Posts Tagged ‘court’
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 26, 2013
Well, if you haven’t heard the news, here it is: today the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) struck down the discriminatory Prop 8 law in California outlawing gay marriage and aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which denied federal benefits to married same-sex couples.
I applaud because, at it’s heart, these discriminatory laws are purely religiously based; that is, they have been pushed by those who wish to impose their particular religious belief upon the rest of us. The religious right whack-a-loons want to use their narrow view of religion as the law of the land; in short, they wish to impose a theocracy here in the U.S.
If you have any doubt that the motivations behind these anti-gay laws are not rooted in fundamentalist religion, just look at the reaction of one of the biggest religious right-wing groups out there, the American Family Association, wherein they claim that this decision will lead to God’s judgement/wrath:
And everywhere I’ve looked so far, pretty much every religious right outlet is having the same reaction…
Of course, now that the religious bigots have lost in the courts, watch them start to get even crazier in the states. Expect to see different laws proposed placing more restrictions on gay couples getting married, “pro-family” laws, and similar nonsense. In short, the religious right is going to head into meltdown mode over this, but then they will only hasten their own collective demise because as they get ever more extreme and crazy, they will increasingly marginalize themselves from civilized society.
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: AFA, American Family Association, bigot, bigotry, California, civil rights, civil union, court, Defense of Marriage Act, discrimination, DOMA, fundamentalist, gay, God, homosexual, law, lesbian, marriage, politics, Prop 8, religion, religious right, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, United States | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 25, 2013
Wow, sometimes the good guys win one. In case you didn’t know, there has been a long-running skeptical campaign against a pseudoscientific fraudster, James McCormick, who sold bomb dowsing kits to the Iraqi military. Yes, you read that correctly, dowsing kits – as in “water witching”! And no, dowsing doesn’t work. And yes, it resulted in a lot of people getting killed, because these things didn’t do squat to detect bombs. And yes, it pleases me greatly to see this criminal finally receive justice…
McCormick’s fake bomb detectors were used at Iraqi checkpoints staffed by the British military
A millionaire businessman who sold fake bomb detectors to countries including Iraq and Georgia, knowing they did not work, has been convicted of fraud.
James McCormick, 56, of Langport, Somerset, is said to have made £50m from sales and sold more than 6,000 in Iraq, the Old Bailey heard.
Police said the devices, modelled on a novelty golf ball finder, are still in use at some checkpoints.
One Iraqi bomb victim described him to the BBC as a “morally bankrupt” man.
During Tuesday’s hearing at the Old Bailey in London, the court was told McCormick’s detectors, which cost up to $40,000 (£27,000) each, were completely ineffectual and lacked any grounding in science.
Richard Whittam QC, for the prosecution, said: “The devices did not work and he knew they did not work.”
McCormick had claimed the devices could bypass “all forms of concealment”, detecting drugs and people along with explosives, the court heard.
He claimed they would work under water and from the air, and would track an object up to 1km (3280ft) below the ground.
The bomb detectors came with cards which were “programmed” to detect a wide array of substances, from ivory to $100 banknotes.
Other substances could be detected, it was claimed, if put in a jar with a sticker which would absorb its “vapours” and was then stuck on a card that would be read by the machine.
In reality, McCormick’s device was based on $20 (£13) golf ball finders which he had purchased from the US and which had no working electronics.
Police said McCormick showed a complete disregard for the safety of those who used and relied upon the device for their own security and protection. …
Serves this scumbag right. I hope they throw the book at him, not only for his crimes but also to send a clear message to the other fraudsters and charlatans out there: we’re watching you. Skepticism matters.
Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: ADE651, ATSC Ltd, bomb, conviction, corruption, court, crime, criminal, detection, detector, dowsing, dowsing rods, explosive, fake, FBI, fraud, Iraq, Iraqi, James McCormick, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, Jim McCormick, JREF, justice, military, pseudoscience, Quadro, Randi, security, terrorism, trial, UK, United Kingdom | 2 Comments »
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 February 12, 2013
Well, you have to give the religious fundamentalists in this country (the United States) one thing: they are indeed persistent. In fact, the situation in Texas public schools goes beyond the blatant teaching of creationism (which is a problem), because it extends to these fundamentalists pushing their narrow religious interpretations in public school “Bible classes”…
Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the devotional use of the Bible by public schools, in its ruling on Abington Township v. Schempp.
But many school districts in the Lone Star State still haven’t gotten the message, according to a report released last month by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) entitled “Reading, Writing and Religion.”
