Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 4, 2014
I have used up many electrons on this blog discussing the problem of anti-science and science denial regarding creationist and climate science denier movements. I have also discussed many times about how those movements seek to destroy the credibility of science in order to prop up either their religious or political worldviews, which usually tend to be quite right-wing in nature.
However, lest we cease to be critical thinkers about the problem of anti-science and science denial, let us not over simplify the issue in to being a problem of only the political right. Case in point: many of the worst of the anti-vaccination movement (AVM) are strongly left-leaning in their politics. This is emphasized rather hilariously in this recent Daily Show segment:
No, this chart isn’t the idiocy. The idiotic part is that anyone would seriously deny that vaccinations are the reason why these deadly diseases went away.
In the segment, the Daily Show interviewer discusses the topic of vaccines with someone who can only be described as an ideological science-denier… who is on the political left. I really like how Orac at Respectful Insolence breaks this down:
In the piece, in particular Bee makes fun of a crunchy lifestyle blogger, Sarah Pope, who, after establishing her liberal-crunchy bona fides (after Bee’s amusing prompts, of course), rattles off pretty much every antivaccine trope and bit of misinformation and pseudoscience in the antivaccine canon, claiming herd immunity is myth, that vaccines cause autism, that they don’t work, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Yesterday, Pope wrote about the interview thusly:
” “The Epidemic of Idiocy” that The Daily Show segment labels the no-vaccination movement is head scratching given that the anti-vaccine movement is being led by the most educated in our society.
Are all those parents with college degrees, master’s degrees, PhDs and, yes, even many MDs that are saying no to shots for their kids complete idiots?
No-vax parents aren’t the real “science deniers”. In fact, they the ones most interested in the science because they are digging into the research and demanding unbiased, objective data to support vaccination, not the slanted version presented by the CDC and conventional pediatricians like Dr. Offit who makes millions supporting the very industry that handsomely maintains his lifestyle.”
No matter how much Ms. Pope wants to claim the mantle of science through the University of Google, she and her fellow antivaccine activists are just as antiscience as anthropogenic global climate change denialists and creationists (a.k.a., evolution denialists). They also share another important trait with people holding those antiscience beliefs. They’re just really, really good atmotivated reasoning, and one reason they’re so good at motivated reasoning is because they are educated and smart, which is why vaccine denialists and other science denialists are sometimes referred to as “smart idiots.” It’s a very apt term. I do, however thank The Daily Showfor making me aware of Ms. Pope. Her blog looks like—shall we say?—a highly “target-rich” environment for potential future blog posts.
However, we should take care to not oversimplify the AVM and the political affiliations of its adherents, because while there are many AVMers who are left-wing, there is also a strong (and apparently growing) right-wing element to vaccine denial. More from Orac:
However, there is also a very strong strain of antivaccine views on the right as well, including General Bert Stubblebine III’s Natural Solutions Foundation, far right libertarians, and others who distrust the government, including government-recommended vaccine schedules.
Indeed, many of the the antivaccine people and groups whom I monitor tend to be anything but liberal politically. For example, The Canary Party, a rabidly antivaccine group that pushes the idea that toxins in vaccines are responsible for autism and all sorts of health issues and that autism “biomed” quackery is the way to cure vaccine injury recently teamed up with the East Bay Tea Party to oppose vaccine mandates in California. Moreover, the Canary Party has also recently been sucking up to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), with one of its major financial backers, Jennifer Larson, contributing a lot of money to Issa’s campaign (indirectly, of course) in order to buy influence and win a hearing by his committee examining autism and focused on vaccines as one potential cause. Fortunately, Issa’s hearing in 2012 was a bust.
So what are we to conclude about this question of anti-vaccination and political affiliation? Well, the answer appears to be “not much” because it seems the question hasn’t been rigorously studied…
Unfortunately, there aren’t actually a lot of good data examining whether there is a correlation between political affiliation and anti-vaccine views. I blogged about this very issue a three years ago, discussing an article by Chris Mooney looking at polling data and doing the best he could to characterize the politics of vaccine denialism.
At this point, about the only thing I can say is that regardless of the political motivations of those who buy into and promote the dangerous nonsense espoused by the AVM, their lies and pseudoscience must be countered. So how do we do that? How do we in the skeptical and pro-science movement formulate an effective message to counter the AVM’s noise and misinformation? Well, I am happy to say that last year a study was published (via the JREF and Women Thinking, Inc.) on this very question. Please give it a look :)
Posted in medical woo, politics, skeptical community | Tagged: anti science, anti-vaccination, anti-vaccination movement, anti-vax, AVM, children, conservative, data, denial, doctors, immunization, information, James Randi Educational Foundation, Jon Stewart, JREF, left wing, liberal, medicine, misconceptions, myth, opinion, Orac, parents, politics, research, Respectful Insolence, right wing, science, science denial, survey, The Daily Show, vaccination, vaccines, vax, Women Thinking, WT, WT Inc | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 7, 2014
You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard the news about Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows sectarian prayers at government meetings. My skeptical colleague Hemant Mehta at the Friendly Atheist has an excellent breakdown on the background of this case – check it out here.
