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Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tree of Life Revised, Evolution Still Best Explanation

One of the charges commonly levelled against evolutionary theory by antievolutionists is that evolution is some kind of unquestionable dogma.

This allegation would be a major surprise to anyone who is familiar with the recent history of evolutionary theory. Indeed, REAL scientists are comfortable with the notion that theories are constantly challenged and amended. Evolutionary theory is questioned by countless studies published in peer-reviewed journals on a weekly basis. This is especially true since the advent of modern techniques for genetic analysis, such as full genome sequencing and comparative genomics.

In a recent Boston Globe article, the results of a new study are revealed:

Comparative genomics, as this young science is known, is having a huge impact on biology, helping scientists answer many of science's deepest questions. It promises, for example, to shed light on how our genes make us prone to diseases, and how the genes of pathogens make them deadly.

"It has created a revolution in our ability to understand biology," said Steven Brenner, a computational biologist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Before comparative genomics, some researchers worried that they might never understand early animal evolution well. It's like watching a card game a mile away through a telescope. The details can be blurry.

"You have to look over this long distance to something that was relatively quick," Dunn said. "A lot of people wondered if we could ever find out how the major groups of animals are related to each other."

Dunn and his colleagues have now shown that they can.

As the rest of the article confirms, even though new data has led researchers to readjust our understanding of the relationships between existing animal groups, evolutionary theory still provides the best explanation for the patterns observed in the data. Some branches of the tree of life have been cut off and grafted in new places, but the overall shape of life is obviously still a branching tree.

I teach high school Zoology and I am excited and intrigued by such refinements in our understanding. If future studies confirm these results, it looks like I will have to reconsider the way my class is organized and adjust my teaching to incorporate this new evidence.

As I was writing this entry, I used the thesaurus in Microsoft Word to look up an antonym for the word "dogma." Unfortunately, none were offered.

Therefore, if I may, I would like to offer a suggestion:

Science.


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Quote of the Day

A freshman, on the early history of the universe:

"It's hard to understand this stuff when you don't believe in it."

It's not that the student doesn't believe the science . . . it's that this student has been led to actively disbelieve any science related to this particular topic. A once-open mind has been reduced to parroting lies told to them by someone they trust.

So now, instead of focusing on the really cool stuff, or moving on to another topic, class time has to be spent dislodging the disbelief.

This student's insightful comment again illuminates the need to differentiate between fact, belief, theory, hypothesis, and law.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Expelled II

Sen. Ronda Storms of Florida, sponsor of Florida's anti-evolution legislation, is all about introducing critical analysis of evolution into Florida's science classrooms.

Storms and her supporters don't show that same willingness to critically analyze abstinence education, even though Florida teenagers desperately need to be "taught both sides" so they can "make up their own minds." According to FOXNews,

Florida lawmakers are looking to overhaul their state's sex education after learning that Florida teens believe that drinking a cap of bleach prevents HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew prevents pregnancy. The state, which is currently implementing abstinence-only sex education, has the sixth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.

For a glimpse of the hypocrisy (there's that word again!) practiced by Storms and her supporters, check out what's rumored to be Ben Stein's next project.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Saturday, April 19, 2008
Evolution, Education, and the Integrity of Science

I strongly encourage you to watch this video from the AAAS featuring Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. The video also includes a couple of my heroes, Robert Eshbach and Jennifer Miller, science teachers at Dover High School in Dover, Pennsylvania.

What do these three people have in common?

They are all Christians who accept mainstream evolutionary science.

One little known fact in the debate over teaching evolution in public schools is that the majority of people in the United States who accept evolution are theists. That inconvenient truth is something that you definitely will not hear from the supporters of the movie "Expelled".

Why not? Because it demolishes their attempt to equate the theory of evolution with atheism. As the people interviewed in this video demonstrate, evolution may be incompatible with certain forms of Biblical literalism, but it is very much compatible with basic theism.

The video is embedded below the fold (.wmv):












posted by Jeremy Mohn



Friday, April 18, 2008
AAAS: "Expelled" shows "profound dishonesty"

The American Association for the Advancement of Science issued a statement today excoriating "Expelled" for "inappropriately pitting science against religion" and for its "depict[ion of] those who accept evolution as racist and sympathetic to Nazis."

