Walters, who ran unsuccessfully for California Treasurer in 2010, has received at least $22,500 over her career from Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson Jr.’s Fieldstead & Co — making it one of her top ten funders, and making her their second biggest state recipient. Ahmanson, heir to a banking fortune reported to total hundreds of millions, has distributed millions of dollars to right-wing political causes promoting a “Christian worldview.” Fieldstead & Co. is an incorporated private company which Ahmanson uses to distribute money to his favorite causes without having to disclose the donations publicly.
Most notorious among these was the Chalcedon Foundation. Ahmanson served for decades on the board of this radical Christian Reconstructionist organization and heavily funded its efforts. The group’s late founder, Rousas John Rushdoony advocated for American laws to literally follow those in the Book of Leviticus, including death by stoning for gay and lesbian people and similar execution for adulterers, juvenile delinquents, non-believers, and most other Americans. While Ahmanson has made clear he personally does not advocate “the stoning or execution of homosexuals,” he conceded to the Orange County Register in 1985: “My purpose is total integration of biblical law into our lives.”
Ahmanson is a major funder and director of the Discovery Institute, a group which promotes creationism and tries to obstruct science education. He was one of the largest contributors to the unconstitutional Proposition 8 campaign to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, spent heavily in support of school vouchers efforts in Colorado and California, backed CareNet (a group that provides “crisis pregnancy centers,” which mislead women about abortion), and, reportedly, funded a $1 million smear campaign against the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop and efforts to split the worldwide Anglican Communion over LGBT inclusion.
To the conservative climate denialists dotting the landscape this is just more proof that scientists are working together with those communist teacher’s unions in a vast green conspiracy to indoctrinate our children. For the thinly veiled fundamentalist zealots of the right, this is just another reason to home school and scream for vouchers for their religious schools.*
NCSE’s Minda Berbeco contributed “Getting the Science Right: Teaching Climate Change in the Classroom” to California Classroom Science, a publication of the California Science Teachers Association. “As the newest Programs and Policy Director here at the National Center for Science Education, I am constantly asked where educators can find good lesson plans and classroom activities to teach about climate change,” she writes, citing three resources in particular — the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network, the Alliance for Climate Education, and the ECO2School in Sonoma County, California — as models of good scientific and pedagogical practice.
Berbeco concludes, “Students will need to have a good understanding of the science of climate change in order to make educated and thoughtful policy decisions about the consequences of climate change in the future. Unfortunately, many teachers avoid the subject, because they feel poorly prepared to address the many questions that can arise or are concerned about bringing controversy into their classroom. In addition, the resources are not yet in place at the state level to encourage them to present the science accurately and effectively. With lessons and programs such as the ones described here, though, it is becoming easier for teachers to integrate climate change into their science teaching.”
[ * Of course the average person knows that The Green Dragon Conspiracy is really just a bad Kung Fu movie featuring “boomerang fan man”.]
He’s not even sworn in yet.
Montana state Rep. Clayton Fiscus (R) hasn’t even been sworn into office yet, but he’s already made clear that he’d like to work on a bill that would require the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution when he officially goes to work at the state Capitol.
The National Center for Science Education reported this week that Fiscus had submitted a request for a draft of the legislation as one of his first orders of business.
The measure, which broadly plans to “require public schools to teach intelligent design along with evolution,” will now be drafted and considered by the legislature when it goes into session next year.
As the NCSE points out, the issue of teaching intelligent design in public school has already been settled in Kitzmiller v. Dover, a 2005 federal case that found the theory to be a form of creationism. The teaching of such a religious-based theory in public schools would violate the separation of church and state.
Fiscus has also filed additional legislative requests, though the others concern more innocuous topics such as parks, highways and taxes.
Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty Images
It’s an election year, and plenty of things seem to matter to voters, including health care, the budget, unemployment, and women’s rights. But this year, as always, one of the things that doesn’t seem to matter is science. That’s particularly troubling because just about every challenge that America faces today has a scientific component, from revitalizing the economy to dealing with climate change to managing health care.
Science took a beating in the primary season this year. Leading candidates made it clear that they rejected climate science (Herman Cain and Rick Perry), thought that vaccines caused mental retardation (Michele Bachmann), and didn’t “believe” in evolution (a bunch of them, most prominently Rick Santorum). One candidate, John Huntsman, bravely tweeted, “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” To scientists, Huntsman’s candor was “right on!” To Republican primary voters, apparently he was crazy.
At least, for the second presidential election in a row, both major party candidates are on record as accepting the science of evolution, the cornerstone of the biological sciences. But let’s not celebrate just yet. One of those candidates still has to make a vice presidential pick, and one of the leading contenders for that job has a public record on science that’s crystal clear—and deeply troubling. It’s Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana.
