Archive for July, 2010

Creationism in Louisiana schools?

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Louisiana School Board might OK teaching creationism.” Yes, that is actually a real headline in today’s news.

Benton said that under provisions of the Science Education Act enacted last year by the Louisiana Legislature, schools can present what she termed “critical thinking and creationism” in science classes.

Board Member David Tate quickly responded: “We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?”

Fellow board member Clint Mitchell responded, “I agree … you don’t have to be afraid to point out some of the fallacies with the theory of evolution. Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.”

Did these fools not know about Edwards v. Aguillard?

And don’t think for a moment that Florida is safe from this stupidity. There are creationists already on plenty of school boards around here, and yet more running in the upcoming elections. Take part in your local elections to help prevent future Florida embarrassment. We’ve had more than our share.

[edited to add:] Jonathan reminded me to point out that Barbara Forrest at Louisiana Coalition for Science had many kind things to say about some of our science supporting state lawmakers. As bad as we thought we had it, at least not all of our elected officials are science illiterate.

This and that

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

— Two Florida events are signed on so far for the USA Science & Engineering Festival:

Citizen Science Symposium Satellite Fest
Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center
Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center
4202 24th St SE
Ruskin, Florida 33570

Jax Science Festival
Organized by:
Jax Popular Science Club

— “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait will have a cool-looking show coming out on the Discovery channel. Phil helped us out last year with our Stick Science cartoon contest. So, we can say we knew him back before he got all TV famous.

— Speaking of the Stick Science event, I am planning on launching this year’s event in just a couple of weeks. Sharpen your pencils and your wits!

— Wesley Elsberry found that the goofballs at Creation Ministries are offering Question Evolution shirts. Elsberry took action and is now offering his own shirt design to counter theirs. Love it!

Opening Salvo from the Discovery Institute

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Why should we not be surprised to see the (first of many) criticisms of the new National Science Standards? Number one to jump on the band wagon, our old friend Casey Luskin at the Discovery Institute who calls the inclusion of evolution, “dogmatic and inaccurate“. He also throws out the old “critical thinking” canard. Quoting Jonathan Osbourne, Luskin suggests students should learn about evidence that does not support any scientific theory, including evolution. I agree. Now let’s see Luskin produce that non-supporting evidence which disproves evolution.

Hat tip to Paul Cottle   

New national science standards in the works

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Following in the footsteps of the states-led common core standards effort in math and English (but not directly associated with that effort), the National Research Council just released a “conceptual framework” document for a future draft of the next generation science standards. In other words, the National Research Council is in the process of creating a new set of science standards that states can adopt or use in the creation/updating of each state’s own standards. The organization now wants public input on what has been produced so far. This draft framework generally outlines “the major scientific ideas and practices that all students should be familiar with by the end of high school.”

It’s good to see that evolution plays a prominent role in the life sciences. I wonder how the National Research Council will handle the flood of protest, though. “When the committee’s final report is publicly released, currently planned to be in the first quarter of 2011, it will include a description of this public comment process and summarize the committee’s responses.” Will complaints about evolution be addressed or just dismissed?

Yet another survey

Monday, July 12th, 2010

A survey was published earlier this year detailing Americans’ attitudes toward science in conjunction with their religious beliefs (download pdf here). The section on evolution is devoid of any real surprises. Jerry Coyne summarizes the results nicely, so I’ll just do a brief recap from the survey:

A majority of the public has heard about the theory of evolution but most report beliefs about life’s origins that diverge sharply from it. A plurality of Americans report beliefs about the origins of life that are consistent with a “creation” perspective; 43% of the nation believes that God directly created life in its present form. Another 24% say life developed over time with guidance from God during the process; this view is compatible with an “intelligent design” or a “theistic evolution” view of life’s origins. A minority of 18% hold beliefs consistent with the theory of evolution saying that life developed over time without guidance from God.

In all, 42 percent of Americans say evolution conflicts with their religious beliefs; about the same portion (43 percent) say the theory of evolution is mostly compatible with their own religious beliefs. A majority (53 percent) considers the evidence on evolution to be widely accepted within the scientific community; 31 percent think many scientists have serious doubts about this.

Another section of the survey discusses findings about “Science in Everyday Life”. This is an interesting contrast to the evolution results:

Fully 84% say it is important for citizens to understand the facts and principles behind new developments in science while 14% think this is not really that important.

Further, about three‐quarters (74%) of Americans wish they had learned more about science in school. Those wanting more science schooling mention biology more than any other science field as something they want to know more about (26% of responses); another 10% of responses mention health and medicine. Physics (10% of responses) and chemistry (9% of responses) are also commonly mentioned.

I agree; I wish the majority of the American public knew more about biology, too.

Be Aware

Friday, July 9th, 2010

As a diversified organization the Florida Citizens for Science must remain neutral on political issues,however.  Currently there are many elections taking place through out the state for County School Board Representatives. It would be wise for us to follow those candidates and keep abreast of their positions on science education. Here is one example from the race in Polk County. Terry Pittman(who is running for district 6) was interviewed in the Lakeland Ledger today and dropped this gem.””The teaching of creationism has as much of a place as evolution, when it comes to policy-making decisions, everyone should be taken into consideration.” You need to be aware of who you are voting for and how their policies could effect science education in your district.