The Skeptical Teacher

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

Posts Tagged ‘funding’

Creation Museum Running Out of Cash and Going Extinct?

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 23, 2013

[**Update (6-25-13): It seems this blog post has come to the attention of none other than Ken Ham himself, who runs the Creation Museum.  If you are interested, you can read his response on his Facebook page.]

In an interesting, though not very surprising, development, it seems the Creation Museum in Kentucky is running out of money.  And it seems the problem is that, like creationism itself, there is nothing new or different about the exhibits at this “museum”. The irony is that Ken Ham and other creationists claim the Creation Museum is doing scientific work which proves creationism to be true, yet since the place opened 5 years ago nothing has changed and no new “creation science” research has appeared.

Creation_museum_triceratops_saddleNo actual scientific research, but your kids can “ride a dinosaur” just like Fred Flintstone did!  No wonder these morons are going out of business. Image source

My skeptical colleague Donald Prothero over at Skepticblog.com breaks this down into more interesting and revealing detail…

… In an earlier post, I discussed the decline in attendance and loss of money from Ken Ham’s “creation museum” in Kentucky. Now eventhey must pay attention to the problem, since the declining attendance has put a crimp in their budget and brought the fundraising for their “Ark encounter” to a standstill. Their problem, as I outlined before, is that their exhibit is 5 years old now and has not changed, so most of the local yokels who might want to visit it have done so. There’s no point to making the long trip and seeing the expensive “museum” again if there’s nothing new to see. (Unlike real science museums, which must change exhibits constantly not only to boost repeat attendance, but to reflect the changes in scientific thinking). As Mark Joseph Stern wrote on Slate.com:

“There could be another explanation, though. A spectacle like the Creation Museum has a pretty limited audience. Sure, 46 percent of Americans profess to believe in creationism, but how many are enthusiastic enough to venture to Kentucky to spend nearly $30 per person to see a diorama of a little boy palling around with a vegetarian dinosaur? The museum’s target demographic might not be eager to lay down that much money: Belief in creationism correlates to less education, and less education correlates to lower income. Plus, there’s the possibility of just getting bored: After two pilgrimages to the museum, a family of four would have spent $260 to see the same human-made exhibits and Bible quote placards. Surely even the most devoted creationists would consider switching attractions for their next vacation. A visit to the Grand Canyon could potentially be much cheaper—even though it is tens of millions of years old.”

So how did they deal with the attendance dilemma? Did they open some new galleries with “latest breakthroughs in creation research”? (No, that’s not possible because they don’t do research or learn anything new). No, they opted for the cheap and silly: make it into an amusement park with zip lines. Apparently, flying through the air for a few seconds suspended from a cable is the latest fad in amusements, so the Creation “Museum” has to have one to draw the crowds—and hope they can suck in a few visitors to blow $30 a head or more to see their stale old exhibits as well. Expect that by next year they’ll be a full-fledged amusement park with roller coasters and Tilt-a-whirls, just like so many other “Biblelands” do across the Deep South. [emphasis added]

And what do ziplines have to do with creationism? As usual, they have a glib and non-responsive answer:

Zovath’s response to the museums critics who wonder how zip lining fits with their message?

“No matter what exhibit we add, the message stays the same,” Zovath said. “It’s all about God’s word and the authority of God’s word and showing that all of these things, whether it’s bugs, dinosaurs or dragons – it all fits with God’s word.”

I was hoping for something more imaginative and relevant, like “zip lines make you feel like an angel flying down from heaven.”

Wow… so the Creation Museum, once-heralded as the bane of modern evolutionary science and other wickedness, is starting down the road of turning into a Bible version of Disneyland.  I just have to chuckle at this turn of events, because it seems as if, by failing to change and – dare I say – evolve thereby adapting to its economic situation, the Creation Museum may very well go extinct.

Good riddance.

Posted in creationism, economics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Save the Field Museum!

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 6, 2013

I wanted to pass along to everyone a call-to-arms which hits really close to home for me… literally.  As a science teacher, I am especially concerned with seeing that public institutions that promote good science education are protected.  This usually means that I am defending our public schools from creationism or other nonsense, but there is another insitution which often goes overlooked: museums.  Case in point: the Field Museum of Natural History, perhaps one of the best public educational/research institutions in the country, is in real trouble.  Please take a few minutes to read this excellent Skepticblog post by Donald Prothero and consider taking action!

