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Thursday, October 30, 2008
A Clear Choice for District 6

Do you care about the quality of public school science education?

Do you live in one of the following parts of Kansas?

The Counties of Atchison, Brown, Clay, Cloud, Doniphan, Geary, Jackson, Marshall, Nemaha, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Republic, Riley, Saline, and Washington, Dickinson County. Cities of Abilene and Solomon, and the townships of Grant and Lincoln, Jewell County cities of Formoso, Jewell, Mankato, Randall, and Webber, and the townships of Allen, Browns Creek, Buffalo, Calvin, Center, Grant, Harrison, Holmwood, Jackson, Montana, Prairie, Richland, Sinclair, Vicksburg, and Washington.

If you answered yes to both of the above questions, then you have a clear choice for Kansas State Board of Education on Nov. 4th.

Option #1: Kathy Martin

"The truth is that Darwin's theory is far from proven and that continuing to teach it as fact without offering competing theories for Kansas students to consider is doing them a disservice. Scientific discoveries made over the last decades, such as the DNA code in every living cell, have proven Darwin's theory of macroevolution not to be a plausible theory. However, Kathy does believe that microevolution is possible, that is the adaptation of a creature such as a fish living in the deep and losing its eyesight because it has no need for eyes. Kathy does not believe that evolution should be taken out of the science curriculum. On the contrary, she believes we should be spending more time on a critical analysis of Darwin's theory in the science classroom. We should be taking a critical look at the evidence for all theories of origin, including both evolution and intelligent design."

Option #2: Christopher Renner

"I support the current science standards, especially in regard to the teaching of mainstream evolutionary science-a scientific theory that is well-accepted in the scientific community and which impacts our daily lives in numerous ways. I do not find Intelligent Design, nor young-earth creationism, to be scientifically credible."

For anyone who truly understands REAL science, the choice could not be more obvious.

If you think Kansas science teachers should devote precious class time to take a "critical look" at "theories of origin" that have zero scientific credibility, then vote for Kathy Martin.

If you think Kansas science teachers should devote precious class time to helping students learn the consensus understandings of the scientific community, then vote for Christopher Renner.

By the way, Renner recently received the endorsement of two newspapers within District 6, The Salina Journal and The Marysville Advocate.

We could not agree more.


posted by Jeremy Mohn




Christopher Renner is (gasp!) gay

So reads the title of today's editorial in the Salina Journal. Christopher Renner is challenging creationist Kathy Martin for the District 6 seat on the Kansas State Board of Education.

A choice tidbit:

In the past few days, those supporters [of Kathy Martin - csa] have sent the Journal a few e-mails to make sure we warned voters. That's Voters with a capital "V" and that rhymes with "G" and that stands for Gay!

Whew! Glad that's out there. We're feeling better already.

Can you imagine the caliber of disaster that could result if we elected a gay man to the State Board of Education? Why, he'd likely be showing up at board meetings and ... and, he'd be, uh, ... well, we're not sure what he'd be. What do gay men do at board of education meetings?

Study issues? Make comments? Vote? About what everyone else on the board is doing?

Go read the rest of the editorial here. And be grateful there are plenty of Kansans who aren't Fred Phelps clones.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Wednesday, October 29, 2008
An In-Depth Examination of the Comer Case

As reported earlier on this blog, Christina Comer, the former Science Curriculum Director at the Texas Education Agency (TEA), has sued her former employer for illegal termination. Comer was forced to resign under the threat of being fired. The action that triggered the resignation was the forwarding of an email about a speech by a critic of the anti-evolution movement. The suit is specifically intended to bring about change by challenging the constitutionality of the requirement that TEA employees must remain neutral on the topic of evolution vs. Creationism.

Dr. Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science has written a detailed analysis of the evidence in the case. Within that analysis, Schafersman directly rebuts the bogus notion that Comer's termination was not due to her opposition to Creationism, but instead due to a history of displinary problems.

I have added Schafersman's group blog, Evo.Sphere, to my feedreader. If you are following the science education issue in Texas, I recommend that you do the same. While you're at it, add our feed too (if you haven't already).

We promise to do our best to keep you informed.



posted by Jeremy Mohn



Tuesday, October 28, 2008
"It Is Easy to Attack What You Don't Understand"

Lawrence M. Krauss recently wrote the title of this post. Dr. Krauss continued:

"But politicians would be wiser to attempt to better appreciate how science affects the issues central to our political priorities before rushing to use scientific research and education as a scapegoat in their campaigns."

Want to take a guess who Dr. Krauss was referring to?

Read the rest of his LA Times op-ed to find out if you were right.


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Monday, October 27, 2008
"Expelled: Exposed" to Western Kansas

The good news about this barren part of the state is that, economically, we're alright thanks to strong oil and agriculture markets. I live in the state's largest oil-producing county, unemployment is just about non-existent (in fact we're begging for workers), and as the article in the Guardian notes, most of us have a "live and let live" mentality.

Not so much a local church, though. The Hays Celebration Community Church and its radio station at 98.5 FM are sponsoring "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" next Saturday (November 1st) at the fabulously retro Fox Theater. The student-oriented radio station, which calls itself "The Truth," deserves low marks for sponsoring a movie which is so devoid of truth. (This Christian radio station also carries spots from local teachers who announce "Hi, I'm (name), a teacher at (public school), and this is my favorite radio station." That's a battle for another day.)

The timing of this showing is interesting; three days after the movie, Larry Salmans hopes to regain his former State Senate seat from current State Senator Janis Lee (D). Salmans introduced a so-called "Academic Freedom" bill in the Kansas Senate in 2003.

Readers will recall that these types of bills, promoted by the Discovery Institute, give legal protection to science teachers who present intelligent design, creationism, astrology, and Raelianism as legitimate science. Louisiana - with their bottom-ranked educational system - passed similar legislation this summer despite objections from all national and state science organizations. "Expelled" is a Michael Moore-ish attempt to persuade state legislators in the U.S. to promote and pass just such legislation.

I'm speculating that this church-sponsored showing is part of an effort to get Larry Salmans elected, as the pastor of the sponsoring church has a history of telling his congregation how to vote. You can listen to yesterday's sermon, "The Conflict Between Evolution and Intelligent Design."

Thankfully, we'll have an "Expelled: Exposed" session at 3:00 pm next Sunday afternoon in the Hays Public Library Gallery designed to help counter some of the misinformation presented in the movie. Kansas Citizens for Science president Harry McDonald will give a brief presentation, then others will lead small group discussion. We're indebted to Harry for making that looooong journey out here.

(Any Haysians who'd like to watch "Expelled" in the company of scientists should give me a call; we're putting together a function that includes margaritas.)



posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




Another Texas Biology Professor Stands Up

Dr. Terry C. Maxwell is a professor or Biology at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. He is also a signer of the "Scientists for a Responsible Curriculum in Texas Public Schools" statement from the 21st Century Science Coalition.

So it should come as no surprise that he has seen right through the latest machinations of the antievolutionists on the Texas Board of Education.

The heart of this dispute is not the science in evolution. It has been pointed out elsewhere that there has been no need for a scientific article titled "new evidence for evolution" in the past 100 years. The reality of an evolutionary history of life was settled within mainstream biology and geology at least that long ago, and there remains no scientific debate. The evolution questions today involve details of pattern and process, indicative of an active and vibrant science.

Rather, this dispute is one of ideology between science and certain religious viewpoints about a subject addressed in Scripture. You notice that we aren't sparring over the germ or atomic theories that are not directly addressed in the Bible. It is confusing and misleading to students in science class to single out biology and historical geology as uniquely discredited by a religious-based perspective.

The "strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" language in the Texas school curriculum is an anti-evolution ploy and everyone knows it.

Read the rest of Dr. Maxwell's opinion in the The San Angelo Standard-Times.


posted by Jeremy Mohn




Quick Question

Imagine for a moment that you heard a politician say this:

"What we're saying is that the neo-Darwinism and some of the materialistic explanations of evolution have led young folks away from Christianity and their beliefs."

Kathy Martin
Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly, 02/25/2005

...and also this:

"We are not going to give up until the standards say what we want them to say. Some naturalistic [evolutionary] opinion is correct, but not all of it is."

Kathy Martin
Clay Center Dispatch, 04/20/2005

...along with this:

"Evolution has been proven false. ID [Intelligent Design] is science-based and strong in facts."

Kathy Martin
Clay Center Dispatch, 04/20/2005

...and this:

"It [evolution] has a lot of fallacies, and it's been disproven or remains unproven, but it's presented as fact. It was a good idea back in 1859 when it came out. Darwin and some of his cronies had some great ideas, but it can't be proven."

Kathy Martin
Kansas City Star, 05/04/2005

...and finally this:

"The truth is that Darwin's theory is far from proven and that continuing to teach it as fact without offering competing theories for Kansas students to consider is doing them a disservice. Scientific discoveries made over the last decades, such as the DNA code in every living cell, have proven Darwin's theory of macroevolution not to be a plausible theory."

Kathy Martin
Campaign Website, 10/27/08

Would you tend to believe that same politician if you heard her say this?

"All I've asked for, and the other members of the state board of education that approved the science standards in 2005 is an open, objective presentation of evolution."

Kathy Martin
Clay Center Dispatch, 10/27/2008

Feel free to share your answer in the comments.


posted by Jeremy Mohn




Wichita Eagle Endorsements for KBOE

In the upcoming elections for the Kansas Board of Education, the Wichita Eagle has endorsed Dr. Walt Chappell over Dennis Hedke for the District 8 race.

We couldn't agree more. And here's why:

In the contest to replace board vice chairwoman Carol Rupe, Democrat and Wichita businessman Walt Chappell is the only choice for voters who want no more board battles over evolution or other ideological issues. Chappell, who has degrees in science and instructional systems design, has taught science and math and other subjects at the K-12 and college levels. He served on a local school board and oversaw its budgeting, and also worked in school finance and education policy at the state and federal levels. Chappell's top concerns include seeing that schools give children "employable skills" that can take them either to college or a vocation, improving the No Child Left Behind program, better recruiting and retaining teachers, and reducing dropout rates. Asked about another evolution flip-flop, he said, "Not again, not under my watch." And he wants to ensure dollars get into the classrooms. "I'm trying to make certain we make decisions on fact and not emotion and stay focused on kids," he said. Chappell would be a smart, assertive representative on the board.

Wichita Republican Dennis Hedke, a consulting geophysicist, counts among his top concerns teacher retention and recruitment, dropout rates, classroom discipline and the No Child Left Behind law's load on teachers. But his eagerness to see evolution theory scrutinized in the classroom, his view of information worthy of discussion in science classes (including from intelligent design think tanks), his documented doubts about man-made global warming and his desire to revisit how sex education is taught add up to an invitation for more trouble on the state board and more national ridicule. Kansas doesn't need that.

(italics added)

For the District 10 position, the Wicita Eagle has endorsed Republican David Dennis over Democrat Paul Casanova. In our estimation, both men are REAL science candidates. We wish them both luck.


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Sunday, October 26, 2008
I Don't Mean to Be a Pest...


Source: Wikipedia
...but I did some more digging about olive fruit fly research. It turns out that the earmark Gov. Palin criticized was an extremely small part (~0.19%) of the USDA appropriations for emerging plant pests in the 2008 fiscal year.


Emerging Plant Pests. The enacted bill provides $127.9 million for the emerging plant pests (EPP) account within the pest and disease management spending area, well above the FY2007 level of $98.5 million. The EPP budget is allocated as follows: $20.0 million for Asian long-horned beetle (including $353,000 for Illinois); $35.6 million for citrus health; $23.2 million for glassy-winged sharpshooter; $9.6 million for potato cyst nematode; $30.7 million for emerald ash borer (including $1,500,000 for Illinois); $5.3 million for sudden oak death; $1.5 million for Karnal bunt; $371,000 for hydrilla control in Virginia (including $333,900 for a cooperative agreement with the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council and $37,100 for a cooperative agreement with the Tri-County (Smith Mountain) Lake Administrative Commission);4 $234,000 for olive fruit fly (CA); $1.0 million for light brown apple moth; and $423,000 for miscellaneous pests. Total EPP appropriations for FY2008 are somewhat more than the Senate proposal ($126.5 million) but less than the House proposal ($131.2 million) and the Administration
request ($132.3 million).

