[NB: As always with posts like this, I strongly urge you to read my note about posts covering politics and religion as well as my commenting policy before leaving a comment.]
Not too long ago, I (and pretty much the whole internet) wrote about the ridiculous and honestly offensive statements made by Representative Todd Akin (R-MO). His knowledge – or really, the profound lack thereof – of female anatomy made him the laughing stock of the planet. But I wasn’t laughing. I was, and still am, furious. And not just because of what he said, but also because he is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
That anyone could spew such obvious and awful nonsense about biology and anatomy and yet sit on the US Congress’s science committee is, simply put, an outrage.
I also pointed out he’s not alone. In that article I devoted just one line to Representative Paul Broun (R-GA), saying how he was a creationist and also sits on that same science committee… but I think it’s time we take a second look at Congressman Broun.
In late September, Rep. Broun made a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church’s Sportsman’s banquet in Hartwell, Georgia. In this speech he said many, many things, including this:
All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.
[The whole talk is online at YouTube.]
Sadly, that kind of antiscientific nonsense is de rigueur for a lot of folks these days, even ones who sit in Congress. But then, to close the deal, he goes on:
And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.
Two points: one is that all Congresscritters, upon entering office, have to swear to uphold the Constitution, and the second is that this document is pretty clear about legislating religion. In fact, Supreme Court judge Hugo Black said about this topic, "Government must be neutral among religions and nonreligion: it cannot promote, endorse, or fund religion or religious institutions."
Rep. Broun’s words don’t sound terribly neutral to me.
You may disagree with me about the shaky ground (like Richter 10 shaky) Broun stands on Constitutionally, but there is no doubt – none – that he is 100% completely off the rails with his science. The Big Bang is "straight from the pit of hell"? It’s bad enough that anyone would actually believe something like that, let alone a Congressman, but I will remind you he sits on the House science committee!
These are the men whom the Republican majority placed on that committee. Men who think global warming is a fantasy. Men who think women have magic vaginas. Men who think the Earth is thousands, not billions, of years old.
I have my issues with Obama right now, which in truth are dwarfed by my issues with Romney. But remember that come November 6 of this year in the US we’ll be voting for members of Congress as well. And the majority party decides who sits on what committee, and those people will in turn decide what to legislate: reality, or fantasy.
The choice, quite literally, is yours. Choose well.
– Akin breakin’ science
– Followup: Rep. Ralph Hall’s unbelievable statement on science funding bill
– Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA): on climate change, makes wrong even wronger
– Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity
reddit user jerfoo created a lovely and simple photo series demonstrating the difference between experimental science – testing data and finding things out based on evidence – and dogmatic faith – belief in something rigidly and without wavering.
Read the whole thing; it’s wonderfully done. It’s been making the rounds on the net, and I like the way it’s set up and the message it delivers. Not everyone is so unwavering in their dogma, but enough people are (especially those who run this country) that this should be required reading by the time every US citizen reaches elementary school.
Bill Nye speaks the truth.
[Video credit: Big Think]
In science, it’s rare that you can actually state with certainty that something is wrong. Young-Earth creationism is wrong. The Universe is old.
However, I’ll disagree with Bill over one thing, and I’ll throw Neil Tyson into the mix too. First, here’s something Neil said about adults, children, and nonsense (from an image that’s gone around the web a few times):
Funny, Neil and Bill are saying the same thing, essentially, but Neil is saying he doesn’t worry about the kids, while Bill is saying he doesn’t worry about the adults.
I worry about both, for, oddly enough, the reasons Bill and Neil both give. We have entrenched adults teaching things to their kids that are clearly wrong, and will be damaging to them and others. Creationism, global warming denial, antivaccination, ridiculous ideas about women and their bodies… it’s a cycle from adults to kids who then grow up to teach more kids.
We need to break this cycle. Make sure the education kids get in school is reality-based. Keep religion (or the lack thereof) out of schools. Vote fundamentalists out of office. And keep making sure the facts are out there and our voices are heard. Facts aren’t enough. Science has facts on its side, but they’re simply not enough. We need to make our stories personal, emotional, and make sure they stick.
And I’d love to agree with Bill when he says that in the future creationism will go away. I sure hope so. But YEC’s been around for a while now, and is as strong as ever – after all, there are creationists on the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Science! Still, maybe Bill’s right. But it’s up to us to make sure his prediction comes true.
