The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for March 26th, 2009

Win for Science Education in Texas!

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 26, 2009

Hooray! :D It looks as if the creationists on the Texas Board of Education have been defeated in their efforts to insert “strengths and weaknesses” language into the Texas state science standards! Read more at my recent post: The Textbook Saga in Texas Continues.

This means that Texas textbooks – and, by extension, science texts nationwide – will not be watering down good science in the name of pushing pseudoscientific flim-flam as espoused by the fundamentalist creationist whackjobs on the Texas BoEd.

The vote was extremely close: it was a 7-7 tie with one board member, who fortunately opposes the creationists, being absent. The Dallas Morning News elaborates…

A last-ditch effort by social conservatives to require that Texas teachers cover the “weaknesses” in the theory of evolution in science classes was rejected by the State Board of Education Thursday in a split vote.

Board members deadlocked 7-7 on a motion to restore a long-time curriculum rule that “strengths and weaknesses” of all scientific theories – notably Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution – be taught in science classes and covered in textbooks for those subjects.

Voting for the requirement were the seven Republican board members aligned with social conservative groups. Against the proposal were three other Republicans and four Democrats.

The tie vote upheld a tentative decision by the board in January to delete the strengths-and-weaknesses rule in the new curriculum standards for science classes that will be in force for the next decade.

I don’t think we on the pro-science side are completely out of the woods just yet, as I wouldn’t put it past the creationists to try some kind of last-minute shenanigans. But for now we can celebrate this big win! :D

If you’re interested in staying informed on these and similar topics, I strongly urge you to get connected with the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Psychic Failure in Investment Scams

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 26, 2009

I wanted to pass along an excellent article from Joe Nickell, skeptical investigator for the Center For Inquiry, concerning a recently revealed Ponzi scheme and the role that psychics played in it. In an earlier post, called Psychic Parasites, I outlined how many psychics are playing off people’s fears in these tough economic times, and Nickell’s article shows very nicely why this is dangerous.

You can read the entire article here, but allow me to summarize some of the key points…

Now we know: Buffalo-area investment manipulator Guy Gane Jr., who has been accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of operating a 5.8-million-dollar Ponzi scheme, regularly sought advice from “psychics.” …

… One of Gane’s self-professed psychics was Ellen Bourn, who is a past-president of the Lily Dale Assembly, the world’s largest center for spiritualism (the belief that one can communicate with the dead). Her Web site bills her as an “incomparable metaphysician, psychic, master astrologer, healer and teacher.” In actuality, her real name is Ellen Bornstein, and she—like Sylvia Browne and many other “psychics”—has traits associated with a fantasy-prone personality. …

… Gane’s other psychic [James F. Lagona] has an even longer list of claimed powers—or fantasies: He is a self-described Christian mystic, dowser, spiritualist medium, healer, tarot reader, etc., including exorcist. He also describes himself as a Bishop of the Western Rite Orthodox Catholic Church and “renowned metaphysician,” as well as a bankruptcy attorney—although the home he practiced from has suffered foreclosure and is presently boarded up.

psychic-accuracy

I really like the manner in which Joe finishes his article. I can’t say it any better, so here it is…

I would just ask the two alleged psychics: Couldn’t you get an inkling of what was going on? Catch a glimpse of those millions of dollars disappearing from people’s retirement funds? Feel the vibrations from the impending scandal and misfortune that you yourself were caught up in? Were your psychic colleagues at Lily Dale and elsewhere unable to warn you? Now do you understand the consequences of living in a fantasy world?

Sadly, I don’t think either of these supposedly “gifted” individuals (nor their gullible believers) will even take the time to consider that their “powers” are non-existent and reside purely within their own personal fantasy lands. More’s the pity.

Posted in economics, psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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