Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 11, 2014
The saga of uber-creationist Ken Ham’s Creation Museum continues, and it isn’t looking good for him or his followers. If you recall, Ham and his creationist organization Answers In Genesis (AiG) have, in recent years, gone all-in on an investment scheme to fund what they call a life sized replica of Noah’s Ark named Ark Encounter. For years, I and others have reported on the continuing financial troubles and ethically questionable revenue sources for Ken Ham’s enterprise, and now things seem to only be getting worse for Ham, AiG, and the Creation Museum.
Ken Ham looking over his model of Ark Encounter… the irony is that, according to myth, Noah didn’t need lots of investment capital, the backing of the government, and huge construction teams to build his Ark. (image source)
Back in February, there was a big debate between Ham and Billy Nye the Science Guy at the Creation Museum; after the debate, Ham reported that this debate had brought in a huge amount of much-needed financial support for Ark Encounter and that construction would begin on the much publicized project in May of this year (after repeated delays due to insufficient funds). At the time, I and others were skeptical, speculating that perhaps Ham wasn’t being completely truthful because while he said money was coming in, he didn’t provide any specifics. This led me to believe that Ham was continuing his habit of not only bending (or breaking) the truth on issues of science but those of economics and finance as well.
Well, now it appears that the other shoe has dropped… as reported in June by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, it seems that Ham is resorting to all sorts of shenanigans and obfuscation to give the impression that his enterprise isn’t sinking:
1) First, there’s the issue of the time-table on Ark Encounter continually being pushed back, at taxpayer expense…
The main problem with Ham’s overtly religious pet project is it seems to be a magnet for taxpayer dollars. First, Kentucky officials committed more than $40 million in tax incentives to the Ark Park. Sadly that was just the beginning. Later, the Kentucky legislature planned to spend $2 million on a road project in a rural area, seemingly for the sole benefit of the proposed Ark Park.
But even those generous incentives weren’t enough for misguided lawmakers. The city of Williamstown, which had already granted a 75 percent property tax break for the park, decided last year that it would sell $62 million in municipal bonds on behalf of AiG affiliates.
All told, various government entities in Kentucky have planned to give the Ark Park, which was originally supposed to cost about $175 million, an astounding $100 million (or more) in various types of public support. Recent reports, however, cast serious doubt on just how much of that money, if any, will reach the project.
It seems Ham’s ever-changing timeline has finally caught up with him. He said in January 2011 that work would begin on the Ark Park that spring; then in May of that year, AiG said groundbreaking would be over the summer; in June, AiG said construction would begin in August; and by early August 2011, AiG still had not broken ground but promised that it would happen “in the next few months.”
Then in late August 2011, AiG bumped the timetable way back, saying groundbreaking would begin in the spring of 2012. That did not happen, either.
2) Then there’s the problem of the expiration date attached to the public funding (the one smart thing the KY lawmakers did in this whole fiasco)…
Louisville’s LEO Weekly reported last week that the large tax incentive package promised to the Ark Park back in May 2011 by Kentucky’s Tourism Cabinet came with one little catch: an expiration date. The agreement says that AiG can receive a 25 percent tax rebate on the cost of construction once the park opens, provided construction began by May 2014. The discount would be capped at $43 million.
Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the Tourism Cabinet, told LEO Weekly that Ark Encounter quietly withdrew its old application for a $172 million project on March 28 and instead submitted a $73 million proposal. If that application is approved, and if it is built within the allotted timeframe, that would mean AiG is eligible for $18.25 million in tax incentives, LEO Weekly said.
But the shrinking tax package doesn’t appear to be Ham’s only problem. In April, the Cincinnati Enquirerreported that the local road improvements needed to handle all the traffic that will supposedly rush to Ark Encounter (if it ever opens) will be pushed back to 2017. That’s a bit of a problem for Ham, who last claimed that the park would open in the summer of 2016. Perhaps he wants park visitors to have an authentic Bible experience by walking or riding camels to see the ark.
