The Root of All Anti-Evolutionism

The title and this clip are from an article I had up on a Firefox tab for awhile now. the page format is ridiculously hard to read, but here’s the gist:

…for me the primary issue is literalism, the secondary issue is education. You take a stupid person and force them through college and they’ll buy into the mainstream system instead of dumb countercultures. You allow a smart person to remain outside of the system and even with their own native intelligence don’t expect them not to deviate into weird idea-space. This is obvious insofar as Isaac Newton was certainly smarter than anyone reading this weblog, but he was wrong when it came to all sorts of scientific questions and you are correct, because the system of science upon which we rely upon today maps more closely onto reality as it is than it did in ~1700. Isaac Newton may have been a Creationist in 1700, but if he was reborn today he would almost certainly not be, because most smart people put more credence in the cultural wisdom of the smart than that of the stupid.

Also, it looks like Creationists have attained such critical mass among movement conservatives that the political and the theological are hard to disentangle. There are many smart and well educated conservatives who are Creationist, because literalism has become common enough that the peer-group norms have shifted.

Discover Magazine

Several graphs in the article quantify data from the Religious Landscape Survey which show that it’s not religious people who reject evolution.

…it really is stupid people.

So it should come as no surprise that the SBOE is going to open up the question of teaching evolution in science classes, once again. Texas government suffers under a larger than average share if ignorance, idiocy and stupidity. This has been true (apparently) since Sam Houston left office with the statement “I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her.” after Texas had voted to secede from the union. I had hopes that we had reversed this trend in recent years, but the sitting head of the SBOE is determined to continue it:

Cargill was elected to the board in 2004 and is up for re-election in 2012. Her tenure is already off to a rocky start with some of her fellow Republicans after her comments earlier this month that the board has only six “true” conservative Christians. There are 11 Republicans on the board.

“Right now, there are six true conservative Christians on the board, so we have to fight for two votes. In previous years, we had to fight for one vote to get a majority,” Cargill said during a July 7 meeting of the conservative group Texas Eagle Forum.

The Huffington Post

Her measure of True Conservative Christian? Young Earth Creationists. Stupid people.

Thankfully they have less than a majority of stupid people in the SBOE, and it appears that more level heads did prevail, this time:

Today the State Board of Education voted to adopt the Texas education commissioner’s recommended list of science instructional materials. Special interest groups and activists off the state board failed in their efforts to force publishers to change their instructional materials to include arguments against evolutionary science. In addition, the board voted unanimously to reject the adoption of instructional materials from a New Mexico-based vendor that promoted “intelligent design”/creationism.

TFN Insider

But, as the post goes on to note, next year brings a review of the health standards for education (can you say “abstinance only”? I knew that you could) in Texas, so don’t expect this fight to end anytime soon.

Not a Christian Land Governed by Christian Principles

Make no mistake what the goals of the SBOE are:

Dunbar, in her 2008 book, One Nation Under God, argued that the Founders created “an emphatically Christian government” (page 18 of her book) and that government should be guided by a “biblical litmus test” (page 47). Even more damning, this State Board of Education member wrote that public education is a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion,” tyrannical and unconstitutional.

TFN Insider: Christian Land Governed by Christian Principles
Texas Freedom Network“a Christian land governed by Christian principles” – May 21, 2010

…and while these members have been handed their hats over this embarrassing situation they’ve created, they are bound and determined to force this farce into the next generation of Texas textbooks.

If you aren’t clear on why the US isn’t a Christian nation, Just look at the constitution. Notice the word ‘god’ is not present in the document. Check out this entry on the Bad Astronomy blog. Here, I’ll save you the time and just post the bus sign here. This pretty much says it all:

Texas SBOE Destroys Education

Just got done listening to Common Sense 172. I generally agree with Dan on a lot of things. This is one time I think there’s more threat here than he’s willing to admit to.

