Let's indulge those businesslike fantasies for a moment and imagine a public school classroom run like AiG or Merrill Lynch.
Only a tiny fraction of this class would actually graduate from high school. Truancy would be an attractive option because it would get kids away from the drugs and violence in the halls. Scores on the state assessments would plummet and this particular group hasn't met its goal for Annual Yearly Progress. Money that was supposed to be spent on textbooks and whiteboard markers and lab equipment instead found its way into the teacher's pocket. The school board recognizes that the teacher is driving learning into the ground for these kids, but instead of firing him outright, they agree to give the teacher a huge chunk of the district's funds when he inevitably leaves this classroom in search of another group of kids to exploit.
This is a horrid fantasy. Even more horrid is the reality:
Meanwhile, the former CEOs who accepted fat severance packages from the banks at the heart of the crisis are long gone.
For Citigroup's Prince that means $10.4 million in cash and stock holdings valued at $22 million that he received on his departure in November 2007.
That was after the nation's largest bank announced far bigger-than-expected losses on mortgage-related assets and other risky debt. Under Prince's watch, Citigroup built up its exposure to mortgage and consumer credit markets and he was paid handsomely for the effort.
At Merrill Lynch, O'Neal's pay package for his final year as a CEO was $46.4 million.
He was forced out in October 2007 following the investment bank's disclosure of $7.9 billion in unexpected losses related to the credit market turmoil.
His severance package of stock, options and retirement benefits built up over a 21-year career was valued at the time at $161 million. The market's downturn since then has driven the value down to about $66.5 million.
Merrill Lynch investors have had to face $30.5 billion in writedowns and reported losses of nearly $17 billion in the three full fiscal quarters since O'Neal left.
Earlier this month, Merrill's weakening financial condition forced it into a takeover by Bank of America, with an acquisition price of $29 a share – less than half what it was a year ago.
At Wachovia, Thompson was ousted by the bank's board in June after a series of missteps, the most pronounced being his purchase of a California mortgage lender for roughly $25 billion at the height of the nation's housing boom.
Thompson's total pay package for last year was nearly $16 million.
Keep this in mind the next time someone tells you that public schools should be run on the "business model."
*************** P.S. Another Koch-funded, anti-any-tax, global-warming-denying group is Americans For Prosperity. It's worth noting that District 8 state board of education candidate Dennis Hedke is an ardent supporter of AFP.
The short version: the Discovery Institute's Explore Evolution textbook is "wildly inappropriate for use in a science classroom."
The long version: you'll have to read it all for the excruciating details.
I would like to emphasize one thing in Timmer's review - something that has been bothering me ever since I first encountered the claim that Explore Evolution uses "the inquiry-based approach to teach modern evolutionary theory."
My initial thought was that the authors of the text were obviously unfamiliar with inquiry-based learning, and that this had to be another instance of anti-evolutionists using a snappy catch-phrase to promote their product.
Inquiry-based learning involves students doing investigations over extended periods of time that allow them to acquire and utilize scientific process skills in context. Through inquiry-based learning, students learn how to conduct scientific investigations in situations that have personal meaning to them and in ways that help them to understand the value of science as inquiry. Inquiry investigations also require students to apply the evidence gained through experimentation to develop and revise their own explanations for scientific phenomena. After students analyze and synthesize the data from their investigations, inquiry-based learning involves students communicating the results of their investigations to their peers. Through asking questions and obtaining answers, students also develop knowledge of science content.
In other words, inquiry-based learning cannot be implemented simply by having students read a textbook.
Thankfully, Timmer expressed my thoughts even better than I could:
...Discovery faces at least one very significant challenge in its anti-evolution campaign: evolution is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community because the evidence for it is extensive and comprehensive. Taking on that evidence runs the risk of simply emphasizing its significance, so EE maneuvers its way around this roadblock by using (and abusing) an approach to teaching called inquiry-based learning (IBL).
IBL avoids the rote memorization endemic in past science classes by having a teacher guide students through a limited version of the scientific process. Students are given a question or problem, provided with the opportunity to obtain information and data relevant to that problem, and then guided through the process of analyzing that information and reaching conclusions based on it. This isn't an "anything goes" approach to science education, though-teachers and lesson plans play an extremely important role in ensuring the students obtain accurate and relevant information and adhere to the rules of logic when drawing conclusions based on it. After all, it's not a good educational method if students come out of it deciding that the force of gravity is random or unmeasurable.
Trained professionals can lead students through IBL exercises. EE gives its authors the chance to determine what information is relevant for students in order to apply IBL to evolution, taking the teachers and professional educators out of the equation. It neatly dodges the issue of the vast evidence that has led to the acceptance of evolution by the scientific community; the book's introduction says that the students will see that in their normal textbooks anyway, so EE's authors can simply present an abbreviated version of mainstream science.
Perhaps more significantly, it omits the entire process of assisting students in reaching a conclusion. It divides evolution into a series of topics that are discussed separately. Each topic includes a case for standard science, a reply to it, and then a further discussion area, where it switches back and forth between the two. The text assiduously avoids suggesting that any conclusion can be reached at all. At best, it could be described as a partial implementation of IBL, if it weren't for the atrocious presentation of scientific information it contains...
So it appears that I was right. Explore Evolution does not implement an authentic inquiry-based approach. This is just another attempt to use a catchy phrase to dress up the same old anti-evolution arguments.
