Dawkins gives a presentation during Adelaide Writers’ Week in Australia, on March 1st, 2010. The topic of his presentation is his book, ‘the Greatest Show on Earth’. In this clip, Dawkins discusses whether or not religion served (or serves) an evolutionary purpose.
Category Archives: Science education
A kind reader on reddit posed a question based on my assertion that lack of belief in evolution poses a risk to national security. Here’s the exchange:
Q: Please explain how someone not believing in evolution is a national security risk.
A: Please explain how having a scientifically illiterate population that is unable to compete on the world market is not a national security risk. Are you seriously implying that the United States gained its technological supremacy via prayer and Disney cartoons? Evolution is not the sole issue here, it is scientific literacy. If you don’t believe in evolution, then by default, you must find fault in all of the other branches of science that support evolution, either directly or indirectly. You cannot have it both ways. You are either for all of science (including evolution) or you are against it.
So, now I ask my readership:
Am I taking this argument too far? What are your thoughts? I want to know.
DISCLAIMER: Okay, reddit is going nuts over this posting’s title. Listen, I’m not out to get anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings, unless you’re a creationist. The term “Hillbilly Science” is in no way intended to reflect poorly on inhabitants of the American South. If you take the title as a specific attack against Caucasians originating from Appalachia, you are seriously mistaken.
Respondents were from the United States, Great Britain and Canada. The results of the poll are predictable:
“Acceptance of evolution in the United States was lowest in the South (27%, as opposed to 51% accepting creationism) and highest in the Northeast (43%, as opposed to 38% accepting creationism). In Canada, acceptance of creationism was highest in Manitoba/Saskatchewan (39%, as opposed to 50% accepting evolution) and Alberta (31%, as opposed to 51% accepting evolution). In Great Britain, acceptance of creationism was highest in London (25%, as opposed to 58% accepting evolution).”
Nearly 3/4ths of the population in the southern United States rejects evolution. We shouldn’t be concerned about numbers like this, we should be alarmed.
In Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, Nick Lane, (author and biochemist at University College London) explores the origin of life, the creation of DNA, photosynthesis, the evolution of complex cells, sex, movement, sight, warm bloodedness, consciousness and death.
You can read an exclusive chapter excerpt HERE.
Christine Comer was the Director of Science for the Texas Education Agency. In November of 2007, she was forced out for not remaining neutral on the subject of creationism. What was her crime? She forwarded an email (with the subject header “FYI”) informing staff of an upcoming talk by Barbara Forrest on the subject of ID/Creationism. “FYI” was Comer’s total contribution to the email; she added nothing else. Comer filed suit in June of 2008, arguing that the TEA’s neutrality policy is a violation of the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The lawsuit was dismissed in March 2009, but Comer appealed the decision. Oral arguments for her appeal were heard in April 2010. On July 2nd, 2010 the Fifth Circuit court handed down its decision, affirming and upholding the decision of the lower court.
Writing for a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit, Fortunato Benavides stated, “…we cannot conclude that TEA’s neutrality policy has the ‘primary effect’ of advancing religion…”
To be sure, Ms. Comer was set up to fail. TEA are state employees working in a support role for the Texas State Board of Education. As such they would have no direct influence on curriculum in the sense of being empowered to make decisions either for or against a particular viewpoint. The requirement for neutrality, therefore, would seem to be unnecessary. Commenting on Ms. Comer’s termination in an article for the NCSE, Barbara Forrest states:
“since my Austin talk was about the intelligent design creationist movement, one wonders why TEA would even want to remain “neutral” concerning the ID movement’s goal of undermining the integrity of science education in the very public schools that TEA should be protecting from that movement’s efforts.”
Yes, one wonders indeed. But if the TEA was going to ensure that the work of the religiously biased and anti-science TSBOE was to go forward unimpeded and unquestioned, there had to be 100% religious loyalty among its members. As a loyalty oath to creationism would be a direct violation of the Constitution, the TEA came up with a more sinister and possibly foolproof alternative – to require a seemingly harmless “neutrality” in regards to the teaching of creationism vs. science.
In their poorly supported and pathetically short 12 page decision (which took two months to write), the three-judge panel demonstrated an alarming lack of judicial curiosity and/or willingness to scratch beneath the surface in order to uncover the truth. By “the truth”, I mean the fact that Texas creationists in the TEA had knowingly and intentionally designed and implemented a cleverly disguised religious loyalty requirement for state employees. Had Judge John E. Jones III of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District fame shown such apathy towards uncovering the truth, his decision might well have read very differently than the one he ultimately issued in favor of the plaintiffs.
