Recently in Assault on Science Category

Creationism reappears in Texas

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Of course, it never really disappeared, as Michael Zimmerman notes in an article in the Huffington Post this past week.

I will not go into detail, but according to Professor Zimmerman, a committee of the Texas State Board of Education had voted 6-2 to remove four standards that had been added in 2009, more or less at the last minute. Suffice it to say that the standards had been supported by Don McLeroy when he was chairman of the SBOE, and the two dissenting votes were by the creationists who, Professor Zimmerman says, were “added” to the current committee.

Now, things get nasty. The committee is not scheduled to present its recommendations to the full Board until November. Nevertheless, Ray Bohlin, one of the two dissenting committee members and vice-president of something known as Probe Ministries, attacked the committee’s recommendation at a recent Board meeting. No one else from the committee had attended the Board meeting, so the Board received an unscheduled and “one-sided perspective on the four anti-science, politically driven standards.”

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, wrote to the SBOE (as quoted by Professor Zimmerman), complaining that “a number of state board members seemed willing to call into question [the committee’s] objectivity and professionalism based on hearsay from one individual.… Some board members even suggested that the panelists somehow want to prevent students from asking questions.”

It is distressing, then, that Mr. Bohlin in effect went over the head of the committee and directly to the board, and, perhaps more importantly, that some of the Board were sympathetic to his position. Though Don McLeroy lost his position as chairman of the SBOE, I am afraid Texas and we are by no means done with creationist attacks on the schools.

By Gaythia Weis.

An uproar fanned by the right-wing media has left a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor and two instructors with quite a tightrope walk. The uproar involves an online humanities and environmental health class at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, entitled “Medical Humanities in the Digital Age.” The three faculty members (and others) may have to walk softly when teaching courses that may be a subject of public controversy. In my opinion, statements calling for “balance” (below) by a UC Board of Regents member and UC President Bruce Benson have potentially negative ramifications for academic freedom and the teaching of politically controversial material in a science-appropriate manner.

The controversy here originated with an e-mail sent by the professors indicating that the course would be based on science and would not be a forum for discussing other ideas, as reported by a Colorado Springs TV station:

The point of departure for this course is based on the scientific premise that human-induced climate change is valid and occurring. We will not, at any time, debate the science of climate change, nor will the “other side” of the climate change debate be taught or discussed in this course. This includes discussion among students in the discussion forums. Opening up a debate that 98 percent of climate scientists unequivocally agree to be a non-debate would detract from the central concerns of environment and health addressed in this course. [Excerpt from email.]

It seems from this link that the professors’ response was a specific response to students worried about their grades in the class. (Note that the College Fix advertises itself as offering “right-minded news and commentary from across the nation.”)

This source is not one I’d usually quote, but it does indicate the involvement of one of the conservative UC Board of Regents members in the controversy:

John Carson, a member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, said he plans to make inquires Thursday about an email from three University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professors who advised students to drop the class if they dispute climate change.

“I have a lot of questions after reading this reported email sent to students,” Mr. Carson told The Washington Times. “We should be encouraging debate and dialogue at the university, not discouraging or forbidding it. Students deserve more respect than this. They come to the university to be educated, not indoctrinated.”

After Googling the professors involved, I see that they are now apparently under attack:

Thus, I offer you their emails along with a request that you politely send them links to information disputing the obvious hoax of man-made climate change:

Then again, you’re probably just pissing into the wind, as these three professors have already declared themselves to be cognitive idiots who are incapable of neuroplasticity (i.e.[,] learning anything new or expanding their knowledge in any way whatsoever). One of them also has a PhD! (I didn’t realize they were handing out PhDs for f–ktardery studies… hmmm…)

Moving forward in time, here is an article dated 9/8 that gives some data on an e-mail apparently sent by UC President Bruce Benson to UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak. It would be interesting to read the entirety of this e-mail to see more about the context of “a little more balance”:

University of Colorado President Bruce Benson also wanted more “balance” from the professors. In an email The Colorado Independent obtained last week, Benson wrote to the regents about the email controversy. “I talked with Pam [Shockley-Zalabak, Chancellor of UCCS] about a variety of issues on her campus, including the faculty syllabus that has caused a stir recently,” he said. “I am not happy about it[,] and I shared that with Pam. While the issue falls squarely in the realm of academic freedom, it also seems that a little more balance would have helped.”

