Archive for December, 2008

Twitter time

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

I’m signed up on Twitter now. I invite you to follow me.

Florida’s Greatest Menace III: Tongue-torturing tactics

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

(This is the third part in the Florida’s Greatest Menace series. For an introduction to the series, go here.)

Ascended or descended

Leo Stalnaker certainly didn’t like the idea of dance halls operating on Sundays. When the young man ran for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 1926 he was keenly focused on the betterment of public morals. He wrapped up his campaign speeches with dramatic poetry readings asking God to guide morally upright men into positions of leadership. He defended prohibition, consequently making a name for himself as a real law and order man. The man didn’t fool around.

Stalnaker (seen in the center of the photo here from the Florida Electronic Library) won a Hillsborough County seat in the Florida House at the young age of 28. He qLeo Stalnaker, center.uickly set to work drafting bills outlawing the operation of dance halls on the Sabbath and requiring all schools to fly the American flag when school was in session. Stalnaker also wanted to give police the authority to search vehicles for contraband alcohol with or without a warrant. However, those issues were trivial compared to his signature piece: a law banning the teaching of any theory that “mankind either ascended or descended from a lower order of animals, or any theory not in harmony with the biblical account of the creation of mankind.” (more…)

Teaching science with one hand tied behind your back

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Science Labs Need More Equipment, Teachers Say

SEBRING – Students exploring the cellular world of plants and animals at Hill-Gustat Middle School are sharing a limited number of older microscopes and equipment for their scientific studies.

With about 15 microscopes for 660 students, science teacher Amy Bubb said, “obviously we are a little short.”

District wide, teachers are trying to teach students using hands-on experience, Science Curriculum Specialist Dorothea Strickland said.

“It’s hard to do that if you don’t have even the basics,” she added.

A lot of the science equipment is expensive, making it difficult to find adequate funding, especially these days, she said. Student microscopes cost $300 plus a piece.

Teachers are also requesting simple items that are in short supply, such as thermometers and scientific calculators.

New Scientists’ top 10 evolution stories

Monday, December 29th, 2008

New Scientist published a list of the magazine’s top 10 stories about evolution.

How trees changed the world
Reclaiming the peppered moth for science
Uncovering the evolution of the bacterial flagellum
Evolution: What missing link?
Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions
Rewriting Darwin: The new non-genetic inheritance
The Ordivician: Life’s second big bang
Vestigial organs: Remnants of evolution
Viruses: The unsung heroes of evolution
Freedom from selection lets genes get creative

How Do They Know That?

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

When scientific statements are made a common response is “How do they know that,how can they say that for certain”? For the most part this statement is not a honest inquiry,but is posed as a objection.

Skewed Science offers a look at how peoples attitude towards science can and is, warped by bias thinking and ideologies.This video raises many excellent points in its short 10 minutes.

Florida’s Greatest Menace II: Objectionable phraseology

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

(This is the second part in the Florida’s Greatest Menace series. For an introduction to the series, go here.)

The great battle of the age is now on between Christianity and evolution, or so said George Washburn. He was one of the many men who heard the call to pick up the antievolution fight where William Jennings Bryan had left off when he died. Drawing upon the wealth he had accumulated from dealing in real estate and hotels, Washburn helped establish the Bible Crusaders of America in 1925. God had chosen him for this task, he said, and he took on the job with gusto from his Clearwater headquarters. Part of his grand vision was to sweep evolution out of nation’s schools, but the first mission he set out on was to get evolution out of Florida textbooks.

The fight over textbooks is going to be a recurring motif throughout this history series. So, a little historical background is in order to put everything in context. There’s more to the roots of the evolution/creationism controversy than a simple black and white, God versus Darwin conflict. To really see what motivated people you have to first get a feel for the time and place in which they lived. (more…)

Science tidbits

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

— There is a new kid-friendly section of the St. Johns River Water Management District website that teaches about the Indian River Lagoon. It’s the most diverse estuary in North America, and characters Sabastian and Luie Snook want to tell kids all about thier habitat. Check it out here.

— Jeri Martin, a teacher at Sims Middle School in Santa Rosa County, is one of only seven teachers in the United States to win this year’s Educator Achievement Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation.

The award is presented every two years to educators who have demonstrated exemplary efforts in exciting students about mathematics, science and technical studies.

— A spacecraft that will be hunting for Earth-like planets in the vast universe is getting closer to its launch date. Kepler is being prepared for shipment to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for it March 5 launch. More about the shipment here. More about the spacecraft here. NASA’s Planet Quest website is here.

— Thank you president-elect Obama. Thank you.

“It’s time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology,” Obama said in announcing the selections in his weekly radio address.

The president-elect said promoting science means more than just providing money, but also is about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology.

Florida’s Greatest Menace I: Improper and Subversive

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

(This is the first part in the Florida’s Greatest Menace series. For an introduction to the series, go here.)

Our Florida story begins quite appropriately in the hands of one of the most prominent figures in the national evolution/creationism battle: William Jennings Bryan. The Scopes “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee featured the competing wits of Bryan, who was a well-known antievolutionist, and Clarence Darrow, who was the lawyer defending teacher John Scopes against the charge of violating the state law forbidding the teaching of evolution. Before the 1925 trial seized the nation’s attention, Bryan had retired to Florida with his wife, Mary. They had bought land in Coconut Grove in 1912 and had their home, called “Villa Serena”, built there. It was originally intended as just a winter home, but when Bryan resigned his post as U.S. Secretary of State in 1915, the Bryans made it their permanent home. Bryan officially made Florida his legal residence in 1921.

Bryan was a popular public figure in the area. He entertained U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries, and other famous people of the time at his own home. This Florida “retirement” was more like setting up a new headquarters for his still-energetic life. He frequently gave public lectures and Sunday Bible talks with hundreds and sometimes thousands of people in attendance. And he was in high demand by organizations hoping to take advantage of his high profile to push their own causes, with antievolution and prohibition chief among them. (more…)