Category Archives: Evolution

Mississippi Creationism: New Bill for 2016

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) recently posted Antiscience bill in Mississippi. They say:

House Bill 50, introduced in the Mississippi House of Representatives and referred to the House Education Committee on February 8, 2016, would, if enacted, allow science teachers with idiosyncratic opinions to teach anything they pleased — and prohibit responsible educational authorities from intervening.

[…]

HB 50 is the first antiscience bill in Mississippi since 2010. Previous such bills were unsuccessful, but in 2006, a bill initially unrelated to science education was amended to include a similar provision allowing teachers to discuss “the origin of life” however they please and subsequently enacted as Mississippi Code section 37-11-63 (2013).

Let’s take a look at Section 1 of the new bill (the rest is about notifications and the effective date). We’ll add some bold font to familiar creationist buzz-words and some Curmudgeonly commentary in red font where we think it’s appropriate:

SECTION 1. (1) (a) The Legislature finds that an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to become intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens. [See What Is “Critical Thinking”?] The teaching of some scientific subjects required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education may cause debate and disputation, including, but not limited to:

(i) Biological evolution;

(ii) The chemical origins of life;

(iii) Global warming; and

(iv) Human cloning. [Does any high school teach human cloning?]

Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information when debate and disputation occur on these subjects. [Like the teacher in Big Daddy?]

(b) The State Board of Education, local school boards, public school superintendents of schools, public school administrators and principals and public school teachers shall endeavor to create an environment within public K-12 schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific subjects required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education.

(c) The State Board of Education, local school boards, public school superintendents and public school administrators and principals shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education as it addresses scientific subjects that may cause debate and disputation. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught within the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education.

(d) Neither the State Board of Education, nor any local school board, public school superintendent, public school administrator or principal shall prohibit any teacher of a public school system from helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of all existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught within the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of Education.

(e) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or promote discrimination for or against religion.

This is obviously based on the Discovery Institute’s Academic Freedom bill. We’ve critiqued their model bill here: Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws.

We took a look at the Mississippi Constitution, to see if there might be something relevant. Aha — Mississippi is one of 37 (or maybe 38) states to have enacted a version of the Blaine Amendment. In the Mississippi constitution it’s in Article 8 (Education) Section 208 (Control of funds by religious sect; certain appropriations prohibited), which says:

No religious or other sect or sects shall ever control any part of the school or other educational funds of this state; nor shall any funds be appropriated toward the support of any sectarian school, or to any school that at the time of receiving such appropriation is not conducted as a free school.

Is that sufficient to keep creationism out of that state’s public schools? It should be, but the legislators may be unaware of what’s in their state constitution.

Mark Formby appears to be the principal sponsor of the bill. That’s his page at the Mississippi legislature’s website, which says he’s a Realtor. That’s a good occupation for a creationist.

Other House members listed as authors of the bill are Lester Carpenter, a Paramedic, Becky Currie, a Registered Nurse, and John L. Moore, who has three occupations: Insurance and Investments, Bi-vocational Music Minister, and Small Business Owner.

You can follow the progress of their bill here: House Bill 50. Nothing’s happened yet except that it was referred to the Education Committee on 08 February.

As we used to do with our posts about other states, we recommend that the rational members of the legislature should give serious consideration to The Curmudgeon’s Amendment. It’s designed to nullify legislation like this.

The Mississippi legislature convened on 05 January, and they’re scheduled to adjourn on 08 May. We’ll be watching.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Science Is an Opiate for the Unthinking

Because of the Scottish Enlightenment, we’ve always had a high opinion of Scotland. Alas, not every Scotsman lives up to that splendid tradition.

Consider this article in The Scotsman, published Edinburgh: Science is not the rock some say it is. They have a comments feature. The article was written by Peter Kearney, described as “director of the Catholic Media Office.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and Kearney’s unusual spelling left intact:

Reading a recent magazine article on the celebration of Christmas, I wasn’t surprised to find that the author had a pretty jaundiced view of the Nativity story and felt it was really just a fairy tale used to mislead children. I was, however, surprised by one assertion. He claimed: “Historical truth and scientific method are the rocks on which human reason must be based.” I was surprised because, contrary to the preconceptions of the author, and most secular-minded media commentators, this formulation is utterly compatible with religion and belief.

Is Kearney saying that religion is compatible with historical truth and scientific method? This should be fun. He tells us:

For many in the media and politics, not to mention most other spheres of public life, religion is for those who somehow reject “historical truth and scientific method”. In reality, it isn’t, faith is compatible with science and reason. Whether science is quite the solid “rock” some secularists seem to pine for is another question. Recent research suggests that good science tends to throw up far more questions than it can answer.

Yup — that’s what he’s claiming. Let’s read on:

Light travels at 299,792,458 metres a second. For generations, students of physics have been taught that the speed of light was what’s known as a universal physical constant. It didn’t change, because it couldn’t change; it was always and everywhere the same. In equations and calculations other parts could change but the figure for light speed always stayed the same. Or at least it did until last year.