The race to determine who represents District 6 on the Kansas State Board of Education promises to be a close one. Democrat Christopher Renner is challenging one-term incumbent conservative Republican Kathy Martin in November's general election.
The litmus test this year seems to be the issue of the state science standards: how should they evolve? Martin, a staunch opponent of evolution, stated in May of 2005, "We are not going to give up until the standards say what we want them to say." She is also on the record as stating that her pro-science opponent, Renner, does not have "the values north-central Kansas citizens want guiding education for children." Martin also claimed in a fund-raising letter,
"I fully expect that every Democratic and left-leaning group in the state (and even some from beyond our borders) will weigh in on his behalf to try to defeat me."
However, campaign finance reports paint a starkly contrasting picture.
Fully 81% of Renner's contributions come from north-central Kansas' 6th District, while Martin's constituents have provided only 28% of Martin's financial support over the past 4 years.
According to Martin's campaign finance statements from July and October of 2004 and July 2008, $24,034 of the $34,024 in itemized contributions she raised - almost 3/4 - came from outside her district.
On the other hand, Renner's campaign finance statement shows that only $1375 of the $7281 he's raised - or less than 1/5 - has come from outside the 6th District.
These numbers show that Martin's base of support lies outside her own district. Major contributors to her campaigns include Intelligent Design Network founder John Calvert and his wife of Lake Quivira, and the F.A.I.R. (Free Academic Inquiry and Research Committee) PAC, a branch of the Kansas Republican Assembly from Topeka. The F.A.I.R. PAC is part of an incestuous network of state and federal PACs such as the Kansas Republican Victory Funds, all of which share the same post office box and treasurer. Other non-constituent contributors were IDNet's William Harris, fellow anti-evolution state board members Ken Willard and John Bacon, Kris Van Meteren and Don Small of the Kansas Republican Assembly, and Joe Renick of New Mexico's Intelligent Design Network.
Questions about funding aren't limited to Martin's campaign contributions. According to Renner,
"What is at issue is her waste of taxpayer dollars to hold hearings, which sought to impose a religious ideology on all Kansas children in the guise of science. What is at issue is her hiring a totally unqualified person as Commissioner of Education and wasting taxpayer dollars by giving him a golden parachute when the conservatives lost control in 2006; and, what is at issue is her being nothing but a pawn in a much larger effort by ideological outsiders to override the voice of 6th District Kansans. Talk about not representing north-central Kansas values!"
I wonder . . . how can Martin justify attacking her opponent for a characteristic he doesn't have, but she does?
***** Data from: Martin July 2004 statement Martin October 2004 statement Martin July 2008 statement Renner July 2008 statement
Dr. Don McLeroy is a dentist from Bryan, Texas and the chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. Back in early August, McLeroy wrote an opinion piece in which he attempted to drill down to the root of the problem with modern science: its reliance on natural explanations.
If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth-not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.
McLeroy's proposed solution to the problem is a relatively straightforward reconstructive procedure. Citing the definition of science put forth in Science, Evolution, and Creationism by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), McLeroy formulated a simple surgical plan: extract the word "natural" from in front of the word "explanations" and fill in the gap with the word "testable."
As a result of this change, Texas students would be free to explore an amalgam of natural and supernatural explanations in their science classes. At least that's what McLeroy would prefer:
Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations. Then the supernaturalist will be just as free as the naturalist to make testable explanations of natural phenomena. The view with the best explanation of the empirical evidence should prevail.
Unfortunately for Dr. McLeroy, he is apparently unaware that "natural explanations" and "testable explanations" are one and the same in science.
Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. Any scientific explanation has to be testable - there must be possible observational consequences that could support the idea but also ones that could refute it. Unless a proposed explanation is framed in a way that some observational evidence could potentially count against it, that explanation cannot be subjected to scientific testing.
Upon closer examination, Dr. McLeroy's proposal turns out to be a lot like brushing your teeth right before eating a meal. In the end, you're right back where you started. Simply replacing the word "natural" with the word "testable" does not fill the explanatory cavities left behind by supernatural explanations.
Indeed, Dr. McLeroy might as well start recommending Twizzlers as an alternative to dental floss.
Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), recently applauded the proposed changes to the Texas science curriculum standards. In a statement released yesterday, Miller identified the essential question that should be at the heart of this process - What is best for Texas students?
"These work groups have crafted solid standards that provide a clear road map to a 21st-century science education for Texas students. These common-sense standards respect the right of families to pass on their own religious beliefs to their children while ensuring that public schools give students a sound science education that prepares them to succeed in college and the jobs of the future."
Why are some Texans concerned that their state BOE is not looking out for the best interests of students? Because some members of the Texas Board have already demonstrated an utter lack of respect for the expertise of the professional educators appointed to revise curriculum.
Earlier this year, the State Board of Education rejected nearly three years of work by TEA work groups that drafted new curriculum standards for English/language arts and reading. The board approved a final standards document patched together overnight and circulated to other board members just hours before the final vote.
Board of Education members advancing their own agendas on the taxpayer's dollar? Here in Kansas, we know all about that.
Miller and her TFN colleagues recognize that another battle over science standards in Texas will benefit no one, especially not those who should matter most.
