Posts Tagged ‘national center for science education’

Because I have too much free time

December 5, 2008

A fellow named Jeff left a comment on an earlier post of mine, regarding some actions taken by Barbara Forrest of the National Center for Science Education to counter a creationist Trojan Horse bill in Louisiana. (The bill made it into law, as the reader may recall. We’re still waiting for the hammer of the courts to fall upon that one.)

Jeff’s comment was completely unrelated to that post. Instead, it was a self-styled “critique” of a speech Forrest apparently gave at a Southern Methodist Church. In the interest of promoting good science, and because I have little better to do, I have deleted Jeff’s comment and reproduced it here. I have attempted to counter his specious and often ludicrous arguments with some semblance of objective rationality.

It’s long. I hope you have too much free time as well!

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Michigan academic freedom bill

June 17, 2008

The news of the passage in the House of Louisiana’s anti-evolution bill blinded me for the moment to another potential threat, this one impending in Michigan’s legislature. From the National Center for Science Education: Senate Bill 1361, and its identical counterpart House Bill 6027, both promise to require schools to “create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages pupils to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.” Sounds good to me, on the face of it. What’s the problem?

Here’s the problem: public school classrooms rarely present their students with controversial scientific issues. Such controversies are usually far beyond the scope of public school classes, which generally focus on the basics. Add to this the fact that Michigan’s education standards no doubt already include critical thinking, and the bills begin to seem superfluous. Why propose them at all?

You already know the answer: to allow educators to “teach the controversy” on evolution. Of course there is no controversy, but groups like the Discovery Institute work very hard to convince the credulous that there is. Interestingly, the DI is also behind most of these academic freedom bills. Coincidence?

If these bills pass, there is only one possible outcome. Some witless teacher will present intelligent design as legitimate science, some parents will sue the school district, and we’ll have Dover all over again. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tax dollars will be poured down the sink. If the DI really cares about education, you’d think they would stop subjecting financially strapped school districts to protracted litigation.

But the DI doesn’t really care about science education. Neither does the Louisiana Family Forum, or any of the other religious right organizations pushing intelligent design creationism. They care about creating a nation where their own narrow religious views are sponsored by the state, where science is crammed into a little box from which it can’t threaten their small-minded notions of life and the universe.

I almost feel for them. As much support as they have in the US, they’re losing, and they will continue to lose. Reality is against them.

Louisiana creationism bill analyzed

June 11, 2008

Barbara Forrest, member of the Board of Directors of the National Center for Science Education and devastating expert witness for Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, has written a wonderful analysis of Louisiana’s SB 733, otherwise known as the “Lousiana Science Education Act,” otherwise known as another attempt to sneak intelligent design creationism into public classrooms.

Ms. Forrest exposes the shift in strategy of the Discovery Institute from promoting intelligent design to pushing “academic freedom” bills in state legislatures. She further exposes the hypocrisy of this shift, going so far as to quote DI attorney Casey Luskin as saying that such bills will allow the teaching of ID in the classroom, because, according to an article from Baptist Press quoted in the analysis, “he considers ID to be ‘scientific information’ that the FL bill would have permitted teachers to present in their criticism of evolution.” In other words, as much as these people try to say that these bills are not about forcing ID in the classrooms, that’s exactly their intent.

The highlight of the analysis is the last few pages, in which Ms. Forrest breaks down each of the measures called for by the bill, and why each one is either unnecessary or unconstitutional. Some highlights:

[In response to the bill’s call to “promote students’ critical thinking skills and open discussion of scientific theories”]

There is no need for this bill precisely because the LA science standards already include sufficient provision for critical thinking in science instruction. The term “open discussion of scientific theories” is code language meant to permit the discussion of ID creationist criticisms of evolution.

[In response to the bill’s call to change the role of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education]

The BESE should not have the role of enabling school boards to allow teachers to introduce creationist discussions into science classes. There is no doubt that this legislation is intended to permit that.

[In response to the bill’s assertion that it does not promote any religious doctrine]

If SB 733 were truly about teaching science, such a disclaimer would be unnecessary. It is in the bill only because its supporters know that creationism is a religious belief and therefore that teaching it in public schools is unconstitutional. THey are hoping that any judge who might have to rule on such legislation will be either naive enough not to see through this disclaimer or biased enough to accept it at face value.

Barbara Forrest’s testimony in the Dover trial was instrumental because she was able to turn the ID crowd’s own words and actions against them. She has done that again with this analysis. The bill is scheduled for debate today: let’s hope the members of the House see reason!

The war on science enters the Louisiana House

May 28, 2008

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports on a bill that was approved unanimously by the Louisiana House Education Committee, was passed by the Lousiana Senate, and will soon move before the Lousiana House of Representatives. Senate Bill 733, the slyly named “Lousiana Science Education Act”, would require that teachers be allowed to “use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.” The problems with this are twofold.

First, the Louisiana education standards already encourage teachers to instill critical thinking in their students, and to use that skill in every class, including science.

Second, the bill specifically names those sciences that the religious right in the US seems to get so riled about: evolution, abiogenesis, and the climate science behind global warming.

This bill is clearly intended to allow teachers to sneak intelligent design materials into their classrooms, a tactic which has already been stricken down in a federal court. It is meant to encourage the laughable idea that evolution and intelligent design are somehow on equal footing, that ID somehow deserves time in science classrooms despite its utter lack of theory, research, and resemblence to real science. Teachers who do so are only misleading their students about the success of modern evolutionary theory, and about the nature of science.

There is only one possible outcome if this bill passes. A teacher will introduce ID materials in his/her class. A parent or other concerned citizen will sue. The ACLU, or some equivalent organization, will take charge of the case. The school district will lose, because precedent has been set in federal court for regarding intelligent design as creationism in sheep’s clothing. The school district will then have to pay millions of dollars out of the taxpayers’ own pockets. All of this, just because some Louisiana House committee didn’t bother to look up “science” in the dictionary.

How many more millions will taxpayers have to spend before the religious right stops trying to peddle religion in public school classrooms? If you live in Louisiana, please let your representative know how you feel about the war on science being waged in your legislature.