4 Jun 2011

Louisiana student fighting legislation allowing creationism in science classes challenges deluded congresswoman to debate

AlterNet - May 28, 2011

17-Year-Old Challenges Michele Bachmann on Law Allowing Creationism To Be Taught In Public School Science Classes

By Allison Kilkenny, AlterNet

Most high school students are concerned about their grades or getting into a good college, but 17-year-old Zack Kopplin is focusing on conducting a national campaign to challenge a congresswoman on her basic understanding of the separation of church and state.

Kopplin, a student from Baton Rouge Magnet High School, is working tirelessly to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), a piece of legislation that Kopplin said is a way to sneak the teaching of creationism into Louisiana public school science classrooms.

Initially presented under the guise of "academic freedom," LSEA singles out evolution for specific criticism. The bill allows local school boards to approve supplemental classroom materials specifically for the critique of scientific theories.

The text of the bill suggests that this is all designed to aid critical thinking, and calls on the Board of Education to "assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories."

And what are the areas in need of "critical thinking," you ask? Coincidentally, the hot button issues the Religious Right have turned into legislative crusades: evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

Kopplin is horrified his state has adopted the pro-creationism law. "It is embarrassing," he said, "TheNew York Times covered this law, and I have friends and family around the country who called me up and asked me about it. No one should be embarrassed by their state."

Beyond the personal humiliation of living in a state that teaches a fairytale about a sky daddy alongside real things like carbon dating, genome-mapping and gravity, Kopplin fears for the future of Louisiana's educational system.

"This hurts Louisiana students' chances of getting the good science-based jobs we want. Research centers, like Baton Rouge's Pennington Center, are not going to hire Louisiana kids because they won't know whether we were taught the science we need to work there," he said, adding that in a world constantly making rapid advancements in scientific understanding, Louisiana can't afford to backslide into the dark ages.

"Louisiana students can't compete with kids across the country and around the world if we're not being taught evolution," Kopplln said.

Such anti-science behavior is even bad for tourism, according to Kopplin. "The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology pulled a prescheduled convention from New Orleans after the law passed, and other groups have made it clear that they don't plan to come back while the law is in place."

Kopplin supported a bill designed to repeal LSEA, which also shared the backing of more than 40 Nobel science laureates, national science organizations, university professors, high school biology teachers, the Louisiana Association of Educators, and a petition with more than 60,000 signatures.

Despite the overwhelming pressure from the scientific community (not a single state or national science organization lobbied on behalf of LSEA), Sen. Karen Carter Peterson's Senate Bill 70 died in committee Thursday. Kopplin blames the repeal's demise on the oppositional pressure coming from the Louisiana Family Forum, an affiliate of Focus on the Family and a powerful lobbying group.

LFF enjoyed another victory this month when it successfully urged the Louisiana legislature to kill House Bill 112, also known as the Safe Schools Bill, which sought to better protect school children from bullying. LFF's executive director, Gene Mills, referred to the piece of legislation as the "Homosexual Bullying Bill."

"We're selective in when we want to listen to experts. When we're talking about the economy we bring in economists. When we're talking about roads and bridges we bring in engineers. Why don't we afford the same to science? How do you ignore 42 Nobel laureates?" Peterson asked the committee. "It is fundamentally embarrassing to have this law on the books."

"Creationism is not science," said Kopplin. "It does not belong in a public school science classroom. Put it in a religion class, a philosophy class, but not in a science class."

Kopplin is not impressed by the "critical thinking" claims made in LSEA. "They don't need a law to teach critical thinking in a science class," Kopplin said. "Science is critical thinking."

Furthermore, he doesn't plan to limit the scope of this fight to Louisiana. Earlier this week, the high schooler called out Minnesota's Michele Bachmann for trying to pass SF 1714, a bill similar to LSEA, that would require public schools to permit the teaching of intelligent design creationism in the school science curriculum.

Perhaps such ignorance should be expected from the woman who stood on the House floor and declared that the threat of manmade global warming doesn't make sense because "carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of nature."

"Bachmann's ongoing misrepresentation of science and scientists at a national level adds fuel and false authority to the lobbyists and politicians in my state who have an agenda to undermine evidence-based science," he said.

No doubt, Zack Kopplin's resolute stance will not be shaken by this recent defeat. "Even if we don't get it this year, we've laid a remarkable foundation for next year. We can get 100 Nobel Laureates for next year and thousands more signatures and phone calls and kids involved," he said before the vote.

This article was found at:


Atheist student shunned by entire community including his parents for opposing prayer at graduation ceremony

Teen tells hearing Louisiana Science Education Act is embarrassing, students deserve to be taught proper science

American Muslim Imams join clergy movement to accept evolution and ban creationist teaching in science classes

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Arkansas politician wants public schools to indoctrinate students with literal interpretation of the Bible

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Fundamentalist Christian 'punk' band uses deception to evangelize and indoctrinate in U.S. schools

Christian fundamentalist boot-camp for kids indoctrinates them to fight 'bloody' religious war

'Arming' for Armageddon: Militant Joel's Army Followers Seek Theocracy

Christian Reconstructionists Are Trying to Take Dominion in America

Queensland primary students discriminated and ostracised for opting out of dogmatic creationism classes

Anti-science creationists flourish in the homeschool movement


  1. Making Creationism extinct: New film explores dangers of anti-evolutionism



    Americans United opposes creationism in public school science classes because it is based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. But we’re not blind to the fact that it fosters bad science as well.

    A new documentary with the provocative title “No Dinosaurs in Heaven” explores these issues. The film, which premiers this weekend in Tallahassee, Fla,, was put together by Greta Schiller, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker. Promotional materials note that the documentary “explores the real threat of creationists getting teaching credentials in order to infiltrate science education.”

    The film features Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education. Dr. Scott is a longtime ally of Americans United who has worked doggedly to oppose efforts to insert creationism into public school science courses. The film features Scott as she “leads a raft trip down the Grand Canyon, where the creationist and evolutionary explanations of this natural wonder are juxtaposed.”

    Schiller states upfront that her view is “to expose the insidious dangers of so-called ‘creationist science’ which threatens the Constitutional principle of separation f church and state and undermines scientific literacy. ‘No Dinosaurs in Heaven’ intelligently argues that public education must steadfastly resist the encroachment of religion in the form of creationism, and that science literacy is essential to a healthy democracy.”

    [read the full article at the link above]

  2. Protect teen students’ rights to form atheist clubs

    by Secular Coalition for America November 11, 2011

    School officials are placing undue burdens and obstacles in the way of students trying to establish atheist and freethought groups at their middle and high schools across the country. The Equal Access Act (originally passed to protect religious groups rights to form and have access to school facilities), which guarantees the right of students to have a club regardless of religious or nonreligious content if the school allows any other extracurricular clubs, is being ignored by school administrators when nontheistic students seek to form clubs in schools.

    As the numbers of nontheists increases in the general population in America, so are the numbers middle and high students self-identifying as nontheists, and they looking to form their own clubs and school groups. In fact, in 2010, the Secular Student Alliance, the nonprofit organization that assists secular college groups organize and thrive, hired a full-time staff person just to handle the requests and issues stemming from high school students and the groups they are forming. However, one person and one organization will not be enough to counter the myriad ways that countless school officials across the country are trying to prevent atheist student clubs.

    The problem is so egregious that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued “Guidelines for the Equal Access Act” in June 2011 to address the numerous complaints of groups being denied permission to form school groups. The Guidelines stress that the unpopular content of a group’s speech cannot be used to discriminate against them or deprive them access to school facilities.

    The Guidelines and the Equal Access Act itself, however, are being disregarded by school officials in schools across the country. Atheist, agnostic, and humanist students are being denied their rights to gather together as people with a common worldview. Not only are the groups being denied the right to form by schools, but also the rights to advertise in a school newspaper, post signs in designated club areas, and use any other mediums or facilities given to other extracurricular groups—all forms of access protected by the Equal Access Act, according to Secretary Duncan in the Guidelines.

    Students are being singled out by school officials and administrators, making them easy targets for bullying from other students. These are three examples of school officials and administrators violating students’ rights during the 2010-2011 school year:

    Brian Lisco’s efforts to form a secular club at Stephen Austin High School in Texas were stymied by argumentative administrators who attempted to dilute the club’s mission ...

    Duncan Henderson was informed that freethinkers’ clubs were not allowed at his school after he put in a request at his junior high school in Alabama. ...

    Skyler Curtis was eventually allowed to start a freethinker group at Rising Sun High School in Maryland, but only after the word “atheist” was removed from the group name. ...

    Even though the law is on the side of secular students, those charged with enforcing and respecting the law, such as school administrators, students, and parents, are using intimidation, bullying, and coercion to block atheists, agnostics, and humanists from equal access. Nontheistic students should not have to take extreme means, such as lawsuits and media attention, in order to form a school club.

    The Secular Coalition for America believes that nontheists and secular allies need to stand up for the rights of students and force school officials and administrators to enforce the Equal Access Act when appropriate to ensure nontheistic students have the same opportunities to form social groups and clubs as other students.

    read the full article at:


  3. Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists

    Free schools that teach 'intelligent design' as science will lose funding

    by Jamie Doward, The Observer January 15, 2012

    Leading scientists and naturalists, including Professor Richard Dawkins and Sir David Attenborough, are claiming a victory over the creationist movement after the government ratified measures that will bar anti-evolution groups from teaching creationism in science classes.

    The Department for Education has revised its model funding agreement, allowing the education secretary to withdraw cash from schools that fail to meet strict criteria relating to what they teach. Under the new agreement, funding will be withdrawn for any free school that teaches what it claims are "evidence-based views or theories" that run "contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations".

    The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has led a campaign against creationism – the movement that denies Darwinian evolution and claims that the Earth and all its life was created by God – described the move as "highly significant" and predicted that it would have implications for other faith groups looking to run schools.

    Dawkins, who was one of the leading lights in the campaign, welcomed confirmation that creationists would not receive funding to run free schools if they sought to portray their views as science. "I welcome all moves to ensure that creationism is not taught as fact in schools," he said. "Government rules on this are extremely welcome, but they need to be properly enforced."

    Free schools, which are state-funded and run by local people or organisations, do not need to follow the national curriculum. Scientific groups have expressed concerns that their spread will see a reduction in the teaching of evolution in the classroom.

    Several creationist groups have expressed an interest in opening schools in towns and cities across England, including Bedford, Barnsley, Sheffield and Nottingham. Critics say they seek to promote creationism, or the doctrine of "intelligent design", as a scientific theory rather than as a myth or metaphor.

    One creationist organisation, Truth in Science, which encourages teachers to incorporate intelligent design into their science teaching, has sent free resources to all secondary schools and sixth-form colleges.

    A BHA campaign, called "Teach evolution, not creationism", saw 30 leading scientists and educators call on the government to introduce statutory guidance against the teaching of creationism. The group said if the government would not support the call, an explicit amendment to the wording of the funding agreement could have the same effect. Last week the Department for Education confirmed it had amended the agreement, although a spokesman denied it was the result of pressure from scientists. He said the revision made good on a pledge regarding the teaching of creationism given when the education secretary, Michael Gove, was in opposition. "We will not accept any academy or free school proposal which plans to teach creationism in the science curriculum or as an alternative to accepted scientific theories," the spokesman said, adding that "all free school proposals will be subject to due diligence checks by the department's specialist team".

    The revised funding agreement has been seized upon by anti-creationists who are pressing for wider concessions from the government.

    "It is clear that some faith schools are ignoring the regulations and are continuing to teach myth as though it were science," Dawkins said. "Evolution is fact, supported by evidence from a host of scientific disciplines, and we do a great disservice to our young people if we fail to teach it properly. " [...]

    read the rest of the article at:


  4. Anti-evolution class discussions get Senate's OK

    By Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News-Sentinel March 19, 2012

    NASHVILLE — The Senate approved a bill Monday evening that deals with teaching of evolution and other scientific theories while the House approved legislation authorizing cities and counties to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings.

    The Senate voted 24-8 for HB368, which sponsor Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, says will provide guidelines for teachers answering students' questions about evolution, global warming and other scientific subjects. Critics call it a "monkey bill" that promotes creationism in classrooms.

    The bill was approved in the House last year but now must return to that body for concurrence on a Senate amendment that made generally minor changes. One says the law applies to scientific theories that are the subject of "debate and disputation" — a phrase replacing the word "controversial" in the House version.

    The measure also guarantees that teachers will not be subject to discipline for engaging students in discussion of questions they raise, though Watson said the idea is to provide guidelines so that teachers will bring the discussion back to the subjects authorized for teaching in the curriculum approved by the state Board of Education.

    All eight no votes came from Democrats, some of whom raised questions about the bill during brief debate.

    Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Clarksville, said he was concerned that the measure was put forward "not for scientific reasons but for political reasons." And Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said teachers were doing just fine teaching science without the Legislature's involvement.

    "We are simply dredging up the problems of the past with this bill and that will affect our teachers in the future," Berke said.

    Watson said the purpose of the legislation is to encourage teachers in helping their students learn to challenge and debate ideas to "improve their thinking skills."

    Critics of the HB368 labeling the measure "monkey bill" ranged from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Center for Science Education. In a statement sent to legislators, the eight Tennesseans who are members of the National Academy of Science said that, in practice, the bill will likely lead to "scientifically unwarranted criticisms of evolution."

    "By undermining the teaching of evolution in Tennessee's public schools, HB368 and SB893 would miseducate students, harm the state's national reputation, and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy," said the statement signed by Stanley Cohen, who won the Nobel Prize in physiology of medicine in 1986, and seven other scientists.

    The bill authorizing display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings — HB2658 — is sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, who said it is in line with court rulings. In essence, courts have often declared displays of the biblical commandments unconstitutional standing along, but permissible as part of a display of "historic documents."

    The bill authorizes all local governments to display "historic documents" and specifically lists the commandments as being included.

    Hill said the bill will prevent city and county governments from "being intimidated any further by special interest groups" opposed to displaying of the Ten Commandments. It passed 93-9 and now goes to the Senate.


  5. TN science bill protects teachers who allow debate over evolution

    by Chas Sisk, The Tennessean March 20, 2011

    The Tennessee Senate approved a bill Monday that would encourage teachers and students to debate evolution in the classroom, setting aside complaints that the measure would drag the state back onto the battleground over the teaching of creationism.

    Senators voted 24-8 to pass a bill that says schoolteachers cannot be punished for “helping students to understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories” taught in public schools.

    The measure has drawn strong opposition from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Center for Science Education and the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it is cover for teachers who want to teach creationism or intelligent design. Supporters said the measure would give teachers more guidance to answer students’ questions about science topics.

    “The idea behind this bill is that students should be encouraged to challenge current scientific thought and theory,” said state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.

    The vote sent the bill back to the state House of Representatives, which passed a similar measure a year ago. Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters earlier Monday that he would discuss the bill with the state Board of Education.

    “It is a fair question what the General Assembly’s role is,” he said. “That’s why we have a state board of education.”

    The issue of evolution had been largely dormant for the last year before moving quickly to the floor of the Senate in the past few days. The measure passed the House in April but did not come up in the Senate until last week, when the Education Committee approved an amended version and sent it to the floor for a full vote.

    Watson, the measure’s sponsor, said the bill would not interfere with the state’s science curriculum — which includes evolution — and noted the measure explicitly bars teachers from bringing up their religious views. He said the measure was needed so teachers can answer students’ questions, including those that were rooted in their personal beliefs.

    “Students often have questions about those theories,” Watson said. “Some of those questions come from their own knowledge. Some of those questions come from knowledge that they have gained in their community.”

    But Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, noted the state’s history as a battleground over evolution — the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 drew national attention and inspired the Oscar-winning film Inherit the Wind — and said the measure would cast Tennessee in a bad light.

    “We’re simply dredging up the problems of our past with this bill that will affect our future,” he said.

    Berke also questioned the appropriateness of teachers’ answering questions rooted in religion.

    “I’m a person of my faith,” he said. “If my children ask, ‘How does that mesh with my faith?’ I don’t want their teacher answering that question.”


  6. In God We Teach

    A film by vic Losick, “In God We Teach” tells the story of a high school student who secretly recorded his history teacher in class, and accused him of proselytizing for Jesus. The teacher, in danger of losing his job strenuously denied it. The specifics of the controversy lead directly to the church & state arguments that are in the news this election year. With Stephen Colbert, Alan Dershowitz, Neil deGrasse Tyson and others. Please feel free to stream, download, share, and embed the film for non-commercial use.

    go to http://ingodweteach.com/

    Are teachers allowed to express their personal opinions in the classroom?

    Are teachers allowed “academic freedom”?

    And can competing theories be taught alongside evolution in a public classroom?

    These and other questions are the focus of the full-length documentary, “In God We Teach," which follows the “separation of church and state” controversy played out in a very public feud between a high school student and his history teacher in Kearny, NJ, a blue-collar, all-American town within sight of downtown New York.

