Pharyngula

The new buzz phrase

Since I professed that Intelligent Design creationism is zombie pseudoscience, but that creationism was far from dead, people were wondering what new slogan or tactic will emerge. It’s already here! It’s been lurking about for a few years now, and Glenn Branch and Eugenie Scott discuss the new tactic at some length.

The magic words are, of course, “academic freedom”.

Those words in the hands of creationists are used the way Republicans name bills: exactly contrary to the actual content. “Academic freedom” bills have been getting pushed into legislatures all across the country by — you guessed it — Christian evangelicals who see them as a tool to inject biblical creationism into the public school curriculum under the guise of fairness and high intellectual standards.

In Florida, for example, a representative of the Discovery Institute dithered when asked whether intelligent design constituted “scientific information” in the sense of the bill, saying, “In my personal opinion, I think it does. But the intent of this bill is not to settle that question,” and adding, unhelpfully, “The intent of this bill is … it protects the ‘teaching of scientific information.’” Similarly, during debate on the Senate floor, the bill’s sponsor was noticeably reluctant to address the question of whether it would license the teaching of creationism, preferring instead to simply recite its text.

Thus, despite the lofty language, the ulterior intent and likely effect of these bills are evident: undermining the teaching of evolution in public schools–a consequence only creationists regard as a blessing. Unfortunately, among their numbers are teachers. A recent national survey conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University reveals that one in eight U.S. high school biology teachers already presents creationism as a “valid scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species,” with about the same percentage emphasizing that “many reputable scientists” view creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution.

So be prepared, this is the new strategy: creationists will be openly superficial and nebulous in order to steal away the necessary rigor of our public school systems. And once science has been reduced to a floppy, useless pile of vacuous blather in their hands, they can insert any old nonsense they want…and the products of those schools, the next generation of parents and voters, will be too ignorant to oppose them.

Comments

  1. #1 Nick Gotts
    December 23, 2008

    Shamefully, a recent poll reported in today’s Guardian shows 1 in 4 science teachers in England and Wales favouring the teaching of creationism in science classes. That’s actually teaching creationist lies, not just the feeble Michael Reiss position of discussing them respectfully. A clear majority favoured the latter. Despite the steady withering of religious observance, the UK has a long way to go.

  2. #2 cousinavi
    December 23, 2008

    I would have no problem with creationism being taught in schools – in a comparative religion course in which various creation stories are taught.
    I’ll never get my head around the motive for demanding that this stunned mythology be taught as part of the science curriculum.
    Frankly, it’s reaching the point where I feel passing urges to abandon my godless moral code and just smother to death any freakin’ idiot that says anything like, “…many reputable scientists agree that creationism is a legitimate alternative to evolution.”
    Thankfully, the urge passes…but still…I bet it would feel great.

  3. #3 Geoff Rogers
    December 23, 2008

    We need widespread scientific study of the causes for creationism. Get that taught in schools.

  4. #4 Tina G.
    December 23, 2008

    The only way this movement can be stopped is to use the cause of “Academic Freedom” to promote the teaching of Astrology, Alchemy, Numerology, etc. If there were genuine attempts to use this movement to teach other pseudo-science beliefs, it would end up dying on it’s own.

  5. #5 Kel
    December 23, 2008

    It’s sad that they are moving through phrase after phrase in order to find one that can weasel the same mythology into a science classroom. Academic freedom is in the scientific community, not what we teach to children!

  6. #6 techskeptic
    December 23, 2008

    That’s very good Tina, I think you are right. I is like when they opened the doors to one cultish symbol being put on the capitol steps in Washington state, that opened the door to any nonsense being displayed as the atheist sign pointed out. But I have a further suggestion,

    teach Witchcraft. A real concerted effort to teach witchcraft in science class.

    Its too bad we have to waste the time of many kids in order to get rid of this stuff.

    so, who will make the witchcraft textbook?

  7. #7 John Phillips, FCD
    December 23, 2008

    Tina G. in the Dover trial, Behe was forced to concede that by his definition of science, astrology was a valid science subject rather than the discredited pseudoscience it really is.

  8. #8 DaveL
    December 23, 2008

    I see these “academic freedom” bills as having no real legal effect. Teaching creationism remains illegal on constitutional grounds, and no simple bill can change that. Any teacher who starts teaching crappy non-science to further a religious agenda is going to find themselves on the losing end of a lawsuit.

    No, the purpose of this bill is to embolden teachers and school boards to introduce creationism by giving them the false impression that it will now pass legal muster. It’s another Dover Trap, a wink and a nod to their faces and a knife poised at their backs, just like the Texas SBOE did with its Bible curriculum.

  9. #9 culmastadm
    December 23, 2008

    The school boards have it hard. I don’t think any of them signed up to be targets of such organized campaigns.

  10. #10 jrshipley
    December 23, 2008

    With all due respect, high school teachers are not “academics”. They do not do research and publish papers. So, there is no need to protect their “academic freedom”. They are teachers, and their job is to teach the best scientific theory not their personal religious beliefs. If they don’t want that job they should be free to find another. State legislature’s have no business passing laws that protect fundamentalists from being fired for refusing to do their jobs.