Jindal has an elite résumé. He was a biology major at my school, Brown University, and a Rhodes scholar. He knows the science, or at least he ought to. But in his rise to prominence in Louisiana, he made a bargain with the religious right and compromised science and science education for the children of his state. In fact, Jindal’s actions at one point persuaded leading scientific organizations, including the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, to cross New Orleans off their list of future meeting sites (PDF).
What did Jindal do to produce a hornet’s nest of “mad scientists,” as Times-Picayune writer James Gill described them? He signed into law, in Gill’s words, the “Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which is named for what it is designed to destroy.” The act allows “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials” to be brought into classrooms to support the “open and objective discussion” of certain “scientific theories,” including, of course, evolution. As educators who have heard such coded language before quickly realized, the act was intended to promote creationism as science. In April, Kevin Carman, dean of the College of Science at Louisiana State University, testified before the Louisiana Senate’s Education Committee that two top scientists had rejected offers to come to LSU because of the LSEA, and the school may lose more scientists in the future.
And now Jindal is poised to spend millions of dollars of state money to support the teaching of creationism in private schools.
Michelle Amaral wanted to be a brain scientist to help cure diseases. She planned a traditional academic science career: PhD, university professorship and, eventually, her own lab.
But three years after earning a doctorate in neuroscience, she gave up trying to find a permanent job in her field.
President fires marshmallow cannon: Robots, rockets and cannons took over the State Dining Room as President Obama checked out the projects of 100 kids from around the country at the White House Science Fair.
Dropping her dream, she took an administrative position at her university, experiencing firsthand an economic reality that, at first look, is counterintuitive: There are too many laboratory scientists for too few jobs.
That reality runs counter to messages sent by President Obama and the National Science Foundation and other influential groups, who in recent years have called for U.S. universities to churn out more scientists.
Obama has made science education a priority, launching a White House science fair to get young people interested in the field.
But it’s questionable whether those youths will be able to find work when they get a PhD. Although jobs in some high-tech areas, especially computer and petroleum engineering, seem to be booming, the market is much tighter for lab-bound scientists — those seeking new discoveries in biology, chemistry and medicine.
Slate recently published one of those assume-the-conclusions articles up on science and technology education in the U.S. It’s right there in the title: “America Needs More Scientists and Engineers.”
Now, I can generally agree that America (and the world) needs more science and engineering. I’d personally like to have researchers who could realize room-temperature superconductors, a commercially feasible way to turn carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into industrial products, and both economically viable fusion power and high-efficiency solar power beamed down from orbit—for starters. We most definitely need better technology and more scientific understanding to develop these things, since none of them (as far as we know) are at all impossible, and we sure don’t have any of them yet.
But to automatically assume that we need lots more scientists and engineers to do that is a tempting, but illogical, conclusion. And it’s one that my currently unemployed readers who are scientists and engineers probably don’t enjoy hearing about very much. I think that the initial fallacies are (1) lumping together all science education into a common substance, and (2) assuming that if you just put more of that into the hopper, more good stuff will come out the other end.
If I had to pick one line from the article that I disagree with the most, it would be this one:
America needs Thomas Edisons and Craig Venters, but it really needs a lot more good scientists, more competent scientists, even more mediocre scientists.
No. I hate to be the one to say it, but mediocre scientists are, in fact, in long supply. Access to them is not a rate-limiting step. (That’s the chemist’s way of saying it’s not the main bottleneck.) Not all the unemployed science and technology folks out there are mediocre—not by a long shot (I’ve seen the CVs that come in)—but a lot of the mediocre ones are finding themselves unemployed, and they’re searching an awful long time for new positions when that happens. Who, exactly, would be clamoring to hire a fresh horde of I-guess-they’ll-do science graduates? Is that what we really need to put things over the top, technologically—more foot soldiers?
Published on May 27, 2012 by RationalHumanism
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One of the major reasons that science is held in low repute among portions of the citizenry is that it has too often allowed itself to become entangled with public relations. The PR connection has nothing to do with peer review, that essential element in the scientific method. The PR connection has to do with institutional politics, funding, and personal ambition.
What happens is this:
1. Some scientists publish a report of their work.
2. An alert PR guy who works for the university or institute notices some potentially hype-able words in the report.
3. He writes up a release, under the impression that he is Arthur C. Clarke.
4. J-school grads at a number of media outlets, whose science education ended in 8th grade, pick up the release, change three words to make it their own, and it is published to an unsuspecting public.
5. The unsuspecting public, which is not as dumb as the PR guy believes, dismisses the story as bushwah and blames the scientists.
Here is a dandy example. The Journal of the American Chemical Society has recently published a paper titled “Evidence for the Likely Origin of Homochirality in Amino Acids, Sugars, and Nucleosides on Prebiotic Earth.” No non-chemist would get beyond the seventh word.