    While most Americans claim to understand the concept of “separation of church and state,” few are sure of what is actually legal, and what is not when it comes to the public school classroom. And the misunderstandings continue. Isn’t America a Christian state founded on Judeo-Christian values, a single nation indivisible under God and whose currency stipulates that in God we trust?

    The role of religion had been central in American society from its founding to the present day, and remains a contentious topic in American life and politics. Passions run high on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, and the “ground-zero mosque.”

    While these religion-based culture wars continue, “In God We Teach” explores the way in which diverse opinions on the role of religion in the public space conflict and clash in our everyday lives.

    With discussion and analysis from such distinguished commentators as Alan Dershowitz, Barry Lynn, Kenneth Miller, Neil deGrasse Tyson and John Whitehead.


  7. Government changes rules to require Free Schools to teach evolution

    by British Humanist Association December 3, 2012

    The Government has announced last week that it has changed the rules governing Free Schools in order to require them to teach evolution. The British Humanist Association (BHA) organised the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign, which called for this change among others, and today welcomed the announcement.

    The change comes through the insertion of a new clause into the model funding agreement which governs what Free Schools can do, which states ‘The Academy Trust shall make provision for the teaching of evolution as a comprehensive, coherent and extensively evidenced theory.’ The clause will apply for all future Free Schools which open, and was also inserted into Grindon Hall Christian School’s funding agreement just before it was signed.

    In September 2011, the BHA launched the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign, supported by individuals such as Sir Paul Nurse, Sir David Attenborough and Prof Michael Reiss, and organisations such as the British Science Association and the Association for Science Education. The campaign called for new rules to prevent schools teaching creationism and intelligent design as scientifically valid, and for every school to be required to teach evolution, including Free Schools and primary schools.

    In subsequent correspondence with the Government, the BHA suggested an amendment to the Free Schools model funding agreement to preclude the teaching of pseudoscience, and in January, the Government told the BHA it had made this precise change. In addition, in June the Government released its draft primary curriculum, including modules on evolution from age eight.

    However, in July, the BHA identified three schools which wish to teach creationism as a scientifically valid theory. These included Grindon Hall Christian School, which had a ‘Creation Policy’ statement on its website saying ‘We will teach creation as a scientific theory and we will always affirm very clearly our position as Christians, i.e. that Christians believe that God’s creation of the world is not just a theory but a fact with eternal consequences for our planet and for every person who has ever lived on it.’

    Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA, warmly welcomed today’s news: ‘A requirement to teach evolution in Free Schools is an excellent additional safeguard against state-funded creationist schools and must be welcomed. Combined with their ban on creationism as science in the curriculum, and their adding evolution to the primary National Curriculum, the Government has met almost all the aspirations of the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign.

    ‘However, we continue to be concerned about the three Free Schools recently approved which are supportive of teaching creationism as science and which we must worry will continue to find ways to circumvent a ban in practice.’


  8. Putins privileging of the Orthodox Church in Russia may go too far, even for the patriarch

    by National Secular Society January 10, 2012

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new bill into law that makes religious education mandatory for all schools in the country.

    The legislation concerns a course on the fundamentals of religion that will be taught at all schools, the Moscow Times reported, although it did not specify which religions will be discussed in classrooms. The law was approved by the Federation Council on 26 December 2012, and will go into effect on 1 Sept 2013.

    Putin, an Orthodox Christian, has been privileging the Russian Orthodox Church, the dominant religion in the country. The Church’s leading bishop, Kirill I of Moscow, has often acted as adviser to the president, although that has also sparked some dissatisfaction among Russians who insist that church and state should remain separate.

    A protest on this issue by the punk band Pussy Riot in February last year in Moscow’s main cathedral led to two members of the band being imprisoned for offending religious feelings. This has led to the pro-Kremlin United Russia party to propose a new law with even more severe punishments for offending religious sentiments.

    The proposals have even alarmed Bishop Kirill who welcomed the jailing of Pussy Riot, and he has asked the Kremlin not to go too far.

    In remarks published on the eve of Russian Orthodox Christmas, Kirill, who has likened Putin’s long rule to a “miracle of God”, told the Interfax news agency that Russia needed stiffer punishments for offences against religion.

    “A fine of several hundred roubles (about $10) for blasphemous inscriptions on a church, a mosque or a synagogue signals that society does not fully realize the importance of protecting … religious feelings of believers,” he said.

    But in his most extensive comment on the proposed law, he said it should not limit citizens’ rights.

    “Any regulatory acts regarding the protection of religious symbols and the feelings of believers should be scrupulously worked through so that they are not used for improvised limitation of freedom of speech and creative self-expression.”

    The remarks were in line with indications that Putin, while wanting to make clear that actions such as the Pussy Riot protest are unacceptable, is wary of undermining the balance between religions in the diverse country.


  9. Less Time for Science, and More for Religion?

    By JOYCE LAU, New York Times blogs January 8, 2012

    HONG KONG — If an Indonesian government proposal goes through, millions of elementary school students in that country will lose their science classes, with that time spent on increased religious education instead. Science may still be taught as part of other classes, but it will not have separate, compulsory classes, as religion does.

    For this feature for IHT Education, Sara Schonhardt talked to teachers and students in Jakarta about curriculum changes that could take place across the Muslim-majority country by June.

    After the proposal was released to the public in November, parents and teachers started a petition against it. The government claims that the public is generally supportive of the changes, but there have also been many voices of opposition.

    Indonesia, a vast archipelago with 240 million people, is one of Asia’s fastest developing nations. It has been upgrading its manufacturing and services industries and is producing more skilled workers. The business sector has encouraged greater instruction in fields like computer science. Given that, some feel that increasing religious education, to the detriment of science training, is a step backward.

    Srisetiowati Seiful of the non-profit Surya Institute told Sara:

    ‘‘We’re going to have a lost generation… It’s going to mean fewer researchers, less technology development. It’s Indonesia entering the dark ages.’’


  10. Lawrence Krauss: Teaching Creationism is Child Abuse

    YouTube February 4, 2013

    The last thing we want to do is water down the teaching of biology because some people don't recognize that evolution happened.

    Transcript -- It amazes me that people have pre-existing notions that defy the evidence of reality. But that they hold onto them so dearly. And one of them is the notion of creationism, or. in fact, Senator Marco Rubio, who's presumably a reasonably intelligent man and maybe even educated, was asked what's the age of the Earth, and ultimately, either because he actually believed it or he was trying to appeal to some constituency, had to argue that it's a big mystery, that somehow we should teach kids both ideas, that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that it's 4.55 billion years old, which is what it is.

    If you think about that, somehow saying that, well, anything goes, we shouldn't offend religious beliefs by requiring kids to know - to understand reality; that's child abuse. And if you think about it, teaching kids - or 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.

    Now you might say, look, a lot of people believe that, so don't we owe it to them to allow their views to be present in school? Well, as I've often said, the purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it. Fifty percent of the people in the United States, when we probe them each year with the National Science Foundation, think that the sun goes around the Earth, not that the Earth goes around the sun. When we asked the question - we provide the question: The Earth goes around the sun and takes a year to do it; true or false? Almost every year, 50 percent of the people get that wrong.

    Now, does that mean in schools we should allow the anti-Galilean and Copernican idea that the sun goes around the Earth to be taught? Absolutely not. If, in fact, the very fact that people don't know that, and the very fact that enough people are willing to somehow believe that Earth is 6,000 years old, means we have to do a better job of teaching physics and biology, not a worse job.

    The last thing we want to do is water down the teaching of biology because some people don't recognize that evolution happened. Evolution is the basis of modern biology and, in fact, if a lot of people don't believe it, it only means we have to do a better job teaching it. So once again, I repeat, the purpose of education is not to validate ignorance, but to overcome it. And 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.

    Technology and biotechnology will be the basis of our economic future. And if we allow nonsense to be promulgated in the schools, we do a disservice to our students, a disservice to our children, and we're guaranteeing that they will fall behind in a competitive world that depends upon a skilled workforce able to understand and manipulate technology and science.

    Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

    to view the video go to:


  11. No Belief Gap

    by Victor Stenger - Physicist, Ph.D., bestselling author, author of 'God and the Folly of Faith'

    In a blog titled "Celebrating Darwin: Religion And Science Are Closer Than You Think" posted on Darwin's birthday, February 12, MIT physicist Max Tegmark reported on a survey he conduced with Eugena Lee and Meia Chita-Tegmark, The MIT Survey on Science, Religion, and Origins: the Belief Gap. While the survey covers many denominations, the central result is that although almost half of Americans, 46 percent according to Gallup, believe that God created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago, only 11 percent belong to a religion that openly rejects evolution.

    Tegmark and his colleagues didn't ask the right questions. Or, at least, they should have defined evolution better for their respondents. As I reported in a Huffpost blog on October 6, 2012 titled "Is Evolution Compatible With Religion?," the same 2010 Gallup poll Tegmark refers to, linked above, found that only 16 percent of Americans believe in "Naturalist Evolution," defined as the view that "Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life [and] God had no part in the process." This is exactly the same percentage of Americans who declare themselves unaffiliated with any religion.

    It may be that the only Americans who accept naturalist evolution are those who do not participate in any organized religion.

    Although the Catholic Church and moderate Protestant churches claim they support evolution by natural selection, the fact is they do not. In a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on October 22, 1996, Pope John Paul II refers to encyclical Humani Generis (1950) composed by Pope Pius XII as stating that "there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the faith about man and his vocation, on condition that one did not lose sight of several indisputable points." Pope John Paul hedged considerably on his acceptance of evolution, implying it has not yet been validated and there is more than one hypothesis in the theory. And he made it very clear that mind or the spiritual soul did not emerge from matter but is a creation of God.

    To reinforce this teaching, in his 2011 Easter Homily Pope Benedict XVI said:

    It is not the case that in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it. If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason.

    Virtually all Christians who accept that species evolve, contrary to the Bible that they believe is the word of God, think evolution is God-guided. This is not Darwinian evolution. God-guided evolution is intelligent design creationism. How many American Christians believe in evolution, as it is understood by science? The data indicate none.

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  12. 11 Most Absurd Lies Conservatives Are Using to Brainwash America's School Kids

    When you can't win, indoctrinate.

    by Amanda Marcotte AlterNet March 11, 2013

    If recent elections have taught us anything, it’s that young Americans have taken a decided turn to the left. Young voters delivered Obama the election: the under-44 set voted Obama and the over-45 set broke for Romney. The youngest voters, age 18-29, gave Obama a whopping 60% of their vote.

    Now Republicans have a plan to try to recapture the youngest voters out there: Take over the curriculum in public schools, replace education with a bunch of conservative propaganda, and reap the benefits of having a new generation that can’t tell reality from right-wing fantasy.

    How well this plan will work is debatable, but in the meantime, these shenanigans present the very real possibility that public school students will graduate without a proper education. To make it worse, many of these attempts to rewrite school curriculum are happening in Texas, which can set the textbook standards for the entire country by simply wielding its power as one of the biggest school textbook markets there is. With that in mind, here’s a list of 11 lies your kid may be in danger of learning in school.

    Lie #1: Racism has barely been an issue in U.S. history and slavery wasn’t that big a deal.

    The Thomas B. Fordham Institute reviewed the new social studies standards laid down by the rightwing-dominated Texas State School Board and found them to be a deplorable example of conservative wishful thinking replacing fact. At the top of list? Downplaying the role that slavery had in starting the Civil War, and instead focusing on “sectionalism” and “states rights,” even though the sectionalism and states rights arguments directly stemmed from Southern states wanting to keep slavery. There’s also a chance your kid might be misled to think post-Civil War racism was no big deal, as the standards excise any mention of the KKK, the phrase “Jim Crow" or the Black Codes. Mention is made of the Southern Democratic opposition to civil rights, but mysteriously, the mass defection of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party to punish the rest of the Democrats for supporting civil rights goes unmentioned.

    Lie #2: Joe McCarthy was right.

    The red-baiting of the mid-20th century has gone down in history, correctly, as a witch hunt that stemmed from irrational paranoia that gripped the U.S. after WWII. But now, according to the Thomas B. Fordham report, your kid might learn that the red baiters had a point: “It is disingenuously suggested that the House Un-American Activities Committee—and, by extension, McCarthyism—have been vindicated by the Venona decrypts of Soviet espionage activities (which had, in reality, no link to McCarthy’s targets).” Critical lessons about being skeptical of those who attack fellow Americans while wrapping themselves in the flag will be lost for students whose textbooks adhere to these standards.

    Lie #3: Climate change is a massive hoaxscientistshave perpetuated on the public.

    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been hard at work pushing for laws requiring that climate change denialism be taught in schools as a legitimate scientific theory. Unfortunately, as Neela Banerjee of the L.A. Timesreports, they’ve already had some serious success: “Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change.” Other states are taking the “teach the controversy” strategy that helped get creationism into biology classrooms, asking teachers to treat climate change like it’s a matter of political debate instead of a scientifically established fact.

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  13. The reality is that climate change is a fact that has overwhelming scientific consensus. In 2004, Science reviewed the 928 relevant studies on climate change published between 1993 and 2003 and found that exactly zero of them denied that climate change was a reality, and most found it had manmade causes. To claim that climate change is a “controversy” requires one to believe that there’s a massive conspiracy involving nearly all the scientists in the world. So, your kids are not only not learning the realities of climate change, they are also learning, if indirectly, to give credence to conspiracy theory paranoia.

    Lie #4: The Bible is a history textbook and a scientific document.

    Texas passed a law in 2007 pushing schools to teach the Bible as history and literature in schools. Since that was already being done in most schools, the law was clearly just a backdoor way to sneak religious instruction into schools, and a report by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) demonstrates that many of them have taken full advantage. One district treats the Bible stories like history by “listing biblical events side by side with historical developments from around the globe.” Many other schools are teaching that the Bible "proves" that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The Earth is actually over 4 billion years old.

    Lie #5: Black people are the descendents of Ham and therefore cursed by God.

    Among the courses justified by the 2007 Bible law, TFN found two school districts teaching that the various races are descended from the sons of Noah. All the Bible really says about the sons of Noah is that Ham was cursed by his father so that his descendents would be slaves, but American slave owners used this passage to claim that Africans must be the descendents of Ham and therefore their slave-owning was okay by God. Make no mistake. The only reason this legend has persisted and is popping up in 21st-century classrooms is that conservative Christians are still trying to justify the enslavement of African Americans over a century ago.

    Lie #6: Evolution is a massive hoax scientistshave perpetuated on the public.

    Creationists have an endless store of creative ways to get around the Constitution and the courts when it comes to replacing legitimate biology education with fundamentalist Christian dogma. Various states have employed an extensive school voucher system that has allowed creationist dogma to flourish. College-age activist Zack Kopplin has been chronicling the problem, and has found various schools nationwide using taxpayer dollars to teach that evolution is a “mistaken belief” and that the Bible “refutes the man-made idea of evolution.” Why do these school administrators believe that scientists are hoaxing the public by making up evolution? Kopplin found a Louisiana school principal who claimed it’s because scientists are “sinful men” seeking to justify their own immorality, and another Florida school teaching that evolutionary theory is “the way of the heathen.”

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  14. Lie #7: Sex is awful and filthy, and you should save it for someone you love.

    While things are improving, even in notoriously fact-phobic states like Mississippi and Texas, “abstinence-only” education continues to persist in school districts across the nation. TFN found that nearly three-quarters of Texas high schools are still teaching abstinence-only, which is based on the fundamental and easily disproved lie that premarital sex is inherently dangerous to a person’s mental and physical health. On top of this, TFN found that many schools are still passing on inaccurate information on condoms and STI transmission, usually exaggerating the dangers in a futile bid to keep kids from having sex. Unfortunately, even Texas school districts that use curriculum that educates correctly on contraception use are still trying to spin abstinence-until-marriage as a desirable option for all students, even though premarital sex is near-universal in the real world. Abstinence-only may be discredited with the voters, but sadly it’s still very normal in Texas, other red states, and even across the nation.

    Lie #8: Dragons actually once existed.

    As much as “Game of Thrones” fans might wish otherwise, dragons are not real and have never existed. But as reported by Mother Jones, Louisiana’s notorious voucher school system has let some crazy nonsense fly in the classroom, including the claim that dragons used to roam the planet. A book being used in Louisiana classrooms titled Life Science and published by Bob Jones University Press claims that “scientists” found “dinosaur skulls” that the book suggests are actually dragons. “The large skull chambers could have contained special chemical-producing glands. When the animal forced the chemicals out of its mouth or nose, these substances may have combined and produced fire and smoke,” the book claims.

    Lie #9: Gay people do not actually exist.

