Wednesday, September 11, 2013

News Review of Religion Posing as Science Instruction

September 2013
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In This Posting:
1. Creationists Have a Bad Year!
2. Senator Coburn is a Climate Change Denier.
3. Textbooks Under Assault in Texas – Again.
4. OESE Awarded Grant for Teacher Workshops.
5. Common Core Teaching Standards.
6. Two More Oklahoma Colleges Adopt Evolution Statements.


Now that most state legislative sessions for the year have concluded we can state that the creationists, including the Discovery Institute that works to support creationist legislation around the country, have not had a very good year. As reported earlier two creationist bills were defeated in the Oklahoma Legislature, thirteen years in a row that we have been able to stop anti-science bills that proposed anti-science teaching in public schools.  This success has been led largely by efforts of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, but with huge help from many individual citizens and national and state organizations.  Several legislatures in other states, as well as in Oklahoma, now write bills that include opposition to evolution, climate change, stem cell research, etc.

The so-called ‘academic freedom acts’ pushing creationism have been defeated not only in Oklahoma, but also in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Missouri (two bills), Montana, and Texas. We can expect more attempts next year, especially in an election year. The bills have passed only in Louisiana (where a major repeal effort continues) and in Tennessee two years ago.

Creationists have failed in other than legislatures. David Coppedge, a former Jet Propulsion Lab employee, claimed he was fired due to his religious activities, including trying to pass creationist DVDs to other employees, etc. He lost in Court where it was clear that he was fired for other causes. The Discovery Institute was a big supporter of Coppedge John Freshwater, who was fired from a public high school for religious activities, has lost in court trials, but keeps appealing; it is not likely that he will win. A teacher at Ball State University, who covered religion and creationism in his science course, was exposed and President Jo Ann Gora, after a faculty committee considered the problem, banned faculty from indorsing intelligent design in their classes and even raising the topic in the classroom.

Creationism has cropped up in several public schools and is being challenged.  These local problems need to be watched and attempts to place religious material into science courses need to be challenged.  Several national organizations can come in to help.

2. Senator Coburn is a Climate Change Denier.

Coburn has joined Sen. Inhofe and other Oklahoma legislators, stating “I am a global warming denier. I don’t deny that.” He also claims to be a ‘man of science”

From The Daily Caller, August 27, 2013
[…]” Despite the scorn of environmental activists, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn admitted that he does not believe that human activity is causing the planet to warm.
The Tulsa World reports: “The climate is changing, and has been as long as there has been a climate, he said. … As a physician and a man of science, Coburn said he thinks the evidence points that the Earth is moving into a ‘mini-ice age.’”
In the wake of Obama’s unveiling of his new plan to tackle global warming, liberal groups have been putting pressure on Republican politicians who have expressed skepticism of the theory that human activity — mainly from burning fossil fuels — is causing the planet to warm.
Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity awarded Inhofe the Rubber Dodo Award  for being one of Congress’ “staunchest deniers of climate change and stalwart human obstacle to federal action on this unprecedented global crisis.”
“As climate change ravages the world, Senator Inhofe insists that we deny the reality unfolding in front of us and choose instead to blunder headlong into chaos,” said Kierán Suckling, CBD’s executive director. “Senator Inhofe gets the 2012 Rubber Dodo Award for being at the vanguard of the retrograde climate-denier movement.””

Copyright 2012-2013 The Daily Caller.

3. Textbooks Under Assault in Texas – Again.
 [From NCSE, 9 September, HERE. ]
“Ideologues on official state textbook review teams are attacking the treatment of evolution and climate change in science textbooks under consideration in Texas, charged the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education in a joint press release issued on September 9, 2013. "Once again culture warriors on the state board are putting Texas at risk of becoming a national laughingstock on science education," TFN's president Kathy Miller warned.
As the press release explains, documents obtained by the TFN show "that reviewers made ideological objections to coverage related to evolution and climate change in textbooks from at least seven publishers, including several of the nation's biggest publishing houses. Failing to obtain a review panel's top rating makes it harder for publishers to sell their textbooks to school districts or can even lead the State Board of Education (SBOE) to reject the textbook altogether."
"The arguments in these reviews are the same discredited claims anti-science activists have pushed for years," commented NCSE's Joshua Rosenau. Among those claims, various reviewers:
  • called for the inclusion of "'creation science' based on Biblical principles"
  • asserted that "no transitional fossils have been discovered"
  • insisted that there is no evidence for a human influence on the carbon cycle
  • claimed that there is no evidence about the effect of climate change on species diversity
  • promoted a book touting "intelligent design" creationism as a reliable source of scientific information
  • denied that recombination and genetic drift are evolutionary mechanisms
  • mischaracterized experiments on the peppered moth as "discredited" and as "fabrication[s]"
“This is scary because of Texas'[s] big influence on publishers and on textbooks used across the country," Rosenau said. "Publishers should listen to real experts, not unqualified reviewers who don't seem to understand even basic scientific terms.”
TFN's president Kathy Miller agreed, commenting, "What our kids learn in their public schools should be based on mainstream, established science, not the personal views of ideologues, especially those who are grossly unqualified to evaluate a biology textbook in the first place. What we see in these documents makes it imperative that the board finally establish genuine qualifications for those entrusted with reviewing textbooks or curriculum standards for our kids."
As the press release observes, it was members of the state board of education who nominated the reviewers, including the evolution and climate deniers. Few of the reviewers critical of the inclusion of evolution and climate change possessed any scientific credentials. Among those who did, several — Ide Trotter, Walter Bradley, and Ray Bohlin — are active in state or national antievolution organizations such as the Discovery Institute.
What's next for Texas? According to the press release, "Negotiations between publishers and the reviewers are ongoing. TEA officials say they cannot release documents showing what changes — if any — publishers are offering to make to their textbooks before the only scheduled public hearing on the books on September 17. A final vote on whether to approve or reject the textbooks for Texas schools is set for November."