The Chancellor’s apology seems to me to have been carefully phrased and limited:

I am issuing an apology for the public concern that this has generated.

I can understand why Benson’s apparent e-mail to the Chancellor may have led her to feel the need to apologize. And, moving down the chain of command, she has now apparently told the professors teaching the course that their e-mail was “ill advised.” I frankly do not agree that it was ill advised. Progress in science education coursework cannot be made if time must be continually taken out to rehash basic underlying principles at the instigation of active denialists. Thus, it also seems to me that future directions have at least the potential to stray from remaining “squarely in the realm of academic freedom” and wandering off into denialism and politics. The Chancellor should have stood up for her faculty.

Curious article Is scientific research flawed? on the AIG website. The author, Callie Joubert, is identified only by name and has no bio. The article correctly enumerates some of the problems with science, particularly medicine, and blames conflict of interest, competition, and so on – the usual suspects.

The author also notes two papers in physics, the Bicep2 experiment in Antarctica and the “superluminal neutrinos at the Swiss-Italian border.” Both papers apparently had drawn erroneous conclusions and were retracted. The author fails to note the significance of the fact that the papers were retracted – that when science makes a mistake it admits that mistake and tries to correct itself.

Nevertheless, the article is not half bad until it gets to this point:

There is another “background assumption that almost all practitioners in the biomedical sciences agree upon and that is naturalism.” Naturalism is problematic because human problems are often reconceptualized and subsequently described in terms that are consistent with the evolution story but otherwise in conflict with alternative perspectives.

And:

[Scientists] refuse to accept that the scientific method is only one source of truth among others. What need serious reevaluation are the naturalistic materialist and the biological reductionist worldview that dominates the academia; it is a wholly misguided conceptual framework for the articulation and explanation of human origins, personal and interpersonal problems, and how it [sic] may be rectified.

I want to make two brief points: This article outlines some serious problems with Big Science and makes a great deal more sense than any of the material I have read on AIG to date. It fails to stress that the problems have been discovered by the scientists themselves, and the scientists are trying to correct the problems. Unfortunately, the article is to some extent an ad hominem attack, in that the problems of Big Science, while very real, have absolutely nothing to do with science’s adherence to naturalism, which I take to be the main point.

The author is in good company, but I also object to his or her use of reductionism as an epithet; reductionism is what scientists do when they discover that gas laws can be reduced to molecular physics, molecular physics can be reduced to atomic physics, atomic physics can be reduced to nuclear physics, and so on. Reductionism is not a dirty word, or at least it ought not to be.

Finally, I will be more impressed by articles like this one when I see creationists finding problems with their own thinking and working to correct them. Or even correct problems that others point out.

… and Ark Park responds predictably.

More specifically, the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a “warning” to more than 1000 school districts in Kentucky and neighboring states, advising them against field trips to the Ark Park. The Ark Park, says FFRF, is a Christian ministry (as opposed to an educational museum), and they quote Ken Ham as having penned a letter, “Our Real Motive for Building Ark Encounter,” in which he writes:

Our motive is to do the King’s business until He comes. And that means preaching the gospel and defending the faith so that we can reach as many souls as we can.

FFRF says,

Taking public school students to a site whose self-professed goal is to convert children to a particular religion and undermine what is taught in public school science and history classrooms would be inappropriate.

And they add that courts have summarily rejected arguments that making the field trip “voluntary” makes it constitutional.

Ark Park today responded predictably, if a bit hysterically:

The atheists are on the rampage again, and this time their target is our just-opened Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky.

Their lawyers crafted a response, which is largely pabulum, but the gist of which is

If classes are coming to the museum or Ark in an objective fashion, however, to show students world-class exhibits and one group’s interpretation of the origin of man [sic] and earth history, then the field trip is just fine as an exceptional and voluntary educational and cultural experience.

I suppose that would be true if that group’s “interpretation of the origin of man and earth history” were not a purely religious interpretation. The author of the article, Mark Looy, goes on to say that the atheists “can’t handle the truth” and accuses them of being “secularists,” which I suppose is true, and of being specifically anti–[fundamentalist] Christian, which I rather doubt. Mr. Looy repeats the pretense that the Ark Park is an educational museum:

Such antireligious zealotry causes secularists to grossly twist the First Amendment and then scare educators with a misinterpretation of the First Amendment. To repeat: as long as a school trip fits an educational, recreational, or historical purpose, for example, it would be constitutionally appropriate.

The secularist religion of humanism and naturalism is being taught in the public education system without challenge in most schools. This false teaching is deceiving many young people. Students are being taught that there is no God and that they are merely the products of random processes. [Italics added]

The FFRF letter provides chapter and verse, if you will pardon the expression, to explain why “it is unacceptable to expose a captive audience of impressionable students to the overtly religious atmosphere of Ham’s Christian theme parks” and concludes that

Ham is free to erect monuments to his bible, but public schools are not permitted to expose the children in their charge to religious myths and proselytizing.

Geology for evangelicals

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In honor of the opening of Ken Ham’s nefarious Ark “replica” today – you know, the one made out of gopher steel and wood – I decided to post this piece about a book written by evangelical scientists who know better than to treat the book of Genesis as history or science, for evangelical laypersons who either know better than to treat the book of Genesis as history or science, or can be taught to know better.

Grand_Canyon_Cover.jpg

The book is called The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth, and it is an anthology written by competent people and directed at evangelical Christians. Indeed, the subtitle is, “Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?” The book, which I have not seen, appears to be lavishly illustrated, with 255 photographs and 104 diagrams and sketches, according to Church & State magazine. It is being sold in all 8 bookstores in the Grand Canyon National Park.

I am getting virtually all my information from an article in the latest issue of Church & State magazine. They note that the book has 11 co-authors, 8 of whom are evangelical Christians, and 3 are agnostics. The authors’ specialties include geology, biology, and paleontology. Church & State quotes Steven Newton of the National Center for Science Education to the effect that the book “does a great job of explaining the science of Grand Canyon’s spectacular geology, as well as helping readers understand how the creationist misuse of Grand Canyon finds no support from science.”

Importantly, the publisher of the book is an evangelical firm, Kregel Publications, which, according to co-author Tim Helble, “was a good match for us because they have … published other books dealing with origins issues and would be able to sell the book in venues where evangelicals can be reached.” The last seems very important to me.

The bulk of the Church & State article is an interview with Mr. Helble, a retired hydrologist with the National Weather Service. Mr. Helble states explicitly that the “11 authors wanted to help counter the misleading information being disseminated by the young-Earth creationist (YEC) ministries.” He recognized the problem in 1994 when he found a book, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, edited by PhD geologist Steve Austin, and apparently chock full of errors. Here are a few snippets from the interview:

Three things we agreed to before we started writing were (1) our target audience is people who are uncertain about the age of the Earth, (2) a Christian reader shouldn’t feel like he/she is being ridiculed and (3) a college science degree shouldn’t be needed to understand it. …

Of course the Bible has tremendous value – I just think the young Earthers over-globalize the flood account, fail to see the worldview of the ancient Near East people and miss out on the rich poetic devices used in the early parts of Genesis. …

I think those claiming censorship misunderstand how the scientific process works. You can’t write an article about something like a geologic formation that basically says “the Flood did it,” and expect to have it accepted by a scientific journal. There has to be a quantitatively realistic mechanism consistent with the laws of physics behind what you are proposing. …

Creationism is a third rail in public schools, but there are some ways to inoculate students against it without directly addressing the subject. Schools could to do a better job of teaching how we know the Earth is old. For example, instead of just teaching that sedimentary rocks are made of sediments like sand and silt, students can be shown how fossils are found in such rocks of things that take a long time to form like intact reef systems, termite nests, forest communities and orderly nests of unhatched dinosaur eggs. …

By the way, when a student brings up young-Earth arguments, the worst thing to do is attack his or her faith. All you’re doing then is reinforcing the “us-vs.-them” mindset and helping the young-Earth ministries keep a lifetime follower. …

It certainly seems like there is a clash [between science and religion] if you focus on the extremes – the “new atheists” at one end and the YECs at the other. It’s interesting that both of them insist on a wooden, literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11.

I think religion and science can coexist if they don’t tread on each other’s turf where it’s not appropriate. I’ve seen new atheists use some pretty bad theology, and I think religious people should accept that there are some things that you just have to take on faith – stop trying to find “ultimate proofs” of difficult theological ideas like creation.

I am an old atheist (or, as I prefer to put it, a strong agnostic), and I do not know what is wooden about my interpretation of Genesis, but we will let that go. I think that among Mr. Helble’s most important remarks are that people should not feel that they are being ridiculed (yes, I know it is difficult at times, and the line between gentle satire and ridicule is sometimes uncertain), students should not think their faith is being attacked, and religion and science can coexist if they do not “tread on each other’s turf.” That is, as your local accommodationist, I think he is right that we have to accept religious people as they are, but only as long as they do not make claims that are flatly contrary to scientific fact.

A commenter on an earlier thread directed our attention to an article by Zack Kopplin in the Daily Beast, “School teaching creationism with video from Islamic sex cult.” The headline may be a bit over the top, but the gist of the article is that the school district is employing materials developed by Harun Yahya. To give due credit, here is what the commenter, “Charley Horse,” wrote on the earlier thread:

A bit off topic … but of interest.

School Teaching Creationism With Video From Islamic Sex Cult. An Ohio school district is using a video made by a Holocaust-denying Muslim to undermine evolution in science class.

QUOTE A BIT:

A curriculum map recommends teachers in this public school district show a creationist video, Cambrian Fossils and the Creation of Species as part of 10th grade science education. The video claims that the Cambrian Explosion “totally invalidates the theory of evolution.”

…The district’s curriculum map calls for teaching “an alternative theory called Intelligent Design,” which is another name for creationism. Youngstown suggests teachers show a creationist video, Unlocking the Mystery of Life, produced by the right wing Christian advocacy group, Focus on the Family and by the Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank.…

“Students are reminded how the irreducibly complex system like the flagellum of a bacterial cell could not have evolved slowly, piece by piece and serves as a counter-example to evolution,” says the curriculum, citing another disproven creationist talking point. It also recommends the video Darwin’s Dilemma, also produced by the Discovery Institute. Other materials call evolution a “theory in crisis,” and were created by the All About GOD ministries.

The Daily Beast article directs us to a “curriculum map” and notes,

A curriculum map (PDF) recommends teachers in this public school district show a creationist video, Cambrian Fossils and the Creation of Species as part of 10th grade science education. The video claims that the Cambrian Explosion “totally invalidates the theory of evolution.” The Cambrian Explosion was a time period, nearly 550 million years ago, where, over the next tens of millions of years, the number of species on Earth experienced a (relatively) rapid expansion by evolutionary standards. Christian creationists regularly point to this explosion of life as evidence for creation by God and against evolution.

Blink and you’d miss the Islamic connection in the video. A black screen flashes for less than one second that says “this film is based on the works of Harun Yahya.” In the right corner, there’s a gold bubble that says, “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” in Arabic.

I followed the link to the curriculum map. I am not a biologist, and I did not read all 24 pages in detail, but, sure enough, on page 3/24, I found,

Dan Phelps just sent us an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader. The editorial accuses Kentucky of seeking science jobs while at the same time denying science: not just evolution but also global warming, alternative energy sources, and conservation. The editorial notes that Kentucky is “perennially short of money,” in part because of tax breaks like that for the Ark Park, and concludes,

Kentucky forgoes tax revenue to help deny science while telling students they need to learn it. In homage to coal, Kentucky dumbly stints on alternative energy technologies, or even conservation, while telling young people they need to prepare to work in advanced manufacturing.

The messages aren’t just mixed, they’re in open conflict.

That about sums it up.

NCSE informs us that the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has rendered a decision in the appeal of Cope vs. Kansas, which we reported on here. Specifically, the Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s earlier dismissal of the case, largely on the basis of standing. Additionally, NCSE notes, “Interestingly, though, the decision observes in a footnote that COPE’s suggestion for ‘teleological’ explanations to be added to the standards would be unconstitutional.” NCSE’s report on the decision follows, printed with permission:

A DECISION IN THE COPE APPEAL

The creationist lawsuit seeking to reverse Kansas’s 2013 decision to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards on the grounds that the state thereby “establish[ed] and endorse[d] a non-theistic religious worldview” failed again on April 19, 2016, when the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s dismissal of the case, COPE et al. v. Kansas State Board of Education et al.

The court’s decision mainly addressed the question of standing, agreeing with the district court that the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert any of their claims. Interestingly, though, the decision observes in a footnote that COPE’s suggestion for “teleological” explanations to be added to the standards would be unconstitutional.

As NCSE previously reported, the lead plaintiff, COPE, Citizens for Objective Public Education, is a relatively new creationist organization, founded in 2012 but its leaders and attorneys include people familiar from previous attacks on evolution education across the country, such as John H. Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network.

The NGSS have been adopted in eighteen states – Arkansas (so far only for middle school), California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – plus the District of Columbia. The treatment of evolution and climate science in the standards occasionally provokes controversy, but COPE v. Kansas is the only lawsuit to have resulted.

You may find the court’s decision (PDF) here, courtesy of NCSE.

And you may find NCSE’s collection of documents from COPE v. Kansas here

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Thanks to Glenn Branch of NCSE for allowing us to reproduce their essay.

I do not know why it is coming to light only now, but a few years ago a Kentucky elementary school rewarded students with “perfect” attendance by taking them on a field trip to the Creation “Museum.” Americans United has reported the story here, and a few days ago we received a press release from Daniel Phelps, a persistent critic of the Ark Park and the Creation Museum. Mr. Phelps has sent his press release to the Associated Press and elsewhere, but he tells us that he cannot get any reporter interested in investigating. We will reproduce his press release below the fold.

Americans United notes that the school’s definition of “perfect” is somewhat flexible, in that one absence counted as perfect. More importantly, they note

And kids have a right to learn about [certain religious concepts] - on their own time or in Sunday school. Such ideas are not appropriate for an official public school field trip, even if that trip was only offered to a handful of students. Instead, kids should be learning sound science - not religious dogma.

Mr. Phelps argues that the trip is “a clear violation of the separation of church and state” and “an act of educational malpractice.” He is concerned that, although this trip happened in 2012, there may be many like it, and he claims that Answers in Genesis “brags that they have stealth missionaries in the public school system.” Mr. Phelps’s entire press release follows.

Luskin.jpg

From yesterday’s announcement on ENV:

It is with a mixture of sadness and excitement that I write this to announce that, as the year 2015 closes, I am leaving Discovery Institute. I am doing so in order to fulfill a lifelong goal of furthering my studies. My colleagues, who entirely support this decision, are people of the utmost integrity and they have been incredibly generous and welcoming to me and my family. I know we will miss each other. Working here over the past ten years has been a wonderful experience for which I am extremely grateful.

I think this will be good for Casey. Who knows, next time he reviews a show on TV about the science of evolution, he’ll now have time to actually watch the entire episode before writing a critique.

Discuss.

PhyloWiki_Matzke_2015.pngOn PhyloWiki, I have just posted a page of bonus material on the Science paper “The Evolution of Antievolution Policies After Kitzmiller v. Dover.”

Highlights include:

  • pre-print text (for those without university access to Science or ScienceExpress)
  • supplemental material & data (also archived at Science, but may not be generally available until the article moves from ScienceExpress to Science
  • A version of the phylogeny that is CC BY-SA 4.0 licensed (for those of you who want to make t-shirts; or conceivably, other uses)
  • A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section that aims to be introductory
  • Bonus graphics: PDFs of character maps for all characters and traits
  • List of media links
  • List of blog links

I do not know whether Cope will turn out to be the mouse that roared or the Energizer bunny – or maybe Don Quixote – but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments the other day in Cope’s appeal of a ruling in favor of the Kansas State Board of Education. I am inclined toward the Energizer bunny, but the Appeals Court rejected Cope’s attempt to file a surreply, which I gather is sort of a reply to a rejoinder to a response and is generally prohibited. At any rate, the lawsuit against the Kansas State Board of Education (hereinafter, as your lawyer might say, Kansas) was dismissed in December of last year.

PT first reported on Cope here; you may learn more about them here. According to Charity Navigator, their annual income is less than $50,000 per year, so they do not have to file Form 990 with the IRS. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State quoted Steven Case, director of the science center at the University of Kansas, to the effect that their lawsuit was “about as frivolous as lawsuits get.” Evidently, the Judge, Daniel D. Crabtree, agreed; he dismissed the case in large part because the plaintiffs (Cope and a number of others including parents of children in Kansas schools) lacked standing. You may find the documents in the case here.

Standing seems like a concept that only a lawyer could love, but all it says is that you have to be harmed or imminently harmed in order to sue someone (“injury in fact”). Additionally, if you are harmed, you must sue the entity who harmed you, not a third party. And finally (a new one to me), the harm that was done to you must be redressable by a favorable decision by the Court. Taxpayers, not incidentally, do not have standing to sue a government agency merely because they are taxpayers.