Essentially, the SCOTUS ruled that explicitly Christian and other sectarian prayers are allowed in the opening of local government meetings (just as they have been for years in the federal and state legislatures) under the Constitution. Regarding this ruling, I think the devil is in the details; specifically, the SCOTUS did not rule that only Christian prayers were allowed. It ruled that sectarian prayers are allowed… from any religion (or non-religion)… which means that anyone can make a motion to pray at such meetings. Further, Justice Kennedy stated in his opinion that:
“If the course and practice over time shows that the invocations denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion, many present may consider the prayer to fall short of the desire to elevate the purpose of the occasion and to unite lawmakers in their common effort. That circumstance would present a different case than the one presently before the Court.”
Whoops, that’s already happened; just look at how there are some self-righteous fundamentalist religious jerks who misinterpret this ruling as saying that “only Christian prayers are allowed” – which is exactly the kind of thing more reasonably-minded members of the SCOTUS noted might happen. Indeed, the problem here is that this ruling has a huge potential to cause even greater religious animosity and division at the same time our country is becoming ever more (non)religiously diverse (with as many as 20% claiming “no religion”). Specifically, Justice Kagan said:
“The monthly chaplains appear almost always to assume that everyone in the room is Christian. … The Town itself has never urged its chaplains to reach out to members of other faiths, or even to recall that they might be present. And accordingly, few chaplains have made any effort to be inclusive; none has thought even to assure attending members of the public that they need not participate in the prayer session. Indeed, as the majority forthrightly recognizes, when the plaintiffs here began to voice concern over prayers that excluded some Town residents, one pastor pointedly thanked the Board “[o]n behalf of all God-fearing people” for holding fast, and another declared the objectors “in the minority and … ignorant of the history of our country.””
So… what is a secularist to do? Shall we bemoan our fate, lamenting that “this was another win for the religious right”? I think not. In fact, I think this ruling can lead to a really big problem for the religious right; but don’t take it from me, take it from an evangelical Christian writer (and constitutional scholar) for Christianity Today magazine:
“So what’s the harm of government prayer? First, it leaves a few deeply resentful, with hearts hardened to Christianity. One need look no further than the two complainants here. Many more of our fellow citizens are confused about evangelical methods and motives when we hitch our wagon to Caesar, and they are misled about the nature of Christ’s invitation and a person’s freedom in response to him. Moreover, because what goes around comes around, municipalities in less friendly territory than Greece, New York, will seize this newly approved legality and use it to offer up invocational prayers that will be unrecognizable to evangelicals. Already this is occurring in the Town of Greece, where a Wiccan priestess has offered up prayers to Athena and Apollo. An atheist has also petitioned, by appealing to “inclusion,” that she be allowed to take a turn at rendering the invocation. She did so, not because she wanted to pray, to protest the city policy by rendering it absurd. The Supreme Court’s ruling means we will be seeing more of this mischief.” [emphasis added]
Did you hear that? Mischief! :)
At the next county board meeting, ask if you can get a “Hail Satan!” (image source)
And he’s right. Now that the SCOTUS has explicitly opened the door to sectarian (note, that’s a different word that “Christian”) prayers, then all those Christians who so badly wanted to win this case had better be prepared for people of other religious (or non-religious) beliefs to come calling for their turn to give invocations at local government meetings. I’m guessing they won’t be too happy to have a Muslim imam, Jewish rabbi, Hindu priest, or humanist/atheist open with a prayer or statement; just look at how they threw a hissy-fit when a Hindu priest opened a session of the U.S. Senate with a prayer:
Well, these conservative Christians had better get used to it, because plenty of highly non-Christian folks are now more than ready to start attending local government meetings with the express purpose of opening them with non-Christian prayers/invocations. For example:
**The American Humanist Association is planning to launch a program to “provide resources for atheists and humanists to deliver secular invocations during legislative meetings.”
**The Freedom From Religion Foundation has already announced “Nothing Fails Like A Prayer”, a nationwide contest for the best secular invocation delivered at a government meeting.
**And the Satanic Temple (yes, the same one that is petitioning to erect a statue of Satan outside the Oklahoma state house under their “religious monument” law) is getting in on the act, too. In fact, they’ve already got the following prayer/invocation ready to go:
“Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions, not their fealty to arbitrary social norms and illusory categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is Done. Hail Satan.”