Such generalized insults are untrue and grossly unfair to millions of scientists in the United States and worldwide who are working to cure disease, solve hunger, improve national security, and otherwise advance science to improve the quality of human life.
- AAAS, April 18, 2008

The AAAS notes its continued efforts to foster constructive communication through its Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion and points to the 11,000+ signers of the Clergy Letter Project as evidence that faith and science can be complementary instead of corrosive. The fact that the latter is denigrated by IDcreationism proponents as being signed by those who "crave alleged intellectual respectability more than they respect the Bible and the Gospel" starkly illustrates that this is an issue between rival Christian sects, not between science and faith. Anti-evolutionists often accuse religious REAL science supporters of not being True ChristiansTM because of their conflicting interpretations of Scripture.

The AAAS recognizes that the timing of this movie is not coincidental, with so-called "Academic Freedom [From Learning]" legislation pending in several states. The goal of these bills is to undermine the teaching of evolution/origins science with non-scientific criticism by allowing teachers to present such material without any negative consequences, and by allowing students to answer "I believe God did it" without penalties. As the AAAS notes,

At a time when the United States faces serious economic challenges, we cannot risk derailing efforts to provide the best possible science education for the next generation of problem solvers. Our children deserve no less.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Imagine There's No Copyright . . .


She's been accused of breaking up the Beatles. Now, the makers of "Expelled" have found they're messin' with the wrong woman.

According to attorneys for Yoko Ono, the film uses John Lennon's epic work, "Imagine," without permission.

But according to a lawyer for Ms. Ono, the filmmakers did not have permission to use the song, for any amount of money.

Ms. Ono's lawyer, Jonas Herbsman, of Shukat, Arrow, Hafer, Weber & Herbsman, said in an interview Wednesday: "It was not licensed." With respect to the filmmakers, he says: "We are exploring all options." It is not clear what remedies if any may be available to Ms. Ono.

In a written statement, the film's three producers -- Walt Ruloff, John Sullivan and Logan Craft -- acknowledged that they did not seek permission, but they called the use "momentary." "After seeking the opinion of legal counsel it was seen as a First Amendment issue and protected under the fair use doctrine of free speech," the statement said. A spokeswoman said under 25 seconds of the song are used in the movie.

Typically when producers want to use a song in a film or television program, they need permission from at least two parties: the song's publisher and the record label that distributes the recording they want to use. Big-name artists often retain veto power over any such uses, and in the case of Mr. Lennon's music, those decisions lie in the hands of Ms. Ono.

Whatever happened to "Thou shalt not steal"?

Seriously . . . these producers are trying to show that believers are fired for questioning REAL science. Don't the filmmakers understand that they'd be much more effective if they'd stop acting unethically themselves?


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




What REAL Expulsion Looks Like


Name: Christine Comer

Position: 9 years, science director for the Texas Education Agency.

Expulsion: resignation requested for forwarding - without comment - a notice of an anti-ID presentation.

A short video featuring Chris is also available at TeacherTube.com.

And yet, an email breathlessly promoting Ben Stein's movie "Expelled" was circulated throughout a large eastern Kansas school district today:

ATTENTION Teachers, Principals, School Officials & Support Staff,

This Friday, April 18th, is FREEDOM FRIDAY!

You will no longer have to live in fear of the Darwinian Thought Police and their power to ruin your career! They are about to be 'publicly exposed' by the new documentary movie, "EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed"!

The email continues:

"EXPELLED," starring Ben Stein, is opening in 1,000 theaters nationwide.
Smart students and their parents can't wait to see it! They have all heard the Darwinists' side in the debate over origins. Now they will determine if the Darwinists have acted properly by censoring the scientific data and evidence from students, teachers and parents that opposes Darwinian evolution and points to the reality of God!

Have you ever wondered about the scientific validity of the major proofs of evolution?
Have you ever wondered what the controversy over the teaching of origins science is really about?
Have you wondered why Darwinists will not allow origins science to be taught objectively?
Have you wondered if scientists have found evidence for God?
Have you ever fully understood why you have this fear of mentioning God in the classroom?

