Bustin’ out all over

Yikes. More Florida school boards — in St Lucie, Palm Beach, and Martin counties — are infested with creationists. Florida Citizens for Science is maintaining a watch list.

So…have you checked your local school board? Do you have creationists biding their time, waiting to corrupt your schools?


  1. #1 Ichthyic
    December 31, 2007

    you might be able to get the minutes of your local school board meetings emailed to you.

    It IS a public institution, after all.

  2. #2 Ichthyic
    January 1, 2008

    But we have a dedicated band of middle and high school teachers who were never taught about these great scientists’ beliefs, and certainly can’t teach about it, even though it doesn’t violate the First Amendment, as these are historic facts.

    not all historic facts are relevant to everything.

    for example the fact that the people you listed, as well as many modern biologists (like Ken Miller), is irrelevant in an of itself to the science they have published.

    It’s like saying that I like gin and tonics is relevant to the papers I have published on animal behavior.

    your point is nothing more than a red herring.

    care to try again?

  3. #3 Ichthyic
    January 1, 2008

    for example the fact that the people you listed, as well as many modern biologists (like Ken Miller), have religious beliefs


  4. #4 Skeptical observer
    January 1, 2008

    SLC, re your comment:

    “1. I would have to take some exception to the characterization of Issac Newton as a devout Christian. Newton rejected the concept of the Trinity, which is one of creeds of Christianity then and now.”

    I never said Newton believed in the Nicene Creed. At the same time, it is worth considering that Newton was a faculty member of Trinity College, Cambridge, and he was never threatened with excommunication from the Anglican Church, or sanctions, for heresy.

    Newton had did not accept the 4th century Nicene Creed, devised by the Nicene Council in the 4th century. He was not the only Christian to reject the NC. The Council was convened by pagan-cum-professed “Christian” Emperor Constantine, whose conversion is generally considered to have been a spiritually fraudulent political-power-expanding scheme. Before the Nicene Creed, devout Christians had differing views of the nature of the God the Father, the Son of God, and the Holy Ghost. The Nicene Creed did not make disbelievers in the Nicene Trinity formulation non-Christians. It did as a matter of the human political-scheming Catholic Church, which hid the Bible from most of its members for centuries, but not in God’s eyes. (BTW, Constantine converted the Christian day of worship, the Jewish Sabbath, to the pagan Sun/Sol (sun god) day. There is also no foundation in the New Testiment for the reveration of Mary as “The Mother of God”, another Constantinian pagan heresy.)

    So Newton became a pre-Nicene-Creed devout Christian. That’s all. He studied and reverently commented upon the Bible, a documented fact that no scholar disputes.

    Richard Dawkins attempts, speciously, to discredit Newton’s faith, and falsely turn Newton’s humility into hubris, in pointing out that Newton, being stymied in trying to create a mathematical model for planetary orbit stability, said it was a mystery of God, which Dawkins falsely concludes: Newton was such an arrogant individual that he claimed, implicitly “If I can’t figure this out, then no one else can.”

    Dawkins then cites Pierre-Simon Laplace’s mathematical orbt-stability model, which upon being asked why he didn’t cite God, retorted, “It was unecessary.” Wonderful historic testimony for the ignorant atheist Mr. Dawkins to cite. The scientific reality is that Laplace’s equations did not work. They proved to be discordant to actual planetary orbits to the degree that no one used them to predict future planetary positions, as they were worthless. Or as the agnostic Samuel Clemens would say, “A beautiful theory ruined by ugly fact.”

    Newton left the problem to God’s infinite knowledge. That wasn’t arrogant. Laplace was the arrogant one, claiming to have found a human-mind-devised “solution”, which observations proved to be no solution at all, but an fatuous misformulation.

  5. #5 Ichthyic
    January 1, 2008

    I’m talking about people who were original thinkers in the sciences. Deep thinkers.

    I’m now thinking of Jack Handy.

    skeptical observer is neither skeptical nor observant.


  6. #6 HMJ
    January 1, 2008

    Which is the other side, please? I assume you mean the FSM?

    Ask Charles Darwin. He’s the one who I got the second sentence from.

  7. #7 Skeptical observer
    January 7, 2008

    Responding to the above points is like a perusing a Chinese restaurant menu: So many delectable choices. Where to start…

    Okay, I’m ready to order.

