Bill Nye: Creationism Is ‘Raising A Generation Of Young People Who Can’t Thin


Bill Nye: Creationism Is ‘Raising A Generation Of Young People Who Can’t Think’

The biggest danger creationism plays, according to Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” is that it is raising a generation of children who “can’t think” and who “will not be able to participate in the future in same way” as those who are taught evolution.

Speaking on MidPoint, Nye said he blames an older generation of evangelicals “who have very strong conservative views” and who are “reluctant to let kids learn about evolution.” Their presence on school boards leads to debates over curriculum, Nye argued, which further inhibits schools’ ability to teach facts.

“Religion is one thing. People get tremendous comfort and community with their religions,” Nye said. “But whatever you believe, whatever deity or higher power you might believe in, the Earth is not 6,000 years old.”

Nye, who has a new book out titled “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation,” recently participated in a debate with creationist Ken Ham, which some argued was a moment of embarrassment for the science community.

University of Chicago evolution professor Jerry A. Coyne called the debate “pointless and counterproductive.” The Guardian’s Pete Etchells wrote:

Scientific literacy is crucial for society to function effectively, which means that we can’t afford to be messing around with the way that it’s taught in the classroom or wasting our time with fruitless public debates.

Nye stood by the debate, however, saying he “stepped into the lion’s den” in order to spread awareness about the academic opportunities children are denied by being creationism.

“They will not have this fundamental idea that you can question things, that you can think critically, that you can use skeptical thought to learn about nature,” Nye told MidPoint. “These children have to suppress everything that they can see in nature to try to get a world view that’s compatible with the adults in who they trust and rely on for sustenance.”

H/T RawStory

Creationists Once Again Threaten to Make a Mockery of Texas Science Education


Creationists Once Again Threaten to Make a Mockery of Texas Science Education
Teach the controversy
There is no controversy.
Photo by Teach the Controversy t-shirts

Let me get this out of the way immediately: The Earth is more than 4 billion years old. Evolution is real and is the basis for all modern understanding of biology. Climate change is happening, and humans are causing it.

These fundamental scientific truths are agreed upon by the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists who study those particular fields, because of the vast, overwhelming evidence in those particular fields supporting them. It’s important that we teach this to young students, as well as how to understand what constitutes real evidence as opposed to ideological zealotry.

If you live in Texas, however, that necessity is under a real threat.

It has been for a long time; in 2007 Gov. Rick Perry appointed Don McLeroy, a young-Earth creationist, to head the state Board of Education (BoE), setting up a situation where education in Texas suffered mightily. In 2009 the state science standards were weakened, with clearly Biblically based beliefs behind the effort. In 2010 the BoE approved revisionist history in the textbooks (including apologetics for Joseph McCarthy, in case you were wondering just how ridiculous this stuff gets). In 2011 Texas creationists tried to get religious supplemental materials inserted into classes but lost. It goes on and on, and all the while they’ve been picking away at science and reality.

And now we’re entering a new round. Earlier this year, the BoE sent out letters to “experts” asking to help them evaluate the high school biology textbooks being considered for use.

You can guess where this is going.

Several of the “experts” were creationists, and they met recently to give their opinions. Several statements given by them have been made public, and well, wow:

I understand the National Academy of Science’s [sic] strong support of the theory of evolution. At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.

Ah yes, the “it’s only a theory” gambit, which is essentially a shortcut to show you how ignorant of science the person is who utters it. Evolution isn’t just a guess. It really is the basis of understanding for nearly all modern biology.

And by the way, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution makes it clear that you cannot teach creation “science” in public schools. There have been many, many court cases about that, and they tend to fall on the side of reality. Teaching religion as fact in public schools is a big no-no.

Another reviewer said this:

Text neglects to tell students that no transitional fossils have been discovered. The fossil record can be interpreted in other ways than evolutionary with equal justification. Text should ask students to analyze and compare alternative theories.

Actually, transitional fossils have been found. Lots of them. In fact, since evolution is a continuous process, all fossils are transition fossils. And no, there is no “equal justification” to describe fossils in the way this reviewer clearly means. That would be using religion, and again you can’t teach that in public schools.