If your answer to any of these questions is 'yes', then this earth-shattering documentary will open your eyes to the cover-up of the century!

Students, teachers, and parents will now see and hear the other side of the story as they view "EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed". They will begin to draw new conclusions for themselves about the "thought police" as well as the most important question they will ever try to answer: Where did I come from?

Make plans now to SEE THIS MOVIE. You can be sure that your students will!

Check it out at: www.expelledthemovie.com

YOU ARE ALSO INVITED TO ATTEND!!~ a Conference in Overland Park, KS, on Saturday, April 19 * * "Darwin, Design, & Democracy VII" * *

At the conference you will meet a professor who is in the movie and was "expelled" for trying to present students with scientific data and evidence that opposed Darwinism.
For more details please open the attached flyer, or go to: www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org

According to Texas standards, shouldn't the administrator who approved distribution of this email also be fired?




posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Expelled Flunks . . . Again

From the National Center for Science Education's press release:

Millions of dollars have been spent promoting Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed to fundamentalist church groups, but that money would have been better spent on fact checkers. www.ExpelledExposed.com, a website launched today by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), reveals the truth behind the creationist movie's misrepresentations.

"We reviewed public records and reports on the intelligent design promoters who were supposedly discriminated against, and we discovered that the claims that they lost their jobs over intelligent design are unsupported," explains Josh Rosenau, a biologist at NCSE. "That said, professors who aren't making advances in their field, editors who disregard their journal's established practices, and lecturers who repeat creationist falsehoods shouldn't be surprised if they have trouble holding jobs. These people weren't expelled; they flunked out." www.ExpelledExposed.com contains information about the "martyrs" from Expelled, and also of real scientists who successfully challenged established science. "The difference," NCSE researcher Carrie Sager observes, "is that real scientists back their challenges with experimental results. Results are what changed minds, forced textbook revisions, and earned Nobel Prizes."

(bolding mine)

As Jeremy pointed out in his "My Teacher Hates Me" post, baseless whining might persuade those who aren't aware of the facts. The rest of us, though, recognize "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" as just more of the same desperate whimpering.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Monday, April 14, 2008
"Expelled Exposed" Goes Live on April 15th


On Tuesday, the National Center for Science Education officially launches its response to the upcoming manufactroversy entitled "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed."

If you would like to add a link to your own blog or website, just click below to select and copy the code:

Select and Copy

If you want to include a nice little banner image like the one above, just click below to select and copy the code:

Select and Copy


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Friday, April 11, 2008
Pegging the Hypocrisy Meter


Photo by csa

Jeremy & I are both honored to teach high school students - Jeremy through biology, and me through physics - and we're both very aware that our actions speak louder than words. For example, if we preach against tardiness while being habitually late ourselves, students recognize that our words mean nothing: teenagers have the most sensitive hypocrisy meters in existence.

The American public also takes a dim view of hypocrites: Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon. Anti-gay-rights senator Larry Craig and his enjoyment of public bathroom stalls. Even Jesus Christ himself spoke out against hypocrisy more than he did homosexuality (see Matt 6:2; Matt 6:5; Matt 6:16; Matt 15:7; Matt 22:18; and especially Matt 23, an entire chapter devoted to Christ excoriating the hypocrites of his day).

So backers of a movie promoting Christianity & slamming science should be more than careful to avoid that trap, right?

Instead, the makers of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" have been:

*loudly railing about academic freedom, while deliberately avoiding the voices of Christians who support evolution;

*complaining that that ID proponents aren't allowed to do research, as they plagiarized a time- and work-intensive animation;

*pretending to be concerned about getting The TruthTM out to the public, while lying to potential critics about times and places of advance screenings;

*crying about censorship in academia, while lying to pro-science interviewees about the title and purpose of the movie;

*railing against public schools for not allowing ID or creationism to be taught as science, while bribing schools to take mandatory field trips to boost opening weekend ticket sales;

*whining about "Big Science" and its supposed influence in the government while holding screenings exclusively for state legislators in states where "Academic Freedom (From Learning)" bills are active in the legislatures.

