July 22nd, 2014

Stupid state lawmakers deliberately distort science


“Suppose you were an idiot.
And suppose you were a member of Congress.
But I repeat myself.”
Mark Twain

I’m starting to sound like my father and can’t believe I question nearly every day “what is this world coming to?” Near the top of my “it’s all going to hell” list is America’s turning its back on science — unabashedly, proudly, defiantly — through legislation.

In the UK, the BBC has banned from their airwaves crackpot guests preaching that climate change is not real. The change is to bolster scientific integrity. Staff will receive training in science and scientific conferences will be attended by staff to stay abreast of developments.

Deniers get equivalence here in the US. One denier with one believer (proxy by Bill Nye, the “Science Guy”). Viewers ignorant of the facts could conclude that climate change is not really something to be concerned about. The fallacy of this false equivalence was never more clear than this demonstration by comedian John Oliver on his HBO show This Week Tonight.

And recently the British government extended its public school ban on teaching pseudoscience, creationism, to cover “academies” and “free schools,” the equivalent of charter schools in the States. The government recognizes the religious bases of the founders of such schools. Thus creationism promotes religion and has no business in the teaching of science.

America is headed in the other direction, driving headfirst into ignorance. Creationists and advocates for “intelligent design” in the US seem to be gaining clout. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) 2014 legislative scorecard identified states that are attempting to make their children science illiterates.

Stupid lawmakers making science policy without scientists, a perilous American concoction. The NCSE defends the teaching of evolution and climate science and is a scientists-run non-profit organization.

The list of shame:

• Louisiana: A 1981 state (with the Orwellian title: Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act (see Oliver clip above)) allows teachers to use any additional materials or resources to critique scientific theories and teach creationism. It was ruled unconstitutional. Senate bill 70 would have repealed the law. It was defeated.

• Missouri: House bill 1472 allows parents to pull their children out of class when evolution is being taught. Said Rick Brattin, the bill’s sponsor, evolution is “as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion.” Another bill HB 1587 would prevent school administrators from stopping teachers who wish to teach evolution as a “scientific controversy.”

• South Carolina: A state senator, Mike Fair, tried to convince the State Board of Education to require the teaching of scientific arguments for and against Darwinian natural selection. He sees controversy swirling around evolution. The Board voted 7-4 against his proposal. But four individuals did vote for it.

More famously, 8 year old Olivia McConnell science student petitioned the state legislature to adopt the Columbian mammoth as the state’s fossil. House bill 4482 was written. No controversy. Simply a lawmaker responding to a constituent. However, the mammoth last walked on the earth no more recently than 12,000 years ago. The innocent bill was amended in the Senate by Kevin Bryant to read: the mammoth was “created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field,” pulling a passage from the Bible’s book of Genesis. You see, from Bryant’s point of view, this passage limiting the earth’s history to no more than 6,000 years and using biblical terms did not reflect any particular religion. Bryant’s amendment survived the Senate but was struck down in the conference committee which restored the bill’s original language purging the biblical reference that would have denied that the Columbian mammoth even existed let alone had its skeleton found in S.C.

• Oklahoma: Senate bill 1765 would have treated the teaching of evolution as “misleading students about scientific controversies.” The bill died in committee. However House bill 1674 passed its committee and a House floor vote by 70-6. It claimed that some teachers may be “unsure” how to teach biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning. The bill died in the Senate. Joint Resolution 1099 would have rejected the new state scientific standards and prevented the teaching of climate change. The resolution did not pass. Phew!

• South Dakota: Senate bill 112 would have encouraged the teaching of “intelligent design or other related topics” by forbidding a school board or administrator from prohibiting it. The bill died in committee.

• Wyoming: A footnote in Wyoming’s budget for 2014-2016 precludes the use of state funds “to expend any amount … for any review or adoption of the next generation science standards (NGSS) as developed by the national science teachers association, the American association for the advancement of science, the national research council, and ‘Achieve’.” The Next Generation Science Standards, developed by K-12 and University science teachers naturally includes climate change as a core topic of settled science. The budget, with its subsequent blockage of NGSS, is state law thanks to Rep. Matt Teeters. Despite the unanimous recommendation of a committee of science specialists to adopt the NGSS, the state board of education “asked the committee to revise the standards to present climate change as a theory, instead of a fact, and to present the benefits mineral extraction has brought Wyoming.”

If the elected officials behind these reprehensible proposals truly represent the wishes of “the people” in those states, then we have reason to be concerned about “the people.” If it is just the lawmakers adopting model bills created by crackpots, then stop voting them into office.

If we are to have any hope for the future, we have to solve the climate crisis to exist as a species. Sad, that we allow incredible tales told by snake oil salesmen to distract us from the most important problem to be solved. As it is, we are slipping into a fundamentalist theocratic nation like the kind we decry in regions across the globe. Religion offers no solutions — period.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 at 2:43 pm and is filed under Commentary by G. Namie, Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign), The New America, WBI Surveys & Studies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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