  11. #11 Tim
    December 23, 2008

    The first thing that I thought of is “Dare to be stupid”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nIlFsERnmk
    Margot Adler’s “Drawing down the moon” should work as a witchcraft text, or Jeanne Rose’s “Herbs and things”, BTW, the only fairly safe potion in there is a cold “remedy” (Only knocks some of the sharp edges off). And ms Rose’s book will forever change the way one reacts to a depiction of a witch on a broomstick.

  12. #12 Psychodigger
    December 23, 2008

    Despite the efforts of PZ and many like-minded people, the US would appear to be a very backward, underdeveloped banana republic to a Dutchman like me.

    Sadly though, as soon as Obama is installed as president, and the rightwing neocon religious idiots have been removed from the offices they have defiled with their inane blubbering for too long, the Netherlands take the lead as the one western country where religious idiots are part of the elected government.
    We are ruled by people who believe the world was magicked out of a cocked hat in six days, who are not above trying to foist ID and creationism on our schools, so I bow my head in shame.

    Yours is obviously not the only country where idiots run rampant (although I must say they would not dare to strike the hysterical fanatical tone they do so uninhibitedly in the US).

  13. #13 Nerd of Redhead
    December 23, 2008

    Creationism should be taught in every science class–as a classic example of a pseudoscience. Then go on to teach how science works and what the scientific literature means. Then, if some creobot raises objections, the teacher can send them to the primary scientific literature, say the last five years of to back up their claims.

  14. #14 culmastadm
    December 23, 2008

    We need to make sure people understand what science does for them. We need a pro science movie, not more anti religion movies (as much as I like them). Teh average person doesn’t desire this kind of stuff.

    Instead of an athiest bus, we need a science bus. A traveling show for science that comes to people and makes it easy to learn about what science is doing for them right now.

    Let people know that TiVo came from a scientist (or group of them). get these people on the bus and let them talk to peole

    Show them the science of HD. Show them the science of cars, SUVs, oil proccessing, even beer creation.

    We need door to door traveling scientists instead of J’s Witnesses knocking on doors.

    We need science evangelists.

    People need to learn they aer swimming in science, and that it is ok to think it works.

    8ok, I’m better now.*

  15. #15 Jebediah
    December 23, 2008

    Small chuckle for the geeks among us:

    The URL arguments for the link in the article:

    …article.cfm?id=the-latest-face-of-creationism…

  16. #16 jrshipley
    December 23, 2008

    administrator: On the list for chemistry supplies it says “eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog”. . . Is that really necessary?

    chem “teacher”: You mustn’t stifle my academic freedom!

  17. #17 Nerd of Redhead
    December 23, 2008

    Sorry, the keyboard got spastic and the end of post #13 and accidently posted it. The last sentence should be:

    Then, if some creobot raises objections, the teacher can send them to the primary scientific literature, say the last five years of Science, to back up their claims.

  18. #18 AJ Milne
    December 23, 2008

    I gonna have to do up a proposal on a new approach to mathematics I believe I must insist now be taught under ‘academic freedom’…

    See, in my math, any answer to any question shall be understood as correct provided the student writes adjacent to that answer ‘thus saith the LORD!’… Looks like this on a test paper:

    2 + 2 = 11 / Thus saith the LORD!

    … note that mundane and earthly concerns such as units and the specific use of actual numbers shall not trump this divine rule. Example:

    2 + 2 = Enough fish for a multitude / Thus saith the LORD!

    … an alternative phrase to the above for the use of fitting all square pegs into whatever hole may be available, in place of ‘Thus saith the LORD!’, is ‘Because that looks designed to me!’. Either way.

    Students may, of course, also use rubber stamps for adding these assertions to their papers, if they find this more convenient.

  19. #19 AJ Milne
    December 23, 2008

    s/I gonna/I’m gonna/

    … @#$%. I seem to have contracted editing fail.

  20. #20 Zifnab
    December 23, 2008

    The only people who take creationism seriously won’t be permitted into professions that actually generate income. That is to say, no one is going to take on a creationist research assistant or employee a creationist doctor to handle gene therapies.

    The belief is a dead-end belief because it is completely non-functional (stemming from the fact that its totally untrue). No medical company will want to employee individuals who spend millions of their investment dollars hunting for “god’s hand” in the latest influenza mutation. No cancer research team wants a lecture on theology in the middle of a study on lymphoma. It’s a whimsical dead end and really its just a matter of time before it collapses on its own weight.

  21. #21 alextangent
    December 23, 2008

    And in a universe not very far from here;

    Gay groups angry at Pope remarks

    Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was as important as protecting the environment.

    Strange from an organisation that insists on sexual inactivity amongst its priesthood, yet condones them when they sodomize and rape of hundreds of children.

    Religion is truly corrosive of rational thought.

  22. #22 Kimpatsu
    December 23, 2008

    With regard to the British situation, I’m not sure that what science teachers inthe UK is saying is that they endorse creationism; rather, they are afraid of of the political clout of the erligious lobby. Dawkins examined this in his series on Darwin, when he interviewed science teachers who admitted they were too afraid to teach evolution, because religious parents go mental, and they might lose their jobs. Far easier just to go with the flow.
    In America, of course, the loonies of the Religious Right don’t believe that America will ever lose its dominant position as world No. 1, no matter what is taught in schools, because America is God’s Most Favoured Nation. With god on your side, China doesn’t stand a chance.
    So that’s all right then.