Also see the posting on The Sensuous Curmudgeon HERE.


The DELTA Foundation has again granted OESE $ 16,339 for two years (2014, 2015) of teacher workshops on climate change and variability to be offered over a weekend at the University of Oklahoma Biological Station.  Earlier support from this family foundation was very important in allowing OESE to offer workshops for science teachers and helped make them highly successful. The Board of Governors of OESE expresses our gratitude for this important support that will help advance science education of high school teachers.

The workshop this fall on Climate Change and Variability at the Biological Station attracted many applicants.  To accommodate the demand the original limit of 30 was increased to about 38. The workshop this year is supported by an NSF grant to Dr. Cecil Lewis, an OU anthropologist.  This is the last year of the NSF grant support.  Thus the DELTA grant allows a continuation of the workshops.

5. Common Core Teaching Standards

National K-12 common core teaching standards are being considered in most states. Not unexpectedly, there is controversy in Oklahoma on adoption The Oklahoma Gazette had a detailed analysis of the problems HERE.  It is worth reading, if one wants the details. If adopted, the new standards would have major changes.  It is supposed to be fully implemented in one year in all state schools.  BUT, it is a major political controversy with some conservatives calling it national government interference and control, etc. House Speaker T. W. Shannon filed a bill to repeal Common Core in Oklahoma (in 2010 the OK legislature voted to adopt Common Core). Part of the controversy is over testing.  On 1 July Supt. of Education announced that Oklahoma would develop its own tests and mode of application. In Norman training for Common Core is pushing ahead, and teachers so far appear to like it, according to Dr. Joe Siano, Superintendent.

 Opponents of common Core include Rep. Gus Blackwell, a perennial author and supporter of anti-science (evolution, climate change, stem cell research, etc.) bills. In 2010 he voted for Common Cure, but now believes Common Core threatens to place Oklahoma education in the hands of a Federal agency... Jenni White, of the right wing ‘Restore Oklahoma Public Education’ group, stated that adoption of the Common Core “… will lobotomize education in America.”  This has become the usual battle between progressive educators and tea party type conservatives that abhor most Federal-level programs.

For the Oklahoma Academic Skills for Science (OASS) a revision process is underway.  It began last spring and continues through a number of forums and reviews (non-public).  The OASS should be approved by the State Board of Education by the start of the next calendar year.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has now been adopted by six states:  California, Kansas, Kentucky (pending legislative final approval), Maryland. Rhode Island and Vermont.  See NCSE post HERE on California adoption notes.


Biology Departments at the University of Central Oklahoma and Southwestern Oklahoma State University have adopted statements supporting evolution These statements will be added to NCSE’s ‘Voices of Evolution’ [HERE}. The University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa have adopted similar statements earlier.  NCSE coverage follows:

””The Department of Biology at the University of Central Oklahoma's statement in part reads (PDF), "Evolution is defined simply as the change in allele frequencies (genetic makeup) in a population through time. ... The theory of evolution explains the mechanisms that lead to these changes. ... The theory is modified as new information is acquired through these tests; however, the overall theory of evolution continues to be upheld. Support for this theory comes from a variety of disciplines (e.g., paleontology, morphology, genetics, molecular biology, ecology, developmental biology, and biogeography). The theory of evolution is the unifying theory in biology and the fact of evolution is not controversial in the scientific community."

“The Department of Biological Sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University's statement reads (in its entirety), "Evolution is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and is accepted by the vast majority of scientists. It is fundamental to understanding all areas of biology, including medicine and conservation. Therefore the Department of Biological Sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University teaches evolution throughout the biology curriculum. We are in accordance with the American Association for Advancement of Science's statement on evolution. We are a science department, so we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously."
OESE has encouraged all Oklahoma colleges to do the same.  Such statements show  commitment to proper science and shows local citizens and legislators that colleges consider the topic of major importance.”

OESE continues a program to encourage all Oklahoma colleges to adopt such statements.  These signify the commitment to correct science to students, patrons, citizens and, especially, local legislators.

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