-CRS Report for Congress (page 25)

It is hard for me to understand why any informed person would single out the olive fruit fly from this list.

Any ideas?


posted by Jeremy Mohn




Article on Kansas State Board of Education Races

This year, many Kansans have a very important decision to make at the ballot box. Unfortunately, they might not even be aware of it.

Scott Rothschild of the Lawrence Journal-World has the story.

State BOE race slips below radar
Science standards depend on new group's makeup

Way below the noise of a historic presidential campaign and an epic economic meltdown are the low-key battles between moderate and conservative candidates vying for the Kansas State Board of Education.

Five positions on the 10-member board are up for grabs, and the results of those elections will decide whether moderates maintain their majority, or even increase it - or conservatives gain ground to produce a 5-5 standoff.

Historically, the see-saw battle between moderates and conservatives for control of the board has produced fights over teaching evolution in schools that have attracted international attention.

Currently, the 6-4 moderate majority has established science standards that subscribe to evolution being taught in science classes.

Read the rest and vote wisely.


posted by Jeremy Mohn




One More Response to the KCFS Questionnaire

Paul Casanova is the Democratic candidate for the District 10 seat of the Kansas Board of Education. When we posted the responses to the KCFS questionnaire earlier, Casanova's answers were not yet available.

Well, here they are:

1. As a State Board of Education member, which of the following organizations would you trust to inform your decision-making in regards to science? Check all that apply.

a. Amer. Assoc. for the Advancement of Science _X_
b. The Intelligent Design Network ___
c. The National Academies of Science _X_
d. The Discovery Institute ___
e. The American Institute of Biological Sciences _X_
f. Answers in Genesis ___
g. The National Science Teachers Association _X_
h. The Institute for Creation Research ___

Other organizations you trust in the area of science: (Please name)

2. Would you, if elected, propose revising the science standards before the next regularly scheduled revision, or support such a revision if another board member proposed it?

No, there has been so much change in this area already that I feel the system has suffered.

3. Do you support an age-appropriate, medically-accurate, comprehensive approach (often referred to as abstinence plus) to sexual education for the students of Kansas?

Yes. I also feel though that if a parent wants their child to opt out, that the parent should have that choice.

4. Do you think it is appropriate for individual state board members to write state curricular standards instead of relying on the board's own appointed committees of professionals from each curricular field?

I think as a board member we should have the final say in all curricular standards. In saying that, I certainly do believe that the appointed committees should be the ones to write the standards.

5. Do you have any other comments about science education you would wish to share with the voters of Kansas?

I think that it is important that our science standards should meet that of the nation. If our children are going to be competitive in the 21st century they must have the academic skills to do so. I am committed to ensuring that our children can compete globally and making Kansas a leader in education.


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Saturday, October 25, 2008
Feynman and the Train

Normally, you can rely on Cheryl for physics-related posts...but this video was just so cool that I had to share it.



posted by Jeremy Mohn



Friday, October 24, 2008
Governor Palin Swats At Fruit Fly Research

Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin gave a policy speech on Friday about special education. Among other things, Gov. Palin advocated for full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Gov. Palin's own 6-month-old son has Down Syndrome, so she clearly has a personal stake in ensuring that all children with special needs get the educational support they need.

In her speech, Gov. Palin claimed that the amount of money that the United States Congress spends on earmarks is enough to fully fund IDEA. She went on to give an example of one of the "pet projects" that she would like to see eliminated.

"You've heard about some of these pet projects that really don't make a whole lot of sense. Sometimes these dollars...they go to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not."

Although the reference was somewhat vague, Gov. Palin was almost certainly referring to a $748,000 earmark obtained by California Rep. Mike Thompson for olive fruit fly research. This earmark was one of many that was criticized earlier this year by the fiscal watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste in their annual "Congressional Pig Book" report.

As you might expect, Rep. Thompson vigourously defended his request for that earmark:

"The Olive Fruit Fly has infested thousands of California olive groves and is the single largest threat to the U.S. olive and olive oil industries," he said. "I secured $748,000 for olive fruit fly research and irradiation in the (fiscal year 2008) appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA will use some of that funding for their research facility in France. This USDA research facility is located in France because Mediterranean countries like France have dealt with the Olive Fruit Fly for decades, while California has only been exposed since the late 1990s. This is not uncommon; the USDA has several international research facilities throughout the world, including Australia, China and Argentina."

It turns out that this fruit fly research has the potential to positively impact not only the economic well-being of a significant number of Californians but also the overall health of everyday Americans.

Palin's criticism of the use of federal funding for scientific research that actually does have to do with the public good is certainly troubling. But it rings especially hollow given that this year she submitted to Congress an earmark request list including $2,000,000 to research the productivity of the Bering Sea Crab and $3,200,000 to study the genetics of Harbor Seals and Stellar Sea Lions. These are both undoubtedly worthy research projects, but they are precisely the same kind of project that Palin scoffed at in her speech.

Perhaps Gov. Palin simply did not know about the particular goal of the fruit fly research she criticized in her speech?

Or maybe she thought it was not important enough to require federal support?

Either way, it's this kind of dismissive attitude toward useful scientific research that is troubling for people like me who are concerned about a decline in federal funding for scientific research. It should also also troubling to anyone who might benefit from the findings of such research.

For instance, just last year researchers from University of North Carolina showed that a protein called neurexin is required for the formation and correct functioning of nerve cell connections. Because neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism, the discovery may lead to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders.

How was the discovery of the function of neurexin made?

By studying the nervous systems of fruit flies.

I kid you not.

Unfortunately, although she says she will fight for more funding to help all children with disabilities, Gov. Palin's apparent lack of respect for the value of basic scientific research could end up being a barrier to providing these children the assistance they need.


posted by Jeremy Mohn




Expelled, Egnor, and Evolution

For those who may not be aware, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" was recently released on DVD. I rarely get the chance to go out to the movies, so I did not see Expelled while it was in the theaters. Now that it's out on DVD, I finally took the time to watch the movie last night.

I must admit that I had already heard so much about Expelled that none of the movie was very notable. It was actually difficult for me to stay awake for the whole thing.

