Posts Tagged “science education”

Evolution & Darwinism in Schools: Teaching Evolution & Darwinism Encourages Immoral, Bestial Behavior (Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress)The drums of the vast armies of Christofascism in the US are beating incessantly, and their forces are on the march. In skirmish after skirmish, they’re gaining victories around the country. The latest of these came in the Tennessee legislature, whose House approved a law that would teach religion in that state’s science classes. CBS News reports on this religionist debacle (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee’s Republican-dominated House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would protect teachers who want to challenge the theory of human evolution.

Thursday’s 70-28 passage of HB 368 [cached] was hailed by sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who said the proposal was designed to promote “critical thinking” in science classes.

It will be a cold day in hell before any Religious Rightist like Dunn ever truly gives a flying fuck about “critical thinking.” His promotion of this bill shows he has no comprehension of what “critical thinking” is.

The truth of the matter is this: TN HB 368 is NOT — and never was — about “critical thinking” at all. Religiofascists don’t like or want “critical thinking.” They demand, instead, “rigid dogmatic thinking,” and unwavering thralldom to their unbending, irrational metaphysics.

Rep. Dunn’s claim to be concerned about “critical thinking” is a lie, and that places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

For anyone who’s not yet clear on this, “intelligent design” and its various relatives are all just variations on Creationism. It was none other than an evangelical Christian federal appellate judge — appointed by George W. Bush himself — who declared “intelligent design” a sham, a transparent cover for Creationism, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005). Prior to that, the US Supreme Court had ruled that Creationism was effectively a religion and is therefore forbidden in public schools, in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), and subsequently that evolution by contrast is not a religion, in Peloza v. Capistrano School District (1994).

It’s time for America’s religionists to grow up and get over the fact that science is not theirs to control. Evolution is science, at the moment, so that’s what should be taught in science classes. Period. End of discussion.

One final note for any other religiofascists out there who think they can force their religion on public school kids in the name of promoting “critical thinking”: To paraphrase V.P. candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s famous quip, I know Critical Thinking; Critical Thinking is a friend of mine. You don’t know what Critical Thinking is.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Austin Cline / About.Com.

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Conservative Christian Schools: Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over AmericaIf a Florida state senator gets his way, the religious notion known as Creationism (and as “intelligent design”) may be forced into public-school science classrooms in that state. The Tampa Tribune reports on this transparent attempt at yet another end-run around federal court decisions forbidding this practice (WebCite cached article):

As lawmakers wrestle with financial and policy challenges that could affect the quality of education in the state, one influential legislator is also hoping to change the way evolution is taught in Florida public schools. …

Stephen Wise, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has resurrected legislation he authored in 2009 that calls for a “thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” Wise’s bill failed to pass in 2009. …

Wise, R-Jacksonville, thinks his evolution bill may have a better chance this year because there are more conservatives in the Legislature and because he chairs a substantive committee.

“Why would you not teach both theories at the same time?” Wise said, referring to evolution and what he called “nonevolution.”

I assume Wise (whose name is most certainly not an aptonym!) is using the label “nonevolution” in order to get around the aforementioned court prohibitions on both “Creationism” and “intelligent design.” His bill is otherwise the same as countless other Discovery Institute-inspired bills that have been tossed around in legislatures around the country for the last 15 years or so.

The idea is to use public-school science classrooms in order to proselytize to children. Really, it’s just more of the same old Christofascism we’ve all come to expect from Republicans. Not a single one of them has had an original thought in over 10 years, and it doesn’t look as though any of them are going to have any, for a long time yet to come. Just a steady stream of mindless militant Christianism.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: About.Com / Austin Cline & National Archives.

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Don't Mess With Texas signI blogged a couple times already about the case of Christina Comer, erstwhile head of science education for the Texas Education Agency. She’d sinned unforgivably — in the agency’s eyes — by forwarding an email about a pro-evolution seminar. This apparently violated the TEA’s enfroced “neutrality” concerning anything which is “controversial.” The AP (via Google News) reports on her appeal’s progress (WebCite cached article):

The former director of the science program for Texas’ public schools asked a federal appeals court Monday to revive a lawsuit over her firing for forwarding an e-mail about a forum opposed to teaching creationism.