Details below the fold.


Intentionally ignoring the voices of Christians who support evolution.

Chris Heard transcribed an interview between Scientific American editor John Rennie and "Expelled" associate producer Mark Mathis:

[SciAm editor] Rennie: [to Mathis] But I mean, you say he [Ken Miller, Brown University biologist, outspoken Catholic] would have, his presence would have "confused the film." The point is what, it would actually had, I mean, it would have, it would have considerably undercut the major point that is made, that really that belief in, in evolution obliges you not to believe in God, and to-

Mathis: No, I don't think so, because, uh, the form of Catholicism that Ken Miller accepts and practices is, is nowhere near the form of Catholicism that is followed by Catholics who are members of the Catholic church, who believe in Catholic doctrine. What he believes is certainly out of -

[Note that Miller practices traditional Catholicism; recent Popes have agreed with his views on evolution.]

The film didn't mention the American Scientific Affiliation, an organization of evangelical scientists. Dr. Keith Miller, Kansas State University geologist and author of "Perspectives on an Evolving Creation," is active in this organization. The filmmakers could have easily contacted him for an interview; obviously they weren't interested in the views of Christians who are scientists & accept evolution.

Plagiarizing a work-intensive animation

From the makers of "The Inner Life of the Cell," XVIVO productions:

We have obtained promotional material for the "Expelled" film, presented on a DVD, that clearly shows in the "cell segment" the virtual identical depiction of material from the "inner life" video. We particularly refer to the segment of the "Expelled" film purporting to show the "walk in" models of kinesic activities in cellular mechanisms. The segments depicting these models in your film are clearly based upon, and copied from, material in the "Inner Life" video.

William Dembski was caught using copyrighted images from that same video in a presentation he gave in Oklahoma. In fact, Dembski states at UncommonDescent.com (screen shot available on request),

"I've gotten to know the producers quite well. As far as I can tell, they made sure to budget for lawsuits. Also, I know for a fact that they have one of the best intellectual property attorneys in the business. I expect that the producers made their video close enough to the Harvard video to get tongues awagging (Headline: "Harvard University Seeks Injunction Against Ben Stein and EXPELLED" - you think that might generate interest in the movie?), but different enough so that they are unexposed.

It was a nice touch on the producer's part to use the same music as the XVIVO video. Presumably they got permission from the artist - or is that another possible oversight to explore? But then again, one of the producers was for years in the music business. So most likely they're covered here as well."


Lying about times and places of advance screenings

After an "Expelled" producer wouldn't allow biologist PZ Myers into an advance screening - for which he'd signed up - the production company notified those who'd signed up online to attend that upcoming screenings would be canceled.

The movie makers had an online registration site open for all to use, then they protested when it was used by potential critics of the movie.

Lying to pro-science interviewees about the title and purpose of the movie

The New York Times reported last September:

A few months ago, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins received an e-mail message from a producer at Rampant Films inviting him to be interviewed for a documentary called "Crossroads."The film, with Ben Stein, the actor, economist and freelance columnist, as its host, is described on Rampant's Web site as an examination of the intersection of science and religion. Dr. Dawkins was an obvious choice. An eminent scientist who teaches at Oxford University in England, he is also an outspoken atheist who has repeatedly likened religious faith to a mental defect.

But now, Dr. Dawkins and other scientists who agreed to be interviewed say they are surprised - and in some cases, angered - to find themselves not in "Crossroads" but in a film with a new name and one that makes the case for intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. The film, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," also has a different producer, Premise Media.

The producers of "Expelled" must have been worried that scientists wouldn't grant them interviews if they know the true title and nature of the movie. Wesley Elsberry did some digging and found that the producers had decided on the title and registered a website to "Expelled" well before those interviews were requested:

Fact 1: "expelledthemovie.com" domain was registered on 2007/03/01.

Fact 2: "crossroadsthemovie.*" and "crossroads-the-movie.*" domains are not registered by anyone. ("crossroadsmovie.com" is registered, but has been so since 2001 and obviously refers to an unrelated project.)

