I am happy to report to you that there have been three really good developments in the scientific and skeptical battle against one of the worst bug-a-boos: creationism. Rather than go into a huge amount of detail about each one, I’ll give a few of my own comments and link to the original sources on each. Read on to the end – the best one is last :)
1. Ball State University Takes a Stand for Science and Kicks “Intelligent Design” to the Curb
In this article from Inside Higher Ed, a very positive development is outlined wherein the university made a very strong statement against the inclusion of so-called “intelligent design” as science under the auspices of academic freedom. I think this was so well done on the part of the university leadership that it should serve as a template for other institutions to follow. In part, the article states:
In what First Amendment watchdogs called a victory, Ball State University’s president on Wednesday spoke out against intelligent design as a viable scientific theory. At the same time, the university announced that a professor accused of proselytizing remained part of the faculty but was working with administrators to ensure his courses aligned with Ball State’s view that science instruction should be about science and not religion.
“Intelligent design is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory,” President Jo Ann Gora said. “Therefore, intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses. The gravity of this issue and the level of concern among scientists are demonstrated by more than 80 national and state scientific societies’ independent statements that intelligent design and creation science do not qualify as science.”
The question is not one of academic freedom, but one of academic integrity, she added. “Said simply, to allow intelligent design to be presented to science students as a valid scientific theory would violate the academic integrity of the course as it would fail to accurately represent the consensus of science scholars.” … [emphasis added]
2. Christian Publisher Removes Loch Ness Monster From Biology Textbook
You may recall that some time ago, I reported about how some creationists were going to such ludicrous lengths to undercut the teaching of evolution that they were actually selling textbooks which taught that the Loch Ness Monster was real and evidence against evolution. Apparently, the publishers of those same textbooks are now omitting any mention of dear ol’ Nessie since it seems that would be a claim too outlandish even for reality-challenged creationists. Here’s more:
A Christian education publisher based in Tennessee has removed references to the existence of the Loch Ness Monster from a biology textbook.
According to Scotland’s Sunday Herald, Accelerated Christian Education, Inc. has opted to remove a statement from a textbook used in Europe and will likely do the same for American textbooks.
“Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland?” reads the deleted passage. “‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”
Mark Looy, chief communications officer for the Young Earth Creationist organization Answers in Genesis, told The Christian Post that he approved of ACE’s decision.
“There are just so many of these legends, like the dragon mentioned in Beowulf, the numerous accounts of St. George and the dragon, and so on, that they can’t be dismissed,” said Looy. … [emphasis added]
If the bolded statement above is any example of the shoddy standards of evidence adhered to by creationists, it is no wonder they don’t have a scientific leg to stand on.
3. Creationists and Climate Change Deniers Lose in Kentucky
Some time ago, I wrote a post about how the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are going to push back hard against anti-scientists like creationists and global warming deniers. Well, our friends from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) are reporting that a significant victory has been achieved in a state that you might not associate with strong science standards: Kentucky! A few weeks back, creationists and global warming deniers attempted to derail the adoption of the NGSS by the Kentucky State Board of Education, and they were rebuffed :)
The Kentucky Board of Education declined to make any changes to a proposed regulation that would enact the Next Generation Science Standards as Kentucky’s state science standards, despite the protests of evolution deniers and climate change deniers. In a lengthy document dated August 1, 2013, the Kentucky Department of Education summarized the thoughts of all who submitted comments on the regulation, and provided detailed replies. On the topics of evolution and climate change in particular, the department wrote (PDF, p. 139):
“The agency also received statements of support related to the inclusion of particular science topics such as climate change and evolution, stating that meaningful scientific debate on the validity of evolution and climate science has ceased. Proponents of the continued inclusion of evolution pointed to the overwhelming acceptance of evolution in the biological science community. Proponents of the inclusion of climate change education contend that Kentucky students deserve the most up to date science education, which includes climate change. [The department agreed with these comments: see, e.g., pp. 104 and 105 on evolution, and pp. 115 on climate change.]
Over one hundred substantially identical emails were received stating an opposition to the continued inclusion of evolution in the proposed standards, characterizing evolution as a theory and not a fact. These commenters asked that intelligent design be added to the standards. Other commenters questioned the scientific validity of evolution. The agency also received several comments specific to the inclusion of climate change in the proposed standards, including concerns that climate change science was overemphasized to the neglect of other science concepts or that climate change is not a settled issue in the scientific community.”
The three important antievolution goals — banning the teaching of evolution; balancing the teaching of evolution with creationism, whether in the form of “creation science” or “intelligent design”; and belittling evolution as controversial — were in evidence. So were all three of the pillars of creationism — arguing that evolution is scientifically controversial; arguing that teaching evolution is linked with negative social consequences; arguing that it is only fair to teach “all sides” of the supposed controversy. The same themes were also reflected in the comments about climate change.
The Kentucky Board of Education approved the department’s report on August 8, 2013, so, as WPFL in Louisville, Kentucky, reports (August 8, 2013), “The regulation now heads to Kentucky’s Administrative Regulation Review Committee. If approved in the Kentucky General Assembly, the new standards would go into effect during the 2014-2015 school year.” Kentucky would join Rhode Island, Kansas, Maryland, and Vermont as the first five states to adopt the NGSS — unless the legislature, which includes vocal critics of evolution and climate change, refuses its approval. [emphasis added]
I want to jump on the bolded part above; the battle in KY still isn’t finished. It will require people to lobby their state legislators in Kentucky in order to encourage them to accept the NGSS. No doubt the anti-science lobby will pull out all the stops to derail this process, but we have to speak up and encourage the legislature to accept the NGSS as written.
And think of this: if the NGSS is accepted in Kentucky, then it will be a huge defeat for creationists and climate science deniers all over the nation. That’s because if a religiously conservative state like Kentucky can do it, then any state can do it.