The Skeptical Teacher

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

Posts Tagged ‘creationist’

Announcing the NEA Science Educators Caucus

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 28, 2013

If you are into public education, you might know that one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation is the National Education Association (NEA).  Every year, the NEA holds what is called a Representative Assembly (RA) in order to discuss internal matters, lobbying issues, and whatnot.

NEAImage source

I was amazed to find out a few years ago that creationists have successfully infiltrated the NEA, because a colleague of mine who was our representative at the RA that year reported to me that creationists had a pretty strong presence in the vendor area of the RA.  *facepalm*

Well, I am happy to announce that there is now an effort among science teachers within the NEA to push back.  The NEA Science Educators Caucus is officially forming this year, and it is hitting the ground running by organizing at this year’s RA in Atlanta.  For more information on them, and to get involved, read the following information from Toby Spencer, co-chair of the group, and consider connecting with them at their Facebook page…

First, thanks for  committing to help improve science education in our union, in our classrooms, and in the legislature!  And thank you for your patience over the past school year, I know many of you are very interested in furthering our goals and spotlighting our most important issues. I’ve waited to email the group until I had good news to share…

AMAZING news, actually!  Colleen Keenan (CA) succeeded in convincing the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) to sponsor an Expo Booth this year in Atlanta!  NCSE will be staffing a booth for two days before the RA sessions begin.  They want our ideas!
Furthermore, we will have two NCSE speakers at our caucus meetings!  Dr. Eugenie Scott, NCSE Executive Director, will address us on July 1st at 4pm in our first caucus meeting.  She will focus on the legalities and politics of evolution.  On the following day, July 2nd, Dr. Minda Berbeco will speak to us about climate change, her area of expertise.
Drs. Scott and Berceco are asking us to give them some direction both for the exhibit booth and their talks.  Could you please reply with your suggestions.  We know evolution/creation brought us together, but we have an opportunity to expand and further our agenda this year.
Speaking of creation (!), we need to write a constitution and bylaws  this year, allowing us to elect officers.  We should create a budget and probably establish a nominal dues structure.  All your input will be appreciated.
I’d like to invite each of you to join our Caucus Facebook Group.  Please find us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/nea.science/.  The facebook page is for any and all things, serious or funny.  Please join and post to the caucus page to say hi or to make suggestions.
 
We’ll likely need volunteers for the NCSE booth and for caucus operations.  Please be thinking about how you can help.  Any bright ideas to spark interest in our cause or in our caucus meetings? 
 
Please try hard to make our caucus meetings on the 1st and 2nd of July.  These are before the RA session days, so we won’t be crunched for time.  I’ll update you with meeting room location(s) when I receive them.  And bring a friend:  we are in membership GROWTH mode.  
 
Again, thank you for your patience and support.  Please send your ideas my way or post them to the facebook page.  I’ll be in touch soon.
And here is more information specifically on the caucus meetings that Toby mentioned…
Hi Everyone! I’m excited about our caucus meetings, NCSE speakers and booth, and membership drive this year. Our room assignments are in: July 1st @ 4-5:30pm in room A405 SectA and July 2 @12-1pm also in A405(A). We’ll have guest speakers from the NCSE both July 1+2. Please come! Then we switch rooms to B309(B) for the four days of the RA–those meeting times are 9-9:30am and at breaks. I’m sure we won’t need to meet every day of the RA, but that’s up to you! I’ll also email this info to the group. And if you’ve read this far…the ribbons are coming this week!
If you are a member of the NEA and you value solid science education in our public schools, please consider getting involved in the Science Educators Caucus.  If defenders of science education don’t stand up, then the creeping influence of creationists will go unchecked, and they will have a disproportionate voice on matters of importance to us.
Once more, here’s their Facebook page.  Look them up and get involved!

Posted in creationism, education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Creationist Proposes Show Trial to “Disprove” Genesis

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:

Creationist Wagers $10,000 That No One Can Prove Genesis Wrong

adam-eve-apple

…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? :)

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Breakdown of Anti-Science Legislation in the States

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 15, 2013

Tonight I stumbled across an excellent blog post from the Skeptical Raptor on the most recent spate of anti-science bills (i.e., anti-evolution, anti-climate science, etc) that have cropped up all over state legislatures in the United States so far in 2013.  Rather than rehash what is an already well-researched and written post, I shall simply reblog it below:

Antievolution legislation update–five states kill anti-science bills

antiscience9ll

It’s a new year for the individual US state legislatures, and after a relatively unsuccessful 2012 in passing anti-science laws (with the notable exception of Tennessee’s Monkey Bill), the conservative Republicans are back trying to remove real science teaching from our kids. The anti-science legislation comes in the form of either teaching creationism (or more subtle forms, like intelligent design), usually combined with climate change denialism, and, strangely, anti-human cloning (which is not exactly a serious line of research today). But the goal is, and will probably always be, to teach creationism.