    On purported dual science and education bachelor’s degree programs, that’s an oxymoron. While ed-bachelor’s students are doing their ed courses, what do they think the straight science bachelor’s students are doing in junior and senior year? Vacationing in Florida?

    To have true dual science/education degrees, including a solid science bachelor’s, such as one in chemistry, biology or physics, you’re looking at 6 years, not 4. But who would be dumb enough to take two bachelor’s degrees, when the alternative, a bachelors in science, combined with a dual-degree master’s in education, is obviously superior?

    1. For example, if you find regular public school teaching not to you’re liking,. you can go to grad school in your science field and move up to college / university teaching; or you can land a position in a strong academic public magnet school; or a respectable private college preparatory school.

    2. You get paid more for having an education master’s than an education bachelor’s. This is specified in every public school district’s faculty-salary formula that is based on a collective-bargaining agreement.

    Somebody mentioned the Midwest’s science-education upgrade. They need to learn to do their homework.

    There are six frontline scientific research universities in the Midwest. Three are private and don’t offer education bachelor’s degrees.

    Let’s look at the public ones, and a field close to my heart: chemistry.

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison has come closest to bridging the teacher’s chemistry major with the non-teacher’s degree program, but there is still a significant gap. The former requires 30 credits, the latter a minimum of 37 credits. However, the latter includes a recommendation for an additional 4 (minimum) to 12 (maximum) credits, 8 being average, in senior research to be taken. Not required, but if you want to go to a respectable grad school, or land a pick of higher-paying and interesting industrial chemistry jobs, it’s mandatory.

    Moreover, 9 of the teachers-track major credits can be earned in General Chemistry 103 and 104, the first of which assumes ZERO high school chemistry upon enrollment. These courses are per se high school chemistry. Regular chem-degree students either start with “Advanced General Chemisty 109 (5 credits) in which “advanced” means a student has taken high school chemistry and three years of high school math (at least Alg I, Geometry, Alg II, more often Geo, Alg II, Precalc), or if they are very well educated in high school having taken AP Chemistry or other “advanced high school chemistry” [sic] they start freshman year taking Chemical Principals I 115 (5 credits).

    Let’s face reality, if you’re decent to very good in science in a smaller town, you’ve at least taken high school chemistry, and if you’re a well-above-average student in high school chemistry in a city or suburban high school, you’ve taken AP Chemistry. The 104/105 sequence that is creditable for future public high school chemistry teachers is chemistry for dummies. Allied healthcare and ag students who decline to take chemistry in high school take in college. But they aren’t going to be teaching chemistry

    So there’s more than a seeming 7 credit differential, because the chem-degree students don’t take high school chemistry for 9 credits.

    The UWM chem-degree program requires 12 credits of 500-level upper-division chemistry coursework, the teachers chemistry major 3. Not the same programs.

    The University of Michigan chemistry major for teachers requires only 24 credits, assuming that one does not have to take Chem 130 and its lab 125 (5 cr), which require no high school chemistry, and are offered as general education Natural Science courses designed to be passable by non-science majors. This university’s chem-teacher program doesn’t require P chem, it’s an elective.


    The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s chemistry major for teachers assumes high school chemistry has been taken. (Oooh, such a high expectation!) This requires 27 credits, and P Chem (or Biophys Chem) is required. UIUC also is tougher than UWM and UM in requiring 3 physics courses and Calc I, II and III.

    Let’s summarize matters. The chemistry major teachers program chem course requirements vs. the non-teacher-track B.S. Chemistry chem course requirements are: UWM 30 vs. 37 credits; UM 24 vs. 40 credits; UIUC 28 credits vs. 41, plus 5 additional math credits after Calc III (46 cr total). These are at the Midwest’s top-ranked public universities.

    In addition senior thesis research is now recommended, although not mandatory, for all regular chem students, whereas it was originally devised for honors students.

    Then too, we still see the old one-semester survey-of-organic chemistry option for teachers, which the regular chem students cannot take as they do two semesters of O chem, and we still see one-semester survey-of-physical chemistry for life science students, no titled biophysical chemistry, while the regular chem students take 2 semesters of P Chem.

    Are the teacher-track students prohibited from taking the longer, harder courses? Formally no. But why would the colleges of education provide for an easier pathway if they wanted teachers to have peer-level credentials with chemistry degree students?

    The regular students’ curricula in all three preceding universities is American Chemical Society approved. The teachers curriculum is not. The ACS knows chemistry.

