Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good to be in Michigan--WTF in Texas

Apparently, there is a concerted effort amongst member(s) of the Texas State Board of Education to remove a certain Chris Comer because he dared to want to listen to Barbara Forest talk about her work on the Dover trial which dealt with Intelligent Design. PZ Myers has been repeating these reports with his classic wit here and here and here. (See also Texas Citizens for Science on this subject.) It is obviously nuts.

What is supposed to be stressed by this effort is that members of the board of education are supposed to be neutral on the subject of evolution vs. intelligent design and the schools should "teach the controversy." All so rational on the surface, no? Of course, school boards are not neutral on the subject of chemistry vs. alchemy, at least I would hope the push for "teach the controversy" is not being pressed in Texas on this point, nor in mathematics vs. numerology, astronomy vs. astrology, etc. I also doubt that members of a school board can seriously be neutral on having good or mediocre standards compared to other states. If neutrality is apathy to the facts, then forget about education. If one wanted to avoid every possible argument, nothing would even be said. After all, there are still people arguing for a geocentric model of the earth and even a flat earth! (From what I can tell, people take this positions very seriously--I mean Art Bell seriously.)

Of course, I imagine that the members of this or any educational board/organization are not neutral on so many things. It is obvious that political pressures and member's own desires for creationist standards in schools that is driving this issue the way it is.

Now, I don't have the same level of pessimism as Phil Plait is showing right now (Texas being doomed and all), but it is certainly understandable and worth using the JPG he has up. The reason for this is because so many people are already blogging about it; hopefully this story will get a fair amount of main-stream media attention and cause this to get too hot for the creationists down yonder. Such actions would certainly cause another Dover trial, at best for the creationists. More likely, I would think, the judge, whoever that would be, will follow precedent set by the Supreme Court and Judge Jones in Pennsylvania and cause the forced standards to be unconstitutional.

But perhaps this is what the folks at the Discovery Institute want, another trial, one that could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. With a majority Catholic block in the seats, maybe they desire for the Roberts court to overturn previous decisions, such as Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 587 (1987), which struck down hard on any attempts to get "creation science" into public school classrooms. I wouldn't think this court would be so willing to do such a thing, especially considering the stance the Catholic church has take on evolution (even the current pope isn't willing to undo the decree John Paul II, at least not yet), but then again I'm not Scalia.

Oh, and as for the very concept of teaching the controversy, a good idea if it wasn't for one detail:


When it comes to taking down creationist claims, check out (which apparently was recently hacked). On YouTube, there is a great debunking of the more popular anti-evolution videos produced by Extant Dodos. Great stuff out there, and you don't need to have a Ph.D. to understand that creationists are full of crap, in or out of jail.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blog Out

Because of a recent discovery, thanks to some of the other blogs I read, I have now added this blog to an Atheist Blogroll. That is, it is a list of a large number of active blogs by atheists, mostly talking about that subject, but hopefully more as well. There can only be so many ways to debunk a certain religious belief. A good examples, and a very popular one, is Pharyngula, written by a developmental biologist PZ Myers. But, I am an astronomer so I have to like Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy, plus he does some work for SETI's podcast Are We Alone. So, you should see a list of the blogs currently on the roll call, along with a link to the complete list. At this point it has well over 400 blogs. Don't expect to read them all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nova Smackdown

I just got done watching the NOVA special on the Dover, PA, trial back in 2005--the famous Intelligent Design case. In respect to its content and performance, I say "Magnifico!" The only thing I can think of at the moment that would have made it better would be the greater level of time given to Dr. Robert Pennock; he is a Michigan State professor, after all. Perhaps that is just my bias. However, I do recommend his works on the subject, such as Tower of Babel and Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics.

I think PBS will be putting the whole show up on their website in the very near future, and you can bet it will be up on YouTube in no time. What can I say? Good science acts as a powerful meme. It will propagate.

I also recommend reading the transcripts and judge's decision (Warning: PDF file).