The LSEA (Louisiana Science Education Act) [is] an insidious piece of legislation that allows teachers to bring in their own supplemental materials when discussing politically controversial topics like evolution or climate change. Soon after the act was passed [in 2008], some … teachers began to not just supplement existing texts, but to rid the classroom of established science books altogether. It was during the process to adopt a new life science textbook in 2010 that creationists barraged Louisiana’s State Board of Education with complaints about the evidence-based science texts. Suddenly, it appeared that they were going to be successful in throwing out science textbooks. …
[Zack] also has his eyes set on vouchers. After an Alternet story came out about a school in the Louisiana voucher program teaching that the Loch Ness Monster was real and disproved evolution, Kopplin looked deeper into the program and found that this wasn’t just one school, but at least 19 other schools, too.
School vouchers, he argues, unconstitutionally fund the teaching of creationism because many of the schools in these programs are private fundamentalist religious schools who are teaching creationism.
"These schools have every right to teach whatever they want — no matter how much I disagree with it — as long as they are fully private," he says. "But when they take public money through vouchers, these schools need to be accountable to the public in the same way that public schools are and they must abide by the same rules." Kopplin is hoping for more transparency in these programs so the public can see what is being taught with taxpayers’ money.
Frankly, the liberal use of the word scientific in this new anti-science bill would probably preclude teaching “Intelligent Design” (insert dripping sneer ending in puking noise), which hasn’t the slightest scientific basis. As America falls behind the rest of the world in every way, let’s hand out degrees in stupidity.
Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Albuquerque, said Tuesday that his House Bill 302 is not intended to promote intelligent design or creationism. … Anderson said, "I’m just trying to protect teachers. … I’m trying to prevent another Galileo," a reference to the father of modern physics, who was tried during the Inquisition as a heretic. [mjh: Such nobility!]
The bill says the state "shall not prohibit any teacher, when a controversial scientific topic is being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to that topic. A teacher who chooses to provide such information shall be protected from reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination for doing so."
The bill lists several protected "controversial scientific topics" including "biological origins, biological evolution, causes of climate change, human cloning and other scientific topics that are often viewed by society as controversial."
I’d like to see a science teacher use this bill to shut up a parent who objects to teaching anthropogenic climate change – hey, it’s “controversial” (with the same idiots evolution is).
[hat tip to dangerousmeta]
This week, Eric C. Toolson, UNM Biology Professor, wrote about the
Dover, Pennsylvania, legal decision against teaching ID in public schools. His column spawned a counter-attack printed in today’s
Albquerque Journal. mjh
By Eric C. Toolson, UNM Biology Professor
Judge Jones may have been taken aback by what he heard in his court, but none of this
comes as any surprise to scientists who have attempted to counter scientifically absurd claims and the continual efforts to force schools
to teach fundamentalist Christianity as science. Deliberate misrepresentation of scientific concepts and distortion of scientific
evidence are the stock in trade of ID promoters. Jones’ opinion merely exposes their tactics to public view.
No Hard Evidence
As a grad student 35 years ago, I was astounded to find out that there is no real evidence for Darwinism at allï¿½
not in the fossils, not in the wild and not in the lab. All my teachers had told me that evolution had occurred, but I suddenly realized
that none of them had given me a shred of real evidence.
Afterward, I found that most people, including most scientists, think
evolution occurred not because of evidence, but simply because someone else told them it had occurred. …
D. RUSSELL HUMPHREYS,
Nobody appreciates hyperbole more than I do (a self-proving statement), but “NO
real evidence … AT ALL,” not a “SHRED of REAL evidence.” Puh-lease! Skillful exaggeration is part of debate, but don’t lie to win.
One can only imagine what a disappointment Humphreys was to his teachers. However, Humphreys’ conclusion is important. As
students, we have all accepted many things from our teachers as a given. But good students ask questions without assuming they already
know more than the teacher. It’s a delicate dance.
Perhaps we should move this debate over to cold mathematics. What is the PROOF
that 2 + 2 = 4? Isn’t geometry full of so-called “theorems” and “proofs” — can we really trust any of them? How do you know what pi is
and how would you prove it? Trusting your teacher doesn’t count! If you can’t prove it, does it not exist? Is pi a lie?
wasn’t until I studied Calculus that so much that had to be accepted ‘on faith’ was finally proven. But Calculus wasn’t
discovered/invented until a few hundred years ago — was all of math before that just “faith” and no more valid than the Gospels?
Perhaps we haven’t discovered the evolutionary equivalent of Calculus yet (though I think Watson & Crick probably did).
