Letter to Missouri’s ‘Christian’ parents

Letter to Missouri's 'Christian' parents
This letter is what I would write to Missouri parents who would want me as a science teacher to excuse their children from a teaching unit on evolution. For details about what that’s all about, read this article at Talking Points Memo. This is only a bill now in the Missouri legislature. For the purposes of this letter, I am assuming it’s become law. Dear parents, I understand that you would prefer your child not be required to attend class during our upcoming unit on evolution. Per the new law recently passed in the Missouri legislature, I am required to excuse your child from class. Please find enclosed the excuse slip with my signature. Your child will need to show this slip to the hall monitors during our science class period. Otherwise, his or her absence from class will be recorded as a cut, and after-school detention will be assigned. Please remind your child to carry the slip at all times. Now, I need to discuss other matters. Please pay close attention to the following remarks, as they have some bearing on your child’s success in this course. As you may be aware, evolution is one of the key foundations ...

Website lets you look deep, deep into your family tree

Website lets you look deep, deep into your family tree
JISHOU, HUNAN — If you feel as if your dog or cat is a member of the family, you’re right. You and your pet are very distant cousins. Very, very distant cousins. The Timetree of Life allows you to find out how long ago any two organisms had a common ancestor, also known as the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA). You and your dog, Fido, have a common ancestor, a mammal that lived about 95 million years ago in the Cretaceous period. Fido and his feline pal, Fluffy, have an MRCA, a carnivore that was alive 55 million years ago. Humans’ closest cousin in the animal kingdom is the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Our MRCA lived about 6.3 million years ago. Its descendants also included other members, now extinct, of the genus Homo and the genus Australopithecus. When he first proposed the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin surmised that every organism on Earth was descended from a common ancestor. Time, isolation and environmental pressures led different populations to diverge into new species. Until the development of genetic analysis, biologists relied on anatomical and behavioral similarities, as well as the fossil record, to judge how closely related two organisms are. Genetic research ...

Evolution and Bill Nye 1 – Creationism and Ken Ham 0 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Bill Nye, the Science Guy, debated Ken Ham, the Bible Guy, Tuesday, as I am sure you’ve heard. Nye defended the theory of evolution; Ham, the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) perspective. I haven’t watched the whole thing, and I haven’t found a transcript of their remarks yet, but it seems Nye had the edge, as he should, since evolution is real and the 6-day Creation wasn’t. Whether the debate made any fence-sitters change their minds remains to be seen. Ken Ham is a leading champion of a literal interpretation of the Biblical account of Genesis. Ham insists the Earth is no more than 6,000 years old, and that God created the animals and plants in their present forms we see today. As for the dinosaurs, they perished when God sent the Flood. His Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., attempts to debunk more than 200 years of solid scientific evidence that demonstrates the Earth is more like 4.6 billion years old, that present-day plants and animals are the results of billions of years of evolution, and that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, long before any human-like animal walked the Earth. Among the world’s scientists — ...

Aye, I be from Devon*

JISHOU, HUNAN — After years of wondering, I now know where all of my family originated in Europe. The last piece, the Wheaton line, fell into place just as I was going to bed last night. Based on DNA results, my branch of the Wheatons apparently hails from Brixham, Devon, England, a picturesque seaport town that is home to a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, The Golden Hind. Drake, who circumnavigated the globe, was from Tavistock, Devon. For the record, the other ancestral homelands in my family are in Sweden: Jämtland in the north, Östergötland, in the south and Gotland, an island in the Baltic. Those locations I was able to establish years ago by the time honored method of plowing through archives in the provincial capitals, after searching through family records and jogging my uncles’ memories. But tracing the origins of the Wheatons had proved to be an insurmountable problem, because the paper trail runs out around 1740. It was a complete mystery, that is, until I got an email last night from the coordinator of a DNA surname project, who told me my DNA results match those of a gentleman in England. He can trace his ancestors ...