Fact 3: Mathis' requests for interviews are dated after the purchase of the "expelledthemovie.com" domain.


Bribing schools to take mandatory field trips to boost opening weekend ticket sales

Early buzz for the movie wasn't happening, so its producers decided to implement a marketing scheme. If schools would organize mandatory (as in: students have no choice but to go along), buy tickets, and attend the movie on opening weekend, then the schools were eligible for a prize "up to $10,000."

Holding screenings exclusively for state legislators in states where "Academic Freedom (From Learning)" bills are active in the legislatures

These bills are designed - intelligently, using a template from the Discovery Institute - to make an end-run around existing state standards by allowing students to answer "God did it" on science tests and receive full credit for those responses. Teachers aren't allowed to "discriminate" against students because of the students' beliefs. These bills ignore the fact that belief and understanding are two different concepts.

Please note that this post only addresses the falsehoods associated with the production and promotion of the movie, and not any within the movie itself. For more about the movie itself, go to www.expelledexposed.com.

Did Christ say, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, but it's okay to lie when you're trying to bring people to Me"?

As the public becomes aware of this purposeful, willful campaign of deceit, will they become more likely to trust their religious leaders?

Not likely.

In fact, the Discovery Institute and its cronies probably couldn't have chosen a much better method of turning people away from religion.

Especially hypocrisy-sensitive adolescents.

(edited for clarity 04-12-08 07:55)


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Oh, SNAP!

What a burn! FOXNews, that bastion of evolution-denier Bill O'Reilly, has posted its review of "Expelled."

Some choice comments:

Directed by one Nathan Frankowski, "Expelled" is a sloppy, all over the place, poorly made (and not just a little boring) "expose" of the scientific community.

To wit: Stein, Frankowski and pals say in "Expelled" that perfectly good scientists and educators are being stigmatized for wanting to teach their students creationism and "intelligent design" - in other words, junk science - in addition to or instead of conventionally accepted Darwinism.

(emphasis in the original)

The whole idea of Stein, a Jew, jumping on the Intelligent Design bandwagon of the theory of evolution begetting the Nazi's is so distasteful you wonder what in - sorry - god's name - he was thinking when he got into this. Who cares really if "Expelled" is anti-Semitic? It will come and go without much fanfare.

And the coup-de-grace in the PS:

Following "The Passion" release pattern, "Expelled" will open wide on the 18th but mostly in rural and poor neighborhoods. It's got just one theater in all of New York City, in Times Square, none in places like Beverly Hills or wealthier better educated urban neighborhoods where more "evolved" people might live.

Just more evidence that the film seeks to enrage the faithful, not to inform the general public or engage in honest debate.

According to the film's website, the producers are in a whopping 45 theaters in North Carolina, and a mere 7 in Massachusetts, 35 in Georgia, 11 in New Jersey, 4 in Connecticut, and 1 in Vermont. And so on. There are huge numbers of screens in Florida and Texas taking the film, particularly 7 in San Antonio. If I lived in the deep south, I'd boycott the filmmakers for thinking of me as this gullible and unsophisticated.

(bolding mine)


Ouch.

The Discovery Institute probably won't be happy with the fact that the movie's IMDB keywords are
"Creationism"
"Fake Evidence"
"Christian"
"Conspiracy Theory"
"Propaganda"
"Jesus"
"Science Fiction"
"Parody"
"Documentaries"
"Independent Film"

Somehow, it seems that "No Intelligence Allowed" is the perfect subtitle for this movie.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Sunday, April 6, 2008
The "My Teacher Hates Me" Excuse


"The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it." -Lou Holtz

I'm a high school Biology teacher. Believe it or not, students sometimes flunk my class. It's actually a pretty rare event, but it does happen. In almost all cases, it is because the student has failed to do most of the outside-of-class work that is assigned throughout the semester.

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for a student's lack of success in the classroom. The challenge of being a teacher is to identify these obstacles and to assist the student in overcoming them. In the end, though, failure often simply boils down to a lack of effort. As a teacher in a public school, you can't force a student to do the work.

I have been teaching long enough to hear pretty much every excuse in the book for poor performance:

"I don't have my research report because my computer crashed."
(Nevermind that it was assigned two months ago.)

