School response on creationism, claims evolution ‘controversies’

Following a claim by a former pupil Mt Hobson Middle School that creationism had been taught in a science class in preference to evolution – see Claim of creationism taught in school linked to National – the school has responded, denying it.

NZH: Claim Simon Bridges’ sister teaching creationism

A former student at the school has told Newsroom that creationism was being taught in preference to evolution.

Alwyn Poole, a Villa Education Trust board member and principal of Mt Hobson Middle School, said Rachel O’Connor was a superb teacher and “very balanced and open in all that she presents”.

“The NZ curriculum is broad and designed brilliantly that way by the team that did it. Darwin himself would be very unhappy if the controversies, developments and unfinished business of his theories were not discussed. Everyone who actually knows the basics of science understands that it is built on profound discussion and reaches across broad disciplines. The student’s recollection of Mrs O’Connor’s statements and the ability to discuss are highly flawed”.

This still takes a swipe at evolution with “the controversies, developments and unfinished business of his theories”. A standard creationist tactic is to promote ‘the controversies’ of Darwin’s theory.

Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859 – that’s 159 years ago.

There has been a lot of scientific advances since then on evolution. It is not controversial any more. More is being added al the time to scientific knowledge and research continues, as is normal in science, but the scientific basics of evolution are as established as the basics of gravity.

And creationism keeps being rejected as science. Wikipedia:

The teaching of evolution in American secondary school biology classes was uncommon in most of the first half of the 20th century. The Scopes Trial decision of 1925 caused the subject to become very rare in American secondary biology textbooks for a generation, but it was gradually re-introduced later and became legally protected with the 1968 Epperson v. Arkansasdecision. Since then, the competing religious belief of creationism was legally disallowed in secondary school curricula in various decisions in the 1970s and 1980s, but it returned in pseudoscientific form as intelligent design (ID), to be excluded once again in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.

Simon Bridges, O’Connor’s brother, has cried foul over what he calls a ‘hit job’.

Bridges’ sister Rachel O’Connor, who is married to National MP Simon O’Connor, is a science teacher at Mt Hobson Middle School.

“It strikes me in terms of whoever’s involved, there’s a bit of a cheap political hit here. It’s a private Christian school. I don’t know the ins and outs of the rules on what should be taught but that school should be teaching the government curricular in this area. Everything I’ve seen and understand suggests they are.”

He said he believed in evolution but that had nothing to do with the issue. He would “absolutely not” talk to his sister about it.

Bridges said he didn’t know what his sister’s beliefs were but “she’s a New Zealander and she should be able to believe whatever she wants”.

Yes, she should be able to believe whatever she wants.

But what a science teacher teaches is a valid public issue, especially if evolution is promoted as a ‘controversy’ by the school, and if creationism is given more than a passing mention in science classes.

Claim of creationism taught in school linked to National

It is claimed that a school linked to National’s conference in the weekend, and with links to National MPs, has been teaching creationism in preference to evolution.

Newsroom: Creationism taught in science class

A former student of a Villa Education Trust private school claims creationism was taught as a preferred theory of how the world began in science classes he attended.

The student from Mt Hobson Middle School said Darwinism was taught as an unproven theory and students were shown a video purporting to show science had found proof of God’s existence.

His impression was the school backed the concept of creationism “100 percent”.

It’s a concern if any New Zealand school is promoting creationism – a belief system – over the science of evolution, especially in a science class.

The science teacher was Rachel O’Connor, sister of National Party leader Simon Bridges and wife of National MP Simon O’Connor.

That must be an embarassingly close connection for National.

The trust runs two private schools and two charter schools. Currently its charter schools, including one visited by National Party members yesterday, are in limbo waiting to hear if their application to transition to designated character schools will be approved.

It isn’t a great advertisement for charter/partnership schools either.

“They [O’Connor] said, we’re going to watch a video. They didn’t tell us anything about it, they just started showing it. What followed was a documentary of twisted quotes trying to prove how scientists had discovered God.

“I’m watching, thinking, hang on this is really weird. I respect anyone’s religious beliefs, I have no problem with that, but this is a science class.