As an example, here’s a quote from show Number 8:

“I’m not an intelligent design guy, I’m just an open-minded guy. I don’t mind a whole bunch of theories being thrown out there. I think we’ve really forgotten in this whole evolution thing is that the name of this whole evolution thing is the theory of evolution.

I’m not suggesting that Dan is a creationist, or even a christian. What I am suggesting is that the arguments of the Religious Reich (and I’ve heard this exact phrase come out of ID defenders mouths before) have seeped into the common arguments presented by average people who don’t necessarily understand what scientists mean when they use the word theory. Gravitational theory is only a theory too. But I wouldn’t suggest you jump off a building and expect to float. There is every bit as much science backing evolution as there is gravitation. Perhaps more. Dan has gone on the attack against science in the past (episode 5 for those with the DVD) albeit attacking pop science. And yet the scientific method is the only method that has been shown to be capable of determining what truth is.

Science is under attack here in Texas, more than history is. The SBOE has specifically gone on the attack against the scientific method itself, attempting to undercut the basis for our technological society. The stories coming out about the history textbooks just highlight what kind of mental neanderthals are serving on the SBOE, and what their real goals are.

Here’s a quote from the story in the NY Times:

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.
Since January, Republicans on the board have passed more than 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school. The standards were proposed by a panel of teachers.
“We are adding balance,” said Dr. Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservative faction on the board, after the vote. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”

Excuse me if I don’t buy McLeroy’s arguments on the subject of the skewing of academia. His past support for inclusion of the teaching of creationism in science classrooms (which is distinctly NOT science) and his boards attempts to manipulate the definition of the scientific method so that Intelligent Design would meet the criteria, have shown that he is no friend of education, or our technologically based society either (which only exists because of the scientific method) which makes me question the justification for his chairing the board that dictates what Texas children will be taught in coming years.

The one thing I do agree with Dan on, on this subject, is the legitimacy of the existence of these types of boards in the first place. There isn’t any. They should all be disbanded, and the controls for what is taught should be handed back to the teachers and parents. The people directly involved in educating the children.

Because, trust me, education begins at home. No matter what school sets out to teach my children, they get an education in critical thinking from me.


I seem to have started an interesting thread over at the Common Sense forum. Still think Dan didn’t hit the SBOE hard enough. Jon Stewart did.

THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART – DON’T MESS WITH TEXTBOOKS – 3/17/2010

I’d like to put this in perspective. The rest of the nation is buying textbooks that meet standards set by a state whose students are not even close to the best performers in the nation.

Bureaucracy in action.

For those who might think I exaggerate the threat, here’s a list of the worst of the current changes proposed by the SBOE to the Social Studies curriculum, from the TFN website:

  • Religious conservatives on the board killed a proposed standard that would have required high school government students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” That means the board rejected teaching students about the most fundamental constitutional protection for religious freedom in America. (3/11/10)
  • Even as board members continued to demand that students learn about “American exceptionalism,” they stripped Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political revolutions from the 1700s to today. In Jefferson’s place, the board’s religious conservatives inserted Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. They also removed the reference to “Enlightenment ideas” from the standard, requiring that students simply learn about the “writings” of various thinkers (including Calvin and Aquinas). (3/11/10)
  • Board conservatives succeeded in censoring the word “capitalism” in the standards, requiring that the term for that economic system be called “free enterprise” throughout all social studies courses. Board members such as Terri Leo and Ken Mercer charged that “capitalism” is a negative term used by “liberal professors in academia.” (3/11/10)
  • The board removed the concepts of “justice” and “responsibility for the common good” from a list of characteristics of good citizenship for Grades 1-3. (The proposal to remove “equality” failed.) (1/14/10)
  • Social conservatives on the board removed Santa Barraza from a Grade 7 Texas history standard on Texans who have made contributions to the arts because they objected to one of her (many) paintings — one including a depiction of a woman’s exposed breasts. Yet some of Barraza’s works had been displayed in the Texas Governor’s Mansion during the gubernatorial administration of George W. Bush in the 1990s. (3/11/10)
  • The board stripped Dolores Huerta, cofounder of United Farm Workers of America, from a Grade 3 list of “historical and contemporary figures who have exemplified good citizenship.” Conservative board members said Huerta is not a good role model for third-graders because she’s a socialist. But they did not remove Hellen Keller from the same standard even though Keller was a staunch socialist. Don McLeroy, a conservative board member who voted to remove Huerta, had earlier added W.E.B. DuBois so the Grade 2 standards. McLeroy apparently didn’t know that DuBois had joined the Communist Party in the year before he died. (1/14/10)
  • In an absurd attempt to excuse Joseph McCarthy’s outrageous witchhunts in the 1950s, far-right board members succeeded in adding a requirement that students learn about “communist infiltration in U.S. government” during the Cold War. (Board member Don McLeroy has even claimed outright that Joseph McCarthy has been “vindicated,” a contention not supported by mainstream scholarship.) (1/15/10)
  • The board voted in January to remove children’s book author Bill Martin Jr. from a Grade 3 standard about significant writers and artists because members confused the author of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? with another Bill Martin who had written a book about Marxism. An embarrassed board reinserted Martin into the Grade 3 standards in March. (3/11/10)
  • Board members added Friedrich von Hayek to a standard in the high school economics course even though some board members acknowledged that they had no idea who the Austrian-born economist even was. (3/11/10)
  • The board added a requirement that American history students learn about conservative heroes and icons such as Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. The board included no similar standard requiring students to learn about individuals and organizations simply because they are liberal. (1/15/10)
  • Board conservatives passed a standard for the eighth-grade U.S. history class requiring students to learn about the ideas in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address as president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. (1/14/10)
  • In a high school government standard about “the importance of the expression of different points of view in a democratic republic,” the board added a requirement that students learn about the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. (3/11/10)
  • The board’s bloc of social conservatives tried to water down instruction on the history of the civil rights movement. One board amendment, for example, would have required students to learn that the civil rights movement created “unreasonable expectations for equal outcomes.” That failed to pass. Other amendments passed in January minimized the decades of struggle by women and ethnic minorities to gain equal and civil rights. (Board member Don McLeroy even claimed that women and minorities owed thanks to men and “the majority” for their rights. Earlier in the revision process, a conservative appointed by McLeroy to a curriculum team had complained about an “over-representation of minorities” in the standards.) Under pressure from civil rights groups, the board partially reversed those earlier amendments. (3/11/10)
  • The board’s right-wing faction removed references to “democratic” (or “representative democracy”) when discussing the U.S. form of government. The board’s majority Republicans changed those references to “constitutional republic.” Board member Cynthia Dunbar also won approval for changing references to “democratic societies” to “societies with representative government.” (3/11/10)
  • Religious conservatives stripped from the high school sociology course a standard having students “differentiate between sex and gender as social constructs and determine how gender and socialization interact.” Board member Barbara Cargill argued that the standard would lead students to learn about “transexuals, transvestites and who knows what else.” She told board members she had conducted a “Google search” to support her argument. Board member Ken Mercer complained that the amendment was about “sex.” The board consulted no sociologists during the debate. (3/11/10)
  • Board member Barbara Cargill proposed a standard to the high school economics course requiring students to “analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar since the inception of the Federal Reserve System since 1913.” After debate, the board passed a revised standard that requires students to “analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.” References to 1913 and the Federal Reserve System were dropped. The board consulted no economists during the debate. (3/11/10)
  • The board approved a standard requiring students to learn about “any unintended consequences” of the Great Society, affirmative action and Title IX. (3/11/10)
  • In a high school U.S. history standard on musical genres that have been popular over time, the board’s bloc of social conservatives removed “hip hop,” equating this broad genre with “gangsta rap.” (3/11/10)
  • The board voted to use “BC” and “AD” rather than “BCE” and “CE” in references to dates in the history classes. That means students going off to college won’t be familiar with what has become an increasingly common standard for dates. (3/10/10)
  • The board removed Oscar Romero, a prominent Roman Catholic archbishop who was assassinated in 1980 (as he was celebrating Mass) by rightists in El Salvador, from a world history standard about leaders who led resistance to political oppression. Romero, they argued, wasn’t of the same stature as others listed in the standards: Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi. One board member argued that “he didn’t have his own movie like the others.” He quickly reversed himself — the film Romero, based on the archbishop’s life, was released in 1989 and starred actor Raul Julia in the title role. (3/10/10)
  • The board’s right-wing faction removed a reference to propaganda as a factor in U.S. entry into World War I. (The role of propaganda on behalf of both the Allies and Central Powers in swaying public opinion in the United States is well-documented. Republican Pat Hardy noted that her fellow board members were “rewriting history” with that and similar changes.) (1/15/10)
  • The board changed a “imperialism” to “expansionism” in a U.S. history course standard about American acquisition of overseas territories in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Board conservatives argued that what the United States did at the time was not the same as European imperialism. (1/15/10)