One memorable moment was the brief interview with Dr. Michael Egnor, a neurosurgeon and contributor to the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog. I was personally struck by Egnor's dogged insistence that doctors do not need to study evolution in order to practice medicine.

More below the fold.


Here's what Egnor had to say about the relevance of evolutionary theory to the field of neurosurgery:

"There's nothing to be learned in neurosurgery by assuming an accidental origin for the parts of the brain that we work on."

-Dr. Michael Egnor in Expelled

I have no problem with the above statement. It may very well be true. Neurosurgeons are basically highly-skilled technicians who do not necessarily need to understand the origin of the human brain in order to be able to operate on it.

However, the above statement is not an argument against evolution. It merely demonstrates that Dr. Egnor operates on a fallacious misunderstanding of evolution.

If you take even a cursory look at the scientific literature on the subject, you will find that the evolution of the human brain is not attributed "accidental" events. Instead, the evolutionary origin of the human brain is primarily attributed to positive Darwinian selection, a causal mechanism that is the very opposite of "accidental." For those with an interest in the topic, this review article summarizes some of the current research.

So, even with my minimal familiarity with the practice of medicine, Dr. Egnor's claim that evolution is irrelevant to medicine seemed more like an expression of his own ignorance than a persuasive argument against evolution.

Interestingly, I just ran across a review of a new book entitled Evolution in Health and Disease. According to the reviewer, Dr. Leonid Gavrilov, the book reaches out to those medical professionals who are skeptical of the utility of evolutionary theory:

The authors seem to be acutely aware of the current healthy skepticism among medical experts regarding practical usefulness of evolutionary theory. Therefore, they start to address these concerns from the very beginning of the book:

"Should doctors and medical researchers think about evolution? Does it bring useful insights? Would doctors and researchers who learned a substantial amount about evolution be more effective than a control group that learned only the usual rudiments? Would providing such education improve health enough to justify the costs?"

They acknowledge that evolutionary theory is not helpful to surgeons, but it may be useful to internists, pediatricians, epidemiologists and geneticists, when "prescribing antibiotics, managing virulent diseases, administrating vaccinations, advising couples who have difficulty conceiving and carrying offspring to term, treating diabetes and high blood pressure of pregnancy, treating cancer, understanding the origins of the current epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, and answering patients' questions about aging."

Perhaps we should send this book to Dr. Egnor?

Unfortunately, I wouldn't know where to send it. The movie implied that Dr. Egnor has been "expelled." They even put a big "Expelled" stamp over his picture.

Who knows where he is now?


posted by Jeremy Mohn




The Latest "A Vote For Science" Video




Barack Obama is currently winning by a landslide.


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Thursday, October 23, 2008
The Economic Effect of Anti-Evolutionism in Texas

Dr. Alan Leshner is the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society. He is also the executive publisher Science, the world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary.

That means he knows a little something about the relationship between science and the global economy.

Here's what Dr. Leshner has to say to those who would like to water down the teaching of evolution in the state of Texas:

Texas has earned a reputation as an innovation powerhouse in fields ranging from agriculture and life sciences to high technology and space exploration.

But in a report issued this summer, a panel of Texas business, education and government leaders warned that without "critical changes" in state schools - especially in science-related instruction - the state will lose its global competitive edge.

It appears, however, that some members of the State Board of Education are working on a different agenda. Last week, they appointed three anti-evolution activists, including a leader of the "intelligent design" religious campaign, to a six-member panel that will review proposed new science curriculum standards.

The new standards will shape how science education is taught in Texas for the next decade, and it would be a terrible mistake to water down the teaching of evolution in any way.

Be sure to read the rest of Leshner's editorial in Wednesday's edition of the Houston Chronicle.

And, if you haven't done so already, show your support for REAL science in Texas by signing the Texas Freedom Network's "Stand Up for Science" petition.


posted by Jeremy Mohn




Science, Sex, and the Kansas State Board of Education

What follows is a series of posts based on candidates' responses to questions submitted by Kansas Citizens for Science. As a non-profit group, the mission of KCFS is to inform the public on issues related to science education and will not endorse any candidate. For the record, I'm a board member of KCFS, and as usual any opinions I express here are strictly my own and don't represent KCFS. Also as usual, anyone who claims otherwise is lying.

Each post in this series deals with a separate question and the candidates' responses. It should be noted that Robert Meissner and Paul Casanova did not respond to the questionnaire.

Not sure who your candidates are? Here's Jeremy's awesome map - enjoy!

Here are direct links to each of the five posts:

Question 1: Who provides the best science advice?
Question 2: Changing the science standards - when?
Question 3: Sex Ed
Question 4: How arrogant are you?
Question 5: What else do you have to say?



posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




Question #5: What else do you have to say?


Do you have any other comments about science education you would wish to share with the voters of Kansas?

District 2

Mary Ca Ralstin:

"I believe that science should be taught in science class and religion should be taught in a religion class or a humanities or social studies class."

Steve E. Roberts:

"All students should be able to articulate an understanding of the scientific method.

Finally, for Question 1, I have not enough information to appropriately respond. But within my first year as a member of the Kansas Board of Education, I expect I'd answer intelligently and effectively."

Sue Storm:

"I am concerned that in many schools it appears that science education has been put on the back burner in order to concentrate on NCLB assessments, especially in the lower grades. This is tragic; curiosity about the world around us needs to be encouraged from the very beginning of education. Of course, arts, physical activity (recess), and other activities have been cut back to meet NCLB expectations."

District 4

Carolyn Campbell:

"I believe the theory of evolution should be taught. I also believe in the separation of church and state. Creationism and intelligent design can be taught in social study or religion classes."

Robert Meissner: No Response

District 6

Kathy Martin:

"We should not limit scientific information or data whether it refutes or supports a theory that we believe in - if we censor scientific information we are not helping to discover true answers. Some natural phenomena can not be proven 100%. It is best to be objective and open minded in such cases."

Christopher Renner:

"I believe that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) hold the answers to the pressing issues facing our state, nation and the world. I believe in separation of church and state and will fight any effort to dumb down our state's curriculum in order to accommodate religious extremists."

District 8

Dr. Walt Chappell:

"Students need to be taught how science concepts and facts are applied to making 21st Century decisions. We must challenge our students to excel, be creative and become excited about learning and using science in their daily lives and careers."