Creationism refers to the belief that the universe and everything in it were specially created by a god through magic, rather than natural, scientifically explained, means. Creationism implicitly relies on the claim that there is a “purpose” to all creation known only to the creator. In other words, creationism is a religious belief, and no matter what argument is made (and I could write 50,000 words on the topic), creationism is not science because it relies upon a supernatural being, which means it can never be falsified, one of the basic principles of the scientific method. The supporters of creationism attempt to claim that creationism is a scientific theory on the level of evolution, ignoring the fact that a scientific theory is ”a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” Creationism is generally based on a fictional book.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, specifically prohibits any government entity from establishing a religion (which courts have ruled to include teaching religion in schools). Decades worth of Supreme Court rulings have found that teaching creationism in schools is equivalent to teaching religion. As recently as 2005, in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, a Federal Court continued the tradition of considering creationism as religion, and ruled against a school district, costing the Dover Area School District nearly $1 million in legal fees. That money probably could have been used to teach their students better science.

Despite these legal rulings, eight states have introduced antievolution or anti-science bills since the beginning of the year…

Click here to read the rest of Skeptical Raptor’s post

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More Evangelical Homeschoolers Accept Evolution – We Should Consider Them Allies

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2013

In a bit of unexpected good news, I ran across this recent article from The Atlantic magazine which outlines a new trend within the circles of evangelical Christian homeschooling.  If you know anything about the United States homeschooling movement, you know that it tends to be dominated by evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who eschew evolutionary science in favor of teaching some varient of psuedoscientific creationism.  However, it seems that this unfortunate trend could be under challenge from a new generation of evangelical homeschoolers who are, quite frankly, tired of all the science-bashing from their fundamentalist brethren.  Read on :)

Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution

homeschool-top-thumb-615x380-115338

For homeschooling parents who want to teach their children that the earth is only a few thousand years old, the theory of evolution is a lie, and dinosaurs coexisted with humans, there is no shortage of materials. Kids can start with the Answers in Genesis curriculum, which features books such as Dinosaurs of Eden, written by Creation Museum founder Ken Ham. As the publisher’s description states, “This exciting book for the entire family uses the Bible as a ‘time machine’ to journey through the events of the past and future.”

It’s no secret that the majority of homeschooled children in America belong to evangelical Christian families. What’s less known is that a growing number of their parents are dismayed by these textbooks.

Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.” Instead, Warton has pulled together a curriculum inspired partly by homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer and partly by the Waldorf holistic educational movement. … [emphasis added]

Further on the article goes on to outline the interesting history of the anti-evolution movement…

… Theologically conservative Christians were not always so polarized. “By the late 19th century,” says David R. Montgomery author of The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood, “evangelical theologians generally accepted the compelling geological evidence for the reality of an old earth.” However, Darwin’s idea of natural selection scared away many fundamentalists, who saw “survival of the fittest” as an atheistic concept. Over time, those who insisted on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation came to reject both geology and evolutionary biology. …

Which was, to say the least, an unfortunate development that has led to a multi-generational effort to dumb down the teaching of evolutionary theory in particular and the teaching of science in general in the United States.  But perhaps these new evangelicals can change the movement from within.  I think they can have some success, but only with some help from those of us who are the traditional champions of evolution.

Despite my atheism, I think those of us within the skeptical/atheist community should embrace these “evolutionary evangelicals” and consider them allies.  Rather than focus on what divides us (i.e. differences on belief or non-belief in God, etc), I think our efforts can be better served by allowing our common desire to see evolutionary science taught properly to unite us.

Now I know there are some “purists” within the skeptical/atheist community who would likely shudder to see me suggest allying ourselves with evangelical Christians, at least in part because our theological/philosophical differences are so vast.  But I take the attitude that, even within the skeptical/atheist community there are deep divisions on a variety of topics, but I don’t find myself turning my back upon it; so if I can find some common ground with an evangelical Christian on a pro-science issue, why not pursue some bridge-building?

Good question.