    After being beat back by gay rights and sexual health advocates, Republicans in the Tennessee legislature are once again trying to bring back the “don’t say gay bill.” The law would ban a teacher from admitting the existence of homosexuality to students prior to the 8th grade, even if the students ask them about it. Instead, the bill would require turning a student who confesses to being gay over to his parents, with the legislators clearly hoping that punishment will somehow make the kid not-gay. The entire bill rests on and promotes the premise that homosexuality isn’t a real sexual orientation, but just the result of mental illness or confusion, and if it’s enforced, that message will come across to the students.

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  15. Lie #10: Hippies were dirty, immoral Satan-worshippers.

    In the 1960s, it was common for conservatives to try to discredit the left by stoking paranoia about hippie culture and denouncing the supposed evils of rock 'n' roll. Forty years have passed, but in Louisiana, some school administrators are apparently still afraid that possessing a Beatles record means a young person is on the verge of quitting bathing and taking up a lifestyle of taking LSD and worshipping Satan at psychedelic orgies.

    A history textbook snagged from a Louisiana school funded by the voucher program tells students: “Many young people turned to drugs and immoral lifestyles and these youths became known as hippies. They went without bathing, wore dirty, ragged, unconventional clothing, and deliberately broke all codes of politeness or manners. Rock music played an important part in the hippie movement and had great influence over the hippies. Many of the rock musicians they followed belonged to Eastern religious cults or practiced Satan worship.” It’s unclear if the book also teaches that if you play a Queen record backward, you can hear Satan telling you to smoke pot, but that kind of critical information could also be conveyed during the teacher’s lectures on the subject.

    Lie #11: Ayn Rand’s books have literary value.

    Idaho state senator John Goedde, chairman of the state’s Senate Education Committee has introduced a bill that would require students not only to read Rand’s ponderous novel Atlas Shrugged, but also to pass a test on it in order to graduate. Goedde claims to mostly not be serious about this bill, but instead is using it as a childish attempt to piss off the liberals, but it’s still the sort of item parents need to watch out for.

    After all, Texas textbook standards require that an obsession with the gold standard be taught as a legitimate economic theory instead of the mad ravings of cranks that it is. We live in an era where no amount of right-wing lunacy is considered too much to be pushed on innocent children like it’s fact. Anyone who doubts that should just remember one word: Dragons.

    Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.

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  16. Louisiana counts the cost of teaching creationism – in reputation and dollars

    GOP Governor Bobby Jindal defends anti-evolution education policy, but it costs his state millions in science-based business

    by Zack Kopplin, The Guardian May 1, 2013

    Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal endorsed teaching creationism in public schools, by way of the state's creationism law, a misnamed and misguided piece of legislation called the Louisiana Science Education Act. In a recent interview with NBC News, Jindal said:

    "Let's teach them about intelligent design … What are we scared of?"

    Governor Jindal, we are scared of the harm to Louisiana students and to our state. The Louisiana Science Education Act has already hurt our economy.

    The chairman of Louisiana's senate education committee, Conrad Appel, has called for high schools and colleges to graduate more students in Stem fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), because "the amount of income [students] can earn in these related fields is best." Teaching students that creationism is science will confuse them about the scientific method and the nature of science, which, in turn, will hold them back from getting jobs in any cutting-edge scientific field.

    We can't teach students misleading lessons that blur the lines between rigorous fact and religious belief.

    If the law stays in place, we will not graduate more students into careers in science unless we teach them evolution, which is vital to fields like agriculture and medicine. We need our students to understand the concept to get jobs in places such as Baton Rouge's top-notch Pennington Biomedical Research Center or New Orleans' BioDistrict.

    Claude Bouchard, a former executive director of the Pennington Research Center, told me that because of the Louisiana Science Education Act:

    "[Students] will continue to believe that the laws of chemistry, physics and biology are optional when addressing the big issues of our time. Unfortunately, this is also not without economic consequences.

    "If you are an employer in a high-tech industry, in the biotechnology sector or in a business that depends heavily on science, would you prefer to hire a graduate from a state where the legislature has in a sense declared that the laws of chemistry, physics or biology can be suspended at times or someone from a state with a rigorous science curriculum for its sons and daughters?"

    Peter Kulakowsky, a biotech entrepreneur in Louisiana, recently published a letter in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, saying that:

    "As the director of a biological laboratory in Louisiana, I need enlightened staff. Distracting the state's students in their formative training [through the Louisiana Science Education Act] only cripples them."

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  17. The Louisiana Science Education Act does more than harm the potential of Louisiana's students. It is already directly impacting the state's economy. Louisiana State University's former graduate dean of science, Kevin Carman, testified before the state legislature in 2012 that top scientists had left the university citing the Louisiana Science Education Act as a reason. Other scientists chose to accept jobs elsewhere, because they didn't want to come to a state with a creationism law. Carman said: "teaching pseudo-science drives scientists away."

    Louisiana's third largest industry is tourism, and the state generates millions of dollars each year from conventions. After the Louisiana Science Education Act was passed, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology cancelled a scheduled convention in New Orleans in 2011, costing the city an estimated $2.9m. The society launched a boycott of Louisiana, and the state has become less competitive at attracting certain conventions because of its anti-science stance.

    Thankfully, the boycott of New Orleans has ended, because the New Orleans city council has endorsed a repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act and the Orleans Parish School Board banned the teaching of creationism in its schools. The boycott on the rest of the state still remains, however. Kristin Gisleson Palmer, a member of the city council, said the act needed to be repealed because of the economic harm it caused the city:

    "With the New Orleans Medical Corridor poised for tremendous growth, this law also profoundly impacts our ability to fill jobs in the cutting-edge science fields with students educated in our state's public schools."

    On 1 May, Louisiana's lawmakers will have a chance to stand up for students and help repair the damage done to our economy. A bill to repeal the act will be heard in the education committee of the state senate, and they can vote to repeal. We should all urge our elected officials to do the right thing.

    The economic damage from the Louisiana Science Education Act should serve as a warning to other states. Tennessee passed a copycat bill and other states around the country introduce creationism bills every year. Any state that passes a creationism law will harm their students and drive scientists – and business – away.


  18. Is evolution missing link in some Pennsylvania high schools?

    Some 20 percent of science teachers in survey say they believe in creationism

    By David Templeton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 28, 2013

    During an Advanced Placement biology course in Easton Area High School, Jennifer Estevez's teacher sped through the large chapter on evolution, focusing on one formula for the AP exam and the basics: survival of the fittest and natural selection.

    In those high school years in Northampton County, she also would attend a Baptist leadership retreat where a speaker denounced evolution as false, unproven science.

    Seemingly unimportant and even discredited, evolution fell off her radar. So the Easton student, who is a Baptist, arrived at Duquesne University last fall considering herself a creationist, a person who generally believes God created the world as described in the Bible.

    But a college biology course convinced her that evolution was valid science with overwhelming evidence that all living things, including humans, evolved most likely from a common ancestor -- over a period of millions, even billions, of years longer than that described in Genesis.

    Ending her freshman year, and in pursuit of a career in medicine, Ms. Estevez, 19, said she's "a bit upset" that her high school teacher played down evolution while others trashed the science that serves as the foundation of modern biology, genetics and medicine.

    "In high school, a lot was not taught correctly, and it didn't prepare me for college," she said. "They should have gone into evolution in detail. The controversy should not be what is taught in school."

    Her experience represents the ill-kept secret about public school biology classrooms nationwide -- that evolution often isn't taught robustly, if at all. Faith-based belief in creationism and intelligent design continues to be discussed and even openly taught in public school classrooms, despite state curriculum standards.

    "Sometimes students honestly look me in the eye and ask what do I think? I tell them that I personally hold the Bible as the source of truth," said Joe Sohmer, who teaches chemistry at the Altoona Area High School. The topic arises, he said, when he teaches radiocarbon dating, with that method often concluding archeological finds to be older than 10,000 years, which he says is the Bible-based age of Earth. "I tell them that I don't think [radiocarbon dating] is as valid as the textbook says it is, noting other scientific problems with the dating method.

    "Kids ask all kinds of personal questions and that's one I don't shy away from," he said. "It doesn't in any way disrupt the educational process. I'm entitled to my beliefs as much as the evolutionist is."

    Mr. Sohmer responded to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette questionnaire distributed this spring to school teachers statewide, and he agreed to discuss his teaching philosophy. He said school officials are comfortable with his methods.
    An Indiana County science teacher responded to the questionnaire more adamantly.

    "Most parents and officials do not want evolution 'crammed' into their children. They have serious philosophical/religious issues with public schools dictating to their students how to interpret the origin of life," stated the teacher, who did not respond to a request for an interview. His questionnaire says he teaches creationism for the equivalent of a class period, with five classes devoted to evolution.

    "I have been questioned in the past about how I teach evolution principles, and [school officials] are satisfied with my approach," he said. "My approach is to teach the textbook content of Darwinian evolution but modified to explain that data can be interpreted differently dependent upon one's world view."

    Yet another teacher accused the Post-Gazette of conducting a witch hunt to identify and punish teachers who believe in creationism.

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  19. Skirting the law

    The U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts have ruled time and again that teaching creationism in public schools violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which often is referred to as separation of church and state: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Those cases include Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in York County, which involved the district's decision to include intelligent design in the curriculum as an alternative theory to evolution. The 2005 federal court ruling said intelligent design -- the argument that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause -- and creationism were one and the same religious principle that couldn't be taught in public schools.

    The school district's legal fees topped $1 million.

    Regardless of the court decisions, creationism continues to find an audience in public schools, limiting students' education in one of biology's fundamental principles.

    Michael Berkman, a Penn State University professor of political science and co-author of the book "Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms," said science teachers' reluctance to teach evolution leaves students with a diluted understanding of "the driving theme of the biology course, beginning to end."

    "It washes it out so it doesn't have the flavor and excitement of science," he said, noting it results in "dry and uninteresting" science classes. "Some teachers do unbelievable stuff in the classroom but the majority don't."

    The haphazard method of teaching evolution, undercut by a teacher's skepticism, raises doubts in students' minds about the science, he said.

    The Post-Gazette questionnaire this spring drew 106 responses from science teachers. It asked them to choose one or more answers to a question of what they believe in: evolution, creationism, intelligent design or not sure/other.

    Ninety percent chose evolution; 19 percent said they believe in creationism, not defined in the questionnaire; 13 percent said they believe in intelligent design; and another 5 percent answered "not sure/other." Teachers were allowed to list more than one option, so the numbers don't total 100 percent. But the clear conclusion is that while most do, not all science teachers espouse evolution, with a notable minority speaking up in favor of creationism.

    Many scientists and religious leaders say there's no conflict in people believing in both a scientific and religious explanation of the origins of humans and other species. Fundamentalist Christians who read Genesis as scientific fact typically reject evolutionary theory.

    Science is firm on its truth. The National Academy of Sciences puts evolution in the category of such scientific facts as the Earth orbiting the sun, living things being made of cells and matter being composed of atoms.

    "Like these other foundational scientific theories, the theory of evolution is supported by so many observations and confirming experiments that scientists are confident that the basic components of the theory will not be overturned by new evidence," the academy states, noting that the science will continue to be refined.

    Mr. Berkman and Eric Plutzer, a Penn State professor of political science and sociology, based their book on a national survey of more than 900 science teachers, which found 13 percent advocating that Earth was 10,000 years old or younger, as opposed to Earth's scientifically determined age of 4.54 billion years.

    "How do you become a science teacher when you are a young-Earth creationist?" Mr. Berkman said.

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  20. The Penn State survey said the teachers identifying themselves as creationists spend at least an hour of classroom time on creationism in a way suggesting it to be a valid scientific alternative. "Between 17 and 21 percent [of teachers in the survey] introduce creationism into the classroom," he said. "Some are young-Earth creationist but not all of them are. Some aren't even creationists."

    But Mr. Berkman said their most alarming finding was that teachers need not introduce creationism in class to undercut interest and belief in evolution.

    "You just have to throw doubt and downplay evolution," he said. "The idea that teachers are doing a really weak job -- many a really weak job -- of introducing evolution, we think, is because of reactions they get and maybe because of the lack of confidence in what they are teaching. That especially is the case with evolution, where many students have been primed by parents and youth groups to raise difficult and challenging questions."

    Similar debate is occurring over the Big Bang theory, climate change and other controversial ideas of science.
    G. Kip Bollinger, a Carlisle resident who retired as scientific education consultant for the state Department of Education in 2004 and now serves as a science coach for the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit, said the evolution controversy affects how it is taught.

    "Many school districts shy away from the controversy and many teachers don't want to be the center of the controversy," he said. "So it's not surprising that evolution is not given its due as an important theory of science. When I was science adviser I would receive letters written by congregations around the state decrying that evolution was included in the state's science education standards."

    Duquesne University biology professor David Lampe, who organizes the university's Darwin Day celebration each February, asks freshman biology students to complete an informal questionnaire each year before his class on evolution begins. His results indicate that a quarter to a third of freshmen claim to have had no instruction in evolution, with another third saying that only two class days or fewer were devoted to the topic. Only a third received three days or more of instruction on the topic.

    "I don't think we'll ever stop people from objecting to the teaching of evolution," Mr. Lampe said. "It is not an issue of interpreting scientific data. No one in science seriously questions whether evolution is real. It is still a theological problem for people."

    Getting busy, not mad

    An impassioned speaker, with a knack for blending humor with fire and brimstone, the Rev. Donn S. Chapman held six classes in his "Origins Series" at Cornerstone Ministries in Murrysville on what he says is the truth of creationism and why evolution is suspect science. He said 890 signed up for the class, which was proven when many hundreds filled the church auditorium for the classes, which ended April 10. Featured speakers included intelligent-design scientists who cast doubt in the audience on key principles of evolution.

    At series' end, Rev. Chapman encouraged the audience to reclaim American culture based on Christian values.
    "We totally lost our influence in the public schools, which have lost the calling," he said. "I want to take our schools back and build a base of knowledge, because we have a battle ahead. We are not going to get mad. We are going to get busy."

    The first step, he announced, was passage of an academic freedom bill similar to what Tennessee passed last year and Louisiana passed in 2009. The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that advocates for intelligent design, is circulating a model bill nationwide with similar bills having been introduced in Arizona, Montana, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Oklahoma and Colorado. Those bills remain on hold or have died in committee.

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  21. While the bills forbid the teaching of religious beliefs, they would allow teachers to teach alternative theories of evolution and climate change and other controversial topics, without facing sanctions.

    Opponents say academic freedom bills represent a back-door effort to insert religion into the classroom. Introducing intelligent-design science as an alternative theory not only would hinder the acceptance of evolution, but clear the way for teachers to discuss creationism in the classroom more openly.

    State Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth, attended the final Origins class to announce his support for such a bill. Afterward, he said legislators are being recruited to sponsor the bill.

    "All the evidence doesn't get into the textbooks. This is for people to present evidence from all sides of the argument, not just what's limited to one side."

    Faith and freedom

    The evolution debate in the United States pits two key adversaries, the Discovery Institute and the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif., organization that advocates the teaching of evolution and purging public-school classrooms of religion.

    Josh Rosenau, NCSE programs and policy director, said the battle has been waged for more than 80 years with no sign of it slackening. Academic freedom bills, he said, will encourage teachers to present evidence against evolution, even if they don't view the evidence as arguments for creationism.

    "Evidence against one is evidence for the other," he said.

    "Conceivably it could be more of a permission slip for teachers already teaching creationism to say that they are just encouraging critical thinking. It's an argument they have tried to use in the past."
    Mr. Lampe also objects to the bill.

    "Academic freedom? I'll tell you what it's not. It's not freedom to say anything you want in the classroom. In the classroom, you are obligated to teach scientific facts and methods. It's not a forum for teachers to go off and talk about whatever they want to.

    "Those who want to teach creationism or can't teach evolution shouldn't be there. If they want to teach creationism or intelligent design, it's a nice Sunday school topic. There's a forum for that. People who don't believe in evolution should opt out of modern science and resort to rattling chicken bones."

    At the end of the Origins class, a teacher in the audience submitted a written question asking the Rev. Chapman's panel to comment about how a teacher can introduce creationism into the classroom without facing sanctions.

    "There is a lot that a teacher can get away with in the classroom if you do it wisely and gently," said Randall L. Wenger, chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which is spearheading the campaign for a Pennsylvania academic freedom bill. "If you do it professionally, they would be hard pressed to take action against you."

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  22. Polls and standard bearers

    The state Department of Education sets educational standards requiring evolutionary science to be taught, save for how humans got here.

    Carolyn Dumaresq, department deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education, said new state law requires students, beginning with the current eighth-grade class, to pass tests in algebra 1, literature and biology before they can graduate. That should help mandate the teaching of evolutionary science in classrooms statewide, she said.
    School districts are responsible to establish the curriculum and teaching methods to meet the educational standards.