Conducted by religious studies professor Mark Chancey of Southern Methodist University, the study examines elective Bible courses offered in 57 Texas school districts and 3 charter schools and concludes that “evidence of sectarian bias, predominantly favoring perspectives of conservative Protestantism, is widespread.” (The full report is available at http://www.tfn.org/biblecourses.)
In other words, school officials in many parts of Texas convert public schools into Sunday schools in violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion. … [emphasis added]
So there you have it. When these fundamentalists lose in court they just ignore the law and continue with their illegal and unconstitutional proselytizing in public schools. This shows the necessity of vigilance on the part of those of us who value a secular society which fosters good science education and keeps church and state separate. So if your child attends a school with these kind of Bible courses, make sure to check up and see that they’re being taught in a constitutionally sound manner.
Posted in creationism, education, religion | Tagged: Bible, Christianity, church, class, course, court, creationism, devotional, education, First Amendament, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, God, Jesus, law, preach, proselytize, public, religion, schools, SCOTUS, separation, state, Supreme Court, Texas, Texas Freedom Network, TFN, unconstitutional | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 5, 2012
My friend and skeptical colleague Phil over at Skeptic Money has passed along some welcome news: the Louisiana private school voucher program has been found to be unconstitutional! Whoo-hoo!!! :)[**Aside: If you recall, the state of Louisiana has been a hotbed of creationist activity over the years; more on that here and here. And yes, that fact is important. Read on...]
This is news partly because the program was being used to funnel public school money to private religious schools which specialized in indoctrinating children into fundamentalist forms of Christianity which taught, among other things, creationism as “science”. In addition, let us also not forget that this was the award-winning 21st century educational plan which would teach that the Loch Ness Monster was real as a way of supporting creationism. Phil has some more interesting information on these developments:
News from the State of Louisiana today!
“A state judge on Friday shot down Louisiana’s sweeping school voucher program, ruling that the state could not use funds set aside for public education to pay private-school tuition…”
This is huge. They were going to spend $11 Million to teach creationism.
“Louisiana is preparing to spend over $11 million to send 1,365 students to 20 private schools that teach creationism instead of science as part of Governor Bobby Jindal’s new voucher program.”
This $11 Million is to come out of the public schools. According to a report from “American Legislative Exchange Council” Louisiana ranks 49 out of 51 (They also ranked the District of Columbia). I guess they want to race to the bottom.
The governor is not happy about the ruling.
“Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who had championed the program, called the ruling “wrong-headed” and “a travesty for parents across Louisiana who want nothing more than for their children to have an equal opportunity at receiving a great education.” “
A great education? These children are not being educated. They are being thrown back to the bronze age. We might as well teach them that 2+2 equals “fish”.
“While State District Judge Tim Kelley ruled the voucher program unconstitutional, he did not issue an immediate injunction to stop it. The 5,000 students currently receiving vouchers will be able to continue attending their private schools pending an appeal, state officials said.”
What? The state creates a blatantly illegal program and a judge rules against it but yet it continues. It looks like they are still going to spend that $11 Million on creationism. I feel like we live in some kind of bizzaro world.
This is all promoted by a guy that wants to be the next President of the United States Bobby Jindal.
So… the program will continue for the immediate future (probably until the end of the current academic year), which will no doubt give Jindal and his political allies time to come up with another cockamamie scheme that will bilk the taxpayers and direct their money towards religious zealots who have no interest in teaching their kids (or anybody else’s kids) science.
I agree with Phil. The irony here is that Jindal and his religious right allies go on and on about “giving the kids a great education” but it’s apparent they wouldn’t know good science education if it bit them squarely in the ass. Remember folks, these are the same people who want to give public tax money to schools that teach the Loch Ness Monster is real. Just chew on that for a bit, folks…
In conclusion, I think it is appropriate to end this post with the following clip from Bill Maher’s movie Religulous. In it he is interviewing a U.S. Senator (Mark Pryor from Arkansas) who is trying to justify creationism. When challenged by Maher, the Senator responds with the following, quite telling, line: “You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate…”
Yup, he really said that. Watch for yourself (the dialog leading up to the line starts at 4:00):
Posted in creationism, cryptozoology, education, politics | Tagged: A Beka, A Beka Book, academic, Accelerated Christian Education, ACE, biology, Bob Jones University, Bob Jones University Press, Christianity, court, creationism, cryptids, cryptozoology, curriculum, dinosaur, education, evangelical, evolution, freedom, fundamentalist, government, ID, intelligent design, Jindal, judge, Loch Ness, Loch Ness Monster, Louisiana, Mother Jones, Nessie, origin of life, politics, private, public, religion, ruling, school, schools, science, separation of church and state, Skeptic Money, teach all views, teach the controversy, theory, unconstitutional, vouchers, Zack Kopplin | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 20, 2012
So there’s this nutjob… err, I mean law enforcement officer… named Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona who has apparently taken it upon himself to “prove” that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen (a conspiracy theory known as “birtherism“). This has consisted of basically engaging in rampant conspiracy mongering that President Obama’s birth certificate (which you can see here) is a forgery, despite the fact that it has been certified as authentic repeatedly. Well, in their quest to pursue their bigoted… err, I mean intense and serious… investigation of the citizenship of the POTUS, they have hit a new low.