Posted in creationism, education, religion, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Creationism Evolves Again: “Truth in Education”

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 24, 2012

As I’ve blogged before, creationists are quite adept at evolving their strategies for attempting to replace the science of evolution in public school science classes with their religious beliefs.  One of the latest mutations are so-called “academic freedom” bills, but now there seems to be a new phrase and strategy emerging – “truth in education” – which we all need to be on the lookout for in our local legislatures and school boards.  My skeptical colleague Steven Novella has an excellent takedown here…

Truth in Education

by Steven Novella, Dec 10 2012

We have yet another propaganda slogan and strategy by creationists to sneak their religious beliefs into public science classrooms – “truth in education.” This one comes from state senator Dennis Kruse from Indiana. He had previously introduced a bill (in 2011) that would have required the teaching of “creation science” alongside evolution. The bill died a quick death, largely because the Supreme Court has already declared such laws unconstitutional (in the 1987 Edwards vs Aguillard case).

Kruse’s approach has since “evolved.” It seems that after his failed and naive attempt to introduce a creation science bill, he has been connected with the Discovery Institute and is now up to speed on the latest approach to anti-evolution strategies.

Creationist attempts to hamper science education when it comes to evolution go back to the beginning of evolutionary theory itself. By the turn of the 19th century evolution was an accepted scientific fact, and opposition to its teaching was forming among certain fundamentalist sects. The first big confrontation between the teaching of evolution and creationist ideology came in the form of the The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, or the Scopes Monkey Trial. This resulted from the first creationist strategy to limit the teaching of evolution in public schools – they simply banned it. This strategy was killed when such laws were found unconstitutional in 1968 (Epperson v. Arkansas).

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has a nice list of the ten major legal precedents that have smacked down creationist attempts to limit the teaching of evolution. Each time the creationists simply have morphed their strategy, but the intent has never wavered. …

Read the rest of Steve’s Skeptiblog post here

 

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Good News From Louisiana: New Orleans Bans Creationism

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 21, 2012

If you’ve followed the creationism issue at all, you know that Louisiana is a hotbed of this fringe pseudoscience.  However, in a more than welcome move, the city of New Orleans sent a clear message that they would not tolerate such nonsense being taught in their public schools.  Here’s more on the good news from the National Center for Science Education :)

The Orleans Parish School Board “OK’d policies that prohibit the teaching of creationism or so-called ‘intelligent design’ in its half-dozen direct-run schools, or the purchasing of textbooks that promulgate those perspectives,” according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune (December 18, 2012). As specified in the documents for the board’s December 18, 2012, meeting, the new policies provide (PDF, pp. 100 and 101), in part, that no “science textbook [shall] be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories” and that “[no] teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.” [emphasis added]

Ouch.  There you have it, in no uncertain terms: creationists and their pseudoscience need not apply for New Orleans public school science classes.

One more positive thing about this development is that student activist Zack Kopplin, who has been fighting the creationists in Louisiana, appears to have had some influence in these developments:

… the only speaker on the textbook policy at the meeting was Zack Kopplin: “‘Creationism certainly is not science,’ he said, warning that students not only will not meet higher education standards, but they ‘won’t find New Orleans jobs in the Bio District.’”

Kopplin, the young activist who organized the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act (and who received NCSE’s Friend of Darwin award in 2011), told NCSE, “Between this and the New Orleans City Council’s rejection of the creationist Louisiana Science Education Act, the city of New Orleans has fully rejected creationism.” (The New Orleans City Council adopted a resolution in May 2011 endorsing the repeal effort.) Kopplin added, “It might also be enough to prompt the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology to lift their boycott of New Orleans,” which began in 2009, owing to what SICB’s president described (PDF) as “the official position of the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking evolution in science curricula.”

I would like to encourage supporters of science and reason to contact the Orleans Parish School Board and thank them for promoting good science education, and please pass this news along so that we can reinforce this good governance!

Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun, Member of House Science Committee, Says “Evolution, Embryology, Big Bang Theory are ‘Lies Straight from the Pit of Hell’ “

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A New Year and New Challenges from Creationists

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 10, 2012

Well, I have to say this much for creationists: they certainly are persistent.  Despite mountains of solid scientific evidence proving evolution (and thus disproving most views of creationism, such as the most common variant – young-earth creationism) and decades of court rulings against the promotion of religiously-oriented concepts such as “scientific creationism” and “intelligent design”, the creationists just keep on coming.

Case in point, here are some recent legal developments from Kentucky (no surprise there) and… New Hampshire?  Okay, Kentucky I can understand, but seriously… NEW HAMPSHIRE?!!  Wow, methinks some of my Yankee brothers and sisters up north are going to have a serious case of voters remorse.