    Pennsylvania also has an opt-out provision in the law allowing parents to remove their children from any classes in which topics are taught that violate their religious beliefs. One teacher commented in the Post-Gazette survey that a student was sent to the library whenever evolution was taught.

    "Here's the goal, but how you get there is a local decision," Ms. Dumaresq said. "Hopefully our schools are teaching evolution to the standards and honoring the court decisions including the Dover case."

    Changing public opinion on this topic isn't easy,

    In June, Gallup found that 46 percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, and that view "is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago when Gallup first asked the questions."

    About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance, while only 15 percent say humans evolved and God had no part in the process, the poll found.

    "I understand why people are uncomfortable with evolution," Mr. Lampe said. "With evolution, uncomfortable things happen. Evolution slowly picks away at ancient certainties and people wonder where it will stop. But in the end, it requires a great deal of intellectual laziness and religious angst to reject it. I understand the discomfort but I wouldn't want to found a research program on creationism."

    The continued debate against long-proven scientific principles is a shame, he said, which can do damage to children and their educational prowess.

    "Everyone is capable of understanding evolution. There is no reason to dilute or confuse it. Evolution is the greatest thing in science."


  23. 5 Sneaky Ways Fundamentalists Are Trying To Slip Christian Creationism Into America’s Public Schools

    Many public schools in America do all they can to avoid teaching evolution.

    By Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State July 3, 2013

    Evolution is the linchpin of modern biology. Young people who don’t understand it are missing out on an entire range of educational and career opportunities. Certain professional fields can be closed off to them.

    Despite this, some public schools in America do all they can to avoid teaching evolution. Thanks to constant pressure from the Religious Right, many public schools are battlegrounds in a culture war that does great damage to our nation’s scientific credibility as creationists work overtime to slip their ideas into the curriculum.

    Federal courts have been clear: Creationism is theology grounded in a literal reading of the Bible, not science. It has no place in public school science classes, and inserting it into the schools is unconstitutional.

    But despite a string of courtroom defeats, the creationists will not be stopped. They keep repackaging their ideas and trying again. Ironically, their strategies seem to evolve.

    Here is a roundup of the latest ploys creationists are using to replace sound science with biblical fundamentalism.

    1. Pretending to teach kids “critical thinking” skills: A spate of bills appeared in states this year that purported to help guide public school teachers in helping students apply “critical thinking” to select “controversies.” Not surprisingly, the controversies singled out always included evolution.

    Legislation in Colorado would have directed teachers to “create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning.”

    An Indiana bill would have compelled teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the strengths and weaknesses of conclusions and theories being presented in a course being taught by the teacher.”

    In Montana, a bill mandated that schools to encourage “critical thinking regarding controversial scientific theories” such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries.”

    Oklahoma legislation would have required Sooner State teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” Covered topics included “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

    The similar language of these bills (which all failed, thankfully) is strong evidence that they come from a central source. The National Center for Science Education, a California-based group that supports good science instruction in public schools, has traced them to the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that promotes “intelligent design.”

    Critical thinking is great. We’re all for it. But that’s not what these bills are about. They are about warping the concept of critical thinking and using it as vehicle to introduce religious concepts into the classroom.

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  24. 2. Lumping it in with other controversies: Arizona lawmakers this year deliberated a bill that identified a series of “controversial” subjects and signaled them out for special classroom treatment. These included “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

    Louisiana already has a law on the books permitting public school teachers to use “supplemental” material when discussing certain controversial issues, evolution among them. No one knows for sure what these supplemental materials are, but given that state’s constant efforts to undermine evolution, it’s safe bet On the Origin of Species is not on the list.

    A school board in Springboro, Ohio, is considering a similar ruse, only its list is even longer. Once again, the idea here is to attempt to seize some type of moral high ground as proponents claim they are only trying to teach “both sides.”

    Unfortunately for the board, that only works when there are two sides of equal validity.

    The “teach the controversy” movement gives the far right an additional bonus: They can use it as a vehicle to undermine climate change, which they also reject.

    3. Calling it academic freedom: Academic freedom is an important concept at colleges and universities. It has not been extended to public secondary schools because those institutions teach impressionable youngsters. Thus, school officials and democratically elected boards have the power to rein in teachers who start acting like preachers or who stray too far from the accepted curriculum.

    A common creationist ruse is to assert that teachers have the right, under academic freedom, to introduce material that undercuts evolution. They do not. Over the years, several public school teachers have made this argument in court. All have failed.

    Imagine if this argument were taken to its logical extent. What’s to stop a teacher from espousing 9/11 conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, claims that we never landed on the moon, etc.?

    4. Urging teachers to “go rogue”: Even though there is no academic freedom right to teach creationism, some public school teachers behave as if there is. They simply don’t teach evolution or teach it in such a way as to instill doubts in students’ minds.

    A recent survey of public school high school science teachers in Pennsylvania found 19 percent backing some variant of creationism. One biology teacher in Altoona said he believes Earth is 10,000 years old and that the methods used to date it at 5 billion years are faulty.

    “Sometimes students honestly look me in the eye and ask what do I think?” wrote this teacher in response to a newspaper survey. “I tell them that I personally hold the Bible as the source of truth. I tell them that I don’t think [radiocarbon dating] is as valid as the textbook says it is, noting other scientific problems with the dating method. Kids ask all kinds of personal questions and that’s one I don't shy away from. It doesn’t in any way disrupt the educational process. I’m entitled to my beliefs as much as the evolutionist is.”

    continued below

  25. An anonymous teacher in Indiana County, Pa., reported, “Most parents and officials do not want evolution ‘crammed’ into their children. They have serious philosophical/religious issues with public schools dictating to their students how to interpret the origin of life.”

    Courts can strike down creationism repeatedly. That won’t matter if teachers refuse to offer proper instruction about evolution or are afraid to do so due to pressure from their superiors or the community.

    5. Calling creationism something else. Back in the 1980s, “creation science” was all the rage among fundamentalists. They seemed to believe that all you had to do was tack the word “science” onto something and presto, it was science. (“Flat Earth Science,” anyone?)

    That stunt failed when the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law mandating “balanced treatment” between evolution and creation science in 1987. The term “creationism” became more popular, even though it was the same old thing. When courts failed to fall for it, some advocates began using the term “the theory of abrupt appearance.”

    Still others glommed on to “evidence against evolution.” Again, these name changes failed to fool anyone. It was the same old creationism in a new dress.

    Most recently, “intelligent design” has become all the rage. Sometimes known by the acronym ID, intelligent design tries to cover up some of the more outlandish claims of standard creationism (6,000-year-old Earth, dinosaurs and humans living at the same time, Noah’s Ark was real, etc.) and instead posits that humans and other life forms are so complex that they must have been designed by some intelligent force. If this force just happens to be the Christian god, then so be it.

    But at the end of the day, ID proponents are left to fall back on religious explanations. Just exactly who is this designer? Other than space aliens – and they aren’t really serious about that – ID backers have no candidates other than the god of their choice.


    Evolution is no longer considered controversial by the scientific community. To biologists, it is as well established as the theory of gravity or the germ theory of disease. When Religious Right activists succeed in removing it from the classroom or watering down the instruction to the point of uselessness, they don’t just violate the separation of church and state, they undermine our nation’s leadership in science.


  26. Creationism and the conspiracy of evolution: inside the UK's evangelical schools

    Teaching creationism is unquestionably harmful, but should we be trying to ban it? Jonny Scaramanga, a former pupil at an evangelical school, examines how we are failing to hold such institutions to account.

    BY JONNY SCARAMANGA, New Statesman February 5, 2014

    Should teaching creationism in schools be banned? Professor Alice Roberts has argued that it should be, even in private schools. Her comments come as a shock to those British citizens who assume that creationists, like grizzly bears, are a species local to North America. In fact, two networks of evangelical schools – Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) and the Christian Schools Trust (CST) – teach Genesis’ account as a literal explanation of human origins. That’s around 100 UK schools before we even talk about Muslim and Jewish institutions. I attended an ACE school in the 1990s, and emerging successfully indoctrinated at the end of 1999. I am still recovering from the experience, but I’m not convinced banning them will help.

    ACE schools are “teacherless”. Students spend the majority of the week at desks facing the wall, with dividers preventing contact with their neighbours. In silence, they complete workbooks which integrate Bible lessons into each subject. During that time, the only contact with staff comes if a student raises a flag to indicate that they need help. By contrast, most CST schools use a more traditional classroom setup, but with a similarly strong biblical emphasis.

    ACE’s UK distributor, Christian Education Europe, does not disclose the locations of all its schools, but in 2009 claimed there were 59 in the UK. They list 29, but these are only the schools which choose to be listed. In 2008, it was reported that 2,000 British children were being educated this way.

    In my first week at the ACE school, the principal preached a sermon called “Birds of a Feather Must Flock Together”. This 45 minute rant can be summarised in one sentence: “Don’t be friends with non-Christians”. So began three years in which I learned to view ‘unbelievers’ with a mixture of fear and contempt.

    Creationism was central to this understanding. I was taught that evolution was a conspiracy; scientists knew they lacked evidence, but wouldn’t admit it because they hated God. Evolution was equated with atheism;“evolutionists” were fundamentally dishonest. Students in ACE are still taught this. These quotes come from the compulsory course which current students take instead of GCSE science.

    From year 11 biology:

    No branch of true science would make these kind of impossible claims without proof. Because evolutionists do not want to believe the only alternative—that the universe was created by God – they declare evolution is a fact and believe its impossible claims without any scientific proof!

    From year 10 science:

    A person who is not right with God must find reason, or justification, for not believing. So he readily accepts an indefensible theory like evolution – even if it will not hold water. That is his academic justification for unbelief.

    There was a second way creationism was used to fend off outsiders. The school claimed that creationism proved the Bible was the Word of God. Biblical authority thus established beyond question, I was forced to live by such Scriptures as Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is he that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly. . .” My only interaction with sinners was for evangelism.

    There is a natural human tendency to fear the strange. Attending a school exclusively with other evangelicals turned the rest of the world into strangers. My knowledge of outsiders came from propaganda cartoons depicting non-Christians as evil and stupid. When I left that school at 15, I expected my new classmates to try to corrupt me. I told them to accept Jesus or face hell, and they lived up to my expectations.

    continued below

  27. Creationists teach that either every word of the Bible is completely true or none of it is. If you have doubts, that is the devil trying to deceive you. I knew if I doubted, I risked losing my faith, and then I would go to hell. This provides a powerful disincentive against thinking critically. In that sense, the education militates against real learning.

    The same literal understanding of the Bible taught me that gay people were sinners, women should obey their husbands, and parents had a moral imperative to spank disobedient children. Creationism was the keystone that held these beliefs in place. If that was questioned, the entire edifice might fall. Teaching creationism is unquestionably harmful, but there are other avenues to try before we ban it.

    If they are prohibited from teaching creationism, evangelical schools will not suddenly provide high quality instruction on natural selection. More likely, children would be withdrawn into fundamentalist homeschooling. Testimony from America is that this can be somewhat variable.

    The scandal is that existing measures for quality assurance are not working. Ofsted inspections of ACE schools do not mention creationism at all, but frequently give generally glowing reports. Between 2007 and 2011, at least six Ofsted inspections of ACE schools were carried out by a Mr Stephen Dennett. At the same time, Dennett had a sideline as a freelance curriculum writer, and his name appears in the metadata of ACE curriculums as an author. He is also listed as a “consultant” to the board of the ACE-based International Certificate of Christian Education. I contacted Christian Education Europe, ACE’s UK distributors, asking them to comment on my concerns that Dennett’s Ofsted role had represented a conflict of interests, but to date they have not responded.

    Compared with ACE, the Christian Schools Trust (CST) looks relatively moderate. Unlike ACE’s rigidly standardised curriculum, each CST school has its own policy on creation and evolution. There are still indicators that pupils in such schools are being misled, though. Research published in 2009 declared “the great majority of the schools teach their science from a creationist viewpoint”. The same survey found just 10 per cent of teenage CST pupils accepted the theory of evolution.

    Dr Sylvia Baker, the academic who published this research, is a former teacher in a CST school. She insists the teaching of science is rigorous. “If you are seeking to imply that pupils in some CST schools are brainwashed into a simplistic ‘unscientific’ view of origins, you are sadly misinformed as excellent results in science subjects at GCSE have so often demonstrated,” she told me.

    Together with the Muslim Schools Association, the CST has its own inspectorate, the BSI. The inspectorate was set up by the schools to “respect their distinctive ethos”. Since this ethos is the most contentious aspect of the schools, this strikes me as a wholly unwarranted privilege.

    Organisations that ought to be holding these schools to account failing to protect the childrens’ interests. UK NARIC, the international qualifications comparison body, actually maintains that ACE-based qualifications are the equal of A-levels. The inspectorate ought to send a clear message to parents and staff at these schools that the current standard of instruction is unacceptable. We need scrutiny, not legislation.


  28. How a Christian education caused me to lose my faith

    by Carey Lodge, Christian Today UK June 26, 2014

    Accelerated Christian Education, or ACE, is infamous for its controversial independent learning style and for teaching in line with fundamental Christianity – the curriculum hit the headlines in 2012 when it was discovered that some resources used the existence of the Loch Ness Monster to disprove Darwin's theory of evolution.

    It isn't known exactly how many ACE schools are currently operating in the UK, but it is thought to be between 25 and 50. Critics lambast the curriculum as right-wing, conservative indoctrination, while its supporters claim it merely nurtures a Christian understanding of the world within a religious framework.

    Jonny Scaramanga, who attended Victory Christian School in Bath for three and a half years, however, is determined to prove that ACE "robs children of educational and intellectual opportunities".

    Now in his late 20s, Scaramanga was bought up as an evangelical Christian and started his secondary education at Victory, but left when he reached Year 10 after a period of depression and having what he describes as a "meltdown". He became disillusioned with some of the school's teachings and eventually renounced Christianity, choosing instead to identify himself as an atheist.

    Though he now campaigns against ACE, Scaramanga told Christian Today that he initially enjoyed his time there.

    "To begin with I loved it. During the first four terms at least I was very happy indeed – I felt that I was where God wanted me to be, and I felt very privileged to be in an environment that I loved," he said.

    "There were always things that concerned me from the beginning though – paddling [the act of striking a 'disobedient' pupil with a wooden paddle] was prominently used as a punishment at Victory and I was really afraid of it. It seemed to be used frequently for offences that even at the time didn't feel justified, and I lived in fear. There were other physical punishments too that I was really afraid of, but I generally liked the curriculum and I'd never been sociable so working alone was great and I loved that I could hurry ahead with my work."

    ACE students follow a curriculum based on 'PACEs' – booklets which facilitate independent study. Pupils study at individual desks, and are encouraged to set their own goals; there is little interaction with other pupils or teachers. Scaramanga says the work was "incredibly easy", but didn't allow any room for questioning or developing beliefs that contradicted the fundamentalist views it supported.

    "There is nothing in the ACE curriculum which fosters the development of critical thinking skills. The environment of the school is not conducive to questioning certain beliefs, and people in favour of the school say 'Isn't it so wonderful that there's no peer pressure', but there was peer pressure, it was just in a different direction," he says.

    "Everyone expressing unity of belief makes it difficult for you to think differently."

    continued below

  29. One of the main sources of contention regarding the ACE curriculum is its focus on creationism as opposed to evolution – a belief pressed so strongly upon students that Scaramanga says he didn't even question it until he was 23, long after he had left the school.

    "Everything ACE taught about evolution was misleading – which is true even if Creationism is true. Evolution is not according to scientists as it is depicted in the PACEs, and it's doing no one any favours to misrepresent what scientists think.

    "But I'm more concerned about teaching that says it's bad to be friends with people who aren't Christians, or even the right kind of Christians – and there's a very restricted definition of who is a Christian – and their idea of purity culture and modesty culture; policing what women wear and saying women should submit. ACE supporters would disagree, but I would say the PACEs depict women as second class citizens."

    Despite his strong feelings about ACE and his time at Victory, however, Scaramanga is keen to open up dialogue about fundamentalist Christian education and hear from those who have had more positive experiences than himself. He has even asked those who support ACE to contribute to his blog, 'Leaving Fundamentalism'.

    "A lot of it is for my own morbid curiosity. I don't understand how anyone can see any good in it – it makes me think is there something I haven't considered?" he explained.

    "When I was in ACE I was the most rigid and closed minded kind of fundamentalist – I was so certain that I was right that I didn't think I needed to listen to anybody else because I knew what God thought.

    "I'm determined not to be like that again – I'm always hunting for another point of view I haven't considered. It's also important not to create a straw man of what it is to be a supporter of ACE – I want to understand what that's like, and there are some legitimate concerns that people have about children from conservative Christian backgrounds being bullied in mainstream schools, and we need to listen to that."