  23. #23 Pofmike
    December 23, 2008

    Being a college instructor in Minnesota, I have become very familiar with all the bad and questionable uses of academic freedom. It is unfortunate that it is being used as an excuse to alter the content of courses to suit political and religious groups. However, right now in Minnesota woo courses are already being taught and false science has already been allowed to be taught in our colleges, even granting degrees in woo. It’s a small step to further allow science course to be altered.

  24. #24 Matt Heath
    December 23, 2008

    Forget witchcraft, it’s too annoying. Get them teaching homosexuality. Unlike witchcraft, which tends to leads to pretension and homoeopathy, homosexuality is harmless. Also it can’t actually be taught, but theo-rightards think it can, and they can’t stop thinking about how they don’t want it “stuffed down there throats” so it will make their heads asplode.

  25. #25 Profmike
    December 23, 2008

    Being a college instructor in Minnesota, I have become very familiar with all the bad and questionable uses of academic freedom. It is unfortunate that it is being used as an excuse to alter the content of courses to suit political and religious groups. However, right now in Minnesota woo courses are already being taught and false science has already been allowed to be taught in our colleges, even granting degrees in woo. It’s a small step to further allow science course to be altered.

  26. #26 alextangent
    December 23, 2008

    The UK survey of teachers is here; Third of teachers want Creationism

    Three in 10 science teachers believe creationism should be taught in science lessons, according to a new survey.
    And more than a third (37%) of primary and secondary teachers in general believe that the subject should be taught alongside evolution and the Big Bang theory.
    The Ipsos Mori poll of more than 900 primary and secondary teachers in England and Wales found that while nearly half (47%) believe it should not be taught in science lessons, two thirds (65%) agree that creationism should be discussed in schools.
    This rises to three quarters of teachers (73%) with science as their subject specialism. Two in three science specialists (65%) do not think that creationism should be taught in science lessons. But few teachers think creationism as an idea should be dismissed outright.
    Just one in four (26%) agree with a view expressed by Professor Chris Higgins, vice-chancellor of Durham University that “creationism is completely unsupportable as a theory, and the only reason to mention creationism in schools is to enable teachers to demonstrate why the idea is scientific nonsense and has no basis in evidence or rational thought.”

    Oh dear.

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    December 23, 2008

    Hey, wait! Is this a repost? We’ve been talking about this since April!

    In fact, and this probably relates to publication cycles (i.e. the SciAm piece) more than anything else, it may well be that the Academic Freedom trope is going to die away over the next year. I give it one more legislative cycle before it conks out almost everywhere, maybe one more for the diehard states (= FL, LA, TX)

  28. #28 Profmike
    December 23, 2008

    Being a college instructor in Minnesota, I have become very familiar with all the bad and questionable uses of academic freedom. It is unfortunate that it is being used as an excuse to alter the content of courses to suit political and religious groups. However, right now in Minnesota woo courses are already being taught and false science has already been allowed to be taught in our colleges, even granting degrees in woo. It’s a small step to further allow science courses to be altered.

  29. #29 qetzal
    December 23, 2008

    techskeptic asks:

    so, who will make the witchcraft textbook?

    Simple enough. Just do a global replace of “witchcraft” for “design” in Of Pandas and People. Just beware of the occasional “cwitchcraft proponentsists.”

  30. #30 islandchris
    December 23, 2008

    I’ve come around to the position that we need to treat God-based creation or God-directed evolution as instances of “naive science” that all teenagers bring to a Science classroom. Instead of simply repudiating the students understanding, acknowledge how some may have come to that viewpoint, and then demonstrate why it is “naive”.

    For example – evolutionary theory predicted where Neil Shubin and his team should find the fossil TikTaalik. Creationism predicts nothing. Or introduce the students to the game “Spore” and have them play with what a “created” world looks like, and contrast that with the real world of limited, evolved body plans. The experience should deepen their appreciation for evolutionary theory.

  31. #31 alextangent
    December 23, 2008

    So how do you get links to work?

    Here are the two earlier (#21 amd #26)

    Pope’s gay remarks; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7797269.stm

    and UK teachers’ attitudes to creationism;
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5jVR3qvp_hgCVcZsLm4fO_x9hgeqg

  32. #32 Notkieran
    December 23, 2008

    How about a teacher who’s fired for saying that there is no god in a religious school? Can he sue on grounds of academic freedom?

  33. #33 Sven DiMilo
    December 23, 2008

    Yes, the buzz-euphemism is “academic freedom.” Biological evolution itself will not be mentioned if they can help it, but if they must utter the E word it will always be preceded by the counterspell, “strengths and weaknesses of.”
    Other buzzwords to watch out for:
    “Sudden appearance theory”
    “Inerrant mythology theory”
    “Literal watchmaker theory”
    “Poopy-head Darwin theory”

  34. #34 extatyzoma
    December 23, 2008

    funny how the christian right with their beliefs written in stone are using a rather wishy washy liberal tool to implement their idiotic ideas.

