Recently in War on Science Category
Update, February 4, 2013. NCSE has just reported that the Colorado bill has failed to make it out of committee. First in the nation, for this year at least! Unhappily, the vote was 7-6, which is entirely too close for comfort.
January is barely gone, the groundhog may or may not have seen his shadow, and the National Center for Science Education reports that already 8 anti-science bills have been filed in 6 states: Colorado, Missouri (two bills), Montana, Oklahoma (two bills), Arizona, and Indiana.
As Barbara Forrest notes, “Creationists never give up.” The bills have been carefully sanitized, but all will allow teachers to teach the purported strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, most commonly “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” According to NCSE, the bills are also generally “protective” in that they forbid state and local authorities to prohibit such teaching. The bills pretend to foster debate, but the language is clearly code words for creationism.
That is the title of a YouTube video by Bill Nye, the Science Guy. The punchline is essentially this,
And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can–we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.
An appalling fraction of the comments are negative.
See also here for an article to the effect that reports of Mr. Nye’s death are exaggerated.
Acknowledgment. Thanks to Yan Linhart for notifying me about the Slate article.
Florida Citizens for Science points to the existence of a new group, Citizens for Objective Public Education, and says,
I have an assignment for you folks. The national science standards that many states, including Florida, are considering adopting are predictably under fire due to the prominence of evolution in the draft document. Kansas has hit the news first, firing the initial shot: Kan. official wants evolution concerns considered,
referring to an AP release which is posted in somewhat longer form here. According to an AP release datelined Topeka,
There is still mostly an eerie silence from the creationists/IDists on the Springer/Cornell issue (previous PT posts: 1, 2, 3). Basically all we have in terms of official response are the comments given to Inside Higher Ed. But much of the evidence of the details of the conference that originally existed has been taken down. Here are the examples of which I am aware:
Four years ago in a post titled “Dissent Out of Bounds on Uncommon Dissent (Oops, make that “Descent”)” I wrote of the banning of Elizabeth Liddle, a British neuroscientist whose nom de net is Febble, from Uncommon Descent (UD), the ID blog founded by William Dembski. That occurred during the reign of DaveScot as UD moderator, and resulted from DaveScot’s hissy fit about Liddle’s quite reasonable argument that Dembski’s definition of “intelligence” operationally made natural selection an intelligent process. Later DaveScot fell out of favor and was himself banned from UD.
Now under the reign of Barry Arrington, a lawyer, UD is engaged in a wholesale purge of commenters who are ID critics. At last rough count 20 commenters have been banned in the last couple of days, most of them ID critics. Once again, Lizzie (I’ve known her online for long enough to call her “Lizzie”!) is banned from UD. She wasn’t notified of it but (like other bannees) found she could no longer log in to UD. However, she has a new home, the The Skeptical Zone, to which I commend readers’ attention.
More below the fold
This is a report by Gaythia Weis, a member of the board of Colorado Citizens for Science, about the enlightened position taken by Aims Community College, Greeley, Colorado, when confronted with a talk by a creationist and, more specifically, concern about the publicity for that talk. The talk, which was sponsored by a recognized student organization, was originally and incorrectly advertised as if it were a college-sponsored event. Briefly, Aims (and Ms. Weis) recognized that the speaker had a legal right to speak, but the college wisely dissociated itself from the speech. In short, according to Ms. Weis, the college administration “got it.” Herewith, Ms. Weis’s essay:
I’d like to encourage other Panda’s Thumb readers to tune up their eyes and ears and be watchful for the following sort of situation, in which creationists are apparently trying to insert their views into our public community college education system. Besides protecting the teaching of science, we need to be mindful of our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion. Still, a firm line can be drawn between the rights of a student group to meet on campus, and the presentation of that group’s views as if the viewpoint is supported by the public institution itself. The following example shows how a small bit of constructive intervention can have positive effects.
Looks like the cartoonist Wiley Miller has started a series of strips on teaching the “controversy.” He’s got the age of the dinosaurs wrong, and carbon dating does not work that far back anyway, but, hell, the strip is called Non Sequitur. The money quote so far is, “Um, just as an F.Y.I., saying ‘facts’ would be a lot less offensive if you used air-quotes.”
Scientific American has posted what you might call a compendium of articles on evolution – some from the archives, some brand new.
The featured articles include a new article by Lauri Lebo, who details the manner in which creationists hide their true intentions by using code words such as “helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” Indeed, in a display that gives chutzpah a bad name, they invoke the name of John Scopes, because he stood up for academic freedom.
