Darwin Day events 2015

January 18th, 2015 by Brandon Haught

Darwin-DayHere are three Darwin Day events coming up in the next few weeks:

1. Humanists of Sarasota Bay will host a Darwin Day event: Nancy Howell, professor emerita of sociology at the University of Toronto, will be speaking on “Human Evolution: A Kalahari Perspective” at 11:30 a.m. on February 7, at Mattison’s 41, 7275 South Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. Tickets are $25 in advance, which includes lunch, and should be purchased by January 25, 2015. More information is available here (pdf file).

2. A Darwin Day event hosted by the Tampa Bay United Coalition of Reason and its member organizations will take place at 12:30 p.m. on February 7 at Clearwater Unitarian Universalist Octagon, 2470 Nursery Road in Clearwater. The keynote address on “The Dawn of Life” will be given by David Lynn of Emory University; Elaine Hull and Herb Silverman will also be speaking. Tickets are $25, and are available on-line before February 2, by phone, and from the member organizations. More information is available at evolvetampa.com.

3. A Darwin Day event hosted by Broward College and other local science-centered non-profit groups will be held February 7, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It features multiple children’s activities, displays, food trucks, presentations on Florida flora and fauna, and featured presentations by local and national speakers. It will be held at Broward College North Campus in Coconut Creek (Fort Lauderdale area). The full slate of speakers has not been announced yet, but one of the confirmed speakers is me! I am scheduled for 2 p.m. and my presentation will be based on my book Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Evolution in the Classroom. I’ll post other information about the event as they are released.

If you know of any other events, please tell us about them in the comments.

[edited to add] Evelyn Fox Keller of MIT will be speaking on “From Gene Action to Reactive Genomes: Implications for Evolution” at 3:30 p.m. on February 12, in C. W. Young Hall 107, on the campus of the University of Southern Florida in Tampa. A reception in the second floor rotunda will follow. The talk is free and open to the public. For further information, visit the USF Darwin Day page.

[edited again to add] Darwin Week celebrations will be held at Jacksonville University from February 9 to February 13. On February 9 at noon, Bill Robertson will speak on “Darwin the Person” in Reid Auditorium. On February 10 at 7:30 p.m., Julie Ingersoll will speak on “Does Evolution Discredit Religion” at Northstar Pizza, 119 East Bay Street. On February 11 at noon, there will be a discussion session on “Darwin among the Poets” in the River House. On February 12 at 12:30 p.m., Rebecca Kimball will speak on “Avian Evolution in the Era of Big Data” in Reid Auditorium; a pizza lunch and cake will be provided. Also on February 12 at 5:00 p.m., there will be a discussion session on “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in Light of Evolution” in the River House; there will also be a raffle. And on February 13 at noon, there will be an evolution music and talent show in the River House. All events are free and open to the public. For further information, visit the webpage.

Keep an eye on Collier County

December 30th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

A group of concerned citizens in Collier County, led by school board member Kelly Lichter, is taking on the self-appointed task of reviewing textbooks their school district uses. Here’s a news story about their efforts (be sure to watch the video). And here is their website (Southwest Florida Citizens’ Alliance). I don’t see anything directly related to science education in the story or on the group’s website, but there are a few references to initiatives and their topics of concern that have religious themes that could easily spill over into science education. It seems their main focus is on stopping common core and getting the federal government out of local government. It’s worth keeping an eye on them.

Florida Science News

December 26th, 2014 by Jonathan Smith

I just read this very interesting article published in Science Daily by the University of Texas Austin that was researched by scientist working on several Islands located just off the coast of Florida. This latest study is one of only a few well-documented examples of what evolutionary biologists call “character displacement,” in which similar species competing with each other evolve differences to take advantage of different ecological niches.   Scientists have documented the rapid evolution of a native lizard species — in as little as 15 years — as a result of pressure from an invading lizard species, introduced from Cuba.

Science Standards revision schedule

December 3rd, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Instandards picformation about the Florida science standards revision process is available at this FloridaSTEM website. There is a video and some downloadable documents there.

The important future fireworks dates to mark on your calendars:

  • June 2016 — draft of standards released for public input.
  • November 2016 — state board of education considers approval.

It would seem that the sequence of planned events (selection of framers, selection of writers, writers developing draft standards, etc.) makes it clear that the “national” Next Generation Science Standards are not being seriously considered for adoption here in Florida.

Dr. Dino’s new trial in January

December 2nd, 2014 by Brandon Haught

News update: Trial for ‘Dr. Dino’ moved to January

A Pensacola evangelist accused of attempting to block government sales of his forfeited property will stand trial in January.

Kent Hovind, known as “Doctor Dino” for his views on creation and a biblical/dinosaur-themed amusement park, originally was scheduled to face a federal jury Monday on multiple counts of fraud. His trial was rescheduled to Jan. 5 so Hovind could be tried simultaneously with his co-defendant, Paul John Hansen.

Article in Florida Scientist journal

December 1st, 2014 by Brandon Haught

The latest issue of the Florida Academy of Sciences‘ journal, Florida Scientist, was recently published and it was a special edition highlighting “citizen science programs in Florida.” I was invited to write an article about Florida Citizens for Science, which appears starting on page 230. Unfortunately, the journal doesn’t have any significant Internet presence, so I can’t link to anything useful. But if you are a member of the Florida Academy, look for my article!

Carl Sagan Day

November 8th, 2014 by Jonathan Smith

This weekend and next weekend there are multiple events taking place throughout the state to celebrate Carl Sagan Day   Florida Citizens for Science are to be one of the sponsors at an event in Clearwater FL on Saturday 15th of November. The event is twofold, so as to be an extension of Skepticamp 2014 which was sold out last month and Carl Sagan Day. FCS President Jonathan Smith will be speaking on the subject of Astrobiology (the search for life on other Planets and Moons) and will be joined by several other speakers talking about astronomy. This event not only allows you to listen to the speakers, but actively participate in the lectures.

It’s Just Not Happening

October 20th, 2014 by Jonathan Smith

I know what I’m about to offer can in no way be considered anything close to scientifically accurate, but I do feel that it is at worse a fair example of what is going on in many of  Florida’s school districts.

As some of you know, last year I started asking 11/12 k students if they were, or had been, studying evolution in their biology classes and quizzed them on a few basic questions on TOE (which 80% of the students failed to answer). I also began talking to the same grade science teachers to see if they covered TOE in their classes.

Since August last year I have spoken to well over 100 students and 30 teachers from 19 different high schools, covering four counties. Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk and Hardee. I have documented the results, although I promised anonymity, particularly to the teachers.

As I said, I’m no statistician, but basically just over 72% of those students either covered TOE briefly or not at all and out of the teachers I questioned, 58% admitted they hardly taught the subject or ignored it completely. Ninety percent of the teachers said they are just trying to avoid conflicts with students or parents. Polk and Hardee had the worse numbers, then Pasco, with Hillsborough being the best. I’m sure if this research was conducted on a state level, we would find similar results, some counties faring better than others. However, considering that Evolution is a large part of the biology science standards, these findings are appalling. All districts should follow the standards without exception and this is just not happening.

You can have all the NGSS you want, but if the FDOE are not following up with any monitoring of the standards, district by district, they mean little or nothing.