Constitution survives Chuck Norris roundhouse kick

November 20, 2007

Chuck Norris’s brain waves could be picked up on a transistor radio — nobody knows because he doesn’t think.This must be a television advertising spot, but I hope it’s not rated as a public service spot, since it encourages stupidity and illegal school board actions.

(Is it my imagination, or is Norris using the same bottle of orange hair dye that Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-Mars, used in the last 65 years of his life?)

Norris is promoting the suspect curriculum of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS), a group of fundamentalist right-wingers who originally promoted “Thou Shalt Not Steal” with plagiarized material. Do not trust that curriculum.

Analysis of this curriculum for the Texas Freedom Network by a distinguished Bible scholar from Southern Methodist University, Dr. Mark Chancey, showed that the curriculum as revised still presents enormous legal problems — it promotes fundamentalist Christian theology — as well as being academically flaccid. Despite an update in late 2005/early 2006 designed to alleviate some of the more egregious errors of fact, Bible fact, and plagiarism, NCBCPS refuses to release their curriculum for analysis; copies obtained from schools in Texas show many of the old problems remain (see page 61 of this document).

Errors in Norris’s claims:

  1. The U.S. was not “founded on Biblical principles.” For Texas, teaching this would lead students astray of the state’s Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
  2. The Supreme Court has never ruled that it’s legal to teach with the Bible as a textbook. In obiter dicta in religion in the schools cases, the Court has noted that a non-sectarian, fair teaching of the Bible as literature, or as it relates to history, should be part of a full and complete education. Specifically, the Court has never ruled that a course such as the one Norris proposes would be legal; instead, the Court has held consistently that course content that appears to be religious indoctrination as this course, is illegal, a violation of students’ religious rights and and over-reach by government. School boards may not endorse one faith over another.
  3. The count of schools using the NCBCPS curriculum is inflated. The group refuses to identify any school using their materials, but their claims in Texas were found to be inflated when compared with the materials school districts actually used.

Religion has played a big role in U.S. history. No student needs to be converted to Christianity in order to study that role. Nor does the role of Christianity need to be exaggerated.

Good Bible curricula exist, open to inspection, passed by religious scholars, approved by First Amendment and education lawyers. See the materials from the Bible Literacy Project, for a good example. NCBCPS’s curriculum, the one Norris promotes, is not that approved, educationally valuable curriculum.

Tip of the old scrub brush to “Why, That’s Delightful,” in the post “Chuck Norris Fact #277,090 : He’s an idiot”

Below the fold: Texas Faith Network’s guidelines for using the Bible in public schools

Read the rest of this entry »

Fearful IDists can’t meet ethics challenge in Dallas

April 10, 2007

Advocates of intelligent design at the Discovery Institute have been rattled by the strong showing of scientists at Southern Methodist University who called their bluff, and questioned SMU for hosting an ID conference this week. SMU’s officials pointed out they were just renting out facilities, and not hosting the conference at all.

The ID conference, with special religious group activities preceding it, is scheduled for April 13 and 14 at SMU. It is a rerun of a similar revival held in Knoxville, Tennessee, last month. The conference features no new scientific research, no serious science sessions with scientists looking at new research, or new findings from old data.

In return, ID advocates “challenged” scientists to show up at a creationist-stacked function Friday evening. To the best of my knowledge, all working scientists declined the invitation, on the understanding that in science, there is no debate.

This morning’s Dallas Morning News features the expected desperation move by Discovery Institute officials Bruce Chapman and John West. They accuse the scientists of being “would-be censors.”

This is highly ironic coming from the group that spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to convince the Texas State Board of Education to censor and bowdlerize* Texas biology books in 2003.  (*  Thanks, Jim Dixon)

But go read the stuff for yourself. Some of us have real work to do today, and there is not time for the appropriate, godly Fisking this piece deserves right now. (Readers? Friends?)

My dander is up, however, and I offer a counter challenge:

Discovery Institute, what is it you’re afraid of? Let’s meet, and discuss the ethical challenges you’ve experienced in this discussion. Specifically, let’s discuss:

One, your misrepresentation of the science of Darwin, and your repeated attempts to mislead school officials — remember the claim in Ohio that federal law requires discussion of intelligent design? Was that a hoax that fell flat, or an honest misunderstanding? In any case, we still await your disowning of the falsehood, years later.