    Scaramanga was featured on Newsnight last week, during an episode in which Jeremy Paxman – in one of his final shows as presenter – interviewed John Lewis, director of Christian Education Europe which promotes and supports ACE. Lewis claimed that he and his siblings, all of whom were taught through ACE and have gone on to excel academically, received an excellent education.

    In addition, Jeremy Vine interviewed Scaramanga and Giles Boulton, who also went to Victory School and now works at Maranatha Christian School near Swindon. Like Lewis, Boulton defended ACE, arguing that it can be used alongside other curriculums for a well-rounded education.

    Scaramanga, however, refutes their claims. "I don't believe they had a great education. I've never met John Lewis, but I know Giles very well and he's quite brilliant – a number of children were at Victory, they were the kind who would have thrived anywhere. Every year there are children at failing secondary schools who make it into top universities and that doesn't show the school's rating is wrong, but it's evidence of how resilient children can be, and that they're able to thrive in circumstances that aren't ideal," he said.

    "There are some children who succeeded in ACE, undoubtedly, and it's certainly true that the style of individual learning suits some children, but I think there's no question that the ACE curriculum is not ideal – it goes against all we know about how children learn and how knowledge works.

    "So they [Lewis and Boulton] can't have had an ideal education, but I can believe that they thrived in spite of that. But then that doesn't mean we should ignore cases of children who had the reverse experience – who were damaged by ACE.

    continued below

  30. It may be that it's only a small minority who were damaged or let down by the curriculum and struggled, but I'm a teacher and if I found any of my pupils were struggling, I would want to hear about it and understand and know what I could do to change it. It saddens me that my old teachers at Victory, ACE and ACE Europe aren't interesting in learning."

    As for faith-based education in general, Scaramanga isn't entirely against it – but he says children must always be freedom of choice, and it's important to encourage diversity within the education system.

    "I don't think it's right to say to children: 'This is what you should believe' when it's a matter of faith and a matter of conscience. It's dishonest to say 'We know this is true' when we don't know that it is," he argued.

    "I don't think it's impossible to have a school with a faith ethic that provides a good education, but it doesn't do us any favours to have children from families with different beliefs going to different schools. Some of my most beneficial learning experiences have been when I've been with people of different religious views and no religious views."

    Interestingly, the majority of ACE schools have received 'Good' or 'Outstanding' ratings from independent inspection authority Ofsted, though Scaramanga suggests he is sceptical about how thorough these inspections could have been. "It seems possible that Ofsted has been making sure that pupils are making progress, rather than looking at the content of the curriculum," he noted.

    "I think it doesn't make sense to accredit qualifications where it's possible to pass tests without understanding the work. Some children may have undertaken the ACE curriculum and gone onto excel, but some may not. We don't know from test results, so we shouldn't validate it.

    "If Ofsted looked at it properly, parents would be able to make a more informed choice. It should be made clear there are certain aspects of the curriculum that are controversial – the PACEs teach that God is politically right-wing, so the further left you go, the further away from God you are. Many Christians have a problem with that, and yet no one said anything to me when I was learning that – no one said: 'You don't have to believe that' or 'It's controversial' – I swallowed it whole."

    Despite having a strong evangelical faith when he was young, even being featured on a promotional video for Victory in which he discusses speaking in tongues and how "wonderful" God is, Scaramanga now says he feels entirely removed from that time in his life.

    "I've had even more powerful experiences since," he says of his move away from Christianity. "I've been a musician and I've had similarly ecstatic moments when I've been improvising and playing with other musicians. I think it's best explained in terms of human psychology – you could possibly say it was God, but certainly not exclusively the Holy Ghost that I believed in then.

    "Now I wouldn't attribute it to God at all, and it [speaking in tongues] is definitely not evidence that that is truth – people are having equally powerful experiences even though they believe the exact opposite of what I did.

    "When I left church secular music made me feel euphoric, which I'd always attributed to anointing before, but the how come with secular music it was better?" he asked.

    Whatever the lasting effects, Scaramanga is clear that his Christian past is behind him: "There are times when I struggle to understand how I ever believed."


  31. Five States Gunning to Make Their Kids as Scientifically Illiterate as Possible by Teaching Creationism

    By Dan Arel, AlterNet | News Analysis July 18, 2014

    The British government dealt a strong blow to creationists last week when they clarified and extended their laws banning creationism in the classroom to not only free schools, but to academies as well.

    Academies, including free schools, are the UK's version of the charter schools in the US, and there were concerns that, since academies are often run by religious organizations who taught and endorsed creationism in the classroom, kids who attend them were not being taught actual science.

    The scientific community put heavy pressure on the British government to extend a similar law passed in 2012, which did not apply to free schools nor all academies and allowed some older schools already teaching creationism to grandfather their questionable curriculum in.

    With this new ruling, "[...] The Government has extended such an explicit rule to all new Academies and Free Schools and made it clear that it believes that existing rules mean that no Academy or Free School can teach pseudoscience," said Pavan Dhaliwal, The British Humanist Association's Head of Public Affairs explained in the press release.

    In the US however, the battle to bring creationism and intelligent design into the classroom is alive and well. It has been ever since the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which the teaching of evolution was found to be a violation of Tennessee law. The trial banned the teaching of human evolution in any publicly funded school.

    The battle finally came to a head in 1987 when the Supreme Court heard Edwards v. Aguillard, in which Don Aguilard took the state of Louisiana to court over a law that required that creationism be taught in public schools.

    The case, which made it all the way to the Supreme Court dealt a massive blow to the religious right when the court ruled that teaching creationism in publicly funded schools was unconstitutional because the original law was specifically intended to promote a particular religion.

    A similar blow was dealt decades later when in 2005 when a US District Court ruled that intelligent design was not scientific and even encompassed creationism and teaching either to be unconstitutional.

    So one would think that since both creation myths that are endorsed by the religious right have been struck down in the highest courts in the country that this debate would be settled. How on earth could we still be fighting the creationist proponents when they have been dealt solid deathblows?

    According to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), an organization that tracks anti-science bills around the US that deal with evolution and global warming, almost every southern and bible-belt state in the US has at the very least attempted to pass education bills that either remove evolution from the curriculum or make it legal for teachers to offer alternative theories to human origins.

    The states fighting to pass these laws are predictable if you pay attention to any national politics, the more red a state votes, the more it fights to remove science education from its schools or at the very least, replace science classes with a form of Bible study.

    continued below

  32. So what states and bills have been the worst to science education? Here are five examples of states either enacted or relentlessly fighting to pass anti-evolution and or anti-science bills to change their educational standards to appease the Christian Right.

    1. Louisiana

    Louisiana seems to be trying harder than any other state to produce the most scientifically illiterate students it possibly can. Governor Bobby Jindal has overseen most of these bills and has endorsed them all.

    Jindal even pushed and won to get a voucher program installed in the state that would allow public funding to be used for private education, including religious schools that taught creationism.

    A 2008 proposal that was approved in the state allows teachers to, "[...] Supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner," according the language drafted in the law.

    The law clearly had evolution and climate science in its sights when allowing teachers to use other sources of information to critique scientific theories.

    A repeal effort has been made under Senate Bill 175, in April 2014 it went in front of the Louisiana Senate Education Committee and the repeal was voted down 3-1, meaning that teachers could still skirt the federal law and use their own materials in the classroom against well understood scientific theories.

    The failure to get SB 175 passed has continued to ensure those with religious power in the state control science education.

    2. Missouri

    Missouri recently advanced a bill, House Bill 1472, to its House that would allow parents to opt their children out of class during lessons about evolution.

    According to NCSE the bill's sponsor Rick Brattin (R-District 55) told the Kansas City Star (February 6, 2014) that requiring students to study evolution is "an absolute infringement on people's rights" and that evolution is "just as much faith and, you know, just as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion."

    Bills being written by politicians who know less about the scientific theory of evolution as the students they believe they are protecting, cannot be a good thing. States like Missouri are turning to politicians and not scientists when drafting this type of legislation.

    Missouri even looks to take this one step further and has another bill, House Bill 1587, that is currently with the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education that would remove the ability of school administrators to prevent teachers from miseducating students about "scientific controversies" around evolution. No date has been set for the committee to discuss this proposed legislation.

    3. South Carolina

    South Carolina republicans want to "teach the controversy." This creationist gem, a much laughed at and discarded argument was brought back into the limelight when Senator Mike Fair (R-District 6), a member of the states Education Oversight Committee (EOC) and long time opponent of evolution told the Charleston Post and Courier that, We must teach the controversy ... There's another side. I'm not afraid of the controversy."

    The proposal he was advocating at the time was supposed to revise the states science standards and require that students, "Construct scientific arguments that seem to support and scientific arguments that seem to discredit Darwinian natural selection"

    The proposal passed the EOC with a 7-4 vote and went to the states board of education, which held a meeting on June 11, 2014. A number of scientists came to oppose the proposal and the only advocates who came to speak in the proposals defense were two speakers affiliated with the Discovery Institute, an anti-evolution organization that supports intelligent design as an explanation for life.

    continued below

  33. Thankfully the state board of education saw through the religious fog and rejected the proposal.

    4. Oklahoma

    Oklahoma faced not one, but two anti-evolution bills this year. The first brought forth in February, Senate Bill 1765, would have made it impossible for school administrators to mislead students about "scientific controversies". The first bill died in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.

    Shortly after, a second and similar bill, House Bill 1674, was proposed and even passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 70-6, sending the bill to the state senate. This new bill specifically mentioned "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" as subjects which "some teachers may be unsure" about how to teach, according to NCSE.

    HB 1674 however never made it to vote in the senate and expired. One can only assume a third attempt will not be far off.

    5. Virginia

    Another bill put forward to tie the hands of school administrators is House Bill 207. Like the bills in Oklahoma and Missouri HB 207 would allow teachers to challenge scientific theories and offer other alternatives and not face any punishment for violating educational laws that prohibit religious alternatives.

    The bills only sponsor, Richard P. Bell (R-District 20), acknowledged to the Washington Post (January 29, 2014) that HB 207 would apply to such scientific theories such as evolution and climate change. Bell also admitted to another local paper The Recorder that he himself was a creationist.

    The Recorder later publicly came out against the bill and said they believed it was a threat to the states scientific educational standards.

    The bill however died when the House Educational Committee did not vote on the issue before the bill expired.

    These five states are some of the top examples but they are not the only five, and in the US were evolution is not widely accepted this hurts the country's
    scientific future.

    A recent poll conducted by Gallup showed that 42% of Americans believe in the creation myth as to the origins of life on earth. There is glimmer of hope though, because the same poll conducted in 2012 showed that 46% of Americans believed in the creation myth.

    The biggest threat to the US education is the Republican Party's refusal to accept scientific evidence as fact and turn every scientific claim into some form of liberal conspiracy.

    While 42% is an improvement over two years ago it still shows just how far behind the US is to the rest of the developed world. Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and France all poll in over 80% acceptance of the theory. In fact, when a poll was conducted of European countries that included Turkey, the US fell behind every country except Turkey that happened to poll at 25% acceptance.

    Both Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson have spoken out about the dangers of not teaching evolution, seeing as how evolution is one of the foundations of science, especially life science.

    Nye's video criticizing creationism and scolding those who refuse to teach their children about evolution led to a nationally publicized debate between himself and Ken Ham of the creationist organization Answers in Genesis.

    So while federal laws make it clear that the teaching of creationism and intelligent design are unconstitutional and are clear religious endorsements, it is obvious that the struggle to teach actual science across the US is an ongoing battle.

    National science standards such as the Next Generation Science Standards need to be adopted across all fifty states and put an end to GOP controlled states creating their own religious based science curriculums.


  34. Dawkins book denied distribution in Chilliwack schools

    by Greg Laychak - Chilliwack Times April 1, 2015

    An educational charity organization claims that its submission of a textbook to the Chilliwack school district was not fairly considered when it was denied entry into public school circulation last month.

    In late February, Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC) received a letter from Superintendent Evelyn Novak that rejected CFIC’s submission of The Magic of Reality, a textbook by Richard Dawkins, for consideration to be distributed to Grade 5 students over the March break.

    And in March, CFIC tried again to get more clarity from the district but said explanation received was still insufficiently detailed, lacking information about how guidelines were applied in the decision.

    Novak told the Times she denied the book based on the board and administration guidelines as well as referring to the Ministry of Education’s selection processes.

    Specifically, the Dawkins resource was noted to be biased and didn’t fit other guidelines the district currently considers significant considerations.

    “What we’re trying to do with our resources is certainly include Canadian content and infuse our curriculum with First Nations perspectives and literature as we’re bringing in new materials,” Novak said.

    The CFIC complains that in a school district where Gideon Bibles are still accessible via permission slips, all materials should be considered in an equal manner.

    “The question comes down to should the school board be providing materials to students from external groups,” said Eric Adriaans, national executive director of CFIC. “Whether the external group is the Centre for Inquiry or the Gideon Bible or a local Muslim organization or a Mormon organization, etc. should the school be distributing it?”

    “And if they do, are they evaluating all those options fairly, forthrightly with the criteria demonstrated and in a transparent fashion,” he added.

    In his organization’s view that is not the case.

    A post on their website links to the district’s response which does include the criteria sent by Novak, but CFIC sees it as vague and uninformative.

    continued below

  35. Novak said the Gideon Bible issue itself was resolved in 2012 when controversy sparked debate and a new policy 518 was issued by the board in 2013 that ensured a review process.

    “We actually aren’t distributing the Gideon Bible,” she said. “It is not being distributed to Grade 5 students or in our schools.”

    Novak said she wouldn’t authorize permission slips to get either the Gideon book or the Dawkins book at public district schools.

    However, Novak also said she was not sure if the practice was still happening at the school level as she hasn’t checked the situation this year, but will look into the matter when classes resume next week.

    Because of spring break, the Times was also unable to confirm whether or not bibles or permission forms are in schools.

    But Chilliwack school board trustee Barry Neufeld said the Gideon Bibles, though not endorsed by the district, are made readily available for anyone who asks.

    “Instead of sending out promotional literature to the kids our policy now is just to mention it on the school newsletter and if anybody’s interested they can contact the school and they can pick up a Gideon Bible if they want,” Neufeld said. “And I think it’s expanded, it’s not just available to Grade 5.”

    If that’s the case Adriaans and his group would like to make The Magic of Reality available in the same way, and also free.

    “Since the board has passed this policy why don’t we take a look at this as an opportunity to work with it?” Adriaans said about CFIC’s internal discussion that started the process. “I suggested that we target the March break because that’s a good time for kids to do reading.”

    Kevin Francis, host of podcast Left at the Valley with Kevin and Karen and member of the Fraser Valley Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists (FVASH) says the district is making a big mistake.

    “The governments are cutting everything including funding to the education system,” he said. “These kids are learning with nothing, they have to steal duct tape.”

    Francis adds that Dawkins is often misperceived: the man is the most prominent evolutionary biologist of our time—he also happens to be an atheist.

    “This comes with no strings and it’s given to you at a time when the cupboard is bare,” he said. “You can’t afford to pass on something like that.”

    Francis said the book is strictly about science not atheism, which people would see if given a fair evaluation.

    “It makes no sense from an economic standpoint, it makes no sense from a scientific standpoint,” he said. “It only makes sense for them to do that from a political or religious standpoint.”


  36. Dismissing Darwin

    Records show teachers and school board members conspiring to teach creationism in public school science class.

    By Zack Kopplin, Slate April 21, 2015

    When I was a high school senior in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2010, I began a campaign to repeal my state’s “creationism law,” which allows teachers to sneak religion into public school science classes by using materials that criticize evolution. Seventy-eight Nobel laureates and many other prominent scientists and educators have joined me in calling for the repeal of this law, officially known as the Louisiana Science Education Act, and tens of thousands of people have signed petitions against it over the past four years, but so far we’ve failed. Louisiana teachers can still bring religion into public school science classrooms, legally.

    The Louisiana State Legislature has voted to keep this law despite repeated challenges, in part because it has a fig leaf: No one has managed to demonstrate what is going on inside Louisiana classrooms. In 2013, as I was testifying before the Louisiana Senate Education Committee in support of a bill to repeal the law, Sen. Conrad Appel, the committee chairman, asked me, “Do you have any evidence of school districts or individual schools that are physically teaching creationism?”

    There has been plenty of evidence, but it hasn’t been direct. For example, in Tangipahoa Parish, in 2011, school board member Brett Duncan requested that guidelines be developed “for the review of supplemental materials to be used by teachers for discussing evolution, creationism, and intelligent design.” That same year a pupil progression plan (an outline of what a school district intends to do that year) for Terrebonne Parish said that under the creationism law, teachers will “deliver facts for both arguments”—both evolution and creationism.

    Gov. Bobby Jindal was asked about this law by NBC’s Education Nation and said, “I’ve got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism.” That is in fact why he signed the law.
    But none of this was enough. I couldn’t name a single teacher who was teaching creationism. “You talk about a back door [to teaching creationism],” Appel said. He told me that I had no evidence “that indicates such a back door is actually being used.” The Senate Education Committee voted against the repeal.

