Sunday, June 29, 2008

Another anti-evolution law in the United States - the disease is spreading!

More insanity from the States.....yet again the nutters are trying to catch them early in schools and indoctrinate them in the madness of the Discovery Institute philosophy. The only real chance that they have of spreading this nonsensical irrationalist religious claptrap is if they try and stop people getting an that's what they're trying to do.

Amazingly, the idea that Intelligent Design is actually a theory (rather than an embarassing joke) is starting to drip into the public consciousness, and it is getting frightening.

Here in HK, much of the heirarchy at HK University comes from the fundamentalist christian diaspora and despite world renowned evolutionary biology departments working on H5N1, students do not leave school with any understanding of evolution and consequently very few local students enter the department from the local school system.

I teach students who actually think there is evidence for ID and that the evidence for evolution is debatable!!!! These are nice students who have adults around them telling them lies, afraid that the whole basis for their belief system will crumble around them if they learn about one of the most clearly understood theories. This is almost criminal....certainly an intellectual crime. People actually exist who think we didn't evolve from other life forms..that we're somwhow special. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

The recent worldwide Darwin's Evolution week celebrating his life had to be renamed in HK to Darwin's Legacy as the Evolution title was considered by the 'Government' to be too controversial!!!!

Louisiana passes first antievolution "academic freedom" law
Louisiana passes first antievolution "academic freedom" law

By John Timmer | Published: June 27, 2008 - 02:13PM CT

As we noted last month, a number of states have been considering laws that, under the guise of "academic freedom," single out evolution for special criticism. Most of them haven't made it out of the state legislatures, and one that did was promptly vetoed. But the last of these bills under consideration, the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), was enacted by the signature of Governor Bobby Jindal yesterday. The bill would allow local school boards to approve supplemental classroom materials specifically for the critique of scientific theories, allowing poorly-informed board members to stick their communities with Dover-sized legal fees.
Related Stories

* Mixed messages on science education in the election
* Scientific outreach: providing clergy a resource
* Intelligent Design tries rebranding as PBS looks at landmark Dover trial
* New journal to target education in evolution

The text of the LSEA suggests that it's intended to foster critical thinking, calling on the state Board of Education to "assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories." Unfortunately, it's remarkably selective in its suggestion of topics that need critical thinking, as it cites scientific subjects "including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

Oddly, the last item on the list is not the subject of any scientific theory; the remainder are notable for being topics that are the focus of frequent political controversies rather than scientific ones.
The opposition

The bill has been opposed by every scientific society that has voiced a position on it, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science. AAAS CEO Alan Leshner warned that the bill would "unleash an assault against scientific integrity, leaving students confused about science and unprepared to excel in a modern workforce."

Jindal, who was a biology major during his time at Brown University, even received a veto plea from his former genetics professor. "Without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn't make sense," Professor Arthur Landy wrote. "I hope he [Jindal] doesn't do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana's doctors."

Lining up to promote the bill were a coalition of religious organizations and Seattle's pro-Intelligent Design think tank, the Discovery Institute. According to the Louisiana Science Coalition, Discovery fellows helped write the bill and arranged for testimony in its favor in the legislature. The bill itself plays directly into Discovery's strategy, freeing local schools to "use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."

Discovery, conveniently, has made just such a supplemental text available. As we noted in our earlier analysis, Discovery hopes to use these bills as a way to push its own textbook into the classroom. Having now read the text of the book, it is clear that our earlier analysis was correct; the book badly misrepresents the scientific community's understanding of evolution in order to suggest that the basics of the theory are questioned by biologists. In doing so, it ignores many of the specific questions about evolution that are actively debated by scientists.

Courts in Pennsylvania and Georgia have both ruled that laws which single out evolution serve no secular purpose and are evidence of unconstitutional religious motivations. Those precedents, however, do not apply to Louisiana, and it's possible that the LSEA will either be ruled constitutional or remain in force for years before a court rejects it. That will leave the use of supplemental scientific material to be determined by local school boards in the intervening years and, if boards in Florida are viewed as evidence, they are likely to be spectacularly incapable of judging scientific issues.

As such, most observers are expecting the passage of the LSEA by the state to unleash a series of Dover-style cases, as various local boards attempt to discover the edges of what's constitutionally allowable. The AAAS' Leshner suggested that the bill's passage would "provoke an expensive, divisive legal fight." In vetoing similar legislation in Oklahoma, Governor Brad Henry suggested it would end up "subjecting them [school officials] to an explosion of costly and protracted litigation that would have to be defended at taxpayers' expense." In essence, Jindal is inviting local school boards to partake in that explosion without committing the state to paying the inevitable costs.

In the meantime, the students of the state will be subjected to an "anything goes" approach to science—if it looks scientific to a school board, it can appear in the classroom.

No comments: