The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for June, 2010

Climate Science Deniers Copy & Paste Creationist Tactics

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 11, 2010

I recently received the following alert from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)…

AAAS PolicyAlert — June 4, 2010

Climate Change Education Challenged. A petition has been submitted to the Mesa County (Colorado) School Board to prohibit “the teaching of man-made climate change theory as scientific fact in the students’ curriculum.” The petition, which has 700 signatures, was circulated by a movement called Balanced Education for All (http://www.members- aaas.org/ l.jsp?d=4954. 550777.654. 2aatBFCrt9Q. A), a group denying the reality of and human role in climate change, which also submitted a petition to “create and enforce a policy that prohibits teachers from applying their political views to the teaching and grading of students.” School Board members accepted the petition but took no action. The petition is part of a larger campaign by the Independent Women’s Forum, a non-profit based in Washington, DC, “challenging public schools to provide balanced education on the issue of global warming.” The group is promoting a documentary (http://www.members- aaas.org/ l.jsp?d=4954. 550776.654. 2aatBFCrt9Q. A), Not Evil, Just Wrong, that claims to “confront erroneous claims of environmental extremists,” and offers an allegedly “compelling and scientifically accurate film about the true relationship between humans and the environment. “

Here we see that climate science deniers are employing the same pseudoscientific & intellectually dishonest tactics often used in the past by creationists as they misrepresented evolutionary science: the “teach the controversy” and “teach all views” canards.  Of course, these slogans imply that there actually is a supposed controversy about climate science within the scientific community – that is, the notion of human-influenced global warming is somehow “controversial” among scientists, when in fact it isn’t.  The whole point of these kinds of arguments is to sow doubt & suspicion about climate science in particular and, among some extreme anti-science ideologues, about all of science in general.

In addition, note the language in the petition which implies that when teachers try to teach actual, substantiated science that they are actually pushing a political agenda.  This kind of argument is intended to poison the well and explicitly politicize the issue of climate change science so that anyone who, likely for ideological reasons, doesn’t like the science can just dismiss it as part of a conspiracy.

Don’t fall for it.  Fortunately, we’ve seen all these tactics before from creationists & various other pseudoscientific woo-woos, so hopefully we can recognize & fight this junk when those with an anti-scientific agenda push it.  When confronted by those who would distort & misrepresent climate science, or someone who is legitimately confused, a great way to fight back is to download the free app for the iPhone or iPod Touch called Skeptical Science!

Posted in education, global warming denial | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Update on Restoring the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 8, 2010

Last March I posted about a growing movement among scientists to restore the defunct U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) which has been spearheaded by the Union of Concerned Scientists. I wanted to just pass along a quick follow-up about the progress made so far on this front & the work yet to be done.  Please consider passing this along!

Restoring the Office of Technology Assessment
Update on our efforts to bring the facts back to CongressThanks so much for speaking up in support of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). I’m writing to give you an update on our progress.

Your efforts are reinforcing the message we’ve delivered in visits to more than 30 congressional offices to date. The fact that district offices are hearing from constituents greatly strengthens our influence in Washington.

Recently, I met with Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) in her home district, along with several of her constituents. As the chair of the subcommittee that can fund the OTA or keep it dormant, Representative Wasserman Schultz has a crucial role to play. She remarked several times how refreshing it was for her to hear about the OTA outside of Washington, and how valuable it was to hear that its restoration would contribute to quality of life in her district.

In May, we delivered a letter supporting the OTA to members of the House of Representatives signed by 90 organizations ranging from Consumers Union and the United Auto Workers to the ACLU and Republicans for Environmental Protection. We also delivered the statement of support for reviving the OTA signed by you and more than 3,100 other scientists. And dozens of other citizens throughout the country brought smiles to the faces of representatives and their staff by delivering mousepads featuring an OTA-themed editorial cartoon to district offices around the country.

Learn More
Learn more about UCS’s efforts to restore the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).

Read More
Related Links
Our OTA themed cartoon
OTA organization letter (pdf)
Tell A Colleague
Please encourage your colleagues to sign up and help increase our effectiveness in creating a healthy environment and a safer world. CLICK HERE.
Your efforts add to the cumulative impact of all our work. We will know in a few weeks whether we’ve been able to convince Representative Wasserman Schultz to add funds to start up OTA to the legislative branch spending bill.

This is a very tough budget year. Even if we are not successful in getting startup funds this year, our combined efforts have begun the hard work of building a citizen-led push for restoring the OTA. These efforts often take more than one year to yield results, but if you remain persistently and energetically engaged, we will ultimately succeed.

I’ll continue to keep you posted and let you know if there are other opportunities to weigh in.

Learn more about our efforts to restore the OTA

Sincerely,
MichaelHalpern_jpg
Michael Halpern
National Field Organizer
Scientific Integrity Program

Posted in politics, science funding | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Women Thinking Free Foundation Hosts a FermiLab Tour!

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 4, 2010

The Women Thinking Free Foundation (WTFF) is hosting a tour of FermiLab in Batavia, IL on Saturday, June 12th.  And you’re invited to attend!

The cost is $30, which includes the 3 hour tour (starting at 10:00 am) of FermiLab & lecture from a scientist as well as lunch at a local eatery.  To register click this link. Don’t wait too long to register, as the event is limited to the first 40 people!

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Creationist Financing

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 4, 2010

I wanted to share with you a recent post I saw over at The Panda’s Thumb, a pro-evolution blog which keeps tabs on creationists. The nature of this post has to do with the finances behind various creationist organizations & how we need to provide more support to pro-science groups like the National Center for Science Education (NCSE)…

Creationist Financing

Todd Wood, a young earth creationist at Bryan College, provides summary data on YEC organizations’ finances over the 2003-2008 period. There are several interesting things about those data.

First, as Wood points out, AIG’s share of the creationist dollar grew over that period, from 61.6% ($9M) of the market in 2003 to 68.2% ($22.7M) in 2008. AIG’s growth in market share came at the expense of all the other YEC organizations, with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and and the Creation Research Society (CRS), the two elder U.S. creationist organizations, contributing most of the change. While ICR’s revenues also increased over those years, from $4,5M to $8.7M, as a percentage of the total creationist dollar it decreased from 30.6% to 26.2% and CRS’s percentage declined from 1.7% to 1.0% as its dollar revenues declined from $250K to $230K. The smaller YEC organizations also lost share.

Second, Eric Hovind, offspring of jailed tax evader Kent Hovind, entered the list in third place in 2008 with his “GodQuest” (DBA Creation Science Evangelism) at $930K for 2.8% of the creationism market, far behind ICR’s $8.7M but well ahead of CRS’s $230K.

Third (and pretty depressing to see), NCSE’s gross revenue as a percentage of AIG’s gross revenue has steadily declined over those years, dropping from 7.8% in 2003 to just 5.7% in 2008. In 2008, 85% of NCSE’s revenues ($1.1M of $1.3M) came from direct public support–memberships and donations from you and me. While the amount has increased in absolute terms over those years, as a proportion of creationist revenues it has dropped significantly. C’mon, people. Let’s put our money where our mouths are.

Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? Science May Now Have An Answer

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 3, 2010

Often people remark that science and philosophy deal with two different sets of questions.  I’ve heard many times that philosophy (or religion & theology) deal with the “why” questions whereas science deals more with the nuts-and-bolts kind of “how” questions.  But then you run into some questions which are kind of in the middle – and this is the region where philosophers of science focus much effort & ink discussing what they call the demarcation problem: where does science end & philosophy begin?

Let me give you an example of just such a fuzzy question, one which has been asked repeatedly down through the ages: why is there something rather than nothing?  Specifically, why is the universe (and us) here at all?  Why does it all exist?

Now, up until recently, many people would have looked at such a question as being beyond the realm of science, more appropriately categorized as one of philosophy, theology, or religion.  However, as science has advanced, our understanding of very fundamental physics related to the big bang is providing us clues as to the answer.  A little background first…

You see, recently there was a series of experiments conducted at the particle accelerator called the Tevatron at FermiLab just down the road from me in Batavia, IL (here’s a Chicago Tribune article on the experiments).  Specifically, what the physicists were attempting to do was to try to replicate the conditions of the early universe smashing counter-rotating beams of protons and anti-protons together at incredibly high energies (on the order of 1 TeV).  For those who don’t know, an anti-proton is the antimatter version of a proton – you see, the folks at FermiLab have an antimatter generation and storage facility.  Yeah, antimatter as in Star Trek 🙂

Posted in philosophy, physics denial/woo, religion, scientific method | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

 
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