Posts Tagged ‘biology’
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 20, 2014
This past DragonCon, I moderated one panel at the Skeptrack titled “Denying Evolution and Climate Science” which was meant to address the issue of science denial in modern society. We all know that for decades science deniers (most notably creationists and climate science deniers) have done all they can to sow confusion and doubt on key topics in science. Throughout the years, they have “evolved” a number of tactics for doing so, and now it appears there is a new one on the horizon. Recently they have begun to explicitly acknowledge that they aren’t scientists, but that it shouldn’t matter because “why should we listen to those scientists anyway?” This panel discussed this trend, its implications for science in general, and how to respond to science denial.
Participating with me in this panel was Skepticality’s Derek Colanduno, the SGU’s Dr. Steven Novella, David DiSalvo, and Barbara Drescher. And, thanks to Derek, we have an excellent audio recording of the panel courtesy of the Skepticality podcast – forward to the 33:40 mark to get started…
Posted in creationism, global warming denial, skeptical community | Tagged: anti-vaccination, anti-vaccination movement, anti-vax, anti-vaxxers, Atlanta, Barbara Drescher, biology, Christian, Christianity, climate change, David DiSalvo, DC, denial, deniers, Derek Colanduno, discussion, Dragon*Con, evolution, global warming, panel, podcast, science, Skepticality, skepticism, Skeptrack, Steven Novella | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 31, 2014
I posted about a year ago the audio of my talk on how to more effectively communicate with creationists from the 2013 Chicago Skepticamp, and now I’m happy to share with you all the actual video of that talk. For reference, here is a link to an earlier blog post I made on the topic. Enjoy! :)
Posted in creationism, psychology, skeptical community | Tagged: 2013, argument, astronomy, believer, Bible, biology, Catholic Church, Chicago, church, communication, conference, creationism, Earth, evidence, evolution, Galilei, Galileo, Galileo Was Wrong, geocentrism, geocentrist, heliocentrism, literalism, physics, pseudoscience, psychology, religion, science, seminar, skeptic, SkeptiCamp, skeptics, talk, video, vimeo, worldview, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 30, 2014
My most recent post – Texas Charter Schools Teaching Creationism? – outlined news that the charter school network in Texas is using public tax dollars to push religious dogma (specifically, fundamentalist Christianity) in public schools. That, of course, is a real no-no legally, as outlined in the 1987 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard; it is also a no-no scientifically, as it has been shown, repeatedly and clearly, that creationism is not scientific and therefore shouldn’t be taught as such.
As a follow up to my recent post, I’d like to add on a couple of interesting data points. The first is an article from Slate.com wherein they outline the fact that this isn’t just a problem in Texas:
… A large, publicly funded charter school system in Texas is teaching creationism to its students, Zack Kopplin recently reported in Slate. Creationist teachers don’t even need to be sneaky about it—the Texas state science education standards, as well as recent laws in Louisiana and Tennessee, permit public school teachers to teach “alternatives” to evolution. Meanwhile, in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, taxpayer money is funding creationist private schools through state tuition voucher or scholarship programs. As the map below illustrates, creationism in schools isn’t restricted to schoolhouses in remote villages where the separation of church and state is considered less sacred. If you live in any of these states, there’s a good chance your tax money is helping to convince some hapless students that evolution (the basis of all modern biological science, supported by everything we know about geology, genetics, paleontology, and other fields) is some sort of highly contested scientific hypothesis as credible as “God did it.” …
As I and others have warned previously, because these questions are settled law (and that settled by the Supreme Court) then any school district participating in these shenanigans is likely to run afoul of some very unpleasant lawsuits. Well, now it appears that shoe is dropping…
Church-State Watchdog Asks Texas Education Agency To Prohibit Responsive Education Solutions’ Use of Anti-Science Materials Or Revoke Its Charter
Jan 30, 2014
The biology curriculum used by a system of taxpayer-supported charter schools in Texas promotes creationism in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.
In a letter today to the Texas Education Agency’s Division of Charter School Administration, Americans United warned officials that Responsive Education Solutions must not be permitted to continue to aggressively undermine the theory of evolution while receiving public funds. Americans United told the agency to either prohibit the use of this curriculum or revoke Responsive Education Solutions’ charter.
“The U.S. Supreme Court said more than 25 years ago that creationism is a religious dogma that cannot be promoted by public schools,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It amazes me that we are still fighting this battle in 2014, yet here we are.” …
Yup, here we are… once again… fighting a battle in the 21st century against those with an outdated and defunct 18th century view of science.