I have a message for all the conservative Christians hailing this ruling: Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it :)
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: Bible, Christian, Christianity, Constitution, court, decision, Devil, Establishment Clause, First Amendment, freedom of religion, Friendly Atheist, fundamentalist, Galloway, God, government, Greece, Hemant Mehta, invocation, Jesus, law, legislature, Lucien Greaves, Lucifer, meeting, New York, prayer, religion, right wing, ruling, Satan, Satanic Temple, SCOTUS, separation of church and state, Stephens, Supreme Court, United States | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 17, 2014
Here in the United States we just finished tax season (the deadline for filing passed on the 15th of April). I don’t usually talk about economic issues here, because I’m a science guy not a money guy, but my skeptical colleague and friend Jamie Berstein from Skepchick knows money, economics, and taxes way better than me, and she recently wrote a killer blog post on tax myths. Read on :)
If you’re living and working in the U.S. then you know today is that most infamous of “holidays,” Tax Day. You are either rushing to finish your taxes and get it to the post office before they close or are smugly sitting back and relaxing because you finished your taxes ahead of time to avoid the last-minute rush.
As one of the latter who already received and spent most of my refund weeks ago on new clothes and buying the geeky t-shirt quilt Mary made to raise money for SkepchickCON (which my cat has since claimed for himself — See featured photo), I thought today would be a perfect day to bust some myths about taxes. These are meant to apply only to tax system of the U.S. though there may be parallels to systems used in other countries.
Myth #1: Progressive income tax systems encourage people to work less or avoid promotions because if you make enough more money to cross into a higher tax bracket, you’ll actually be taking home less money after paying taxes.
Myth #2: Flat taxes are fairer because everyone pays the same amount.
Myth #3: No-income tax states have low taxes and still manage to get by just fine. They are proof that we can still have a thriving economy while keeping taxes low.
Myth #4: Tax Deductions are a way for the government to save people money without spending any money.
For full details and explanations, read Jamie’s full post at Skepchick.
Posted in economics, politics | Tagged: 4-15, 4/15, April 15, April 15th, economy, federal, flat tax, government, income, Internal Revenue Service, IRS, Jamie Bernstein, myths, progressive, rates, regressive, revenue, Skepchick, spending, state, tax, Tax Day, taxes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 8, 2014
Last year I blogged about how this blog has joined a coalition of skeptical blogs titled the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients (SPCP).
The impetus for this is a particularly loathsome man – Stanislaw Burzynski – who is a quack that promises to cure people of their cancer, despite the fact that decades of research show that his claimed cancer cures don’t work. Unfortunately, Burzynski has been able to skirt common decency, good medical science, and the FDA regulators and continue to practice his quackery, resulting in an unfortunate number of people going to him in the hopes that he can cure them. A good rundown of Burzynski’s history of fraud can be found by listening to this recent podcast of Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the SPCP has decided to take down Burzynski due to the particularly flagrant manner in which he practices his dangerous pseudoscience; it will also serve as a message to all other medical quacks and charlatans to be on notice because we in the skeptical community are watching.
Well, now things are going to the next level – straight to Congress. Burzynski has been able to get away with so much for so long because he has political allies in high places, so we’ve decided to fight fire with fire. My skeptical colleagues at the SPCP have put together a petition asking Congress to step in and force the FDA to do its job and properly investigate, regulate, and (hopefully) put out of business Burzynski and his quack clinic.
Please consider signing and passing along this petition; the text of the petition follows – click here to sign:
Petition by Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients
We are writing to request your urgent attention to a matter that involves the exploitation of cancer patients, their families, and their communities.
For nearly 40 years, Houston cancer doctor Stanislaw Burzynski has been treating cancer patients with an unproven chemotherapy he calls “antineoplastons.” Following an agreement in the 1990s with the FDA, he has recently only been able to administer the drug under the auspices of clinical trials. For this questionable treatment, he charges patients exorbitant fees (often hundreds of thousands of dollars) to participate in a trial, and he claims to cure the most difficult, almost uniformly fatal pediatric brain cancers. His claims are not supported by science and evidence; despite opening more than 60 trials in the last 15 years, he has not published the results of a single completed clinical trial.
On Friday, November 15, 2013, many concerning issues about Dr. Burzynski were detailed in a front-page exposé in USA Today, including his past use of antineoplastons as an AIDS and Parkinson’s treatment. Sickeningly, critics of the Clinic have found a pattern going back 20 years of patients publicly celebrating unambiguous signs of disease progression as signs that antineoplastons were working.
The FDA recently released site inspection notes about Stanislaw Burzynski’s clinic. Their findings were horrific:
– Burzynski “failed to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects under your care.”
— “Forty-eight (48) subjects experienced 102 investigational overdoses“
— Burzysnki allowed overdoses continue: “Overdose incidents have been reported to you [....] There is no documentation to show that you have implemented corrective actions during this time period to ensure the safety and welfare of subjects.”