Cope, chugging along tirelessly, appealed Judge Crabtree’s ruling in March of this year, and Kansas replied in June. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments last Wednesday morning, so I hopped on a bus and went down to Denver. To no one’s surprise, John Calvert represented Cope. Kansas was represented by Dwight Carswell, an assistant solicitor general for Kansas. I frankly thought that Calvert was somewhat more effective in his presentation than Carswell.

The discussion centered largely on the harm that may have been done to the plaintiffs. Much of the Judges’ questioning concerned the fact that the standards (Next Generation Science Standards) adopted by Kansas are only advisory, and local school districts are not required to adopt them. Indeed, school districts are required to teach science, but not instructed how to do so. The Judges questioned Carswell closely on the content of Kansas law and the discretion of local school boards on implementing standards adopted by the State Board of Education. Additionally, no evidence has been presented to suggest that any school district has adopted the standards, nor that any plaintiff has been harmed by the standards. I think one of the Judges remarked that the school teaches children, and the children are not the plaintiffs. On another occasion, a Judge rhetorically asked Calvert whether he had jumped the gun, filing his lawsuit before any district had actually adopted the standards. Calvert was also asked why he sued Kansas and not a school district. What precisely does he want the Court to enjoin?

Calvert argued that the NGSS adopted by Kansas establish a religious preference - a nontheistic religious worldview - because they support methodological naturalism, which he described as an orthodoxy. He further opined that “origins science” should not be taught at all to children in K-8, because they are too young to engage in such discussions, which Cope considers to be inherently religious. Asked whether he would be satisfied with a clause requiring creationism to be taught in addition, Calvert replied, “No,” and argued that an objective view of science that included “critical thinking” and provided alternatives to methodological naturalism would suffice.

Other questions posed to Calvert: What is the injury in fact? Is a nontheistic religious worldview really being taught? Where do we find methodological naturalism in the standards? Do not local school districts have discretion whether to adopt the standards? What areas of Kansas law are pertinent? Precisely what do you want us to enjoin? Would you be satisfied with a declaratory judgment?

Carswell, who was somewhat hard to understand, was asked what normative standard the NGSS might establish. Asked whether the law precluded alternate theories, he responded that the law recognized that the curriculum may be extended and school districts may teach alternative scientific theories. Asked whether any districts had actually implemented the NGSS, Carswell responded that he did not know of any. There was also some discussion about whether (presuming that harm had in fact been done) a declaratory judgment would redress that harm.

Other questions posed to Carswell: Why do we have standards if districts have discretion about them? Is not this whole case speculative because NGSS has not been implemented? Does not injury depend on actual implementation of the standards, as opposed to their adoption?

After the hearing, I met Clare Leonard, an education activist and fellow Colorado Citizens for Science member, in the hall. Calvert was holding, um, court surrounded by a half-dozen or more of his minions. If the decision is based on acting ability, Calvert wins. But I had the impression that the Court was much more skeptical of his position than of Carswell’s, particularly of his claim that there was an injury in fact.

Cope takes the position that science is a religion. They may be tilting at windmills; but they can still do real damage.

Acknowledgments. Thanks to Glenn Branch for inciting this whole expedition; to Deanna Young and Clare Leonard for pertinent discussion following the hearing; to Clare Leonard for the coffee; and to all three for numerous emendations, including many of the questions posed by the Court..

Dan Phelps alerted us to the fact that AIG’s Allosaurus fossil had been donated by an organization headed by Michael Peroutka, a man affiliated with “a white supremacist, neo-Confederate and pro-secessionist organization that has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” Mr. Phelps now writes,

Interesting that this press release didn’t get any coverage when I sent out the information last year. The Creation Museum received an Allosaurus dinosaur fossil appraised at $1 million from a donor who was on the Board of Directors of the League of the South. Various politicians are returning donations from hate groups after the recent Charleston shooting. According to the Encyclopedia of Modern American Extremists and Extremist Groups (by Steven E. Atkins, 2002, Greenwood Press), “Close ties have been formed between the LOS [League of the South] and the Council of Conservative Citizens with a significant cross-membership” (p. 174). Horrifyingly, Dylann Roof received some of his inspiration from the Council of Conservative Citizens [a direct descendant of the White Citizens’ Councils that were established in the 1950’s, primarily to oppose school integration].