Oh boy — where is this going? We continue:

In 2015, a team of Scottish scientists from the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance at Glasgow and Heriot-Watt universities made light travel slower than the speed of light. They sent photons – individual particles of light – through a special mask. It changed the photons’ shape – and slowed them to less than light speed. Scientists have long known that light slows down when passing through materials like water or glass but it always goes back to its higher speed as soon as it comes out on the other side. Incredibly, in the Glasgow experiment the photons continued to travel at the lower speed even when they returned to free space. To call this work ground-breaking probably doesn’t do it justice, it was a stunning finding and will likely alter forever how science looks at light.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! This article at the PhysOrg website from last year describes that experiment: Physicists find a new way to slow the speed of light, and explains the result like this:

The researchers explain this result by noting that they were using group velocity to measure the light’s speed — a measurement of the group’s envelope speed. The mask, they explain, caused some of the photons in the group to move at a slight angle to the others causing a slowdown for the group as a whole. Thus, their results are not going to upend one of the basic tenets of modern physics, it is more likely that future researchers will have to make sure lab or astronomical observations are not being impacted by shape changes that occur naturally.

Preachers are always complaining that “scientists are playing God,” but all too often, their confusion is the result of preachers playing scientist. Here’s more from Kearney:

Last month a cosmologist at Arizona State University claimed he had heard from a colleague working on a major project into gravity, that gravitational waves may have been discovered.

We often see news like that. So what? Here’s Kearney’s reaction:

Why do these discoveries matter? Simply because they utterly demolish the false assertions constantly made by atheists and humanists that through science, we can measure and know everything in the universe and thanks to science it can all be neatly and fully explained, leaving no need or place for a creator or deity. In other words, science is a solid rock upon which you can base your philosophy of life or belief system.

In case you’re waiting for Kearney to tell us what the bible says about the speed of light and gravity, which is superior to and far more reliable than the blundering of science, you’ll be disappointed. For some reason, he fails to reveal that to us. But he continues to criticize science:

This creed or belief system, let’s call it “scientism”, has been dealt some serious blows by recent discoveries. Such research, carried out by scientists, who see scientific method as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, leaves a significant minority of our fellow citizens – who have spent years saying things like “I don’t believe in religion; I believe in science” – looking, frankly, very foolish.

He’s talking about you, dear reader. Moving along:

The cosy simplicity of a fairy-tale theory which says humans can observe, explain and account for everything is, of course, superficially attractive, but in reality it is an opiate for the unthinking.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That was a cute tu quoque aimed at Marx’s famous claim that religion is the opiate of the masses. But it’s wildly inappropriate because Marx was no scientist — he was a bozo. Here’s Kearney’s thundering conclusion:

What is emerging increasingly from some fascinating and challenging new research in the world of science is the extent to which the “known world” is in fact unknown to us on many levels. In truth, science in all its marvellous wonder, is not a solid rock upon which you can base a philosophy of life or belief system upon. Belief in God on the other hand, is.

There you are, dear reader. Kearney’s thinking is based on a solid rock. Yours isn’t. Now you know.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Self-Published Genius #42: Darwin Dissenter

We have another addition to our series about Self-Published Geniuses, where we bring you news of authors with a vanity press book in which the author claims to have made paradigm-shattering discoveries, and announces his work by hiring a press release service.

This author’s press release is titled New Book Doubts Darwin on ‘Darwin Day’. It was issued by Christian Newswire, which describes itself as “the most effective way to get your press release into the hands of reporters and news producers.”

In addition to the press release, we need more to confirm that the book qualifies for our collection. Was it published by a vanity press? It seems so. Although the press release doesn’t disclose that information, we learned at Amazon that the publisher is something called Athanatos Publishing Group. Their website says:

Author should be able to establish that there is a high likelihood that on his own efforts alone he will be able to sell 300-500 books within an 18 month period. (Ie, a pastor with a congregation, a professor assigning the book to his students, an average joe with a mailing list of 500 names, etc). Also, while some marketing will be provided, including press releases and web page construction, the author should plan on rolling up his sleeves to promote his own book. In fact, the willingness to promote one’s own book is a huge factor in our decision making process.

[…]

At this time, there are no advances or stipends available.

As mentioned above, we have a hybrid approach to publishing. The era of the self-publisher is upon us and traditional publishing houses haven’t kept up very well. The way things were done in the past will probably give way to a new model into the future.

Okay — we’ve got a vanity press book and we’ve got the author’s press release. Let’s find out what it says, with some bold font added by us for emphasis:

February 12th is the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, but not everyone agrees ‘Darwin Day’ lives up to the hype. Charles Darwin is known for his theory, along with Alfred Russel Wallace, that natural selection could account for all of the biological diversity observed on the planet. It was quickly seen as finally answering William Paley’s argument from design, put forward in his book, “Natural Theology.”

