Archive for August, 2015

Science is science, hopefully

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Tampa Bay’s Creative Loafing blog Political Animal has a post up entitled School of thought: Florida schools are ripe for potential church-state violations. Of interest to us is this observation:

Science is science. You’d think there wouldn’t be any argument over whether something that’s not based on empirical evidence should be taught in science classes. But creationism still creeps into some classrooms. Obviously if a teacher is discussing religious tenets in the context of a humanities class, that’s one thing. But anyone who thinks Satan put dinosaur bones underground to trick us into thinking the universe’s age exceeds 6,000 years should probably not be teaching science. Or anything at a public school.

“If you’ve got a teacher telling you that creationism is the way and that you need to pray, we will come in there and we will fix that,” Seidel said. “If we can’t fix it, we will sue that school.”

Unintelligent Design

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Lynn University in Boca Raton has a series of courses called Dialogues of Learning that tackle the main topic of Belief and Reason. One of the courses offered in the Dialogues series is Unintelligent Design. The course description says:

Ever since its original publication, the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection has been attacked by certain segments of society, largely on religious grounds. The most recent version of these attacks has been the invention of what is claimed by its proponents as an “alternative theory” called Intelligent Design. In this course we will study the scientific theory of Evolution, including how it has been expanded in the 150 years since Darwin first proposed it, and then compare it with the pseudoscientific idea of Intelligent Design. We will evaluate Intelligent Design in terms of its fitness as a scientific theory, and also analyze its arguments against naturalistic evolution. The goal of the course is to have students learn about a significant scientific theory, the difference between science and pseudoscience, and learn how to critically evaluate both scientific and non-scientific claims.

The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin isn’t happy about it. Essentially, he doesn’t think intelligent design should be referred to as pseudoscience. Poor guy.

Sidestepping an important question about school vouchers

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

science experimentThe Palm Beach Post published a Q & A session with representatives of Step Up for Students about Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program: Accountability next debate for private vouchers

I want to emphasize that Florida Citizens for Science as an organization doesn’t get directly involved in the voucher debate. Some people think vouchers are good and some people think vouchers are bad, but that’s not a debate we are going to get into. It’s not really in our mission.

But when it comes to science education in voucher accepting schools, we do take a stand. There needs to be some form of accountability, especially in the religion-based schools that teach some form of creationism. Quite a while ago I posted about at least “163 voucher accepting public schools in Florida that use creationist materials or boldly state that they teach anti-science.”

In the Post Q & A I’m happy to see science addressed. First, it’s clear that there is no accountability in the voucher accepting schools when it comes to science:

POST: Are these kids getting standardized tests on things other than reading and math?

EAST: They are not. They are getting history and science, yes. But not being tested.

I’m happy to see the question of creationism is posed:

POST: Are they being taught evolution versus creationism at the religious schools? Is that being asked by SUFS? Are there standards based on their curriculum?

But a big journalistic mistake is to ask a list of questions at once instead of just one at a time. That lets the interview subject pick which question to answer. Notice that Jon East doesn’t bother answering the creationism question. He just answers the last question about standards.

EAST: There are not. The teachers do not have to be certified. The schools do not have to be accredited.

The next question allows East to steer right into the same old unsatisfactory answer that’s been given over and over again for the past several years.

POST: Is that a gap or hole in the program that needs to be filled? What about accountability?

EAST: Accountability isn’t just regulation. Accountability also comes with choice. When a parent can decide whether or not he or she wants to leave a school because their kid may or may not be learning, there’s accountability there too.

Supposedly, parents will hold a school accountable by switching if the school isn’t meeting the parents’ expectations. What is never addressed is what to do when parents actually want bad education? Should something be done in the case of parents wanting their children to learn horribly wrong science? If state money in the form of vouchers or Scholarship Programs is going to anti-science instruction, shouldn’t the state and/or taxpayers stomp on the brakes?

We think so.