— All baseline tumor measurements were destroyed: “Your [...] tumor measurements initially recorded on worksheets at baseline and on-study treatment [...] studies for all study subjects were destroyed and are not available for FDA inspectional review.” Without any measurement there is no way to determine any actual efficacy of the treatment, making Burzynski’s claims unsupported and unpublishable.
— Burzynski’s reported success rates are inflated: He “failed to comply with protocol requirements related to the primary outcome, therapeutic response [...] for 67% of study subjects reviewed during the inspection.” Nonetheless, these inaccurate outcomes are used to convince dying patients antineoplastons can save them.
Other issues cited by the FDA included:
– Paying patients who failed to meet the inclusion criteria for the study were admitted to Burynski’s trials;
— Burzynski did not report all adverse events as required by his study protocols, and many exhibiting toxic effects were not removed from treatment;
— Adverse events were not reported in a timely fashion (in one case 7 years);
— The FDA received two different versions of a pediatric patient’s records during an inspection, especially significant because the child apparently died of a known side effect of antineoplastons.
Shockingly, these observations were made after a decade of abysmal site reviews by the FDA. Currently, Burzynski’s trials are subject to a partial clinical hold, which means Burzynski is still treating patients already on his protocol.
We are asking that you:
– Encourage the FDA to dissolve the Burzynski Research Institute’s clearly deficient Institutional Review [ethical oversight] Board and toplace a permanent hold on any more cancer patients receiving antineoplastons;
— Investigate how Burzynski has been allowed to conduct experiments on pediatric cancer patients while repeatedly cited for violating rules designed to prevent uncontrolled human experimentation.
— Investigate why the FDA allowed this abysmal researcher to advance to phase 3 clinical trials without publishing a single phase 2 trial;
— Protect cancer patients from abuse through legislation and FDA oversight reform.
Please help end a medical ethics scandal that involves eight times as many patients as the Tuskegee Experiment. I look forward to your response on this important matter.
Posted in medical woo, politics, skeptical community | Tagged: antineoplastons, Burzynski, cancer, Change.org, chemotherapy, clinic, congress, cure, doctor, FDA, fraud, health, Houston, medicine, Orac, patients, petition, politics, pseudoscience, quack, Rep. Issa, Respectful Insolence, science, science-based, science-based medicine, Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients, SPCP, Stanislaw Burzynski, Texas, The OTHER Burzynski Patient Group, thehoustoncancerquack.com, treatment | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 4, 2014
If you know anything about the evolution-creationism battle in the United States, you know that it is a long-running one. You also know that the issue is heavily influenced by religious outlook (or lack thereof) and politics. Some recent polling data has provided some very revealing information about trends in the U.S. on these issues: and a deeper analysis yields bad news for the creationists.
First, the poll itself: the Pew Research Center released their poll, titled “Public’s Views on Human Evolution” on Dec. 30th. And it contains some interesting take-aways:
According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” …
One of the most interesting things to see in this poll is the breakdown of religious and political affiliation:
… These beliefs differ strongly by religious group. White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view, as do half of black Protestants (50%). By comparison, only 15% of white mainline Protestants share this opinion.
There also are sizable differences by party affiliation in beliefs about evolution, and the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap. … [emphasis added]
Perhaps it’s no surprise that evangelical Protestants are the ones who reject evolution the most while the religiously unaffiliated (the so-called “nones”) embrace evolution. The thing that is so surprising about this particular survey is the part I put in bold above: self-identifying Republicans are rejecting evolution in higher and higher numbers. I think this presents a big problem for the Republican party, and my next discussion point illustrates why. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in creationism, politics, religion | Tagged: anti science, Bible, Christianity, creationism, data, demographics, Discovery Institute, education, evangelical, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, GOP, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, Karl Giberson, party, Pew Poll, Pew Research Center, politics, poll, Protestants, public, religion, Republican, research, science, secular, survey, trends, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 29, 2013
One of the most popular posts I’ve made on this blog was about how the Bible has been edited in recent decades to promote a specific political agenda related to abortion. Since writing that post, it has become even more clear that the Bible continues to be edited in order to promote a very modern, right-wing, and fundamentalist worldview. What’s more is that those engaged in this effort, namely those paragons of intellectual honesty and virtue at Conservapedia (where they believe that Einstein’s physics theories are a “left-wing conspiracy”), are openly admitting what they are doing. But don’t take it from me, read what they have to say on their very own page for their Conservative Bible Project:
The Conservative Bible Project is a project utilizing the “best of the public” to render God’s word into modern English without liberal translation distortions. A Colbert Report interview featured this project. We completed a first draft of our translation of the New Testament on April 23, 2010.
Already our translators have identified numerous pro-abortion distortions that omit or twist clear references to the unborn child.
Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning:
*lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
*lack of precision in modern language
*translation bias, mainly of the liberal kind, in converting the original language to the modern one.