Bachmann wants schools to teach religion in science class

JISHOU, HUNAN — CNN reports the not-very-surprising news that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) favors teaching Intelligent Design (religion made science-y) in schools, right alongside evolution (actual science). It’s not surprising, because Bachmann (and most of the other candidates for the GOP presidential nomination), are stubbornly in the Science (and History) Ignoramus class. Global warming? Liberal nonsense! Evolution? Atheist nonsense! Separation of Church and State? It was never there! Intelligent Design is religious belief, Creationism with a different label, and the federal courts — most recently in 2005 — have ruled it cannot be taught in public schools, especially in science class. Period. Yet, Bachmann and others stubbornly insist ID must be taught in public schools. Don’t they read the newspapers? Here’s what she told CNN. “I support intelligent design,” Bachmann told reporters in New Orleans following her speech to the Republican Leadership Conference. “What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don’t think it’s a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides.” WRONG!! There is no “reasonable doubt” about evolution, at least among sensible people and ...

Get Ben Stein’s movie

JISHOU, HUNAN — Want to buy a propaganda film really cheap? Now’s your chance. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is now available to the highest bidder. Expelled was the 2008 embarrassment that tried to prove once and for all there was a vast conspiracy to teach evolution while suppressing Intelligent Design and other “explanations” of life on Earth, and putting Hitler in power. Or something like that. The New York Times called it “one of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time.” Narrated and hosted by the riveting Ben Stein, it tanked at the box office, so badly it seems, that its production company, Premise Media, is in bankruptcy court. According to a document (PDF) filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, on May 31, 2011, the trustee of the bankruptcy estate is seeking to auction “[t]hat certain feature-length motion picture (‘Picture’) ‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ and all collateral, allied, ancillary, subsidiary and merchandising rights therein and thereto, and all properties and things of value pertaining thereto.” The auction is scheduled to take place on-line from June 23 to June 28, 2011. As awful as the movie was, I reckon ...

The Christine O’Donnell Comedy Hour 3

[UPDATE: More late breaking unintentional humor from the O'Donnell hour: her dad was once a part-time Bozo the Clown in Philly. I am thinking of apples falling from trees here. ] JISHOU, HUNAN — My favorite bloggers have been having a field day with the Republican Senatorial candidate from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell. The woman is a veritable treasure trove of nonsense. There are two of her gems I can’t help but ridicule. China has a secret plan to take over the USA. And she knows all about it, because an unnamed non-profit organization gave O’Donnell the complete low down. Apparently, missionaries working with this mysterious group uncovered this top-secret plot. In the linked AP article, O’Donnell says this: “A country that forces women to have abortions and mandates that you can only have one child and will not allow you the freedom to read the Bible, you think they can be our friend?” she asked. “We have to look at our history and realize that if they pretend to be our friend it’s because they’ve got something up their sleeve.” Wrong, wrong and wrong. China does not force women to have abortions. But abortions are easier to get here than ...

Forget subterfuge, how about creationist chutzpah? 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — A Christian group plans to hand out 1,000 copies of “The Charles Darwin Bible” to teachers attending the National Education Association (NEA) convention in San Diego this week. The Charles Darwin Bible is a copy of the New Testament, with annotations referring to Christian and creationist beliefs. It’s the latest attempt by creationists to wiggle their religious non-science into the public schools. There is also a creationist edition of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species available. Since the original text of 150 years ago is not copyrighted, evangelist Ray Comfort slapped a 50-page “special introduction” onto the work and is selling it for a mere 99 cents. Comfort’s plan is for fellow believers to hand the bastardized copies of Origin of Species to their teacher and professor friends. The Charles Darwin Bible is another brainchild of Comfort’s. It’s being distributed by Holman Bible Outreach, which is selling the curiously named book for $3.99 (or $1.75 by the case). Someone ponied up the money to hand a thousand of them out to NEA members. The NEA is one of two professional organizations that represent public school teachers. Its annual convention began June 26 and runs through Friday. Here’s a ...

