Category: Rant

Space Leap of Faith

By Phil Plait | October 16, 2012 11:44 am

On Sunday, skydiver Felix Baumgartner stepped out of a high-altitude balloon and plummeted 40 kilometers back to Earth. I wanted to watch it live but missed it due to an appointment I had to keep. I heard it was heart-pounding, and Twitter went nuts over it. I wish I had seen it!

Still, my feelings on it are mixed. While I really am glad it got people excited, I couldn’t shake the feeling it wasn’t more than a stunt. A cool stunt, but a stunt. It was plugged as a way to learn more about spacesuits and all that, but I had my doubts. Having it sponsored by a sugary caffeinated energy drink marketed to teens also made me a bit wary.

I was thinking of writing something up about it, but then my friend and space historian Amy Shira Teitel wrote an excellent piece crystallizing my thoughts, so go read her article for more in that vein (which is also mirrored on Discover Magazine’s blog The Crux).

But what I really wanted to write about was this image I saw around Twitter and Facebook:

Why do I want to write about this? Because, in a nutshell, it’s everything wrong about attitudes on our space program. If I sound a little peeved, I am. Here’s why.

This meme was started in a tweet by revulv. I suspect it was just a joke, and to be honest it’s funny enough; I smirked when I read it. But someone took that joke and added the picture, and then it got spread around. And I can tell by the comments I’m seeing people really think it’s true – this idea has been around since the Shuttle retired, and it’s unfair. It’s simply not true.

First, as Amy points out in her post, Baumgartner’s jump was a record breaker, but he wasn’t in space. Our atmosphere thins out with height, and doesn’t really have an edge where air ends and vacuum begins. Because of this, there’s an arbitrarily agreed-upon height where we say space "starts" – it’s called the Kármán line, and it’s 100 km (62 miles) above sea level. Baumgartner was less than half that high. When I talked about his jump I used the phrase "edge of space", which is probably fair. He was in a pretty good vacuum by ground standards, but in space itself he was not.

Second, he wasn’t in orbit. A lot of folks confuse being in orbit and being in space, which is understandable. When we say something is in space that means it’s just higher than that arbitrary limit. You can get there via rocket by going straight up 100 km and then back down, for example. That’s a suborbital flight.

But being in orbit is different. An orbit is where you are free-falling around the Earth. Think of it this way: in orbit the Earth is pulling you down to the surface, but you’re going fast enough sideways that you never actually hit (to paraphrase Douglas Adams: orbiting is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss). Your velocity down and your velocity to the side add together to give you a circular (or elliptical) path.

Baumgartner used a balloon to go straight up. He wasn’t in orbit.

And that’s two of the three things that bother me about that meme picture: he wasn’t in space, and he wasn’t in orbit, two things the US has rockets that can do.

Now, some people will point out that in fact the US cannot do that, at least not with people. We don’t have any rockets rated for human flight into space.

That’s true, but brings up my third point, the most important, what a lot of people don’t seem to get: you need to add the words "right now" to the end of that sentence.

We can’t launch humans into space right now. But in just a few years we’ll have that ability. In spades.

SpaceX is working on making sure their Falcon 9 rocket is human-rated for flight – even as I write these words they have a Dragon capsule berthed to the International Space Station. ATK is another. There’s also Sierra Nevada, Blue Origin (which just had a successful engine firing test), XCORR, and others. Let’s not forget Virgin Galactic, too. [Update: D’oh! Shame on me, and ironic too: I forgot to add Boeing and ULA’s work on this as well.]

Both SpaceX and ATK think they’ll be ready to take people into orbit in 2015. Virgin Galactic and XCORR may be ready to do commercial suborbital flights before that date. [Note added after posting: I want to be clear; these are not NASA programs, but some have contracts with NASA, and I’m talking about the US as a nation, not necessarily as a government space program.]

The Space Shuttle was retired in 2011. We’re in the middle of what’s planned to be a five year gap where the US can’t take humans into space. Mind you, when the Apollo program shut down there was a nine year gap before we had a program to take humans to space again (with the exception of a few Saturn flights to orbit for Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz mission; even then there was a six year gap until the Shuttle launches began).

My point? Things aren’t nearly as bad as people think. Yes, the Shuttle is retired, but to be brutally honest, while it’s an amazing machine, it could not nor would it ever be capable of taking humans beyond low-Earth orbit. It also cost way more than promised, and couldn’t launch as often as promised. I’ve made this point before, and it’s one we need to remember. Getting to space is not easy, and if we want to do it we have to do it right.

And let’s not forget we are still throwing rovers at Mars, probes at Jupiter, and one satellite after another into Earth orbit. We’re still going into space, if by proxy. Humans won’t have to wait much longer.

We need to learn from the past and keep our eyes on the future. By looking at the past we can see by comparison things are not so bad right now; we’re just in a lull before the storm. We’ll soon have not just the capability to put humans in space, but many capabilities to do it! Space travel will be easier and cheaper than it ever has been since the dawn of the Space Age.

My goal is to see nothing less than the permanent colonization of space by human beings, and I strongly suspect we are not that far from achieving it.

Image credits: Baumgartner pic via Red Bull; orbit diagram via Wikimedia Commons.


Related Posts:

History is made as Dragon splashes down safely in the Pacific!
Discovery makes one final flight… but we must move on.
Debating space
Will ATK beat everyone into space?

Interview with Suicide Girls

By Phil Plait | March 4, 2011 2:30 pm

An interview I did with Keith Daniels of the counter-culture site Suicide Girls is now up on the SG website.

I’ll be clear: that page should be OK, but the site itself may be somewhat more than NSFW, in much the same way that standing a meter away from a supernova is somewhat more than Not Safe For Staying a Solid.

I’ve been a fan of SG for a while — it gives a strong, nerdy voice to decidedly non-mainstream thinking in a wide variety of topics, and the interview is like that. We covered a lot of ground: Hubble, NASA, skepticism, politics, life on other planets, the media, and of course Not Being a Dick (while still maintaining a motivating level of anger and passion).

Clearly, after ten years or more of doing interviews, I still haven’t learned how to make a succinct, pithy point. And while I do suffer a bit from verbal diarrhea, I’ll note that some topics deserve more subtlety and longer discussion. Sound bites tend to gloss over vital details, and not everything can be adequately covered by a bumper sticker.

To give you a taste, here’s part of what I said about skepticism:

It’s really easy to fool people, and it’s really easy to fool yourself, and if you use these skeptical ideas, you find out what the truth is. The whole idea of skepticism and science is to find out what’s most likely to be true, and what’s most likely not to be true. That’s the goal: to not fool ourselves, and that’s where the real power of skepticism is. That’s why it bugs me when people think it’s a negative thing — it’s not! It’s the most positive thing we have. It is the search for the real, objective truth.

There are tons of fascinating interviews on SG, including talks with folks like Felicia Day, Danny Pudi (Abed from "Community"), comic book writer (and skeptic!) Gail Simone, and many more. You’ll happily lose a day reading them, I promise!

Glenn Beck: wait a sec. Who's the idiot again?

By Phil Plait | May 13, 2010 12:00 pm

I really, really don’t like using epithets. The worst you’ll almost ever hear me say is that someone is a goofball or a knucklehead. But sometimes, just sometimes, I have to call ‘em like I see ‘em. And when someone like Glenn Beck puts themselves out in the public eye pushing complete and utterly hypocritical malarkey under the guise of them knowing what they’re talking about, well, sometimes you just have to use an epithet. And since he decided to call the rest of us idiots…

So, besides being racist, wrong on climate change, wrong about taxes, and really pretty much everything else between here and the edge of the Universe, I want to point out something else Beck did.

His book, the über-ironically titled Arguing With Idiots, has blurbs on the back. The publisher decided to go with some, ah, negative comments. Here is a picture of the back of the book:

GlennBeckIsAnIdiot

See the blurb right above my thumb? It says, "Glenn Beck is an idiot." True enough, but it’s the attribution I’m unhappy with: they say it’s from Discover Magazine. But it’s not really: I said it. Right here, on this very blog.
Read More

Repost: McCain's planetariophobia

By Phil Plait | October 16, 2008 10:11 am

Note: I originally posted this entry on October 8, but quite a few people are saying that it won’t load for them; they get errors or blank pages. The Hive Overmind has been notified, but in the meantime here is the post again. I hope you can see it! But if you’re reading this note, you can see it, and if you can’t read this note, then why am I sitting here talking to myself?