Save the Field Museum!

by Donald Prothero, Jan 02 2013

Field_Museum_of_Natural_History1-300x200

Buried in all the news of the end of the world, the “fiscal cliff”, and the holiday season was another item that probably escaped most people’s attention. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, one of the world’s foremost natural history museums, is planning huge cutbacks in their scientific staff in the next few weeks. Details of who will be cut are sketchy, but the news raced through my professional community and made us all very upset. This is not only because many people who are our personal friends will be losing their jobs because of mismanagement at the top, but also because such a disastrous move would hurt science in many ways that the general public may not appreciate. …

… Most people think a museum is just a bunch of exhibits of fossils or art on display, but don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes. As Jerry Coyne also points out in his post, a top museum like the Field is also one of the most important research institutions in the country, with curators who are among the top scientists in their area of research. Just like university research professors, these curators must pursue research grants and find funding to do important scientific projects. Unlike most university research scientists (who don’t have a place to store too many specimens if they find them), museum curators tend to focus on research that recovers new specimens, and adds to the total resource base for scientific research. Without this material, our data base for research and understanding topics in the fossil record would dry up, because there is no else out there to perform such an important role. I’ve known nearly all the vertebrate paleontology curators at the Field Museum (both past and present) for many years, and most are among the sharpest minds in our field, doing essential science that few others could perform. …

Click here to read the rest of Donald’s post

Click here to take action!

Posted in education, science funding, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Educator Grants Available from the James Randi Educational Foundation!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 16, 2011

I am happy to report that the James Randi Educational Foundation is now awarding education grants to help educators with the development and implementation of lessons and curriculum related to teaching skepticism and critical thinking skills.  Read on for more information…

… Right now, the JREF has a limited number of educator grants (up to $500 each) available to help offset the cost of developing or improving critical thinking and scientific skepticism programs in the classroom.  Preference is given to projects aimed at creating educational content related to science or critical thinking through examination of the paranormal and pseudoscience.

Funded projects can include (but are not limited to) working with JREF educational modules (and related media) or developing new content to be made available to the educational community through the JREF.

If you’re interested in working with the JREF to share critical thinking tools with your students at a time when it matters most, please reply and let me know. I’m happy to answer any questions you have, discuss your ideas for projects, and explain the simple grant application process. For more information or to apply, contact: mblanford@randi.org

Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Save National Science Foundation Funding!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 6, 2011

I just got the following action alert from the American Association of Physics Teachers.  If you value not only scientific research but science education as well, I encourage you to contact your Senators and tell them to fully fund the NSF.  As a physics teacher/professor, I cannot tell you how valuable programs like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are for reaching out to the public and promoting science.  In addition, these and other similar programs are absolutely critical to helping insure that the United States has well-qualified science and math teachers in our schools; these programs also help to shuttle many students into science and engineering-oriented careers, which ultimately benefits all of us.

Anyway, read the AAPT’s press release below…

If you live in the United States, AAPT and the nation need your help. On Friday, September 16th, the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies reported a bill to Congress recommending a reduction of science funding for fiscal year 2012. Specifically, the bill recommends reducing funding for the National Science Foundation by an amount of $161,772,000 or 2.4% below the 2011 enacted level and $1,068,905,000 or 13.8% below the budget request.(See http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/ CRPT-112srpt78/pdf/CRPT- 112srpt78.pdf for the full bill). This is particularly disappointing because the House has recommended much higher funding amounts ($6,698,100,000 for the Senate versus $6,859,870,000 for the House and $7,767,000,000 for the 2012 requested). Particularly hard hit is the Education and Human Resources Directorate of NSF which has a recommended cut of $32,030,000 or 3.7% below the 2011 enacted level and $82,200,000 or 9% below the request. This Directorate funds many of the programs that support STEM education including many key AAPT programs such as the New Faculty Workshop, ComPADRE, and the SPIN-UP Regional Workshops.

