Archive for October, 2010

Hard to be a loser?

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

It must be hard to work at the Discovery Institute. They’re constantly losing and so have a tendency to be quite whiny. Casey Luskin noticed the minor issue we had with the Life on an Ocean Planet textbook here in Florida. He didn’t take the news very well.

“They want pro-Darwin-only, and that’s all they’re going to allow. As soon as you step out of line, they have to basically rip those pages out of the textbook [and] go and burn those pages. They do not want students learning about anybody that raises scientific challenges to evolution.”

Basically rip and burn, eh? No, we just corrected grossly inaccurate information. That’s all. And I wouldn’t even say we’re “pro-Darwin,” either. Darwin got plenty of things wrong in his time. Rather, we’re pro-science.

Luskin also doesn’t like our state science standards that were adopted in 2008.

“Florida has some of the most dogmatic science standards in the United States that really hamstring teachers from mentioning any scientific discussion of some of the weaknesses in evolution.”

Fantasy weaknesses don’t belong in the science standards or the science classroom, Luskin. We’re proud of our new standards, including the extensive Nature of Science section:

SC.912.N.1.1: Define a problem based on a specific  body of knowledge, for example: biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space science, and do the following:

1. pose questions about the natural world,
2. conduct systematic observations,
3. examine books and other sources of information to see what is already known,
4. review what is known in light of empirical evidence,
5. plan investigations,
6. use tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data (this includes the use of measurement in metric and other systems, and also the generation and interpretation of graphical representations of data, including data tables and graphs),
7. pose answers, explanations, or descriptions of events,
8. generate explanations that explicate or describe natural phenomena (inferences),
9. use appropriate evidence and reasoning to justify these explanations to others,
10. communicate results of scientific investigations, and
11. evaluate the merits of the explanations produced by others.

Anything added to the standards specifically addressing the questioning of evolution is unnecessary and an obvious attempt to insert a specific set of religious views into the science classroom.  Quit your whining.

Promoting science to teens

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

I know how important science is. You know how important science is (I assume). I mean, this is Florida Citizens for Science after all. But when it comes filling all of those important science jobs of the future, it’s going to be up to those young whipper-snappers currently in school. Do they know how important science is? Rather than leave it to chance, STEMflorida is hosting a Multimedia Student Competition, which is open to students in grades 9 – 12. Who knows better what appeals to teens than the teens themselves? From the site:

The goal of the competition is to engage students in creating marketing campaign materials that will appeal to their peers for a statewide branding campaign. The campaign will increase awareness of the need to develop a STEM proficient workforce and career opportunities in Florida’s economy.

Students who enter the contest are invited to think creatively and design marketing materials with their peer group in mind.

Yes, I know some of you out there cringe at the STEM acronym, but there is no getting around it.

There isn’t much time left to enter. There was an Oct. 1 registration deadline, but that has now been waived. Any student who wants to submit his or her ideas needs to do so by Nov. 18.

There aren’t many students visiting Florida Citizens for Science on a regular basis, so it’s up to you old farts reading this right now to get the word to them.

Florida candidate for Congress tries to dodge evolution questions

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

An Orlando Sentinel article headlined Sandy Adams dismisses evolution in favor of ‘the Biblical teachings’ seems to me a bit overblown. Adams is running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas in Florida’s 24th District. The reporter latched onto Adams’ attempts to dodge a citizen’s question about the teaching of evolution:

During a campaign telephone town hall meeting last week, Adams appeared to discount the theory of evolution, outlined by Charles Darwin about 150 years ago.
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A caller, identified as Keith from Titusville, asked Adams if she believed in evolution. “I’m Christian. What else do you want to know?” she responded, sounding uncomfortable. When asked again, she replied, “I’m Christian. I believe in the biblical terms of how we came about.”

She reiterated that stance in a brief interview on Thursday before her cell phone dropped the call. “I don’t back away from my religion,” she said. “I believe in the biblical teachings.”

And the reporter also notes that Adams had supported the anti-science, anti-evolution bills that were nearly made state law back in 2008. Whereas it is good to know about Adams’ stance on this issue, I don’t think it deserved a whole story focused on it. It’s not like Adams herself was making an issue of it. She just answered a question and tried to quickly move on. I guess this particular race just isn’t all that exciting, and so the reporter had to write a story about something.

2nd Annual Carl Sagan Day

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

November 6, 2010, 2nd Annual Carl Sagan Day

An all-day celebration featuring guest speakers James “The Amazing” Randi, Dr. Dawn (Elliott) Martin, Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, Jeff Wagg, Nicole Gugliucci, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, and including teacher workshops, science displays, children’s activities, magic shows, planetarium programs, telescope workshops, star-gazing, food, prizes, and more!

11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Broward College Central Campus
3501 SW Davie Rd., Davie, FL  33314

Hosted by Broward College, CFI Ft. Lauderdale, FLASH and JREF. Email carlsaganday@aol.com or call 954-345-1181.

November 7, 2010, Carl Sagan Day 5-K Run

Join us as we help raise funds to purchase new science equipment for local schools.

Hosted by Broward College, CFI Ft. Lauderdale, FLASH and JREF. Email carlsaganday@aol.com or call 954-345-1181.

Change to math and science grad requirements?

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The Gradebook education blog notes that the Florida School Boards Association wants to change Florida math and science graduation requirements in favor of a “career ready curriculum.” What do you think, bad idea or good idea?

Debating the age of the earth

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Yes, your calendar still says 2010. But you are probably going to think you’re in a time warp, though, as you read this article in the Florida Baptist Witness: HOW OLD? Age of Earth debated among SBC scholars. Why do I care about what these folks think? Because these were the folks who were supporting and pushing anti-science, anti-evolution proposals to the Florida Board of Education and state legislature a few years ago (example one, example two, example three, example four). Keeping track of statements they make about how their stance on science is hopelessly entangled with their religious beliefs can be used against them in the future. Here’s an example:

To fall within the bounds of the Baptist Faith & Message, [Southwestern Seminary president Paige] Patterson said a professor needs to believe only that there was a time when nothing but God existed, that God created the entire universe as an expression of grace and that He created it for His own purposes and plans. He said any belief in theistic evolution is not within the bounds of Southern Baptists’ confession of faith.

“We’ve had now two symposiums at Southwestern bringing together early-earthers and late-earthers specifically to try to build some bridges between them regarding what I conceive to be the common enemy and being sure that they would talk to each other and not about each other,” Patterson said, adding, “The common enemy is naturalism.”

The article is based on arguments over what’s in a new book written by William Dembski, The End of Christianity. One very interesting item in the article talks about how Dembski wrote that he thought that Noah’s flood was just a local event rather than world wide. But then when he was confronted about it, he recanted:

“In a brief section on Genesis 4–11, I weigh in on the Flood, raising questions about its universality, without adequate study or reflection on my part,” Dembski wrote. “Before I write on this topic again, I have much exegetical, historical, and theological work to do. In any case, not only Genesis 6–9 but also Jesus in Matthew 24 and Peter in Second Peter seem clearly to teach that the Flood was universal. As a biblical inerrantist, I believe that what the Bible teaches is true and bow to the text, including its teaching about the Flood and its universality.”

Which then makes this later statement a real howler:

[Paige Patterson] noted that even Southern Baptists who disagree with Dembski on the age of the earth should appreciate his contribution toward defeating naturalism.

“This is the man who has gone all over the United States debating the evolutionists successfully to the point that it’s almost impossible to get one of them to have a public debate with him now,” he said of Dembski.

Check your calendar again. Yup, it’s still 2010.

Sound of Science

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Very cool song “The Sound of Science“. Some sample lyrics:

And on the internet i saw
A billion people, maybe more
People clinging to old delusions
People jumping to conclusions
People holding superstitions that are obviously quite absurd
Who’d never heard
A single word
Of science

If you have answers and you’re sure
They’re better than what came before
Make your hypothesis and test it
Take the results you’ve collected
Then you write them in a paper
And submit it for peer review
That’s what we do
To check it’s truly science

(h/t Kathy)

Inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

There are two events in Florida that are part of The Inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival; one is at the Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center in Ruskin:

Find out what it’s like to be a citizen scientist at the Citizen Science Symposium Satellite Fest from 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday, October 23, 2010 at Camp Bayou in Ruskin. Nature lovers of all ages explore the preserve to find butterflies, birds, aquatic invertebrates, frogs, and plants through hands-on activities, trail walks, displays and seminars.

And the other is an Astronomy and Space workshop for Elementary/middle school students hosted by the Jax Science Club in Jacksonville, Oct. 23.