So a little while back, John McCain made an ill-advised crack about planetaria (that’s the plural of planetarium), calling them "foolishness". It was ill advised because it raised the hackles of lots of science-loving folks, including those who want to — gasp, horror! — educate kids about astronomy and science.

At the time I suspected it was just a wedge in which to attack Barack Obama, but his use of the word foolishness really caught my attention. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but does he really dislike such things?

Well, last night removed any doubt, when McCain — twice — used Obama’s requested earmark of three million dollars for Adler planetarium as a bludgeon, trying to pin Obama as another pork-barrel politician. He disdainfully said the money was for an "overhead projector". Those are his exact words. Here’s what he said:

While we were working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks he [Senator Obama, or "that one"] voted for nearly $1 billion in pork barrel earmark projects. Including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?

Well, shock of shocks — it turns out McCain’s characterization of this was all wrong. In fact, I would call it a lie. He knows it wasn’t for an overhead projector, a piece of classroom equipment that costs a couple of hundred dollars. That money was for Adler’s Zeiss Mark VI star projector: a venerable piece of precision fabricated equipment that projects the stars, constellations, and other objects inside the planetarium dome. Adler’s Zeiss is 40 years old, and desperately needs replacing. These machines are pricey, and replacing them difficult.

Adler needed money to do this. They asked local politicians, and eventually were able to get a request in a budget submitted by Obama. However, Obama never even voted on that budget, and Adler never got that money — thus making, again, McCain a liar.

Needless to say, Adler wasn’t thrilled with this characterization of their beloved Zeiss. They issued a statement to that effect. You can also get opinions all over the place: Universe Today, SpaceWriter, Davin Flateau, Discovery Space, Wonkette, the Chicago Tribune, even NPR.

I have posted about this before (just last night, in fact). The comments on my statements have been all over the place, from support to some fairly ridiculous complaints. My favorites have involved something along the line of, "Where in the Constitution does it say the federal government has to send money to planetaria?"

Good question. But where does it say the government will repair roads, provide clean water, create public schools, fund the space program?

Look: there are some things the government does for the greater good. This is where libertarians and I part company. Government isn’t always bad. In many cases, it takes the money it gets in taxes and does fantastic things with it, like sending probes to Mercury and funding autism research. It makes the roads drivable, and makes sure companies don’t pollute our air (well, it used to do that). You can complain all you want that earmarks get abused — and they certainly do — but they also get used to fund projects that are starved for cash, and that richly deserve to have life breathed into them.

I disagree with McCain here as well. He wants no earmarks at all. I think that’s ridiculous. It would be far better to have regulation of them, instead of the laissez-faire attitude the government has now. Or, if not overt regulation, some sort of throttle on them, instead of them being free passes to bridges to nowhere.

And finally, I want to reiterate what I said in my first post on this topic: I love planetaria. Love love love. They educate kids. That is among the finest and most honorable goals anyone can have. People who work at planetaria across the country and the world do it because they love it. They don’t get rich doing it, they don’t get fame doing it, they hardly even get accolades doing it. But we owe so much to them! Kids learn in planetaria– and not just about the stars over their heads on a given night; planetaria are evolving into the digital age, bringing incredible programs to the public (I know what I’m talking about here). And it’s not even just astronomy. The projectors can give all kinds of lessons: biology, history, local lore… anything you can create digitally can be projected in a planetarium, and kids can learn.

For McCain to use this as a political zinger is insulting, and for him to call it foolishness is beyond the pale. The honorable thing for him to do now is to admit he was wrong, admit he mischaracterized both the planetarium and Obama’s stance, and then issue a public apology to planetarians and science-lovers across the country.

The next debate is in one week. I bet a lot more pro-science folks will be watching, too. Closely.

McCain's planetariophobia

By Phil Plait | October 8, 2008 4:21 pm

So a little while back, John McCain made an ill-advised crack about planetaria (that’s the plural of planetarium), calling them "foolishness". It was ill advised because it raised the hackles of lots of science-loving folks, including those who want to — gasp, horror! — educate kids about astronomy and science.

At the time I suspected it was just a wedge in which to attack Barack Obama, but his use of the word foolishness really caught my attention. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but does he really dislike such things?

