Posts Tagged ‘federal’
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 February 21, 2013
If you’ve been paying attention to the U.S. political news of late, then you know that a crucial fiscal deadline is approaching: the dreaded sequestration cuts across the board to all federal programs. As a supporter of strong science education and scientific research programs, this alarms me quite a bit. To make such deep and long-lasting cuts in our most basic science research and education programs would be like eating our seed corn, with the result that scientific and technological innovation and education would be starved of critical funding at a time when we need it the most.
So I encourage you to read, sign, and pass along the following petition from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) imploring Congress to seek a bipartisan solution to this problem:
On behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we—as researchers, professionals, students and interested citizens in the science, technology, engineering and math fields—write to ask both branches of government to work together to achieve a bipartisan compromise that moves the country on to sound fiscal footing without sacrificing our nation’s crucial investments in science and technology. Almost every national priority—from health and defense, agriculture and conservation, to hazards and natural disasters—relies on science and engineering. As another fiscal cliff approaches, placing a significant burden on federal research and development investments, as sequestration would do, is nothing less than a threat to national competitiveness. Support for science is support for economic growth, innovation, and technological progress. Please consider this as you seek to address our nation’s pressing fiscal challenges.
Click here to sign the petition!
Posted in education, politics, science funding, skeptical community | Tagged: AAAS, America, American Association for the Advancement of Science, bipartisan, budget, congress, deficit, education, engineering, federal, innovation, math, politics, research, revenue, science, sequestration, STEM, taxes, technology, United States, US, USA | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 7, 2013
If you’ve followed the blog for any amount of time, then you know that I’ve touched on the topic of a rising secular and non-religious demographic in the United States; in fact, now 1-in-5 Americans label themselves as non-religious. I also wrote about Kyrsten Sinema, a newly elected Congresswoman who has openly identified herself as atheist. Well, it seems that there is now a convergence between these two things emerging, because this new Congress now contains the highest number of openly non-religious members in history!
It’s not just for religious fundamentalists anymore
This Politico story has more details:
By CHARLES MAHTESIAN | 1/5/13 2:34 PM EST
The number of members of Congress who don’t identify with any particular religion is on the rise, according to an analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
In the 96th Congress (1979-80), not a single member of the House or Senate said they didn’t belong to any particular faith, didn’t know or refused to disclose their religion. But in the new 113th Congress, 10 members fall under that category.
That’s twice as many as in the 111th Congress (2009-10).
Pew notes there’s still a great disparity between the percentage of U.S. adults and the percentage of members of Congress who don’t identify with any particular religion. …
… The numbers here caught my eye, not because of the disparity between non-believers in the general population and in Congress, but because I was surprised so many members actually admitted to it. … [emphasis added]
Exactly. I, and many others, have long suspected that there are a good number of closeted “nones” in our Congress, but up until now they’ve been cautious about self-identifying as non-religious for fear of electoral backlash. However, it seems that, slowly but surely, those days are drawing to a close
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 2012, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, congress, demographics, election, federal, Kyrsten Sinema, no-religious, non-religious, non-theist, none, nontheist, Pete Stark, Pew Poll, Pew Research Center, politics, poll, religion, religious, religious right, research, secular, secularism, survey, unaffiliated, United States, US, USA | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 16, 2012
In a recent post, I outlined how secular Americans are starting to make inroads into the political process, partly due to the rise of a non-religious demographic in the United States. On a related note, I find it worth pointing out the fact that the power and influence of the socially and religiously conservative movement known as the “religious right” seems to be on the decline. Evidence for this can be found by looking at the results of the 2012 elections. The following article from The Atlantic magazine goes into more detail; I shall share my thoughts on a few excerpts…
… “I think this [election] was an evangelical disaster,” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told NPR. He’s right, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
The late Falwell’s Liberty University gave former Gov. Mitt Romney its keynote spot at its 2012 commencement and backed off previous language calling Mormonism a “cult.” Billy Graham uncharacteristically threw his support behind the Republican candidate, and his evangelistic association bought full-page newspaper ads all but endorsing Romney. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition spent tens of millions in battleground states to get out the religious vote.
As a result, 79 percent of white evangelicals voted for Romney on Tuesday. That’s the same percentage that Bush received in 2004, and more than Sen. John McCain received in 2008. The evangelical vote was 27 percent of the overall electorate — the highest it’s ever been for an election.
Their support wasn’t enough. Not only did President Obama win soundly, but four states voted to allow same-sex marriage. …
So why is it that the religiously conservative vote didn’t win out? Here are some reasons:
… First, the size of the evangelicals’ base is a limitation. While white evangelicals comprised a quarter of the electorate, other religious groups that lean Democratic have grown substantially. Hispanic-American Catholics, African-American Protestants, and Jewish-Americans voted Democratic in overwhelming numbers. Additionally, the “nones” — those who claim no religious affiliation — are now the fastest growing “religious” group, comprising one-fifth of the population and a third of adults under 30. Seven out of 10 “nones” voted for Obama.
