“A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics,” writes Suzanne LaBarre. “Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to ‘debate’ on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”
Texas Conservatives Demand Science Textbooks Incorporate 'Creation Science Based On Biblical Principles'.... Brian Tashmanof PFAW's project Right Wing Watch reports that:
Creationists advising the Texas Education Agency, the state’s board of education, are no longer even trying to hide the fact that they want to insert pseudo-scientific material grounded in religious beliefs into public school science textbooks. Terrence Stutz of the Dallas Morning News reports that evolution detractors appointed to the review boards are urging the textbook publishers to ignore the Supreme Court (along with science) and push Creationism, or be rejected.
A response to this religious-right ploy comes from the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and its Stand Up for Science Education campaign (the hashtag is #standup4science). TFN explains:
Stand Up for Science is an ongoing TFN campaign uniting parents, educators, scientists and businesspeople in support of sound science education and responsible medical research in Texas. This multi-issue campaign focuses primarily on the issue of teaching evolution and climate change in public school science classes and defending stem cell research in Texas.
The Infinite Monkey Cage (BBC Radio 4), July 23rd, 2013's broadcast (available here) dealt with Alfred Russel Wallace.
Brian Cox and Robin Ince discuss the life and works of Alfred Russel Wallace, the lesser known co-founder of the theory of evolution by natural selection. They are joined on stage by biologists Steve Jones and Aoife McLysaght and comedian Tony Law to ask whether Wallace is the great unsung hero of biology and why it was Darwin who seems to have walked away with all the glory.
Aoife McLysaght remindes listeners of Theodosius Dobzhansky's important summation: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
some public schools in America do all they can to avoid teaching evolution. Thanks to constant pressure from the Religious Right, many public schools are battlegrounds in a culture war that does great damage to our nation’s scientific credibility as creationists work overtime to slip their ideas into the curriculum.
The last thing we want to do is water down the teaching of biology because some people don’t recognize that evolution happened. Evolution is the basis of modern biology and, in fact, if a lot of people don’t believe it, it only means we have to do a better job teaching it. So once again, I repeat, the purpose of education is not to validate ignorance, but to overcome it. And to overcome a situation where a United States Senator can speak such manifest nonsense with impunity is vitally important to the healthy future of our society.
And Matthew Tully, writing in the Indianapolis Star (December 8, 2012), remarked, "Less than a year after Kruse and others in the state Senate failed to push an embarrassment of a bill through the legislature that would have allowed the teaching of creationism in science classes, the Auburn Republican is at it again. ... It's a silly idea at a time when seriousness is needed in the General Assembly. It's a distraction when the legislature should be focused on core education issues. It's a reminder that ideology far too often gets in the way of tackling important issues under the Statehouse dome. And it's an attempt to walk through the back door a bill that — thanks to sensible lawmakers, outraged voters and the courts — can't make it through the front."
Below are shown statements of abject folly thought by their speaker to be like beacons of truth. If followed as pedagogy in their extreme would misdirect utterly, tragically signaling others, even school children if the speaker had his way, into failure: failure to understand the universe, failure to understand human origins, failure to understand the scientific method, failure to appreciate the scope and magnitude of reality, failure to engage with the grand struggles for knowledge in the areas of evolutionary biology, genetics, particle physics, cosmology, astronomy, virology, geology, and several other fields that daily rest upon and prove again the basic tenets of evolution, the basic fact of that there is one--one--only one known scientific explanation for the origin of species, including human beings, and the basic fact that the Earth is very, very old indeed, and the universe older yet.
This yawning gap in knowledge that he'll happily and haplessly steer others towards, this shadowy, oceanically massive maw of ignorance he promises can be bridged not by structures of scientific inquiry, correction, and knowledge, but by throwing something like an idol into the void it, a collection of select verses from self-described sacred texts penned in the pre-scientific age of bronze tools.
Science gives you the adventure of curiosity and curiosity channeled toward problem-solving, question-answering, and accumulating knowledge that can be shared and can grow. It can literally take you to the moon and let you gaze into the hearts of stars; it can let you see the past by reading the stories of Earth's rocks and even those of other worlds. It can make you marvel at the limits of imagination and knowledge as you're confronted with the limitless but utterly approachable and almost certainly solvable mysteries of the cosmos.
But this man says curiosity is overrated compared to a few words--most of them in a book called Genesis and all of which could all be read in minutes--which are supposed to direct or even completely satisfy a lifetime of curiosity and settle in some fundamental way all questions you and any American school student might have about where species come from and what is the natural history of our planet and universe.
And the man who makes these statements is a member of Congress.
And he sits on the House of Representatives' Science Committee.
What he says disqualifies him for any such seat. That his constituents are not shamefaced is a profound testimony against. What he says is an embarrassment. Yet...he is a policy-influencer and lawmaker, especially as policy and law relate to science.
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month.
“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth. Broun serves on the House Science Committee, which came under scrutiny recently after another one of its Republican members, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), suggested that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses against pregnancy.
On Aug. 13, the Kentucky legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education held a hearing. It was a very sorry affair indeed.
Four years ago, Kentucky legislators voted to tie the state’s testing program to national education standards, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. But now some of them are having second thoughts because the national science standards stress (gasp!) evolution.
“I would hope that creationism is presented as a theory in the classroom, in a science classroom, alongside evolution,” Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) told the newspaper.