Once you read the proposals out of Kentucky and New Hampshire, it is easy to see the same old tired (and flat wrong, both scientifically and legally) creationist arguments.  From the Kentucky case:

The Herald-Leader reports that Superintendent Ricky D. Line of Hart County public schools believes a new state-wide test for Kentucky high school students treats evolution as fact, not theory, and that the test will require schools to teach accordingly. Line raised the issue with state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Kentucky Board of Education (KBOE) members. Line wants them to reconsider the “Blueprint” for Kentucky’s new end-of-course test in biology.

Line contends that the test essentially would “require students to believe that humans … evolved from primates such as apes and … were not created by God.” “I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point … that we are teaching evolution … as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us,” he said. “My feeling is if the Commonwealth’s site-based councils, school board members, superintendents and parents were questioned … one would find this teaching contradictory to the majority’s belief systems.” …

Hmmm, so the superintendent’s argument is that people shouldn’t be taught anything which doesn’t fit with their preconceived notions?  Interesting, seeing as how most preconceptions that people have regarding science are incorrect, the superintendent’s argument basically boils down to an argument for remaining ignorant.  Nice.  I have to wonder if we’ll hear the superintendent and his colleagues complain about how KY students are not properly prepared to compete in the modern world of 21st century science and technology?  With an attitude like the one he’s displaying, he’d better get ready for a LOT of complaining regarding the latter…

Also note the implication in the article about how teachers could teach both (all) views, as if creationism is on par with evolution as a scientific theory.  To that argument, I have one response…

Yup… a picture is worth a thousand words :)

Now on to the New Hampshire situation.  Fortunately, the National Center for Science Education is on the case, and here’s their update:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Thunderwood College: Being Honest About Fake Diplomas

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 27, 2011

I think one of the reasons why so many people get bamboozled by pseudoscientists of various stripes is because many of these pseudoscientists are credentialed… that is, they appear credentialed.  Take, for instance, one of the most prolific charlatans in pseudoscientific circles in recent years: Kent Hovind, also known as “Dr. Dino”.  Kent Hovind is a well-known creationist and Christian evangelist and is known as “Dr. Dino” because he has a doctorate (PhD); this is a widely advertised bit of information (that is, advertised by Hovind himself and his followers) and it seems, to the unprepared eye, to lend some kind of validity to Hovind’s claims.  After all, with a PhD after his name, shouldn’t we give someone like Hovind some degree of credibility?

Well, not necessarily, especially in light of some rather embarrassing facts regarding Kent Hovind’s supposed “education”.  First, Hovind’s doctorate is not in evolutionary biology (this is relevant because he is such a strong critic of evolution), nor is it in any branch of science or even in the philosophy of science; in fact, Hovind’s degree is in Christian Education (whatever that is).  Furthermore, his PhD was obtained through correspondence from Patriot University in Colorado Springs, Colorado (now since renamed to Patriot Bible University in Del Norte, Colorado).  What is especially interesting is the fact that Patriot Bible University is (and was) a well-known diploma mill, being a non-accredited institution which does not meet accepted academic standards to award degrees.  So, in essence, this means that Kent Hovind’s doctorate is basically meaningless.  But that won’t stop him, as well as other pseudoscientific charlatans, from obtaining questionable degrees and referring to themselves as “experts”.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a problem which is much larger than a few creationists using non-accredited institutions and diploma mills to give them a veneer of expertise.  In fact, to get some idea of just how big of a problem this is, check out these links to more information on how widespread is the phenomenon of non-accreditation…

List of unaccredited institutions of higher education

List of unrecognized higher education accreditation organizations

As a way of poking fun at this kind of academic dishonesty, there is a spoof website called Thunderwood College which will award you a degree in pretty much anything in mere minutes, yet they are completely open and honest about what they’re doing.  Just take a look at their page explaining accreditation…

Completely Non-Accredited.

At Thunderwood College, we will neither lie to you by claiming that our institution is accredited, nor will we attempt to defraud you by claiming accreditation from an unrecognized accreditation body.

What Is Accreditation?

In the United States, the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintain an official list of accreditation bodies whose accreditations are accepted by the academic community. Other countries generally have similar rules. There is also a long list of completely bogus organizations that offer accreditation to any “university” who wants it. Institutions claiming accreditation from one of these sources should be treated with great skepticism, and it should be understood that degrees issued by these institutions are not recognized by the academic community. Many online colleges who issue degrees based on your “life experience” can claim to be accredited, and so they are, but it’s not an accreditation that holds any water. Your cat could accredit those institutions just as well.

Why Thunderwood?

Why not Thunderwood? It is no different from the thousands of other unaccredited “diploma mills” where people get their degrees in unsubstantiated quackery such as:

  • Chiropractic
  • Reflexology
  • Acupuncture
  • Parapsychology
  • Naturopathy
  • Intelligent Design
  • Holistics
  • Healing Touch
  • Magnetic Therapy
  • Reiki
  • Feng Shui

…and many, many more!