[NOTE: This is not my first foray into political opinion on this blog, so I expect to get a lot of comments which could charitably be called angry. BEFORE YOU COMMENT, first, read the ample links I have included in this post. These are how I back up my arguments, and reading them first may prevent you from saying something already refuted. Second, read my note about posts covering politics and religion. Third, read my commenting policy. Thank you in advance.]
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the mantle of the Earth this week, you probably heard what Missouri Congressman Todd Akin said about women’s bodies and rape. If you haven’t, my friend Matt Lowry at Skeptical Teacher has the lowdown.
But in a nutshell – apt phrasing, that – Akin claimed that:
First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare… If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
This is so appallingly ignorant – to be kind – that it makes my brain explode. Pregnancy from rape is not rare; tens of thousands occur every year. His claim about the female body is complete claptrap, nonsense. And his use of the word "legitimate" is just grossly insulting. As President Obama said the next day: "Rape is rape".
So here we have a man who has not just no knowledge of what happens during rape and conception, but actually provably wrong knowledge. And he makes laws about these things.
It’s clear that Akin’s beliefs are driven by his religious fundamentalism. This would be a matter of concern to me for any lawmaker, but you have to understand: he sits on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee!
The irony in this should be evident.
And worse, Rep. Akin is not the only woefully under- and simply miseducated person on that committee who attacks science. It’s full of such antiscience people. Examples include Mo Brooks, a global warming denier; Ralph Hall, who tried to use porn to scuttle a science funding bill; Jim Sensenbrenner, another global warming denier; Paul Broun, a creationist (a creationist on the science committee!); Dana Rohrabacher, another climate change denier, and more.
It’s mind boggling.
Today, more than ever before, we need politicians who are educated about science and technology. At the very least our economic future depends on science! Yet we have people on the Science Committee who are devoted to actively destroying it.
This is why I support Science Debate 2012. The goal of this organization is to educate the public about where politicians stand on science issues, including evolution, global warming, energy, and the economy.
We need to hold current politicians accountable when they are flatly against reality, and we need to make sure we elect ones who are reality-based. As Rep. Akin showed us clearly, this spans a broad range of political issues.
Let me leave you with this: in America, only about half the people of voting age actually go out and vote. That means there is a vast, untapped resource of people who can make a real difference in November.
If you don’t vote, then you are letting someone else decide for you what to do with your money, your life, your future, and even your very body.
Learn the issues. Vote.
– Erasing false balance: the right is more antiscience than the left
– Republican candidates, global warming, evolution, and reality
– Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity
– Antiscience party
While NASA and JPL put a nuclear powered laser-eyed roving chem lab on another planet, Kentucky legislators want to teach kids that the world is 6000 years old, and Missouri wants schoolchildren to be able to stick their fingers in their ears if their teachers discusses evolution.
I think I’ll just leave this here.
It may not surprise you to learn I am no fan of one Don McLeroy. He is a young-Earth creationist, antiscience evangelist, and when he was head of the Texas Board of Education he tried to ram through all sorts of ridiculous education standards that would’ve set Texas schoolchildren back about 200 years.
My own rule of not being a dick makes it difficult for me to express myself clearly about Mr. McLeroy, but happily he does the work for me. He appeared on The Colbert Report, and quite ably demonstrates what kind of person he is. And Colbert is only too happy to comply:
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
[You may need to refresh this page to get the video to load.]
I love how Colbert says he chooses his own reality; he is mocking McLeroy to his face and McLeroy doesn’t really see it. But then, there’s a lot of things McLeroy doesn’t see.
By the way, the movie clip shown is from a documentary called The Revisionairies, which is all about the damage McLeroy and his cadre did while he ran the BOE. I wrote about this when the directors set up a Kickstarter account to help fund it — which was successful, obviously. From the trailer the documentary seems to be an unflattering look, to be sure, but that’s because it tells the truth. The reviews so far look good, and I’m hoping to be able to watch the whole thing myself… if I can stomach it.
I’m glad McLeroy’s no longer running the Texas BOE… but then, after he left, Governor Rick Perry (remember him?) appointed another staunch creationist to that role (after trying to appoint two others). I like Texas — I’ve been there many times, and even lived there for a summer a while back — but honestly, you guys really need to rethink your choices for politicians.
Clearly, the whole world is watching.
Well, that’s it then. Tennessee’s governor, William Haslam, allowed a clearly antiscience bill to pass into law. It is now legal to essentially teach creationism in Tennessee public school classrooms.
You can read about the background of all this in an earlier post. The TN House and Senate both passed this terrible, terrible bill, and Governor Haslam allowed it to beome law, saying,
I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.