And here it is:
The Globe Magazine… that bastion of journalistic excellence. *Sigh* ‘Nuff said.
Posted in conspiracy theories, politics | Tagged: Arizona, AZ, barack obama, bigotry, birth certificate, birther, birtherism, citizenship, cold case, conspiracy, conspiracy theories, court, critical thinking, forgery, government, Hawaii, investigation, Joe Arpaio, judiciary, long form, magazine, Manchurian candidate, Obama, politics, posse, president, pseudoscience, sheriff, Supreme Court, The Globe, United States, white house | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 10, 2012
For many years now, various fundamentalist Christian groups have been attempting to post the Ten Commandments (which version? Good question…) in public buildings, using the lame argument that they serve a “secular purpose” as a way of skirting lawsuits for violation of church-state separation. Well, now those folks have been hoisted by their own pertard
Judge Michael Urbanski suggested a possible compromise to the issue that has been raging in the Giles County school system.
By Laurence Hammack 981-3239
Could the Ten Commandments be reduced to six, a federal judge asked Monday.
Would that neutralize the religious overtones of a commandments display that has the Giles County School Board in legal hot water?
That unorthodox suggestion was made by Judge Michael Urbanski during oral arguments over whether the display amounts to a governmental endorsement of religion, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by a student at Narrows High School.
After raising many pointed questions about whether the commandments pass legal muster, the judge referred the case to mediation – with a suggestion:
Remove the first four commandments, which are clearly religious in nature, and leave the remaining six, which make more secular commands, such as do not kill or steal.
Ever since the lawsuit was filed in September amid heated community reaction, school officials have said the display is not religious because it also includes historical documents such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.
“If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn’t it make sense for Giles County to say, ‘Let’s go back and just post the bottom six?’” Urbanski asked during a motions hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.
“But if it’s really about God, then they wouldn’t be willing to do that.” … [emphasis added]
I think this judge is a genius. He’s asking the obvious question which clearly shows the motivations of these fundamentalists: to use public institutions to force their religious beliefs upon the rest of us. Up until this point, the fundamentalists have tried to have it both ways, using the wiggle room argument of a “secular purpose” as a wedge. But I think that’s the point of what the judge here is saying: to deny them any wiggle room at all. They must either step up and admit flat out that they had (and still do) a religious intent when displaying the Ten Commandments, and thus risk being on the losing end of a costly lawsuit; or they must accept the compromise, and thus risk encurring the wrath of their constituents. This lame attempt on their part to play coy and try coming up with an ad hoc “secular purpose” after the fact won’t fly with this judge.
They only have themselves to blame for getting into this position in the first place. If they bothered to follow the First Amendment Establishment Clause in the beginning, they wouldn’t have this problem; but nooooo, they had to try pushing their religious beliefs.
Quite frankly, they deserve the smackdown coming their way.
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: atheism, atheist, Bible, Christian, church, commandments, court, Decalogue, display, federal, First Amendment, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, Giles County School Board, God, judge, law, Michael Urbanski, Old Testament, public, religion, secular, separation of church and state, state, Ten Commandments, United States, Virginia | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 29, 2011
It’s not often spoken of, but I think perhaps one of the most critical reasons why it is that we need to have a populace that is well educated in basic critical thinking and reasoning skills can be summed up in how our court system works. In the United States, many trials in court are decided by juries, which are composed of everyday folk like you and me. And, as is sometimes the case, juries that are tasked with making major decisions – such as in murder cases – can all-too-often fall victim to sloppy thinking. And, unfortunately, sometimes this sloppy thinking is actively encouraged by rules set by the courts themselves!