In 1981 Kenneth Miller and YEC Henry Morris (founder of the Institute for Creation Research) debated whether “… the theory of evolution is superior to the theory of special creation as an explanation for all the scientific evidence related to origins.” Greg Laden has videos of it, as does NCSE’s Youtube channel (audio is from a tape of the debate with visuals added by NCSE staffer Steve Newton), and now NCSE has posted a transcript of the audio here.
Question for commenters: What arguments, if any, do contemporary ID proponents offer that Morris does not? (When commenting on specifics from the debate please give a video number (of four) and an approximate time in the video or transcript so others can locate it,)
It’s no secret that the species of Christian intelligent design creationism embodied in the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture has no love for theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism. It’s also no secret that they’re masters of the bait and switch. As far back as 2002 when Stephen Meyers and Jonathan Wells sprung their “teach the controversy” compromise on the Ohio State Board of Education they’ve sailed under false colors, only to drop their deceptive flag of convenience at the last minute to run up their true theocratic colors. Now Darrel Falk, President of Francis Collins’ BioLogos Foundation, has fallen victim to the Disco Dancers’ bait and switch.
Falk was a participant in the recent Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science conference. The conference was organized ostensibly in order that Christians, particularly Christians who are scientists, could explore common ground. It included a range of people as speakers, Old Earth Creationists all, and featured such luminaries as Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. a leading old earth creationism ministry.
Part of Falk’s involvement was to have been as co-leader, with Stephen Meyer, of a breakout discussion on the origin of life, with participation also by Randy Isaac of the American Scientific Affiliation and Douglas Axe of the DI’s Biologic Institute. Falk tells us he sought and got firm reassurances that his participation wasn’t mere tokenism. He writes that the conference organizer said
… the organizers assured me that since they were travelling to personally meet with each speaker, I could be assured that even this session would exemplify Christians working together in a spirit of Christ-centered unity. We might differ on scientific and theological details, but we each would be held accountable to work within this context. I appreciated that.
That was the bait. Then at the last minute came the switch. Less than a week before it was to occur, the Disco ‘Tute publicized the event as a debate, using martial language that doesn’t seem to reflect that “Christ-centered unity.”
Next week the Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science becomes the God and evolution showdown in Austin, as the question of whether faith in God can co-exist with Darwinian evolution will be discussed and debated with people of faith on all different points of the spectrum.
Attendees have three days of speakers and sessions but should prepare for a rumble on Thursday, October 28, when Stephen Meyer and Doug Axe will go up against Darrel Falk and Randy Isaac in a debate on the origin of life, moderated by Walter Bradley.
That was contrary to the assurances that Falk says he received, and he tells us the Disco ‘Tute, in the person of an Associate Director, refused to withdraw the description when asked by the conference organizers. Is anyone surprised? The only person at the Disco ‘Tute who holds the title “Associate Director” is political scientist John West, so the implication is that it was West who approved the martial verbiage under Director Stephen Meyer’s leadership. So Falk, to his credit, pulled out of the session.
Welcome to our world, Professor Falk. Anyone still wonder why we don’t trust the Disco ‘Tute’s apparatchiks? As William Dembski plainly said,
Design theorists are no friends of theistic evolution.
They really aren’t, you know, Professor Falk.
Finally, for a foreshadowing of Falk’s experience see Steve Matheson’s prescient critique of the underlying premises of BioLogos’ participation in the “Vibrant Dance” conference:
As long as Reasons To Believe and the Discovery Institute engage in openly dishonest attacks on science and deliberate distortions of scientific knowledge, discussions about “unity” between them and BioLogos should focus entirely on their failure to meet (or seek to meet) standards of integrity.
Good luck with that!
I have not seen the new movie, “Waiting for Superman,” but I have read a handful of articles about it, most notably those I detail in the Appendix, and I strongly suspect that it is a puff piece that blames the teachers for the supposed failure of the American education system and recommends charter schools as a panacea. Speaking of puff pieces and charter schools reminded me that one of our faithful readers directed me to this very amateurish article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. The article reads like advertising copy for the Liberty Common School, a charter school in Fort Collins, Colorado. As nearly as I can tell, most charter schools are in effect private schools operated with public funds; the Liberty Common School is a private religious school operated with public funds.
