England wants children to study evolution

Charles Darwin, the original British teacher of evolution

The United States has been a battleground this year in several states as right wing fundamentalists try to push antievolution legislation that would force children to be taught that evolution is controversial, or that creationism is scientifically equivalent to evolution. In most cases (except for Tennessee) these laws were pushed back, even in some fairly conservative states. The problem with education in the USA is that there are 50 states (plus DC) and 16000 school districts, each with full control over the science curriculum. Thus, children in northeastern and Pacific coast states have strong science educations, while other states, especially in the south and midwest, have a nascent antievolution movement. There are some minimal standards across the US for science education, but when you find school boards that think that creationism is a science, or that evolution is a scientific controversy, it’s hard to make certain that children get an well-rounded education in the biological sciences. Continue reading “England wants children to study evolution”

American attitudes about global warming

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. Continue reading “American attitudes about global warming”

Americans believe in debunked myths–shocking news

According to a Reuters poll, nearly 15 percent of the earth’s population believe that the world will end during their lifetime, while another 10 percent think the Mayan calendar proves that the world will end in 2012.  The end of the Mayan calendar, which spans about 5,125 years, on December 21, 2012 prompted a whole field of pseudoscience about the apocalyptic end of the word, sometimes spurred on by some of the junk programs on the History Channel.

What’s worse than all of this is that 22% of Americans believe in an impending Armageddon in their lifetime (the highest rate along with Turkey).  This compares to obviously better science educations in France, where only 6% believe in this silliness, in Belgium, only 7% believe, and the United Kingdom, only 8%. The poll also indicated that individuals with lower education or household income levels, as well as those under 35 years old, were more likely to believe in an apocalyptic end of the world.  Maybe the History Channel has a broader reach than originally thought. Continue reading “Americans believe in debunked myths–shocking news”

US measles cases quadrupled in 2011

The New York Times has reported that cases of measles in the US has quadrupled from 2010 to 2011. Though it was large increase, it is still rare with only 222 cases throughout the United States spread across 17 outbreaks.  However, since the disease is so contagious, an outbreak can develop and grow quite quickly.

The disease is much more frequent in Europe, the New York Times reported, and many of the outbreaks were traced to foreign visitors or Americans returning from trips, typically Europe.  The virus then spreads to children who have not received vaccinations against the highly contagious disease.

As we have discussed, measles can be a dangerous disease.  One-third of all U.S. measles cases required hospitalization.  Although most children who contract measles survive the disease, the prognosis includes severe complications including death from panencephalitis. Also infected children, even if they have no serious complications, can infect someone who is immune-compromised.  In that case, the consequences could be deadly.

Please, vaccinate your children.  

via U.S. measles cases quadrupled in 2011 | Vaccine News Daily.