Religious zealots see the world
through religious eyes: everything is their religion or someone else’s (false) religion. You project what you already know. Insert the
“hammer and nail” aphorism here.
Why is life without a designer so intimidating to [so many]? Don’t be afraid — it’s the same
world without a god. You are still accountable to yourself, your family, your friends, your teachers, and your society. Are you really
only good out of fear of punishment or promise of reward?
Open Eyes, Check Out All Theories
As a Christian, I
find it hard to believe there are people who really recoil at the possibility that there might be a being so indescribable and powerful,
who could have created all that the eye can see and then some. …
Let us not be so dogmatic. We should encourage exploration and
study of all scientific theory, whether you agree with the outcome or not.
I don’t recoil at the possibility that there might be a being so indescribable and powerful. I’m a big fan of
possibilities and certain we fail to perceive more than we do perceive. But not every possibility is a probability and even fewer are
realities. There is no god. As an atheist, I find it hard to believe people recoil at that fact.
Photo, Fossil Proof
We are told there is no evidence for design. Test it yourself. Write down every speck of evidence that you
find for a wristwatch being designed or that the book you are reading did not randomly come together. When you have done this, compare
your data to the incredible workings of the human body with its coded DNA, you will see vast evidence for design emerge. …
Now, this one is really interesting. Does it matter that I don’t own
The watch is a product of human intelligence and culture. Human intelligence might be argued to be millions of years old;
certainly hundreds of thousands of years. Culture has existed at least 50,000 years. How long have there been watches? Non-astronomical,
mechanical time pieces may be thousands of years old, but I’m betting wrist watches aren’t 200 years old (too lazy to google it).
Who designed the watch? A human being. IF you allow that human beings are a product of evolution, then evolution had a hand in the
designing of the watch, as well as Philip the Doubter and Mark the Believer. We are inside the black box we seek to describe. Our very
intelligence is either the product of evolution or fiat — it constrains what we are capable of conceiving and discussing (language is
also a product of this process). But, we’ve had this argument before (mjhï¿½s blog — Wherein Mark disproves the existence of god).
Now the earth is at least 4
billion years old — if IDers don’t believe that, what time frame would they allow us to use? If they happen to say whatever number of
years Evangelical Christians believe, then that whole claim that the “designer” isn’t just the narrowly-defined Christian god really is
But let’s say that Adam and Eve sprang from Zeus’ forehead 10,000 years ago. It took 9,800 years to design a
watch. Why weren’t Adam and Eve created wearing watches? Or given gold watches on expulsion? Yours really is a vengeful god.
Anyhow, let’s say that self-replicating organisms didn’t come from afar via a comet or god’s fallen eyelash; let’s say it all
starts right here. Now, I do NOT believe that after 4 billion years, a watch would appear directly out of natural selection (indirectly,
it did), anymore than I believe an infinite number of monkeys will produce a duplicate of an entire play. Why not? Because Life doesn’t
need a watch anymore than monkeys need literature. Life produces what life needs. Billions of years allows for a lot of very subtle or
abrupt changes, most of which won’t leave a trace (unless it’s in the DNA).
Once we have what we need, humans produce what we
want, including pornography and religion, with many noxious bi-products like pollution and zealots. Oh — and watches. mjh
PS: See www.edgewiseblog.com/mjh/category/nada/id/ for all my coverage of this
topic, a sub-topic of www.edgewiseblog.com/mjh/category/nada/ (NADA = New
American Dark Ages).
Scientists Take on Intelligent Design BY PAUL R. GROSS
Science journalism is a demanding profession, and the list of its great practitioners is not long. Even shorter, however, is the list of professional scientists who write engaging and accessible prose – who write, in short, excellent popular science. The literary agent for a large subset of that group is John Brockman, himself an author as well as literary entrepreneur. In “Intelligent Thought” (Vintage, 272 pages, $14), he has assembled a set of 16 essays, each responding to the current, anti-evolution Intelligent Design Movement (IDM), and the authors include some of the best-known science writers.
The war (it must be so named) between science and the fundamentalist faith-driven IDM is of a deeply troubling import for science education, and for science itself – thus inevitably for contemporary culture. …
The contributors represent a broad range of scientific disciplines. Richard Dawkins, for example, is a noted evolutionary biologist, as are Jerry Coyne and Neil Shubin. Leonard Susskind is a theoretical physicist; so is Lee Smolin. Greatly respected are philosopher-cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett; paleontologists Tim White and Scott Sampson; psychologists Steven Pinker, Nicholas Humphrey, and Marc Hauser; physicists Seth Lloyd and Lisa Randall; mathematical biologist Stuart Kauffman; anthropologist Scott Atran, and historian of science and behaviorist Frank Sulloway. …
The prolific Mr. Dennett writes on “The Hoax of Intelligent Design and How It Was Perpetrated.” Hoax is a belligerent word, but the argument supporting it is solid.