Posted in creationism, education | Tagged: academic freedom, Americans United, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, AU, Bible, biology, charter, charter school, Christianity, courts, creationism, democracy, education, Edwards v. Aguillard, evolution, experts, federal, fundamentalist, ID, intelligent design, law, private, pseudoscience, public private partnership, religion, science, scientific creationism, SCOTUS, separation of church and state, Slate, Supreme Court, Texas, theocracy | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 27, 2014
You have to give it to creationists, they certainly are persistent. And none seem to be more persistent than those creationists in Texas who continue to evolve their tactics in an effort to insert their religious fundamentalism into the public schools at the expense of students’ education in science and critical thinking in general. As our friends at the National Center for Science Education report, the newest battle front appears to be in the Texas charter school system:
“When public-school students enrolled in Texas’[s] largest charter program open their biology workbooks, they will read that the fossil record is ‘sketchy.’ That evolution is ‘dogma’ and an ‘unproved theory’ with no experimental basis. They will be told that leading scientists dispute the mechanisms of evolution and the age of the Earth,” according to Zack Kopplin, writing in Slate (January 16, 2014). “These are all lies.”
Kopplin’s article reports on his investigation into Responsive Ed, which operates more than sixty-five charter schools in Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana, and receives more than $82 million in public funds to do so. Examining workbooks used in Responsive Ed’s schools, Kopplin concluded, “These workbooks both overtly and underhandedly discredit evidence-based science and allow creationism into public-school classrooms.”
Among the claims that he cited as problematic: that there is no “single source for all the rock layers”; that “[s]ome scientists” question the established age of the earth; that evolution cannot be tested; that there is a “lack of transitional fossils,” which is a “problem for evolutionists who hold a view of uninterrupted evolution over long periods of time.” The section on the origin of life quotes Genesis 1:1.
Responsive Ed’s vice president of academic affairs was quoted as saying that the curriculum “teaches evolution, noting, but not exploring, the existence of competing theories.” Unreassured, Kopplin commented, “Bringing creationism into a classroom by undermining evolution and ‘noting … competing theories’ is still unconstitutional,” citing the Supreme Court’s 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard.
Asked for his appraisal of the situation, NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau commented, “Some people don’t realize that the First Amendment applies to charter schools just as much as to any other public school. Teaching creationism or other sectarian religious claims as if they were science is wrong anywhere, but it’s especially bad to use tax dollars to force one person’s religion onto school kids.” … [emphasis added]
I wanted to emphasize the wording in bold above: when many people hear the term “charter” school, they mistakenly think that it means the school is private. Thus, if it is a “private charter” school, then they can teach whatever they wish, right? Wrong.
In the United States (and last I looked Texas was still part of the Union), a charter school is one which is a kind of public/private partnership; but the key point is that charter schools are still a part of the public school system. And as such, they must adhere to the same rules as the rest of the public school system, the key one in this case being that it is against the law to teach creationism as science in public schools.
To my knowledge, while the issue has been clearly hashed out in the courts involving cases of the broader public school system, I don’t know of a case yet where this question has come up in a charter school system. If I had to gamble, I would bet that the courts would rule against creationists in such a case specific to charter schools; but, despite all that, it seems that the creationists in Texas are happy to spend taxpayer money in what is certain to be a futile attempt to circumvent both the law and good science education.
Posted in creationism, education | Tagged: academic freedom, Bible, biology, charter, charter school, Christianity, creationism, democracy, education, evolution, experts, fundamentalist, ID, intelligent design, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, politics, private, pseudoscience, public private partnership, religion, science, scientific creationism, Texas, theocracy, Zack Kopplin | 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 September 5, 2013
While at DragonCon this past Labor Day weekend, I had the good fortune to participate in two wonderful panels in the Skeptrack. The first panel was titled “Creationism and Intelligent Design”, and it featured me as the moderator, philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci, and science blogger Jon Voisey. We had a wide ranging conversation on the topic of creationism, the tactics employed by creationists in their attempts to undermine science education, and related issues. I recorded the audio of the panel and share it with you below – enjoy!
Posted in creationism, education, skeptical community | Tagged: biology, creation, creationism, DC, Discovery Institute, discussion, Dragon*Con, education, evolution, God, ID, intelligent design, Jon Voisey, Massimo Pigliucci, panel, religion, science, skepticism, Skeptrack | 3 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 »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 4, 2013
This past weekend I had the honor of speaking at the Chicago Skepticamp 2013, and I chose to do my talk on a topic on which I’ve written before here – the communication gap that we skeptics and science-supporters have with creationists and other psuedoscientists.
I recorded the talk (which is only about 16 minutes long), and I include that along with the slide presentation I made below. Audio is on the first slide. Mouse over it and you should see the tab for it. Enjoy! :)
Creationism, Evolution, and Our Communication Gap – WITH AUDIO
Posted in creationism, psychology, skeptical community | Tagged: 2013, argument, astronomy, believer, Bible, biology, Catholic Church, Chicago, church, communication, conference, creationism, Earth, evidence, evolution, Galilei, Galileo, Galileo Was Wrong, geocentrism, geocentrist, heliocentrism, literalism, physics, pseudoscience, psychology, religion, science, seminar, skeptic, SkeptiCamp, skeptics, talk, worldview, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 7 Comments »
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 »