What kind of book-selling press release is this? It sounds like a Discovery Institute blog article. Ah well, let’s keep going:

But Darwinism’s grip has loosened considerably, and not just for philosophical and theological reasons. Science itself conspires against it, and scientists themselves are increasingly willing to rethink it. One hundred and fifty years later, evolutionary biologists are writing, “There are winds of change in evolutionary biology . . . Many biologists feel that the foundations of the evolutionary paradigm . . . are crumbling.”

This is definitely Discoveroid material. Let’s read on:

One of those scientists is Dr. Wayne Rossiter, an assistant professor of biology at Waynesburg University. Rossiter is willing to give Darwin his due, but in the course of his own work, he has learned that there are questions that Darwinism can’t answer, and that the science at the frontiers of evolution biology might well be suggesting a view of life more akin to Paley’s, than Darwin’s.

Whoa — hold on! We remember the name Wayne Rossiter. Where was it? Oh yeah — it was in a Discoveroid blog article — from a couple of months ago — one of the last written by Casey: In Shadow of Oz, Biologist Wayne Rossiter Critiques Theistic Evolution. Casey was gushing about another of Rossiter’s books.

Just for fun, we checked the Discoveroids’ list of signers to their Dissent from Darwinism. Yup — Rossiter is on the list.

All right, we know what we’re dealing with. The press release continues:

As others are celebrating ‘Darwin Day,’ Rossiter and his brother, Brian Rossiter (whose background is in theology), are challenging its foundations, releasing a book titled Mind Over Matter: The Necessity of Metaphysics in a Material World.

This is the book at Amazon: Mind Over Matter: The Necessity of Metaphysics in a Material World. There are no reviews yet. Hey — it’s only $9.00 in paperback!

Here’s one last excerpt from the press release:

The Rossiters confront the belief that every aspect of life can be reduced to purely naturalistic causes and provide a guide for those defending the proposition that “belief in transcendent intelligence is not only rational, but is completely consistent” with the world as we encounter it.

Well, dear reader — what are you waiting for?

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Discovery Institute’s Thrilling New Enterprise

You probably recall the Discovery Institute’s failed effort (under Casey’s leadership) to establish a nationwide, campus-based anti-science movement they called IDEA Clubs (IDEA = Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness). Wikipedia still has an article on them, which ends by saying:

As of 2015, the press/media contact lists a San Diego State University email address as its sole contact. The email address denotes assignation to an employee of SDSU, a publicly funded university, which does not have a chapter at its school.

After that catastrophe, we assumed the Discoveroids had learned their lesson. But one of our clandestine operatives, code-named “Gumbo Girl,” brought to our attention the amazing news that the Discoveroids are trying to start another string of creationist clubs — this time called the Science & Culture Network. A more accurate name might be “Anti-Science & Bronze Age Culture Network,” but it’s their network, so they get to name it.

There’s a website for the Discoveroids’ latest grandiose scheme: Science & Culture Network, which says:

Science & Culture Network Chapters are local/regional affiliated groups dedicated to supporting the mission of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) to advance the understanding that life and the universe are the result of intelligent design. If you are interested in the requirements for organizing an official chapter, please contact Janine Dixon the CSC’s Educational Outreach Coordinator [email address].

How many chapters does their “network” have? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! They say that Houston is the only one. But it looks like a good one. Our clandestine operative pointed us to this Discoveroid fund-raising website, which says:

The Houston chapter of the Science & Culture Network (SCN-Houston) has committed to help raise funds for the general needs of the Center for Science and Culture (CSC) at Discovery Institute.

It’s always nice when the kids send home money to support the old folks in their decrepitude. Hey, who is Janine Dixon, their Educational Outreach Coordinator? We’ve never run into her name before. The only time she wrote anything for the Discoveroids’ creationist blog was this recent post: Houston Chapter of the Science & Culture Network Launches BIG with a Screening of Living Waters. It’s about another of their creationist revival meetings.

Janine’s name pops up about a dozen times in a search of the Discoveroids’ blog, but after looking at a few of the hits we got, they’re just references to her as someone to contact. A generation ago, she probably would have been described as a switchboard operator. Oh, wait — she did write something else — back in 2013: Twenty Intelligent Design Resources: A Christmas Shopping List. Somehow that escaped our attention.

Wait — there’s a biographical blurb at the Discoveroids’ website: Janine Dixon, Staff, which informs us:

She has a BA in political science and an emphasis in business, and she has been working in development and outreach at Discovery Institute since 2006. Before coming to Discovery Institute, she worked with the National Association of Evangelicals in Washington, DC.

Hey — that’s great training for a job with the Discoveroids. Well, dear reader, if you want to start your very own chapter so you can be part of the Discoveroids’ great intellectual enterprise — and raise money for them! — you know who to contact. Janine is waiting to hear from you.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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