"I couldn't finish my lab report because my backpack fell in a puddle."
(Nevermind that it hasn't rained in over a month.)

"I didn't do the reading because I left my textbook in my locker."
(Nevermind that the entire textbook is available online.)

"I couldn't understand the directions."
(Nevermind that you were text-messaging when we went over it.)

Then there's my personal favorite:

"My teacher hates me."
(Nevermind that teachers are too busy to waste such energy.)

Now, I'll be the first to admit that student behavior sometimes gets on my nerves and I might respond in a sarcastic or harsh manner. But I have never known a teacher who would use such frustration to justify flunking a student. I'm not saying that it never happens, just that such cases are certainly rare.

What does all of this have to do with the broader topic of REAL science and science education?

Keep reading to find out.

There are certain people in our society who have utterly failed to do the work required of them to pass muster within the scientific community. They have had access to the necessary resources, the support of influential people, more-than-sufficient funding, and plenty of motivation to succeed. And yet, they have flunked because of their total lack of production.

So what have they chosen to do in response to their failure? Have they re-enrolled and vowed to put forth the effort necessary to convince everyone that their ideas are fruitful?

Nope.

They are instead whining to anyone who will listen about how much the teacher hates them. Unfortunately, this excuse may work for those who choose to ignore all of those zeroes in the gradebook.

For the rest of us, it's obvious who dropped the ball.


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Saturday, April 5, 2008
Symposium:
"Naturalism in Science: Necessity or Bias?"

From the Kansas State University press release:

Gilbert Harman, Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, will deliver the public lecture of Kansas State University's philosophy symposium, "Naturalism in Science: Necessity or Bias?"

The symposium is April 10-12 at K-State. Harman's lecture, "Naturalism in Moral Philosophy," will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in Hale Library's Hemisphere Room.

"Harman's lecture will explore the nature of values," said Bruce Glymour, associate professor of philosophy at K-State. "Values aren't physical objects, so we can't learn about them in the same way we learn in science. That means we need to ask, 'what are values and how can we learn about them?' Harman's lecture will explore these questions and the answers to them."

K-State's "Naturalism in Moral Philosophy" Symposium is sponsored by the K-State department of philosophy and the K-State Center for the Understanding of Origins.

The symposium will also host Barbara Forrest, Department of Philosophy, Southeastern Louisiana University. Dr. Forrest provided crucial, hard-hitting testimony in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover trial.

High school teachers can receive graduate credit for attending this symposium by registering for Philosophy 801. Financial support for registration, meals, and travel expenses is available for teachers. Please contact Tim Bolton (tbolton@ksu.edu), or Bruce Glymour (glymour@ksu.edu).

Registration online here; more information about the symposium is available here.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them

Many proponents of the misnamed academic freedom acts suffer from the same TOOBSOM syndrome - Talking Out Of Both Sides Of Mouth. In public, they claim that they're just trying to make sure high school students receive what they consider the best science education possible, despite the fact that those proponents lack expertise in either science or education.

A commenter at the Florida Citizens for Science blog asked,

"what if legislation was introduced that banned security bars across shop windows in cities for aesthetic reasons? Would it make a difference if the lobbyists for that legislation had been convicted of multiple store robberies?"

Just like those criminals, these legislators' own actions make their intentions very clear.

For example, Rep. Wayne Cooper of Missouri claims to support academic freedom:

Missouri lawmakers who want intelligent design taught in public schools as an alternative to evolution hope a documentary starring actor Ben Stein will prompt new debate on the subject.

Rep. Wayne Cooper, R-Camdenton, introduced legislation Tuesday that would give teachers academic freedom to offer alternative evidence to Charles Darwin's 19th century theory of evolution.

(The reporter missed the fact that Darwin's theory itself has changed extensively since the 19th century . . .)

But in 2004, Cooper introduced legislation that would have penalized fired teachers for not teaching creationism.

In this proposed legislation, Cooper listed standard creationist claims against evolution along with stringent, specific instructions for teachers to teach these as science, and the provision that

7. Willful neglect of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or teacher to observe and carry out the requirements of this section shall be cause for termination of his or her contract.