Second, evangelicals’ influence is waning. Conservative Christian ideas are failing to shape the broader culture. More than 3,500 churches close their doors every year, and while Americans are still overwhelmingly spiritual, the institutional church no longer holds the sway over their lives it once did. The sweeping impact of globalization and the digital age has marginalized the church and its leaders. …
… Third, evangelical leadership is wanting. A quarter-century ago, Christian mobilization efforts were rising, Christian advocacy groups were sprouting, and charismatic Christian leaders were popping up in every corner of the country. This is no longer the case.
Politically influential pastors like Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy have died, James Dobson retired, and Pat Robertson has been relegated to the fringes of his own community. By any reckoning, few charismatic figures are able or willing to fill these voids.
The leadership vacuum became painfully obvious during the Republican primaries, when 150 “high-powered” evangelical leaders, including Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer, met behind closed doors in Texas to determine which candidate should receive their endorsement. They chose Rick Santorum, but in the South Carolina primaries a week later, Newt Gingrich and Romney split two-thirds of the state’s evangelical vote.
Additionally, organizations like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition are either defunct or defunded, while Focus on the Family has made clear its intention to move in a less political direction. The number and influence of evangelical organizations shaping the public square is greatly diminished. …
Will the religious right end up dying off? I’m not sure, but whether or not you view this as a good thing (personally, I see it as a positive development that fundamentalist religion is having less influence on our modern society), I think it is safe to say that things are changing in the United States.
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 2012, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, conservative, demographics, election, evangelical, federal, God, no-religious, non-religious, non-theist, none, nontheist, politics, poll, Protestant, religion, religious, religious right, research, right, right wing, secular, secularism, survey, unaffiliated, United States, US, USA, white | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 8, 2012
Wow… this was one hell of an election! I just want to point out a couple of notable races. In this post, I want to focus on Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat in Arizona’s 9th Congressional District who looks to be the first openly non-theistic (atheistic?) person elected to Congress! I say “looks to be” because 1) the race hasn’t officially been concluded (votes are still being counted, but Sinema has a lead which only seems to be growing), and 2) Pete Stark, Congressman from California, is openly non-theistic, but he didn’t originally run as an out-of-the-closet non-theist. Here’s more on Kyrsten Sinema:
… Election for Sinema would be no small feat in the state that produced U.S. senator and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer, whose exceptionally conservative immigration policies have regularly made national news. In many ways, Sinema, who is also an open nontheist and was raised Mormon and attended Brigham Young University, is an anomaly in Arizona politics. But she’s ahead in some polls in the final stages of her race against Parker, though it’s one of Congress’s tightest races. …
As I’ve stated before, this is the wave of the future, folks. With the rise of a more openly secular demographic in the United States, coupled with the inevitable decline (read: dying off) of the most religious demographic, the good ol’ U.S. of A. will move towards more diversity in both popular culture and political representation. And that includes non-theists
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 2012, 9th District, Arizona, atheism, atheist, bi, bisexual, congress, Congresswoman, Democrat, District 9, election, federal, gay, house, Kyrsten Sinema, lesbian, non-theist, nontheist, Pete Stark, politics, religion, secular, secularism, United States, US, USA | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 8, 2012
But don’t take it from me, take it straight from his mouth…
First, allow me to state the obvious:
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system… we see two things from this idiotic tirade from Rep. Broun:
1. He engages in the typical creationist fear-mongering about evolutionary science that it is inherently evil, etc (hence the “Pit of Hell” reference). I suppose we needn’t bother Rep. Broun with the annoying fact that many of his Christian brethren think evolution is just fine.
2. He, like far too many of his conservative colleagues in our government (I’m talking about YOU, Rep. Todd Akin), seem to have gone out of their way lately to declare war on any form of science they deem contrary to their ideology. This includes not only denying evolution and denying climate science, and apparently basic info on human reproduction, but also rejecting certain pesky historical facts along the way.
Folks, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people like this running my federal government. This is why I so strongly support efforts like Science Debate, and why I think you should, too. It is also why those of us who are defenders and advocates of science and skepticism should be involved in our political process.
Posted in creationism, politics, religion | Tagged: astronomy, atheism, atheist, belief, Bible, Big Bang, Christian, clergy, Clergy Letter Project, congress, Congressman, conservative, cosmology, creation, creationism, creationist, DI, Discovery Institute, embryology, evolution, faith, federal, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, Georgia, God, government, house, House Science Committee, ID, intelligent design, Jesus, Paul Broun, Pit of Hell, religion, Rep. Paul Broun, Representative, science, United States, YEC, Young Earth Creationism | 2 Comments »
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 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 »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 20, 2010
Five years ago, on Dec. 20th, 2005, one of the most influential court rulings regarding the evolution & creationism battles in the public schools came down – it was the Dover vs. Kitzmiller decision, and it was a devastating blow to the intelligent design movement (IDM). The IDM had been making some serious inroads in various venues in the early part of the decade, and this court case was seen as a critical tipping point as to whether or not ID-creationism would pass muster in public school science classes. Fortunately, it lost and lost badly
So, happy birthday Dover vs. Kitzmiller! In case you’re interested in seeing where things stand five years on, as well as hearing from some of the key players in the case, check out this article…
Tammy Kitzmiller’s family jokingly refers to Dec. 20 as “Kitzmas.”
Five years ago on that day, U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III handed down a 139-page ruling on her eponymous case, Kitzmiller v. Dover.
The case made Kitzmiller — and Dover — world famous in a legal battle versus Dover Area school board on whether intelligent design could be taught as an accepted scientific theory.
The battle ended with Jones banning Dover schools from ever enforcing an intelligent design policy and ruled intelligent design is religion, not science. …
Interestingly, some recent polling from Gallup seems to indicate that within recent years fewer Americans are accepting creationism and more are accepting the science of evolution as an explanation for the development of life:
Four in 10 Americans, slightly fewer today than in years past, believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago. Thirty-eight percent believe God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms, while 16%, up slightly from years past, believe humans developed over millions of years, without God’s involvement.
Folks, I think this is welcome improvement – nearly 55% of Americans accept some form of evolution (theistic or atheistic) while only about 40% accept creationism. That latter number is still too high, in my opinion, but things look like they’re heading in the right direction, and I like to think that the Dover vs. Kitzmiller decision had at least a little something to do with that.
The entire Gallup poll can be accessed here. Nice to see that on Dover vs. Kitzmiller’s fifth birthday we have something to celebrate
Posted in creationism, education | Tagged: atheism, atheist, Christianity, court, creationism, Dover, Dover vs Kitzmiller, evolution, federal, God, ID, IDM, intelligent design, intelligent design movement, Judge Jones, Kitzmiller, public, religion, school, science | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 28, 2010
I’m on a vaccine kick lately, probably because of my involvement through the Women Thinking Free Foundation & Skepchick’s work to bring a free vaccine clinic to Dragon*Con 2010. I’ll provide more details about that, as well as the launch of the Hug Me – I’m Vaccinated! campaign, later this week. For now, I just wanted to share with you my thoughts about an epic win in court for science & evidence-based medicine
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
updated 8/27/2010 6:07:09 PM ET
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a ruling that vaccines are not to blame for autism.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a decision last year by a special vaccine court, which concluded there’s little if any evidence to support claims of a vaccine-autism link.
Scientist years ago reached that conclusion, but more than 5,500 families sought compensation through the government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Friday’s ruling came in the case of Michelle Cedillo of Yuma, Ariz., who is disabled with autism, inflammatory bowel disease and other disorders that her parents blame on a measles vaccine given at 15 months.
In the 2009 ruling Special Master Denise Vowell wrote that the evidence “is weak, contradictory and unpersuasive. Sadly, the petitioners in this litigation have been the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical and scientific understanding” of autism.
In its ruling Friday the appeals panel said “we have carefully reviewed the decision of the special master and we find that it is rationally supported by the evidence, well-articulated, and reasonable. We, therefore, affirm the denial of the Cedillos’ petition for compensation.”
Earlier this year the so-called vaccine court also concluded that the additive thimerosal is not to blame for autism, an added setback in a long-running battle by parents convinced there is a connection.
The decisions help to offer reassurance to parents scared about vaccinating their babies because of a small but vocal anti-vaccine movement. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, are on the rise.
I have no doubt that the hard core anti-vaccinationists, like Jenny McCarthy, will just spin this as some kind of conspiracy theory about how the courts are in the pocket of Big Pharma, and so on. I know that no amount of logic or evidence will convince those who have gone way down the anti-vax rabbit hole, but hopefully the news will convince those on the fence.
Posted in medical woo, politics | Tagged: anti-vaccination, anti-vaccination movement, anti-vax, anti-vaxxers, appeals, autism, AVM, clinic, court, DC, doctor, Dragon*Con, federal, health, Hug Me, Hug Me I'm Vaccinated, medicine, mercury, public, ruling, science-based medicine, Skepchick, squalene, thimerisol, vaccination, vaccines, vax, Women Thinking Free Foundation, WTFF | 1 Comment »