I, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania State Constitution) because intelligent design is not science and “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

It cost the Dover Area School District over $1 million to defend this lawsuit, money that probably could have been spent on textbooks, teachers, and new computers.  I believe in the aftermath, all school board members who supported the teaching of Intelligent design were ousted by voters.  That’s how democracy I suppose.

The bill states:

If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught.

Just a tiny point, and I can’t expect much out of Missouri’s legislators, but the theory of evolution does not discuss the origin of life.  The theory of abiogenesis does, and that’s more chemistry and physics than biologists.  Biological evolution, or modern evolutionary synthesis, is based on a mountain of evidence.  The theory isn’t used in the sense of a random guess, but a scientific one with a foundation in scientific method and piles of evidence.  It is falsifiable (but has not been falsified) and has itself evolved into a power predictor of how populations of organisms change over time.

Intelligent design is not falsifiable (in that it requires an all powerful creator) and is not scientific.  It is based on no evidence, just ideology and rhetoric.  It fails as science once the bright light of criticism is shone on it.

Well, I don’t know how Missouri’s legislature is organized, but I hope they’re intelligent enough not to do this.  But if they do, expect several lawsuits.  And they’ll lose them all.

Polling pastors on evolution | NCSE

Polling pastors on evolution–National Center for Science Education

There are a few interesting points regarding this poll:

  • The poll was commissioned by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, a rather conservative Christian denomination.  I’m concerned about the inherent bias.
  • Protestants in various parts of the country have different beliefs about science and evolution.  This poll may be biased towards Southern US churches, where more literal beliefs in biblical myth is more prevalent.
  • Of course, this polling does not include anyone outside of the US.
  • The first question was “I believe god used evolution created people”.   About 24% agreed with that, over 72% disagreed.  Of course, that’s a loaded question, because a pastor might accept evolution and not think a god was involved, but it’s hard to tell without the real data.
  • Interestingly, only 46% thought the earth was 6000 years old, whereas 43% disagreed (although, not sure if they thought it was 4.5 billion or something else).
  • One minor, but very annoying point.  One does not believe in evolution, since belief implies acceptance with or in spite of evidence.  Evolution is a theory (and in science, a theory is essentially a fact) based on mountains of evidence.  It does not require evidence, it requires acceptance of the evidence, or rejection of the evidence based on denialism, ignorance, or belief in an alternative explanation–or all three.

There are churches that accept evolution as is.  Jews, Catholics, and most mainstream Protestants (such as Anglicans) were, of course, excluded from this poll, and would have skewed it toward “pastors” supporting evolution.  Of course, anti-evolution (or evolution denialism) is so prevalent these days, we probably shouldn’t be surprised by this poll.

By the way, if you aren’t, follow the National Center for Science Education.  They keep everyone updated on important issues in science education in the USA.