“This felt really wrong to me. I do respect the process of science, for them to twist – really twist – these quotes, especially from Albert Einstein, someone loads of people, including myself really respect, it made me quite angry.”

Religious studies are expected and fine in a religious school, as long as parents know thaat’s what they are putting there children into.

But science classes should stick to science.

Rising ranks of scientists doubt Darwin’s Theory

Does this sound familiar?

Ranks of Scientists Doubting Darwin’s Theory on the Rise

Another 100 scientists have joined the ranks of scientists from around the world publicly stating their doubts about the adequacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“Darwinism is a trivial idea that has been elevated to the status of the scientific theory that governs modern biology,” says dissent list signer Dr. Michael Egnor. Egnor is a professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook and an award-winning brain surgeon named one of New York’s best doctors by New York Magazine.

Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture today announced that over 700 scientists from around the world have now signed a statement expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution. The statement, located online at www.dissentfromdarwin.org, reads: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

More scientists than ever before are now standing up and saying that it is time to rethink Darwin’s theory of evolution in light of new scientific evidence that shows the theory is inadequate,” said John West, associate director of the Center for Science & Culture.

That was from the Discovery Institute in 2007. This was also from the Discovery Institute in 2010.

What Do Darwinism and ‘Climate Change’ Have in Common?

Leslie Kaufman in the New York Times reports on budding initiatives in state legislatures and boards of education to encourage or require balance in classroom discussions of global warming. The point of the piece, though, is to connect the teaching of evolution to the climate change debate:

Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation’s classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools.

Some things they want to accomplish with this piece:

(1) Divide and conquer skeptics of global warming orthodoxy and Darwinism, by painting the latter as ignorant religious zealots, in hopes of starting a fight among conservatives. No doubt they’re hoping that, say, Richard Lindzen will have to explain why he agrees with those nefarious creationists on the global warming issue, and that he’ll have to spend his time issuing statements of agreement with evolution.

Funny. Opponents of evolution and climate change and tobacco control use very similar tactics – try to divide and conquer science by spreading unscientific doubts

(2) Make it harder for official bodies to encourage critical thinking on global warming, since attempts to do the same with regard to evolution have, in recent years, met with fierce resistance and only modest success.

That’s not funny. Opponents of evolution and climate change try to discredit critical thinking.

Is the debate over “evolution” the same as the debate over “climate change”?

Well, I think they’re both alike and different. First, the similarities, which I think are mostly sociological:

*Both issues suffer from “semantic creep,” which tends to prevent rational discussion.

So a vague word like “evolution” can range in meaning from the trivial and tautological—change over time and survival of the fittest—to the uncontroversial—certain organisms share common ancestors and natural selection explains some things—to the questionable and ideological—everything is the result of a purely impersonal process, we don’t exist for a purpose, we’re just carriers for selfish genes, natural selection and random genetic mutations explain everything interesting, and so forth. If you doubt the latter, you get lumped in with doubting the former.

‘Evolution’ is not a vague term. It is a widely accepted theory based on a massive amount of science.

*With both issues, dissenters, especially in science, are severely punished, and if possible, ostracized and denied tenure.

*Both issues have broad metaphysical implications, which are recognized, if not quite admitted, on all sides.

*Skeptics of both issues are customarily accused of bad faith, bias, religious bigotry, and the like.

*With both issues, the chaff of ideological assumptions has a way of contaminating the wheat of empirical evidence, and in the process, damaging public trust in science.

*If you doubt either idea, you’re accused, not of doubting that one idea, but of doubting science itself.

*With both issues, we hear a lot about consensus.

*Both have a way of surviving at the theoretical level even when individual pieces of evidence bite the dust.

*They’re both deeply embedded in the worldview of what David Brooks, perhaps with tongue-in-cheek, has called the “educated class.”

Another similarity – the Discovery Institute been a major player in trying to discredit both the science of evolution and the science of climate change.