The agency that runs Texas public schools argued that Christina Castillo Comer’s e-mail broke its policy of neutrality toward any potentially controversial issue, including creationism. A lawyer for Comer says the agency has an unwritten, unconstitutional policy of treating creationism as science.

A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments Monday in Comer’s lawsuit against Robert Scott, commissioner of the Texas Education Agency.

The idea that all things controversial must be treated “neutrally” may sound good in theory, but in practice, it’s ludicrous. Lots of things are “controversial,” yet the facts about them are known, and there’s no question what the truth of them is; what controversy exists lies in the failure of everyone to accept or understand those facts.

If the TEA’s policy of being rigidly “neutral” toward all controversies is to be obeyed unflinchingly and applied strictly in all cases, this means that TEA personnel must be “neutral” about such matters as:

  • Whether or not the Holocaust happened (there is a “controversy” here which is in the form of irrational, delusional, and anti-Semitic Holocaust denials)

  • Whether it’s compression or friction that causes meteors to vaporize as they fall into the Earth’s atmosphere (it’s frequently said that friction is the agent here, but it’s not)

  • The solution to the so-called “Mony Hall problem” (the answer is known and mathematically demonstrable but people often don’t get it)

  • Whether or not the Priory of Sion exists (author Dan Brown and his readers insist it’s real and its existence is “fact,” but the truth is that it was a hoax)

  • Whether or not the attacks by Ottoman Turks against Armenians around the turn of the 20th century constitutes a “genocide” (it’s agreed these attacks took place, that they were systemic, and claimed the lives of over a million Armenians; but the Turkish government and a few wingnuts deny it)

I doubt there are any rational Texans who seriously consider the facts of these — and other issues — to be genuinely “controversial.” But does the fact that there are controversies surrounding them, mean TEA personnel must act as though these facts are not known?

Of course not.

This is why the TEA’s fierce demand of unthinking “neutrality” toward any and all “controversies” is foolish and laughable on its face. Some things are not “controversial” enough to merit being “neutral” toward them … and educators in Texas or anywhere else have no business acting as though they are.

Photo credit: kalebdf.

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Dinosaurs and CavemenIt turns out that my home state of Connecticut’s regional school district 17 — made up of the towns of Killingworth and Haddam — has a creationist on its school board, named Chester Harris. The Hartford Courant recently profiled him (WebCite cached article):

Chester Harris, newly elected to the Region 17 school board, is a Republican with a standard conservative outlook: He distrusts government bureaucracy, believes in fiscal restraint and thinks kids today have too many advantages and too few responsibilities.

But it is his answer to fundamental questions about the origins of life that sets him apart.

Harris, 53, rejects evolution. To him, the idea that humans and apes share a common ancestor takes “a whole lot more faith than believing there was a creator who set all these things in motion and allows us to operate under free will.”

The idea that it takes “more faith” to believe in evolution than to believe in creationism, is — of course — pure bullshit, and always has been. Even though it’s a standard line that creationists always seem to like to use. (They do so because they are completely ignorant about the scientific method, about the details of evolution, and even about their own religion, because Christianity does not actually demand a complete rejection of evolution!)

The article mentions that he attempted to evangelize for his views with a few teachers and administrators:

About three weeks ago he met with several high school science teachers and school administrators in the district, which serves the woodsy, Connecticut Valley towns of Haddam and Killingworth.

Harris subscribes to the notion known as “teach the controversy,” which of course is also bullshit. There is no “controversy” about evolution. It is both a fact and a theory. There is nothing indefinite about it, and no credible scientific alternative to it exists. That said, if people like Harris really believe that science is “controversial,” I suggest that he test the “controversy” over whether a cinder block held above his foot, will fall and crush it, if someone lets go of it.

For that matter, fundies who believe everything is “controversial” should, therefore, be more than willing to “teach the controversy” that Jesus Christ actually lived … because the truth is, we don’t know that there was any such person, and even if there was, what exactly he did during his lifetime. If they were honest about their “everything is a controversy” position, they ought to be happy to do so. So … get to it, guys!

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums

Photo credit: Orin Zebest.

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