Answers in Genesis (the owners of the Creation Museum) admirably makes anti-racist statements at times, but has taken a valuable donation from Michael Peroutka, a former Board Member of the racist hate group known as the League of the South. Why doesn’t the Creation Museum return the fossil or give it to a real science museum?

Anyone who relies on the Supreme Court to guarantee that creationism will not be taught in public school or that the Ark Park’s threatened lawsuit will necessarily fail might want to read an article by Erwin Chemerinsky in the January 1 issue of The Washington Spectator. In that article, which I take to be a longish abstract of his book, Chemerinsky argues that the Court has generally not lived up to its “lofty expectations” and indeed has more often “upheld discrimination and even egregious violations of basic liberties.” The Chemerinsky article does not appear on the Spectator website, so I will abstract it very briefly below the fold.
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Update, January 5, 2015. The article is now available here, so you may read it for yourself and not take my word for what Chemerinsky says.
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… because it (gasp!) uses the word, “abortion.” But wait – there is a glimmer of hope: The new superintendent, who was ordered to offer a plan for redacting the textbooks, says that the books comply with the law already and instead plans to hold a public discussion.

Meanwhile, as a service to the affected high-school students, Rachel Maddow has posted the offending page on a blog, ArizonaHonorsBiology.com, which her show apparently owns. If you are curious or have a prurient interest, you may also see the verso of The Page, as well as several other pages on human reproduction.

For the record, the book is Reece, et al., Biology: Concepts and Connections.

According to an article in Science today, a creationist group has booked a room for a conference at Michigan State University. Science is more discreet than I have to be, but it appears that they duped a student group into booking a room for them, and they are scheming to hold another conference at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Science writes that the conference, scheduled for November 1 and

called the Origins Summit, is sponsored by Creation Summit, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit Christian group that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and was founded to “challenge evolution and all such theories predicated on chance.” The one-day conference will include eight workshops, according the event’s website, including discussion of how evolutionary theory influenced Adolf Hitler’s worldview, why “the Big Bang is fake,” and why “natural selection is NOT evolution.” Another talk targets the work of MSU biologist Richard Lenski, who has conducted an influential, decades-long study of evolution in bacterial populations.

All that old familiar nonsense.

Acknowledgment. Thanks to the indefatigable Dan Phelps for the tip.

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Because of the cognitive dissonance required to buy into pseudoscientific beliefs, it’s not surprising when an adherent of one pseudoscience is sucked into believing another one. For example, there is considerable overlap between advocates of 9/11 Truth beliefs and advocates of anti-Semitic causes, or between young-earth creationists and climate change deniers. The Discovery Institute has been engaging in climate-change denial for some time (see here and here, for example), so it’s really not surprising to see today’s banner article on the Heartland Institute’s news page by Discovery’s Casey Luskin. (Last we saw, Luskin was was attacking Neil deGrasse Tyson and COSMOS with straw-man misrepresentations.)

Luskin’s July 10th article in Heartland’s site is titled “Nation’s Schools Targeted with Mythical Alarmist ‘Consensus’ Program.”. The post is

… the first in a two-part column on how the National Center for Science Education is targeting the nation’s schools to enforce a mythical consensus on global warming alarmism.

Discuss.

A follow-up on the Nye-Ham debate in the Reports of the National Center for Science Education: Andrew J. Petto said it wasn’t a real debate, which is sort of true, but the most interesting observations, to me, were those made by John W. Patterson. Prof. Patterson, an engineering professor, correctly gives Ken Ham credit for not obfuscating, for not pretending that creationism is based on anything but his interpretation of the Bible. He thinks that other creationists may fault Mr. Ham for his candor, but he argues that

there will be far less public confusion about the distinctions between legitimate evidence-based science and the faith-based biblical varieties so successfully propounded by creationist debaters. In contrast, Ham’s approach lays bare what’s really behind all creationism, from the young-Earth biblical literalism to the more inchoate ‘intelligent design’ models.

Climate and creationism

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Kentucky geologist Daniel Phelps yesterday sent us a press release noting that AIG’s Allosaurus fossil will go on display this weekend; see the AP release by Dylan Lovan here. Mr. Lovan quotes Mr. Phelps to this effect:

Daniel Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, said in a release Thursday that the Creation Museum “has decided, without doing research, that the dinosaur fossil is evidence of Noah’s flood.”

What Mr. Lovan left out is far more interesting.

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