"It's time for state board members to listen to classroom teachers and true experts instead of promoting their own personal agendas. Our students can't succeed with a 19th-century science education in their 21st-century classrooms. We applaud the science work groups for recognizing that fact."
A committee of Texas scientists and science teachers has recommended the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the current Texas state science standards for extinction.
Creationist state board of education chairman Don McLeroy objects strenuously, of course. Keeping that language enables the state board to reject any biology textbooks which do not include the purported "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution.
The current language so beloved by McLeroy, a dentist, reads
The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.
The experts in science and science teaching want to replace that language with
The student is expected to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing.
Why would McLeroy and his Discovery Institute supporters object to the latter?
In the first place, the "strengths and weaknesses" language would allow pseudo-scientific textbooks like the Discovery Institute's Explore Evolution to be adopted statewide. (Awww, how cute . . . its name mimics the names of some highly-regarded websites that really do explore evolution. Those ID folks just don't seem to learn that they can re-label their books and concepts as many times as they want; it doesn't change the fact they're putting new lipstick on the same ol' pig.) Statewide adoptions in Texas and California drive the national textbook market, so the DI folks could get a huge financial and ideological boost by keeping the McLeroy-approved language.
Getting rid of the "strengths and weaknesses" language and requiring students to use "empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing" to evaluate scientific explanations would naturally reject the supernaturally-inspired ideas that McLeroy and his friends want to have taught as science in Texas. Given the dearth of intelligent design research, and the DI's apparent abhorrence for evidence, reasoning, and testing, it's to be expected that the DI will object to the proposed language.
Like his ever-so-arrogant ideological kin in Kansas, McLeroy seeks to change the definition of science itself. McLeroy would like to see his own definition of science pushed onto Texas students. According to the Austin American-Statesman, McLeroy defines science as
'the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.' Also, 'science is not the only way of knowing and understanding. But science is a way of knowing that differs from other ways in its dependence on empirical evidence and testable explanations.
On the other hand, the committee of scientists and science teachers who were given the task of writing the science standards agree with the National Academy of Sciences:
"Science uses observational evidence to make predictions of natural phenomena and to construct testable explanations. If ideas are based upon purported forces outside of nature, they cannot be tested using scientific methods. Scientific explanations are open to testing under different conditions, over time, and by independent scientific researchers. ... "
This brewing storm might make Texas residents wish for the return of Ike. At least hurricanes can't be blamed on the capriciousness of a dentist who wants to remake science in his own image.
A weirdly wonderful sight appeared to astronauts aboard the International Space Station this summer - thin blue clouds hovering at the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and the void. . . . . Researchers speculate that the origin and spread of the clouds is linked to patterns of climate change associated with the modern era. But they are not ruling out a host of other possible factors, including methane, carbon dioxide, the number of meteors seeding the upper atmosphere, and even the 11-year sunspot cycle.
The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite mission explores Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs), also called noctilucent clouds, to find out why they form and why they are changing. Here's a great short video showing the daily progression of NLCs over the North Pole during the 2007 season. (Credit: AIM/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)
Dianne Robinson is a science professor and Chair of the Interdisciplinary Science Center at Hampton University. In addition to her duties as professor, she works closely with the HU Center for Atmospheric Sciences (CAS) directing three of their education and outreach programs for NASA satellite-based research missions CALIPSO, AIM, & SABER. As ISC Chair, she directs four GEOSCIENCE student and teacher outreach programs funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a NASA Earth Systems Science online course for teachers and undergraduates. Prior to becoming a professor, Dianne taught science to grades 5-12. She has a PhD in Science Education from the University of Iowa.
Sponsored by the FHSU Science and Mathematics Education Center, Cafe Semolino's, and Kansas Citizens for Science. Also found on Facebook and MySpace. (An account of last week's Cafe is here.)
How well do you know your Texas state board of education members?
The Texas Education Blog posted this quiz at their site earlier, so I thought it might be fun to adapt it. Go ahead, try it, and learn more about the folks who'll be making your state famous in a coupla months as they work to de-evolve your state science standards. Again.
Meanwhile, you can console yourselves with the thought that if the Kansas state school board elections go kablooie, you won't be the laughingstock for long.
Send me some good questions and I'll put together a quiz for Kansas state board members, past, present, and wannabe.
From Andrew Bauer at the Fort Hays State University Leader (sorry, no online version):
It's very nice to see this many people come out and hear about science, especially on a weeknight" - FHSU geosciences professor John Heinrichs
The door count was 61 and included students, faculty, and Hays-area residents who worked this event into their busy schedules. Heinrichs led off with a presentation entitled "What's the Deal with our Polar Ice Caps?"
The crowd (and yes, it was crowded) showed a lot of interest in the topic as they asked John & each other questions about the polar regions, climate change, energy, and the best way to handle some of our current and upcoming energy challenges.
In typical scientist fashion, Heinrichs admitted that "we don't even know how the polar regions work yet. We're still discovering things." On the other hand, Heinrichs noted that last year marked the worst coverage of the poles ever since that information has been recorded.
Last year in September was the first time in all of recorded history that the northwest passage was completely open. You could literally take a sailboat from the Atlantic to the Pacific by going north." - Heinrichs
Last October, Chris Mooney warned an audience of 170+ in Hays that since most of the world's population is concentrated near coastlines, higher sea levels would cause millions of people to settle elsewhere. Heinrichs reiterated that sentiment, noting that low-lying Asia is the most populous part of the world and that re-settlement would be accompanied by political and social unrest.