    UIUC also has an interesting option, in offering a College of Education minor, to attract students who want to complete conventional science degree programs, and take fewer ed classes than are required for a College of Education-conferred degree. This is the most intelligent development in science education yet to occur. Unfortunately, UIUC rarely takes out-of-state students, so to be effective in the rest of the Midwest, other states are going to have to adopt this innovation on their own.

  8. #8 Skeptical observer
    January 8, 2008

    Sotso said

    “Calc I, II, II, diff eq, group theory, non-euclidean geometry, advanced calc, methods of teaching math; calc-based physics I & II, atomic physics, electricity & magnetism (Jackson), mathematical physics, mechanics (Simon), quantum mechanics, analog & digital electronics, advanced labs, science teaching methods, chem I & II, organic chem I, physical chemistry, classical astronomy, CCAI

    That’s the background of a local high school physics teacher.”

    Sotso has cited an extraordinary, and I mean really, really impressive, course-completion record, in the eyes of somebody who has studied a lot of science.

    But what does Sotso mean? His statement is cryptic.

    Let’s figure it out. Does “local high school physics teacher” mean that Sotso lives in New York, near the legendary Bronx High School of Science, or perhaps Fairfax, Virginia, home to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. These schools have Ph.D. scientists on their faculties, as well as other unusually well- educated staff. They are purposefully designed to send dozens of kids annually to MIT, the Ivy League, Duke, Chicago et al. TJHSST for example issues annual press releases naming its 100+ National Merit Finalists. It has a Cray supercomputer. Its students have been working for the last few years designing a satellite that probably will be sent into space. Both schools routinely sponsor a dozen or more Intel and Siemens science-fair projects.

    Think about a “local” public high school in your community in which a 700 SAT-Math / 31 ACT-Math among 450 students, is BELOW THE SENIOR CLASS AVERAGE. Think about ” average” students in your “local” public high school going to Ivy League Cornell and Brown, Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Emory, UVA, U Michigan. Think about bottom-25% students in your local high school going to UVA (U Michigan if that’s where you live), Virginia Tech, University of North Carolina, University of Maryland, Georgia Tech, Rensselaer Polytechnic. Think about bottom-10% students in your local high school being automatic admits to Michigan State, Penn State, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Texas-Austin, Texas A&M, University of Colorado, University of Washington, and Purdue.

    Is this the “local high school” whose physics teacher Sotso is talking about?

    For these lofty achievements, the schools need teachers extraordinaire, who are like professors, and indeed some of them have been in their earlier lives. They get special authorization to teach without conventional ed-school-earned licensure because at this level, as in university, it would be an absurdity to say they can’t teach without completing a school of education’s teaching theories, methods, and classroom management courses.

    “That’s the background of a local high school physics teacher,” does not come close to meaning that there is such a physics teacher near most of us (within a hundred miles), accessible to the children of most of our communities, or even one percent of them.

    I’ve taken 10 of the above-cited courses, essentially half, and at one time could have straightforwardly enrolled in most of the rest, but not every one, so I have some familiarity with the matters implied.

    For example, “electricity & magnetism (Jackson)”, refers to a course using John D. Jackson’s “Classical Electrodynamics”, a venerated textbook whose last (3rd) edition was published in 1971, but it is still used to this day.

    At the University of California, Berkeley, where Dr. Jackson, now professor emeritus, was once chairman of physics, and head of the physics division at Lawrence-Berkeley Lab, home of the world’s first “atom smashers” (cyclotron and synchrotron), Jackson’s book is used in a graduate course, whose prerequisites are two semester-length upper-division courses in electromagnetism.

    Same for the University of Michigan. Same for MIT: on a website advising MIT physics doctoral candidates what to study for the written parts of their oral exit examinations, it is said, “It’s overkill to read Jackson for Part I (and even Part II).” Overkill, for a doctoral exam in physics at MIT! This tells you how advanced this textbook is.

    So Sotso’s “local high school physics teacher” probably has a master’s degree in either physics or electrical engineering, or even a Ph.D.

    As an aside, the spelling for “mechanics (Simon)[sic]” is Daniel R. SYMON, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Wisconsin.