(source Texas Freedom Network TFN Insider: The List of Shame in Texas)

Some additional articles in the local paper:

Editor’s note

This is a compilation of my thoughts on the topic of the SBOE and the conversation with Dan Carlin’s forum community about this episode, cribbed from this and other threads preserved at Archive.org. Both episode 8 and episode 5 of Common Sense are no longer available from Dan Carlin’s merchandise page. I still have the DVD I bought from him back in the day. This article and the thread on the forum spawned the infamous Atheism is Not a Belief System thread and article.

Daily Beef: Missing Roll Call

I woke up at 9:00am this morning. Woke up at 9:00am on a morning that I had to get the children to school. On a morning that I had to have them at school by 8:30am. When we finally came rolling into the classroom, I had to apologize at school.

Writing 20 times on the chalkboard I will not oversleep on school mornings. Can you be Bart Simpson and be 40 at the same time?

Facebook status. This post is illustrative of what short status notifications are good for. You can zip them off and then forget about them only to be reminded of that time when eleven years later. No, I didn’t actually have to write on the chalkboard. But the teacher made me apologize to the class.

Does Fatherhood Make You Happy?

Time has once again proven why I don’t bother with their publication. Here’s a quote from the article in question:

Studies reveal that most married couples start out happy and then become progressively less satisfied over the course of their lives, becoming especially disconsolate when their children are in diapers and in adolescence, and returning to their initial levels of happiness only after their children have had the decency to grow up and go away. When the popular press invented a malady called “empty-nest syndrome,” it failed to mention that its primary symptom is a marked increase in smiling.

Time

OK, I’m not going to pretend that the wife and I don’t look forward to the day when the children are grown and out of our hair. But I’m also not going to share in the modern myth that you stop being a parent just because your children aren’t pestering you with “what’s for dinner” every night. Once you have ’em, you don’t get rid of ’em (if you do, it’s generally something they give lengthy prison sentences for) So I would highly recommend that people who don’t love children, not have children.

Yes, I am happy being a father. No, it’s not the bungee jumping ecstasy that is measurable through endorphins in the brain. It’s a lot like the question do you enjoy your work? Well, I don’t need to wear rubber lined underwear on the job, but I come back to do it every day anyway, if you get my drift. But then I’m weird like that; I actually enjoy doing housework, too.

Can parenting be tedious? Without question. Would I trade one moment of time with my children for anything else on the planet? Not on your life. You have to take the long view (something that is falling farther and farther out of favor these days) when observing things like parent/child interactions. The minute by minute chemical traces don’t capture what it means to see them born, learn to walk, learn to talk. Watch them go off to school, loose their teeth and grow them back; simply to change from the helpless tiny little things they start off being, to become people like…

…like you are. To know that, like your parents who nurtured you, you’ve added to the world in some small way yourself. You won’t find that recorded in the chemicals in my brain, but I assure you, it’s there all the same.

