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 ...

Ohio science/religion teacher Freshwater loses yet again

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, here’s the short version. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled, 4-3, last week that the Mount Vernon School District was well within its rights to fire teacher John Freshwater for insubordination, given that he repeatedly ignored orders to remove religious material from his classroom and from his teaching. The court’s ruling, however, sidestepped the thornier underlying question of how much discussion of creationism and Intelligent Design may be permissible in a science classroom. That question in fact was a large part of Freshwater’s appeal of a lower court’s decision. And the court’s failure to address the issue drew sharp words from the three dissenting judges. Writing for the dissent, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer writes: {¶ 105} What next? With the insubordination claim gutted, the lead opinion should have moved on to consider the constitutional issues remaining in the case. Instead, the majority walks away from the opportunity to provide helpful guidance to every school board in Ohio and to the thousands of great teachers who could benefit from knowing more about the extent of and limits on their academic freedom. Justice O’Donnell’s well-reasoned dissent addresses the issue, but goes unrebutted. In short, the majority shrinks from the ...

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 ...

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 ...

While I am bashing creationists and IDiots …

JISHOU, HUNAN — Someone has made a list of “50 Reasons I Reject Evolution.” If you are offended by four-letter words, don’t go there. And yeah, it’s not written by a creationist or a believer in Intelligent Design. They never use four-letter words. Really. Just ask them.

Finally, a science-related post — Iowa’s anti-evolution bill 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Since a member of my immediate family will soon be moving to Iowa, I have the perfect excuse to blog about a proposal in that fine state to ensure “academic freedom.” On the face of it, “academic freedom” would sound like a good thing, but in today’s world of newspeak, this kind of “academic freedom” is shorthand for “let’s allow the public schools to teach creationism or Intelligent Design ideas alongside the scientific theories of the Big Bang and evolution.” Similar bills have been proposed in several other — mostly Bible Belt — states, and all have the same chance of success. None — except of course in Louisiana, where one actually passed. These bills are merely a veiled attempt by Christian kooks to subvert the US Constitution (and proper science education) by suggesting that creationism and ID are really scientific theories, not religious ideas, and therefore should be taught as valid alternatives to evolution. Trouble is, the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that creationism was religious in nature, and cannot be taught in public schools, and in 2005, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that ID was also religious in nature, meaning the Dover, Pennsylvania, school ...

Remember Expelled? Roger Ebert doesn’t like it, either.

Like a lot of other science bloggers, I spent a lot of time dissecting the anti-evolution movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, after its release last spring. Since I did not want to contribute any money to the people who made that anti-intellectual POS, I only critiqued the freely available background information. And I am proud to say I still haven’t seen the movie. I figured I’d wait until either it was dirt cheap in the DVD remainder bin, at the Goodwill, or available in the torrent channels. Famed film critic Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, must have had the same idea. He waited until now to publish a review of Expelled in his blog. Briefly speaking, he doesn’t like it, not one bit. Two thumbs down. I don’t think he much cares for Ben Stein, the narrator and promoter of the film, either. He concludes his scathing analysis of the film, its promoters and Stein’s opportunism thusly: Ben Stein is only getting warmed up. He takes a field trip to visit one “result” of Darwinism: Nazi concentration camps. “As a Jew,” he says, “I wanted to see for myself.” We see footage of gaunt, skeletal prisoners. Pathetic children. A ...

The Devil in Dover: Righteousness defined 1

On the recommendations of other science bloggers, I ordered the book, The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, by Lauri Lebo. It arrived Tuesday, and wantonly setting aside more pressing tasks, I put some jazz on and starting reading the book. Since I already had some familiarity with the court case it narrates, the 224 pages went by quickly, and I finished it in an afternoon. [Yes, I do read fast. It's how I survived four years at Princeton.] For a readable account of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case of 2005, I can recommend none better. Only the PBS Nova episode on the same case matches it for clarity and, yes, drama. Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., was a watershed lawsuit involving the teaching of intelligent design in the ninth grade biology classes of the Dover, Penn., Area School District. A conservative, religiously biased school board sought to weaken the teaching of evolution in the schools by requiring teachers (all of whom refused, as it turned out) to read a four-paragraph cautionary statement about the theory of evolution, specifically mentioning Intelligent Design as another explanation for the ...

How a creationist textbook became an Intelligent Design textbook

It’s easy. Take out any words suggesting a Divine Creator and replace them with words “intelligent agency” or “intelligent designer.” Then insist the new version is in a fact a science textbook that should be used in schools. Too bad the ID crowd’s feeble attempt at subterfuge failed. Some fine detective work at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) revealed the genealogy of the new ID text, Of Pandas and People, as the center prepared briefs for the 2005 Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District legal case. This YouTube video explains it all.

Parsing the Expelled Leader’s Guide, part 7

After summarising the last section, Why Does It Matter?, the Guide finishes its informational portion with a two-column comparison of evolution and intelligent design. Guide: Under the heading, “What Is Evolution?”, the Guide offers three variants of the meaning of the word, “evolution.” 1. Evolution is “change over time,” meaning that present-day life forms are different from earlier ones, or that minor changes within species can occur over a short time. 2. Evolution is associated with the theory of common descent, meaning that all organisms existing today have a single common ancestor. 3. Evolution is the “unguided process of DNA randomly mutating with ‘natural selection,’ blindly acting on those changes to gradually produce the variety of all life.” The Guide then cautions its readers that this multiplicity of definitions can confuse discussions when someone takes evidence for Evolution #1 and tries to make it look like it supports Evolution #2 or Evolution #3. Conversely, someone may discuss issues with Evolution #2 or Evolution #3 but is then falsely accused of also rejecting definition of Evolution #1. This is simply not the case, for most scientists who dissent from Darwinism accept Evolution #1. Comments: This bit of sophistry obfuscates the real ...

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