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Apr 02 2009

Can the SBOE be abused enough? No

Another brutal editorial excoriating the Texas State Board of Miseducation appears in today’s Statesman. Now that they’ve voted to undermine evolution, the next target of the theocratic ideologues is climate change. And this is take to task by Jim Marston of Texas’ Environmental Defense Fund. Again, he exposes that the board’s seemingly reasonable “teach the controversy” position is really designed solely to allow politically motivated and ideological objections to science to be introduced into curricula as if those objections were equally scientifically sound simply by virtue of being voiced.

On its face, the board’s requirement that Texas science textbooks “analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming” seems reasonable. It’s not. Just because you can find a handful of “experts” who disagree with thousands of climate scientists doesn’t mean our children should be taught that the science is still up in the air….

But besides tainting the reputation of our children’s science education in the eyes of the world, the board’s mandate has other ramifications: It suggests to our children that their economic and lifestyle choices might have no effect on global warming, thus eroding many parents’ efforts to instill in their children the ethic that they must be responsible for their own actions.

Hasn’t Marston been paying attention to fundie rhetoric? We don’t need to protect the environment, or be responsible stewards of the Earth at all. Jeebis is coming! (Or at least, that’s what they keep saying. It looks like the right’s getting a little worried about that, actually.)

20 comments

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  1. 1
    hellboundsmoker

    If the Jee-Man is coming back, isn’t that all the more reason to keep a tidy planet? How’s he going to feel when he sees what we’ve done to this beautiful, unspoiled planet that his Dad (who’s also him – go figure) gave us?Hell, if I’ve got a girl coming over to my place that I’m trying to impress (which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like), I make sure that bad boy is spotless! But hey, that’s just me.

  2. 2
    Ing

    I’m reminded of the comic Authority where they did have God coming back…finding Earth a mess and covered in vermin and belching out his intestinal worms to try to exterminate the pests infesting his summer home.It ended with one character lobotomizing God internally….

  3. 3
    AtheistUnderMask

    I really don’t see what they’re beef with natural warming and cooling is. It’s not like we haven’t had these periods before.I guess they just forgot.

  4. 4
    Ai Deng

    I’ve seen first hand from a large local church the attempt to undermine concern for the environment, the argument of which just boiled down to God would never allow that to happen to his planet. I’m not certain how many faithful followers would be moved by such a position, I would hope very few. The more convincing argument that they also use is that the left uses fear of environmental impacts to corral voters, even when the environmental impacts are negligible. There are likely instance where this is the truth, and then there are those where it is not. Unfortunately this polarizes an important issue that really needs serious attention, and thereby gives people a bias against it. People see it as a political issue, rather than as a potentially worldwide life altering one.

  5. 5
    Jeremy

    Jon said: If the Jee-Man is coming back, isn’t that all the more reason to keep a tidy planet?I used a similar argument once. The theist claimed that we shouldn’t worry about the environment because god was going to end it all soon anyway. I asked if he believed whether his god made the world for us or not, to which he replied that he believed that. I then asked what he would think if he built a nice house for his children to live in, only to stop by a few days later to find that they have totally trashed it. He claimed that he’d be okay with that but he said it in a pretty tiny voice and quickly dropped the subject.

  6. 6
    cipher

    Look how he was treated the last time he was here. Why would he come back?

  7. 7
    Ing

    @ CipherESPECIALLY with everyone of his followers wearing big old honking reminders of his torment and putting them up on churches. Crosses probably repel him like vampires.Well he is a 2000 year old zombie so yeah.

  8. 8
    Ing

    I dunno if this is off topic but rewatching an old episode, (the one on Narnia) someone mentioned a lack of written by Atheists, for atheist with atheist friendly lesson fantasy/fairy tales. I’d like to submit “Coraline” as an example of the above. Neil Gaiman who wrote it as a bed time story for his children is an atheist and the main premise does seem to offer support of skepticism. Basically the Beldam(the villain) is like God, offering an idealized paradise…all you have to do is trade in your family, friends and humanity. And she does it because she loves you and wants you to love her.

  9. 9
    March Hare

    Sorry guys, I’m not having it. Climate change science is in its infancy. The data is horribly flawed and skewed towards the most recent values (as they are the most accurate) unless they don’t fit the picture.Climate change IS happening, but the reasons are not definitely clear. Scientists are on the whole in agreement for political reasons, not scientific ones.That is not to say we shouldn’t be responsible for our actions or wean ourselves off oil, but to pretend that all the evidence is in and that it is OUR CO2 that causes it is premature, even if it is probably correct.Although if I find myself agreeing with the Texas SBOE I should probably re-evaluate my position.

  10. 10
    Kazim

    Scientists are on the whole in agreement for political reasons, not scientific ones.Also, did you know that there is an international conspiracy to keep intelligent design out of scientific journals? True story, little known fact, swear to God.

  11. 11
    March Hare

    @KazimEvolution is backed up by a mountain of scientific evidence however man-made global warming is not. I am not saying it isn’t happening and we aren’t the reason, what I am saying is where is the scepticism science is famous for on this issue?I have no problem with people publishing reports, and I have no problem with politicians making policy on the basis of the best available evidence (which says we are causing climate change) BUT I have a problem with scientists coming out and speaking as if it is a scientific FACT. It is not. It is at best a theory that appears to hold water thus far. Scientists should be saying that as far as the evidence goes it appears that we are causing it, but they don’t, they come out and say it as if it was a well established scientific fact when it is actually just the theory that best fits the limited evidence we have thus far.If I was a betting man I would bet on climate change being human caused, but when scientists state it as a fact they harm the rest of science.

  12. 12
    Kazim

    Evolution is backed up by a mountain of scientific evidence however man-made global warming is not. I am not saying it isn’t happening and we aren’t the reason, what I am saying is where is the scepticism science is famous for on this issue?Unless you, personally, are a biologist, you probably haven’t reproduced the experiments to a degree necessary to demonstrate that mountain of evidence. Therefore, at least some of your confidence in evolution is due to the fact that published scientists have demonstrated an overwhelming consensus that it matches the available evidence. This consensus is expressed through peer reviewed papers.For some reason, you’ve decided to accept this sort of consensus in the case of evolution, and dismiss the conclusions of climate scientists as “for political reasons.” That seems inconsistent to me. But it would probably make Ben Stein proud.

  13. 13
    March Hare

    Kazim,you are missing the point that I am a believer in man-made global climate change. I just don’t like people pretending it is an established fact. It is an accepted one, but like I said, that is mainly political or ideological.The fact is the evidence is weighted in favour of man-produced CO2 being the cause of recent temperature increases but the evidence is too scant as of now to treat it as anything other than a strong (60-80%[made up:)]) probability. (Evolution 95-99.9%; gravity 99.9-100%)When scientists say evolution is a fact and other scientists say man-made climate change is a fact it harms evolution as there is infinitely(ish) more evidence for evolution.

  14. 14
    Robert

    Tuesday’s Child:http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdfTo your claim that scientists on the whole are not on agreement on climate change caused by humans.

  15. 15
    March Hare

    Robert,I did not claim that (okay, maybe a little…) Most reliable scientists are in agreement on this.I said that the evidence is not complete (not in the same way that evolution is incomplete) and so to come out and claim that global warming is man made is fair enough, but to say it is a fact is disingenuous.How the heck did I become an apologist for either the oil companies of the TSBOE?A good article is: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/25/jstor_climate_report_translation/to get to the centre of what I am getting at.

  16. 16
    Kazim

    When scientists say evolution is a fact and other scientists say man-made climate change is a fact it harms evolution as there is infinitely(ish) more evidence for evolution.I can’t believe I’m saying this, but: Evolution is a theory.Oh sure, there are facts of evolution: Change over time, the fossil record, genetic similarity, etc. But the overall theory of evolution, which is a model that explains how evolution proceeds, is by definition a theoretical framework. A very successful one, but still different in nature from a fact. Just as the theory of gravity is different in nature from a fact.Global warming is a fact. Human causes for global warming are an explanatory model, and thus theory. If you object to calling a theory a fact then fine, but your problem is with the presentation of the science, not the scientists themselves. You might as well also criticize evolution advocates for sloppy language when they call the theory a fact. As far as I know, the scientific consensus isn’t about that.A good article is: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/25/jstor_climate_report_translation/to get to the centre of what I am getting at.I’m sorry, that is NOT a good article. Here is a counterpoint.The “report” that they referred to turns out to be nothing more than a series of email exchanges. Not new research produced; not an authoritative statement of position by JSER. Just an email argument, more or less like the one we are having right now.

  17. 17
    Robert

    I am trying to furiously finish some work before class, but here is another article that is really really good at explaining some myths about global warming, and showing how climate models have been tested and shown to be accurate.http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/global_warming_update4.php

  18. 18
    March Hare

    Kazim and Richard – Good articles.I knew I was onto a loser when I was siding with the TSBOE. I hadn’t looked at any recent research on CC and took it for granted that The Register would have a decent editorial staff that would have checked out the JSER.Amazing what you can learn in a few days on the net :)However, there is still a massive difference between the amount of evidence for evolution compared to climate change. And Kazim, you may want to check out what you mean by theory in a scientific context.

  19. 19
    Kazim

    Tuesday,Thanks for acknowledging the response. It takes a big man to admit an error, but I’m not surprised to find integrity among an atheist audience. :) And Kazim, you may want to check out what you mean by theory in a scientific context.What, seriously? You don’t watch our show, do you? I’m probably the biggest science geek among the regulars. I correct people on this point all the time.I believe I accurately explained EXACTLY what “theory” means in a scientific context. Just because I acknowledge that “theory” and “fact” have different meanings doesn’t mean I’m doing the usual creationist trick of saying that a theory is a guess. Right?Even so, the distinction is important. And what I meant to indicate is that anthropogenic global warming is a theory in EXACTLY the same sense that evolution is a theory.

  20. 20
    Robert

    Tuesday,You said,”However, there is still a massive difference between the amount of evidence for evolution compared to climate change. And Kazim, you may want to check out what you mean by theory in a scientific context.”Not to bring back to life then re-murder the dead horse, but I am curious as to what you mean by “the same amount of evidence.” Do you mean in terms of actual data points? Or number of journal articles? On this point, you are almost certainly right. I have no idea which would have more evidence. But I do not think that is a useful way to measure evidence and the validity of a scientific theory. Instead, we should look at how strong the multiple lines of evidence for each theory go to support the theory, and we should look at the degree of certainty we can assign to the theory being true. For both evolution and AGW there is more than enough evidence that a reasonable person should come to the conclusion that each theories are in fact true to the highest degree of certainty. In this respect, I would make the argument (perhaps foolishly) that they do have the same amount of evidence.And Kazim is 100% correct on what a theory is in a scientific sense. It is a collection of laws that work together to create an explanation for how and why events occur. It is a fact that things fall toward the earth, and the theory of gravity explains why. It is a fact that things evolve, and the theory of evolution explains how and why they evolve. It is a fact that the earth warms and cools. The current AGW theory explains in a way which fits with all the available evidence, that fact.

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