Dennis Hedke:

"We have very real challenges ahead in science education in Kansas. Over the course of many years in the past, with similar projections into the future, we are experiencing major net losses in science and math teachers. It is difficult, at best, to retrain an English, History, P.E., or whatever other non-science / math professional to become qualified to teach math or science. Yet, it is happening.

There is a lot of discussion about certification (not just in science), and how it appears that Kansas has some of the most difficult conditions in America to allow individuals who appear to be qualified to become certified to teach in this state. I realize these guidelines are under review, but they need to be brought to the top of the priority list.

The concept of reciprocity with other states also needs to be prioritized and considered to relieve some of the pressure due to the net losses of qualified teachers. The review will entail significant comparative analysis related to certification requirements in states under consideration, and that process cannot be rushed."

District 10

Paul Casanova: No Response

David Dennis:

"I understand the concern many voters have about the science standards changing every two years. That is one of the reasons I decided to run for the Kansas Board of Education. I believe we need to quit spending time debating evolution and devote that time to ensuring that we are providing a quality, scientifically sound, education to all of the students in the state of Kansas."

(The format of this post has been edited.)


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




Question #4: How arrogant are you?


Do you think it is appropriate for individual state board members to write state curricular standards instead of relying on the board's own appointed committees of professionals from each curricular field?

District 2

Mary Ca Ralstin:

"No. We need many educated individuals to help with educating our children and no one individual has all the answers."

Steve E. Roberts:

"This individual board member would be quite capable in writing math standards. I don't know about the other nine members."

Sue Storm:

"Absolutely not"

District 4

Carolyn Campbell:

"I believe the state curricular standards should be written only by the board's appointed committees of professionals from each curricular field. State board members should rely on the professionals' recommendations."

Robert Meissner: No Response

District 6

Kathy Martin:

"Yes - often times the board has not actually appointed the committee. The department has done it with suggestions from various advocacy groups."

Christopher Renner:

"NO."

District 8

Dr. Walt Chappell:

"NO!!"

Dennis Hedke:

"No."

District 10

Paul Casanova: No Response

David Dennis:

"The board is ultimately responsible for the state standards. I do not believe in being a rubber stamp for someone else. There may be changes that should be made after an appointed committee provides their input due to oversight or omissions. I trust experts to provide the best product possible; however, there could still be errors that the board should correct before the standards are published."

(The format of this post has been edited.)


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




Question #3: Sex Ed


Do you support an age-appropriate, medically-accurate, comprehensive approach (often referred to as abstinence plus) to sexual education for the students of Kansas?

District 2

Mary Ca Ralstin:

"Yes. I have always supported children getting the facts. Ignorance is not bliss in this area."

Steve E. Roberts:

"I support all citizens understanding biology."

Sue Storm:

"Yes, that is my preference. We cannot withhold accurate and thorough information that would keep students safe, just hoping that they will not decide to be sexually active. I would favor the re-insertion of the word "comprehensive" in the accreditation regulations relating to health and human sexuality curricula. However, this issue will likely continue to be one decided by local boards."

District 4

Carolyn Campbell:

"I support a comprehensive sex education curriculum. I believe our children should be knowledgeable in order to make safe choices."

Robert Meissner: No Response

District 6

Kathy Martin:

"No - it is up to local boards to determine the program they wish to use if any. If a local board decides to have sex education for students, they I [sic] would advise an abstinence until marriage message."

Christopher Renner:

"YES."

District 8

Dr. Walt Chappell:

"YES!!"

Dennis Hedke:

"I would emphasize the abstinence side of the discussion and I would want to have a thorough review of "age-appropriate" guidelines. Further, I would want to receive significant input from parents on this very important issue.

I would insist that parents be advised and that their consent be required for any of the following occurring on or within public school facilities, the exception being when medical attention is immediately required due to physical injury during activities related to athletics or other such circumstance:
  • Performance of medical examinations
  • Disbursement of immunizations and medications
  • Dispensing of birth control devices
  • Abortion referrals"

[csa: What public schools in Kansas perform the last two functions? It would be nice to see some evidence of this to see whether Hedke's making an issue of something that isn't happening.]

District 10

Paul Casanova: No Response

David Dennis:

"I believe in teaching science and biology in our science classrooms, not sexual education. I believe in abstinence."

(The format of this post has been edited.)


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




Question #2: Changing the science standards - when?


Would you, if elected, propose revising the science standards before the next regularly scheduled revision, or support such a revision if another board member proposed it?

District 2

Mary Ca Ralstin:

"No. We need to leave the science standards as they are for now."

Steve E. Roberts:

"I'd have to see the specific standard to answer intelligently."

Sue Storm:

"No, I would not support either of these proposals."

District 4

Carolyn Campbell:

"I would not support revising the state science standard prior to the next regularly scheduled revision review."

Robert Meissner: No Response

District 6

Kathy Martin:

"No, the standards for science should be under the same scheduled protocol as other educational standards for teaching."

Christopher Renner:

"NO!"

District 8

Dr. Walt Chappell:

"NO!"

Dennis Hedke:

"I do not consider revision of the standards to be a priority. However, if new data becomes available which indicates the need for a review of existing standards, I would remain open to a review.

I have stated publicly and openly that the theory of evolution should be scrutinized along with any other theory that makes its way to the domain of scientific review. I can see no logic in attempting to isolate and protect this theory against the broad range of theories in science, economics, sociology, etc. On this subject, our standards appear to be out of balance. Theories are theories and facts are facts. While some would claim that the theory of evolution is ironclad and without fault, I respectfully disagree, and so do many individuals who belong to the organizations listed above [csa: see question #1]. I know because I've visited with them on this very subject. Therefore, it should remain open to criticism, adjustment due to new data and evidence, and overall improvement."

District 10

Paul Casanova: No Response

David Dennis:

"NO!!!"

(The format of this post has been edited.)


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




Question #1: Who provides the best science advice?


As a State Board of Education member, which of the following organizations would you trust to inform your decision-making in regards to science?