There is also some mystery surrounding the $62 million in municipal bonds that supposedly rescued Ham’s project. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported in January that while $26.5 million in bonds had been sold, the city needed to sell an additional $29 million by Feb. 6 or else those who already bought bonds would be able to collect on their investment immediately.
The city would not say exactly how much money was raised, the Courier-Journal reported in late February, but AiG’s website claims the bonds actually yielded $73 million. AiG also claims it has raised $15 million on its own.
Hmm… when “there is some mystery” about how public funds are allocated and being used, especially on a legally and ethically questionable project such as this, then that’s kind of a problem. KY lawmakers and politicians would be wise to distance themselves from this slow-motion train wreck. But there’s more!
3) Ham has claimed that ground breaking and construction did indeed begin this past May, except that it didn’t actually happen…
Despite these setbacks, Ham presses on. His latest ploy appears to be keeping up the hoax that the Ark Park is under construction. In February, he said groundbreaking would begin in May. On May 1, AiG hosted a “groundbreaking ceremony” at the site where the park is supposed to be built, but the “groundbreaking” consisted of a handful of men in suits using wooden mallets to hammer wooden pegs into wooden boards. This all took place inside an auditorium, which doesn’t look much like a theme park. (You can watch this exciting video here, but be warned – it’s over 40 minutes long.)
It is now June, and it remains unclear whether or not construction has actually started on Ark Encounter. AiG’s website says its “construction management team” is still soliciting bids from contractors, suggesting that no real progress will be made anytime soon.
Whoops! I thought that “construction” meant that earth-moving machines were actually, I don’t know, moving earth and digging holes and that carpenters were actually nailing pieces of wood together and so on. Apparently, in Ken Ham’s universe, “construction” means… something else.
Well, one thing is for sure: this story won’t end here. I think Ken Ham is going to try to string both investors and politicians alike along for as long as possible on his sinking Ark Encounter, despite the fact that it should be obvious by now to any reasonable observer that his grasp of finances is about as trustworthy as his grasp of science.
Too bad for the folks who invested in this debacle that they didn’t use a little evidence-based thinking. That’s what you get for faith-based investing, I suppose.
Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: AIG, Americans United for the Separation, amusement park, Answers In Genesis, AU, Bible, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Businessweek, bonds, business, cash, Christianity, creation, Creation Museum, creationism, donations, economics, economy, evolution, extinct, extinction, financial reports, funding, God, investing, investment, Jesus, Ken Ham, Kentucky, KY, money, science, securities, Williamstown, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | Leave a Comment »
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 February 17, 2014
In my previous post, I outlined how creationism got quite a public trouncing in the recent debate between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Ken Ham. Apparently, it’s not only the pro-science crowd that thinks Ham lost hands down; it is worth noting that one of the most infamous modern creationist outlets, the Discovery Institute, has some harsh words for Ham as well. And if that isn’t enough for you, even conservative evangelical Pat Robertson gets in on the act, criticizing Ham’s idiotic arguments. Last, but not least, a poll over at the Christianity Today website very clearly states that Bill Nye was the debate winner (by 92 to 8% !!!).
Now, as if this weren’t embarrassing enough for the creationist movement, let us take some time to visit the progress of one of its most touted efforts in recent decades: the Wedge Strategy from the Discovery Institute.
Josh Rosenau at the National Center for Science Education gives a really nice breakdown of the utter and complete failure of the Discovery Institute’s Wedge Strategy since its inception over 15 years ago:
… The Wedge Document [an original copy is available here], as the packet came to be known, laid out a bold plan by which the Center would “re-open the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature,” and “reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.” From its first sentence, the document proclaimed its sectarian goals, stating: “The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West’s greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.”
In order to achieve this religious revival, the creators of the CRSC proposed a five-year plan, with three phases: “Research, Writing and Publication,” “Publicity and Opinion-making,” and “Cultural Confrontation and Renewal.” Of these, they insisted that the first was most crucial: “Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.”