And I’m all for teaching alternative theories, as long as they are evidence-based and backed by solid observations and rigorous methodology. I don’t think creationism fits into that category.

TexasPhoto credit: Phil Plait

If you need to add to these bang-your-head-against-your-desk quotations, Americans United and Mother Jones have more (and the Mother Jones article has a quote about climate-change denial by a reviewer that’s no better). If you read them, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Shockingly, as Mother Jones points out, few of the reviewers who were critical of evolution and climate change had any scientific credentials.

I’ll admit, I use snark when writing about this topic, but it’s actually very serious. Texas has one of the largest population of school kids in the country, and because of that they can actually drive the use of textbooks in the other states. It might be natural to mock the Texas BoE about this, but their inability to understand how the Universe really is can have a national impact.

And, of course, the children of today are the voting public of tomorrow. If we don’t break this cycle of willful ignorance, it may never stop on its own. The Texas Freedom Network reports the textbooks are actually pretty good as is, and the publishers have resisted the political pressure to change the content. But this isn’t over yet. Texas Freedom Network is sponsoring a rally in Austin to show support for science on Tuesday, the day the BoE will have a public hearing about the textbooks.

If you live in the Austin area, I urge you to support Texas Freedom Network and attend the hearing. Write your local school board members. And you should also support the magnificent people at the National Center for Science Education, whose very purpose is to fight this sort of anti-intellectualism. They have a great page with advice for those of you in Texas.

These creationists will not rest in their fight to tear down science. We cannot rest in our support of it.

Note: Happily, the citizens of Kentucky elected a governor with a great deal more sense than Perry. Gov. Steven Beshear overrode an attempt by anti-science legislators in his state to block solid science standards, and Kentucky now joins several other states in having excellent standards for their students.* Well done, Beshear! And tip o’ the beaker to Eugenie Scott for the news.

Teaching Creationism Is ‘Child Abuse,’ Says Prominent Physicist


Teaching Creationism Is ‘Child Abuse,’ Says Prominent Physicist Lawrence Krauss (VIDEO)
By Deborah Montesano

images-1

Big Think, the online knowledge forum, released a video on Tuesday of theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss speaking on the idea of teaching creationism. In it, Krauss asserts that the notion of creationism defies reality and teaching it to children is tantamount to child abuse. The video is in reaction to Senator Marco Rubio who, in December, declared in an interview with GQ that he didn’t know how old the earth is. In Rubio’s words:

“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians… I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”

Wrong, says Krauss. Evolution is accepted reality, the basis for all biological sciences. For someone like Rubio, who is presumably both intelligent and educated, to take the stand that anything goes in education–that it’s okay for any belief to be taught regardless of reality–is a terrible error. In the following video, Krauss says:

“Allowing the notion that the Earth is 6,000 years old to be promulgated in schools is like teaching kids that the distance across the United States is 17 feet. That’s how big an error it is… The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it… 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.”

 

Here’s the video:

Krauss isn’t the first person to insist that teaching creationism is a form of child abuse. Various atheist and rationalist groups have maintained the same thing. But people of faith, like Anglican priest and theologian David Jennings, of Leichester Cathedral, have taken that stand also. Last fall, when asked whether creationism should be taught in the schools, Jennings said in an open forum:

“There are some people who believe the earth is actually flat… But do we teach that, do we actually suggest that to young people?… Whatever people want to believe in the privacy of their own home, in the privacy of whatever religion they practice, they’re free to do that. But to teach young people things that we know are not true is tantamount to an abuse of young people.”

Last August, Bill Nye the Science Guy weighed in on the subject, also for Big Think:

“Denial of evolution is unique to the United States…I say to the grown-ups, If you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we’ve observed in the universe, that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future…we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”

Here’s the video:

All of these men underline the point that we Americans are not only unique in our denial of science, but also in the degree to which that denial holds back our young people. As a society, we’re jeopardizing both our future and theirs. We battle over religious ideology–which seems to lurk behind every issue these days–rather than uniting to educate our young and insure that they maintain an edge when it comes to innovation and leadership in the world.