(Note: Robert Meissner and Paul Casanova did not respond to this questionnaire.)

a. American Association for the Advancement of Science Sue Storm, Kathy Martin, Christopher Renner, Dr. Walt Chappell, Dennis Hedke, Mary Ca Ralstin, Carolyn Campbell

b. The Intelligent Design Network: Kathy Martin, Dennis Hedke

It gets even better . . . more after the jump.

c. The National Academies of Science Sue Storm, Kathy Martin, Christopher Renner, Dr. Walt Chappell, Dennis Hedke, Mary Ca Ralstin, Carolyn Campbell, Steve Roberts

d. The Discovery Institute: Kathy Martin, Dennis Hedke

e. The American Institute of Biological Sciences: Sue Storm, Kathy Martin, Christopher Renner, Dr. Walt Chappell, Dennis Hedke, Mary Ca Ralstin, Carolyn Campbell

f. Answers in Genesis: Kathy Martin, Dennis Hedke

g. The National Science Teachers Association: Sue Storm, Kathy Martin, Christopher Renner, Dr. Walt Chappell, Dennis Hedke, Mary Ca Ralstin, Carolyn Campbell

h. The Institute for Creation Research Kathy Martin, Dennis Hedke

David Dennis responded with

I am not a scientist. I could research each of these organizations to see what they stand for; however, I believe it is easier to let you know that I do not support teaching intelligent design or creationism in science classes. I believe that is what you are getting at with this question. If a school district wants to teach creationism or intelligent design they could teach them in a bible study or philosophy class-not a science class. I believe there is consensus in the scientific community on evolution. If you feel it is important for me to research each of these organizations and provide a check beside those who support the science standards that we have in place today, I can do that.

Dennis also stated that

I have talked to science teachers in my school district and at a Catholic High School. Since I am a business teacher, not a science teacher, I look for individuals who I believe have credibility and look for them for advice.

David Dennis served on the transition team for the unqualified, anti-public-education Bob Corkins. Corkins needed to learn how to be the head of the Kansas State Department of Education after Kathy Martin & the other conservatives on the state board of education gave him the job over more-qualified candidates in 2005. Corkins resigned shortly after the November 2006 elections overturned his supporters on the state board of education. I don't know if Dennis helped because he was trying to make a silk purse from a sow's ear, or because he was a supporter of Corkins.

Steve Roberts would also trust

National Science Foundation; Scientific American

Kathy Martin would rely on KATS (Kansas Association for Teachers of Science) to keep her informed about science education issues. Here's the statement from KATS (pdf) which blasted the 2005 standards Martin would like to bring back.

Dennis Hedke would take advice from these organizations about issues related to science education:

American Association of Petroleum Geologists
American Chemical Society
American Geological Institute
American Geophysical Union
American Medical Association
American Physical Society
American Society of Civil Engineers
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
American Society of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers
Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists
European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers
Geological Society of America
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Society of Exploration Geophysicists

Mary Ca Ralstin trusts Kansas Citizens for Science to inform her decisions about science education in Kansas.

(The format of this post has been edited.)


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Monday, October 20, 2008
Winning in Texas


"It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."

We've all heard the so-called "loser's mantra." Perhaps it was sourly voiced by someone on the losing end of a competition. Or maybe it came from someone looking to encourage sportsmanship in overly-competitive participants. Although the saying it is often disparaged, there really is something to admire in the sentiment.

It is important how you play the game.

When it comes to REAL science, playing the game involves proposing and testing scientific hypotheses. It involves publishing the results of those tests for other scientists to critically analyze. This is all done in an attempt to determine the best scientific explanation for the natural phenomenon under scrutiny.

In Texas, Board of Education Chairman Dr. Don McLeroy likes to talk about "letting the best scientific explanation win." He recently wrote a letter to the Waco Tribune in which he overtly appealed to the reader's sense of fair play:

All we must do to maintain science's credibility and to decide if there are weaknesses in the evolutionary hypothesis is "to use evidence to construct testable explanations" and see where the evidence leads. Let the best scientific explanation win.

Okay, let's do that. Let's "use evidence to construct testable explanations" and "let the best scientific explanation win."

If those are the rules of the game, are there any objective measures that could be used to determine the current score?

Unfortunately for anti-evolutionists, the answer is a resounding "YES!"

Ironically, Texas biology professors Daniel Bolnick, R.E. Duhrkopf, Ben Pierece, Sahotra Sarkar, and David Hillis pointed to the scoreboard in the same edition of the Waco Tribune in which Dr. McLeroy's letter appeared.

The last science standards revision was a decade ago. Since then, biologists have published more than 30,000 research articles demonstrating that evolution has occurred and how it works.

Unfortunately, evolution opponents are uninterested in updating the standards to reflect this expanded knowledge. They instead want standards that divert class time from this well-established scientific discipline to cover thoroughly discredited arguments about "weaknesses" of evolution.

That requirement would allow the state board to reject any science textbook that did not include such phony arguments.

Our children's textbooks would then reflect the personal beliefs of state board members, not scientific consensus.

More than 100,000 published biological research studies demonstrate the fact of evolutionary change.

Many experimental studies demonstrate that natural selection and related processes can produce observed evolutionary changes.

In contrast, no scientific evidence exists showing that species were created separately or that natural processes can't account for observed evolution.

There is virtually universal support among research biologists for the overwhelming scientific evidence behind evolution. The job of high school teachers is to present this consensus view of science.

Regardless, evolution opponents continue to promote worn-out arguments based on demonstrably false information.

So, instead of facing the fact that the anti-evolution movement has consistenly been trounced on the only scientific playing field that really matters, Dr. McLeroy wants to pretend that the game is just starting.

In other words, Dr. McLeroy is asking all of us to ignore the score while he declares a do-over and a change of venue.

In the process, it seems to me that Dr. McLeroy has just coined the new loser's mantra:

"Let the best scientific explanation win."

-Dr. Don McLeroy, October 9, 2008


posted by Jeremy Mohn




New NCSE Website

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is the premiere organization in the nationwide effort to improve and support science education across the country, especially as it relates to evolution and the nature of science. Whenever anti-evolution activity flares up around the country, the NCSE is there to help put out the flames.

The NCSE recently unveiled a newly-designed website. It looks like there are a lot of new resources available for your perusal.

