Tag Archives: Science

Ohio Science Teacher Accused of Teaching Creationism In Hearing Today

Despite overwhelming evidence of a First Amendment violation, Mt. Vernon middle school was not allowed to simply terminate John Freshwater in 2008. The school has spent months and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, money that should have rightfully gone to educating students, in order to justify the termination to an independent committee.

Yet despite knowing exactly what he is taking from students and the school district, Mr. Freshwater has dragged out this hearing to a ridiculous length; 14 months and counting. He has lied multiple times during testimony. He has attempted to manipulate and misdirect. It is unconscionable and beyond the comprehension of this atheist how anyone could still call themselves a Christian while behaving in the manner this man has behaved.

Creationism and ID have caused nothing but confusion and detracted heavily from actual science. The insecurity felt by fundamentalists when confronted with scientific research in no way places a burden upon scientists to falsify data to satisfy religious dogmatic teachings.

John Freshwater has not demonstrated a single reason why he should continue to be trusted with the education of Ohio’s children and several as to why he should not. Sadly, instead of taking those children into consideration and simply accepting the termination, he seems intent on causing as much damage as possible.

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Scientists Visit Creationist Museum

The University of Cincinnati hosted the North American Paleontological Convention last week. In what appears to be a planned field trip, approximately 70 paleontologists, paleozoologists and geologists toured the Creationist Museum in Petersburg Kentucky. Apparently they were unimpressed, and who can blame them?

Many of the paleontologists thought the museum misrepresented and ridiculed them and their work and unfairly blamed them for the ills of society.

“I think they should rename the museum — not the Creation Museum, but the Confusion Museum,” said Lisa E. Park, a professor of paleontology at the University of Akron.

“Unfortunately, they do it knowingly,” Dr. Park said. “I was dismayed. As a Christian, I was dismayed.”

Sorry abuot that Dr. Park. I can only imagine what it’s like to have one’s life’s work completely taken out of context and abused and mangled in the way hers has been. But even sadder, I think, are those who visit the museum with the expectation and belief that what is being represented is not a point of view, but verifiable scientific fact. That it’s passed on to children as fact is even worse.

Terry Mortenson, a lecturer and researcher for Answers in Genesis, the ministry that built and runs the Creation Museum, said he did not expect the visit to change many minds. “I’m sure for the most part they’ll be of a different view from what’s presented here,” Dr. Mortenson said. “We’ll just give the freedom to see what they want to see.”

Dr. Mortenson and others at the museum say they look at the same rocks and fossils as the visiting scientists, but because of different starting assumptions they arrive at different answers. For example, they say the biblical flood set off huge turmoil inside the Earth that broke apart the continents and pushed them to their current locations, not that the continents have moved over a few billion years.

“Everyone has presuppositions what they will consider, what questions they will ask,” said Dr. Mortenson, who holds a doctorate in the history of geology from Coventry University in England. “The very first two rooms of our museum talk about this issue of starting points and assumptions. We will very strongly contest an evolutionist position that they are letting facts speak for themselves.”

I love it when religious people disagree with the fundamental conclusions of a scientific discipline but then try to use select parts of those conclusions to support their positions. It’s one thing* to reject science in favor of religion. It’s quite another to completely misrepresent science in order to force it to conform with your world view. The above statement is more than merely uninformed opinion, it’s intentional deceit. This man and the people working at the museum are intentionally deceiving the public in order to make their beliefs seem as though they actually have some bearing in scientific fact.

I’m more than a little amused that people who become so bellicose about science ‘making a mockery of religion’ are completely sanguine with the science fiction that is Creationism. It’s as if they thought to themselves that because science (in their opinions) belittles their beliefs, they now have the right to criticize science. Which seems somewhat arrogant and ignorant all at the same time.

What they don’t seem to realize is that science isn’t around specifically to disprove god or religion or anything of the sort. All science does…is explain our physical universe. Believe it or not my ignorant little theists, it is not necessary to even look at god in order to  do that. I do not need to invoke some unseen unknown inscrutable thing in order to know what conditions need to exist in order for lightning to occur. That isn’t a slight, no matter how badly you want to take it as one. It’s just that science sees that the simplest explanation is usually the best and most accurate. You need to get over yourselves. In short: science just ain’t that into you.

*Okay, yes, one very stupid thing.

Texas Rejects God in the Science Classroom

I am still being surprised by my adopted state. I have had to reject my preconceived notions about Texas and recognize that, while some stereotypes do apply, when it comes to politics and sociological views, it’s as diverse as my home state of California.

Today Texas stepped firmly into the 21st century and embraced science without religion. Although it isn’t final, the fifteen member board voted to remove the “strengths and weaknesses” clause in the state’s science curriculum as it applies to evolution. The clause has previously been used to open the door to the “alternative theory” of Intelligent Design.

The article states:

The new science curriculum standards will take effect beginning with the 2010-2011 school year and last about 10 years.

[snip]

Instead of allowing teachers to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary theory, the proposed science curriculum standards would encourage students to apply critical thinking, scientific reasoning and problem solving “to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing.”

In other words, YES, question evolutionary theory. YES, look for gaps in reasoning and facts. But use facts to get there. The original wording of the “strengths and weaknesses clause” reads as follows:

(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and

(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.


Never mind that were science simply taught as science, there would BE no controversy, or that religion and philosophy have no place in a science classroom, or even that the US Senator who originally proposed the clause was a huge proponent of intelligent design and felt religion should be re-instituted into public schools. Just go ahead and teach the kids that not everyone “believes in” evolution because we need them to know God’s there, too. No. If you want your kids to know that God’s there, too, YOU teach them that. Let the science teachers teach science. It isn’t their job to remind them that they need to feel guilty for learning there’s more to the universe than was covered in the Bible/Torah/Qu’ran.

