Teacher-friendly guide to climate change


I do not remember how, but somehow we recently learned of The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change. This splendid Guide is actually one of a series published by the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, New York.

The PRI is crowd-funding the Guide with the intention of reaching “all high school science teachers, nationwide.” You may contribute here. As I write, it seems that their goal is to collect $86,000 within the next 203 days; they have so far raised approximately $45,000 (I do not know when the campaign started).

The book is available free as a PDF, but you may also purchase a hard copy for $25. I have the PDF, and I infer that the hard copy is printed in black and white, because the color figures all direct you to the PDF to see the figure in color. I assume, without evidence, that their intention is to distribute hard copies of the book, as opposed to the PDF.

I also assume, without much evidence, that the book is at least in part a response to a disinformation campaign by the Heartland Institute, but the book is somewhat coy about that and merely notes in an FAQ (did I remember to say that there is a comprehensive set of FAQ’s at the back of the book?),

The “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change” is sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a US-based conservative think tank best known for fighting government regulation of the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. Heartland has campaigned to downplay threats posed by second-hand smoke, acid rain, and ozone depletion, as well as against the Endangered Species Act. The Heartland NIPCC also issues periodic reports, timed to coincide with the release of IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] assessment reports and formatted to look like them. NIPCC reports are authored by fewer than 50 individuals and the most recent report cites only 72 papers, mostly written by the NIPCC authors.

Well, I have sort of buried my lead. What about the book itself?

Questioning Evolution: The Push to Change Science Class

Retro Report

We just learned today of a Retro Report, Questioning Evolution: The Push to Change Science Class, by Clyde Haberman, in The New York Times. The report was posted with an accompanying video, “Raising Doubts about Evolution … in Science Class.” The video features Zack Kopplin, whose T-shirt you may see in the photograph. Ken Miller also makes a number of appearances, as do, alas, three representatives of the Discovery Institute and also Georgia Purdom of Answers in Genesis.

Mr. Haberman presents a good, brief history of how creationism morphed into intelligent-design creationism, which he calls its “stepchild”. When intelligent-design creationism was found lacking, the “anti-Darwinists” evolved and ultimately engendered the Louisiana Science Education Act, which

permits public schoolteachers to use materials critical of established scientific thought, with “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning” singled out as targets. No blatant advocacy of creationism or intelligent design is authorized. But those concepts make their way into classrooms all the same, as a means of fostering “critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories.”

Oddly, the only subjects that are to be considered critically are “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.” I guess that history and literature do not deserve the same kind of scrutiny.

The law has not been challenged in court, perhaps because, as Ken Miller says, “the First Amendment … doesn’t protect you against the introduction of stupid ideas.” Other states, according to Mr. Haberman and the video, have either passed or introduced similar laws. Professor Miller is concerned that a new generation is learning that “the scientific method and the scientific community [are] not to be trusted.” A very serious concern indeed, and the kind of thing that leads also to climate-change denial, vaccination denial, and even AIDS denial.

Mr. Haberman writes that the anti-evolution movement thinks it has the wind at its back, but it is worse than that: the anti-science movement may well have the wind at its back.

Creationism meets a flat earth


I was not going to write this up, really, I was not. But two articles on the flat earth within roughly a week of each other are too many to ignore.

Danny Faulkner of Answers in Genesis posted an article, What I Learned at the First Flat Earth International Conference. Dr. Faulkner has a degree in astronomy and has taught at a branch of the University of South Carolina for 26 years. He also as a researcher for Answers in Genesis must subscribe to their Statement of Faith, so he presumably believes in “a recent origin for man and the whole creation, spanning approximately 4,000 years from creation to Christ.” Now I don’t mean to be rude, but that is nuts. It is nuts for someone with an advanced degree in astronomy, someone who knows all the evidence, someone who writes authoritatively about astronomy, to believe that the universe is around 6000 years old.

Nevertheless, he wrote a good article critiquing some of the claims of certain other nuts, those who believe in a flat earth. To borrow (and adapt) a certain metaphor, how is it that he could see the beam in the eye of the flat earthers, but not the beam in his own eye? I simply cannot answer that question, but it puts me in mind of a statement by (I think) Carl Sagan to the effect that people frequently contact him to tell him that all the nonsense that he has just debunked is indeed nonsense, except for their nonsense.

The Washington Post ran an article the other day, This man is about to launch himself in his homemade rocket to prove the Earth is flat, in the “Speaking of Science” section, no less. Mike Hughes intends to build a rocket in order to “shut the door on this ball earth.” Mr. Hughes has already flown a quarter mile or so (horizontally, I take it, not vertically) and ended up in a walker for two weeks. He plans a bigger rocket and ultimately to launch a rocket from a balloon at 20,000 ft (6000 m). (At least Dr. Faulkner’s mishegoss is comparatively harmless.)

Mr. Hughes ought to be able to tell whether he can see Australia from a height of 20,000 ft. Unless he takes my advice and limits himself to a balloon ride, I am afraid we may have to nominate him for a Darwin Award.

Creationist's Wikipedia page removed


David Klinghoffer wrote a piece at Evolution News a month or so ago, in which he charged that Wikipedia had removed the entry for the paleontologist Günter Bechly because Dr. Bechly had “converted” to creationism. I think he may have a point.

I had not had a chance to get back to this case, when the English edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz posted an article proclaiming, “A Respected Scientist Comes Out Against Evolution – and Loses His Wikipedia Page.”

Thanks to some assistance from the Panda’s Thumb crew, I found Dr. Bechly’s deleted article, which appears to have forthrightly stated that he had relatively recently become critical of “neo-Darwinism” and now supports intelligent-design creationism. The article quotes Dr. Bechly to the effect that he supported creationism for purely scientific reasons.