Secular Right | Reality & Reason

TAG | creationism

Feb/14

13

It’s Darwin’s Birthday Today, But….

jesus-dinosaurIt’s Darwin’s birthday today, which is a good excuse to note that his message may not have entirely got through.

Here’s Gallup from June 2012:

Despite the many changes that have taken place in American society and culture over the past 30 years, including new discoveries in biological and social science, there has been virtually no sustained change in Americans’ views of the origin of the human species since 1982. The 46% of Americans who today believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years is little changed from the 44% who believed this 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question.

Depressingly, 58 percent of Republicans reportedly believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, although when I read that I wonder how many of them really meant what they said. To what extent was proclaiming such a belief a form of cultural and political positioning rather than an accurate reflection of what these Republicans really thought was going on 10,000 years ago?

And if that’s not enough of a straw to be clutching, there’s always this: 41 percent of Democrats were also said to believe that God created us as we today are just ten millennia ago.

Happy Darwin’s birthday!

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Dec/12

1

Testing the Flagship

Cross-posted on the Corner:

Kyle Plotkin (Gov Jindal’s communications director) responds to my earlier post on the Guardian’s report on Louisiana’s voucher schools as follows (I am publishing this with his permission):

This is a complete red herring attack from defenders of the status quo who oppose giving parents the opportunity to make choices about their children’s education. They will probably not like the fact that the largest provider of opportunities for scholarship students has tended to be parochial schools. These schools are known to teach all sorts of scandalous things, for example concerning God raising a man from the dead and an important birthday coming up in a few weeks.

We’re competing in a global economy and that’s why we want our students to be exposed to the best science and the best critical thinking skills. We not only need to compete with students in Texas, but we need to compete with students in Japan.

In order to make sure our kids are able to compete with students around the country and the world in math and science, students in the scholarship program are taking the exact same tests as the students in public schools. Starting in 2014 with Louisiana’s move to the Common Core State Standards, those will be nationally standardized assessments. That means that a parent can choose the school with the curriculum and environment that’s right for their child, while still ensuring that they are receiving the baseline content they need to compete.

Furthermore, these results are going to be summarized and publicly available so parents and taxpayers can make comparisons. Schools whose scholarship students do not do well on the exams will not be allowed to continue participating in the program.

Parents are the ultimate accountability in education. Unlike traditional public systems where students are assigned to their school based on zip code, school choice gives parents the power to vote with their feet. That can be public school choice or it can be private school choice; we’ve done both in Louisiana. The parent knows the child better than a bureaucrat in Baton Rouge or Washington, D.C. Across the country, millions of parents don’t have this option and their child is stuck in a failing school unless they can move to another district.

If you look at the results of the students who started in the pilot program in New Orleans, they are outperforming their peers in Math and Science. For instance, the percentage of third graders in the Scholarship Program in New Orleans demonstrating proficiency in Math has increased by 23 points since 2008, compared to a 2 percentage point increase for all Louisiana third graders. Further, the percentage of third graders in the Scholarship Program demonstrating proficiency in Science has increased by 4 points since 2008, compared to a 1 percentage point increase for all Louisiana third graders. This mirrors national results, where no less than 10 gold standard research studies have found that when children choose their school–improving the child’s “match” with their school environment–they are more likely to graduate from high school and go to college.

That’s an encouraging response. It’s also good to read how well the pilot program appears to be working out. That makes it all the more important to ensure that the wider program delivers the sort of academic return the taxpayers who have been drafted into funding it have every right to expect. Success in this respect will be the program’s best defense against future political attack. Testing the schools that take part in this program (including, I note, of math and science) will obviously be a key part in this process, but so will a serious insistence on speedily removing accreditation from those schools that fail to make the grade. .

As to what is taught in these schools, that’ll be a topic to which I’ll revert (I wanted to post Mr. Plotkin’s reply as quickly as possible), I’ll leave the constitutional questions to the experts, but, as a matter of general principle it doesn’t worry me in the slightest that the education available under this program might include a religious element. The question, I suppose, is just how large that element should be, and what it might amount to. The thought that such questions might even be asked will be offensive to some, but taxpayer money never comes without strings, and rightly so. Democratic accountability matters.

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Nov/12

30

Time to Fix the Flagship

Cross-posted on the Corner:

If there’s a policy that deserves to be a winner for the GOP (as well as being a thoroughly good thing in its own right), it is school choice and Bobby Jindal has done well to push it in Louisiana.

But having launched a flagship it’s important to ensure that it does not sink.

The Guardian reports:

[A] court case beginning Wednesday is set to shine light on a controversial policy in [Jindal’s] state which sees government funding given to schools that teach creationism….The case has been brought by a Louisiana teachers’ union and is aimed at a voucher scheme whereby some parents can take their children out of poor state schools and get vouchers to use at private schools.

One of the most controversial aspects of the programme is that some of the schools included on it are conservative Christian organisations that teach creationism in their science classes. When parents use the vouchers at such establishments they are effectively giving state money to teach children lessons that can include alternatives to the theory of evolution or questioning the widely accepted age of the Earth…

“This whole voucher plan was to give parents choices. But it is ignoring the quality of those choices,” said Mary-Patricia Wray, legislative and political director of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

Now, there’s quite a bit of humbug running through those two sentences (Louisiana’s education scores have historically not been the most impressive), but Jindal has handed his opponents a useful weapon. He needs to take it back.