On this fifteenth anniversary of that five-year plan, it’s worth asking just what the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture has accomplished. They promised at the time, “we can accomplish many of the objectives of Phases I and II in the next five years (1999-2003), and begin Phase III (See ‘Goals/Five Year Objectives/Activities’).”
The Five Year Goals:
- To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.
- To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.
- To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.
Of these, the first has certainly not happened within science. The second is immeasurable, but hasn’t happened in any obvious way, and to the extent there are new debates in the fields described in the third item, the CRSC seems to have no role to play (aside from sitting on the sidelines and carping). …
These five-year objectives outlined seven topics, of which there are two I’d like to emphasize from Rosenau’s article:
Topic #3. One hundred scientific, academic and technical articles by our fellows [i.e. research fellows with the Discovery Institute]
… Unless you count articles published in the various unimpressive and intellectually incestuous ID journals that have come and gone over the years, or include papers that have nothing to do with ID creationism, they haven’t met this standard, either. Even the CRSC’s own list of publications only hits about 75 items, and most of those are not in credible journals, or don’t mean what the Center claims they mean.
Again, the Wedge document opened by insisting that “Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.” By their own standard, the ID creationists have to be judged as engaged in “just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.” …
Ouch, so much for the actual science, of which there appears to be none in favor of so-called ID. However, as anyone who has followed the Discovery Institute knows, their real goal is to promote so-called “cultural renewal”.
Topic #5: Spiritual & cultural renewal:
- Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism
- Major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of creation & repudiate(s) Darwinism
- Seminaries increasingly recognize & repudiate naturalistic presuppositions
- Positive uptake in public opinion polls on issues such as sexuality, abortion and belief in God
Again, time has shown that on this point the ID-creationists have had no luck, as Rosenau points out…
… Many mainline Protestant churches (and their seminaries) have issued policy statements in favor of evolution in recent years, and against IDC, while the CRSC’s allies in the older creationist organizations have backed away from IDC since its failure in the Dover trial. Public opinion polls show increasing acceptance of marriage equality, views on abortion are quite stable, and belief in God is declining. …
… In short, on this crystal anniversary of the Wedge Document, it appears that the C(R)SC staff’s crystal-gazing skills were awful; they essentially achieved none of their goals. …
Or, as I like to put it… Message to the Discovery Institute:
Posted in creationism, scientific method | Tagged: AIG, Answers In Genesis, anti science, Bible, Bill Nye, Center for Renewal of Science and Culture, Christianity, Creation Museum, creationism, CSRC, Darwin Day, debate, Discovery Institute, education, evolution, February 12, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, Ken Ham, Kentucky, KY, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, proof, public, religion, science, The Science Guy, Wedge document, Wedge Strategy, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 12, 2014
This Darwin Day, in celebration of the birthday of Charles Darwin, I would like to pause and reflect upon two recent bits of news related to the ongoing battle against creationism. In this first of two posts, I want to note that our friends from the National Center for Science Education have highlighted the recent debate between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Ken Ham.
The NCSE’s Josh Rosenau gives a quick breakdown of the Nye vs. Ham debate. Honestly, this was a debate of which I was highly skeptical, seeing as how I tend to come from the “don’t debate creationists” school of thought; however, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how well Nye handled it. I shall post below some select parts of Josh’s analysis; for the full story check out Josh’s post on it…
In tonight’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, the Science Guy went on stage equipped with the most vital tool of all in any oral debate over evolution and creationism: a showman’s flair, developed over three decades of experience explaining science to the broad public.
