Posts Tagged ‘academic freedom’
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 29, 2013
Okay, so this news has been all over the Internet in recent days: a California creationist is challenging anyone to disprove the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. More on this:
…The wager is $10,000, the arena is a minitrial (featuring a bailiff and a court reporter along with the judge), and the rules state that evidence must be “objective, valid, reliable and calibrated.”
“They [evolutionists] are not stupid people, they are bright, but they are bright enough to know there is no scientific evidence they can give in a minitrial,” Dr. Joseph Mastropaolo, who has a PhD in kinesiology and taught biomechanics and physiology at a California University for more than 25 years, told The Guardian. “It turns out that there is nothing in the universe [that] is evolving — everything is devolving, everything is going in the opposite direction.”…
And here are the rules as outlined by Dr. Mastropaolo…
- The non-literal Genesis advocate puts $10,000 in escrow with the judge.
- The literal Genesis advocate and contributing writer for the Creation Science Hall of Fame, Joseph Mastropaolo, puts $10,000 in escrow with the judge.
- If the non-literal Genesis advocate proves that science contradicts the literal reading of Genesis, then the non-literal Genesis advocate is awarded the $20,000.
- If the literal Genesis advocate proves that science indicates the literal reading of Genesis, then the literal Genesis advocate is awarded the $20,000.
- Evidence must be scientific, that is, objective, valid, reliable and calibrated.
- The preponderance of evidence prevails.
- At the end of the trial, the judge hands the prevailing party both checks.
- The judge is a superior court judge.
- The venue is a courthouse.
- Court costs will be paid by the prevailing party.
Please make note of that bolded point in particular, because it really begs the question as to what exactly Dr. Mastropaolo (and other Young-Earth Creationists) consider to be “scientific evidence”. And this is nothing new, as Mastropaolo has been here before, calling this challenge the Life Science Prize in the past. As this excerpt from an article by Dr. Michael Zimmerman (creator of the Clergy Letter Project) details, in his previous attempts to put on these show trials, Mastropaolo seems to play fast and loose with definitions:
… When I proposed that we agree on definitions of evolution and creationism as a starting point, things went awry pretty quickly. In response to my suggestion that we use the classic textbook definition for evolution (a change in allele frequencies in a population over time), Mastropaolo’s second argued that “change in allele frequency is about as meaningless a definition of evolution as can be offered.” Mastropaolo himself countered with the following: “evolution is the development of an organism from its chemicals to its primitive state to its present state.” My Ph.D. in evolutionary biology didn’t help me make any sense out of that definition. Mastropaolo went further and said that I “may not be competent to contend for the Life Science Prize.”
He very much liked the phrase “competent to contend for the Life Science Prize, also warning me that “Evolutionist hallucinators so out of touch with reality are psychotic by medical dictionary definition, and therefore not mentally competent to contend for the Life Science Prize.” … [emphasis added]
This displays a flaw common to creationist thinking: they define evolution to be something other than what scientists (or “evolutionists”, as they call them) define it to be! So by playing around with the definitions like this, the creationists can stack the deck in their favor through simple equivocation.
But it gets better. This whole thing seems to be copied from the famous JREF Million Dollar Challenge; a problem with how this is set up which is different from the JREF challenge: it is asking the challenger to prove a negative, whereas the JREF challenge is asking the challenger to demonstrate a particular claimed ability. This is a big difference, because by asking the challenger to prove a negative, it allows the creationists in this case to play fast and loose with definitions, standards of evidence, etc. – just as Mastropaolo has done in the past.
Last, but certainly not least, creationism has been put on trial as recently as 2005, and it lost quite badly. Does anyone remember a little thing called the Dover v. Kitzmiller trial?
Posted in creationism | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, challenge, Christ, Christianity, court, creationism, creationist, Dover, Dover v Kitzmiller, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, Genesis, God, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, Life Science Prize, Mastropaolo, prize, pseudoscience, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, trial, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 15, 2013
Tonight I stumbled across an excellent blog post from the Skeptical Raptor on the most recent spate of anti-science bills (i.e., anti-evolution, anti-climate science, etc) that have cropped up all over state legislatures in the United States so far in 2013. Rather than rehash what is an already well-researched and written post, I shall simply reblog it below:
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 book.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, specifically prohibits any government entity from establishing a religion (which courts have ruled to include teaching religion in schools). Decades worth of Supreme Court rulings have found that teaching creationism in schools is equivalent to teaching religion. As recently as 2005, in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, a Federal Court continued the tradition of considering creationism as religion, and ruled against a school district, costing the Dover Area School District nearly $1 million in legal fees. That money probably could have been used to teach their students better science.