  35. #35 Ouchimoo
    December 23, 2008

    @ culmastadm I completely agree with you. We need to have something that shows people what science really is, because somehow they don’t know! Or they think they can cherry pick through what science is or isn’t, pft this isn’t the bible here people.
    I got some pretty devastating news the other day. My kid sister hates science. I would have had a career in science if I wasn’t so inept with math. And she’s GOOD with math!!
    Anyways, so I was strolling around the bookstore yesterday looking for xmas crap to give away, and nothing in the science area looked remotely interesting for an apathetic teenager. Science really does need to get some better PR.

  36. #36 AJ Milne
    December 23, 2008

    Forget witchcraft, it’s too annoying. Get them teaching homosexuality. Unlike witchcraft, which tends to leads to pretension and homoeopathy, homosexuality is harmless. Also it can’t actually be taught, but theo-rightards think it can, and they can’t stop thinking about how they don’t want it “stuffed down there throats” so it will make their heads asplode.

    Heh. That. Is. Awesome.

    If anyone’s gonna do that, I respectfully submit that they’ve absolutely got to do their damndest to put together a curriculum proposal that really nails the squeamish smack-dab in their deepest sweaty-palmed anxieties in the area… It’s just no fun, otherwise.

    A few modest suggestions for bullet points from the syllabus:

    – How to make someone you’d like to do it with/to gay; seducing the innocent and inexperienced to the gay lifestyle: a simple, step-by-step guide
    – Fifteen thousand subtle signs your apparently straight child actually prefers their own sex
    – And why they should if they don’t already
    – How to tell when an apparently straight, overtly homophobic evangelical minister really, really wants to jump your gay bones but just doesn’t know it yet
    – And how to get them to do it…

  37. #37 Varlo
    December 23, 2008

    With my lib arts background I could not name them all, but perhaps someone should make a list of all the jobs that cannot be filled by anyone who rejects evolution. Offer it as a prominent link on this and other rational websites. It might (wishful thinking?) open a few otherwise clouded eyes among the young.

  38. #38 Profmike
    December 23, 2008

    Sorry about the multiple posts-my first time posting and I’m at a coffee house and I wasn’t sure what was going on
    with post.

  39. #39 E.V.
    December 23, 2008

    Yours is obviously not the only country where idiots run rampant (although I must say they would not dare to strike the hysterical fanatical tone they do so uninhibitedly in the US).

    Yes, it’s the American motto: “Say it loud, say it proud! – Especially if it’s Christian Evangelical/Militia/gun rights/Xenophobic rhetoric! (And do so in the shrillest voice imaginable).”
    The US – where we have more idiots per capita than any nation other than Nigeria. “In Gawd we trust!”

  40. #40 Naughtius Maximus
    December 23, 2008

    Is Richard Dawkins working on a book called “Not just a theory”?

  41. #41 Sastra
    December 23, 2008

    As ProfMike says (and says and says), different forms of vitalism and “energy” magic are already being taught in medical schools. We don’t just have creationism to worry about — there are a lot of other forms of pseudoscientific woo, and some of them entice academics (especially if they invoke a sophisticated-sounding quantum mysticism.)

    When people hear that there are forms of science which take the “Spiritual Components of Reality” into account, they usually think that this is a wonderful idea. Very practical. After all, they know that science describes what’s true — and they know that there really are magical ‘spiritual’ aspects to life — so bringing them together is perfectly reasonable. We should have that ‘right.’

    I think a quote from Sam Harris is apropos:

    “The very ideal of religious tolerance – born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about god – is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.”

    I think that’s where the public is getting these ideas about “academic freedom” and “health freedom,” ideas which liberate quacks and charlatans from the restraints of scientific discipline and consensus. “People should be free to believe whatever they want about God” – without criticism, critique, evidence, reason, demonstration, experiment, explanation, or dispute. And now they think that, as long as it involves God, they should also be free to believe whatever they want about biology, medicine, history, or damn near anything else.

  42. #42 John C. Welch
    December 23, 2008

    Ouchimoo: Agreed. When I was a kid in the 70s, I had all kinds of neat science books that were just fun to read, from astronomy to paleontology. That created the love of science I have to this day, because I could see what science could do.

    However, the news is not all bad:

    http://www.larrygonick.com/html/pub/pub.html

  43. #43 woody
    December 23, 2008

    …and the products of those schools, the next generation of parents and voters, will be too ignorant to oppose them.

    Well, that’d be a concern, fersher, if I had progeny about whom to worry.

    But by that time, my earthly remains should be safely beneath the waves.

  44. #44 spoosmith
    December 23, 2008

    I monitor several xian blogs and the problem in getting them to take an interest in SCIENCE is to educate them that technology arises from scientific discovery. They actually say “technology has nothing to do with science”.

    Frankly, I’m gobsmacked at the stupidity.

    P.S. PZ – did you know that in Canada your name is pronounced P-Zed rather than P-Zee? Sounds way cooler our way. Just sayin.

  45. #45 senecasam
    December 23, 2008

    The creationist/ID/academic freedom crowd will continue to push its agenda into public schools and colleges for the foreseeable future.

    They consider court decisions like Kitzmiller v Dover to be little speed bumps, slowing down but not stopping their march to theocracy.

    They raise phenomenal amounts of money after a defeat.

    May I be so bold as to suggest a New Year’s resolution for folks here?

    If you aren’t already a member or supporter of groups like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (a favorite of PZ’s) or the ACLU, People For the American Way, or the Freedom From Religion Foundation, perhaps it’s time to consider joining one of them, or all of them, or the many other groups that have, over the years, tried to stem the march of theocrats into our lives.