Well, last night removed any doubt, when McCain — twice — used Obama’s requested earmark of three million dollars for Adler planetarium as a bludgeon, trying to pin Obama as another pork-barrel politician. He disdainfully said the money was for an "overhead projector". Those are his exact words. Here’s what he said:

While we were working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks he [Senator Obama, or "that one"] voted for nearly $1 billion in pork barrel earmark projects. Including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?

Well, shock of shocks — it turns out McCain’s characterization of this was all wrong. In fact, I would call it a lie. He knows it wasn’t for an overhead projector, a piece of classroom equipment that costs a couple of hundred dollars. That money was for Adler’s Zeiss Mark VI star projector: a venerable piece of precision fabricated equipment that projects the stars, constellations, and other objects inside the planetarium dome. Adler’s Zeiss is 40 years old, and desperately needs replacing. These machines are pricey, and replacing them difficult.

Adler needed money to do this. They asked local politicians, and eventually were able to get a request in a budget submitted by Obama. However, Obama never even voted on that budget, and Adler never got that money — thus making, again, McCain a liar.

Needless to say, Adler wasn’t thrilled with this characterization of their beloved Zeiss. They issued a statement to that effect. You can also get opinions all over the place: Universe Today, SpaceWriter, Davin Flateau, Discovery Space, Wonkette, the Chicago Tribune, even NPR.

I have posted about this before (just last night, in fact). The comments on my statements have been all over the place, from support to some fairly ridiculous complaints. My favorites have involved something along the line of, "Where in the Constitution does it say the federal government has to send money to planetaria?"

Good question. But where does it say the government will repair roads, provide clean water, create public schools, fund the space program?

Look: there are some things the government does for the greater good. This is where libertarians and I part company. Government isn’t always bad. In many cases, it takes the money it gets in taxes and does fantastic things with it, like sending probes to Mercury and funding autism research. It makes the roads drivable, and makes sure companies don’t pollute our air (well, it used to do that). You can complain all you want that earmarks get abused — and they certainly do — but they also get used to fund projects that are starved for cash, and that richly deserve to have life breathed into them.

I disagree with McCain here as well. He wants no earmarks at all. I think that’s ridiculous. It would be far better to have regulation of them, instead of the laissez-faire attitude the government has now. Or, if not overt regulation, some sort of throttle on them, instead of them being free passes to bridges to nowhere.

And finally, I want to reiterate what I said in my first post on this topic: I love planetaria. Love love love. They educate kids. That is among the finest and most honorable goals anyone can have. People who work at planetaria across the country and the world do it because they love it. They don’t get rich doing it, they don’t get fame doing it, they hardly even get accolades doing it. But we owe so much to them! Kids learn in planetaria– and not just about the stars over their heads on a given night; planetaria are evolving into the digital age, bringing incredible programs to the public (I know what I’m talking about here). And it’s not even just astronomy. The projectors can give all kinds of lessons: biology, history, local lore… anything you can create digitally can be projected in a planetarium, and kids can learn.

For McCain to use this as a political zinger is insulting, and for him to call it foolishness is beyond the pale. The honorable thing for him to do now is to admit he was wrong, admit he mischaracterized both the planetarium and Obama’s stance, and then issue a public apology to planetarians and science-lovers across the country.

The next debate is in one week. I bet a lot more pro-science folks will be watching, too. Closely.

People unclear on the concept, Part II

By Phil Plait | June 9, 2008 12:01 pm

In a related note to my earlier post, I keep getting a MySpace friend request by someone who is shilling books about death and doom in 2012. I marked the request as spam, but this person has resent it twice. On the third try, he said (paraphrased) "I am a fan of your work and would like to be your friend here."

Are you kidding me?

Look, I’m a nice guy, and I like having friends. But let me be clear; people who write books only to scare people about nonsense doomsday predictions are among the lowest and worst forms of slime on this planet.* Scaring people to make a buck is just evil, plain and simple. Prosecuting someone like this bonehead who is writing antiscientific garbage about 2012 would be very difficult — fraud is hard to prove — but it’s too good for them. I have no doubt he’ll find a ton of folks all too willing to feed from the slop he’s swilling, but I’m not quite so gullible. And I certainly won’t befriend him. I don’t know which possibility I find more offensive — the idea that he is such a chucklehead that he thinks I would actually agree to add him to my friends list, or that he thinks I’m such an idiot that I won’t check up on him before I click "accept", even when his MySpace avatar is the cover of one of his antiscience books proclaiming we’re all gonna die in 2012.