Two, your support of unethical screeds against science and scientists. I’ll mention one here: You need to disown the dishonest and unethical work of Jonathan Wells. Look at his book, Icons of Evolution, which is promoted at your website. I call your attention to his chapter of misinformation against the work of Bernard Kettlewell on peppered moths. Check out the citations in his chapter. If one believes his footnotes, there are many scientists who support his views on Kettlewell’s pioneering and still valid work. You need to acknowledge that the footnotes are ethically challenged; you need to acknowledge in print that each of the scientists involved, and others, have disowned Wells’ work and said that his claims misrepresent their work and the status of science. In polite, scientific terms, these people have called Wells a prevaricator. You still promote his screed as valid.

Three, your support of name-calling must stop. Especially, you need to pull your support from books, conferences, and editorial pieces that say evolution was a cause of the Holocaust. The attempts to connect Darwin to Hitler are scurrilous, inaccurate, unethical and unholy.

Chapman, West, the Methodist Church does not endorse your views on evolution, and if they understood your tactics I suspect they would disown your tactics as well. You are guests on a campus that does serious science work and also hosts people of faith. You need to bring your organizations ethical standards up to a higher level.

You want a debate? The science journals are open — the federal courts have repeatedly found that claims of bias against you are completely unfounded (untrue, that is . . . well, you understand what I’m trying to say politely, right?). The journals await your research reports.

All of science has been awaiting your research reports for years, for decades. (Here’s one famous case: “Three Years and Counting,” at Pharyngula (a science-related blog run by an evolutionary biologist).

You want to debate? Stop hurling epithets, and bring evidence.

As an attorney, parent, teacher, and reader of Texas biology textbooks, I’d be pleased to debate your need to change your ways. The debate needs to focus on your methods and ethics. Are you up to it?

Earlier posts of interest:

Quote of the Moment: Abraham Maslow

April 9, 2007

Maslow leads a class, Brandeis University photo

Enlightened management is one way of taking religion seriously, profoundly, deeply, and earnestly. Of course, for those who define religion just as going to a particular building on Sunday and hearing a particular kind of formula repeated, this is all irrelevant. But for those who define religion not necessarily in terms of the supernatural, or ceremonies, or rituals, but in terms of deep concern with the problems of human beings, with the problems of ethics, of the future of man, then this kind of philosophy, translated into the work life, turns out to be very much like the new style of management and of organization.

Abraham Maslow, Maslow on Management, 1998; via Dave Smith’s

Image: Maslow leading class at Brandeis University; Brandeis University photo

Uncle Sam, blog against theocracy

Maslow’s theory of self-actualization is a favorite topic of teacher training programs, but unfortunately, a topic almost never addressed in educational administration nor by school boards doing their work. Too often in American education, religious freedom is regarded as freedom to pass judgment on the morals of others, rather than the freedom to educate children well. It is ironic that people who otherwise pay attention to Maslow do so little to manifest his theories in actual practice.

Have you spoken against intelligent design, or other dangerous superstition, today?

April 6, 2007

Imagine you live in Dallas, Texas, where it is generally assumed that one is Christian and that one attends church on Sunday, and Wednesday (so much so that school activities are not scheduled Wednesdays, because everyone is expected to be at church). Imagine that you teach science at a major Christian-affiliated institution in Dallas.

Now imagine that your institution is the site of a major conference extolling the virtues of superstition, specifically against a scientific theory that is the foundation and main supports for much of your work. Do you hunker down and hope no one notices, or do you speak up for science? Blog against theocracy logo, Statute of Liberty

20 professors at Southern Methodist University (SMU) signed an article on the opposite-editorial page of the Dallas Morning News, yesterday, calling out intelligent design and its advocates. (I mentioned it in this post, here.) They will most likely take a stand that there is no reason to “debate” intelligent design advocates, since the debate venue is stacked, the debate audience is stacked, and that intelligent design has not paid its dues to be admitted to the college of the sciences.

But I wish they would take a further stand: I wish the Christians among them would call on the advocates of intelligent design to repent, to stop asking people to turn away from science, to stop spreading false stories about science, to stop making false claims. Read the rest of this entry »

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