The message of personal responsibility came through loud and clear. Heinrichs concluded by pointing out that it doesn't matter who is elected president this fall, because no government policies would take effect for a few years yet. Instead, he emphasized that each person should practice green living and convince their friends and family to do likewise.
Then came the really fun part . . .
The floor was opened up for discussion and questions, and it got lively and heated! As Bauer noted in the Leader,
"I was surprised by the energy displayed by people during the discussion, which I thought was my favorite part this evening." - Steve Trout, Hays resident
We had Hippie Lady in the back who didn't need the PA system to be heard, and was probably the most vocal participant. We had Retired Man 1 and Retired Man 2, who argued - er, discussed - why the US should bother with cap and trade when China's CO2 output continues to rise. There was the Man With A Slavic Accent who noted that European citizens enjoy the same or better standard of living as those in the US, yet Europeans drive vehicles that get more than 35 mpg while we remain addicted to our SUVs. A Brave Blonde student asked, "what can we do about this?" There was applause for Hippie Lady's response - "This is how it starts. You're here, you care. Spread the word!"
The evening was brought to a close with a trivia contest; winners received science t-shirts and Planet Earth stress balls.
The post-session surveys indicated that the best part of the evening was the discussion, the fact that is was offered, and that the topic was time-sensitive. An area needing improvement was acoustics. Topic suggestions for future cafe's included energy, science's influence on health care policy, HAARP, black-footed ferrets, and bioethics. Most felt they had the chance to contribute and discuss, except for one respondent who thought the Hippie Lady dominated. (She did, some.)
The FHSU Science and Mathematics Institute was the main sponsor for this event. Director Paul Adams noted that
"This is open to the community at-large whether they are on campus or off-campus. It's a great place for the campus community to interact with the greater Hays-area community."
Thanks also to Cafe Semolino's for the space, and to Kansas Citizens for Science for their moral support!
I have been teaching teenagers using Biology as my medium for about nine years. Over that time period, I have gradually lost touch with the younger generation. I have trouble making sense out of both "txt spk" and "LOLspeak." I barely know Kanye West from Key West. I find myself having to visit the NetLingo website more and more often.
I'm an out-of-touch old person. (gasp!)
Of course I knew it would happen. All teachers eventually reach the point where they are no longer able to understand or appreciate the fashion, music, and social predilections of the students they work with. In particular, my knowledge of acceptable slang is no longer up-to-date.
The other day, I proved this sad fact to myself and some of my students. We were outside tagging monarch butterflies for the Monarch Watch, when I described the experience of netting a previously tagged monarch as "da bomb." The students laughed and assured me that, "Nobody says that anymore."
How does this story relate to the content of this blog?
According to reports, the Brunswick County School Board members were all talking about good old "Creationism." From the StarNewsOnline article linked above:
"It's really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism," county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday's meeting. "The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists."
Speakers invited to attend a Vatican-sponsored congress on the evolution debate will not include proponents of creationism and intelligent design, organizers said.
The Pontifical Council for Culture, Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana are organizing an international conference in Rome March 3-7 as one of a series of events marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species."
Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc, a philosophy professor at the Gregorian, told Catholic News Service Sept. 16 that organizers "wanted to create a conference that was strictly scientific" and that discussed rational philosophy and theology along with the latest scientific discoveries.
He said arguments "that cannot be critically defined as being science, or philosophy or theology did not seem feasible to include in a dialogue at this level and, therefore, for this reason we did not think to invite" supporters of creationism and intelligent design.
The debate . . . . is said to have the full blessing of Pope Benedict, a fervent advocate of what he views as the compatibility of faith with reason.
Kudos to the Pope for blessing a conference which doesn't recognize creationism or intelligent design as scientific ideas, despite the best efforts of the Discovery Institute to spin Pope Benedict's opinion the other way.
So the Catholic Church doesn't recognize ID as either science OR philosophy OR theology? Does this mean that the Church recognizes it for what it is? - A sneaky attempt by a particular Christian sect to get their teachings forced on everyone else's kids.
On the other hand, note that
Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the other extreme of the evolution debate -- proponents of an overly scientific conception of evolution and natural selection -- also were not invited.
I guess this means neither PZ nor Dawkins will be invited.
Do news reports touting the latest cures seem contradictory? Are you leery of well-coiffed pundits telling you what to think about science issues?
If so, you'll delight in Science Café Semolino's! At our Science Café you can learn about the latest topics in science . . . chat with a scientist in plain language . . . meet new friends . . . speak your mind . . . talk with your mouth full . . . and win a free Science Café Semolino's t-shirt!
Our inaugural speaker will be this year's FHSU Presidential Scholar John Heinrichs. John will share his up-close-and-chilly experiences with sea ice and lead us in lively discussions of global climate change. Future topics in this monthly series include observing changes in the mysterious noctilucent clouds, astronomy v astrology, evolution, the Large Hadron Collider, prehistoric monsters of Kansas, microbiology, bioethics, shrinking glaciers, and alternative energy.
Please join us on Tuesday, September 16, 7pm-ish at Café Semolino's, in Hays at 110 W. 11th Street to kick off this monthly series. In the meantime, visit Science Café Semolino's on Facebook, or contact sciencecafehays (at) gmail (dot) com for more information.