    “I just want to get this message out there that Louisiana doesn’t support or promote the teaching of religious doctrine in the classroom,” Appel said. “Period.”

    Yet in the fall of 2013, at Negreet High School, in Sabine Parish, teacher Rita Roark insulted the religion of C.C. Lane, a Buddhist student in her sixth-grade science class. Roark told the class that evolution is a “stupid” theory that “stupid people made up because they don’t want to believe in God.” Roark’s science tests included a fill-in-the-blank question that said, “ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and students were expected to write in “LORD.”

    When confronted with these episodes, Appel said he didn’t believe that they had happened because Louisiana’s creationism law allows them.

    Now I have evidence that it’s not just one teacher. I have evidence that religion, not science, is what’s being taught systematically in some Louisiana school systems. I have obtained emails from creationist teachers and school administrators, as well as a letter signed by more than 20 current and former Louisiana science teachers in Ouachita Parish in which they say they challenge evolution in the classroom without legal “tension or fear” because of pro-creationism policies. I’ve found the back door.

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  37. I requested a copy of the teacher signed letter from the Ouachita Parish School Board. The first signature is from Robert Webber, the superintendent of Ouachita Parish Schools, but the school system’s lawyer, Elmer Noah, told me that the letter was not a “school board document” and that the school system didn’t possess it. “I object to your characterization of the document as a public record,” he said.

    Noah told me that Darrell White, a retired military judge from Baton Rouge, had the last remaining copy of the letter. When I called White and asked him for a copy, he said he wasn’t willing to do an interview and hung up on me.

    I had met White four years earlier at a hearing of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve new biology textbooks for Louisiana schools—books that included evolution. Standing at the witness table, White held a cane in one hand and with the other was shaking a shirt that read, “natural selection.” According to White, it was the same as the shirt that Columbine murderer Dylan Klebold had worn (Eric Harris, not Klebold, actually wore the shirt), and teaching evolution would lead to a “Columbine-style shooting” in the schools of Baton Rouge.

    White, a lifetime member of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, has spent years trying to connect evolution to the Columbine massacre. In a 2006 article for the creationist site Answers in Genesis, he proclaimed that Charles Darwin should be “dubbed the patron saint of school violence.”

    White is one of the most influential conservative power brokers in Louisiana. He helped found the Louisiana Family Forum, a right-wing lobbying group that is so well-connected that the New York Times described Jindal as “practically one of the family.” He is also the Louisiana coordinator for American Vision, a “Biblical Worldview Ministry” and hate group, whose leader, Gary DeMar, calls for the execution of “sodomites” and “abortionists and their parents.”

    White is the reason that creationism can be taught in Louisiana public schools. In April 2006 he organized a meeting in West Monroe, a city in Ouachita Parish, to inform teachers about intelligent design. “A judge from Baton Rouge will speak on Intelligent Design,” wrote Cynthia Osborne, a curriculum coordinator for the Ouachita Parish School System, in an email to her science teachers. “Please inform any teachers they are invited to attend.”

    A few months later, the Ouachita Parish School Board passed a creationist science curriculum policy that had been lifted from White’s website. Ouachita’s policy states that teachers are allowed to “review, analyze, and critique in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses” of theories that “may generate controversy (such as biological evolution).” The Monroe News Star reported that during the school board meeting, one member, Red Sims, said he thought that evolution meant “that people came from monkeys. … I hope they won't be teaching that.”

    While promoting creationism in Ouachita, White discovered an important ally: Assistant Superintendent Frank Hoffmann. He had presented White’s policy to the school board and told members that teachers would have “academic freedom to teach both sides of controversial subjects such as evolution.” In 2007, Hoffmann was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives.

    Rep. Hoffmann took Ouachita’s creationism policy statewide. Along with state Sen. Ben Nevers, he sponsored the Louisiana Science Education Act, aka the creationism law. This law allows teachers to use “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories,” including evolution and global warming. Like the Ouachita policy it’s based on, this law is a back door to teach creationism.

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  38. Nevers was explicit in his goals for this law. He told the Hammond Star that the Louisiana Family Forum suggested the bill to him because “[t]hey believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin’s theory.”

    Several scientists testified against the Louisiana Science Education Act before the House Education Committee, including Bryan Carstens, a biology professor at Louisiana State University. He brought a petition from LSU’s biology department that said, “There is no controversy among professional biologists about the fact of evolution.”

    Hoffmann objected, citing several creationist professors from Louisiana College, a Baptist school whose president emeritus once described the media as a “tool of Satan.”

    “Did you hear the testimony of the earlier professors we had here?” Hoffmann asked. Once the cheers from the audience died down, he followed up, “You heard their credentials?”

    When the Louisiana Science Education Act passed, White sent out an email celebrating the end of “Darwin-only” education in Louisiana. He said that the creationism law would “end the hemorrhaging rash of Columbine school violence copycat plots.”

    In 2012, at the suggestion of Judge White, a small school district outside Baton Rouge, the Central Community School System, adopted a version of Ouachita’s creationism policy.

    At the Central Community School Board meeting, Mickey Cleveland, a Ouachita Parish teacher, presented a letter to the board in support of the new policy. (Cleveland once told the Monroe News Star that, “Darwin didn’t have the microelectronic microscope. … Science is proving creation.”) This is the letter I would later chase, the one signed by multiple science teachers, which Ouachita claimed was only in White’s possession. The letter was also emailed by White to Central Community School Board President Jim Gardner and board member Jim Lloyd.

    In November 2014 I sent a public records request to Central Community Schools for the letter, but the administration refused to provide it to me. A secretary told me “no such letter was entered into the minutes nor to my knowledge do any of the board members have a copy of it.” For years Central has provided this response to public records requests about the letter, including one from the American Civil Liberties Union.

    It wasn’t until late March 2015 that Ouachita Parish's lawyer finally released the letter to me (noting his objections), along with a number of emails. (Central still claims to not have the letter.) Based on the emails I obtained, it appears that at least two school board members, Lloyd and Gardner, from Central, deliberately withheld the letter from public records requests. When I pointed this out, Michael Faulk, the superintendent of Central Community Schools, described my request as a “personal vendetta” that he’d wasted an “inordinate amount of time on."

    The reason for this evasiveness from these two school boards is that this is a list of teachers who signed their names to a letter that is for all intents and purposes an admission of teaching creationism.

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  39. Other emails from Ouachita Parish provided even more evidence that creationism was being taught in Louisiana schools. Two West Monroe High School science teachers, Kyle Hill and Jessica Wyatt, discussed questions for their students to promote higher-order thinking skills. Promoting critical thinking is one of the main political arguments for the Louisiana Science Education Act, and these teachers interpreted it to mean—as the designers of the act intended—an invitation to teach creationism. One question they came up with was: “Name an evolutionary change that would support both the big bang theory and creationism?” The answer: “snake leg nubbs.”

    Danny Pennington, a creationist principal at Good Hope Middle School in Ouachita, used to be a biology teacher at West Monroe High School, and he created a set of creationist curricula and DVDs meant for the public school classroom. While employed by the public school system, he filmed himself exploiting the Louisiana Science Education Act to attack evolution. Another Louisiana creationist, Charles Voss, who publishes his own creationist supplemental materials, emailed Pennington: “The DVD you made in the classroom is needed to show what a teacher can do in a single period,” he said. “You literally destroyed evolution in one 40 minute period.”

    I have requested a copy of Pennington’s videos, but so far they have not been provided to me. I did obtain a copy of his written curriculum, which uses traditional creationist rhetoric such as: “Students and teachers should understand that many past conclusions based on fossil evidence were simply wrong.” Pennington states that one biology textbook was incorrect in teaching that whales had a common ancestor that lived on land. (Whales actually did have a common ancestor that lived on land.)

    Despite the protections of the Louisiana Science Education Act, it’s still possible that school systems or individual teachers could get into trouble for lessons that are too explicitly religious. In his guidelines for teachers using his curriculum, Pennington advises teachers to “link teaching of evolution to existing school district policies about teaching controversial issues” in order to stay out of legal trouble.

    Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education told me, “Getting teachers to use attacks on evolution as a proxy for advocating creationism has a long history, especially in Louisiana.” He said, “It’s clear that that’s what teachers in Ouachita Parish are doing, and what Darrell White is encouraging in other districts.”

    If any students or families in Ouachita Parish decide to sue the school system or anyone in it for teaching creationism, White has arranged legal protection. He has emailed school board members across the state with a letter from Mike Johnson, a lawyer for the Creation Museum and current Louisiana state representative, which offers free legal representation from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian organization whose mission is to defend “the right to hear and speak the Truth.”

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  40. In 2010 Livingston Parish came close to endorsing the teaching of creationism. At a Livingston Parish School Board meeting, Jan Benton, then the school system’s director of curriculum (now a member of the school board), told the board that the Louisiana Science Education Act was for “critical thinking and creationism.” Board member David Tate got fired up and announced, “We don’t pray to the ACLU and all them people; we pray to God.” Board member Clint Mitchell said, “Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.” But at that time, without money for a possible court case, Livingston Parish decided not to make creationism an official part of the district curriculum the way Central and Ouachita had.

    Other emails released by Ouachita show that Livingston Parish has kept trying to put creationism in schools. In one email, White wrote, “Let’s get some more Livingston School Board members to a meeting and develop a timetable to introduce the science academic freedom resolution in this Parish.” He ended his email by saying, “Satan is pleased with the status quo!”

    State Rep. Valarie Hodges responded to White’s email. (Hodges once withdrew a positive vote from a school voucher bill after she realized that Islam, as well as Christianity, was a religion. She said, “I like the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school … unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion.”) Hodges offered to contact Livingston Parish School Board members and host a meeting with them and White in her legislative office. White advised school board members to adopt a policy with “aspirational language” this time around, rather than creationism or specific supplementary materials “which would then be subject to challenge by ideologues.”

    From the governor who signed the law to the teachers who implement the policy, everyone recognizes this is about creationism. I told Sen. Appel that I wanted to work with the Senate Education Committee to investigate what was being taught in Louisiana. “I would support that,” he said. I’m working on obtaining copies of Ouachita’s and Central’s curricula and more emails. I’m doing my part. The Senate Education Committee will consider a new bill to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act on Wednesday. I look forward to the legislators doing their part.

    Zack Kopplin is a science education activist who has fought against creationism being taught with public money.

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  41. Dont Believe In Evolution Try Thinking Harder

    by Tania Lombrozo, NPR JUNE 29, 2015

    The theory of evolution by natural selection is among the best established in science, yet also among the most controversial for subsets of the American public.

    For decades we've known that beliefs about evolution are well-predicted by demographic factors, such as religious upbringing and political affiliation. There's also enormous variation in the acceptance of evolution across different countries, all of which suggests an important role for cultural input in driving beliefs about evolution. A child raised by Buddhists in California is much more likely to accept evolution than one raised by evangelical Protestants in Kansas.

    But in the last 20 years or so, research in psychology and the cognitive science of religion has increasingly focused on another factor that contributes to evolutionary disbelief: the very cognitive mechanisms underlying human cognition.

    Researchers have argued that a variety of basic human tendencies conspire to make natural selection especially aversive and difficult to understand, and to make creationism a compelling alternative. For instance, people tend to prefer explanations that offer certainty and a sense of purpose when it comes to their lives and the design of the natural world and they have an easier time wrapping their heads around theories that involve biological categories with clear boundaries — all of which are challenged by natural selection.

    These factors are typically taken to hold for all humans, not only those who reject evolution. But this naturally raises a question about what differentiates those individuals who do accept evolution from those who do not. In other words, if the California Buddhist and the Kansas Protestant share the same cognitive mechanisms, what accounts for their differing views on evolution?

    In fact, there's evidence that individuals vary in the extent to which they favor purpose and exhibit other relevant cognitive tendencies, and that this variation is related toreligious belief — itself a strong predictor of evolutionary belief. But there's a lot we don't know about how differences between individuals drive different beliefs about evolution, and about how these individual differences interact with cultural input.

    A new paper by psychologist Will Gervais, just published in the journal Cognition, sheds new light on these questions. In two surveys conducted with hundreds of undergraduates attending a large university in Kentucky, Gervais found an association between cognitive style and beliefs about evolution. Gervais used a common task to measure the extent to which people engage in a more intuitive cognitive style, which involves going with immediate, intuitive judgments, versus a more analytic cognitive style, which involves more explicit deliberation, and which can often override an intuitive response.

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  42. In both studies Gervais found a statistically significant relationship between the extent to which individuals exhibited a more analytic style and their endorsement of evolution. Importantly, the relationship remained significant even when controlling for other variables that predict evolutionary beliefs, including belief in God, religious upbringing and political conservatism.

    The study also replicated prior work that has found a relationship between religiosity and evolutionary beliefs, and between cognitive style and religious disbelief: Participants with a more analytic style were not only more likely to accept evolution, but also to indicate lesser belief in God.

    These findings are consistent with at least three possibilities. The first — suggested by the clever title of Gervais' paper, "Override the Controversy" — is that all individuals have a tendency to reject evolution on an intuitive level, but that some individuals engage in a form of analytic or reflective thinking that allows them to "override" this intuitive response.

    A second possibility is that some individuals have stronger intuitive responses than others. Such individuals are likely to experience a stronger pull toward purposive thinking, a greater aversion to uncertainty and other cognitive preferences at odds with evolution. If their intuitive responses are generally stronger, they're also less likely to succeed in overriding them by engaging in analytic or reflective thought.

    Yet, a third possibility — and one I find compelling — is that effects of cognitive style interact with cultural input. Creationism and belief in God might be "intuitive" for many Kentucky undergraduates not only because these beliefs align well with basic human tendencies, but also because these are the beliefs they grew up with and that dominate their communities. What might require analytic and reflective thought isn't (just) overriding cognitive systems that govern intuition, but overriding the norms of one's upbringing and peers.

    These possibilities are neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive. The fact is, there's a lot we don't know and the reality is likely to be complex. But the new findings by Gervais — and the findings on which they build — already point to the richness of human belief. Evolution isn't controversial for scientific reasons, but it is controversial, in part, for psychological reasons.

    Understanding those reasons won't only have practical implications for science education and policy, but also can tell us something about the basic building blocks of the mind — and about how they interact with our social and cultural environment.

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  43. Alabama will require students to learn about evolution, climate change

    By JAY REEVES, Associated Press September 13, 2015

    Alabama is updating its decade-old science standards to require that students understand evolution and learn about climate change, topics that can still be controversial in the Bible Belt state.

    Educators say the new rules — part of a major change that includes more experimentation and hands-on instruction and less lecturing — don't require that students believe in evolution or accept the idea that climate is changing globally.

    But public school students will be required for the first time to understand the theory of evolution. And teachers will be required to address climate change, which wasn't a focus the last time the state set science standards in 2005.

    The new standards take effect in 2016 after being unanimously approved by the Republican-controlled Alabama State Board of Education on Thursday.

    No one spoke against the new standards when they were discussed at a board meeting in August, but supporters praised them as a step forward for the state.

    A 40-member committee that developed the new course of study included people with "very strong religious beliefs" who considered the state's faith traditions and worked together to develop the new guidelines, said Michal Robinson, science specialist for the state education agency.

    "We still have to teach what the science is," Robinson said in an interview Friday. "If students want to go into a science field in college or beyond, they have to have a foundation."

    The current state standard says students "should understand the nature of evolutionary theories," but such knowledge isn't required.

    The new standard goes further, stating in the preface: "The theory of evolution has a role in explaining unity and diversity of life on earth. This theory is substantiated with much direct and indirect evidence. Therefore, this course of study requires our students to understand the principles of the theory of evolution from the perspective of established scientific knowledge. The committee recognizes and appreciates the diverse views associated with the theory of evolution."

    Steve Ricks, director of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, said the biggest changes under the new standards are the teaching methods that will now be used in science classrooms.

    Rather than relying solely on lectures and memorization of facts from textbooks, teachers will now be required to let students figure out things on their own through observation and experimentation, just like real scientists.

    "I don't see how students would be able to learn this material without doing the science," he said. "We are trying to teach kids to reason and solve problems."

    The state course of study only sets minimum standards. Local school officials will still make curriculum decisions.

    Textbooks used in Alabama science classes have carried a disclaimer sticker for years stating that evolution is a "controversial theory," not fact, and the new course of study doesn't change the warnings, which were advocated by Christian conservatives.

    A committee that will review science texts could consider whether to remove or alter the stickers, officials said. A public hearing is set for Nov. 9 in Montgomery.


  44. Religious Rants in the Classroom

    Students in public school say Christianity is being forced on them.