Texas School Funding

This has been an issue for so long in Texas, it’s reached epic proportions. If it wasn’t so damned expensive, it might even be funny. I hear today that someone (who’s betting against it being the TEA funding this? Anyone?) ran a poll and discovered that a majority of people would be willing to spend more in taxes if it went to schools.

As if for the children hasn’t been the mantra that they’ve asked us to shed blood for time and again in the past. Once again, my name is firmly in the ‘nay’ category. Not just no, but, Hell No.

The government schools are twice as expensive to run as comparable private schools. Giving them more money will not improve the schools, because the increasing number of dollars that we’ve given them (that’s doubled and tripled over time) has not made the government schools function any better.

There is no way to earmark funds for a specific purpose, as should be painfully clear to anyone who remembers that the lottery money, the cigarette settlement money, virtually every new tax scheme proposed in the last 20 years has been “earmarked for education”, only to get dumped into the general fund.

School attendance is mandatory. This makes the government schools into something closer to prisons than they are to places where children learn. The curriculum is set at the state and/or federal level. This turns the schools into an ‘indoctrination center’, where the correct view of this or that event or behavior is sure to be the only one given. The buildings themselves are old and run down from years of neglect by administrators more interested in buying themselves nice lives than they are in seeing facilities modernized, or made less ‘oppressive’.

This leaves the teachers holding the bag, the thankless prison guard who isn’t even trusted with a gun to defend himself with, and is locked in with the inmates on a daily basis. No wonder they want more money.

Here’s a solution you won’t get from the powers that be. Remove the taxing authority from all the school districts. Fire every school district employee who isn’t actively teaching a class. Draft legislation creating vouchers equal to the current outlay per student, payable to each teacher that will be entrusted with the job to teach our children. Give them the authority to hire and fire administration that they choose to employ at their discretion, and out of their pockets.

Give parents the choice to either accept the vouchers, and have their children be tested at the end of the education process; or to do without the vouchers and the testing.

…And then see if the children end up learning more, or less. I’m betting on more.

Postscript

Having now put two children through school I can honestly say that the public schools do exceptionally well for what they have been tasked with doing. They do a far better job of educating all the children than most of the charter schools do with educating the children of parents interested enough in their children’s learning to take the time to put them in the charter instead of just sending them to the public school.

That is the big difference. If you have the time and the money you can find a school that produces a better education for less money. But the playing field is not level. Public schools have to educate all of the children, even the ones that don’t have parents that care and the ones that have learning disabilities. Charter schools fail in those categories because those are the groups that are hardest to educate and charters aren’t given enough money to educate those kinds of children. So they don’t try, and they aren’t required to do it anyway.

The problem with school remains the straightjacket that they have been confined to for too long. We would do much better if we made schooling something that can be done anywhere and any time. If we understood that children want to learn, they don’t have to be forced to learn.

Teaching People to Think

Hello, I’m Anthony. (Hi Anthony) …And I’m a Forum Addict.

This addiction started years ago with CompuServe forums and Usenet, not long after we got our first internet account back in ’94, through the local university. I started looking for people to talk with online in this new social experiment we had created with computer technology. At first the addiction seemed innocuous enough, just chatting with people who had shared interests. There was the occasional disagreement with the odd agitator who showed up just to argue, but all and all, a forum was a friendly place. I’m not quite sure when or how it happened, but as time progressed it seems that the forums became more about the disagreement, and less about the sharing of knowledge. Perhaps we are all looking for that emotional high that comes from being in a good argument.