This bill didn't pass, but Cooper's intent was clear: academic freedom only exists for creationists.

Florida senator Ronda Storms introduced the Discovery Institute-authored "Academic Freedom Act" last month in the Florida Senate. Although

" . . . Storms said her goal is to protect academic freedom and promote critical thinking - not to spread a religious belief about the origin of life."

Storms is best known in Florida for her position on minorities in the legal profession , her proposal for mandatory sterilization of child abusers, and her virulent anti-gay proposals.

Storms' support of academic freedom might be more believable if it was extended to all subjects, not just to evolution.

In both cases, these legislators are trying to legislate their own beliefs on everyone else's children with reckless disregard for rights of the parents to make that decision for their own children.

Supporters of creationism and its evolved version, intelligent design, have a long history of hypocrisy. The good news is that teenagers have some of the most finely-tuned hypocrisy detectors in existence.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Friday, April 4, 2008
Florida Bills Are "Needless and Treacherous"

Florida Citizens for Science has issued a press release concerning the "evolution academic freedom act" that will be considered by the Florida Senate's Judiciary Committee this Tuesday.

The bill was approved last month by a 4-1 vote in the Pre-K-12 Education committee.

According to the FlCfS press release, the bill is both "needless and treacherous."

Why is it needless?

The bills serve no secular, academic purpose. Freedom of academic inquiry is already provided for in the new state science standards, approved by the Florida Board of Education in February. The Pre-K-12 committee's own bill analysis, prepared in advance of the meeting, clearly highlighted this fact. The bill proponents' call for "academic freedom" is a political ploy that attempts to paint anyone in opposition to it as un-American and against education. Academic freedom, as commonly used and understood, does not apply to the public school classroom, but rather applies to university level research. Students in high school are certainly not doing cutting-edge research. Instead, they're learning what real researchers have discovered so that one day these students can then explore their own new frontiers.

Why is it treacherous?

These bills, if approved, will eventually invite expensive lawsuits during a time when our state is in a financial crisis. An ACLU representative who spoke at the Pre-K-12 committee's meeting warned the legislators about this. Ignoring such a warning is irresponsible and does not serve the public's or Florida students' best interests. Sen. Ronda Storms, who introduced the Senate bill, is quoted in the St. Petersburg Times on March 11: "Under this bill, if you have a teacher who is pro-evolution and every student is intelligent design...that teacher is safe to teach that as a theory."

One obvious clue that the promoters of this bill are not really concerned with "academic freedom" is the simple fact that they single out evolution. No other scientific theories are receiving this degree of special treatment. Such blatant selective criticism reveals an underlying concern about evolution in particular, not a genuine concern for scientific accuracy or academic freedom.

This bill is clearly a "Dover Trap" designed to encourage teachers in local school districts to teach antievolution arguments in the name of "academic freedom." It's a pity that some unassuming local school district is likely to get caught with the legal bill if this leads to a court case.


posted by Jeremy Mohn




Judgment Day Wins Peabody Award

Congratulations to the staff at NOVA, the highest rated science series on television, for winning a Peabody Award for Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, the episode that explored the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.

If you have not had the chance to see Judgment Day, the entire episode can be viewed online at the NOVA website. Alternatively, you could just order the DVD and watch it offline whenever you want.

There are also additional resources for teachers and students available at Teacher's Domain. I found the video below to be a particularly helpful addition to my classroom instruction about evolution.



posted by Jeremy Mohn



Thursday, April 3, 2008
Ken Miller live, 7 pm Friday


Photo from
Brown University

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) alerts us to Ken Miller's upcoming webcast, "God, Darwin, and Design: Lessons from the Dover Monkey Trial." According to the NCSE's report, viewers will be able to submit questions here starting at 6:45 pm.

From the NCSE:

A Supporter of NCSE, Miller was a scientific expert witness for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" creationism in the public schools. He is Professor of Biology at Brown University, the coauthor of the most widely used high school biology textbook in the United States, and the author of Finding Darwin's God and the forthcoming Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul.

Download the Envivio plugin in order to view this webcast.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




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