Mr. Dennett’s essay is not a paper-trail of the IDM: There is no such thing in this book – a significant lack. But a rich paper trail certainly exists. The IDM’s history – with documentation – was presented in Harrisburg, Penn., by plaintiff’s witness Barbara Forrest. It was eye-opening and central to the Dover outcome. In the trial, the IDM’s attempt on the science curriculum was ruled unconstitutional. Mr. Dennett’s contribution is a sharp expose of the IDM’s logical and epistemological blunders. …
We need this book because its authors have name recognition with the general reading public, because they write well, and because the fight will not end any time soon. Humanity needs to come to grips, sooner rather than later, with its biological meanings, and with the values and anti-values of its religious belief systems. The fight is just beginning. If the real values of religion and spirituality, which include humility before the wonders of nature, are to survive our rising tastes for religious war and destruction, then more than just an elite among us must understand science – and what it yields as description of physical reality through deep time. The more often the small faction of us who read can pause to browse engaging books like “Intelligent Thought,” the better is the chance that we can stop the impetus of Homo sapiens toward self-destruction.
Thirty years of the Selfish Gene Jerry A. Coyne
Intelligent life first comes of age when it works out the reasons for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: “Have they discovered evolution yet?” …
For [Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene (1976)] is no ordinary science book. Yes, it is about evolutionary biology, but its message, that “we are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes”, still resonates deeply after thirty years. It is a brilliant exposition of how natural selection works, laying out in clear and compelling detail, for both scientists and lay readers, the process that produced all of life’s diversity. Using the metaphor of genes as selfish entities, whose “motivation” is simply to copy themselves at the expense of other genes, Dawkins describes a tale of competition – of nature red in tooth and claw – but in which genes are the combatants, fighting their battles by co-opting the bodies of their carriers. It is nothing less than the story of what made us who we are.
The Selfish Gene has also been immensely controversial. Understandably, people don’t like to see themselves as marionettes dancing on strings of DNA, however brilliantly described….
THE SELFISH GENE
Thirtieth anniversary edition
384pp. Oxford University Press. £14.99 (US $25).
0 19 929114 4
Alan Grafen and Mark Ridley, editors
How a scientist changed the way we think
283pp. Oxford University Press. £12.99 (US $25) .
0 19 929116 0
The [separately published] collection [of essays on Dawkins’ impact] includes twenty-four contributions from a variety of writers and scholars, including the novelist Philip Pullman, Richard Harries (Bishop of Oxford), the philosopher Daniel Dennett, the linguist Steven Pinker and the biologist John Krebs. Their essays cover not just exegesis of The Selfish Gene, but also Dawkins’s general contributions to biology and its philosophy. The section on Dawkins and religion, though tangential to The Selfish Gene, is well worth reading given his vehement hostility to theistic belief.
While such festschrifts are usually deadly dull, designed to flatter rather than enlighten, this is a delightful exception, containing a number of thought-provoking essays that go far beyond mere appreciation of Dawkins’s book. They are in fact essential in understanding the book’s influence. The simultaneous publication of both volumes allows us to re-examine the impact of The Selfish Gene. How well has it aged? Is it still important? And did Dawkins really change the way we think?
“Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism – it’s turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do.”
[Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a “destructive myth” had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.]
Brother Consolmagno, who was due to give a speech at the Glasgow Science Centre last night, entitled “Why the Pope has an Astronomer”, said the idea of papal infallibility had been a “PR disaster”. What it actually meant was that, on matters of faith, followers should accept “somebody has got to be the boss, the final authority”.
“It’s not like he has a magic power, that God whispers the truth in his ear,” he said.
Last year, the Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs was “wrong” and was akin to mixing apples with oranges.
“Intelligent design isn’t science even though it pretends to be….”
My friend, Lisa T, sent me the link to this short, amusing article. mjh
An interview with Don Wise, creator of “incompetent design”
All of our pelvises slope forward for convenient knuckle-
dragging, like all the other great apes. And the only reason you stand erect is because of this incredible sharp bend at the base of your
spine, which is either evolution’s way of modifying something or else it’s just a design that would flunk a first-year
[mjh: See the following, longer article, as well.]
LiveScience Staff Writer