This is, to not to put too fine a point on it, a crock. The legislation is designed specifically to allow creationism to be taught in classes, something the courts have clearly stated is against the law, and which just as clearly is unacceptable in our schools.
Governor Haslam, I’ll note, didn’t actually sign the bill into law. In Tennessee, a bill passes by default if the governor takes too long to sign it. By not vetoing it directly, he allowed it to pass. That action, combined with his wishy-washy statement, makes it clear he is doing this for purely political motives. This way, it’s a law and the creationists are happy, and if people accuse him of weakening the Constitution and allowing a specific religion to be taught in public schools — which he’s doing — then he can say he didn’t actually sign the bill. Nice, huh?
So instead of doing the right thing, he has allowed students in classrooms across Tennessee to undergo religious indoctrination, despite a prior and clear Supreme Court ruling making it illegal.
And for this those of you who will want to split hairs and say this law only makes it legal to teach scientific weaknesses, and doesn’t make it legal to teach creationism, I call baloney. There is zero doubt — zero — that this will be used to teach creationism in the classroom under the guise of demonstrating (what they claim, wrongly, as) weaknesses in evolutionary science. [Update: Steve Novella at the NeuroLogica blog has more details on this.]
So, unless and until someone fights this law and takes it to court to preserve the scientific integrity of the Tenessee public school classroom…
The Tennessee legislature — apparently jealous that the people running Louisiana are hogging all the laughing stock — is possibly about to pass an antiscience bill designed specifically to make it easier for teachers to allow creationism in their classroom.
The bill passed the House last year, but then a similar bill was put on hold in the Senate. Unfortunately, it was put to the Senate floor earlier this week and passed. It will have to be reconciled with the House bill, but it’s expected to pass. It’ll have to then go to the Governor to sign it into law.
Basically, the bill will make sure teachers can discuss creationism in the classroom, as well as global warming denialism. The House version states,
This bill prohibits the state board of education and any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or principal or administrator from prohibiting any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught, such as evolution and global warming.
That whole "strengths and weaknesses" is for all intent and purpose a lie; we’ve seen it many times before. Of course science has strengths and weaknesses, but what these people are looking to do is be able to say any kind of antiscience rhetoric in the classroom and not get called on it. What the bill should call for is legislators to be tested on the strengths and weaknesses of their creationist beliefs that clearly contradict what’s known about the real world. Or, better yet, how what they’re trying to do violates the Constitution of the United States.
I would pay good money to sit and listen to that.
I also wonder how the Tennessee lawmakers would feel if, say, teachers used this potential law to teach about Islam, or astrology, or Wiccan beliefs. That would be interesting indeed.
If you want more, Josh Rosenau has a great summary, as does Cara Santa Maria at the Huffington Post, and, of course, the NCSE. It’s not clear to me that the Governor will sign this bill; Josh’s post has more on that. But even if he doesn’t, all those creationist climate change deniers will simply try again in some different way.
If you live in Tennessee, you should let the Governor know how you feel, and right away. Otherwise…
In late 2008, the Louisiana government passed a bill into law that allowed teachers to teach creationism in the classroom. Then the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education followed up by adopting a policy that allowed "outside supplemental material" to be used by teachers, in a thinly veiled but quite clear attempt to allow creationist works in the classroom.
This attack on education by the religious right had some fallout. Because of all this, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, a scientific society with over 2000 members, chose to boycott Louisiana for their annual conference. I think that was the right move, since it sends a signal that teaching antiscience in the classroom means groups that support science will take their business — and their money — elsewhere.
It also lit a fire under a young man named Zack Kopplin, a high school student and fighter for reality, who started a campaign to get the law repealed. I’m very pleased to write that Zack — who began all this as a high school student, I remind you, and is now a freshman at Rice — got 75 Nobel Laureates to sign on and endorse his effort. 75. He also has an impressive list of other supporters as well.
His website, RepealCreationism.com, has lots more info on what he’s trying to do. If you live in Louisiana, and feel as I do about this, send Zack some love and support.
And when it comes time for elections, remember who wanted to educate the children of Louisiana, and who wanted to push kids through school thoroughly unprepared for 21st century life.
[Note: There was a typo in a picture I had put at the bottom of this post. Fixing it would mean redoing the whole thong, so instead I just took the image out of the post. My apologies.]
The next time some creationist starts talking smack about evolution being impossible and that humans aren’t animals and they’re not descended from apes, show them this picture:
I was browsing uploaded pictures in the 500px app and this came up; I added the white box and fuzzed out the other thumbnails. Sometimes, coincidence is pretty funny.