Evolutionary theory, Neo-Darwinian or otherwise, attempts to reconstruct the past in very broad terms, and so can’t make detailed predictions about the future. Orthodox global warming theory does try to predict the future. So it’s much easier to qualify or decisively refute than is Neo-Darwinism.

A bizarre claim. They are trying to say that predictions about the future can be decisively refuted. How? By making counter predictions?

On the Discovery Institute:

The Discovery Institute (DI) is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design (ID). Its “Teach the Controversy” campaign aims to permit teaching of anti-evolution, intelligent-design beliefs in United States public high school science courses alongside accepted scientific theories, positing that a scientific controversy exists over these subjects.

From ‘Teach the Controversy’ Comes to Climate Science

A spokesperson for the Discovery Institute said that although it takes no position on climate change, “we definitely have a position on whether or not there should be investigation in schools on that subject,” and claimed that the legislation it favors would “give teachers the right to teach both sides of a scientific controversy,” providing legal protection for educators who might want to introduce “other sides of the topic” to students.

There’s no doubt that climate change science is controversial, but it needs to be challenged with science, not pseudoscience and anti-science.

Same with the science of evolution. In the US it seems to be the same people opposing evolution science and climate science.

Perhaps the weather is Intelligently Designed too.

Were there advanced dinosaurs?

We have pieced together quite a bit of information about dinosaurs due to the discovery of a few fossilised bones here and there.

But there seems top be quite a bit that has been guessed – for example what they actually looked like.

And there is a lot that isn’t known and probably can never be known.

Would we be able to tell if some type of dinosaur – or another type of creature – developed far more than others, became the dominant species, and then died out, either due to a global catastrophe like a meteor strike, or super survival rates allowed survival of most rather than just the strongest and then tougher conditions, like an ice age, ended up being unsurvivable for a genetically weakened and hardship inexperienced species?

Humans only got a bit smart over the last million or two years ago, and substantially smart over the past 100,000 or so years. And we only become advance, quite rapidly, over the past 10,000 years – probably coinciding with the end of the last ice age.

Does the way evolution inevitably works mean we have drastically weakened our genetic stock and our ability to  survive without substantial technology is quickly fading.

What if the power suddenly went off and we had to survive in a world absent of electricity?

It’s not long ago that our ancestors could manage without switches and computers. But the human population has dramatically increased in the electricity age. Many people would struggle without it, businesses would struggle without it.

Pressure would go on those who had sufficient resources and survival skills as others want to co-opt a way to survive.

Maybe just like empires rise and fall species inevitably rise and fall over a longer time frame.

A devastating virus may mutate and we are unable to find a way of surviving it quickly enough.

A massive volcanic eruption may severely disrupt the world food supply for a year or two.

Or we could meet a meteor.

Any number of things could happen. Even the smarter dinosaurs didn’t survive.

The phone age

Christmas dinner:

PhoneAge2Celebrating the New Year:

PhoneAge8

Going on holiday:

PhoneAge3

Holiday at the beach:

PhoneAge1

Phone age relationships:

PhoneAge4

PhoneAge6PhoneAge7

PhoneAge5

Evolution needs an update, this is so last century:

EvolutionFound one:

PhoneAge9

Gods popular when life gets tough

NZ Herald reports Judgmental gods the offspring of harsh times, study finds

People living in hardship are more likely to believe in moralising, high gods, according to a major new study co-authored by New Zealand researchers.

The study tracks the evolution of human cultures and finds ecological factors play a part in shaping human societies, including religious belief.

It drew on data from between 1900 and 1960, covering 583 traditional societies and religions as common as Christianity and Islam to more rare, localised belief systems.

Co-author Professor Russell Gray, of the University of Auckland’s School of Psychology, said people tended to believe in big gods when life was tough or uncertain.

“Pro-social behaviour maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments.”

The emergence of religion has long been explained as a result of either culture or environmental factors but not both.

The new findings imply that complex practices and characteristics thought to be exclusive to humans arose from a medley of ecological, historical, and cultural variables.