Despite these legal rulings, eight states have introduced antievolution or anti-science bills since the beginning of the year…
Click here to read the rest of Skeptical Raptor’s post
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, anti science, anti-evolution, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, denial, denialism, Discovery Institute, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, legislation, politics, pseudoscience, science, Skeptical Raptor, states, teach all views, teach the controversy, truth, truth in education, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2013
In a bit of unexpected good news, I ran across this recent article from The Atlantic magazine which outlines a new trend within the circles of evangelical Christian homeschooling. If you know anything about the United States homeschooling movement, you know that it tends to be dominated by evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who eschew evolutionary science in favor of teaching some varient of psuedoscientific creationism. However, it seems that this unfortunate trend could be under challenge from a new generation of evangelical homeschoolers who are, quite frankly, tired of all the science-bashing from their fundamentalist brethren. Read on
For homeschooling parents who want to teach their children that the earth is only a few thousand years old, the theory of evolution is a lie, and dinosaurs coexisted with humans, there is no shortage of materials. Kids can start with the Answers in Genesis curriculum, which features books such as Dinosaurs of Eden, written by Creation Museum founder Ken Ham. As the publisher’s description states, “This exciting book for the entire family uses the Bible as a ‘time machine’ to journey through the events of the past and future.”
It’s no secret that the majority of homeschooled children in America belong to evangelical Christian families. What’s less known is that a growing number of their parents are dismayed by these textbooks.
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.” Instead, Warton has pulled together a curriculum inspired partly by homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer and partly by the Waldorf holistic educational movement. … [emphasis added]
Further on the article goes on to outline the interesting history of the anti-evolution movement…
… Theologically conservative Christians were not always so polarized. “By the late 19th century,” says David R. Montgomery author of The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood, “evangelical theologians generally accepted the compelling geological evidence for the reality of an old earth.” However, Darwin’s idea of natural selection scared away many fundamentalists, who saw “survival of the fittest” as an atheistic concept. Over time, those who insisted on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation came to reject both geology and evolutionary biology. …
Which was, to say the least, an unfortunate development that has led to a multi-generational effort to dumb down the teaching of evolutionary theory in particular and the teaching of science in general in the United States. But perhaps these new evangelicals can change the movement from within. I think they can have some success, but only with some help from those of us who are the traditional champions of evolution.
Despite my atheism, I think those of us within the skeptical/atheist community should embrace these “evolutionary evangelicals” and consider them allies. Rather than focus on what divides us (i.e. differences on belief or non-belief in God, etc), I think our efforts can be better served by allowing our common desire to see evolutionary science taught properly to unite us.
Now I know there are some “purists” within the skeptical/atheist community who would likely shudder to see me suggest allying ourselves with evangelical Christians, at least in part because our theological/philosophical differences are so vast. But I take the attitude that, even within the skeptical/atheist community there are deep divisions on a variety of topics, but I don’t find myself turning my back upon it; so if I can find some common ground with an evangelical Christian on a pro-science issue, why not pursue some bridge-building?
Posted in creationism, education, religion, skeptical community | Tagged: academic freedom, atheism, atheist, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, education, evangelical, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, homeschoolers, homeschooling, intelligent design, Jesus, pseudoscience, religion, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, The Atlantic, truth, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 30, 2013
If you’ve been following the ongoing saga over the years that is the Texas Board of Education and their textbook adoption process, then you no doubt understand that there has been a far-right conservative faction of people who have attempted to push their ideology (including creationism) into Texas public schools. Now the recent history of this saga has been chronicled in a PBS documentary titled “The Revisionaries”. I encourage you to take the time to share and watch this important documentary, which you can do online here until February 27th:
“Somebody has got to stand up to experts!” — Don McLeRoy, former Texas BoEd member
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, biology, board of education, Christianity, creationism, democracy, documentary, Don McLeroy, evolution, fundamentalist, history, ID, Independent Lens, intelligent design, PBS, politics, pseudoscience, Public Broadcasting Service, publishing, religion, science, scientific creationism, Texas, Texas Board of Education, Texas Citizens for Science, Texas Freedom Network, textbook selection, textbooks, The Revisionaries, theocracy, video, Wedge document | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 24, 2012
As I’ve blogged before, creationists are quite adept at evolving their strategies for attempting to replace the science of evolution in public school science classes with their religious beliefs. One of the latest mutations are so-called “academic freedom” bills, but now there seems to be a new phrase and strategy emerging – “truth in education” – which we all need to be on the lookout for in our local legislatures and school boards. My skeptical colleague Steven Novella has an excellent takedown here…
by Steven Novella, Dec 10 2012
We have yet another propaganda slogan and strategy by creationists to sneak their religious beliefs into public science classrooms – “truth in education.” This one comes from state senator Dennis Kruse from Indiana. He had previously introduced a bill (in 2011) that would have required the teaching of “creation science” alongside evolution. The bill died a quick death, largely because the Supreme Court has already declared such laws unconstitutional (in the 1987 Edwards vs Aguillard case).