    The theocrats will push the envelope everywhere they can. They welcome court challenges. They are organized, well funded and they truly believe that god is on their side, so they cannot, will not, lose if only they don’t stop fighting.

    Only similar efforts from our side can slow this relentless slogging toward theocracy.

    And if you think this is gonna change after Jan. 20th, with the inauguration of Barack Obama, I have one thing to say to you:

    RICK WARREN.

    Please, consider supporting AU, ACLU, FFRF, PFAW, anyone fighting the religious right.

  46. #46 Brandon
    December 23, 2008

    Learn all you ever wanted to learn about “Academic Freedom” in Florida at the Florida Citizens for Science website:
    http://www.flascience.org/project.html
    You can even watch video of lawmakers debating the issue … if you have a high pain tolerance.

  47. #47 Hairy Doctor Professor
    December 23, 2008

    18: See, in my math, any answer to any question shall be understood as correct provided the student writes adjacent to that answer ‘thus saith the LORD!’… Looks like this on a test paper:

    2 + 2 = 11 / Thus saith the LORD!

    This actually is the correct answer. In base 3.

    OK, I’ll shut up now.

  48. #48 Ought to be Writing on Kant
    December 23, 2008

    Wherever this nonsense prevails, I hope some innovative teacher trully embrases, really takes up the challenge of teaching ALL the alternative accounts of specieation (sp?), the origins of life — hells even geology and geography!

    I for one have always wondered exactly which bones of Ymir the Rockies are.

  49. #49 Jay
    December 23, 2008

    Nerd of a Redhead: #13.

    My thoughts exactly. It all comes back to a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic nature of science. The basic definitions of science and psuedoscience should be posted prominantly in every science classroom, and referred to as often as necessary.

  50. #50 Metro
    December 23, 2008

    Yeah, I’m trying to deal with a godbot over at Unreasonable Faith who keeps wondering why science doesn’t include his pet superstition in the calculations.

    It’s a bit dispiriting, to be confronted with such consistent stupidity. And unlike people of faith I have no crutch to sustain me.

  51. #51 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 23, 2008

    Posted by: Notkieran | December 23, 2008

    How about a teacher who’s fired for saying that there is no god in a religious school? Can he sue on grounds of academic freedom?

    Why would an atheist want to get a job at such a place if it can be avoided?

  52. #52 RedGreenInBlue
    December 23, 2008

    Why am I not surprised to read in the linked article by Branch and Scott that the badly-misnamed “Louisiana Family Forum” rejects not just evolution but anthropogenic global warming? They keep banging on about their bloody deity and yet they don’t seem to have any interest in, let alone concern for the long-term welfare of, the planet, plants and animals that their bloody deity supposedly told them to look after, those 6011 years and 2 months ago.

  53. #53 Johnny Vector
    December 23, 2008

    Well, since nobody’s said it yet, and it seems so very apropos:

    (in a Moist voice) Is that the new catch-phrase?

    I have a bottle of single-malt scotch for the first person who gets the Disco Institute to start using “I have a Ph.D. in horribleness” instead.

  54. #54 Glen Davidson
    December 23, 2008

    Well, it isn’t exactly a new buzzword. “Academic freedom” has been used from the beginning of ID to pretend that universities are committed to treat knowledge and anti-knowledge the same.

    ID’s pretense to “respectability” was predicated on “academic freedom,” indeed. See this excerpt from the DI in 1997:

    Academic Freedom at Risk in Science Debate. (Part 3 of 3)

    By: Bruce Chapman
    Seattle P-I
    May 30, 1997

    If an established academic truth is challenged by new scientific insights, should authorities allow classroom discussion of such challenges?

    That was the question many people believe was placed on the national stage by the famous Scopes Trial on evolution in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925. Three-quarters of a century later, the questions are the same, only now the issue is whether recent challenges to Darwinism itself–challenges coming not from clergymen, but from scientists–should be acknowledged in high school and university classrooms.

    ID was the “academic freedom” issue for creationists during about a decade. Indeed, it still was in Expelled, something that should not be forgotten as “academic freedom” bills come up. It’s just that people smarter than Stein and company already knew that ID was a poisoned dog, and didn’t want to push it as the means to get rid of (or at least seriously diminish) evolution any more.

    Originally, ID was their minimalism, but now “academic freedom” itself is the even more bare minimalism to which they have been forced. “Strengths and weaknesses” are all that they can push now as “legitimate” subjects for “academic freedom,” however, even though they really can’t come up with any weaknesses (just the familiar questions that any active science has). But, of course, “weaknesses of evolution” were all that IDiocy ever had, so the fact is that little has changed except for dropping the “Intelligent Design” mantra.

    “Academic freedom” is not at all a new buzzword, it just has new prominence because one of the other major buzzwords, “Intelligent Design,” has been largely jettisoned in debates over public policy.

    Not that the DI isn’t still pushing God via ID in their requests for donations. I must have gotten one the latter because I entered their drawing for the Expelled DVD, and I was somewhat surprised at how explicitly they are pushing both “Intelligent Design” and “God” as the same package.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  55. #55 Nerd of Redhead
    December 23, 2008

    How about a teacher who’s fired for saying that there is no god in a religious school? Can he sue on grounds of academic freedom?

