Tag Archives: education

Shilling for The Last Presentation

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Normally I am hesitant to shill for anyone or anything on this blog, but I was contacted by group trying to improve the perception of non-believers in the minds of the public, and they need money.

The group is The Colorado Coalition of Reason

They are raising money to fund the distribution of a 38 minute video for social science classes in the public schools across the country. The video opens young minds to the importance of logic, reason, and science, and introduces students to the nonbeliever’s point of view. The name of the video is “The Last Presentation” and is the result of comparing notes by various speakers to compile a presentation that can be shown during discussions of diversity and comparative religion. It would address the problem of trying to find a presenter with the knowledge and experience to speak to young people in school and would present a single version of the information.

The fundraising is due to close on 9/15/2006 but they need more funding. Currently the jar stands at $7,035 and their goal is $25,000.

Marvin Straus. the video’s producer and director had this to say:

Some nonbelievers, including myself, have made similar presentations to high school classes. When other speakers and I shared notes, we identified common themes. Generally, students at these social science presentations:

1) Were very interested in the opinions of nonbelievers.
2) Wanted to know more about the subject.
3) Were supportive of the speakers and his or her views.
4) Asked identical questions at different schools.

A few students did display deep-seated negative feelings such as “all atheists are communists” or “since nonbelievers have no religious background to guide them, they are probably immoral and unethical.”

After the presentations, many students said they had a more positive view of nonbelievers.

The problem: It is difficult to obtain an invitation to speak to a social science class. Teachers seldom invite nonbelievers, sometimes because they do not think of it. Attempting to contact each school or school board to ask for the opportunity to address high school students would be inefficient and time consuming.

The solution: Send TLP directly to the 16,000 public, high-school teachers. By doing so, with your help, we can

– open young minds to the secular world of logic, reason, and compassion,
– encourage the separation of church and state, and
– encourage the teaching of evolution instead of Intelligent Design.

These students are future voters and potential supporters of Jefferson’s wall. They will become citizens who hopefully will protect the rights of minorities, including nonbelievers. After watching the video, we hope the audience will think of nonbelievers as friends, not possible enemies.

For more information or to donate visit the video’s website at:


Intelligent Design moves north to Canada

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In a stunning decision, the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which funds social science research in Canada, turned down a grant request from Professor Brian Alters on the grounds that he’d failed to provide the panel with ample evidence that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct.

Alters requested Can$40,000 to fund his project titled, “Detrimental effects of popularizing anti-evolution’s intelligent design theory on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators and policymakers”. Alters is director of McGill University’s Evolution Education Research Center, in Montreal.

In its decision to deny the grant, the SSHRC panel said Alters had not supplied “adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct.”

Alters said he read the letter at a public lecture last week in Montreal and there were “audible gasps” from the large audience.

“Evolution is not an assumption and intelligent design is pseudo-science,” Alters said.

Janet Halliwell, the SSHRC’s executive vice-president and a chemist by training, acknowledged that the “framing” of the committee’s comments to Alters left the letter “open to misinterpretation.”

Halliwell said confidentiality obligations made it difficult for her to discuss Alters’s case in detail, but she argued that the professor had taken one line in the letter “out of context” and the rejection of his application should not indicate that SSHRC was expressing “doubts about the theory of evolution.”

However, Halliwell added there are phenomena that “may not be easily explained by current theories of evolution” and that the scientific world’s understanding of life “is not static. There’s an evolution in the theory of evolution.”

Prof denied grant over evolution

And in a strange twist, Professor Brian Alters holds teaching positions at McGill and Harvard University, wrote Defending Evolution, AND was a key witness defending Evolution in the Dover, PA trial last year.

*Side Note*

When I visited the article on the Montreal Gazette site to get the quotes used in the post, I found the following block of ads below the article:

How ironic that the ads presented are ones against Evolution – the topic of the article. BTW, I blacked out the addresses because I refuse to give them free business. If you want the links in the ads then go to the article webspage.

Ohio Board of Education does the right thing – finally

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On Tuesday, February 14th, at the monthly meeting of the Ohio Board of Education, it voted 11 to 4 to remove the lesson plan that allowed Intelligent Design to be taught in public schools.

After intense pressure from supporters of real science, which included a letter to Governor Taft signed by 23 members of the advisory committee that was ignored when the plan was adopted in 2004, the OBE made the right decision to remove the plan.

Scientists had assailed the Ohio standards as an attempt to repackage intelligent design and introduce religious principles into science class. Intelligent design holds that life on Earth is so complex that it could have been created only by an “intelligent designer” such as God.

Tuesday’s 11-4 vote rejected a short passage that said students should be able to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”

The board also rejected a model biology lesson that critics said promoted intelligent design. Three board members who voted in January to keep the optional lesson were absent Tuesday, and supporters of the materials said they would force a new vote to get the material back into students’ hands.

Evolution supporters win in Ohio

Of course the issue is not closed. I would be foolish to think so, but it is less likely now that the same lesson plan could be approved again. However since four board member’s terms end at the end of the year, real science supporters need to pay attention and make sure that religious conservatives don’t back door us again.