It becomes more apparent with each passing day that Texas may be a lost cause. Like a gangrenous limb, it leeches valuable and finite pro-evolution and science education resources while poisoning the rest of the nation with its idiocy. Perhaps we should give Texans what they want. While we are letting the idiots run amuck in their own backyard, we can institute regulations and laws in other states that invalidate the Texas curriculum and make it impossible for Texan students to transfer to out-of-state high schools, colleges and universities without special remedial classes to undo the damage done by having a Texan “education”. I’m in favor of making Texan high school transcripts and diplomas virtually worthless outside of their state. If they wish to revert to the dark ages, that is their prerogative, but the rest of the country doesn’t have to be dragged down with them. We may not be able to fight them and win head-on, but with some imaginative and forceful legislating in other states, we can sure as hell contain the cancer that is Texan education.
In honor of the upcoming sixty-fifth birthday of NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott, the latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach contains essays by some of the greatest minds involved in the defense of science education today.
Read more about it HERE.
A simultaneously hilarious and scary post from Woo Fighters covers the claim that consumption of soy products by pregnant mothers turns their male fetuses gay and…gives them small penises. Some of you may need to call your mothers…
Read it HERE.
Ever hear a claim that just didn’t sound quite right, but you couldn’t put your finger on why? Well, Woo Fighters can help you with that:
Amongst other sites, I monitor msnbc’s science page and every once in a while find something of interest to read and/or share with my readers.
Yesterday I came across an article concerning the great dinosaur graveyards (“mega-bonebed”) that northern Alberta Canada is now famous for…well at least among dinosaur enthusiasts it is famous.
Though this fossil bed was located back in 1997, it is only now that scientists have come up with an explanation for the fact that the dinosaur remains are all found in the same level of sediment and thus appear to have all died simultaneously.
The explanation is as follows (drumroll):
“The likely culprit in this scenario was a catastrophic storm, which could quickly have routinely made the waters flood up as high as 12 to 15 feet (3.6 to 4.6 meters), if experiences with modern floodplains are any guide.”
If you’ve read this blog before then you know where I am going with this.
Creationists are nothing, if not predictable. I routinely check in on my friends at the ICR to read their “Science Update”.
Usually written by Brian Thomas, these articles cover a wide range of topics relating to science and always end with an unsupported assertion that scientists are wrong in their interpretation of the data (due to being brainwashed by Darwinism) and that young earth creationists are right because…the Bible says so.
An article like the one mentioned above is a veritable Bible-thumping creationist quote miner’s wet dream. I’m sure the ICR won’t be able to resist vomiting out their own spin on the evidence as soon as possible once they are finished changing their shorts. There’s no way they aren’t going to milk this for everything they can.
I’m betting something spectacularly idiotic will be up within 2 weeks.
New state science standards are up for a vote by the Nebraska Board of Education this summer…and they’re actually – gasp!!! – pro-science!
The Omaha World-Herald did an editorial on the subject on June 15, 2010 and one particular paragraph caught my attention as it mirrors something I’ve been saying for years:
“Children who lack a solid background in the fundamentals of modern science can be at a considerable disadvantage. In a hyper-competitive world economy, our country depends on a continuing supply of well-educated, knowledgeable and science-literate young people.”
Creationism isn’t just a bad idea. It really is anti-American to its very core. If you remember that two of the most influential of the Founding Fathers (Jefferson and Franklin) were scientists in their own right, my position on this becomes all the more clear. Science is an American birthright.
You can read the NBOE science standards in PDF format HERE.
Full chapter excerpt from “Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk” by Massimo Pigliucci, courtesy of The National center for Science Education.
Many thanks to Robert Luhn, Director of Communications for the NCSE
The latest offering from Thunderf00t covers a wide range of idiocy, including the creationist claim that the craters of the moon were caused by the Noachian Flood. Enjoy!!!
Check HERE for info on the NCSE’s latest videos to be uploaded to YouTube.
In late 2009, the National Center for Science Education started offering free evolution book excerpts on their web site as well as on their Facebook page. Some of these excerpts are complete chapters. This is a great opportunity for anyone who is into evolution and wants to “try before you buy.”
Many thanks to Robert Luhn, Director of Communications for the National Center for Science Education.
Click on the images to link directly to the excerpts.
If you haven’t yet donated to the NCSE, please considering making a small donation via PayPal right now using the link in the right sidebar. Even a dollar will make a difference. It’s fast, it’s easy and you will be doing a good thing for yourself and your country.
The Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Public Policy conducted a telephone survey (VCU Life Sciences Survey 2010) with 1001 adults nationwide, from May 12 to May 18, 2010. Some of the questions dealt with evolution.
The results were predictable – given the current state of idiocy in the nation – with 43% of respondents agreeing with the following: “God directly created biological life in its present form at one point in time.”
You can read the rest of the story here on the NCSE website.
The news broke the same day the most of us were occupied with “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”, but I’m sure most of you were eventually made aware of it.
By “it”, I mean the news that scientists in the U.S. constructed the first artificial genome. Some would go so far as to say that we have created artificial life.
I am greatly interested in seeing just how far humans can go with this whole thing. At the same time, I admit to feeling a bit uneasy. It’s not the technology that bothers me…not at all. It’s the fact that the ones controlling this technology are humans. Fallible, corruptible humans.
Of course, there are and will continue to be those who will protest the technology, calling it the work of the devil or proof of man’s arrogance or inherently evil nature, etc. All newly developed technologies have received the same or similar treatment from the socially backwards and conservatives with an investment in the status quo.
The potential for abuse or unknown dangers lurking around the corner are brought up, and historical texts abound with examples of predictions of doom. On rare occasion, they are right, but progress cannot occur in a climate of timidity or close-minded fear. “No pain, no gain.”
The more cynical among us have been critical of the fact that the man who led this team, Dr. Craig Venter, is in this for the money. I personally have no issue with this. Free enterprise is what has produced all of the benefits of modern technology that we enjoy today with no exceptions. Even innovations that initially had a military application were borne of a desire for profit. At the end of the day, somebody somewhere made a buck. Why should anyone begrudge Dr. Venter the opportunity to turn a profit for his investment and efforts?
If it were not for being motivated by the potential profit by printing indulgences for the Catholic Church, Gutenberg would most likely have never considered developing moving type. As far as he was concerned, if he wasn’t going to make money from his investment of time and money, why bother?
There is a huge potential for good to come of this technology and yes, there is also a potential for bad to come of it as well. But, to paraphrase PZ Meyers in his post on the subject, it’s much too early to tell what the future has in store for this technology and we should just patiently wait this out, enjoy the ride and keep our eyes peeled.
However, as I think about the long-term implications of this new technology for creating life, I also wonder about its potential for indefinitely preserving life and whether we, as a species are ready for such a gift, or if we ever could be ready. It’s one thing to create beings; it’s another to become gods.
I can only hope that our emotional and social development will quickly catch up to our technological prowess.
I’m compelled to quote a passage from one of my favorite books:
…A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. Pursuing these reflections, I thought that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption. – Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Martin Gardner died on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 at the age of 95.
He was a prolific science and math writer as well as a magician and debunker of the paranormal.
While creation science had already been confronted in scientific and university publications, Gardner was the first to do so in a book that was intended for the general public. In his groundbreaking Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (1957, Dover Publications, New York), he describes The New Geology, published by George McCready Price in 1923:
It is a classic of pseudo-science. So carefully reasoned are Price’s speculations, so bolstered with impressive geological erudition, that thousands of Protestant fundamentalists today accept his work as the final word on the subject. Even the skeptical reader will find Price difficult to answer without considerable background in geology. (Gardner, 1957, pp. 127-28)
Though Gardner was not an atheist (he was a philosophical theist or deist), he was a trailblazer for later pseudo-science debunkers such as James Randi as well as popular science advocates like Carl Sagan.
The world was left a better place for his being here. James Randi wrote a touching tribute to his friend on the JREF blog. The National Center for Science Education did a nice write-up on him as well.
To those who don’t already know, Radosh is a staff writer for “The Daily Show”. The excerpted chapter is Chapter 16, “The opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge”.
This particular chapter deals with creationists and I must say, if reading this doesn’t make you fear for the future of our nation, then nothing will.
A free download can be found at:
My thanks to Robert Luhn, Director of Communications for the National Center for Science Education, Inc.
P.S. One of my readers says it’s out on Kindle…thanks Candace!!!
As if the situation in Texas wasn’t bad enough already.
In a move to create an American citizenry indoctrinated in Christian fundamentalist extremism, Don McLeroy has introduced additional revisions to the state’s social studies curriculum with the intention of usurping the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
I regret that he will not be tried and executed for sedition, because that is what this idiocy will most certainly result in.
You can read more about it here at Religion Clause.
Read the proposed changes here.
Also see Aronra’s video on the Texas State Board of Education here.