    Most religious schools are private. They can have any work rules they want, including being religious for employment. Usually you have to submit a statement of faith to be hired. So if you make statements against the faith, out the door with you, and no recourse unless there it is in their employment handbook.

    Academic freedom is more closely watched in public schools. High school and elementary teachers have less academic freedom that college professors. But even in college, there are limits, although they are very broad. For example, PZ cannot turn one of his biology classes into a political science class and call it academic freedom. But he could easily teach some not fully accepted scientific theories in courses.

  56. #56 Karateexplosions
    December 23, 2008

    How in the world did that 12.5% of science teachers get a college science degree while still thinking Creationism is a valid alternative to evolution?

    Are these all Liberty and Regent grads?

  57. #57 Glenn Branch
    December 23, 2008

    It’s certainly true, as Glen Davidson observes, that “academic freedom” isn’t a new creationist buzzword. But it’s been used even longer than he suggests. Indeed, the supporters of Louisiana’s “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction” from 1982 claimed that it facilitated academic freedom — a claim flatly rejected in the second sentence of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard: “The Act does not further its stated secular purpose of ‘protecting academic freedom.’” I wouldn’t be surprised to see creationist use of “academic freedom” predating 1982 either.

  58. #58 RBH
    December 23, 2008

    Karateexplosions asked

    How in the world did that 12.5% of science teachers get a college science degree while still thinking Creationism is a valid alternative to evolution?

    Are these all Liberty and Regent grads?

    Many (most?) secondary public school science teachers don’t have degrees in science, but rather (often) in something called “science education.” And don’t make the mistake of thinking creationism is limited to Liberty and Regent — many public school teachers come from private religiously-oriented colleges such as the various Nazarene colleges, where science education includes (at my nearby one) lectures by YECs like Robert Gentry. People who are really good in science tend not to go into public school teaching.

  59. #59 Calvin
    December 23, 2008

    At least the “academic freedom” tripe is something we can counter snarkily and succinctly in the public sphere. That was the point of His Noodliness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and his divine plan to create the world even for midgits (sic) and to provide us with a beer volcano and a stripper factory in the afterlife! Why is that not being taught in schools?! It’s teh conspeerasee!!11!

    They want intellectual relativism? I think we should teach the idea that the world is turtles all the way down. That one’s fun.

  60. #60 Screechy Monkey
    December 23, 2008

    Matt Heath @ 24:

    Forget witchcraft, it’s too annoying. Get them teaching homosexuality. Unlike witchcraft, which tends to leads to pretension and homoeopathy, homosexuality is harmless. Also it can’t actually be taught, but theo-rightards think it can, and they can’t stop thinking about how they don’t want it “stuffed down there throats” so it will make their heads asplode.

    Absolutely.

    There’s no need to make this argument solely about creationism vs. evolution — sadly, that’s one we could “lose” in the eyes of many of these idiots.

    But “academic freedom” is incredibly vulnerable to a “parade of horribles” argument. What’s to stop a high school teacher from exercising his “academic freedom” to promote all sorts of racist pseudo-biology?

    If the bill isn’t specifically limited to the sciences, it gets even easier. How many of these conservative Christians want their kids being taught, say, Noam Chomsky’s views on political science? Karl Marx on economics?

  61. #61 Prawn of Satan
    December 23, 2008

    We should slap together a textbook full of crazy wacko stuff like Zecharia Sitchin, “Chariots of the Gods”, conspiracy theories and ancient Sumerian creation myths. Then, whenever anyone’s about to put through an “academic freedom” bill, we can come along and demand that our book’s theories about the Great Green Arkleseizure and the Nephilim from some space-planet be taught in those classes too.

    After all, alternative science is alternative science, right?

  62. #62 Jim Battle
    December 23, 2008

    I can’t wait until they get to the math curriculum.

    Word Problem #1:

    You are given five loaves and two fishes. Divide this 1000 ways. How much is left over?

  63. #63 Rey Fox
    December 23, 2008

    “this is the new strategy: creationists will be openly superficial and nebulous in order to steal away the necessary rigor of our public school systems.”

    This is new?

    What really drives me crazy is how transparently bullshit their desire for “academic freedom” is. Suddenly, the kids must be allowed to think for themselves! While at the same time, these fascist wannabes are forcing the kids into uniforms, randomly drug-testing them, restricting information and access to birth control, and on and on and on.

    Freedom? It’s patently obvious that they can’t handle freedom. True freedom means realizing that there’s a world out there bigger than your tiny myth-haunted one.

    Forget homosexuality, just start teaching kids that sex is a healthy part of adult life in school and see how far the Christian shitheads will take the “freedom” argument.

  64. #64 Wonderist
    December 23, 2008

    PZ,

    The creationists have their new tack (academic freedom), and a textbook to go along with it.

    We need a new tack as well, and I hereby challenge you to write the textbook to support it.

    We reverse the tables. We say, “Okay, we’ll teach both sides. We’ll teach the controversy. We’ll teach the strengths and weaknesses. But we’ll do it from a scientific perspective.”

    I think the inevitable has come: We need school curricula and textbooks that *directly* tackle creationism/ID, laying out the cold hard facts, as the trial in Dover did, and *requiring* the teaching that creationism/ID is not valid science in a mandatory biology course.