The tendency toward forum addiction can be traced back much earlier than the internet, though. If you remember the charge you got the first time you knew something somebody else didn’t know, and you got to explain it to them, got to see their eyes light up with understanding, then you too are a potential forum addict. That’s where it starts. Then you discover the internet and how easy it is to share information. You join your first forum and you start posting. Before you know it you are spending days at a time trying to shove a few facts into another idiot’s brain, never realizing that you to are an idiot just for making the attempt.

Talk about a waste of effort.

At some point (if you are like me) you will probably also discover that you are in an adversarial relationship with everyone in your group and the one time that you can all pull together is when you are trying to single out some other agitator to get rid of. I tend to agree with a friend who observed that “it’s the nature of the medium.” For some reason the impersonal nature of text communication seems to make people more prone to misapprehend the meaning of a statement. There’s a multi-million dollar government funded study in there somewhere.

More and more often these days, that agitator turns out to be me. It seems I have this disgusting habit of making people think about things they’d rather not. Call me weird, but it’s kind of a point of pride with me. I figure if I don’t make someone go “Hmmm?” with each post, then I might as well watch the boob cube with the rest of the couch potatoes. Therein lies the rub. If you can’t impart a few simple facts to the unwilling, how on earth can you make them think?

Once again, can we say Waste of Effort? I knew that you could.

…This is why government schools don’t teach, they indoctrinate. No one wants to sit in neat little rows and listen to someone else lecture, and rote learning is boring to say the least. So we have schools full of the unwilling that can’t be taught even simple facts, much less be made to think for themselves. If it was understood that thinking for oneself was a blessing and that school was a place where this was facilitated, you might actually find children wanting to go to school just to learn instead of going just to escape from their parents.

…And that is why the Montessori method of teaching will always be superior to the typical attempt at teaching found in government schools. It stimulates the natural desire within the child to learn and to understand. This is also why you won’t find Montessori teaching in government school systems. Worse than getting children hooked on drugs is getting them to think.

The idiot that I am, I got kicked off another forum the other day (you might notice that it disappeared from my sidebar) I miscued on a post by another, who miscued on a (poor) attempt at humor on my part. The peanut gallery pounced at that point. One can rack up a lot of negative feelings when he’s trying to pound a little sense into the opposition. They offered to let me stay on if I would agree to be moderated, but I’m not interested in letting someone else second guess what I should post. So I’m outta there.

I’ve alienated friends and family members with this stupid forum addiction, this blind belief that I can somehow impart a little understanding to the (as someone else called them) “unwashed masses” by “getting the information out there.” Silly, really. Or is it?

Over time I’ve progressed (?) from knowing everything, but understanding very little (typical teenager) to knowing nothing, but understanding a great deal (hello mid-life) more than I can express in a blog entry. I wonder when I’ll learn to think…? And will it be before I hit ‘send’ the next time?

Postscript

Coded language. How quaint. I used the phrase government schools because that was the phrase that libertarians use to describe America’s public schools system. They aren’t really government schools, not in the way that the word indoctrination means when I apply it to public schools.

The scientific method is a valid lens through which to understand the world around us. It might well be the the only way to accurately understand the world around us. Science simply is in much the same way that existence simply is. You aren’t indoctrinated into it, you are introduced to it. If it sticks then you become an agnostic about things that you don’t know yet and then learn how to test for what is knowable about a thing. The development of the critical thinking faculty that science engages is a problem for people who want to tell you how to think and not help you discover what thinking is.

Government schools are not bad, per se. Government schools aren’t bad when they don’t indoctrinate. They aren’t bad when they impart real life skills. As long as government schools get the job done that needs to be done (teaching children to think critically) government schools are just fine.

It’s when the job they are doing is not serving the greater good, that’s when government schools, and all schools, fail. Montessori fails to educate those students with special needs, and it fails because a good portion of Montessori instruction is based on belief/ideology and not on tried and true best methods. Finding a school that teaches critical thinking based on best methods. That is the really hard part.

Blogspot archive for the month of January 2006