So I think it is an astounding and wonderful and courageous move by the Texas Board of Education that in the face of knee jerk reactionaries and politicians who are too afraid of not getting re-elected and the near omnipresent church (you can’t go three blocks without seeing a church in Texas), they agreed to let the kids learn how to apply logic and reason in their studies. Of course there are those who disagree:

Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, who voted to keep “strengths and weaknesses,” said he wouldn’t rubber stamp recommendations from the experts.

“This is a battle of academic freedom. This is a battle over freedom of speech,” Mercer said. “It’s an issue of freedom of religion.”

No, Mr. Mercer. It is not an issue of freedom of religion, because there IS no religion in our classrooms. It is an issue of teaching science in the classroom without fear of religion being inserted. It is an issue of teaching our children to be competitive in a global market. Because we owe them that. We owe our country that. The US is falling behind in scientific development, and the blame can be laid squarely on the shoulders of those superstitious uber religious fundamentalists who have been allowed to push their agenda in our schools and our government. No more.

Today I can honestly state that I am proud of my adopted state; happy to be a Texan.

Calm down. The world is not ending.

I promise.

As I’m sure you all know by now, the Large Hadron Collider, a massive particle accelerator, is scheduled to be fired up tomorrow. It’s a huge undertaking, and the physics behind it is both astounding and exciting. As it turns out, in some cases it’s downright frightening.

The phycisists working at CERN are receiving death threats. Blogs here at WordPress are prophesying doom. Suits have been brought to stop the experiment from taking place. People, people, people. Calm. The f&*% . Down. There is no actual science behind the knee jerk reaction that the LHC will create a black hole and we’re all DOOOOOOOOMED, AAARRRGHARGHARGH!!!!

If you really want to know what is going to happen and how, go here. What this will tell us, essentially, is how matter acquires mass. Even if a black hole is formed, it will be miniscule, and will likely evaporate instantaneously.

So chill. Please. The world is not ending.

Edit: Had to plug in the xkcd comic. Love it.

No, near death experiences are not proof of hell.

I have a StumbleUpon account (same username, for those of you who simply CANNOT get enough of my vacuous ramblings). With my typical American attention span, it’s almost a necessity. As with this account, atheism is one of my main interest tags.

So there I was, hitting the Stumble button every thirty seconds like a lab test monkey in meth withdrawal, when I happened across this series of melodramatic grainy videos on youtube. The science employed is the scariest part of the whole thing. It’s the assertion of these “normal, everyday people” that when they experienced their NDE, they were shown hell, and afterward converted to religion. Amazing how motivating fear can be, innit?

Here’s the thing. NDE’s take place inside one’s own mind. There is no “place” you travel to. It’s been proven that oxygen deprivation can cause hallucinations. In fact, it’s been shown that the drug Ketamine can duplicate the visions and feelings experienced during NDE’s (see this article in How Stuff Works).

The fact of the matter is, a lot of it is untestable. We have no way (currently) of proving exactly what happens during a near death experience. But the scientific evidence we *do* have suggests that our own brains are essentially showing us a 3D movie. I can’t consider it “proof of hell” anymore than I can consider lights in the sky “proof of heaven.”

Oh, incidentally? The people in the comments section “witnessing” about how they showed their young children this should be smacked upside the head for traumatizing their kids. Holy crap.

Indigenous tribe a publicity stunt

Okay, well…not ENTIRELY.

In a previous post, I pointed out that the main reason contact was made with this tribe was to highlight the fact that they exist in order to curb the unchecked clear cutting in the Amazonian rain forest. This morning, the Guardian broke the story that the tribe’s existence has been known since 1910, and:

the mission to photograph them was undertaken in order to prove that ‘uncontacted’ tribes still existed in an area endangered by the menace of the logging industry.

The disclosures have been made by the man behind the pictures, José Carlos Meirelles, 61, one of the handful of sertanistas – experts on indigenous tribes – working for the Brazilian Indian Protection Agency, Funai, which is dedicated to searching out remote tribes and protecting them.

While I do not disparage Funai’s cause or reasoning, their methods may have just set that cause back substantially. Something happens in people’s minds when they feel they have been swindled, whether justifiably or not. There is no question that the clear cutting is a global concern with far reaching effects. But to give the public a focus for that concern, causing an emotional connection, and then revealing that they were, in fact, misled will no doubt garner backlash that has the potential of harming the very thing they wish to protect. Public interest and goodwill only extend so far.

While I do not waver in my support of the cessation of clear cutting or the protection of the Amazon’s indigenous tribes, I find the methodology of this group reprehensible, and fear for the fallout. For those tribes, and that area, this can only be seen as an unfortunate set back.

Cloned meat “bad,” says superstitious public.

Alright, I may be going a bit overboard in my reaction to the reaction against meat from cloned animals. But really, that reaction is knee jerk at best and stubbornly ignorant at worst.

“Cloned meat” (as it’s being called) is nothing more than the next step in how we, as a growing population, continue to manage to feed ourselves. Cloned animals have nothing genetically wrong with them. They are not missing anything, nor do they have anything “extra” that the animal from which they were cloned did or did not have. It is the exact. Same. Meat. And no. It isn’t like making a copy of a copy of a copy til everything is “all out of whack.” I’m sorry. It simply does not work that way, no matter what the last sci fi show you watched may have said.

Look, whether you like the idea or not, we have been eating genetically engineered food for as long as anyone can remember. Those breeding programs to make the biggest hens, or the best tomatoes or insect resistant crops? What do you think that is? That’s right. Genetic engineering. This is simply the next logical step. It will not turn your children into raging psychopaths or make everyone sick or mutate the human population into some sort of mad cow-man weirdos when the moon is full. It’s okay. Really.