Is Queensland Australia’s Dumbest State? Creeping Creationism in Queensland Schools!


Creationism in Queensland schools

 

Image:  In some state schools in Queensland creationism appears to be creeping onto the science curriculum. (Getty Images)

The issue of religion being taught in Australian state public schools is a controversial one. In primary schools around the country, the State Education Acts allow for Religious Instruction, or Religious Education, to be taught for an hour a week by representatives of the church—who do not need a qualification in education to do so.

These classes are meant to be an ‘opt in’ scenario.

But, it appears that in some state schools in Queensland Creationism—the belief that the Christian God created the earth in a different time scale to that agreed upon by evolutionary science—is entering the science curriculum.

http://snd.sc/Y4h1ou

Creationists Butt Hurt By 19-Year Young Science Advocate!


How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana’s creationists
George Dvorsky

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists

For Zack Kopplin, it all started back in 2008 with the passing of the Louisiana Science Education Act. The bill made it considerably easier for teachers to introduce creationist textbooks into the classroom. Outraged, he wrote a research paper about it for a high school English class. Nearly five years later, the 19-year-old Kopplin has become one of the fiercest — and most feared — advocates for education reform in Louisiana. We recently spoke to him to learn more about how he’s making a difference.

Kopplin, who is studying history at Rice University, had good reason to be upset after the passing of the LSEA — an insidious piece of legislation that allows teachers to bring in their own supplemental materials when discussing politically controversial topics like evolution or climate change. Soon after the act was passed, some of his teachers began to not just supplement existing texts, but to rid the classroom of established science books altogether. It was during the process to adopt a new life science textbook in 2010 that creationists barraged Louisiana’s State Board of Education with complaints about the evidence-based science texts. Suddenly, it appeared that they were going to be successful in throwing out science textbooks.

A pivotal moment

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists

“This was a pivotal moment for me,” Kopplin told io9. “I had always been a shy kid and had never spoken out before — I found myself speaking at a meeting of an advisory committee to the State Board of Education and urging them to adopt good science textbooks — and we won.” The LSEA still stood, but at least the science books could stay.

No one was more surprised of his becoming a science advocate than Kopplin himself. In fact, after writing his English paper in 2008 — when he was just 14-years-old — he assumed that someone else would publicly take on the law. But no one did.

“I didn’t expect it to be me,” he said. “By my senior year though, I realized that no one was going to take on the law, so for my high school senior project I decided to get a repeal bill.”

Indeed, it was the ensuing coverage of the science textbook adoption issue that launched Kopplin as an activist. It also gave him the confidence to start the campaign to repeal the LSEA.

Encouraged by Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University — and a staunch critic of intelligent design and the Discovery Institute — Kopplin decided to write a letter that could be signed by Nobel laureate scientists in support of the repeal. To that end, he contacted Sir Harry Kroto, a British chemist who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. Kroto helped him to draft the letter — one that has now been signed by 78 Nobel laureates.

In addition, Kopplin has introduced two bills to repeal the LSEA, both of which have been sponsored by State Senator Karen Carter Peterson. He plans on producing a third bill later this spring. And along with the Nobel laureates, he has the support of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), New Orleans City Council, and many others.

But as the early results of his efforts have shown, it’s not going to be an easy battle.

“We’ve had gains over the last few years,” he says, “But our first attempt to repeal the LSEA was defeated 5-1 in committee, and in our second attempt we lost 2-1.” Kopplin is hoping to get out of committee this year.

He also has his eyes set on vouchers. After an Alternet story came out about a school in the Louisiana voucher program teaching that the Loch Ness Monster was real and disproved evolution, Kopplin looked deeper into the program and found that this wasn’t just one school, but at least 19 other schools, too.

School vouchers, he argues, unconstitutionally fund the teaching of creationism because many of the schools in these programs are private fundamentalist religious schools who are teaching creationism.

“These schools have every right to teach whatever they want — no matter how much I disagree with it — as long as they are fully private,” he says. “But when they take public money through vouchers, these schools need to be accountable to the public in the same way that public schools are and they must abide by the same rules.” Kopplin is hoping for more transparency in these programs so the public can see what is being taught with taxpayers’ money.