Most recently, Kathy Martin's Democratic challenger for the Kansas State Board of Education, Chris Renner, has been the target of hatemail. He says, "Thus far the hate mail has all been about my support for science and evolution. This is the first time my sexual orientation has been brought into question. I figured it would get nasty. I just want to know how nasty the religious bigots are going to get." Here's the latest one he received, posted at his Facebook site:
from: phillip chavez to: RENNER4KSBOE@gmail.com date: Wed, Sep 10, 2008 at 6:06 PM
Renner - you are going to be defeated this election. We don't want a sexual deviate as yourself in the State Board of Education with ANY kind of influence over our children. They call us the "right" because that's what we are. I hope you spend a tremendous amount of your own money on this election as it will all be for naught.
Yes, Chris is gay. But who isn't tired of hypocritical members of the religious right nagging the public about what happens in the privacy of our own homes? I believe God loves Chris just as much as He loves any of the rest of us, despite what Fred Phelps would have you believe.
Would a Christian opponent encourage this Phelpsian attitude from her supporters, or would she work to discredit those who send such emails?
What a tangled web they weave . . . and anti-evolutionists in Kansas are practiced in deceiving the voting public. They pretend to support science, but work to change its very essence. They claim to be standard bearers for academic freedom, but they want to force public school science teachers to cast undeserved doubt on well-supported science. And most glaringly, they claim they're not motivated by religion.
Here's a brief bit of history:
Just before the 2006 Kansas primary, anti-evolution activist Celtie Johnson made it clear in an email why she supported anti-evolution candidates for the state school board:
"However, if we don't win . . . . This effectively ABANDONS all students--world-wide--who have godless parents."
Johnson's concern for the faith of everyone else's kids might be viewed as touching by some, but most parents would prefer that Johnson keep her hands off their own kids' religious education.
A few days before the 2006 primary, pastor Kyle Ermoian of Hays sent a message to his congregation's Daily Devotional email list that didn't just urge folks to get out and vote; it endorsed specific anti-evolution candidates for the Kansas state school board:
I'm asking you to vote for one of the following conservative candidates if he or she is in your district: *Jesse Hall--District #1 *John Bacon--District #3 *Connie Morris--District #5 *Ken Willard--District #7 *Brad Patzer--District #9
Ermoian later apologized in the Hays Daily News, claiming that he was merely forwarding a message from Lawrence anti-evolution activist Dave Penny.
Although it's now 2008, it seems that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
F.A.I.R. (Free Academic Inquiry and Research, although the group's actions could more accurately described as Fundamentally Against Intellect and Reason) is a PAC affiliated with the Kansas Republican Assembly. Earlier, Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble documented the incestuous relationships between various Republican PACs in Kansas; he noted how they share a common treasurer and post office box, as well as how donations slush back and forth between the funds and the 2006 KRA-endorsed state board of education candidates:
On July 8 of this year, F.A.I.R. alerted its right-wing fans,
As you know, the battle for control over our schools has played out most publicly in contests for seats on the Kansas State Board of Education. And, of course, the issue that has received the most attention is the controversy over what to teach students about the origin of life. The liberal, secular humanists on the Board and in schools want your children and mine to be force-fed one narrow view: Charles Darwin's theory that all living plants and creatures on this earth just happened to spring forth into life out of primordial muck. That theory, of course, neither addresses how the primordial muck came into existence nor how life, in all of its variety and complexity, turned out the way it did so that all functions and interacts beautifully.
On the other side of the argument, we have had many good Board members, a number of professional educators, and hundreds of thousands of parents and grandparents who believe that Darwinian evolution is, at best, a flimsy theory and, at worst, is nothing more than a fairy tale concocted and perpetuated by secular humanists who are hell-bent to deny the existence of an Intelligent Designer or Creator.
In response, Kenig said we'd "completed distorted" his position on evolution. A flurry of emails later, I was still squeamish about him because his 2008 campaign site (under the "Issues" tab, "Accountability" section) showed that he wanted to establish "Guidelines to encourage objectivity and 'open-forum' classrooms."
Apparently Kenig hadn't done his homework. The 2007 Kansas science standards included the following passage (pdf, p. xi), which had been eliminated in the previous ID-supporting standards put in place by the creationist board majority:
Science studies natural phenomena by formulating explanations that can be tested against the natural world. Some scientific concepts and theories (e.g., blood transfusion, human sexuality, nervous system role in consciousness, cosmological and biological evolution, etc.) may differ from the teachings of a student's religious community or their cultural beliefs. Compelling student belief is inconsistent with the goal of education. Nothing in science or in any other field of knowledge shall be taught as absolute knowledge. A teacher is an important role model for demonstrating respect, sensitivity, and civility. Science teachers should not ridicule, belittle or embarrass a student for expressing an alternative view or belief. Teachers have the opportunity to display and demand tolerance and respect for the diverse ideas, skills, and experiences of all students.
1)Shall not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of learning
2)Shall not unreasonably deny the student access to varying points of view.
3)Shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student's progress.
4)Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety.
5)Shall not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement.
6)Shall not on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, family, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation, unfairly:
*Exclude any student from participation in any program. *Deny benefits to any student. *Grant any advantage to any student.