    By Zack Kopplin, SLATE November 2 2015

    During health class, students at Airline High, a public school in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, read Bible passages, and their teacher asks them to identify their favorite verses. Airline students told me they are taught creationism as science and pressured into attending Fellowship of Christian Athletes club meetings. During gym class, girls are warned against contraception by a “born again virgin” from the local crisis pregnancy center, a Christian anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-premarital-sex advocacy center.

    Yet in Bossier, conservative Christians say they feel under attack. In a video shared by tens of thousands of people, Pastor Mike Welch of Bistineau Baptist Church raises his eyebrows above his sunglasses and delivers the line: “Christians, we’ve taken enough stuff lying down.” Welch, parked in his car in front of Airline High, is recording himself on his phone, which is balanced on the dashboard. “I refuse,” he says, “I flat refuse, in America, to be forced into hiding as a Christian!”

    Welch was upset because on Sept. 24, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a warning to the Bossier Parish School Board. It stated that Airline’s principal, Jason Rowland, had engaged in a “pattern of religious proselytization.” Among other things, Rowland had sent out newsletters with religious messages and, over the school’s intercom, urged students to “pray to the almighty God.”

    In response to the ACLU’s caution about a clear breach of the First Amendment, yard signs calling Rowland a “Prayer Warrior” were planted in front of Airline’s flagpole. The Bossier Parish School Board passed a resolution in support of the principal that declared, “our history and tradition respect the freedom of religion not the freedom from religion.” A pray-in protest against the ACLU was organized.

    At the protest the next weekend, the front lawn of Airline High was packed with hundreds of people. Men in leather Christian Motorcyclists Association jackets stood next to high school students in their Fellowship of Christian Athletes T-shirts. People held hands in small circles, and prayer flags waved from their back pockets. Some bowed their heads and kneeled on the concrete, praying. Over a loudspeaker, a woman told the crowd that “the Lord” was about to do something amazing. “Get ready, he’s here!” she announced.

    I scanned the crowd, but I didn’t see him.

    U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who is running for governor, was one of the people who did show up at the rally. Vitter refused (twice) to speak to me, but he told another reporter that he was there to fight against “the left who wants to push religion out of the public square.” Gov. Bobby Jindal, in a press release, called the ACLU’s warning part of a “war on Christianity.”

    “This is typical of the ACLU,” Louisiana state Rep. Mike Johnson, who represents Bossier, told Fox News. “They’re on a seek-and-destroy mission for all things religious.” His Christian legal firm, Freedom Guard, which states, “Biblical principles were the basis of our founding documents,” has offered the Bossier School Board free legal representation.

    Rep. Johnson told me at the rally that everything the school district was doing is “totally legal.” He accused the ACLU of “trolling” the Internet to find Christians to attack.

    Local churches were organizing furiously. “Fishers of men?” a youngish man in his 20s asked the group of students next to me, referencing the club tagline on their Fellowship of Christian Athletes shirts. He pulled out his own tiny homemade fishing pole—a prayer-rally conversation piece—and invited the kids to join his youth group. He flagged down a short man in camouflage and told the students, “Meet my pastor.”

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  45. Religion is being forced on students at every opportunity, and some of them are fed up with it.
    One preacher who spoke at the rally announced that he needed Christians with “fingers to fight, and hands to war.”

    On Fox and Friends, principal Rowland claimed that students had never complained to him about Christianity in the schools. “I’ve never had a complaint from a student of ours who was offended by the fact we saluted a message or even said to them God bless you,” Rowland said. “Where’s our culture ... if that’s going to be offensive to someone.”

    The community has rallied around principal Rowland. “The Monday morning prayer group at Princeton Elementary lifted up the Airline student body and administration today,” Princeton principal Andrea Spinney wrote to Rowland in an email.

    Despite all this talk about war and persecution of Christians, it’s not the administration or Christian students who are being singled out or attacked for their faith. I spoke with more than a dozen Airline High School students and graduates, and it is clear that Airline High has been systematically breaking the law. Religion is being forced on students at every opportunity, and some of them are fed up with it.

    All of the students and most of the graduates I interviewed asked for their names to be changed to protect them from repercussions in their school and community. After the prayer rally, I got coffee with three current Airline juniors, Michelle, Lucy, and Joey (all pseudonyms), and they gave me the inside scoop on what was happening at Airline. All three were funny and smart, citing Supreme Court precedent about religion in schools that they had learned about in their government class. They are students that principal Rowland should be proud of—and pay attention to, since he has ignored past complaints.

    Christianity is mentioned repeatedly in health class. Michelle said that the teacher would go on “religious rants” and had forced students, including Muslim and nonreligious students, to read the Bible. Michelle said the teacher “tries to convert everyone in class.” Another current Airline junior, Tina, confirmed this to me online. “The health teacher… has had students read Bible passages in class,” she said.

    What about sex education? Outside of a discussion about sexually transmitted infections in science class, students told me the only sex education came from a guest speaker, who identified herself as a “born again virgin” from a crisis pregnancy center, a religious organization that provides inaccurate information about pregnancy and contraception.

    Some Airline teachers are teaching creationism as science. I spoke with a recent Airline graduate, Allie, who said “my freshman year, my science teacher also showed a video referencing why creationism should be taught in schools and how certain things cannot be proved by science.”

    Even worse, Lucy told me that “one of our science teachers got in trouble last year for teaching evolution as a fact” and that “she told our class she got in trouble for it.” Lucy said a different teacher, her AP Biology teacher, “didn’t want to teach evolution because she was scared” about controversy.

    Bossier schools have a history of teaching creationism. In June, here in Slate, I wrote about emails that revealed the book of Genesis was being used to “debunk” evolution at Airline. In new emails I obtained, Judy Madden, the principal of Bossier’s T.O. Rusheon Middle School, told her teachers that they should obtain parental permission when teaching a “controversial subject such as creationism for 7th grade science.”

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  46. The Bossier school system has justified teaching creationism through a law called the Louisiana Science Education Act that allows teachers to “critique” evolution through “supplemental materials.” In an email to Michael Gryboski, a reporter for the Christian Post, representatives of the school district told him, “Our educators may choose to use the Bible as supplementary material in presenting alternative viewpoints to evolution,” language drawn directly from the law. Another email I obtained, from Tom Daniel, Bossier’s chief academic officer, said, somewhat unintelligibly: “The information that [Bossier Parish’s supervisor of high school curriculum] sent to you was generated due to the Legislature’s ACT 473 – Science Education Act. We are encouraging teachers to use the Bible to teach creationism but rather to supplementary material to present alternative viewpoints to evolution.”

    This pedagogical approach is not likely to hold up in court. “Clearly Genesis is not an alternative scientific theory, so they may not present that as science” Charles Haynes, vice president of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, told me.

    Beyond creationism, Bossier has even more problems with endorsing religion. Another email I wrote about in June, from Carolyn Goodwin, a Bossier teacher, shed light on how much religion permeates schools there. “Bossier [school district] has [its] problems but there are so many awesome Christians from the top down,” wrote Goodwin. “We pray at school functions and probably break the law all the time!!”

    Students confirmed that’s exactly what’s happening.

    I spoke with another Airline graduate, Ben, who had been an officer in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes while in high school. He told me that the faculty was “extremely involved” in the FCA and said that Airline’s principal Rowland “often led the FCA large group sessions with his testimony and preaching.”

    Allie, the recent graduate, mentioned a dispute she had with principal Rowland about song lyrics on T-shirts. “Not only did he discuss how it was not Christian, but then proceeded to point to the Holy Bible sitting smack-dab in the middle of the desk,” Allie said. “I’m not the only person who was told ‘no’ and then [he] used his Bible as a reference.”

    Rowland “definitely used/uses his position of authority as an avenue to evangelize and push his religious beliefs,” Ben said.

    The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is supposed to be student-led, but Michelle told me, “teachers encourage you to join the FCA.” Sometimes teachers even forced students to attend FCA meetings. “My freshman year one of my teachers … took all of his kids to FCA,” said Tina. “I had no option whether or not to go and didn’t want to make a scene so I simply followed and sat quietly.” She also told me another teacher made students write her letters to request permission to avoid going to FCA club meetings, forcing non-Christian students to out themselves to her.

    Lucy, the Airline junior, told me that they’ve had assemblies where guest speakers have “given their Christian testimony” and mentioned a specific instance where the founder of a local gym, the Christ Fit Gym, gave a speech about overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder through his faith in Jesus. “We were required to go to it,” said Lucy.

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  47. I asked students about one of the incidents described in the ACLU’s complaint. Michelle explained that after one of the school’s coaches died, principal Rowland came on the intercom and said, “OK, now I’m going to have a prayer to the almighty God, and if you believe in the almighty God—I know I do—pray to him.” Allie, told me about another intercom incident. After the Boston bombing, while Rowland was saying the Pledge of Allegiance, he “emphasized UNDER GOD to the point where he was screaming it in the loud speaker,” she said.

    One story, from 2011, that came up repeatedly was about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes distributing pocket Bibles to students during lunch. Allie was a sophomore at the time, and she told me, the “FCA gave students Bibles and encouraged people to pass them out to a sinful school because it was ‘our jobs as students' to minster to the broken.’”

    According to several students and the Shreveport Times, Bibles were thrown at kids who refused to accept them. Rowland took no disciplinary action after the incident, saying he hadn’t had complaints.

    The ACLU’s warning letter to Bossier was prompted by anonymous student complaints. These students aren’t trying to take prayer out of schools; Christian students have the right to pray in schools. They just want school administrators to stop coercing students into being Christian.

    “I would imagine being a non-Christian, minority, or LGBT student at a school where the FCA was probably the largest organization at the school would be very marginalizing,” Ben, the former FCA officer, told me.

    Ben was right. “I went to FCA and listened to sermons by Rowland that promote a hypermasculine, Christian ideal,” my friend Michael Graves told me. Graves was the student body president at Airline when he attended and is now a graduate student at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. “When I came out, there were some teachers who blatantly told me they thought I was sinning, but thankfully I had graduated.” He said it took him years before he felt comfortable being open about LGBTQ issues out of fear of rejection by some of his old mentors.

    I went to a secular private school in Texas and in my senior year was on the student council, which was ominously and fictitiously called the "Governing Council" We had pretty much two powers: installing vending machines and a rather... More...

    Graves was the only person who was willing to let me use his real name in this story. Other people, who were still living in Bossier, had read online threats against ACLU supporters and couldn’t risk it. Lucy told me, “my parents were worried about me coming here today,” and Michelle said, “if there was a name [of the person who complained to the ACLU] revealed … that person would probably get attacked.”

    Maybe the reason that Rowland has never had a complaint about his promotion of religion is not because people aren’t offended. It’s because they’re afraid. Despite all the prayer rallies and statements from politicians about attacks on Christianity, real persecution exists where people are actually being forced to hide.

    But principal Rowland isn’t worried about these students. Asked by Airline staff if he wanted to take the prayer message described in the original ACLU complaint down from the school’s website, Rowland wrote in an email, “We are not changing anything we do because of detractors.”

    The only question I have left is: When will the ACLU file a lawsuit?

    Zack Kopplin is a science education activist who has fought against creationism being taught with public money.


  48. Boca Raton father and son sue school district for not teaching evolution

    18-page lawsuit filed last month

    By Angela Rozier, WPBF 25 West Palm Beach December 16, 2015

    BOCA RATON, Fla. —A Boca Raton father and son have filed a lawsuit claiming the Palm Beach County school board isn't teaching the theory of evolution.

    Brandon Silver, 11, and his father, attorney Barry Silver, filed an 18-page lawsuit last month but plan to serve the board Wednesday night.

    "We've been taught about adaptations to the environment but that's not really a direct concept to evolution," said Brandon Silver.

    "It's such a magnificent story and it's being neglected. The students are being deprived of learning from it because certain religious people don't like the story because it contradicts the Bible and we think it is terrible that children shouldn't learn the truth about where they came from," said Barry Silver.

    Barry Silver said he filed the lawsuit last month.

    "We filed this on Nov. 24, 2015, because on Nov. 24, 1859, Darwin published that incredible work about the origin of the species," said Barry Silver.

    He said he's willing to work something out with the school district but if that doesn't happen he plans to continue to fight for change.

    "If they're willing to sit down with us and talk about it and correct some of the things that are not proper in the school system about science we're happy to resolve it with them. If not, we'll go ahead and serve it and we will vigorously litigate the lawsuit," said Barry Silver.

    According to the lawsuit, "There are currently schools and textbooks which provide false, misleading, and dangerous information about certain religions and purposely omit factual information if it appears unfavorable to them and/or politically incorrect, which cause Palm Beach County public school students not to receive a high quality education required by the Florida law."

    The school superintendent said he has not seen the lawsuit.


  49. Creationism Whistleblower: ‘Academic Freedom’ Is Sneak Attack on Evolution

    by Zack Kopplin, The Daily Beast December 28, 2015

    The ‘intelligent design’ push in public classrooms failed a decade ago, but since then Darwin’s haters have returned with a new strategy disguised as science.

    When a public school teacher walks into his or her biology classroom, he or she cannot legally teach creationism or intelligent design.

    In late 2004, the local school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, adopted a policy requiring its teachers to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in ninth-grade biology classes. “It is inexcusable to have a book that says man descended from apes with nothing to counterbalance it,” said Dover school board member Bill Buckingham during a board meeting.

    Dover parents sued the board and on Dec. 20, 2005, Judge John Jones III, a federal district court judge appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled that teaching intelligent design was a violation of the separation of church and state.

    “An objective observer would know that [intelligent design] and teaching the ‘gaps’ and ‘problems’ in evolution are creationist religious strategies,” Jones wrote in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District decision. Intelligent design had “evolved from earlier forms of creationism,” Jones added.

    Yet 10 years later, creationists are still sneaking God into public school science classes.

    Led by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, creationists now promote “academic freedom” laws that allow teachers to supplement biology textbooks with materials that attack evolution. The first academic freedom legislation was sponsored in Alabama in 2004 and became a template for legislation distributed by Discovery Institute across the states.

    Despite the scientific-sounding name, a former Discovery Institute employee says it’s anything but.

    “DI is religiously motivated in all they do,” the person said, requesting anonymity. “One way to tell that the motivation is religion, and not science, is to compare DI work product to tech papers produced by working scientists in the field of biology or subfield of evolutionary biology. The two kinds of work product look very different, read very different, and were produced by very different means.”

    The Discovery Institute, which also once named Neil deGrasse Tyson “Censor of the Year,” put out a textbook, Explore Evolution, to be used under academic freedom laws. The textbook includes scientifically inaccurate information like, “Critics maintain that transitional [fossil] sequences are rare, at best. For this reason, critics argue that Darwin’s theory has failed an important test.” According to an analysis by the National Center for Science Education, the textbook “uses familiar and long-refuted creationist anti-evolution arguments.”

    Still, politicians and the Discovery Institute claim academic freedom laws are tools to inspire critical thinking, rather than to teach creationism.

    “Critical thinking, critical analysis, teach the controversy, academic freedom—these are words that stand for legitimate pedagogical approaches and doctrines in the fields of public education and public education policy,” said the former Discovery Institute employee. “That is why DI co-opts them. DI hollows these words out and fills them with their own purposes; it then passes them off to the public and to government as secular, pedagogically appropriate, and religiously neutral.”

    In 2008, Louisiana became the first state to pass an academic freedom law, the Louisiana Science Education Act, which is being used to teach creationism in public school districts like Bossier Parish.

    continued below

  50. According to one email I obtained from Bossier Parish science teachers, students are learning the “Creation point of view” by reading the Book of Genesis and being given “supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution.” In a different email bashing the ACLU and celebrating religious influence in Bossier schools, one Bossier teacher, Carolyn Goodwin, explained her support for creationism succinctly:

    “My great granddaddy wasn’t a monkey.”

    An August 2012 email sent to Louisiana’s state superintendent by a Department of Education deputy chief of staff said creationism was an “academic fact” in Louisiana schools.

    The Louisiana Science Education Act’s roots can be traced back to Ouachita Parish and a creationist activist, retired Judge Darrell White. In 2006, the Ouachita school board passed a creationism policy drafted by White, who is a lifetime member of the Creation Museum and believes that teaching evolution is responsible for mass shootings. During a 2010 hearing of the Louisiana State Board of Education, I listened as Judge White blamed evolution for the Columbine massacre while waving a T-shirt that read “NATURAL SELECTION,” which murderer Eric Harris had worn. Documents obtained from Ouachita Parish show that the district is teaching creationism in its science classes, including that “snake leg nubbs” are proof of God’s work.

    In an email conversation with White, Danny Pennington, a principal, and former science teacher from Ouachita, discussed creating supplemental videos to use under the Science Education Act.

    “I will take out all references to creationism and just focus on the stupidity of evolutionary theory,” Pennington wrote. “I believe they can be shown in classrooms… I know what to say and what not to say.” Other supplemental materials Pennington created say, “Macroevolution has never occurred,” and promote the creationist theory of irreducible complexity, which was debunked by scientists during the Kitzmiller trial.