Of course, he also had the science on his side, which doesn’t hurt. But it isn’t a guarantee of anything in a stage debate: competitive debaters are judged by their ability to argue either side of a question. Debate is a tool for showing who’s a better orator, not necessarily who’s right. … [emphasis added]
The text in bold above is one of my primary criticisms of the typical debate format; that and the fact that it, by default, elevates the two sides to apparent levels of equity (i.e., it gives the uninformed observer the impression that creationism is just as scientifically valid as evolution). However, what Josh reports next is the saving grace of the entire debate, in my opinion, and can serve as a model for how scientists can and should debate creationists (or pseudoscientists in general) in the future…
… He [Nye] opened by undercutting the core of Ken Ham’s claim to authority, emphasizing that Ken Ham bases his claims not on the empirical evidence, but on a very particular reading of Genesis. And that way of reading Genesis is very specific to Ken Ham, not to most of the world’s religious people, or even Ham’s fellow evangelicals. He never stopped emphasizing that Ham’s theology is an outlier, and that he doesn’t speak for religious people, Christians, evangelicals, or even all creationists.
Throughout, Nye did a great job keeping the focus on the failures of Ken Ham’s creation model, and the key ways in which it fails to provide any sort of viable explanation for the world around us. A good, viable model has to make real predictions, he emphasized; those predictions can’t be wrong, and a viable model has to be of practical value. In various ways, Ken Ham’s creation model fails on all three prongs. … [emphasis added]
The two lines of bold text are critical points: they show that Nye absolutely refused to play into the typical creationist debate gambit of being pushed to “defend evolution”. Instead, Nye chose to attack creationism as an extreme form of theology (especially Ham’s variation) which is only one kind of creationism among many, and he then went on to point out the fundamental flaws in Ham’s creationist model, namely that creationism isn’t science at all!
This two-pronged attack on creationism was, in my view, devastating to Ham’s arguments in particular and creationism in general. That is because it shifts the argument away from evolution having to justify itself to creationism having to justify itself. I especially like how Nye emphasized the connection of aspects of evolutionary science to important and practical uses in our everyday lives with this…
… Then he [Nye] made the crucial point that Ken Ham’s creation model requires us to reject basic science we all rely on every day. The radioisotope dating methods Ken Ham dismisses are based on the same basic physics that nuclear medicine relies in to save lives. Is it a coincidence, Nye asked, that there are no training programs in nuclear medicine available anywhere in Kentucky? …
Or, as I like to put it, if there really is something to creationism as a “science”, then why hasn’t it been used to develop any medicines, vaccines, or other practical technologies? And, just to stick it to the creationists even more, I’d like to point out that evolutionary science has done all that and more!
I won’t call the debate a slam dunk for science, because – as we all know – many creationists tend to be unsinkable ducks; no matter how much evidence you amass against their position, no matter what fatal flaws are exposed within their arguments, many of them will simply fall back upon the ol’ “God did it!” routine as a line of last defense. However, I think that Bill Nye has shown us a road-map of how to proceed in future public engagements with creationists and give those people on the fence some serious food for thought.
Perhaps I will debate a creationist in public, after all :)
In part 2 of “Science Marches Forward While Creationism Fumbles”, I will explore the massive failure of the Discovery Institute’s Wedge Strategy…
Posted in creationism, scientific method | Tagged: AIG, Answers In Genesis, anti science, Bible, Bill Nye, Christianity, Creation Museum, creationism, Darwin Day, debate, Discovery Institute, education, evolution, February 12, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, Ken Ham, Kentucky, KY, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, proof, public, religion, science, The Science Guy, Wedge Strategy, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 2 Comments »
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 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 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 November 25, 2013
Ken Ham’s Creation Museum is back in the news, and – surprise – it has to do with a questionable funding proposal to finance his floundering theme park, where people can pay to be told that the Flintstones is the real thing.
Yup, they actually teach that humans and dinosaurs coexisted… just like in the Flintstones cartoon. Looks like a good investment to me – Yabba-dabba-doo! (Image source)
I’ve posted before (here and here) about the troubles the Creation Museum has had in securing funding for its Ark Encounter attraction (not to mention its dwindling profits – or should that be “prophets”?), and the following article indicates that Ken Ham is pursuing a constitutionally questionable strategy which could land him and the municipality in question into some dicey legal waters…
A city in Kentucky is working with Crosswater Canyon, an owned subsidiary of Answers in Genesis, Inc., to offer $62 million in securities for prospective investors to help aid the completion of a Creationist theme park and replica of Noah’s Ark. While the city of Williamstown is issuing the bond, Crosswalk Canyon is solely responsible for the bonds, not the city.
