Uptick in anti-science bills at state level


Our colleague Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education tells Paulina Firozi of the Washington Post of an uptick in the number of anti-science bills introduced at the state level. These bills threaten how climate change may be taught in the classroom. Mr. Branch notes that he has already seen more activity in the last 2 1/2 months than he usually sees in an entire year. Predictably, these bills call for “removing language about climate science from statewide standards to repealing those state standards for science instruction or by broadly requiring ‘balance’ in the teaching of ‘controversial issues,’” according to Ms. Firozi.

A Connecticut lawmaker, for example, has introduced a bill to eliminate the Next Generation Science Standards and, presumably in case that bill fails, to remove the section on climate change. He claims, pretty much incorrectly, that there is “continuing scientific debate over how much global warming humans are causing and the amount of warming.” I said “pretty much incorrectly” only because the amount of warming is not known precisely, but then neither is the height of Mount Everest.

Another bill introduced in Florida wants schools to teach “controversial theories” in a “balanced manner.” We are familiar with that ploy, but the sponsor of the bill essentially claims that it does not target climate change or evolution. Two other bills in Florida call for balanced treatment of controversial issues; Mr. Branch thinks that the bills would “expand the ability of Floridians to challenge instructional materials to which they take exception.”

Ms. Firozi reports that “[n]ationwide, there is overwhelming support for education about global warming … – 79% of adults believe schools should teach about climate change causes and potential solutions.” Even in Connecticut and Florida, where the offending bills have been introduced, the rate is around 80%. Indeed, Democratic Representative Christine Palm of Connecticut this year introduced a bill to require teaching of climate science in elementary school; she thinks that NGSS is not strong enough. A Washington state senator has likewise introduced a bill that would require schools to teach science “with special reference to the environmental and sustainability standards.”

These developments are encouraging, and they cannot happen fast enough.

Mr. Trump's science budget

March for Science, April 22, 2017. Credit: "Another Believer," Wikimedia, Creative Commons 3.0 BY SA.

What Mr. Trump’s record-setting $5 trillion budget includes, according to Jim Tankersley and Michael Tackett in the Times: a 5 % increase in military spending, more than the military asked for; $9 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico; and cuts of $2 trillion from “mandatory safety-net programs,” such as Medicare and Medicaid.

What Mr. Trump’s record-setting $5 trillion budget also includes, according to the news staff of Science Magazine:

Eric Holloway Needs Help Again


Eric Holloway just made a dramatic announcement on The Skeptical Zone, in Dieb’s thread on the number of posts at the ID site Uncommon Descent. In this comment he concludes “At least in my personal interactions with people, it seems like ID has won the debate.


The link is to a post by “News” (Denyse O’Leary) at Uncommon Descent which quotes from a post at a blog called Eidos, where Holloway says that in his personal conversations with “atheists and agnostics” many of them agree with him that evolution cannot explain consciousness. Then he goes on to announce his own “journal” that will discuss that. That’s all. No mention of the mathematical arguments that Holloway and his co-thinkers have been making that purport to show that evolutionary mechanisms cannot account for new information getting into the genome.

Now, I have no problem with Holloway feeling that he has two arguments for ID, the second even more convincing than the first. But does it mean that he has abandoned his previous argument, the technical argument using Algorithmic Specified Complexity? Is he intending to the return to the discussion of how that argument works? Or is he going off to declare success, leaving the rest of us puzzled as to what that argument was and how it actually worked.

Now Holloway has done this at least twice before – announced that there is no sensible counter-argument to his arguments. In fact, I’ve commented on it here in a post last November. There I noted a 2018 statement he made at the Discovery Institute’s “Mind Matters” site about there being no counterarguments to information-theory based arguments for ID. In my PT post in November I gave extensive links to the detailed refutations that have appeared here and at TSZ for those arguments. I also pointed out that he did this once before, in 2011, about William Dembski’s No Free Lunch argument. As I noted, also with links, it had been knocked down very thoroughly by seven people soon after it appeared. But somehow all seven counterarguments were invisible to Holloway!

What about Holloway’s latest arguments? Let me comment briefly below …