    Frank Hoffman was the assistant superintendent of Ouachita Parish when the creationism policy was passed in 2006; the next year he was elected to the Louisiana State House of Representatives, where he co-sponsored the Louisiana Science Education Act.

    The Louisiana Science Education Act is a model for creationism legislation across the country, according to a recent paper published in Science. Nick Matzke, the paper’s author, analyzed the language used in over 65 creationism bills introduced in 16 states, to construct a family tree that maps how this type of legislation has mutated since 2004. Matzke’s analysis “provide(s) strong evidence of bill-to-bill copying and ‘descent with modification,’” meaning current creationist legislation can be traced back to the original bills. They’re all modeled on either the Discovery Institute model or the Ouachita school board.

    According to Matzke, creationism legislation “shows a major innovation” in the Ouachita policy, which doesn’t limit its attacks on science to evolution and the origin of life because it also challenges the science behind global warming and human cloning. When State Rep. Hoffmann took Ouachita’s policy statewide, he included the new changes, and in 2012, when Tennessee also passed a creationism law, it copied those changes too.

    “The passage of [Science Education Acts] in Louisiana and Tennessee have spread language devised in Ouachita Parish, population ~150,000, to negatively affect science education in two states with ~11.2 million people,” wrote Matzke.

    Real academic freedom is important, but creationists like the Discovery Institute have corrupted its meaning to miseducate children.


  51. Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children

    video by Bill Nye

    Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. According to Bill Nye, aka "the science guy," if grownups want to "deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them."

    -- Transcript:

    Denial of evolution is unique to the United States. I mean, we're the world's most advanced technological—I mean, you could say Japan—but generally, the United States is where most of the innovations still happens. People still move to the United States. And that's largely because of the intellectual capital we have, the general understanding of science. When you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in that, it holds everybody back, really.

    Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. It's like, it's very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You're just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.

    As my old professor, Carl Sagan, said, "When you're in love you want to tell the world." So, once in a while I get people that really—or that claim—they don't believe in evolution. And my response generally is "Well, why not? Really, why not?" Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don't believe in evolution. I mean, here are these ancient dinosaur bones or fossils, here is radioactivity, here are distant stars that are just like our star but they're at a different point in their lifecycle. The idea of deep time, of this billions of years, explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your world view just becomes crazy, just untenable, itself inconsistent.

    And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe 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 people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.

    It's just really hard a thing, it's really a hard thing. You know, in another couple of centuries that world view, I'm sure, will be, it just won't exist. There's no evidence for it.


  52. Headteacher mocked on Twitter for claiming evolution is not a fact

    Richard Dawkins weighs in on social media debate after Christina Wilkinson said there was ‘more evidence that Bible is true’

    by Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent, The Guardian February 3, 2016

    A primary school headteacher has been mocked on Twitter after claiming that evolution was “a theory” and there was “more evidence that the Bible is true”.

    Christina Wilkinson, of St Andrew’s Church of England school in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, made the remarks in a tweet responding to London headteacher Tom Sherrington, who urged teachers to stick to science when teaching the origins of life.

    Wilkinson wrote: “Evolution is not a fact. That’s why it’s called a theory! There’s more evidence that the Bible is true.”

    Amid criticism and calls for her to resign on Twitter, Wilkinson issued a statement saying: “I’d like to make it clear that we teach the full national curriculum in school and that our pupils receive a fully rounded education.”

    She also said her tweet was sent from a personal account and “represents my own views”. However, her Twitter handle was @WilkinsonHead, apparently referencing her role as headteacher. The tweet has since been taken down and the account closed.

    Wilkinson’s assertion was met with scorn on the social media site. One person suggested she retrain as a vicar, while another said: “That’s an unacceptable level of stupidity from a headteacher.”

    Liv Boeree tweeted: “This is horrifying. I’m still holding out hope her response is some kind of performance art. Pls pls pls tell me this lady doesn’t work in education. Please.”

    Sherrington wrote: “Sigh. I sincerely hope your students aren’t told that. Take them to a natural history museum.”

    His original posts, which sparked the exchange, had read: “For me, it is critical that teachers do not water down the science to accommodate religious perspectives if that means sacrificing the acceptance of evidence.

    “This applies to science and RE teachers. New Earth creationism and more subtle variants of Intelligent Design are a denial of science and I think all teachers need to be conscious of that.”

    continued below

  53. The evolutionary biologist Prof Richard Dawkins said Wilkinson was misusing the word theory. “Scientists call evolution a theory only in a special scientists’ sense, which is NOT the same as the layman’s ‘tentative hypothesis’,” he said.

    “This is so often misunderstood that I now recommend abandoning the confusing word ‘theory’ altogether for the case of evolution. Evoluton is a fact, as securely attested as any fact in science. ‘We are cousins of monkeys and kangaroos’ can be asserted with as much confidence as ‘Our planet orbits the sun’.”

    The government banned the teaching of creationism in science classes in UK schools 18 months ago. It said funding would be withdrawn from any free school that taught theories that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations”.

    Ken Moss, a local councillor with responsibility for education, told the MailOnline: “I don’t think we should be promoting any religious text as more scientifically accurate than hundreds of years of detailed study.”

    He added: “There is plenty of room for religious teaching, but I do not think that should be above science fact. The role of a school and a headteacher is to inform the pupils of the facts and not to just promote religious texts.”

    Graham Jones, Labour MP for Hyndburn, whose constituency includes Wilkinson’s school, said: “It’s a Church of England school and it will, of course, teach the Bible. But it should also teach the children about other religions and beliefs.

    “The national curriculum requires a more broad-based perception of evolution and a balance of opinions has to be struck so pupils can make up their own minds.”

    A spokesman for Blackburn diocesan board of education said: “As a diocese we state all schools should teach the full national curriculum, which includes ‘adaptation of plants and animals and that adaption may lead to evolution’.”


  54. Darwin Day notwithstanding, evolution debate keeps, well, evolving

    by Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service February 11, 2016

    (RNS) In 2005, a federal judge ruled that “intelligent design” — the idea that life is so complex it must have involved some sort of supernatural creator — isn’t science, but religion in disguise.

    Science educators heralded the decision, and many thought it spelled the end of creationism in public schools.

    They were wrong.

    This week, as scientists, educators and others mark Feb. 12 as International Darwin Day — named for British naturalist Charles Darwin, who advanced the theory of evolution with his work on natural selection — the anti-evolution camp is as active as ever.

    Opponents have managed to pass laws that permit the teaching of “alternatives” to evolution in Tennessee and Louisiana; Oklahoma and Iowa are considering similar bills. Another anti-evolution bill died on Feb. 4 in the South Dakota Senate.

    But in the wake of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District ruling, their tactics have changed. And they have been successful enough in challenging evolution education the American Academy for the Advancement of Science is devoting three hours to the issue at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Feb. 11-15.

    Anti-evolutionists have “come up with a policy that is vague enough to avoid court challenge so far, but specific enough that religiously conservative politicians will work to pass it,” said Nick Matzke, an evolutionary biologist who studied 60 anti-evolution bills and wrote about them in the journal Science.

    Anti-evolutionists now speak of “Science Education Acts” and “academic freedom,” with no mention of a creator or designer.

    They are also pairing origins science with other hot-button issues, such as climate change and human cloning.

    “This tactic appears to be an attempt to circumvent earlier legal decisions suggesting that targeting evolution alone is … evidence of religious motivation and, thus, unconstitutional,” Matzke wrote in Science. “An additional motivation may be the dislike of climate change research by economic and religious conservatives.”

    Matzke’s point is playing out in the presidential campaign. In December, NPR twice asked Sen. Ted Cruz, an evangelical Christian, whether he questioned evolution. Cruz linked his answer to climate change, which he doubts, and finally said of evolution: “Any good scientist questions all science. If you show me a scientist that stops questioning science, I’ll show you someone who isn’t a scientist.”

    And Sen. Marco Rubio fumbled a reporter’s question on the age of the Earth, saying “I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all.”

    Meanwhile, Americans are conflicted on the subject. In 2015, the Pew Research Center found 65 percent of Americans agreed with the statement “humans evolved over time.” But 31 percent reject evolution entirely, agreeing that humans have always existed in their present form.

    continued below

  55. Proponents of intelligent design say they have no agenda and are working to promote a scientific theory.

    “Evolution is a constellation of lots of different questions and issues, and the peer-reviewed scientific literature is rife with disagreements about various parts of evolutionary theory,” John G. West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, wrote in an email interview. “There certainly is a robust debate going on about the Darwinian mutation-selection mechanism and how much it can actually accomplish. If scientists can debate these questions in their science journals, why can’t students study these questions in their science classes?

    “The question of whether nature displays evidence of design has been one of the great and continuing questions in the history of thought and the history of science,” West said. “Those who try to conflate this broader discussion of design with the narrower debate over creationism are either sadly ignorant of intellectual history or they are simply trying to avoid a discussion of the real issues.”

    Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, is having none of that. Forrest, whose testimony for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover traced the substitution of the term “intelligent design” for the word “creationism” in the textbook the Dover school board wanted to use, said proponents of intelligent design are now taking their agenda — and their fundraising efforts — overseas to Great Britain, Scotland and Brazil.

    “That tells me they don’t see their fortunes getting better here in the U.S. so they are putting in more effort over there” where no First Amendment separation of church and state precludes the teaching of creationism in public schools, she said. “I think they are realizing their star here has gotten as high as it is going to go.”

    Young-Earth creationists — people who believe God created the universe in six literal days about 6,000 years ago — also continue to protest evolution with anti-Darwin Day websites and events.

    “We want to see critical thinking — not criticism as in shaking your finger at us for what we believe, but to look at things objectively and analyze the flaws of evolution,” said Cowboy Bob Sorensen, the founder of Question Evolution Day. “This is a resource for our side of the story on biblical science.”

    There is a middle path. The Clergy Letter Project, an effort to show evolution and religion can coexist, has 14,000 Christian, Jewish and Buddhist signatories. They plan “Evolution Weekend” events on or near Darwin Day that include sermons, presentations and discussions on the compatibility of religion and science.

    “It is important for parishioners to realize that some of the very loudest voices arguing evolution is an abomination and bad science are speaking loudly but narrowly for their own religion but not for other religions,” said Michael Zimmerman, founder of the Clergy Letter Project and a biologist at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. “In fact, those voices are doing damage to religion in general as well as to science.”

    (Kimberly Winston is a national correspondent for RNS)


  56. Evolution in Georgia A job for the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science

    by Michele Drucker, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason, March 9, 2016

    Leslie Jones is a biology professor at Valdosta State University. She spoke with TIES volunteer Michele Drucker about teaching education at the college level. Dr. Jones has seen a positive shift in students’ attitudes towards evolution over the course of her career at Valdosta State. She highlights the need for evolution to be taught to younger students, an idea that “ties” in directly with the focus of the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES).

    When Dr. Leslie Jones told friends ten years ago she would be moving to Georgia to teach evolution at Valdosta State University, she got ribbed. “You can’t teach evolution in Georgia,” they curtly announced. It turns out, her friends were largely correct.

    “Ten years ago the kids were freaked out about learning evolution, “ Dr. Jones recalls. “They didn’t know the official position of their churches and were somehow led to believe that evolution will take you away from God. In Georgia, people wear their religion like a badge. Going to church is seen as a necessary credential to being a nice person.”

    When she came across students, they would have their arms crossed in front of them and displayed a very loud and clear “just say no to evolution” attitude.

    Then, in 2004, the state of Georgia revamped its teaching standards. The core curriculum required that evolution be taught across grade levels. Although certain groups tried to get evolution removed from the teaching standards, the standards stayed.

    This has led to very positive changes in Georgia’s classrooms. The concepts of evolutionary science are introduced grade by grade. Third graders learn about fossils. Fourth graders learn about extinction. Fifth graders are taught the basic tenets of evolution. By middle school, students learn that the evidence for evolution comes from various disciplines and how natural selection can act on species over time. The result: the resistance Dr. Jones initially felt has started to break down.

    “When standards are put in and the children are exposed to the common features of evolution from an early age, they say, ‘there is so much evidence for evolution,’ they can’t deny it,” Dr. Jones says.

    continued below

  57. To counter the tack of creationists which is to plant seeds of doubt as to the legitimacy of evolution, she teaches about the social controversy in the first week and assures her students that there is no scientific controversy over evolution. Dr. Jones also reassures her students. “I’m not trying to take you away from God. There are different religious stories around the world regarding origins,” she says.

    Dr. Jones has learned to introduce evolution without starting with Charles Darwin, as is the case in most classrooms. “Darwin has been too vilified,” she says.

    Instead, Dr. Jones starts with the evidence for evolution, concepts that students can understand. For example, they understand artificial selection. Wolves were domesticated to become dogs 30,000 years ago through selective breeding. She explains artificial selection versus natural selection.

    Most of her students have been exposed to the agricultural revolution and they understand artificial selection in terms of farming. “It’s not such a leap to explain to them artificial selection with domesticated animals. Artificial selection is natural but it’s been under human control. Once they see the logic, they realize that they can’t deny evolution.”

    Over the course of her ten years of teaching in Georgia, Dr. Jones has encountered many curious students who immensely enjoy learning about evolution. In fact, she says they are dismayed and angry that they were denied access to the material in their younger years. “Why did teachers refuse to teach me about evolution? It’s fascinating and fantastic! Everything makes so much more sense with an understanding of evolution,” is a common comment she hears from her college students.

    It’s encouraging to know that resistance to evolution is fading, at least in the college classrooms of Georgia. Dr. Jones’ experience highlights the importance of projects like the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) and the impact of teaching young students evolution as part of a spiraling curriculum, with more and more concepts added each academic year. Exposure at an early age to evidence and observation can lead to open minds and critical thinkers as more complex evolutionary topics are taught in high school and beyond.


  58. Just Cant COPE - Kansas Anti-Evolution Group Loses Second Challenge To Science Curriculum Standards

    by Sarah E. Jones, Wall of Separation April 22, 2016

    A Kansas-based creationist group has lost a legal challenge to science education standards in public schools. Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) filed suit against the Kansas Board of Education in 2013 to block implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards because, COPE asserted, they encouraged schools to promote atheism to children.

    The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected this argument on Monday. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the court ruled that COPE did not have standing to challenge the standards. The group has not yet indicated if it will appeal that ruling.

    It’s a second blow for COPE. In 2014, a district court judge tossed its original complaint, finding that their claims had no merit – with good reason.

    COPE’s claims are nothing if not novel. In its original suit, the group complained that the standards, which have been adopted by 26 states, encourage teachers to take children “into the religious sphere by leading them to ask ultimate religious questions like what is the cause and nature of life and the universe – ‘where do we come from?’”

    Continued COPE, “The purpose of the indoctrination is to establish the religious Worldview, not to deliver to an age appropriate audience an objective and religiously neutral origins science education that seeks to inform.”

    COPE also seems to believe that because the standards teach students that evolution is fact – something, by the way, that mainstream scientists do not doubt – Kansas schoolchildren will be subtly manipulated into rejecting their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    It’s a nonsensical argument, which is why courts have unanimously rejected it. But the group’s been nothing if not persistent, and despite its legal losses, it seems unlikely to surrender its crusade.

    Sound science education isn’t the only cause in COPE’s sights.

    The group also objects to what it characterizes as “progressive” content in Common Core, national social studies standards and Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum. On its website, COPE claims that schools once taught American exceptionalism and Judeo-Christian religion, only to now turn to “darker subjects” like “victimization, oppression, racism, sexism, bigotry, feminism, secularism, separation of church and state, multiculturalism, activist environmentalism, social justice, and wealth redistribution.”

    COPE recommends instead that schools adopt A Patriot’s History of the United States, a conservative take on American history that informs students the Democratic party is on a “crusade” to “eliminate guns” and, as Zack Kopplin wrote in Slate in 2014, states that Secretary of State John Kerry’s Purple Hearts and Bronze Star, which he earned during the Vietnam War, are “suspect at best.”

    COPE, it seems, isn’t interested in promoting facts; it’s interested in forcing public schools to conduct far-right religious and political indoctrination. The group states on its website that it believes parents have the right to direct the religious education of their children. And that is true. Parents do have that right.

    But COPE (perhaps deliberately) fails to understand that parents do not have the right to ask state employees to shield their children from facts. Parents who oppose the teaching of evolution have options: They can send their children to private, religious schools, they can homeschool or they can offer supplemental instruction at home. But they aren’t entitled to a sectarian education on the public dime or to insist on policies that dumb-down every other child’s education.

    COPE isn’t the only group set on attacking curriculum standards. It’s simply one prong of a national campaign to erode the secular character of public schools. Now, it’s the latest to fail.