I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to support the full requested level of funding for NSF for the 2012 fiscal year. You might mention the legislated calls to double the NSF budget as a fundamental investment in our society, but we realize that goal will be difficult to meet in the current difficult enconomic situation. This is particularly urgent if one of your senators is a member of the CJS Subcommittee. You can find your senator at the US Senate website http://www.senate.gov/general/ contact_information/senators_ cfm.cfm and members of the CJS Subcommittee are listed at http://appropriations.senate. gov/sc-commerce.cfm.

In order to make the process easier, you can use the sample letter of support and insert the date, your address, your senator’s name, and your name and credentials. If possible, personalize the letter by adding a few sentences on the impact that a reduction of this funding will have on you and your students. Better yet, write your own letter emphasizing the impact the cuts will have on physics education. You can submit your letter directly to your senators via their websites to expedite the process.

Best regards,

Beth A. Cunningham, Ph.D.
Executive Officer

Posted in science funding | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

JREF Provides Educator Grants for 2011 – Apply Now!

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 17, 2011

As a way of putting the ‘E’ in JREF, I wanted to pass along to you some info I received from my skeptical education colleague, Michael Blanford, that the James Randi Educational Foundation has opened up the application process for its 2011 Educator Grants.  These are grants provided to professional educators (elementary, middle, high school or college teachers as well as less formal educators) in the hopes that they will be able to develop and hone their teaching skills to help promote critical thinking.  Read on for more information…

Apply for 2011 JREF Educator Grants

The JREF awards grants to educators who are inspiring a new generation of critical thinkers. These grants help pay for developing and improving programs that teach critical thinking and scientific skepticism in the classroom and beyond.

We award grants to educators of children grades K-12 for projects that promote critical thinking through the examination of the paranormal and pseudoscience. Grants are not limited to traditional classroom teachers and those from museums, camps, community centers, and other informal educational institutions are encouraged to apply.

We’re accepting proposals for 2011 grants until July 1st, so please apply or share this information with a deserving educator you know. Here are the 2011 grant application forms and additional details.

So if you are an educator or know someone who is who might benefit from one of these grants, please pass the info along to them and encourage them to apply! 🙂

Posted in education, skeptical community | 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 »

Revive the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 31, 2010

Our friends at Science Debate have passed along to me an announcement about a political push to reopen the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).  The OTA used to provide valuable scientific & technological advice to Congress – that is, it did before Congress, in its short-sightedness, closed the OTA in the mid-1990s.  For more information on this campaign, read on and please consider getting involved…

Most of the major challenges now facing the nation revolve around science.  Of the 535 members of Congress, how many do you suppose are scientists and engineers?  Here’s the answer: three physicists, one chemist, six engineers including a biomedical engineer, and one microbiologist.  How many do you suppose are lawyers, who often avoided science classes like the plague?  225.  It’s little wonder we see more rhetoric than facts.  It would be less of a problem if Congress had a science advisory body that gave it quality, non-partisan advice.  Advice that could save billions by preventing costly policy or spending errors that are not informed by the best available science.  They used to, and it was called the Office of Technology Assessment .  But they closed that 15 years ago to save a relative pittance.  Since then, the science-based challenges facing the nation have multiplied.  Congressional staffers need access to timely and top quality science advice on the issues before their Members.  Today, there are at least two efforts that we are aware of to revive Congress’s science and technology advisory body.  Working with Science Debate co-chair and U.S. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), the Union of Concerned Scientists has organized a letter from scientists supporting the revival of the OTA that is open for signature.

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

White House Office of Science & Tech Policy Seeks Feedback

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 7, 2009

The fine folks over at Science Debate have alerted me that the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy is soliciting feedback in the form of a public comment period on its website.

The OSTP is looking for recommendations on the six issues President Obama identified in his memo:

  1. hiring and keeping qualified scientists
  2. defining new policies to ensure integrity
  3. using “well-established scientific processes” like peer review
  4. disclosing scientific findings
  5. ensuring that principles of scientific integrity are being adhered to
  6. adopting additional policies like whistleblower protections

The OSTP is accepting comments via email and through their blog, here.

Their original request for input can be found here (pdf).

Please take a few minutes to visit the OSTP website and leave feedback.  This is the perfect opportunity for the scientific & skeptical community to make its voice heard and have a positive impact!

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

 
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