Friday, December 28, 2007

Why teach science?

To avoid starting foolish wars, for one thing.

From an item in Science magazine (7 December 2007, p. 1538, subscription req'd):
In 2002, U.S. intelligence officials claimed that the Iraqi government owned a number of mobile labs capable of producing biological weapons. After U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq, the labs were revealed to be production facilities for hydrogen used to fill weather balloons. In 2005, a government commission said the error was due to a lack of scientific expertise within the U.S. intelligence community.
Somebody learned the lesson, and now the biological research program will be opened to external peer review.

Keep examples like this in mind when your local school board starts thinking that science curricula need to be diluted with faith-based "alternative 'theories,'"
bogus "criticisms," or discussions of misrepresented "strengths and weaknesses" of the subject.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Mr. Romney, you're no Jack Kennedy

Mitt Romney delivered his "Kennedy speech" Thursday, so called because forty-seven years ago, also in Houston, Democratic presidential candidate Kennedy spoke to the American people on the same subject. That subject was the fear that a president practicing the "wrong" religion could not be trusted to act independently of his temple's hierarchy.

Despite the similar purposes, the two speeches could hardly have differed more.

The short explanation is: Kennedy spoke to all Americans, including those who did not hold any religious faith. Romney, on the contrary, pandered to the religious right-wingnuts, saying essentially, "You can trust me because I'm just like you--and together we can hate The Others.

Kennedy: These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religous issues--for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.
Romney: Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us.

Kennedy: I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell a president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
Romney: Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

Kennedy: So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in--for that should be important only to me--but what kind of America I believe in.
Romney: I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.

Kennedy: Whatever issue may come before me as president--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.
Romney: But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. ... We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders--in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. ... I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from "the God who gave us liberty." ... Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government.

I must agree with one of Romney's points, however: We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and groups could inflict if given the chance.

Did I hear you say "Dominionism," Mitt?

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum via NPR:

New York Times:

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Monday, December 03, 2007

"Mummified" Hadrosaur

Today's York (PA) Dispatch carried an AP article about a fossil Hadrosaurus unearthed from the Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota. What is remarkable about this fossil is that soft parts, including skin, ligaments, and tendons were petrified. Maybe more soft parts--analysis using Boeing's mother-of-all-CT-scanners is being used to examine the fossil. I'm not sure why it was reported today; two books and a television program have already been produced about it. The program will air December 9 on the National Geographic Channel. National Geographic was a funder of research conducted on the fossil. Oh. That's right, TV show promotion. More information about this fossil and related materials can be found at the website of the research foundation set up to study fossils of the Hell Creek Formation.

Now I have to keep an eye on the York Dispatch for letters written to the editor explaining how this specimen proves dinosaurs died in The Flood. Perhaps an editor, impatient with readers for not flooding the mailroom with letters condemning the PBS Nova presentation of Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, was trying to instigate something.

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