However, recently there as a welcome challenge to the status quo: the New Jersey Supreme Court has issued new guidelines and regulations for how to take into account the validity of eyewitness testimony and the fallibility of human memory regarding identification. Read the following article from The Innocence Project for more information…
Today the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a landmark decision requiring major changes in the way courts are required to evaluate identification evidence at trial and how they should instruct juries. The new changes, designed to reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions by taking into account more than 30 years of scientific research on eyewitness identification and memory, require courts to greatly expand the factors that courts and juries should consider in assessing the risk of misidentification. …
… The court’s decision requires judges to more thoroughly scrutinize the police identification procedures and many other variables that affect an eyewitness identification. The court noted that this more extensive scrutiny will require enhanced jury instructions on factors that increase the risk of misidentification. These factors include:
• Whether the lineup procedure was administered “double blind,” meaning that the officer who administers the lineup is unaware who the suspect is and the witness is told that the officer doesn’t know.
• Whether the witness was told that the suspect may not be in the lineup and that they need not make a choice.
• Whether the police avoided providing the witness with feedback that would cause the witness to believe he or she selected the correct suspect. Similarly, whether the police recorded the witnesses’ level of confidence at the time of the identification.
• Whether the witness had multiple opportunities to view the same person, which would make it more likely for the witness to choose this person as the suspect.
• Whether the witness was under a high level of stress.
• Whether a weapon was used, especially if the crime was of short duration.
• How much time the witness had to observe the event.
• How far the witness was from the perpetrator and what the lighting conditions were.
• Whether the witness possessed characteristics that would make it harder to make an identification, such as age of the witness and influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Whether the perpetrator possessed characteristics that would make it harder to make an identification. Was he or she wearing a disguise? Did the suspect have different facial features at the time of the identification?
• The length of time between the crime and identification.
• Whether the case involved cross-racial identification.
Folks, this is a big deal, because there is a mountain of strongly-supported research which shows just how untrustworthy and malleable memories can be and how this can lead to all manner of mistakes regarding the positive identification of suspects in court cases. For example, take a look at some of the work done by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus on this subject of the misinformation effect and false memories.
Th main point here that I want to emphasize is that the new Jersey Supreme Court took a huge step in the right direction by relying on the most well-tested science to guide its decision. And that is important, because science – more than any other human endeavor – has allowed us to collectively sort out the good ideas from the bad ideas regarding how the world works. And how the world works includes how we, as fallible beings, interact with it and each other.
In closing, I want to emphasize my point about critical thinking in the courts, and specifically in the jury box and deliberation room, by encouraging you to watch one of the best movies ever on the subject: 12 Angry Men. The original was made in 1957, but it was remade in 1997, and I think either version is excellent viewing. If you have never seen either version, take some time to check them out on Youtube or rent them, because I can only hope that every jury in the world is as rational as this one…
Posted in politics | Tagged: 12 Angry Men, court, defense, Elizabeth Loftus, eyewitness, eyewitness testimony, fallibility, fallible, false memory, guilt, ID, identification, innocence, investigation, justice, law, memory, misinformation effect, New Jersey, not guilty, police, procedure, prosecution, punishment, science, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, suspect, The Innocence Project, Twleve Angry Men, United States, witness | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 2, 2011
I found out recently that Casey Luskin of the intelligent design/creationist “think” tank the Discovery Institute has responded in print to my takedown of his public lecture last August in Chicago. I think it is important is to dissect his arguments and point out the utter failure of him to make any headway in his arguments; he is simply recycling the same ol’ same ol’, in my view. For reference, here is my account of what happened at the event last August.
Me & Casey Luskin, chillin’ after his lecture. Nobody was hurt in the making of this photo
And I also wrote a follow-up post specifically criticizing Luskin’s claims of the supposed scientific nature of ID’s so-called “design inference”. It is pretty telling that Luskin never addresses any of these points in his response, but more on that later.
Speaking of which, here is Luskin’s response. Technically, it isn’t really a response to my blog posts, because he never references my blog or the posts in his article, but he does refer to me and the questions I asked at his lecture (though he doesn’t name me). Allow me to go through his points one at a time…
STUMPED BY DESIGN
ID’s Critics Engage in Motive-Mongering to Avoid the Evidence
By Casey Luskin
In August 2010, the creators of Salvo graciously invited me to speak at the University Club in downtown Chicago. After a short 40 minute presentation on the positive scientific case for intelligent design (ID), we opened up the floor to the audience.
Most of the inquiries led to serious and worthwhile scientific discussions. But one gentleman [that's me] was confident he came armed with a “gotcha question” that would stump me. His challenge essentially boiled down to this: What about the ‘Wedge Document’?
The Wedge What?
Salvo readers generally believe—quite rightly—that seeking truth requires merely following the evidence where it leads. As a result, they don’t get bogged down in endless debates about personal motives or the religious (or non-religious) beliefs of scientists. At the end of the day, what matters is the evidence. Right?
For many ID critics, that’s not right. In fact those who follow the ID debate closely are depressingly familiar with the fallacious distraction of the “wedge document.”
While the “Wedge document” has no bearing on whether the information-rich molecular machines that underlie every living cell point to an intelligent designer, it’s worth rebutting to help those who are seeking truth understand this debate.
What is now called the “Wedge document” was originally a short fundraising packet compiled in the late 1990s by the pro-ID think tank Discovery Institute (“DI”). Like any good prospectus, it laid out the goals of the DI, centering around using pro-ID arguments to influence various branches of culture, including science, politics, education, and theology. …
Actually, the Wedge Document (and related strategy) is entirely relevant to the entire question of ID and its origins as an explicitly religious enterprise. That’s because, as I documented earlier & as Luskin fails to note (surprise), during his lecture he stated on multiple occasions that “ID isn’t about religion, it’s about science!” So when I pointed out the fact that the Discovery Institute’s Wedge Document most certainly shows that the primary motivation for pushing ID is religious in nature (with such notable sections as the “20 Year Goal: To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.” – yup, that’s a direct quote, entirely within context. Read it for yourself), Luskin was hoisted by his own petard, so to speak. In fact, I had a conversation with one of the other audience members in the lobby of the University Club after Luskin’s lecture, and while this fellow wanted to agree with Luskin, he simply couldn’t because of exactly what I’d pointed out.
What was Luskin’s reaction to my criticism? Well, the next section of his article pretty much spells it out. Read on… Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in creationism | Tagged: atheism, biology, Casey Luskin, Center for Science and Culture, Christianity, court, creationism, design, design inference, Discovery Institute, Dover trial, Dover vs Kitzmiller, education, evolution, God, ID, IDM, intelligent design, intelligent design movement, materialism, public schools, religion, Salvo magazine, schools, science, theology, Wedge document, Wedge Strategy | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 7, 2011
Sometimes science supporters lament some very stubborn statistics, specifically those regarding the public acceptance of evolutionary science in the United States. Rather consistently, for many decades, the number of people in the U.S. who are outright ignorant or mistrustful of evolutionary science hovers at around the 40-45% mark, with most of those identifying as Young-Earth creationists (i.e. those who believe the Earth is ~10,000 years old as espoused by certain Biblical interpretations). Fortunately, recent research has shown this number slowly declining, but it is a really slow decline.
And many times, those of us in the pro-science crowd have wondered why it is that, despite amazing advances in evolutionary science and defeat after defeat for creationism in the federal courts, this blatant ignorance of (or outright animosity towards) evolution still exists to such a large degree? Well, some recent survey research may provide some clue as to an answer, and it – sadly – involves the nation’s teachers…
The majority of high-school biology teachers don’t take a solid stance on evolution with their students, mostly to avoid conflicts, and fewer than 30 percent of teachers take an adamant pro-evolutionary stance on the topic, a new study finds. Also, 13 percent of these teachers advocate creationism in their classrooms.
“The survey left space for [the teachers] to share their experiences. That’s where we picked up a lot of a sense about how they play to the test and tell students they can figure it out for themselves,” Michael Berkman, co-author of the study with Penn State University colleague Eric Plutzer, told Livescience. “Our general sense is they lack the knowledge and confidence to go in there and teach evolution, which makes them risk-averse.” …
So it seems that part of the problem is that many biology teachers themselves are not adequately prepared to teach about evolution. However, this is a problem which can (and should) be corrected by making adjustments to the university curriculum & training for prospective biology teachers, giving them (well, the 87% who are NOT creationist) the appropriate skills & training in the subject matter. Unfortunately, there seems to be a deeper problem: that of intimidation, either explicit or implicit, of biology teachers who actually want to teach evolution…
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in creationism, education | Tagged: administration, atheism, atheist, biology, board, Christianity, court, creationism, Dover, Dover vs Kitzmiller, editor, evolution, federal, God, ID, IDM, intelligent design, intelligent design movement, Judge Jones, Kitzmiller, letter, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, newspaper, poll, public, religion, school, science, survey, teachers, teaching | 5 Comments »