Archive for March, 2007

Evolution confusion: Human vs. geological time scales

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Florida Museum conducted a study saying that only 31 percent of visitors to at least one of six participating museums could accurately explain natural selection, a key part of evolution. Apparently, one thing that stops some people cold is not comprehending the vast scale of time.

He [Bruce MacFadden] said the problem is that most people tend to think on the human time scale, which is on the order of hundreds of years, instead of the geological time scale, which is millions and billions of years.

The problems weren’t in understanding when dinosaurs lived, but instead the time difference between when humans and dinosaurs walked the Earth.

The study was presented at the Southeastern Section of the Geological Society of America annual meeting. Scrolling down on that page I see that there was a symposium on “Teaching Organic Evolution for K-16 Students and Pre-Service Teachers: Viewpoints, Techniques, and Approaches.” That sounds interesting, especially in light of what is written at the end of the newspaper article:

Larisa Grawe DeSantis is presenting a way to teach evolution.

She said the idea is to teach students, grades six through 12, the concepts of evolution without ever using the word “evolution.”

Often some people will close their minds when the word comes up because of their beliefs, she said.

I have to say I initially disagree with DeSantis. I understand where she is coming from, but it’s not the word that turns people off, but the fact that the concept runs counter to some people’s deeply held beliefs. Treating the e-word like a dirty word I think just reinforces their preconceptions and even plays right into the anti-evolutionists’ hands. Here’s a press release about the various presentations done by Florida Museum.

Students experiencing bioscience field

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

As the bioscience career field picks up speed worldwide and right here in Florida, it becomes more and more important to cultivate our own future scientists. The Scripps Research Institute knows that and is actively working hard to get into classrooms and demonstrate what science is all about.

The statewide Bioscience Career and Education Exposition is a push to bring scientists to high school classrooms throughout April to discuss their own careers, what they’ve accomplished and the importance of the field.

“We want to show how the scientists got to where they are today,” said Fred Barch, science program planner for the school district. “It’s an exciting thing for the students to see and hear about the things going on in Palm Beach County.”

Scripps already has designed a program for middle school students that incorporates chemistry, biology, physics and math into an introductory, hands-on bioscience lesson. At the high school level, the research institute hosts “Science Saturdays” sessions in which students can isolate and identify their own DNA or use forensic bioscience techniques on a mock crime scene, an especially popular experiment among fans of the science-heavy crime show CSI.

Here’s a link about the Bioscience Career and Education Exposition. They are looking for volunteers to give presentations in the schools. Why not lend a hand?

The Fred and Wilma Flintstone Museum

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

The Creation Museum in Kentucky is getting a lot of attention as it nears completion. Everything about it is so horribly wrong, but the thing that stuck out to the most to me is the naked aggression shown here:

There also will be an exhibit suggesting that belief in evolution is the root of most of modern society’s evils. It shows models of children leaving a church where the minister believes in evolution. Soon the girl is on the phone to Planned Parenthood, while the boy cruises the Internet for pornography sites.

Sounds a lot like those ridiculous Halloween Hell House things.

What Minnesota went through

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Yesterday I posted about Cheri Yecke’s desire to be Florida education commissioner. A commenter at Pharyngula reminded me of a post done a few years back at our old blog site about Minnesota’s fight over the state science standards when Yecke was there. I’m reposting it here for easy reference.

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Original post from Sept. 26, 2005:

[Minnesota’s experience in 2003 and 2004 with antievolution efforts to change the state science standards rings a warning bell for Florida, which is currently in the process of revising its science standards, with adoption of new standards scheduled to occur in 2006. The following article provides a first-hand account from two members of the Minnesota science standards writing committee.]

During the summer of 2003, more than fifty classroom teachers, parents, professors of science and education, and business people convened at the Department of Education to create the new Minnesota Academic Standards in Science (see this page). The state legislature overturned the Profile of Learning standards in April of 2003 with the requirement that new standards in five areas (mathematics, language arts, science, social studies, and art) be developed and implemented by the 2004-2005 school year (see this page).

In the early summer, Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke put out a call for those interested in being on the science standards committee. The application process consisted of going to the department’s web site and providing contact information along with a 100-word biography. No further information was sought or allowed. (more…)

Becoming an astronaut

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

I was turned on to this blog about Damaris Sarria working toward her dream of shooting into space by this newspaper article. The blog definitely looks worth following.

Yecke to seek Fl education commissioner job

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

I had missed this news tidbit a while back. A couple of people have declined to step into the Florida education commissioner job. One person eager to jump in, though, is Cheri Yecke.

On the other side of the equation, state K-12 chancellor Cheri Yecke has announced that she will seek the commissioner’s chair.

Yecke, who has led the education departments in Virginia and Minnesota, came to Florida two years ago, abandoning a run for Congress in Minnesota.

“The whole battle about standards and accountability was fought and won here a long time ago,” Yecke told Times. “Folks in Florida are moving forward in a very positive way. To me, that is just so refreshing. I would like to stay here.”

Yes, that Cheri Yecke.

(edited to add:) Oh, did I happen to mention that the Florida schools’ science standards are up for review later this year?

FSU hosts Origin of Species conference

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

March 23-24, FSU is hosting a conference themed: 150 Years on the Origin of Species.

Presenters will be:

Naomi Beck(University of Chicago)
Dame Gillian Beer (University of Cambridge)
Peter J. Bowler (The Queen’s University Belfast, U.K.)
John Brooke (University of Oxford)
David Depew (The University of Iowa)
Chris and Michèle Kohler (C.C. Kohler, Antiquarian Booksellers)
David Kohn (AMNH Research Library American Museum of Natural History)
Mark Largent (James Madison College at Michigan State University)
Abigail Lustig (University of Texas at Austin)
Lynn Nyhart (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Robert Olby (University of Pittsburgh)
Robert Richards (University of Chicago)
Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis (University of Florida)
Peter Stevens (University of Missouri at St. Louis)

Florida’s Ocean Research

Monday, March 19th, 2007

There is a lot of competition for research funding when it comes to the ocean waters lapping at Florida’s shores. And I believe it can be inferred that there are exciting careers to be had for any future scientists in our classrooms. Teachers, print out this story and post it somewhere in the classroom. There’s a diverse bunch of projects under the waves!

Marine scientists hope to develop an ocean observation system — including monitors far at sea and along the Florida coast — to measure the effects of global warming and detect sources of pollution. Some researchers already are exploiting the seas for a renewable energy source and maybe even a cure for cancer.