Kruse’s approach has since “evolved.” It seems that after his failed and naive attempt to introduce a creation science bill, he has been connected with the Discovery Institute and is now up to speed on the latest approach to anti-evolution strategies.
Creationist attempts to hamper science education when it comes to evolution go back to the beginning of evolutionary theory itself. By the turn of the 19th century evolution was an accepted scientific fact, and opposition to its teaching was forming among certain fundamentalist sects. The first big confrontation between the teaching of evolution and creationist ideology came in the form of the The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, or the Scopes Monkey Trial. This resulted from the first creationist strategy to limit the teaching of evolution in public schools – they simply banned it. This strategy was killed when such laws were found unconstitutional in 1968 (Epperson v. Arkansas).
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has a nice list of the ten major legal precedents that have smacked down creationist attempts to limit the teaching of evolution. Each time the creationists simply have morphed their strategy, but the intent has never wavered. …
Read the rest of Steve’s Skeptiblog post here
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, Dennis Kruse, Discovery Institute, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, Indiana, intelligent design, Jesus, pseudoscience, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, truth, truth in education, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 21, 2012
If you’ve followed the creationism issue at all, you know that Louisiana is a hotbed of this fringe pseudoscience. However, in a more than welcome move, the city of New Orleans sent a clear message that they would not tolerate such nonsense being taught in their public schools. Here’s more on the good news from the National Center for Science Education
The Orleans Parish School Board “OK’d policies that prohibit the teaching of creationism or so-called ‘intelligent design’ in its half-dozen direct-run schools, or the purchasing of textbooks that promulgate those perspectives,” according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune (December 18, 2012). As specified in the documents for the board’s December 18, 2012, meeting, the new policies provide (PDF, pp. 100 and 101), in part, that no “science textbook [shall] be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories” and that “[no] teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.” [emphasis added]
Ouch. There you have it, in no uncertain terms: creationists and their pseudoscience need not apply for New Orleans public school science classes.
One more positive thing about this development is that student activist Zack Kopplin, who has been fighting the creationists in Louisiana, appears to have had some influence in these developments:
… the only speaker on the textbook policy at the meeting was Zack Kopplin: “‘Creationism certainly is not science,’ he said, warning that students not only will not meet higher education standards, but they ‘won’t find New Orleans jobs in the Bio District.’”
Kopplin, the young activist who organized the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act (and who received NCSE’s Friend of Darwin award in 2011), told NCSE, “Between this and the New Orleans City Council’s rejection of the creationist Louisiana Science Education Act, the city of New Orleans has fully rejected creationism.” (The New Orleans City Council adopted a resolution in May 2011 endorsing the repeal effort.) Kopplin added, “It might also be enough to prompt the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology to lift their boycott of New Orleans,” which began in 2009, owing to what SICB’s president described (PDF) as “the official position of the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking evolution in science curricula.”
I would like to encourage supporters of science and reason to contact the Orleans Parish School Board and thank them for promoting good science education, and please pass this news along so that we can reinforce this good governance!
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, bill, Christ, Christianity, creationism, creationist, Discovery Institute, education, evolution, God, history, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, Louisiana, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, New Orleans, Orleans Parish School Board, politics, pseudoscience, repeal, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, Thomas Robichaux, YEC, Young Earth Creationism, Zack Kopplin | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 26, 2012
If you know who Don McLeroy is (and if you don’t, read up on him here), then you know he is quite notorious for being reality-challenged. In what I can only describe as a stroke of comedic genius, Stephen Colbert interviews McLeroy on the Colbert Report. Enjoy
Posted in creationism, education, humor, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, biology, board of education, Christianity, Colbert Report, comedy, Comedy Central, creationism, Daily Show, democracy, Discovery Institute, Don McLeroy, evolution, fundamentalist, funny, humor, ID, intelligent design, Jon Stewart, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, politics, primary, pseudoscience, publishing, religion, satire, science, scientific creationism, Stephen Colbert, Texas, Texas Board of Education, Texas Freedom Network, textbook selection, textbooks, theocracy, Wedge document | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 11, 2012
The National Center for Science Education has reported that the infamous “Monkey bill” in Tennessee has now become law by default, because while Gov. Haslam didn’t sign the bill, his refusal to veto it led to it automatically becoming law after a certain waiting period. More from the NCSE…
Governor Bill Haslam allowed Tennessee’s House Bill 368 to become law without his signature on April 10, 2012, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal (April 10, 2012). The law encourages teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics that arouse “debate and disputation” such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
In a statement, Haslam explained, “I have reviewed the final language of HB 368/SB 893 and assessed the legislation’s impact. I have also evaluated the concerns that have been raised by the bill. I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools. The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a three-to-one margin, but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met this objective. For that reason, I will not sign the bill but will allow it to become law without my signature.” …
… Probably contributing to Haslam’s unwillingness to sign the bill were the protests from state and national civil liberties, educational, and scientific groups, the editorials against the bill from the state’s major newspapers, and the petition effort organized by Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University, which garnered thousands of signatures calling for a veto of HB 368.