C’mon.

So let me say this here, as loudly, publicly, and clearly as I can: if you are an antiscientist, if you are a doomsday crier, if you abuse science and specifically astronomy to sell books, videos, pamphlets, websites, or get on the radio, TV, and podcasts, trying to scare people or funnel money into your scam, then I am your worst enemy. I will expose you for what you are. I will mercilessly and unrelentingly tear apart your arguments, shine the light of reality on the noisome offal you peddle, and do everything I can within reason to make sure that people understand just how ridiculous, offensive, and downright wrong your claims are. And that includes people who promote the Moon hoax, creationism, selling star names, astrology, Mayan prophecies, Sitchinism, Velikovskiism, the Electric Universe, structures on Mars, antivax propaganda, NASA conspiracies, supernatural apparitions, pareidolic visitations, UFOs, aliens peeking in windows, hot comets, and planetary alignment disasters… and especially if you’re a politician who promotes any of these things.

If you fall into this category, then you might want to keep an eye on your rear-view mirror. The face you’ll see in it is mine, as well as those of hundreds, thousands of others who will not rest as long as you try to tear down reality. We’ll be right there, fixing it back up.



*Yes, I’m aware that I have written a book about death and destruction from space. The difference here — and it’s a basic one, a fundamental one — is that mine is based on science, on evidence, and on reality. I present what we know, what we don’t know, and also talk about the (in general very long) odds of any of these happening to us. I’m not trying to scare people to sell books, nor do I make up anything, nor do I abuse science and astronomy to do it.

No transfat = teh suck

By Phil Plait | April 2, 2008 3:38 pm

OK, I’ve had enough.

I want my transfat back!

I was at Target recently picking up a few things, and saw that Ho Hos were on sale. Yes, the little chocolate-like log things; when I was a kid I loved them, and I still sometimes buy them so I can be a kid again for a little while (like I need an excuse). Plus, I’ve been a good boy: I finished my book, I’ve been working on the blog and the website, and doing other things that need to get done. I want to treat myself. So I buy a box.

In the car I opened the box, got out a Ho Ho, and took a big bite… and almost spat it back out. It was awful, like someone had injected it with pure suck. After a moment to overcome my shock, I reached for the box. With increasing dread, I looked over the ingredients, and there were the words I knew would be there:

"Trans fat 0g"

AIIIIIEEEEEEE!

What are companies thinking? Do they really honestly think that by removing all semblance of flavor and replacing it with — I’m guessing here — toe cheese, they’ll be able to keep customers, just because they took out the transfat?

Piece of free advice to Hostess from an ex-customer: put the transfat back. That’s what makes the Ho Hos taste good. That’s why people buy them.

Sure, transfats are bad for you. But you know what? I’m buying a Ho Ho. I know I’m getting something that is not healthy for me. The same thing happens when I grab a candy bar, or a bowl of ice cream, or a piece of fried chicken. I’m not eating these because they’ll give me six-pack abs, I’m eating them because they taste good.

I am really, really tired of people making my decisions for me. Kids are getting fat eating Twinkies and Ho Hos? OK then, parents, here’s more free advice from another parent: stop feeding them to your kids. The Little Astronomer gets lots of healthy food in her lunch every day, plus sometimes a snack, a goodie, a treat. Three cookies, or a pudding, or some other sweet. But that’s after the banana and the sandwich.

It’s not all that hard. Moderation, folks. It’s that simple.

Transfats are bad for you, but not if you take care. Eat good stuff, walk around a little bit, bike to the store sometimes instead of drive. That way, the occasional 4 or 5 grams of transfats won’t kill you.

And to any company that takes the transfat out of their food: you can bite me. Because I won’t be biting you.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Piece of mind, Rant, Time Sink

Don’t forget to reset your clocks

By Phil Plait | March 8, 2008 8:00 pm

Daylight savings time, blah blah blah.

Spring forward, fall back, blah blah blah.

OK, fine. Tonight at 2:00 a.m. you’re supposed to set your clocks forward an hour and pretend like 2:00:00 to 02:59:59 never existed. Or you can do like me, forget all about it, stumble around in the morning without looking at the clocks, turn on the TV and realize you missed something you wanted to see, then stomp around the house resetting the clocks, then swear like a sailor when you accidentally set one three minutes ahead of the correct time and then have to hold down the "time" and the "fast" button for another 30 seconds while they cycle through an entire day, then realize ten minutes later you set yours but not your wife’s, and then swear again.