The study’s primary author Dr Carlos Botero, an evolutionary ecologist from the Initiative for Biological Complexity at North Caroline State University, saw the study as “the tip of the iceberg” in examining human behaviour from a cross-disciplinary standpoint.

“Pro-social behaviour maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments.”

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

Profile of a denier

A comment by Azeraph at Kiwiblog:

An interesting profile of a denier by Martin McKee, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine:

  1. Allege that there’s a conspiracy. Claim that scientific consensus has arisen through collusion rather than the accumulation of evidence.
  2. Use fake experts to support your story. “Denial always starts with a cadre of pseudo-experts with some credentials that create a facade of credibility,” says Seth Kalichman of the University of Connecticut.
  3. Cherry-pick the evidence: trumpet whatever appears to support your case and ignore or rubbish the rest. Carry on trotting out supportive evidence even after it has been discredited.
  4. Create impossible standards for your opponents. Claim that the existing evidence is not good enough and demand more. If your opponent comes up with evidence you have demanded, move the goalposts.
  5. Use logical fallacies. Hitler opposed smoking, so anti-smoking measures are Nazi. Deliberately misrepresent the scientific consensus and then knock down your straw man.
  6. Manufacture doubt. Falsely portray scientists as so divided that basing policy on their advice would be premature. Insist “both sides” must be heard and cry censorship when “dissenting” arguments or experts are rejected.

It’s apt having that raised at Kiwiblog, I see oodles of signs of all of those practices there, particularly in trying to discredit climate change but also on evolution, presidential birth certificates, 911 etc etc.

Marriage leading to hell – apparently there are still ‘Christians’ this extreme

There is a handful of old school Christians who either work in shifts or flock en masse to to Kiwiblog when certain topics come up, especially at the moment anything on marriage equality or homosexuality. Some see the end of the world as nigh if a small minority are given the same right to legally married as most of us.

There are other Christians who don’t push their pulpits, and no doubt more who keep their beliefs to themselves.

Sometimes religious arguments tend towards the extreme, where some from both sides can be rude and display high degrees of intolerance.

One occasional visitor is Scott. Here is some of what he posted yesterday on Craig says he would vote for gay marriage if electorate backs it.

Marriage is a natural pairing of a man and woman that existed before the state. Before government, before even kings there was marriage. First mentioned in the Bible with the pairing of the first two human beings, Adam and Eve.

Gay marriage in contrast is purely a creation of the state. So it represents a relatively small number of gay activists using the power of the state to impose homosexuality as worthy of the status of marriage. So it is an excellent example of the state interfering in people’s lives.

So far a fairly fundamental Christian view.

It will require heaps of legislation changes and will inevitably lead to persecution of conservatives and Christians by the state. But when pastors go to jail and churches are fined out of existence for not allowing gay marriage on their premises no doubt many on this thread will congratulate themselves on how wonderful it is that the state is not intruding in people’s lives.

There are a few who see it as a direct threat to them, sometimes to the extent of paranoia.

My point is that marriage is not an invention of the state and existed before the state. Gay marriage is an invention of the state and would not exist without major government legislation. So the people who are for gay marriage are the ones promoting government interference in people’s lives.

A common (minority) Christian view is that allowing other people to get married is state interference in their own lives. They see it as a threat to their beliefs.

Marriage existed before the State, before there were even kings and queens. When Abraham married Sarah there were no government officials or even nation states. So marriage preceded the state.

Scott thinks that Christianity created marriage and therefore owns marriage.

Others suggested that defacto relationships preceded marriage. Not as far as Scott is concerned.

SPC my dear chap. One is entitled to one’s opinion, one is not entitled to one’s own facts. In the beginning there were de facto relationships and then came marriage is nonsense. Provide lots of evidence please or immediately withdraw your statement.

Without “lots of evidence” you can discount the opposing view.

For your information marriage occurs in the Bible with married couples like Abraham and Sarah who lived around 1800BC.
The ancient Egyptian Pharaohs had wives etc, etc. The evidence for marriage in ancient times and not de facto relationships is so overwhelming that to suggest otherwise is simply not rational.