What happens next seems inevitable: sooner or later, some creationist teachers are going to attempt to use this law as cover to teach creationism in public school science classes; they’ll get called out on it and taken to court; they will lose, likely costing the state many millions of dollars (plus giving them much-deserved embarrassment) in the process.
It looks like Tennessee has taken one step along the road presented by this graphic:
Way to go, Tennessee! Welcome back to the 19th century!!!
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, bill, Bill Haslam, creationism, Explore Evolution, Governor Bill Haslam, Haslam, HB 368, ID, intelligent design, law, lawsuit, legislature, monkey bill, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, petition, public, schools, science, Scopes, Scopes Monkey Trial, taxpayers, Tennessee, TN, trial, veto | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 4, 2012
Finally getting back to completing my series of recent posts about evolution and creationism (see here and here for the previous ones), I wanted to pass along an update about a situation in Tennessee. It seems that, in its infinite wisdom, the Tennessee legislature has decided to pass its own version of the Louisiana “Academic Freedom” Law, which is little more than a touchy-feely way of saying that they want to protect teachers who want to teach creationism in public school science classes. The National Center for Science Education has an update on the bill…
Tennessee’s House Bill 368 was sent to Governor Bill Haslam on March 29, 2012 — and columnists in newspapers across the state are continuing to press the case against the bill. Nicknamed the “monkey bill” by former Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh, HB 368 would encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics that arouse “debate and disputation” such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” Haslam now has till April 9, 2012, to sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it.
The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal (March 29, 2012) editorially lamented, “At a time when Tennessee is becoming a national center for technological and alternative fuel research and development, it is odd — to say the least — that our state Legislature would push scientific debate back more than 85 years,” adding, “Science and teacher associations across the state and nation oppose this legislation, yet our Legislature is determined to impose its will on the classrooms of Tennessee, showing a general disrespect for scientific academia in favor of running its religious views up a flagpole.”
Writing in The Tennessean (March 29, 2012), Leslie Brunetta — a science writer and cancer survivor — argued that antievolution bills such as Tennessee’s “are bad for my health and the health of each of the 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year,” for while evolutionary theory helps to guide cancer research, the “challengers of evolution theory” provide no actual research program. She concludes, “If you’re looking for a cure for your cancer, don’t look to evolution-deniers for hope. As for me, I give thanks to Darwin and the researchers who have stood on his shoulders.”
And writing in the Knoxville News Sentinel (March 30, 2012), columnist Pam Strickland commented, “Tennessee has already tried this teaching creationism once before, The story is known worldwide as the Scopes Monkey Trial and is told through the play and movie ‘Inherit the Wind.’” She added, “if Haslam or his staff is reading, they need to know that the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Association of Bioscience Teachers and the National Earth Science Teachers Association are all against HB 368.”
So that’s the bad news: the Tennessee legislature has passed the bill. But there is good news: it seems that the governor of Tennessee is having serious reservations about signing the bill into law, seemingly because he sees it as ripe for a lawsuit which the state will inevitably lose while spending millions upon millions of dollars in court costs attempting to defend. And, especially in a time when taxpayer dollars are so tight, it doesn’t make much fiscal sense to try defending a law which is highly likely to go down in flames.
That’s where you and I come in: we need to help encourage Gov. Haslam to veto this bad legislation! To do so, please consider signing onto the following petition, and then spread the word to all of your friends – especially the ones who live in Tennessee!
As parents, educators, and concerned citizens, we call on you to veto HB 368, which encourages teachers to present scientific topics such as evolution and global warming as “controversial.” This bill is deeply misleading and will only serve to confuse students about well-established scientific concepts. Our children need the best education possible in order to excel in college, compete in a 21st-century job market, and cope with the future challenges of climate change. Governor Haslam, we strongly urge you to support sound science and veto HB 368. …
Click here to read the entire petition
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: academic freedom, bill, Bill Haslam, creationism, Explore Evolution, Governor Bill Haslam, Haslam, HB 368, ID, intelligent design, lawsuit, legislature, monkey bill, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, petition, public, schools, science, Scopes, Scopes Monkey Trial, taxpayers, Tennessee, TN, trial, veto | 3 Comments »