Given that Kenig waffled so much on the science education issue, and that he doesn't recognize the guidelines already in place for "open-forum classrooms," it shouldn't come as a great surprise that F.A.I.R. endorsed Kenig for the state board of education:
A solid candidate, Brandon Kenig, is facing opponents in both the primary and general elections. He needs our help to be able to face the liberal machine that is particularly vicious in Johnson County.
The rest of F.A.I.R.'s letter contains so many half-truths that unwary readers should refer to a concordance authored by Orwell. For example, "censors in the liberal education establishment" is how F.A.I.R. refers to professional scientists and educators who don't think it's right to teach nonsensical non-science as science. "Open-mindedness" according to F.A.I.R. is the willingness to close one's mind to science. After all, real academic freedom is the freedom of scientists to ask questions. F.A.I.R. wants schools and students to ignore the answers.
Note: Kenig was defeated by Mary Ca Ralstin in the August primary. Don't write off the 22-year-old yet, though; anyone of that age who was endorsed by the Kansas Republican Assembly is probably being groomed for other opportunities.
Some scientists seem to have a tendency to dismiss anti-evolutionists as semi-literate inbred hicks. If that characterization was accurate, the anti-evolution movement would be much easier to defeat. However, many in the anti-evolution movement have gifts of rhetoric and personal charm, resulting in the unfortunate effect of otherwise rational folks believing folksy lies instead of hard truths. (See Dodos, Flock of)
Kansans aren't immune from those effects.
Kathy Martin is a charming, pretty lady who unfortunately lacks the humility to recognize that the world's scientists know a lot more about evolution than she does. Spiderwebs can be beautiful to behold, but don't forget their purpose is to entrap and ensnare. The radical right has made their goal very clear: elect Robert Meissner, Dennis Hedke, and Kathy Martin, who said in May 2005
"We are not going to give up until the standards say what we want them to say."
I am in fact immensely irritated by the conspiracy theorists who spread this nonsense around and try to scare people. This non-story is symptomatic of a larger mistrust in science, particularly in the US, which includes intelligent design amongst other things.
The only serious issue is why so many people who don't have the time or inclination to discover for themselves why this stuff is total crap have to be exposed to the opinions of these half-wits.
Among the white coats is Manchester University professor Brian Cox, whose credentials as a figure in a Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy-style turn of events couldn't be more certain.
Before embarking on his scientific career, Cox was a keyboard player with the chart-topping band D:Ream, best known for the hit single and Labour Party anthem Things Can Only Get better.
By the time the band split in 1997, Brian was Dr Brian, having gained a first class honours degree in physics from Manchester University and a PhD in high energy particle physics in Hamburg.
He now splits his time between Manchester and a laboratory in Geneva, where he is in charge of the international project which created the ATLAS detectors, which allow scientists to assess what is happening inside the LHC.
He has little time for people who think the world is going to end as a result of the LHC experiment, even using some pretty non-scientific language to describe the meddling menaces who have planted 'end is nigh' theories in normally sane heads.
"I don't think anything bad of the housewife in Macclesfield who has listened to all this nonsense and thinks that something terrible might happen," the surprisingly down-to-earth particle physicist says, speaking a few days before switch-on.
"But those conspiracy theorists, the one or two scientists who disagree with absolutely every other scientist in the world about the risks involved, and who have started this silly debate unnecessarily, they really are t****.
"The point is, it's not ridiculous for people to be concerned about new scientific discoveries, including GM crops and genetic engineering, with some level of trepidation.
"But when it comes to the LHC, every single scientist in the world who knows anything about it, says that there's no problem.
"These idiots have caused us problems and cost us money. By threatening to blow the place up, they've forced us to hire loads of extra security.
"In fact, if one of these particles were to hit you, you wouldn't feel it. It would do you less harm than a mosquito bite."
Dr. Steven Holen, PhD joined the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in 2001 after completing his doctorate in anthropology at the University of Kansas. Dr. Holen has over 30 years of experience studying the archaeology of the Great Plains and extensive experience with public education in a museum setting.
NCSE's "Project Steve" is a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from Darwinism."
Creationists draw up these lists to convince the public that evolution is somehow being rejected by scientists, that it is a "theory in crisis." Most members of the public lack sufficient contact with the scientific community to know that this claim is totally unfounded. NCSE has been exhorted by its members to compile a list of thousands of scientists affirming the validity of the theory of evolution, but although we easily could have done so, we have resisted such pressure. We did not wish to mislead the public into thinking that scientific issues are decided by who has the longer list of scientists!
Project Steve mocks this practice with a bit of humor, and because "Steves" are only about 1% of scientists, it incidentally makes the point that tens of thousands of scientists support evolution. And it honors the late Stephen Jay Gould, NCSE supporter and friend.
We'd like to think that after Project Steve, we'll have seen the last of bogus "scientists doubting evolution" lists, but it's probably too much to ask. We do hope that at least when such lists are proposed, reporters and other citizens will ask, "but how many Steves are on your list!?"
The statement reads:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.
Kim Houtz is a Biology teacher from Marysville, Kansas. She is also the 2008 winner of the "Outstanding Biology Teacher Award" from the National Association of Biology Teachers. The award is given each year to one Outstanding Biology Teacher in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and overseas territories.
