Creationists win in Louisiana. What’s the prize?

June 27, 2008

According to the Associated Press, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the latest creationism bill to come out of the Louisiana legislature “in the last few days.”

Discovery Institute operatives claimed credit for authoring the bill and provided close support to advocates of the bill in Louisiana.  Oddly, now that the bill has become law and is likely to be a litigation magnet, DI has backed off of supporting the bill.

That is an object lesson, which may be lost on Louisiana school boards.  The bill is a bit of a stealth creationism bill.  It doesn’t directly advocate creationism by name.  It adopts the creationist tactics of claiming that criticism of evolution is critical thinking, a confused statement of what critical thinking is if ever there was one.  Critical thinking should involve real information, real knowledge, and serious criticism of a topic.   The bill is designed to frustrate the teaching of evolution.  The part Louisiana school boards need to watch is this:  The bill passes the buck on litigation to the school boards.

In other words, the Louisiana legislature, Louisiana Family Forum, and Discovery Institute will not support any school district that allows a teacher to teach the religious dogma that commonly passes as creationism and intelligent design.

As part of the War on Education and the War on Science, this is effective tactics in action.  If any teacher in Louisiana seeks approval for anti-evolution materials as the law encourages, school boards are put on the spot.  If the school board approves the anti-evolution material, it is the school board’s action that will be the subject of the suit; if the board disapproves the material, but the teacher teaches it, the teacher can be fired and would be personally liable for any lawsuit.

But if a science teacher teaches evolution as the textbook has it, the Louisiana Family Forum will complain to the school board that “alternative materials” were not offered.

So to avoid trouble, evolution will be left out of the curriculum.  The kids are failing the tests anyway — who will notice, or care?  Not the Louisiana lege, not the Louisiana governor.

As America slips farther behind the rest of the industrialized world on education achievement in science, Louisiana’s legislature has sided with those who promote the “rising tide of mediocrity.”  If a foreign government had done this to us, we’d regard it as an act of war, the Excellence in Education Commission said in 1983.

So what is it when the Louisiana legislature and Gov. Jindal do it to us?  Treason?  Maybe Bill Dembski will ask Homeland Security to investigate this attack on America by Louisiana’s elected officials.


Suzuki: 50 years of science makes a difference

June 27, 2008

Dr. David Suzuki is a Canadian scientist who writes popular science chiefly for Canadians. We in the U.S. might do well to pay more attention to him.

Below, his e-mail newsletter/column, with observations about the 50 years of science progress since his graduation from college. FYI.

Dear Friend:

Here’s your weekly Science Matters column by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola.

What a difference 50 years makes

Last month, I attended the 50th anniversary of my college graduation. A week later, I celebrated my grandson’s graduation from high school. I don’t think I was much different from the kids in my grandson’s class when I went away to college in 1954 (give or take a few rings and tattoos). Like them, I was filled with trepidation but also excitement about testing my physical and intellectual abilities beyond high school. But my how the world has changed in 50 years!

I began my last year of college in 1957. On October 4 that year, the Soviet Union electrified the world by successfully launching a satellite, Sputnik 1, into space. Little did we dream that out of the ensuing space race between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. would come 24-hour television news channels, cellphones, and GPS navigation. In 1958, the only trans-Atlantic phone lines were cables laid on the ocean floor, so phone calls to England had to be booked hours or sometimes days in advance. I flew from Toronto to a roommate’s wedding in San Francisco on a propeller plane that made several stops during the 22-hour trip.

In 1958, scientists were still debating about whether genetic material was DNA or protein, we didn’t know how many chromosomes humans have or that the Y chromosome determines sex, and the Green Revolution was yet to come. Polio was still a problem in North America, smallpox killed hundreds of thousands annually, and oral contraceptives, photocopiers, personal computers, colour TV, and DVDs didn’t exist. In 1958, parts of the Amazon, Congo, and New Guinea had not been explored. We were yet to learn of species extinction, depletion of fish in the oceans, the effects of CFCs on the ozone layer, acid rain, global warming, PCBs, and dioxins.

In half a century our lives have been transformed by scientific, medical, and technological advances, as well as a host of environmental problems. No one deliberately set out to undermine the planet’s life-support systems or tear communities apart, but those have been the consequences of our enormous economic and technological “success” over the past five decades. Beset by vast problems of wealth discrepancy, environmental issues, poverty, terror, genocide, and prejudice, we are trying to weave our way into an uncertain future.

I began speaking out on television in 1962 because I was shocked by the lack of understanding of science at a time when science as applied by industry, medicine, and the military was having such a profound impact on our lives. I felt we needed more scientific understanding if we were to make informed decisions about the forces shaping our lives. Today, thanks to computers and the Internet, and television, radio, and print media, we have access to more information than humanity has ever had. To my surprise, this access has not equipped us to make better decisions about such matters as climate change, peak oil, marine depletion, species extinction, and global pollution. That’s largely because we now have access to so much information that we can find support for any prejudice or opinion.

Don’t want to believe in evolution? No problem – you can find support for intelligent design and creationism in magazines, on websites, and in all kinds of books written by people with PhDs. Want to believe aliens came to Earth and abducted people? It’s easy to find theories about how governments have covered up information on extraterrestrial aliens. Think human-induced climate change is junk science? Well, if you choose to read only certain national newspapers and magazines and listen only to certain popular commentators on television or radio, you’ll never have to change your mind. And so it goes. The challenge today is that there is a huge volume of information out there, much of it biased or deliberately distorted. As I think about my grandson, his hopes and dreams and the immense issues my generation has bequeathed him, I realize what he and all young people need most are the tools of skepticism, critical thinking, the ability to assess the credibility of sources, and the humility to realize we all possess beliefs and values that must constantly be reexamined. With those tools, his generation will certainly leave a better world to its children and grandchildren 50 years from now.

Take David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.


From the basest of things, art: Scott Wade

June 27, 2008

A generalization:  Many creationists complain that evolution “can’t be true” because it doesn’t exalt humans enough.  This is the old Bishop Wilberforce whine, about whether you are related to the monkeys on your mother’s side or father’s side.

Nothing good can come from humble beginnings” is the thrust of the creationist argument, apparently with the creationists who make the claim losing every neuron they ever had that held the story of Jesus in their memory.

Nature, art, and life, keep pounding home the fact that the creationist argument is seriously in error.  But as Robert Frost wondered, how many times did the apple have to fall before Newton took the hint?  Scott Wade has taken the rebuttal to the creationists’ argument to new heights, and made art out of it.  From dust, is art:

Einstein, by Scott Wade

Credit Barcroft Media via The Daily Telegraph.

Click the thumbnail picture for a larger view:  Scott Wade creates Albert Einstein out of dust

Britain’s Daily Telegraph has a slide show with seven of Wade’s works.

Mr. Wade’s own website features a slide show demonstrating the creation of artworks, step by step.  Wade lives on a dirt road, a  half-mile from pavement.  In the course of coming and going, he gets a lot of material to work with.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  If life gives you dust, make art.  If life gives you limes, make margaritas.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Science Notes.


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