I’ve always disliked and distrusted Daylight Saving Time. At least now, according to Astroprof, I have a legitimate reason.

Congress. Setting back clocks for decades now.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Rant

Yes, Bush really does hate science

By Phil Plait | December 12, 2007 3:30 pm

I’ve been pointing out for months now that President Bush and his Administration have been waging a planned, protracted, and devious attack on science in almost every field across the board. I’ve been taken to task by some commenters on this, saying I am being unfair (implying I simply hate Bush and will disagree with everything he does — never mind that the more likely scenario for most folks is the other way around).

For those of you who think I am being unfair, U.S. Representative Henry Waxman would like a word with you.

Waxman is the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. They have been studying Bush and his stance on global warming, and have just released their findings. Surprise! Bush is waging a planned, protracted, and devious attack on science. Check it (emphasis mine):

For the past 16 months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been investigating allegations of political interference with government climate change science under the Bush Administration. During the course of this investigation, the Committee obtained over 27,000 pages of documents from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Commerce Department, held two investigative hearings, and deposed or interviewed key officials. Much of the information made available to the Committee has never been publicly disclosed.

This report presents the findings of the Committee’s investigation. The evidence before the Committee leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming.

Yeah, shocker. And if only this were the only front on which Bush and crew were engaging in criminal stupidity. There is also health, sex education, religious freedom, the CDC, the FDA, the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Administration, and and and.

Oh yeah, and NASA, too.

I wonder if anyone (besides Keith Olbermann) in the mainstream media will pick up on this?

Read Waxman’s report. It’s not terribly long, but it’s certainly damning.

Hat tip to C&L.

Texas creationists: the story that keeps on giving

By Phil Plait | November 29, 2007 6:51 pm

One thing most creationist promoters really abhor is publicity. Not all of them hate it, of course; the Discovery Institute craves it like an addict, but the irony is that when they get it, their lies, machinations, and political sleaziness get exposed.

Other creationist organizations want to avoid publicity for that very reason. So the Texans involved with forcing Chris Comer out of her job are probably taking blood pressure medicine at this point. Not only has their utter contempt for reality and decency been exposed, but the exposure is gaining momentum.

The group Texas Citizens for Science (go team!) has posted a very public evisceration of the Texas Education Agency. This essay really pounds home just how evil these people are:

The real reason she was forced to resign is because the top TEA administrators and some SBOE members wanted her out of the picture before the state science standards–the science TEKS–were reviewed, revised, and rewritten next year. Plans are underway by some SBOE members and TEA administrators to diminish the requirement to teach about evolutionary biology in the Biology TEKS and to require instead that biology instructors “Teach the Controversy” about the “weaknesses” of evolution, that is, teach the Creationist-inspired and -created bogus controversy about evolution that doesn’t exist within legitimate science. There are no scientific weaknesses with biological evolution as the natural process is understood by scientists. At the level at which it is taught in high school, evolutionary biology has no weaknesses, gaps, or problems. Therefore, it is duplicitous to pretend such “weaknesses” and “controversy” exist.

This is not an opinion being expressed here. It’s a fact. The Texas State Board of Education is trying to change the way they review and edit the science standards in the state; the basic ideas students get taught in class. Get this: they want to have a single person (called without any conscious irony on their part a facilitator) who will have the final say on how the standards get written. Sure, there will be a panel of experts and all that, but if the panel says evolution needs to be a standard, and the facilitator disagrees, then evolution won’t be a standard. It’s that simple.

And what are the odds the facilitator will be someone who can be trusted on these point? I’d say a big fat zero.

This violates the very nature of education on nearly all levels. Without any expert input whatsoever, a single person (chosen by a Board of Education with decidedly creationist leanings) gets to decide not only what is science and what isn’t, but also decide this for all the public school students in the state.

How doomed can one state be? The answer is none. None more doomed. Unless people rise up and do something about this. If you are an educator, scientist, parent, or student in the state of Texas, and you’re as angry as I am, contact the Texas Citizens for Science and do something. Make your voice heard!

Tip o’ the ten gallon hat to PZ.

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