Check it out!



posted by Jeremy Mohn




21st-Century Science Coalition Surpasses 1200 Signees

The 21st-Century Science Coalition is a group of Texas scientists who have joined together to ensure that Texas students get a sound science education reflecting the most up-to-date scientific knowledge. Since my first mention of the coalition on this blog, the list of signees has increased tremendously. There are now well over 1200 Texas scientists who have taken a public stand in support of REAL science.

If you are a scientist who currently resides in the state of Texas, I strongly encourage you to sign the statement. If you know a scientist who lives in Texas, click here to open your email program and send that scientist a personal invitation to sign the list.

In addition to surpassing the 1200 mark, the list's "Steve" count has increased to 22.

13. Steven Austad
152. Stefan Estreicher
180. Steven Goldsmith
273. Steven Lanoux
313. Stephen Mcadam
326. Steven McKnight
373. Stephanie Pangas
436. Stephen Ruppel
514. Steven Vik
519. Steven Vokes
555. Stephen Ziser
597. Stephen Barrett
628. Stephen Bowden
712. Steven De Vito
781. Stefan Gilthorpe
818. Stephanie Hart
990. Steve McDaniel
1021. Stephanie Moore
1131. Steven Schafersman
1147. Stephanie Shipp
1153. Steven Sinclair
1221. Steven Uecker


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Friday, October 17, 2008
Bill Nye on Tiktaalik and Evolution



I ♥ Bill Nye.


posted by Jeremy Mohn




Texas Professor Responds to Conflict of Interest Charge

In an earlier post, I reported that two of the six people recently appointed to review the science curriculum in Texas are co-authors of an anti-evolution textbook. This lead to the obvious question of whether such involvement represents a conflict of interest on the part of the co-authors who stand to benefit financially from the outcome of that review process.

The conflict of interest charge was originally raised by the Texas Freedom Network:

The inclusion of the two textbook authors raises serious questions about conflicts of interest and whether political agendas took priority over giving Texas students a 21st-century science education, [Kathy] Miller said.

"It's simply stunning that any state board members would even consider appointing authors of an anti-evolution textbook to a panel of scientists," she said. "Are they coming here to help write good science standards or to drum up a market for their lousy textbook?"

At the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog (EN&V), they responded in their customary "I'm rubber you're glue" way:

What the TFN doesn't reveal is that another of the expert reviewers co-authored a one-sided, Darwin-only textbook! David Hillis, a biology professor at UT Austin co-authored the 2008 edition of Life: The Science of Biology, a textbook whose previous editions have been approved for use in Texas high schools. Hillis also serves as a spokesman for a pro-evolution lobbying group that is trying to remove language in the Texas science standards requiring students to study the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. Gerald Skoog, another expert reviewer, has signed a statement issued by the same pro-evolution group, and he too has been a science textbook author and has a long history as a pro-Darwin activist.

"If being a textbook author really is a 'conflict of interest,' then why isn't TFN attacking Hillis and Skoog?" asked Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.

Perhaps that question was rhetorical. Unfortunately for Luskin, Dr. Hillis went ahead and answered it.

Dr. David Hillis
Picture from UT
I am co-author of the 8th edition of Life: The Science of Biology (published by Sinauer Associates and W. H. Freeman). This is a college-level book for majors in biology. It is also used in some AP-Biology courses at the high school level, and an earlier edition (I was not a co-author) is on the approved list for use in AP Biology in Texas. The curriculum that we are reviewing is not the AP-Biology curriculum, which is not determined by the state of Texas. The book is not on the list (nor it it an appropriate level) for use in the regular high school biology curriculum in Texas, so there is no conflict. That is my only textbook...my other books are professional books on biology (you can find the full list on my cv).

(quoted at Thoughts from Kansas)

Incidentally, despite the implication from the DI, Gerald Skoog has not co-authored a textbook since 1999. That book, Science insights: Exploring living things, is written at a middle school level and therefore not appropriate for use in the regular high school biology curriculum. Once again, there is no conflict of interest.

And once again, we see the folks at EN&V are living up to the first line of their mission statement:

The misreporting of the evolution issue is one key reason for this site.

Hat-tip: Josh Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Thursday, October 16, 2008
McCain: Unfamiliar with Heavenly Bodies

Not an
"overhead projector"

The statement that's bothered me the most during the presidential debates is the assertion by John McCain that Barack Obama wasted $3M on "an overhead projector."

I don't know if McCain is repeating an ignorant staffer's line, or if he's just never been inside a planetarium before. Sure, McCain wasn't doing astronomy shows for the neighborhood kids when he was 8 years old like my husband was. But anyone with a passing knowledge of astronomy knows the difference between "an overhead projector" and the sophisticated heart of Chicago's renowned Adler Planetarium just as they know the difference between Uranus and a black hole. Referring to the centerpiece of Adler as an "overhead projector" is like "calling the space shuttle a bottle rocket."

Sadly, McCain's remark plays to the anti-science crowd, and Kansas certainly doesn't need any more of that anti-intellectual pollution. I'll grant that $3M is a lot of money, and I'd like to see more oversight of federal and state expenditures. But for McCain to purposely distort the nature of the un-granted request is not the honorable behavior I expect from someone who used to serve our country so well.

Phil Plait over at The Bad Astronomer cuts loose with both barrels. And hey, if you can spare some cash for a new Zeiss for Adler, donate here.



posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Business As Usual In Texas

What business do a philosopher of science from Seattle and a microbiologist from Wisconsin have in reviewing the science curriculum standards of Texas public schools?

Well, none obviously.

But they potentially stand to gain a lot of business by selling their "mendacious 'textbooks'" in the Lone Star State and beyond.

Have Stephen Meyer and Ralph Seelke ever heard the phrase "conflict of interest?"



posted by Jeremy Mohn



Monday, October 13, 2008
A Vote for Science

Scientists and Engineers for America Action Fund and Scienceblogs have recently teamed up to create "A Vote For Science." This new YouTube channel will feature videos of scientists explaining which Presidential candidate they will be voting for and why.

If you are a scientist and would like to participate, then you are encouraged to record your own video. When you are finished recording, upload your video to YouTube and tag it "avoteforscience." It will then be featured along with videos from well-known scientists from all over the United States.