Experts in ancient languages are helpful in reducing the first type of error above, which is a vanishing source of error as scholarship advances understanding. English language linguists are helpful in reducing the second type of error, which also decreases due to an increasing vocabulary. But the third — and largest — source of translation error requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate. [emphasis in the original] …
So there you have it. The folks at Conservapedia abandon all pretense and openly admit their political agenda; no doubt the phrase “best of the public” refers only to those people who share the fundamentalist worldview of Conservapedia’s authors. But what about their so-called claims to be addressing “lack of precision in the original language” and “translation bias”? Well, this article has some interesting info on that…
Right-Wing Group Seeks Help Rewriting the Bible Because It’s Not Conservative Enough
The King James Bible and more recent translations are veritable primers of progressive agitprop, according to the founder of Conservapedia.
… Don’t know Aramaic, Hebrew or ancient Greek? Not a problem. What they are looking for is not exactly egghead scholarship, but a knack for using words they’ve read in the Wall Street Journal. They have a list of promising candidates on their website— words like capitalism, work ethic, death penalty, anticompetitive, elitism, productivity, privatize, pro-life—all of which are conspicuously missing from those socialist-inspired Bibles we’ve been reading lately. …
Uhhh, yeah. Because ancient societies totally used the word “capitalism”, despite the fact the word didn’t even exist until the mid-19th century. But wait, it gets better!
… To give a sense of how to go about your own retranslation, here are some examples of changes the editors have already made.
Take that story where the mob surrounds a woman accused of adultery and gets ready to stone her, but Jesus intervenes and says, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone” (John 7:53-8:11). It might have been a later addition that wasn’t in the original Gospels, according to some right-thinking, or rather right-leaning scholars. So the editors have excised this bleeding-heart favorite from the Good Book, and they’ve also removed Jesus’ words on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
“The simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing,” Schlafly points out, proving that, “Jesus might never had said it at all.”
Another thing Jesus might never have said at all is, “Blessed are the meek.” Change that one to, “Blessed are the God-fearing,” the translation’s editors advise, which is far less touchy-feely than the King James version.
Where Jesus teaches that, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:24) our mentors at Conservapedia recommend that we scratch the word “rich” and replace it with either “fully fed and entertained” or, if you prefer, “idle miser,” which have none of the Occupy Wall Street-ish sour grapes of the better-known translation.
When Jesus greets his disciples with the blessing, “Peace be with you” (John 20, 26), the editors cleverly change the wording to, “Peace of mind be with you,” so that nobody gets the wrong idea and thinks Jesus was some kind of lilly-livered pacifist.
Likewise where Jesus says, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but to save it” (John 3, 17), they change “world” to “mankind,” so it is clear the Christian savior is not advocating environmentalism here. Hey, you can’t be too careful!
Finally, when Jesus admonishes hypocrites to, “Cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye,” the conservative Bible replaces the word “hypocrite” with “deceiver,” since hypocrite is often “misused politically against Christians.” Good point! …
I think you get the idea.
However, there is one overwhelming fact that should be emphasized in all this: regardless of what the “original Bible” (an oxymoron for many reasons) did or did not say, what this whole fiasco proves, without a doubt, is that the Bible – like all religious texts – are the work of humans! The fact that the folks at Conservapedia are doing what they’re doing in such a blatant manner shows that they are, like all religious believers, I think, simply projecting their own beliefs and value systems onto what they believe to be an all-powerful god.
And therein lies one of the great ironies of the entire thing: so many right-wing fundamentalists have justified their worldview in the past by pointing to the Bible and saying “See? It says so in the Bible!” Yet now we see a bunch who are so wedded to their right-wing political worldview that they are openly changing the Bible (which they often claimed is inerrant and unchanging) to be more in line with that worldview.
If this isn’t evidence that those espousing this right-wing ideology and religion are doing so in a blatantly subjective and relativistic manner, I don’t know what is.
It also makes you wonder just how many times in the past such holy books have been edited to promote a specific, and wholly human, agenda, doesn’t it?
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: abortion, atheism, atheist, belief, bias, Bible, book, Christian, Christians, Conservapedia, conservative, Conservative Bible Project, criticism, edit, editing, fundamentalist, God, Holy Bible, ideology, inerrancy, inerrant, Jesus, Jewish, Jews, liberal, literal, literalist, New Testament, Old Testament, politics, religion, right wing, textual criticism, truth, validity, version, women | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 27, 2013
I have written here many times in the past about how creationists have tried to use the textbook adoption process in Texas to attempt to dumb down science texts. And the recent textbook adoption process wrapping up in Texas is no different; even if you don’t live in Texas, this is potentially an issue for your school district, because since the textbook market is so large, book publishers often feel pressure to change their textbooks nationwide based upon feedback and criticism from the Texas Board of Education. And, unfortunately, too many times in the past creationists and other science-deniers have been successful in their efforts.