I do not want to discuss charter schools in general, but I will discuss Liberty Common’s science policy, which reads like a Compendium of Creationist Canards. Under the heading, Principles for Teaching Science, they write,
The Institute for Creation Research has apparently closed its graduate school after being denied the authority to offer a master’s degree in science education. See the concession by Henry Morris III. The National Center for Science Education reports, however, that the ICR is opening instead a School of Biblical Apologetics, which will offer a master’s degree in Christian education, as well as a minor in creation research. The graduate school may be exempt from licensing requirements as long as it offers purely religious degrees.
We received the following announcement from the National Center for Science Education and reproduce it with permission:
Todd Wood, a young earth creationist at Bryan College, provides summary data on YEC organizations’ finances over the 2003-2008 period. There are several interesting things about those data.
First, as Wood points out, AIG’s share of the creationist dollar grew over that period, from 61.6% ($9M) of the market in 2003 to 68.2% ($22.7M) in 2008. AIG’s growth in market share came at the expense of all the other YEC organizations, with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and and the Creation Research Society (CRS), the two elder U.S. creationist organizations, contributing most of the change. While ICR’s revenues also increased over those years, from $4,5M to $8.7M, as a percentage of the total creationist dollar it decreased from 30.6% to 26.2% and CRS’s percentage declined from 1.7% to 1.0% as its dollar revenues declined from $250K to $230K. The smaller YEC organizations also lost share.
Second, Eric Hovind, offspring of jailed tax evader Kent Hovind, entered the list in third place in 2008 with his “GodQuest” (DBA Creation Science Evangelism) at $930K for 2.8% of the creationism market, far behind ICR’s $8.7M but well ahead of CRS’s $230K.
Third (and pretty depressing to see), NCSE’s gross revenue as a percentage of AIG’s gross revenue has steadily declined over those years, dropping from 7.8% in 2003 to just 5.7% in 2008. In 2008, 85% of NCSE’s revenues ($1.1M of $1.3M) came from direct public support–memberships and donations from you and me. While the amount has increased in absolute terms over those years, as a proportion of creationist revenues it has dropped significantly. C’mon, people. Let’s put our money where our mouths are.
Hat tip to Wood for doing the digging in form 990s.
Michael Zimmerman of Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Weekend fame tells us that his recent article The Nonscience of the Scientific Arguments against Evolution received the seventh-highest number of comments in the history of the Huffington Post. I was frankly very pleased to hear that his contributions are catching on so fast. Richard B. Hoppe commented on an earlier article here.
Mr. Zimmerman’s latest article is called The Danger of Ignoring Creationism. For those who don’t already know, he explains, among other things, why the Discovery Institute is little more than a shill for the billionaire Howard Ahmanson, whom Mr. Zimmerman quotes as saying, “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”
Creationism correlates with HIV denial, global-warming denial, and probably many other denials, not to mention Holocaust denial. It is thus easy to argue with Mr. Zimmerman’s contention that creationism is essentially a religious war, not a controversy between science and religion. Why can’t it be both?
Picky, picky! The article is very well worth reading, and if you don’t characterize it as scary or weird, you must not have paid enough attention. I receive Mr. Zimmerman’s e-mails every week or so, and I look forward to a continuous stream of equally enlightening articles.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that Thomas Ratliff has narrowly defeated Don McLeroy in the Republican primary race for Texas State Board of Education. McLeroy is the right-wing extremist who wants to doctor the state science standards so they reflect his own disbelief in the theory of evolution. Since there is no Democratic candidate, Ratliff will automatically assume McLeroy’s seat.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Ratliff had received the support of “mainstream public education groups” and quotes him as saying, “I want to take politics out of our public schools,” and added that Ratliff
told gatherings across the district that Texans are tired of political posturing on the board as the social conservative [sic] bloc – led by McLeroy – tries to impose its views in history, science and other areas of the curriculum.
“Our kids don’t go to red schools. They don’t go to blue schools. They go to local schools,” he said, also criticizing attempts by some board members to inject their religious beliefs into what children are taught.
The News reports further that McLeroy was “unapologetic about the actions of the social conservatives” and bragged about the “incredible accomplishments that will help our children.”
Thanks to a commenter known to me only as Aagcobb for the tip.
A pen-pal of mine sent me the following message regarding Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell:
The Dishonesty Institute is mounting a campaign in support of Meyer’s book over at Amazon.com. In the past day there have literally been scores of new positive 5 star reviews posted by those who have seen the Dishonesty Institute’s e-mail appeal. Please vote Nay on each of these reviews and Yea on the negative ones, especially mine and Donald Prothero’s, since ours are the most comprehensive negative one star reviews posted at Amazon.com.