Deborah Owens Fink, one of the supporters of the now removed plan said in a video report on WBNS-TV that the action was taken to head off a lawsuit. (For video see: Intelligent Design Backers Lose Battle and click on the Video link.)

That’s exactly why those of us against the lesson plan asked for it to be removed.

Science committee members pressure Ohio Board on Intelligent Design Lesson Plan

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The Columbus Dispatch reported on 2/8/2006 that Governor Taft was sent a letter signed by members of an advisory committee that had reviewed the school science standards in 2001. The letter asked the Governor to step in and force the Board to remove the controversial lesson plan adopted in 2004 that would allow the teaching of Intelligent Design.

Twenty-three members of 2001’s Science Content Standards Advisory Committee signed the letter condemning the 2002 standards and the 2004 lesson plan.

They said the 19-person state board, of which the governor appoints eight members, has ignored their concerns.

“Many of us warned then that in singling out this one scientific theory that has historically been opposed by certain religious sects, the board sent the message that it believes there is some problem peculiar to evolution.

“This message was unwarranted scientifically and pedagogically,” the 23 wrote.

The board added the provision to “critically analyze” evolution over objections from many on the advisory committee, a panel assembled by the Ohio Department of Education.

The lesson plan “embodies intelligent design creationism poorly concealed in scientific sounding jargon,” the 23 told Taft.

Evolution wording attacked (subscription req)
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State Board President Sue Westendorf said the OBE would likely discuss the issue at their next meeting on February 14th but again it is not on the agenda.

Tapes reveal Intelligent Design supporters on Ohio Board work to censor opposition

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Democracy is great.

Our government and its agencies are required to have open meetings where one can observe the process and give input. If you have an issue you are passionate about you can use that forum to express your views and the body you are addressing may listen and consider your views.

That’s how its suppose to work, unless your issue is real science and those who support fake science like Intelligent Design (ID) try to censor you.

That’s what happened at the January 10th meeting of the Ohio Board of Education when the topic of removing a lesson plan favoring fake science came up.

The Columbus Dispatch, which has been against introducing ID into state science classes since the beginning of the debate, obtained an audio recording of the January board meeting and what they reported on January 20th makes me ashamed that our Board of Education is made up of buttheads like Michael Cochran, Deborah Owens Fink, and Richard E. Baker.

Newly released tapes obtained by The Dispatch from the Department of Education show:

Elected board member Michael Cochran of Blacklick “cross-examined” a string of witnesses, including a graduate student, who criticized the 10 thgrade biology plan.

Elected board member Deborah Owens Fink of Richfield questioned the character of a witness by producing an e-mail he wrote to a colleague that ridicules a supporter of intelligent design.

One person declined to testify, citing attacks on previous witnesses.

Cochran and appointed board member Richard E. Baker of Hollansburg showed their apparent lack of interest by reading a newspaper during the testimony.

Yesterday, Cochran and Fink said they may have gone too far in some of their remarks to witnesses but stopped short of apologizing.

“When people come before the board, I think board members have every right to ask questions,” said Fink, whose term expires this year. “It was an anomaly, but I don’t think that one side is to blame and the other side is not.”

She and Cochran said they have tired of the issue.

“We have debated this issue ad nauseum,” said Cochran, whose term expires in December 2008. “The same people come forward and say the same thing and it comes to a point where you can’t listen anymore.

“I think it boiled over because it was the end of a long day and it was the same subject matter we’ve heard over and over.”

Witnesses badgered at science meeting (subscription req)
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More fall out from the meeting came from the source used by Cochran to support keeping the lesson plan that favors ID:

Cochran replied: “If I heard your testimony correctly, those who agree with your point of view are honest and those who disagree are dishonest. Is that what you said?”

“Yes, as far as passing off (intelligent design) as science,” Morris said.

“So half the board is dishonest? How do you square your comments with the ratings from (Thomas B.) Fordham Foundation and Education Weekly which gave us an A- and a B?”

“Well, I’m not aware of that. But what I do know . . . ”

“Well, you are now. How do you analyze that?” Cochran interrupted. “They are probably dishonest, aren’t they?”

Cochran IS being dishonest when using the Fordham Foundation report as he did:

A biologist who wrote a national evaluation of states’ science standards said he is angry that an Ohio Board of Education member used the grade card to defend a lesson plan that urges students to question evolution.

Ohio board member Michael Cochran used the “B” the Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave Ohio during a board meeting on Jan. 10 to justify approving the lesson.

“When evidently somebody on that board said our B grade shows that we thought the lesson is OK, that really (upset me). This is a very bad lesson,” said Paul Gross, who wrote the Fordham Institute report.

“The whole thing is dishonest. The whole thing is a Trojan horse.”

Gross said Ohio’s lesson is a joke.

“What this lesson does is to say to a student with brains, ‘Anything else you learn in science is as you got it, but evolution, we don’t really know about that,’ ” he said.

Washington University biologist Ursula Goodenough said she and the four other members of the Fordham Institute committee supported Gross’ evaluation.

“There was this sentence that kept being repeated about how evolutionary theory would be given critical analysis,” she said. “Science needs critical analysis. To single out evolutionary biology as needing critical analysis is stupid.”

Ohio’s grade on science standards misused, evaluator says (subscription req)
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