Archive for August, 2014

Oh, by the way …

Monday, August 18th, 2014

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”

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

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

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

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

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

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

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

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

Folks got a bit stirred up!

Friday, August 1st, 2014

SMBC-Second-Law-of-ThermodynamicsToday I participated in a fun interview on radio station WUFT, which is in Gainesville. The program was Conner Calling and it was a full hour, by far the longest interview I’ve done so far. It also featured about 10 people calling in to ask questions and state opinions. That’s also another record for me. I’ve only faced two or three in previous interviews.

The show started with a nice overview of Going Ape and a discussion of some historical highlights from it, especially William Jennings Bryan’s influence in 1920s Florida. Unfortunately, there was a technical glitch a few minutes in. I could hear the host just fine but they couldn’t hear me. The producer tried calling me back a few times and every time I answered there was no connection. We eventually hooked back up and made it through the rest of the program without any issues. After a few more minutes of general conversation the listeners’ calls started pouring in.

I appreciated the thoughtful comments from folks about some religions having no problem with accepting evolution in general and about the acceptability of comparative religion classes in schools and about the presence of overtly creationist voucher-accepting private schools in Florida. I kept quiet after some comments because I sensed the host was trying to get as many callers on air as time allowed and I didn’t want to get in the way of that. But I did try to briefly express my agreement with many of these points later.

After a comment I made about creationism not being science and creationists not doing science, a gentlemen offered up the suggestion that creationists are doing science but are blocked from journal publication due to bias against them. I disagreed. If a scientist has viable results and that scientist keeps working at it, the science will eventually break through. After decades of creationist flim-flam, nothing scientific has emerged.

Another caller tried to nail me with the old fashioned creationist zinger of the 2nd law of thermodynamics making evolution impossible. I stumbled a bit in my reply. I wasn’t knowledgeable in that subject well enough to be able to boil it down to a few seconds on the radio. I’m familiar with the argument only in a general sense and I tried to express what I did know as best as I could. For anyone who’s interested, a much more thorough, if somewhat complicated, explanation is here. A Google search will also turn up plenty of material.

At one point I explained that I have some actual credentials: a relevant degree and state teacher certification. Later, I tried to head off some of the creationist challenges that were coming in by saying that I’m not an academic or a scientist but rather I’ve written a book about the history of the controversy. I hope the two statements didn’t come off as contradictory. The point I was aiming for was that I know what I’m talking about as it relates to Going Ape. My purpose is to educate the public about this important and fascinating history and how it flows seamlessly into the present. I didn’t want to derail that by debating with creationists.

I’ll let you know when the show is archived online. I’m eager to hear your feedback on how it went. One thing I wish I had said at the of the interview was that all of the passionate callers today illustrate just how much interest there is in the subject, which is a great reason to buy Going Ape! I also neglected to plug Florida Citizens for Science. I wanted to but just couldn’t find the right opportunity. Oh well. Maybe next time.

(Cartoon credit to Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.)