Posted by mattusmaximus on June 25, 2012
I’ve written here before about the state of Louisiana’s so-called “academic freedom” law which is essentially a backdoor attempt to push creationism as science in public school science classes. As many critics of the law pointed out when it was passed, this would serve to dumb-down science standards and inevitably harm the education of students in Louisiana by placing pseudoscientific notions such as creationism on an equal (or better) footing than accepted evolutionary science. Well, as predicted, the consequences of this law are now becoming realized, and I’m sorry to say that things in Louisiana are getting even more stupid than I had predicted. Read this article for more detail:
For the 2012-2013 school year, thousands of Louisiana students will receive state-funded vouchers to attend private schools, many of which hold religious affiliations.
One of these schools — Eternity Christian Academy, in Westlake, Louisiana — utilizes the A.C.E. Curriculum Program, a Christian fundamentalist course of study that teaches students to “see life from God’s point of view.” And unbeknownst to most theologians, scientists, and amateur monster hunters, the Lord’s viewpoint apparently incorporates Scotland’s favorite cryptid.
Herald Scotland reports that a certain textbook in the A.C.E. curriculum transcends standard Creationist teachings and instead informs students that the Loch Ness Monster is proof positive that evolution never happened. (And here I always assumed Nessie was The Great Beast from the Book of Revelations.) Explains Herald Scotland:
“One ACE textbook – Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc – reads: “Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘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.”
Another claim taught is that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur. It’s unclear if the movie Godzilla was the inspiration for this lesson.
Jonny Scaramanga, 27, who went through the ACE programme as a child, but now campaigns against Christian fundamentalism, said the Nessie claim was presented as “evidence that evolution couldn’t have happened. The reason for that is they’re saying if Noah’s flood only happened 4000 years ago, which they believe literally happened, then possibly a sea monster survived.”
The Loch Ness Monster as “evidence” of creationism?!!… Oh… my… FSM.
So it’s come to this, folks. As a direct result of the “academic freedom” law in Louisiana, some versions of creationism which are probably even too extreme for many creationists are being seriously pushed as part of the “alternate science” curriculum available to teachers and students…
Apparently, this is the new cover for biology textbooks in Louisiana – image source
I wish I could say that I was surprised, but honestly I’m not. This sort of development is the inevitable result of making science standards so loose (through the invocation of so-called “academic freedom”) that just about any kind of stupid, pseudoscientific nonsense which is completely unsupported by the scientific community can pass muster and be taught as if it were science. As I wrote recently, perhaps this is just the kind of thing we need to have happen in states like Louisiana that try to give a thinly veiled wink and nod to creationists under the auspices of “academic freedom”; perhaps it is time to advertise far and wide that any kind of nonsense can be taught in Louisiana schools. And perhaps there will be a point where the politicians in Louisiana may become so terribly embarrassed at what is passing for “education” (after all, one has to wonder how amenable they would be to Islamic creationism, for example) in their state that they might act to remedy the situation.
Until that day comes, however, I think we should be prepared for much more silliness to come out of Louisiana. One thing’s for sure, it will be entertaining.
Posted in creationism, cryptozoology, education | Tagged: academic, Accelerated Christian Education, ACE, biology, Christianity, creationism, cryptids, cryptozoology, curriculum, dinosaur, education, evolution, freedom, fundamentalist, government, ID, intelligent design, Loch Ness, Loch Ness Monster, Louisiana, Nessie, origin of life, politics, private, public, religion, school, schools, science, separation of church and state, teach all views, teach the controversy, theory, vouchers | 6 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 19, 2012
In some of my recent blog posts, I wondered about the utility of calling the bluff of creationists and going with their argument of “teaching all views” regarding evolution, creationism, etc. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this June 18th cartoon from Non Sequitur just nails it :)
Posted in creationism, education, humor | Tagged: alien, biology, cartoon, Christianity, comedy, creationism, education, evolution, fundamentalist, funny, government, humor, ID, intelligent design, Non Sequitur, origin of life, public, Raelians, religion, satire, schools, science, teach all views, teach the controversy, theory, truth | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 9, 2012
As a quick follow-up to my last post, I wanted to share with you all the following YouTube video from a symposium on the topic of how creationism has mutated and spread around the world in the last 25 years, after the famous Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court decision which found that teaching creationism as science violated the U.S. Constitution. Give it a look…
Symposium | Why Does the Debate Matter?
On May 11th, 2012 Stanford’s Constitutional Law Center, along with the Center for Law and the Biosciences and the National Center for Science and Education (NCSE) hosted the symposium, “Science and Religion in the Classroom: Edwards v. Aguillard at 25.” Nathan Chapman (Stanford) moderated the panel, “Why Does the Debate Matter?” featuring Michael McConnell (Stanford), Hank Greely (Stanford), Ronald Numbers (Wisconsin), Michael Ruse (Florida State) and Eugenie Scott (NCSE).
Posted in creationism | Tagged: biology, Christianity, creationism, discussion, education, evolution, fundamentalist, Genie Scott, government, ID, intelligent design, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, origin of life, panel, politics, public, religion, schools, science, separation of church and state, Stanford, symposium, teach all views, teach the controversy, theory, university | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 24, 2012
Given the amazing success of the Reason Rally this weekend in Washington, DC (roughly 20,000 secularists/atheists/non-religious people showing up in the rain is a success to me :) ), it seems more than appropriate that the Freedom From Religion Foundation runs an ad which will receive a nationwide airing on CBS on Sunday and Monday. The ad opens with President John F. Kennedy’s famous remarks about an absolute separation between church and state. Here’s the ad:
Wonderfully done, and well-timed. This is an especially important time for those of us in the non-believing community to step up and be counted, given the preponderance of religiously-oriented stupidity on display in election-year politics these days. If we hope to uphold church-state separation and fight back against those who would turn our secular republic into a theocracy, we need to get vocal and get active!