However, this time I am more than happy to report that the creationists in Texas have lost, and they’ve lost big time. And that means it’s a big win for the rest of us :)
Our good friends at the National Center for Science Education have a full report, which I list below in two parts:
Texas Creationists Beware: The Posse’s Comin’
By Josh Rosneau
After last month’s Texas textbook vote, I was ready to declare total victory. I wrote:
“It’s a joy to be able to report on a sweeping victory for science education in Texas, and to be able to give an eyewitness report of the fight over the textbooks that will be used in that massive textbook market for years to come.”
But there was a shoe left to drop, a panel that the board would appoint to review a disputed list of purported errors in the Pearson/Prentice-Hall Biology textbook written by Ken Miller and Joe Levine. As New York Times reporter Motoko Rich explained:
“The Texas Board of Education on Friday delayed final approval of a widely used biology textbook because of concerns raised by one reviewer that it presents evolution as fact rather than theory. …
the state board, which includes several members who hold creationist views, voted to recommend 14 textbooks in biology and environmental science. But its approval of “Biology,” a highly regarded textbook by Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, and Joseph S. Levine, a science journalist, and published by Pearson Education, was contingent upon an expert panel determining whether any corrections are warranted. Until the panel rules on the alleged errors, Pearson will not be able to market its book as approved by the board to school districts in Texas.” …
Well, the panel of experts has returned with their conclusions to the Board, and the news is good. The NCSE has a full rundown:
A final victory in Texas
… As NCSE previously reported, at its November 22, 2013, meeting, the board quarreled about whether to heed a review panel’s criticisms of Kenneth R. Miller and Joseph Levine’s popular biology textbook, published by Pearson, but decided to adopt it, contingent on the outcome of a further review by a panel of three outside experts. Subsequently, the names of the experts were divulged: Ronald Wetherington, a professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University and a recipient of NCSE’s Friend of Darwin award; Arturo De Lozanne, a professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology at the University of Texas, Austin; and Vincent Cassone, a professor of biology at the University of Kentucky (and formerly at Texas A&M University). As NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau commented at the Science League of America blog (December 11, 2013), “it’ll take about 5 minutes for them to dismiss the claims leveled against Pearson’s Biology.”
According to TFN, “A Texas Education Agency (TEA) spokesperson told us that it has forwarded the panel’s report to Pearson. TEA won’t release the report publicly until Pearson has had a chance to review it, but our sources said all three panelists dismissed the claims of factual errors and recommended no changes to the textbook.” Assessing the outcome, TFN contended, “The panel’s approval of the Pearson textbook essentially marks the end of efforts by anti-evolution activists to hijack this year’s science textbook adoption. Throughout the process, they and their board allies — including [the board's chair Barbara] Cargill — tried to pressure publishers into watering down and distorting the science on evolution and climate change. They failed completely when publishers resisted their pressure while TFN, the National Center for Science Education and other science education advocates rallied support for the textbooks.” …
So if you’re looking for a worthy organization to donate to for your end-of-the-year giving, and you value good public science education, I suggest donating a few bucks to the NCSE. It’ll be money well spent :)
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, biology, board of education, Christianity, creationism, democracy, Discovery Institute, Dover, education, evolution, experts, fundamentalist, ID, intelligent design, Kitzmiller, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, panel, politics, pseudoscience, publishing, religion, science, scientific creationism, Texas, Texas Board of Education, textbook, theocracy, Wedge document | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 8, 2013
In the “truth is stranger than fiction” category, there’s this bit of news that I just read: the Satanic Temple plans to put up their own display on the grounds of the Oklahoma Statehouse (which is public property) right next to a display of the Ten Commandments. And it’s all due to a law pushed through the OK legislature in 2009 by the religious right… message to all the right-wing fundamentalist Christians who wish to force their religious displays on public land: be careful what you wish for… LOL :D
Remember the Satanic Temple, which performed a ritual to turn Fred Phelps’ dead mother gay? They are still at it, now in Oklahoma. The Satanic Temple has filed the papers to put up a memorial on statehouse grounds, next to the state’s display of the 10 Commandments. They are doing this by citing Okla.’s religious displays legislation, signed into law in 2009. And they are absolutely serious about it. …
… Okla., thanks to its argument for religious monuments on public display, now must accept the Satanic Temple and their memorial. The law allows them to put it right next to the 10 Commandments, if they so desire. Next week, who knows, perhaps the Satanic Temple will get the opportunity to name a new public school. It’s not like the state would be hypocrites who would only accept their own narrow religious views in direct violation of the US Constitution after all. Wouldn’t that be something to witness?
Incidentally, my skeptical colleague Hemant Mehta at The Friendly Atheist interviewed Lucien Greaves, the Satanic Temple’s spokesman for this issue. Check out the interview if you’re interested.