So the next time that you are confronted with a potential pseudoscientist who seems to be making some whacky claims, and especially if they are going out of their way to list how amazingly educated they are in whatever field they wish to impress upon you, take a few minutes to dig into their educational background.  What you discover might be, if you’ll pardon the pun, quite educational :)

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The National Center for Science Education: A Little Truth Goes a Long Way

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 30, 2011

I just wanted to take a few minutes to share with you an excellent post over at the Skepticblog by Donald Prothero titled “A Visit to the Creationists’ ‘Mordor’”.  In it, Donald speaks about the National Center for Science Education, an organization very near and dear to my heart as a skeptic and science teacher.  The NCSE is the clearinghouse in the United States that tracks all things creationist, and it serves an absolutely vital purpose in countering attempts to force creationism into public schools under the guise of science.  Take a few minutes to read Donald’s article, and consider joining the NCSE today

A visit to the creationists’ “Mordor”

… I decided to pay a visit to another cultural landmark: the headquarters of the National Center for Science Education. This is the chief non-profit organization in the U.S. that helps local school boards and scientists and teachers when creationism threatens their classrooms. If you read the creationists’ literature and the posts on the ID creationist Discovery Institute’s (DI) website, the NCSE is this monstrous organization which exerts mind-control over every scientist in the country, and forces them to robotically chant “I accept evolution.” According to the creationists, the NCSE is pure evil, suppressing the creationism message with its enormous staff and budget and power over all of U.S. science. In Ben Stein’s crappy little creationist propaganda film Expelled,Ben pays a visit to the gleaming  headquarters of the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which occupies a vast amount of floor space in a brand-new office building downtown, and has a huge staff. Over and over again the DI staffers complain about how they scientific establishment is against them, and how the NCSE has so much more power, money, and influence than they do.

So it’s surprising to actually visit the headquarters of the NCSE and get an abrupt reality check. This bête noire of creationism occupies a small, rundown, poorly ventilated commercial space in a rough part of Oakland, surrounded by fundamentalist churches. Their tiny staff is paid a pittance compared to most academic or business salaries, and they occupy cramped cubicles cluttered with piles of work. About the only way you could tell it was not any other kind of typical non-profit organization was the decoration: creationist and evolutionary posters and “timelines of creation”, casts of famous hominid fossils and prehistoric animal models,  dolls and posters and bobble-heads of Charles Darwin, clever signs from many different school board protests, and over the staff calendar and status board, “You  are not in Kansas any more.” …

And here are Donald’s thoughts on how a little bit of truth really can go a long way:

… Despite the polls showing that about 40% of Americans agree with the major tenets of creationism, and the fact that there are many creationist organizations which are larger and more powerful, the NCSE has two key weapons: the law and reality. Fundamentalist ministers may be able to bamboozle their flocks with lies about evolution, but in the marketplace of scientific ideas, there is no longer any doubt that evolution is the way the world actually works.  Creationists may try to gussy up their ideas as “intelligent design” or hide behind the “teach the controversy” tactic, but the myths of illiterate Bronze Age shepherds are still a narrow religious dogma believed by only a minority of Americans. And that’s the ultimate line of defense: no matter what a local school board or state government does, if they leave ANY trail of their religious motivations for their acts (which is why the NCSE archive is crucial for detecting this), they run up against the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and ultimately the law is (at least in this case) on the side of scientific reality.

But it’s a never-ending struggle in this country. Creationists may not do any real science, or never learn any new arguments, or never concede that their old arguments were long ago debunked, but they are dedicated and well-funded and never give up. So the job of the NCSE never seems to end, and these hardworking underpaid staffers will never see  an empty “hot board map” showing no towns with current infections. Back in 1982, I was one of the original members of the Committees of Correspondence, Stanley Weinberg’s first effort to combat creationism in the Midwest, which evolved into the current NCSE. I’ve debated Gish and Meyer and Sternberg and a bunch of guys from ICR and DI, and written a book debunking their ideas about evolution and fossils. So I do what I can, but I don’t have the patience or time to do the job that the NCSE does. For that, I’m very grateful that they are there, fighting the good fight in the trenches, and manning the barricades that few scientists or teachers have time to deal with. We members of the skeptical and scientific community should all honor them for doing an essential job in trying to preserve the scientific integrity of our educational system, and fighting back against the untiring never-ending hordes of the forces of darkness, all while showing the patience of Job. And if you’re not already a member of NCSE, you should join, because they are doing this important job for all of us!

 

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