Hat tip to The Friendly Atheist for bringing this to my attention! :)
Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: 2012, ad, advertisement, atheism, atheist, CBS, conservatives, election, FFRF, Freedom From Religion Foundation, God, gods, government, JFK, John F. Kennedy, news, nonbeliever, nonreligious, politics, Reason Rally, religion, religious right, secular, secularists, separation of church and state, television, The Friendly Atheist, TV, United States | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 1, 2011
You may have already seen it: the video of would-be Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann commenting that not teaching creationism (or, “intelligent design”, as she calls it) in public school science classes is “government censorship.” Check it out…
Wow, there are so many things wrong with what she’s saying, it’s hard to know where to begin. While these arguments from creationists are nothing new, I’ll just hit some of the high points:
1. The “Teach All Views” Argument: I think this one bugs me more than any others, because it is a disingenuous attempt to play off the American sense of fairness. “Just teach all the theories” says Bachmann, but she makes a very interesting omission – what she omits in her argument is that creationists don’t actually want “all ideas on the table” as she states. What they really want is to insert their very narrow religious ideology (typically, the view of young-Earth creationism) into public school science classes.
If Bachmann and her ilk were really genuine in their argument, then they would have no problem with “equal time” for a large variety of creationist ideas: old-Earth creationism, day-age creationism, gap creationism, flat Earth creationism, geocentrism, Islamic creationism, various Native-American creation myths, Scientology, and even Raelianism. I especially like proposing “equal time” for Raelianism under Bachmann’s plan, because the Raelians are an atheistic UFO-cult which believes that humans were not created by God but aliens. You have to wonder how willing Bachmann and her pals would be to give “equal time” to the Raelians!
So, I say to Bachmann: go for it, but if you really mean “teach all views” then be prepared to open the door to every kind of creationist idea out there. And perhaps after all views have been equally represented, the science teachers in U.S. public schools just might have a couple of weeks at the end of the school year to teach actual science. Who cares if our students will be effectively scientifically illiterate and we start to have massive brain-drain as compared to China and India? At least we can all feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that we “taught all views”. Gee whiz, thanks Ms. Bachmann!!!
The logical conclusion of applying the creationist idea of “teaching all views”…
2. The Whiny “Censorship” Argument: here again we have another facepalm moment. These creationists actually believe, or they try to make us believe, that just because the U.S. government doesn’t give their particular set of religious beliefs some kind of priviledged status in public schools that it means they are being “censored.” Purre rubbish, plain and simple. For one thing, there is this little thing in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which is called the separation of church and state. It basically means, in this particular context, that the public schools don’t get into the business of favoring one particular religion over another – that is, the government remains neutral on the question of the “correctness” of various religious beliefs in the public school classroom.
And that means specifically not giving any previledged status to a particular religious view in schools. So while it would be appropriate to have a class on, say, comparative religion where the topic of creationism is studied, it wouldn’t be appropriate to insert those views into a science class since that crosses the boundary between science and religion. Religious ideas are taught in religion class, and science is taught in science class!
3. “Scientists don’t agree on the origins of life”: while this is technically true, because the subject of abiogenesis (the study of life’s origins) is a subject of much discussion in the scientific community, Bachmann plays fast and loose with the facts by erroneously equating abiogenesis with the well understood and accepted theory of evolution. These are not the same thing, and it is a common tactic of creationists to equate the two in an effort to give the sense that the scientific community doesn’t support evolution. That’s just plain wrong, because – as these statistics point out – evolution is well-established in the scientific community.
4. Evolution is “just a theory”: this is another tried and true argument used by creationists to denegrate evolution. They try to make it sound like a “theory” in scientific terms is equivalent to a hunch or a guess, but this is incorrect. In science, a theory is a well-established and tested set of ideas that ties together a large set of observations and evidence into a coherent explanatory framework. An analogy in physics would be to talk about the theory of gravity – would Bachmann or her creationist ilk try to seriously argue that gravity is “just a theory”?
If so, I invite her and anyone who agrees with her to take a dive off the nearest tall building without a parachute :)
I jest, of course, but in my jest there is a note of seriousness: if these creationists truly believe that evolution is “just a theory” (that is, a guess) then why do so many of them continue to use modern vaccines and antibiotics which are made as a direct result of the application of evolutionary theory? If we didn’t understand evolution, we simply wouldn’t have those medicines. So to avoid being labeled as hypocrites, I think creationists need to at least acknowledge that evolution is more than just a simple guess.
But I won’t hold my breath. One thing’s for sure: creationists certainly are persistent, and as long as they’re up to their shenanigans we have to be equally vigilant.
Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: 2012, Bachmann, biology, censorship, Christianity, creationism, education, evolution, freedom, fundamentalist, GOP, government, ID, intelligent design, Michelle, origin of life, politics, president, primary, race, religion, Republican, science, separation of church and state, Tea Party, teach all views, teach the controversy, theory, United States | 5 Comments »
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.
Beth A. Cunningham, Ph.D.
Posted in science funding | Tagged: AAPT, American Association of Physics Teachers, budget, congress, educators, engineering, engineers, funding, government, house, math, mathematics, money, National Science Foundation, NSF, research, science, scientists, Senate, STEM, teachers, technology | Leave a Comment »