Evolution and science stuff in Florida news

September 21st, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Some interesting evolution and science related stuff in Florida news lately …

John Thrasher endures testy forum at FSU

College of Communication professor Andy Opel pressed Thrasher on climate change, asking him if he believed it is real. “Do you accept the science behind it,” Opel said.

Like Gov. Rick Scott, whose reelection campaign Thrasher co-chairs, Thrasher declined to give a specific response. At that point, two students in the front row appeared to Thrasher to be laughing at his answer.

The next person to pose a question, law professor Mark Seidenfeld, asked Thrasher if he believed in evolution.

“I have a great faith in my life that has guided me in my life in a lot of things I believe in,” Thrasher said.

Hinson: ‘Because he’s flippin’ Bill Nye, that’s why’

After Nye’s talk was done, he received a rousing standing ovation. After a minute or so, he returned to the stage and fielded a few questions from students in the audience. That’s when things got real good, real fast.

First question: “What would you think of a university president at a major university who doesn’t believe in evolution?”

It was a direct reference to Florida Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine), a political bigwig who is aggressively trying to muscle his way into the president’s office at Florida State. Thrasher, who is not exactly a free-thinking intellectual with a lenghty list of academic credentials, has dodged questions about climate change and whether or not he believes Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory.

Nye answered with: “I’m heartbroken, I guess.”

A woman in the audience instantly shouted: “So are we.”

East Hillsborough School Board race has conservative focus

There is a truism about eastern Hillsborough County: When it comes to politics, you can’t tack too far to the right.

That adage is being tested this fall as Terry Kemple, possibly Hillsborough’s best-known Christian conservative activist, makes his third run for the School Board.

He ran districtwide the first two times and lost, although he notes that in 2012 he would have prevailed if the votes were confined to District 4.

This time he is running in the land of the Bell Shoals Baptist superchurch and former state Sen. Ronda Storms, a district where the pro-family, anti-Obamacare Stacy White defeated two better-funded candidates in the August primary for a likely spot on the County Commission.

But Kemple, 68, takes it up a notch. He’s spoken out against gay rights and Muslim advocacy. He called it a travesty that the schools teach evolution as fact. And he isn’t just against the Common Core standards; he accused the state of trying to defraud the public on the issue.

Switching careers

September 14th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Did you know that I recently switched careers, becoming a high school biology teacher? Now you know.

Daytona Beach News Journal: Former Volusia sheriff’s spokesman pursues passion into classroom

Haught, 44, recently left his post as the assistant public information officer at the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to teach biology at University High School in Orange City. He swapped snoopy reporters for sleepy students. Police reports for lab reports. Arrest records for attendance records.

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Skepticamp 2014

September 14th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Florida Citizens for Science president Jonathan Smith and I enjoyed talking with the very lively and engaged crowd at Skepticamp 2014 in Tampa today. I took them on a brief time travel tour, bouncing from events in the 1920s to events in the present. I wanted to emphasize how anti-evolution activists, groups and legislation from then and now are amazing alike. We then tackled the question of whether there is any way to break this seemingly never ending cycle of anti-evolution activism. Jonathan talked about how evolution plays a significant role in your everyday life, from man’s best friend to what you eat. Thank you very much to the event organizers for having us!

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Oh, by the way …

August 18th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

It’s been an insanely busy week or so for me. I’ve changed careers. Seriously. I was a spokesman for a law enforcement agency. Now I’m a biology teacher. Yes, you read that right. I had my first day of school today. I’ll try to post a bit more about the sudden change, but for now you can find a snippet at my author blog. And here is my reflection on my first day:

I survived my first day as a high school biology teacher. Wow, it was a blur. That’s about all I can say. I had some minor adjustments to make after the first few periods when I finished what I planned to do with way too much time left before the bell. By about third period I found a way to fill the time and the rest of the day went about as smooth as can be expected. Way too many zombies were staring off into space and yawning and trying to snooze, but nearly everyone perked up when I told them about some of my Marine Corps and Sheriff’s Office experiences. The rest of the week should be interesting. There are assemblies and fire drills galore already on the schedule starting tomorrow. Adapt and overcome.

“I stand by that decision”

August 14th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Pinellas County school board candidate Ken Peluso was briefly on the hot seat when he said he believed that creationism and evolution should be taught together so that students could “draw their own conclusions.” He later told the Tampa Bay Times that he reversed that comment, claiming that the question caught him off guard.

The newspaper’s Gradebook blog has now noted that Peluso was at a separate event later on the day he made that creationism comment and he verified his stance. (“North Pinellas 9/12″ forum on Aug 7, 2014.)

A scolding

August 9th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

The Tampa Bay Times scolded Ken Peluso in an editorial today: Pinellas candidate’s blunder is unsettling.

On Friday, Peluso said he made a mistake. He said he would envision public schools teaching creationism only in the context of a world religion class, where “other alternative religious perspectives were also taught.” He agreed creationism, a belief system which he subscribes to, does not have a role in public school science classes.

Peluso pledged Friday that he would not advocate for science curriculum changes if he is elected to the Pinellas School Board. That is good news. It’s too bad he didn’t say that the first time.

Creationism in Pinellas County school board race

August 7th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

NOTE: See update at the end of this post.

The Gradebook blog reports that when candidates for the Pinellas County school board were asked during a public forum if they thought creationism should be taught in the science classroom, one said:

pinellas“I think creationism and evolution should be taught side by side and I don’t care what classroom.” Ken Peluso went on to say that students should “know the facts” and decide for themselves.

Peluso has the biggest campaign war chest in his district race, the Gradebook reported. He was also endorsed by the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association and other groups. Creative Loafing Tampa Bay has a story mentioning the creationism remark, too.

This is shaping up to be an interesting election season. Keep in mind that creationism came up in the Holmes County school board race, too.

(Picture is a screenshot of his website and links to him.)

Updated 8/8: The Tampa Bay Times reports: Pinellas School Board candidate Peluso reverses his comments about creationism.

“In hindsight, that was probably a poor choice of words in response to a question that caught me off guard,” he said Friday. “My personal beliefs have nothing to do with it.”

Peluso said Friday that creationism versus evolution is “probably the most controversial education issue of all time.” Despite his comments, he said that he wouldn’t teach creationism alongside evolution in a science class. He could see a place for it in a world religion class with other views, he said.

Evolution 2014

August 2nd, 2014 by Jonathan Smith

All of the 80 plus lectures of Evolution 2014 are now available on You Tube. The lectures are easy to listen to and you can see all the slides very well (maybe not the speakers so well)  The lectures cover a wide range of evolutionary topics and the number recorded may increase at future meetings. You can browse the Youtube channel linked to above, or look at a list of the talks in a searchable spreadsheet format here.

Hat Tip to Dr Jerry Coyne