Houtz said she works hard to pass on the idea that science is fascinating and applies directly to each student's life. To help reinforce that, she has a bulletin board where she and the students post current events dealing with science content, and the current events are used as discussion points.
"Yes, I teach evolution, and I can see that in a sense I, too, have evolved," she said. "My teaching methods are different from what they were when I first started teaching. I'm still enthusiastic, I still strive to make the students realize their connection to nature, and I still stress the importance of science in each of their lives."
Congratulations Kim Houtz!
Thank you for your efforts to stand up for REAL science in Kansas classrooms.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, September 8 /Christian Newswire/ -- The nation's leading Christian apologists will speak at Hickory Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC on November 7th and 8th to present The National Conference on Christian Apologetics, presented by the Southern Evangelical Seminary. The theme of this year's conference is, "A Summit On Defense of the Biblical Worldview." Plenary and elective sessions will provide solid apologetics content, touching on how the Christian worldview relates to the home, the church, and the culture.
This year's keynote speaker will be Dr. James Dobson. Other speakers include Chuck Colson of Breakpoint and Prison Fellowship Ministries; Josh McDowell, radio host, author and evangelist; Lee Strobel, journalist and best-selling author; Dinesh D'Souza, author and former senior policy analyst during the Reagan administration; Dr. David Noebel, worldview expert and founder of Summit Ministries; Del Tackett, leader of Focus On the Family's "The Truth Project"; Erwin Lutzer, best-selling author and pastor of Chicago's historic Moody Church; William Dembski, author, scholar, educator and expert on intelligent design and many others.
Yet as recently as June of last year, Jonathan West of the Discovery Institute stated
Intelligent design is not religion, but science.
C'mon guys - have you forgotten that the truth will set you free?
Paul Cottle is a professor of physics at Florida State University, a practicing Catholic, and one of the members of the state science standards writing committee in Florida. Recently, Cottle had an outstanding article published in the National Catholic Weekly. The article is about his work on behalf of quality science education in Florida and nationwide.
Here's an excellent excerpt:
As a physicist and a Christian, I have learned that faith and science need not be antithetical, that a deeper understanding of the natural world can inspire awe at the workings of God's creation. Yet I have come to this understanding by working within the intellectual framework widely accepted by the scientific community, a framework that includes the tenets of evolution. This framework should also guide the teaching of young people, in Florida and elsewhere. The Catholic Church and its partners in the faith have no reason to fear the results.
Intelligent Design promoter Michael Behe is most well known for coining the phrase "irreducibly complexity" to describe certain complex biological systems. According to Behe, "irreducibly complex" systems are so complicated that they could not have evolved through known evolutionary mechanisms. In a brazen act of self-promotion, Behe audaciously wrote in 1996 that the discovery of irreducible complexity should be ranked as "one of the greatest achievements in the history of science."
Here is how Behe described the concept of irreducible complexity in 2001:
"The main difficulty for Darwinian mechanisms is that many systems in the cell are what I termed 'irreducible complex.' I defined an irreducibly complex system as: a single system that is necessary composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning."
Behe, M.J. 2001. Reply to My Critics: A Response to Reviews of Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Biology and Philosophy 16:685-709.
Interestingly, the concept of "irreducible complexity" was not new in 1996.
Not by a long shot.
In fact, American geneticist Hermann J. Muller predicted and explained the existence of "irreducibly complex" biological systems over 90 years ago, and he did it using the REAL science of evolution. Of course Muller did not use the phrase "irreducible complexity," but the concept he described was almost exactly the same. In a discussion about why dominant mutant genetic factors in fruit flies had a tendency to be lethal, Muller proposed that
"...a complicated machine was gradually built up whose effective working was dependent upon the interlocking action of very numerous different elementary parts or factors, and many of the characters and factors which, when new, were originally merely an asset finally became necessary because other necessary characters and factors had subsequently become changed so as to be dependent on the former. It must result, in consequence, that a dropping out of, or even a slight change in any one of these parts is very likely to disturb fatally the whole machinery..."
Muller, H. J. 1918. Genetic variability, twin hybrids and constant hybrids, in a case of balanced lethal factors.Genetics 3:422-499. (emphasis in original)
As Muller explained in 1918, all that is necessary for "irreducible complexity" to evolve is for parts that were originally advantageous to the function of a larger system to become indispensable to the function of the system through further evolutionary changes. Continue this gradual process for many iterations, and you can end up with a very complicated system. Today, the bacterial flagellum (pictured above) is a great example of the kind of interlocking system that Muller described.
Thus, the notion that irreducible complexity is a barrier to gradual evolutionary processes is clearly false. Such a notion is actually contradictory to predictions made by evolutionary theorists for nearly a century.
From the flagellants of the Middle Ages to the doomsayers of Y2K, humanity has always been prone to good old-fashioned the-end-is-nigh hysteria. The latest cause for concern: that the earth will be destroyed and the galaxy gobbled up by an ever-increasing black hole next week.
This summer, after 25 years of preparation, scientists at CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory, will try to re-create the conditions produced by the Big Bang.
On Sept. 10, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, will switch on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - a $6 billion particle accelerator that will send beams of protons careening around a 17-mile underground ring, crash them into each other to re-create the immediate aftereffects of the Big Bang, and then monitor the debris in the hope of learning more about the origins and workings of the universe. Next week marks a low-power run of the circuit, and scientists hope to start smashing atoms at full power by the end of the month.