Beginning next month, Williamstown may oversee the amount of taxable securities for investors to the project overseen by Answers in Genesis, reported Brian Chappatta and Priya Anand of Business Week.
“Proceeds will help build a 510-foot (155.4-meter) wooden ship, the centerpiece of a planned biblical theme park called ‘Ark Encounter.’ Bond documents project the venue will attract at least 1.2 million people in its first year,” wrote Chappatta and Anand. …
But if things are going so well for Ken Ham and his cartoon attraction, then why the need for these so-called “securities” to fund the project? Let’s read on…
… Unlike the Creation Museum, the Ark Encounter project has had its share of financial issues regarding funding and donations.
The official ground-breaking for the project has been delayed multiple times since 2011, with private donations not matching the necessary monetary benchmarks.
Mike Zovath, head of the Ark Encounter project, told The Christian Post about the current status of the park’s construction, namely that it is “under design.” …
Wow, that’s got to make potential investors nervous. So what’s the big deal about going through these “securities” issued by the town of Williamstown, KY?…
… Answers in Genesis’ efforts in Kentucky have garnered their share of criticism, including from the Washington, D.C.-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In the past Americans United has criticized the alleged First Amendment issues with regards to the state support for projects that benefit the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.
Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director at Americans United, told The Christian Post that the bond offering is one of many examples of government aid proposed for the Ark Encounter project.
“The imminent bond offering is only one of several different kinds of aid being given to the Ark Park by the State of Kentucky, Grant County, and the City of Williamstown,” said Luchenitser.
“The array of government aid to the Ark Park raises very serious issues under the religion clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the even stricter church-state prohibitions of the Kentucky Constitution.” …
Well, there’s that! And then there are other questions regarding the legality/wisdom of these securities from the standpoint of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). But don’t take it from me; take it from from people who actually know business and investment, like the folks at Bloomberg Businessweek. Here’s an excerpt from an excellent blog post on this particular point:
This is about an article at the website of Bloomberg Businessweek. Business Week was formerly an independent magazine, now it’s part of the Bloomberg international news agency, headquartered in New York. Their article is Noah’s Ark Depends on Faith in Default-Plagued Debt: Muni Credit.
From our recent post, Ken Ham’s “Ark Encounter” Bonds, you already know about the bonds being issued to finance the proposed Ark Encounter project, which is owned by a company controlled by Answers in Genesis (AIG). AIG is the on-line ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia. It also owns and operates the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.
It appears that Bloomberg has seen all the documents, and they routinely report on the bond market. Their analysis is far more sophisticated than ours. They say, with bold font added by us:
“Given the default history of unrated municipal debt, investors may have to pray for the success of bonds being sold to build a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark.
The northern Kentucky city of Williamstown plans to offer $62 million of securities next month for affiliates of Answers in Genesis, a Christian nonprofit that operates the Creation Museum upstate. Proceeds will help build a 510-foot (155.4-meter) wooden ship, the centerpiece of a planned biblical theme park called “Ark Encounter.” Bond documents project the venue will attract at least 1.2 million people in its first year.” …
Ouch… but what the heck does Bloomberg Businessweek know? Sure they may have oodles of financial and investment expertise, but if creationists have shown us anything it’s that they don’t need no stinkin’ experts who spout off about pesky things like evidence and facts!
So head on over and buy some of Ken Ham’s bonds. You just have to have faith that you won’t be flushing your money down the toilet :)
Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: AIG, amusement park, Answers In Genesis, Bible, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Businessweek, bonds, business, cash, Christianity, creation, Creation Museum, creationism, donations, economics, economy, evolution, extinct, extinction, financial reports, funding, God, investing, investment, Jesus, Ken Ham, Kentucky, KY, money, science, securities, Williamstown, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 3 Comments »