    Sotso’s cited “local high school physics” teacher is highly probably a retired professor, federal lab physicist, or industrial engineer. Ever since Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak decided to teach fifth grade math in Silicon Valley (under a special unlicensed appointment), growing numbers of science and technology professionals from outside the academic community have followed suit. But their number is very small, for example a retired nuclear sub commander with a master’s in nuclear engineering teaching physics in San Diego, and a retired Ph.D. biotech entrepreneur teaching advanced biology in Evanston immediately come to mind.

    They’re trying to help kids, without getting tied down, like Gullivers in the classroom, by counterproductive, “You have to earn a school of education degree to teach,” restrictions, which are not widely waived. Fortunately, these gifted teachers got waivers.

    Mostly you see people like this, and aforementioned retired college professors, in private schools in which teacher licensure is not required. This is widely found across the country. For this reason, it is fairly common to find small unheralded private schools in ordinary communities with 20-30 upper school teachers of whom 2-3 have Ph.D.s. Parents are willing to pay for education provided by highly-knowledgeable teachers, and teachers of this nature are content with two classes and 25 total students, or even a single AP class with 12 students. It’s an avocation, not a job.

    Public schools that adopt this model are winners, but not many are in our time. Someday things will be different. Right now, change is an “isolated island” phenomenon in public education. It will take time for the islands to coalesce into “continents”, because teacher-education must be completely rethought.

    For example the Preuss School in San Diego, invented by University of California, San Diego professors is a topflight academic magnet middle-and-high school for (chiefly) minority students. It has a half-dozen Ph.D.s on faculty, and is mostly staffed by math and science bachelor’s holders (in the math and science departments). They are encouraged to earn M.S. Ed.s to become regularly licensed and thus be sendable, as new-paradigm “evangelists”, to the outside world to teach in other high schools, but nobody is imposing deadlines, because it is recognized these very bright people do great in the classroom with in-house mentoring alone, and the principal prefers that they plan lessons and grade homework and tests after-hours, rather than be bogged down with night-school San Diego State University School of Education classes.

    To do the latter would pressure the Preuss teachers to use regular-public-high-school labor-saving multiple-choice tests and half-page writing assignments, which would relegate Preuss’s minority students to conventional minority-student college-preparatory failure. This is not going to happen in this exemplary privately-built, publicly-managed school (just ranked #9 by Newsweek and #10 by U.S. News and World Repot). You can’t have a graduation requirement that requires every student to complete a minimum of 6 AP courses, as Preuss does, resting on a backbone of conventional learning-impedimentary public school test and homework norms.

    In closing, “the local high school physics teacher” is most likely, one of the following:

    1. A teacher in an “island” public school in an unusually progressive locality, who decided to teach after completing a fulfilling career in something else, and was green-lighted by heads-up school authorities who took advantage of recently-enacted alternative credential law that were necessary to recruit highly educated science teachers into public school classrooms.

    2. A private school teacher (much more statistically likely) who showed his education and career credentials to a school head or upper school principal, and was welcomed because the school didn’t demand a teachers license.

    The hypothesis of this “local” teacher’s having completed the cited courses while simultaneously completing a teachers undergrad curriculum is untenable. The course-load, even excluding the grad course, is too extensive and time-consuming to be compatible with an ed school teacher’s licensure regimen. Nor can we alternatively posit this teacher’s taking the advanced math and science courses while maintaining a teaching position, because most of the courses aren’t offered in night classes or summer sessions. A physics or math degree pursuit is very different from an M.B.A. or an M.S.Ed. pursuit

    Finally, I’d hazard an educated surmise that this “local” physics teacher doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about the evolution/ID/ creationism controversy. It’s not his fight. The theory of biologic evolution is irrelevant to math and physics, and it was not taught in any of the physics teacher’s classes cited by Sotso.

  9. #9 Skeptical observer
    January 8, 2008

    I forgot to mention, if you want to know if your best-science-reputation local high school has a teacher like Sotso describes, find out if it offers calculus-based AP Physics C-Mechanics AND Physics C-Electricity and Magnetism, as well as AP Calculus AB (easier one-college-semester course taught over one year) AND AP Calculus C (harder two-college-semester course taught in one year). If all the school says is that it offers one course in “AP Physics” , that’s merely “AP Physics B”, which is gussied up trig-and-algebra 12th grade physics, and if it says it offers one course in “AP Calculus”, that’s AP Calculus AB: it doesn’t have Sotso’s “local physics” teacher or someone with an approximately equivalent course background.

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