Claims evidence of marriages and not of de facto relationships.

I suggested there must have been coupling of humans before marriage at some stage back in history, so ‘de facto’ first is really the only practical possibility. “In fact ‘suddenly marriage being created’ before any other type of relationship makes no sense at all.”

Have to agree to disagree Pete my old stick. First two human beings created by God and married by God. I know descending from apes, millions of years, all that sort of thing is fashionable but I just think it’s all bollocks really. The de facto relationships precedes marriage idea is a product of evolutionary speculation and doesn’t have any actual historical data to back it up.

His claims have no historical data to back them up (the Bible isn’t historical data), but no matter. Scott is about to launch THE BIG THREAT.

I just don’t know why people abandon faith in God to embrace evolution and consequently atheism. It’s a terrible world view to live by. No hope, no purpose, no love, just blind pitiless indifference.

By the way Pete, when you die, which way are you going to go? Up or down?

Thunder and brimstone – if you don’t agree, accept, believe, you are the pits will be damned to hell.

Having never believed in hell (but having of hope, purpose and love in my life) I find it hard to understand how people can have such strong views and beliefs, and how they can have such a strong intolerance of their views being challenged.

And Scott wasn’t alone, ‘smallgovernment ‘ added their bit:

Pete, to say we ‘start as atheists’ is idiocy. We start life knowing nothing (although I believe we have a spiritual nature) and are taught – by our parents if they are worth their salt.

SPC, I’d say the onus is on you to make sure that your lack of belief in God is not going to have you end up in hell. You call that a threat (which is ridiculous, because I’m not creating the consequences) – I call it a warning or maybe an excellent reason to seek God to see if there really is something to Christianity.

Many of the atheists here think themselves very clever and look down their noses at Christians.

Ironic saying that many athesists look down their noses at Christians having just intimated that if you “lack of belief in God” you will “end up in hell” is a lot more downward looking than our noses.

Silly academic objections or logical arguments are a poor substitute for seeking an actual experience of God by reading the Bible and praying.

I have no problem with people who get something out of reading the Bible and who pray – it’s their choice what they do and what they believe.

But in the modern world “silly academic objections” and “logical arguments” have superceded many old beliefs. Most Christians understand (I think) that the knowledge of the world now means that they have to modify their beliefs, that ancient writings were not literal and did not always portray a way of life or ways of the world that make any sense with a modern scientific knowledge.

But a few cling to a fervent belief in what many now see as unbelievable.

And those few seem to really fear the threat that modern knowledge is to the very essence of their beliefs.

And sometimes they try to transform their fear  and transfer it to those of us who think and believe differently.

I have been threatened with hell last night and in the past. Yes, it is an attempted threat of consequence of not agreeing, of not believing rthe same. But I have never had any belief in it or fear of ‘hell’. There is absolutely no evidence of it and nothing to suggest it is anything but a priestly construct designed to scare people into complying with their demands.

To hell with hell. It is nothing more than a last resort in an argument, it’s the ultimate threat with no argument.

And utlimately that’s a sign that some with extreme religious views see their views increasingly threatened by modern reality.

They are in a blind, pitiful spiritual trap of their teacher’s making.

The evolution of marriage

It is often claimed that marriage has always been one thing, for example:

It has always, in the Anglo Saxon world, with it’s un written constitution, been so bleedin’ obvious what marriage was…

No, it has changed.

  • Marriage used to commonly be a contract of a man taking ownership of a woman.
  • Marriage used to commonly be the only financial security a woman could have.
  • Marriage used to be a power arrangement (where one or both people being married had no say).
  • Marriage used to often be an abusive, dangerous trap.
  • Marriage used to often be under shotgun conditions.
  • Marriage used to be the only acceptable way a child could leave the family home.
  • Marriage used to be the primary ‘career’ choice of women.

Most of that no longer happens (in New Zealand at least).

Marriage has evolved into being an optional voluntary equal arrangement and commitment between two people.

A bit more evolution won’t hurt most people, but it will help some people and will be far better than some of the oppressive practices of the past.