    But we will do it in such a way that we follow the principles and methods of science, teaching kids exactly what the evidence is, why this evidence counts and that evidence doesn’t. We will teach what the scientific consensus is and why. We will not teach both sides as if they were magically equal. We will teach both sides from the perspective of science.

    We will have to teach kids what science is all about. I think it’s inevitable at this stage. No more cramming facts in their heads. Teach the methods. Teach the principles.

    Teach a whole semester on evolution vs. creationism/ID. Why not? It would lay a strong foundation for kids’ understanding of evolution and science in general.

  65. #65 DaveY
    December 24, 2008

    The “academic freedom” line is getting a serious workout in the current Texas Board of Education hearings on the new science curricula. In recent public hearings, the board (saddled with a hefty component of creationists) kept trotting out that lame shit every time they were challenged about adding the “strengths & weaknesses” canard.

    Do these people have any idea what they are talking about?!

  66. #66 BobC
    December 24, 2008

    Wonderist (#64):

    Teach a whole semester on evolution vs. creationism/ID. Why not?

    Good idea, but I think a public school teacher explaining why a religious belief is false might be violating the Establishment Clause.

    It’s too bad America is still a medieval country. If our population wasn’t so hopelessly backward there wouldn’t be any creationism/ID to talk about.

  67. #67 Wonderist
    December 24, 2008

    #66: “Good idea, but I think a public school teacher explaining why a religious belief is false might be violating the Establishment Clause.”

    You don’t have to prove it false, just non-falsifiable, and hence not-science. Besides, you don’t have to name any particular religion, just ‘creationism’ in the general sense. You could even use the handily-supplied ‘intelligent design’ if the issue is pushed.

    Besides, if the creationists fight against mentioning ‘creationism’ or ‘intelligent design’ in the science class room, then we have won. They would be fighting our fight for us.

    In any case, you could even use the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ language to push the same curriculum. Just say, “In order to teach the strengths and weaknesses of evolution, we need to teach the principles and methods of science, and spend several weeks explaining how the strengths of evolution blow all proposed ‘weaknesses’ out of the water.”

  68. #68 Robert Byers
    December 24, 2008

    From Canada.
    There you folks go again.
    Trying to censor thought and speech in the land of original freedom of same.
    The purpose of schools on origin subjects is to teach the truth. You saying God/Genesis is not true and teaching directly or indirectly against it is a long ignored agenda that is only now being more articulately and passionately revealed and opposed. The days of massive apathy are over. The schools have been found out to be organs for liberal propaganda and not learnin’s. Therefore everyone must pay attention to what is being taught. The great Christian faith and culture and glory in creating the greatest civilization ever on earth has not been taught as a good thing but as something to be rejected in assumptions and assertions.
    If claims are made that subjects from science disprove God/bible then a rebuttal is to be made and if dominating it is to become the teaching. Schools should teach that god is real and the bible likewise or at least equal time. I do think this is the future.
    The bad guys don’t make a persuasive case to most Americans for allowing unchecked teachings against God and genesis.
    Its a bother for many folks but it has to be done. Legislatures, courts, organizing, and agitating generally is once again the option in fighting a unrepresentitive establishment with demographics that always are the guys who are wrong since Reagan rise against them.

  69. #69 clinteas
    December 24, 2008

    From Australia

    *facepalm*

  70. #70 BobC
    December 24, 2008

    In the perfect world of my imagination, a public school biology teacher would teach biology and only biology, never bothering to mention any medieval magical creation myths because why waste time talking about religious stupidity. Any student who starts babbling about Jeebus and “god made us in its own image” would be put in a special class for insane morons. Students who want to learn science shouldn’t have to share a classroom with retards.

    Oh, and Byers, you’re an idiot.

  71. #71 Feynmaniac
    December 24, 2008

    No thread is complete without a schizophrenic rant from Robert Byers.

  72. #72 Tina
    December 24, 2008

    #52: “…and yet they don’t seem to have any interest in, let alone concern for the long-term welfare of, the planet, plants and animals that their bloody deity supposedly told them to look after, those 6011 years and 2 months ago.”

    That’s because they believe the end times is near, so there’s no need to worry about the planet. God has this all planned out, you see — the planet will be a horrible place to live, as the heathens deserve.

  73. #73 GrahamGirl
    December 24, 2008

    @wanderlust

    If I wanted to hear the “strength and weakness” of evolution by including the creationist god into the classroom, than I would have taken it as an elective.

    what I want to know is why creationist like you want to teach or sneak creationism into the biology classroom but is scare to death of putting it as an elective.

    You can bear false witness all you want, but you are still a creationist. Science is not about teaching your creationist belief and no matter what, it never will.

    If people like you want to spend a whole entire semester teaching the weakness of creationism, than put it into an elective course.