Here’s what the original paper is about. (I am no chemist, but among the formulae and jargon there are patches of intelligible English. I welcome anyone to correct my interpretation.) Many of the compounds that make up organic life exist in mirror-image forms. This is called chirality. So, amino acids, sugars, and other things can have right-handed (D) or left-handed (L) forms. On Earth, almost all living creatures incorporate L amino acids and D sugars. Since, purely as a chemical matter, either form is equally probable, the question arises, why is Earth’s life so strongly biased? We are immediately in the realm of conjecture. Of course, this is fine for science, which begins in “maybe” and proceeds by way of evidence to “probably.”
What is the evidence? Well, there isn’t much, really. Some meteorites found in Australia contained compounds with a slight bias in favor of what is found on Earth. Why might that be? Well, it has been shown that circularly polarized light of just the right directionality and wavelength can produce such a bias. And so the author of the paper tells us:
If there was also [yet undetected] right circularly polarized light with energy in the uv or higher irradiating the asteroid belt when the amino acids were present on a particle that later came to Earth, this could account for the small excesses of the L anantiomers seen in the α-methyl amino acids.
Or not. The key words in that sentence are “if” and “could.” It’s pure speculation, with no foreseeable possibility of being confirmed or disconfirmed. Again, this is not a bad thing in science. Speculation like this points out areas for active investigation.
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (richarddawkins.net
Taped live on Feb 4, 2012 by youtube.com
In conjunction with the Origins Project at ASU origins.asu.edu
- Show quoted text -
(there are still some edits and color correction to be done but we wanted to have the YouTube version out as soon as possible)
Join critically-acclaimed author and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and world-renowned theoretical physicist and author Lawrence Krauss as they discuss biology, cosmology, religion, and a host of other topics.
The authors will also discuss their new books. Dawkins recently published The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, an exploration of the magic of discovery embodied in the practice of science. Written for all age groups, the book moves forward from historical examples of supernatural explanations of natural phenomena to focus on the actual science behind how the world works.
Krauss’s latest book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing, explains the scientific advances that provide insight into how the universe formed. Krauss tackles the age-old assumption that something cannot arise from nothing by arguing that not only can something arise from nothing, but something will always arise from nothing.
Founded in 2008, the ASU Origins Project is a university-wide transdisciplinary initiative aimed at facilitating cutting edge research and inquiry about origins questions, enhancing public science literacy, and improving science education. Since its inception, the Origins Project has brought the world’s leading scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, to Tempe to explore origins questions. The Origins Project has hosted workshops and public events that have focused on questions as fundamental as the origin of the universe, how life began, the origins of human uniqueness, and the origins of morality.
A new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on the United States K-12 state science standards reports that “the majority of the states’ standards remain mediocre to awful.” Several states around the northwest scored F’s, while only seven states scored and A- or higher.
Washington, D.C.— A major Thomas B. Fordham Institute report released today finds that the K-12 science standards of most states remain mediocre to awful, placing America’s national competitiveness, technological prowess and scientific leadership in grave jeopardy.
Since the Sputnik launch of 1957, Americans have regarded science education as crucial to our national security and economic competitiveness. Just recently, a National Science Board report found that the U.S. could soon be overtaken as global leader in supporting science and technology, and advocates educational improvement as crucial to America maintaining its role as the world’s engine of scientific innovation. But The State of State Science Standards, which reviews and analyzes the guidelines that inform K-12 science curriculum and instruction in every state and the District of Columbia, concludes that what states presently expect of their schools in this critical subject is woefully inadequate.
In this comprehensive appraisal, more than 75 percent of states received grades of C or lower, and a majority received D’s or F’s. California and the District of Columbia earned the only straight As—while Indiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia received A-’s for their excellent state science standards. But most states lack rigorous, content-rich standards. Seven of them received B-level grades; 11 states received Cs; 17 states received Ds; and 10 states received failing F grades. (COMPLETE STATE RANKINGS CAN BE VIEWED BELOW)
“If America is to remain a prosperous, scientifically-advanced and economically competitive nation, then we must ensure that every school is teaching science to a very high standard,” said Chester E. Finn, Jr., Fordham’s president. “In this subject as in others reviewed by Fordham experts, the states set the bar, prescribing what schools should teach and students need to learn. They then develop assessments keyed to those standards. If our expectations are low and unclear, we’re guaranteeing the failure of our students and the weakening of our nation.”
Leading science education experts authored this analysis, evaluating state science standards for their clarity, content completeness, and scientific correctness. Science standards are the foundation upon which a state’s system of assessment, instruction, and accountability rests. Therefore, this review analyzes the standards themselves to ensure that they’re clear, thorough, and academically demanding. It does not investigate whether science standards are being properly assessed with state tests, effectively implemented in the schools, or whether they are driving improvements in student achievement.