I, for one, will be watching this situation with a great deal of interest. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Oklahoma legislature and governor decided that all of this business about putting religious displays on public land is just too much trouble and banned them all? It’d be nice if they, you know, actually respected the separation of church and state.
Until such a time as that day comes, however, I shall have quite a lot of fun watching the goings on in OK.
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 10 Commandments, 2009, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Devil, freedom of religion, Friendly Atheist, fundamentalist, God, government, Hemant Mehta, Jesus, law, legislature, Lucien Greaves, Lucifer, memorial, OK, Oklahoma, pentagram, religion, religious displays, right wing, Satan, Satanic Temple, separation of church and state, statehouse, Ten Commandments | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 12, 2013
I am happy to report to you that there have been three really good developments in the scientific and skeptical battle against one of the worst bug-a-boos: creationism. Rather than go into a huge amount of detail about each one, I’ll give a few of my own comments and link to the original sources on each. Read on to the end – the best one is last :)
1. Ball State University Takes a Stand for Science and Kicks “Intelligent Design” to the Curb
In this article from Inside Higher Ed, a very positive development is outlined wherein the university made a very strong statement against the inclusion of so-called “intelligent design” as science under the auspices of academic freedom. I think this was so well done on the part of the university leadership that it should serve as a template for other institutions to follow. In part, the article states:
In what First Amendment watchdogs called a victory, Ball State University’s president on Wednesday spoke out against intelligent design as a viable scientific theory. At the same time, the university announced that a professor accused of proselytizing remained part of the faculty but was working with administrators to ensure his courses aligned with Ball State’s view that science instruction should be about science and not religion.
“Intelligent design is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory,” President Jo Ann Gora said. “Therefore, intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses. The gravity of this issue and the level of concern among scientists are demonstrated by more than 80 national and state scientific societies’ independent statements that intelligent design and creation science do not qualify as science.”
The question is not one of academic freedom, but one of academic integrity, she added. “Said simply, to allow intelligent design to be presented to science students as a valid scientific theory would violate the academic integrity of the course as it would fail to accurately represent the consensus of science scholars.” … [emphasis added]
Read the entire article here
2. Christian Publisher Removes Loch Ness Monster From Biology Textbook
You may recall that some time ago, I reported about how some creationists were going to such ludicrous lengths to undercut the teaching of evolution that they were actually selling textbooks which taught that the Loch Ness Monster was real and evidence against evolution. Apparently, the publishers of those same textbooks are now omitting any mention of dear ol’ Nessie since it seems that would be a claim too outlandish even for reality-challenged creationists. Here’s more:
A Christian education publisher based in Tennessee has removed references to the existence of the Loch Ness Monster from a biology textbook.
According to Scotland’s Sunday Herald, Accelerated Christian Education, Inc. has opted to remove a statement from a textbook used in Europe and will likely do the same for American textbooks.
“Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland?” reads the deleted passage. “‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”
Mark Looy, chief communications officer for the Young Earth Creationist organization Answers in Genesis, told The Christian Post that he approved of ACE’s decision.
“There are just so many of these legends, like the dragon mentioned in Beowulf, the numerous accounts of St. George and the dragon, and so on, that they can’t be dismissed,” said Looy. … [emphasis added]
If the bolded statement above is any example of the shoddy standards of evidence adhered to by creationists, it is no wonder they don’t have a scientific leg to stand on.
3. Creationists and Climate Change Deniers Lose in Kentucky
Some time ago, I wrote a post about how the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are going to push back hard against anti-scientists like creationists and global warming deniers. Well, our friends from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) are reporting that a significant victory has been achieved in a state that you might not associate with strong science standards: Kentucky! A few weeks back, creationists and global warming deniers attempted to derail the adoption of the NGSS by the Kentucky State Board of Education, and they were rebuffed :)
The Kentucky Board of Education declined to make any changes to a proposed regulation that would enact the Next Generation Science Standards as Kentucky’s state science standards, despite the protests of evolution deniers and climate change deniers. In a lengthy document dated August 1, 2013, the Kentucky Department of Education summarized the thoughts of all who submitted comments on the regulation, and provided detailed replies. On the topics of evolution and climate change in particular, the department wrote (PDF, p. 139):
“The agency also received statements of support related to the inclusion of particular science topics such as climate change and evolution, stating that meaningful scientific debate on the validity of evolution and climate science has ceased. Proponents of the continued inclusion of evolution pointed to the overwhelming acceptance of evolution in the biological science community. Proponents of the inclusion of climate change education contend that Kentucky students deserve the most up to date science education, which includes climate change. [The department agreed with these comments: see, e.g., pp. 104 and 105 on evolution, and pp. 115 on climate change.]
Over one hundred substantially identical emails were received stating an opposition to the continued inclusion of evolution in the proposed standards, characterizing evolution as a theory and not a fact. These commenters asked that intelligent design be added to the standards. Other commenters questioned the scientific validity of evolution. The agency also received several comments specific to the inclusion of climate change in the proposed standards, including concerns that climate change science was overemphasized to the neglect of other science concepts or that climate change is not a settled issue in the scientific community.”
The three important antievolution goals — banning the teaching of evolution; balancing the teaching of evolution with creationism, whether in the form of “creation science” or “intelligent design”; and belittling evolution as controversial — were in evidence. So were all three of the pillars of creationism — arguing that evolution is scientifically controversial; arguing that teaching evolution is linked with negative social consequences; arguing that it is only fair to teach “all sides” of the supposed controversy. The same themes were also reflected in the comments about climate change.
The Kentucky Board of Education approved the department’s report on August 8, 2013, so, as WPFL in Louisville, Kentucky, reports (August 8, 2013), “The regulation now heads to Kentucky’s Administrative Regulation Review Committee. If approved in the Kentucky General Assembly, the new standards would go into effect during the 2014-2015 school year.” Kentucky would join Rhode Island, Kansas, Maryland, and Vermont as the first five states to adopt the NGSS — unless the legislature, which includes vocal critics of evolution and climate change, refuses its approval. [emphasis added]
I want to jump on the bolded part above; the battle in KY still isn’t finished. It will require people to lobby their state legislators in Kentucky in order to encourage them to accept the NGSS. No doubt the anti-science lobby will pull out all the stops to derail this process, but we have to speak up and encourage the legislature to accept the NGSS as written.
And think of this: if the NGSS is accepted in Kentucky, then it will be a huge defeat for creationists and climate science deniers all over the nation. That’s because if a religiously conservative state like Kentucky can do it, then any state can do it.
Posted in creationism, cryptozoology, education, global warming denial, politics | Tagged: academic, academic freedom, Accelerated Christian Education, ACE, Ball State University, biology, board of education, BoE, BoEd, Christianity, climate change, content, creationism, cryptids, cryptozoology, curriculum, denial, deniers, dinosaur, education, evolution, freedom, fundamentalist, global warming, government, ID, intelligent design, Kentucky, KY, Loch Ness, Loch Ness Monster, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, Nessie, Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS, politics, pseudoscience, public, school, schools, science, standards, teachers, teaching, theory, United States, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 1, 2013
I just received the following update from the Texas Freedom Network regarding the upcoming review of science textbooks for Texas public schools; it seems that the creationists are at it, yet again.
Note, even if you don’t live in Texas, this is a big deal because the textbook market for Texas is so large that many publishers will adjust all of their books for many other states to fit Texas standards rather than publish different versions. So if creationists in Texas can influence science textbooks there, it could very well be reflected in your local schools.
Read on for more info:
It looks like the Lone Star State’s reputation as a hotbed of anti-science fanaticism is about to be reinforced. At least six creationists/”intelligent design” proponents succeeded in getting invited to review high school biology textbooks that publishers have submitted for adoption in Texas this year. The State Board of Education (SBOE) will decide in November which textbooks to approve. Those textbooks could be in the state’s public school science classrooms for nearly a decade.
Among the six creationist reviewers are some of the nation’s leading opponents of teaching students that evolution is established, mainstream science and is overwhelmingly supported by well over a century of research. Creationists on the SBOE nominated those six plus five others also invited by the Texas Education Agency to serve on the biology review teams. We have been unable to determine what those other five reviewers think about evolution.
Although 28 individuals got invites to review the proposed new biology textbooks this year, only about a dozen have shown up in Austin this week for the critical final phase of that review. That relatively small overall number of reviewers could give creationists even stronger influence over textbook content. In fact, publishers are making changes to their textbooks based on objections they hear from the review panelists. And that’s happening essentially behind closed doors because the public isn’t able to monitor discussions among the review panelists themselves or between panelists and publishers. The public won’t know about publishers’ changes (or the names of all the review panelists who are in Austin this week) until probably September. Alarm bells are ringing.
Following are the six creationists/evolution critics we have identified so far on the biology review teams:
We’ll have more on this soon.
The state board is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on the textbooks at its September 17-20 meeting in Austin. The board has scheduled a final vote on which textbooks to adopt for November.
If you want students to learn real science in their science classrooms — not discredited creationist arguments that will leave them unprepared for college and the jobs of the 21st century — then join thousands of Texans who have signed our Stand Up for Science petition here. The Texas Freedom Network will keep you informed about the textbook adoption this year and what you can do to stop anti-science fanatics from undermining the education of Texas kids.
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: adoption, biology, board of education, Christianity, creationism, Discovery Institute, education, evolution, fundamentalist, God, ID, intelligent design, politics, pseudoscience, publishing, religion, review, reviewers, science, scientific creationism, Texas, Texas Board of Education, Texas Citizens for Science, Texas Freedom Network, textbook selection, textbooks, theocracy, Wedge document | 1 Comment »