And speaking of thought control … how about creationist subterfuge? 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — It takes a certain amount of nerve, and intellectual dishonesty, to appropriate the text of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, write a creationist “special introduction” to it, then reissue the mangled tome as a legitimate copy of Darwin’s work. The creationist outfit, Bridge Logos Foundation, of Alachua, Florida, has published an abridged 150th anniversary edition of Origin of Species, complete with a 50-page introduction calling into question practically every conclusion Darwin makes in the rest of the book. Living Waters Publications, is peddling the book as a way to undermine the teaching of evolution in schools and universities. Both organizations are masterminded by Ray Comfort, a noted anti-evolution, fundamentalist writer. Here is the squib describing the book: This special 280-page edition not only contains an abridged Origin of Species but also has a 50-page Introduction that reveals the dangerous fruit of evolution, Hitler’s undeniable connections to the theory, Darwin’s racism, and his disdain for women. It counters the claim that creationists are “anti-science” by citing numerous scientists who believed that God created the universe—scientists such as Einstein, Newton, Copernicus, Bacon, Faraday, Pasteur, and Kepler. It has many original graphics and (as it says on the back cover) ...

Proselytizing teachers need to stuff it

JISHOU, HUNAN — Public school teachers — in fact most teachers — should just shut up about their religious preferences. Proselytizing is an abuse of their “bully pulpit.” The Panda’s Thumb has two articles this week demonstrating the misuse of teacherly authority. One is an update on the ever-continuing John Freshwater saga; the other a report on one teacher’s attempt to haul students to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Freshwater is a seventh-grade science teacher in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, who has paraded his particular brand of Christianity — and anti-evolution propaganda — in front of his students for several years. His superiors looked the other way until Freshwater used a Tesla coil to burn a cross shape on the arm of a student. The student and his parents cried foul, and the parties involved are now in a legal thicket. Freshwater has been the subject of hours of administrative hearings regarding his continued employment. The boy and his family have filed a civil liberties suit against Freshwater and the school system. Freshwater himself has filed his own civil liberties suit against his employers, and another civil suit against the family, alleging they have slandered him. During the administrative hearings, witnesses ...

Deep in the heart of Texas …

JISHOU, HUNAN — Texas is a big state, with about 6 million schoolchildren. When the Texas State Board of Education speaks, textbook publishers listen. After all, if the publishers can sell their texts to Texas, it’s a big deal. It means money. So, when the Texas BOE met in March to discuss controversial changes to the state’s proposed science standards, science educators all over the USA were worried. Would the BOE, chaired by an unapologetic creationist, introduce language into the standards to allow the teaching of creationism and and its clone, Intelligent Design, in the Texas schools? To do so would be seriously damage science education in the Texas public schools. It would also likely influence textbook publishers’ treatment of evolution in biology texts, thereby affecting schools all over the USA. The Texas BOE is nearly evenly composed of creationists and more sensible members, so the results were by no means predictable. In the end, the original changes, as proposed by the openly anti-evolution chairman and board members, were rejected. Instead, the BOE passed more coyly worded standards that still could be used to introduce pseudo-science and religion into Texas classrooms, but did not exactly trample science teaching. Whether the ...

Iowa ‘academic freedom’ bill dies a quiet death 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Yet another attempt to weasel creationism/Intelligent Design into public schools has died after an “academic freedom” bill failed to leave a subcommittee in the Iowa legislature yesterday. The bill purportedly would have protected instructors from punishment or job loss if they presented “scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.” In fact, it was a ploy to enable suitably minded instructors to teach creationism or ID alongside evolutionary theory. Wording that is almost identical appears on a web page sponsored by the Discovery Institute, a pro-ID “thinktank.” Full details are at The Panda’s Thumb. Lest you think the bill might have had merit, allow me to provide a brief introduction to “creation science.” ID is just a variation of creationism, accepting an older age of the universe. Creationism holds that: The account in Genesis is literal and true. God created everything in six days, about 6,000 years ago. Before Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all animals were vegetarians, death was non-existent, and predation/parasitism were unnecessary. God got pissed at Adam and Eve, and that wily serpent in the Tree, and cursed ...

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