The first video is from 2008 Nobel Prize winner Marty Chalfie:



While you're at YouTube, you also might want to check out the standup4REALscience channel featuring the "Evolution is REAL Science" videos. The third video in the installment is currently in the works.



posted by Jeremy Mohn




Laura Ewing for Texas Board of Education

Laura Ewing, District 7 candidate for the Texas Board of Education, has received an endorsement from the Houston Chronicle.

The State Board of Education performs an extremely important function for the state's school system. It provides direction to Texas schools by adopting policies and setting standards for educational programs. The board is now faced with the task of determining curriculum standards for the state's new science textbook. The Chronicle believes the best candidate for the District 7 position is veteran educator and former Friendswood City Council member Laura Ewing.

You can read more about Ewing's opponent, David Bradley, in an earlier post on this blog.


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Saturday, October 4, 2008
Evolution for Everyone in Lawrence

I am really hoping that I can make the trip over to Lawrence on Monday night:

Author David Sloan Wilson is scheduled to deliver a lecture Monday on applying Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution to everyday life.

The lecture, on Wilson's book, "Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives," is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at The Commons at Spooner Hall on the Kansas University campus.

Wilson is a distinguished professor and evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University.

A reception and a book signing will follow the lecture.

Publisher's Weekly called Evolution for Everyone "by far the most accessible account of evolution for a general audience, as well as the farthest ranging."

Having read the book, I heartily agree. Throughout the book, Sloan refers to science as a "roll up your sleeves" activity. I remember wishing that I could go back to school and study evolutionary biology, just so that I could investigate some of the intriguing hypotheses that David Sloan Wilson put forth. His book is a must-read for anyone who appreciates science, especially those who may have doubts about the usefulness of evolutionary theory.


posted by Jeremy Mohn



Thursday, October 2, 2008
Update: Ohio science teacher John Freshwater

Remember John Freshwater, the science teacher who burned crosses into his students' arms, and who had been teaching creationism to 8th graders in lieu of science?.

According to the Columbus Dispatch,

Freshwater is to have a chance to contest the allegations at a hearing on the school board's intention to fire him. Officials expect the hearing to run today through Friday and to resume on Oct. 28.

Freshwater's supporters erroneously blame Freshwater's firing on the fact that he defied the school administration's order to remove his Bible from his desk. These supporters are trying to throw up a deceptive smokescreen in order to distract from the central issues:

Freshwater physically abused students.

Freshwater refused to teach the district science curriculum.


What's the big deal about the second one?

"He has put his religious views above his duty to the students," said Dick Hoppe, a visiting biology professor at Kenyon College near Mount Vernon. "It looks to me like he was running what amounts to a private Christian school embedded in the public school."

An outside investigator found that Freshwater's former students frequently had to be retaught in high school what they were supposed to have learned in his eighth-grade class. One administrator said that, for 11 years, teachers and others in the community have complained that Freshwater preached his Christian beliefs in class and slammed scientific theories.

Each and every year, when Freshwater signed his teaching contract, he was promising to abide by the district curriculum in return for his paycheck. Each and every year he taught creationism instead of science, he turned his signature into a lie. And we know what Christ thought of hypocrites.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams



Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Texas Scientists Stand Up for REAL Science

Scientists in Texas are standing up and speaking out in support of REAL science.

Over 800 scientists at Texas colleges and universities along with self-identified industry scientists and graduate students in relevant fields have signed a statement in support of teaching evolution.

The statement doesn't hold anything back:

Scientists for a Responsible Curriculum in
Texas Public Schools


A strong science curriculum is an essential part of a 21st-century education and should be based on established peer-reviewed empirical research. In 2008-09 the State Board of Education is revising the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standards for the sciences.
Scientifically sound curriculum standards must:
  • acknowledge that instruction on evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences;
  • make clear that evolution is an easily observable phenomenon that has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt;
  • be based on the latest, peer-reviewed scholarship;
  • encourage valid critical thinking and scientific reasoning by leaving out all references to "strengths and weaknesses," which politicians have used to introduce supernatural explanations into science courses; and
  • recognize that all students are best served when matters of faith are left to families and houses of worship.
We, therefore, call on the Texas State Board of Education to approve science curriculum standards that prepare Texas students to succeed in the 21st century.

I know what you are probably thinking.

How many "Steves" are on the list?

Click through to the full post to find out.

10!

201. Steven Lanoux
240. Steven McKnight
319. Stephen Ruppel
403. Stephen Ziser
429. Stephen Barrett
452. Stephen Bowden
508. Steven De Vito
676. Stephanie Moore
732. Steven Schafersman
740. Stephanie Shipp


posted by Jeremy Mohn




Counterknowledge

"It ain't what you don't know, it's what you know that ain't so." - Mark Twain

Next up on the reading list - Damian Thompson's Counterknowledge.

Salon reviewer Louis Bayard opined

Millions of unwary souls from every quadrant of Earth are swallowing a daily diet of quackery, conspiracy theory, bogus history and faux science. We haven't just turned off our bullshit detectors, we've permanently disabled them. And in so doing, Thompson argues, we've made for ourselves "a thrilling universe in which Atlantis is buried underneath the Antarctic, the Ark of the Covenant is hidden in Ethiopia, aliens have manipulated our DNA, and there was once a civilization on Mars."

More from Bayard:

What ties together all these ancient and not-so-ancient belief systems is, by Thompson's reckoning, simply this: They all purport to be knowledge without actually being knowledge. They are "misinformation packaged as fact."


As the Internet tears down traditional news portals, untested propositions go hurtling through cyberspace, vastly increasing the ability of bad information to take root -- that is, to look simply like new information. "A rumor about the Antichrist can leap from Goths in Sweden to an extreme traditionalist Catholic sect in Australia in a matter of seconds," writes Thompson. As for creationism, it is now less a religious phenomenon than a technological one. Sites like CreationWiki and Conservapedia and Kids 4 Truth (a primer in intelligent design) dress up their unsecular ideas in secular clothing -- and obliterate the difference between fact and faith more effectively than Sarah Palin ever could.


"If you believe one wrong or strange thing," writes Thompson, "you are more likely to believe another." Especially if you're seething with hostility toward political, intellectual and scientific elites. Counterknowledge, for all its transience, gives its owners an enduring feeling: They have been entrusted with the very secret they weren't supposed to know.


posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams




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