Stick with the voucher program—expand it wherever possible—but be careful to make sure that the standards of the schools that benefit from it are higher on every measure than those of the traditional public schools they may be replacing. I’m not convinced that taxpayer funding of schools that teach that the Earth is six thousand years old really does the trick, even if such schools are the rare exception rather than the rule.

The governor must plug the hole in his flagship. It’s too important to be allowed to sink.

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Nov/12

22

Et Tu Obama?

Slate’s Daniel Engber sighs over Rubio’s geology problems, but then gives us this extract from a Q&A with then Senator Obama at the Compassion Forum ( know, I know) at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. on April 13, 2008:

Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you—and maybe they already have—“Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,” what would you say?
A: What I’ve said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don’t presume to know.

Look at that last sentence, and shake your head. Candidate Obama did not, he says, “presume to know” whether the creation of the Earth happened “exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible”. Good grief.

Yet another profile in courage.

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Nov/12

20

Dumb sentence of the day

I Believe and Am Thankful: “Believing what was believed to be literally true for a few thousand years is now nutty.” Yes, that’s how it goes in science. Aristotle’s ethics may be relevant for moderns, but his physics most certainly is not. I tire of the attempt to portray Creationists as the only sinners against the truth, when the reality is that some of the most vociferous mockers of Creationists are the most strident evolution rejectionists in any pragmatic sense. But any conservative take on these issues has to admit that the scientific consensus is what it is, and scientific consensus of this magnitude is not to be taken lightly as a ‘theory’ or ‘opinion.’

Nov/12

20

Bad Start

The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview that he isn’t certain what the age of the earth is, and that parents should be able to teach their kids both scientific and religious attempts to answer the question.

“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States,” Rubio told GQ. “I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that.”

The U.S. Geological Survey notes that scientists have estimated the earth’s age to be about 4.5 billion years old. Rubio, who identifies himself as Catholic, noted there are both faith-based and scientific theories about the earth’s beginnings. He said that he is “not sure” we will ever be able to fully answer the question of how old our planet is.

“At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all,” he added. “I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”

Parents can, of course, teach their children whatever idiocy they may choose at home or in church, but as for the rest of what Rubio has to say, well…

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Nov/12

11

Darwin the Candidate

The election results didn’t give me much to smile about, but here’s one exception.

The Athens Banner-Herald reports:

Charles Darwin, the 19th-century naturalist who laid the foundations for evolutionary theory, received nearly 4,000 write-in votes in Athens-Clarke County in balloting for the 10th Congressional District seat retained Tuesday by five-year incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Broun [who was running unopposed].

A spot check Thursday of some of the other counties in the east Georgia congressional district revealed a smattering of votes for Darwin, although it wasn’t always clear, based on information provided by elections offices in those counties, whether those votes were cast in the 10th District race. And because the long-dead Darwin was not a properly certified write-in candidate, some counties won’t be tallying votes for him, whether in the congressional race or other contests.

A campaign asking voters to write-in Darwin’s name in the 10th Congressional District, which includes half of Athens-Clarke County, began after Broun, speaking at a sportsmen’s banquet at a Hartwell church, called evolution and other areas of science “lies straight from the pit of hell.”

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Oct/12

6

Lies, All Lies, I Tell Ya

It’s no news that Georgian congressman Paul Broun is a strange bird (he’s the clown who wanted to ban Playboy from the PX), well, here he is again (TPM reports):

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month.

“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,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth. Broun serves on the House Science Committee, which came under scrutiny recently after another one of its Republican members, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), suggested that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses against pregnancy.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Okey dokey.

On the other hand, the décor of the venue where he was speaking clearly was worth seeing.

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Sep/11

1

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Here’s Ann Coulter:

Amid the hoots at Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry for saying there were “gaps” in the theory of evolution, the strongest evidence for Darwinism presented by these soi-disant rationalists was a 9-year-old boy quoted in The New York Times. After his mother had pushed him in front of Perry on the campaign trail and made him ask if Perry believed in evolution, the trained seal beamed at his Wicked Witch of the West mother, saying, “Evolution, I think, is correct!”

That’s the most extended discussion of Darwin’s theory to appear in the mainstream media in a quarter-century. More people know the precepts of kabala than know the basic elements of Darwinism…

And that’s one of the least [insert appropriate adjective: there are many to choose from] sequences of this gimcrack screed, to which the only reply worth the time spent typing it is whatever.

I suppose one has to accept that its author, a smart and distinctive writer (and, I should add, certainly one with whom I frequently disagree), actually believes what she is writing, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the suspicion that amongst some, at least, on the right a quick bit of Darwin-bashing is seen as an easy way of boosting their conservative credentials still further. The equivalent of so much resonant and confused leftist rhetoric, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t do anything and (hopefully) it won’t change anything, but it sounds good on stump, page and screen. It cheers the faithful. It rallies the crowd. It sells the books.

Whatever.

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Apr/11

10

Fiscal priorities, never mind

Congressional Republicans may have been willing to sell social conservatives down the river, but not so the Republican party of Tennessee. Creationism Gains Ground in Tennessee:

Tennessee House Bill 368, the creationist friendly legislation that we have previously covered on FrumForum, has passed through of the Tennessee House on a vote of 70-23. The Senate is expected to take up the bill for a vote on April 20th.

As many observers had feared, the bill passed successfully on a near-party line vote. 8 Democrats joined with 62.

That being said, I tend to be of the opinion that a human nature and evolution friendly Zeitgeist can reinforce and add vigor to some of the truths of social conservatism. Alas.

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