Facing opposition

His efforts, needless to say, have not gone unnoticed — particularly by his opponents. He’s been called the Anti-Christ, a stooge of “godless liberal college professors,” and was even accused of causing Hurricane Katrina. Kopplin cooly brushes these incidents aside, saying they’re just silly distractions.

But some of the most aggressive broadsides, he says, have come from state legislators.

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana's creationists
“I’m not talking threats or name calling, but they were really something to experience,” he says. [In addition to the video at left, Kopplin provided other examples that can be seen here and here)

“I don’t enjoy upsetting people, but you have to brush the attacks off,” he says. “I know that I’m fighting for a good cause — and I would be neglecting my duty if I stopped my campaign just because I felt uncomfortable about opposition.”

And perhaps not surprisingly, a number of people have refused to take Kopplin seriously on account of his age. “Oh, for sure — there have absolutely been people who have dismissed me because I’m still a kid,” he told us. Some of his opponents have even suggested that his parents are really the ones behind the campaign — an accusation he flatly denies.

“They have their own lives to live, and certainly don’t have time to run a public issue campaign,” he says.

“What disturbs me though, is when other kids are the ones to dismiss me based on age,” he told io9. “They see a 19 year old kid and can’t believe that I can actually go out and change the world. Too many of my peers have this attitude that they need to dress nicely, sit quietly, and wait until we are adults to change things. This attitude must change. My generation needs to speak out for what we believe.”

It’s simply not science

And indeed, Kopplin is a passionate defender of scientific inquiry, and vociferously rejects the notion that creationism and evolution should be taught side-by-side.

“Creationism is not science, and shouldn’t be in a public school science class — it’s that simple,” he says. “Often though, creationists do not, or are unwilling, to recognize this.” Science, he argues, is observable, naturalistic, testable, falsifiable, and expandable — everything that creationism is not.

But what also drives Kopplin is the inherent danger he sees in teaching creationism.

“Creationism confuses students about the nature of science,” he says. “If students don’t understand the scientific method, and are taught that creationism is science, they will not be prepared to do work in genuine fields, especially not the biological sciences. We are hurting the chances of our students having jobs in science, and making discoveries that will change the world.”

He worries that, if Louisiana (and Tennessee, which also has a similar law) insists on teaching students creationism, students will not be the ones discover the cure to AIDS or cancer. “We won’t be the ones to repair our own damaged wetlands and protect ourselves from more hurricanes like Katrina,” he says.

Moreover, he’s also concerned that teaching creationism will harm economic development.

“Just search creationism on Monster Jobs or Career Builder and tell me how many creationist jobs you find,” he asks. Kopplin tells us about how this past Spring, Kevin Carman, the former Dean of LSU’s College School of Science (now the Executive Vice President and Provost for the University of Nevada, Reno) testified in the Louisiana Senate Education Committee about how he had lost researchers and scientists to other states because of the Louisiana Science Education Act.

“But it also violates the separation of church and state,” he says. “Teaching Biblical creationism is promoting one very specific fundamentalist version of Christianity, and violating the rights of every other American citizen who doesn’t subscribe to those beliefs. So it would be stomping on the rights of Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Buddhists, Humanists, Muslims, Hindus, and every other religious group in the country.

These creationists, he argues, would be horrified to see the Vedas being taught in science class. “And they would have every right to be,” he says, “That’s how the separation of church and state works and it’s the foundation of our country.”

Changes needed

Kopplin is also concerned about the future, and how unprepared the United States has become.

“We don’t just deny evolution,” he says, “We are denying climate change and vaccines and other mainstream science. I’m calling for a Second Giant Leap to change the perception of science in the world.”

To that end, Kopplin would like to see $1 trillion of new science funding and an end to denialist science legislation. He wants to see the American public become more aware and better educated about science.

“My generation is going to have to face major challenges to our way of living — and the way to overcome them is through rapid scientific advancement,” he says. “But as as of right now, America has a science problem.”

Images: Baton Rouge Advocate, The Moderate Voice.