How can we effectively convey a telling response to common creationist arguments in a 140-character tweet? How can we make our arguments in a public forum without coming across as condescending? Which of our common arguments and critiques are actually most telling with the lay public? How can we address the confirmation bias that seems to occur when people seek sources of information on the internet?
The questions' larger context:
It is no longer necessary to visit an expert at all, even indirectly through his books. Instead, learners can get their information from a wide variety of sources with trivially small amounts of effort and all manner of people have taken advantage of the new technologies to post their pet theories and claims for the world to see. The result is a stupendously huge mass of “information” which has not been tested, vetted or critiqued in any way. To make matters worse, there is evidence that people respond to such diversity by selectively accessing information which confirms their existing opinions (see Knobloch-Westerwick and Meng 2009). The information market is now very clearly a buyer’s market to which the sellers—experts like us—have yet to adapt. ..... [T]raditional methods of presenting science are not always well suited to the world of modern media. It’s my belief that we can win on this new battlefield, but it will require a new strategy for marketing scientific ideas— something the science community typically has not valued highly. What we need to do is spend some time thinking very seriously about how to meet this new challenge with new techniques.
Then, there are other active scientists such as Fabrice Leclerc @leclercfl, who is not only (re-)tweeting science-related findings, but also publishing a regular "online-paper" with evolution-related topics based on Tweets: The evolution daily.
Maria-José Viñas, AGU science writer, also wrote about Twitter and science communication.
(Image courtesy of id-iom via a Creative Commons License.)
Check out The Evolution Store. "NYC's premiere retail outlet for science and natural history collectibles, artifacts, gifts, and home furnishings. Our store offers a museum quality atmosphere creating a unique and intimate shopping experience." They have a blog.
After doing a couple of dozen deep dives like I've illustrated above you'll begin to realize that, if a creationist makes a scientific claim in support of creationism, the claim is either wrong or trivial. After another couple dozen deep dives you'll start to see patterns in the errors. And at some point you'll be comfortable reaching the (tentative) conclusion that if the first fifty claims you investigated were wrong or trivial then then you can start making increasingly confident predictions about creationist claims in general.
Thursday, May 3, 7:30 PM Ian Tattersall discusses Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins with Will Harcourt-Smith
50,000 years ago - merely a blip in evolutionary time - our Homo sapiens ancestors were competing for existence with several other human species, just as their own precursors had been doing for millions of years. Yet something about our species separated it from the pack, and led to its survival while the rest became extinct. So just what was it that allowed Homo sapiens to become Masters of the Planet? Curator Emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History, Ian Tattersall takes us deep into the fossil record to uncover what made humans so special. Surveying a vast field from initial bipedality to language and intelligence, Tattersall argues that Homo sapiens acquired a winning combination of traits that was not the result of long term evolutionary refinement. Instead it emerged quickly, shocking their world and changing it forever. Tattersall discusses our ancestors' precarious path to dominance with Will Harcourt-Smith, his colleague at the American Museum of Natural History and a noted teacher and scientist.
A quarter honoring a dinosaur whose remains were discovered in Alberta back in 1974, the Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai., is being made available for purchase on April 16, 2012. It glows in the dark to reveal a likeness of the fossilized skeleton.
The species of Pachyrhinosaurus honored in the coin was named after its discoverer, Al Lakusta, who found the bone fragments while hiking around Pipestone Creek. He wasn’t aware of the coin until a local post office employee told his wife about it after reading about it in a brochure.
Last week Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)...confessed that she was now "scared to death" by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world.
"We are sliding back into a dark era," she said. "And there seems little we can do about it. I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms." ..... [I]nstitutions, acting as covers for major energy corporations, are responsible for the onslaught that has deeply lowered the reputation of science in many people's minds in America. This has come in the form of personal attacks on the reputations of scientists and television adverts that undermine environment laws. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for blocking mining and drilling proposals that might harm threatened species or habitats, has become a favourite target.
"Our present crisis over the rise of anti-science has been coming for a long time and we should have seen it coming," adds Oreskes.
This point was backed by Francesca Grifo of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), although she added that one specific event had brought matters to a head this year: the decision by the United States supreme court to overrule the law that allowed the federal government to place limits on independent spending for political purposes by business corporations.
Despite the white beard, Charles Darwin isn’t Santa Claus, but like Christmas, Darwin Day comes once a year, and when it comes it brings good cheer. Across the country and around the world, at colleges and universities, schools and libraries, museums and churches, people assemble around February 12 to commemorate the life and work of the British naturalist. But it’s not just about Darwin: it’s about engaging in—and enjoying—public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education.
In 1620 the great philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon published the Novum Organum, a work outlining a new system of thought which he believed should inform all enquiry into the laws of nature. Philosophers before him had given their attention to the reasoning that underlies scientific enquiry; but Bacon's emphasis on observation and experience is often seen today as giving rise to a new phenomenon: the scientific method.
The scientific method, and the logical processes on which it is based, became a topic of intense debate in the seventeenth century, and thinkers including Isaac Newton, Thomas Huxley and Karl Popper all made important contributions. Some of the greatest discoveries of the modern age were informed by their work, although even today the term 'scientific method' remains difficult to define.
With: Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; John Worrall, Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science; Michela Massimi, Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at University College London. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Kruse has been on this crusade for a number of years and has introduced versions of this bill before. They always died. But Republicans now control the state Senate, and Kruse is chairman of the Senate Education Committee. From this powerful perch, he can agitate for this misguided legislation.