Critics of the LHC say the high-energy experiment might create a mini black hole that could expand to dangerous, Earth-eating proportions. On Aug. 26, Professor Otto Rossler, a German chemist at the Eberhard Karis University of Tubingen, filed a lawsuit against CERN with the European Court of Human Rights that argued, with no understatement, that such a scenario would violate the right to life of European citizens and pose a threat to the rule of law. Last March, two American environmentalists filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Honolulu seeking to force the U.S. government to withdraw its participation in the experiment. The lawsuits have in turn spawned several websites, chat rooms and petitions - and led to alarming headlines around the world (Britain's Sun newspaper on Sept. 1: "End of the World Due in 9 Days").
Should we be scared? No. In June, CERN published a safety report, reviewed by a group of external scientists, ruling out the possibility of dangerous black holes. It said that even if tiny black holes were to be formed at CERN - a big if - they would evaporate almost instantaneously due to Hawking Radiation, a phenomenon named for the British physicist Stephen Hawking, whose theories show that black holes not only swallow up the light, energy and matter around them, but also leak it all back out at an accelerating pace. According to Hawking, if tiny black holes occurred at CERN, they would evaporate before they got a chance to do any damage. (Even if Hawking's theories prove to be wrong - no one has yet witnessed black-hole evaporation - scientists at CERN say the LHC's collisions are already known to be harmless: an equivalent amount of energy is produced hundreds of thousands of times a day by cosmic rays colliding with the earth and other objects in the cosmos - always without incident.)
Bob Sigman of the Kansas City Star points out the malaise that seems to be affecting Kansas voters:
When the middle-of-the-roaders are pumped, they control the board. When they are not, people around the world laugh at those zany people in Kansas trying to play like evolution does not exist. Or that abstinence will suffice for sex education.
A good state school board does its work without fuss or fury. These last couple of years have lulled Kansans into complacency about the upcoming state school board elections. As usual, it looks like moderates are being . . . moderate, because we haven't had to suffer recently from a school board preoccupied with monitoring teenage sexual activity or with making sure the rest of the world knows our intelligence hasn't evolved.
A couple of years ago, the work was fast and furious. Moderates were energized by the blatant stupidity of Connie Morris, Steve Abrams' dogged disregard of KSDE rules for curriculum development, and Kathy Martin's arrogant assumption that she knows science better than the world's scientific community. There were house parties, letters to the editor, fund raising functions and rallies, all designed to combat the Discovery Institute's meddling in our state science curriculum. That work was successful - Morris and Iris VanMeter were replaced with moderates Sally Cauble and Jana Shaver.
Now - not so much.
What will it take to shake Kansans from our apathy and realize that when good men do nothing, evil will triumph?
Who the heck is Adam Savage, and why should we care how he proposes to improve science education?
Put it this way . . . do you like to watch things go boom?
Do you ever wonder "What if . . .", followed by any combination of the following terms - bullets, cannons, chickens, urination, 3rd rail, flammability, cel phones, gas stations, breast implants, tanning beds . . . ?
If that's the case, then you're already a fan of the Mythbusters and you know that the names of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are synonymous with destruction for the sake of curiosity. Think of the program as Snopes.com on steroids. But louder. Much louder.
Savage has a short piece in this month's Popular Mechanics describing his three steps to fixing science education in our country:
1. Let students get their hands dirty. . . . You can lecture about the surface tension of water, but it's not as effective as conducting an experiment with a needle and a single beam balance.
Hands-on, minds-on learning . . . any other way of teaching is just boring, and the other ways of learning are inefficient. The Mythbusters episodes let students experience the more, um, attorney-attracting investigations vicariously.
2. Yes, spend more money on science. We like to do things on the cheap at MythBusters, and we often find the most elegant solution is also the least expensive. But we still need significant resources. . .
Computer-interfaced probeware can be used to help students draw the crucial connection between the impulse-momentum theorem and why they should wear seatbelts. That apparatus isn't cheap by any means, but at the high school level it's not replaceable by simulations or videos.
3. Celebrate mistakes. A good scientist will tell you that being wrong can be just as interesting as being right. The same holds for our show. We love hearing from fans who challenge our conclusions - especially kids.
When anti-science folks make mistakes, they hurriedly change their webpages or delete polite comments or prohibit dissident scientists from speaking to the press. On the other hand, scientists learn from mistakes - their own and each others'. It's not fun being wrong, but it's always a learning experience.
Of course, it's huge fun to watch Adam & Jamie and the gang figure out how to conjure up spectacular messes and experiment with explosive combinations . . . but science teachers can use some episodes to help students learn more about the process of science. (also available through iTunes)
Ask students to predict what they think will happen in each episode. As the Mythbusters have become more popular, though, students are more likely to have seen a particular episode. To get around this, you can have students explain why they've made this particular prediction.
The Mythbusters don't usually adhere to the strict middle-school progression of the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, hypothesis testing, analysis, etc. These components are likely to pop up anywhere in the episode, so students are asked to list those parts and describe how Adam & Jamie & their henchmen adhere to scientific rigor. Sometimes the episode follows a scientific method, sometimes it doesn't. (See #3 above) And, of course, since it's a REAL science program, "God did it" is not considered a viable scientific solution.
I bet some of the crew is praying during those stunts, though . . .