  74. #74 Chris A.
    December 24, 2008

    Patriot Act
    No Child Left Behind
    Operation Iraqi Liberation…erm Freedom

    Repubs, the masters of Orwellian doublespeak

  75. #75 Wonderist
    December 24, 2008

    #73 GrahamGirl:

    “@wanderlust

    If I wanted to hear the “strength and weakness” of evolution by including the creationist god into the classroom, than I would have taken it as an elective.

    what I want to know is why creationist like you want to teach or sneak creationism into the biology classroom but is scare to death of putting it as an elective. ”

    Hahaha! You really think I’m creationist? What a retard! Follow the link and check out my videos. I’m a physicalist atheist through and through. And I actually think teaching how evolution debunks creationism in a mandatory biology class would be a good thing. I recommended the Dover trial, for crying out loud! You’re the one who should keep her irrational and unfounded thoughts to herself.

    I have no problem with people who disagree with me in honest discourse. But if you accuse me of being something I’m not, you’re a fool and I’ll gladly point it out.

  76. #76 Kel
    December 24, 2008

    You saying God/Genesis is not true and teaching directly or indirectly against it is a long ignored agenda that is only now being more articulately and passionately revealed and opposed.

    My Byers, Genesis is not true and we say that because none of the evidence points to it being true. The universe is old, the earth is old, the sun came before the earth (and is the source of light for this planet that makes day and night), and life gradually emerged. These are what the facts of observation tell us.

    Why is it we see a progressive fossil record? Why is it that radiometric dating works perfectly with relative dating techniques and shows an old earth? Why is it we see galaxies that are so far away?

    Science is only contradicting Genesis because Genesis doesn’t match the data. And as for God, science makes no claims on God but if your God is the one of trickery in the old testament then your God is dead. If your God is more than an animater of clay, if it’s able to be a lawgiver in the universe, then science has nothing to say on your God. Your rejection of science is a personal barrier that you’ve imposed on reality. And last I checked the world doesn’t revolve around you.

    Nutcase

  77. #77 dc
    December 24, 2008

    1. High school teachers do not have and do not need academic freedom. We have state standards that tell us what to teach and what the state will assess on their all powerful standardized tests. Those standards were developed (at least here in Florida) to reflect current SCIENCE, not pseudoscientific garbage. The standard writers here were asked to include language concerning strengths and weaknesses for Darwin and unanimously rejected same.
    2. Allowing individual teachers to decide what constitutes good or bad science, what are valid contradictions to the standards, invalidates the purpose of the standards in the first place. The individual teacher’s judgment is then being placed above the concensus of a whole gaggle of subject matter experts. School administrators and school boards are even less qualified to decide what constitutes valid science than the individual teachers proposing the new material.
    3. Districts that allow intelligent design are setting themselves up for legal action. There are teachers out there selling advertising space on their tests to raise money to pay for classroom supplies. In the current fiscal climate do we really want to pour millions of dollars into legal battles? ID is creationism is illegal under the establishment clause whether it is introduced under an ID teaching requirement or under the all too transparent guise of “academic freedom.”
    4. At least some of us in the high schools DID teach the controversy for several years. The International Baccalaureate program syllabus for Higher Level Biology had an advanced evolution objective requiring discussion of alternatives to natural selection for speciation and the scientific proposals for the origin of life. Special creation was explicitly stated as one of the alternatives (along with panspermia) to be addressed. Of course, the very next objective required an in depth discussion of the SCIENTIFIC foundations for each of the alternatives as well as the potential for further scientific investigation of each alternative. Special creation never had a chance under that critical evaluation. No wonder the right wingers hate the IB program. Unfortunately, that pair of objectives was deleted in the last syllabus revision.
    5. Tina (post 4) is wrong. Forget the rest of the pseudosciences. Expose the hypocrites for what they are and demand academic freedom for sex education. Allow teachers who disagree with abstinence only to teach contraception. Allow teachers who believe that homosexuals are a product of their genes and/or embryonic development to teach that view. One of our state senators proposed a sex ed amendment to the academic freedom bill debated in Florida last spring and the feces hit the rotary oscillator. Unfortunately, it never came to a vote but the sputtering was fun to watch while it lasted.
    6. I am one of six teachers of biology in my high school. Three of us are biology majors, one is an environmental science major, and two are “education” majors. One of the two ed majors doesn’t know enough biology to teach an honors course although she is. Another of the biology teachers actually teaches ID and was willing to admit it to a reporter from the New York Times. Florida says they are qualified to teach biology and so they do. Neither of them can defend evolution against student challenges (which happen every year). If you want that 30% number to change you need to raise the standards for teacher certification. Then you need to make sure that teachers who teach nonscience in their classrooms are disciplined which means someone has to report them. That someone needs to be a student or parent. Teachers generally don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in other teacher’s classrooms and most ID proponents won’t present ID lessons in front of an adult who might complain (like me).
    7. Thanks for the continued support for those of us in the trenches.

  78. #78 Aaron Blumer
    December 25, 2008

    Um… a bit *allows* something that was previously *not allowed* in schools… sounds like academic freedom to me!

  79. #79 Sili
    December 31, 2008

    I think the funnest approach would be ally oneself with some sensible teachers in the relevant states and get them to teach Hindu/Tarvu creation myths.

    Better yet, get them to promote atheism in RE.

    What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, after all.

  80. #80 seksi
    May 15, 2009

    The “academic freedom” line is getting a serious workout in the current Texas Board of Education hearings on the new science curricula. In recent public hearings, the board (saddled with a hefty component of creationists) kept trotting out that lame shit every time they were challenged about adding the “strengths & weaknesses” canard.

    Do these people have any idea what they are talking about?!