KCFS Update – June 23, 2006

KCFS Update – June 23, 2006

Welcome to the KCFS Update, the weekly e-newsletter of Kansas Citizens For Science. Thanks for reading our newsletter. With the Board of Education primaries coming up August 1, it’s vital that every Kansan be well informed on the issues. Feel free to pass Update on to friends, and go to KCFS News & Resources at http://www.kcfs.org/kcfsnews and look around!

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Upcoming elections are under the microscope
Sixteen candidates will square off for five open seats. Four of those spots belong to conservatives.
KC Star – June 18, 2006

TOPEKA | The Kansas Board of Education was once a little-watched, little-known political body that elicited little attention come election day. Then came evolution. And Bob Corkins. And sex education.

Once again, the board is on the front lines of the state’s clash between conservatives and moderates. After board controversies made national news last year, the race for the Board of Education is hot. . . .

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Three BOE hopefuls give positions
Iola Register – June 19, 2006

Political philosophies of three candidates for the 9th District seat on the State Board of Education were made clear to two dozen or so people who persevered Saturday morning.

A candidates forum sponsored by Allen County Farm Bureau carried on for more than three hours, split about evenly between a session for 9th District House hopefuls and BOE candidates.

Brad Patzer, Neodesha, left little doubt that he would step into the ultra-conservative Republican role his mother-in-law, Iris VanMeter, filled the past four years on the board. Jana Shaver, Independence, was every bit the moderate Republican her supporters claim. Dr. Kent Runyan, Pittsburg, was easily distinguishable as a middle-of-the-road Democrat. . . .

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From this farm, a grassroots movement grows
KC Star – June 19, 2006

…[Don] Hineman had time to pause on his tractor at his farm near Dighton and talk to me about how the Kansas Board of Education is bugging him and many other Kansans he knows, with its antics on evolution and its attacks on public education.

And about the promising steps that he and his wife, Betsy, and other like-minded Kansans have taken to do something about it.

They have formed a statewide grassroots organization called the Kansas Alliance for Education. . . .

To find out more about the Kansas Alliance for Education, go to www.ksalliance.org .

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Attorney asks court not to bind state to education cost study
Associated Press – June 22, 2006

TOPEKA, Kan. – Members of the Kansas Supreme Court suggested Thursday that the litigation over education funding needs to end to find out whether changes the court has ordered are making a difference in student achievement.

During a three-hour hearing, justices asked what basis legislators used this year in passing a plan to boost school funding by $541 million over three years. The justices also wondered how much longer they needed to keep the case and if it might be time to find out whether funding increases are boosting student learning. . . .

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New Conservative Organization Forms to Fight Intelligent Design/Creationism

Arguing that intelligent design/creationism does not reflect true conservative political ideology, Conservatives Against Intelligent Design (http://www.caidweb.org/blog) was recently established. CAID encourages anyone with a conservative political bent (Republicans,
conservative independents, libertarians, etc.) to sign an online petition endorsing the organization’s mission statement. . . .

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The National Council of Churches, Committee on Public Education and Literacy has issued a statement on “Science, Religion, and the Teaching of Evolution in Public School Science Classes.” The statement may be downloaded at:
http://www.ncccusa.org/pdfs/evolutionbrochurefinal.pdf .

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Episcopalians Affirm Creation and Evolution


Resolution A129
Title: Affirm Creation and Evolution
Topic: Education
Committee: 15. Education
House of Initial Action: Bishops
Proposer: Science, Technology and Faith

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention affirm that God is Creator, in accordance with the witness of Scripture and the ancient Creeds of the Church; and be it further,

Resolved, That the theory of evolution provides a fruitful and unifying scientific explanation for the emergence of life on earth, that many theological interpretations of origins can readily embrace an evolutionary outlook, and that an acceptance of evolution is entirely compatible with an authentic and living Christian faith . . .

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Dover school board opens administrators’ positions
Associated Press – June 20, 2006

DOVER, Pa. – A school board has decided not to guarantee contract renewals for two top administrators who helped implement an intelligent-design policy that a federal judge overturned last year. . . .

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Legal Issues in Medicine
New England Journal of Medicine – Volume 354:2277-2281 – May 25, 2006

Intelligent Judging — Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom
George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H.

Religious arguments have permeated debates on the role of the law in medical practice at the beginning and the end of life. But nowhere has religion played so prominent a role as in the century-old quest to banish or marginalize the teaching of evolution in science classes. Nor has new genetics research that supports evolutionary theory at the molecular level dampened antievolution sentiment.1 Requiring public-school science teachers to teach specific religion-based alternatives to Darwin’s theory of evolution is just as bad, in the words of political comedian Bill Maher, as requiring obstetricians to teach medical students the alternative theory that storks deliver babies. . . .

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June 11, 2006

NASA has publicly admitted that White House appointee George Deutsch inappropriately denied press interviews with global warming scientist James Hansen.

NASA internally reviewed what happened with Deutsch. A letter from Brian Chase, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Legal Affairs at NASA sent a letter to Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) briefly outlining the finding.

The full letter from NASA is posted as well. The money shot is this one:

… an internal inquiry has revealed that one recent media request to interview Dr. James Hansen… was inappropriately declined… in addition, several instances of inappropriate editing of scientific materials have been alleged. These allegations, if true, are unacceptable at NASA.

Just to remind you, Deutsch was appointed as a NASA public affairs officer by the White House, which is, ah, not friendly to the idea that the Earth is warming up due to human activity. . . .

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Courtesy of The Panda’s Thumb (http://www.pandasthumb.org)

The Episcopalians do something impressive
Posted by PZ Myers on June 19, 2006

They’ve elected a new presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. You have to look at her biography to see why I’m even mentioning a new religious leader:

Katharine Jefferts Schori, Ph.D., is the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada. She received a degree in marine biology from Stanford and a doctorate degree in oceanography at Oregon State University.

“As a scientist and an Episcopalian, I cherish the prayer that follows a baptism, that the newly baptized may receive “the gift of joy and wonder in all God’s works.” I spent the early years of my adulthood as an oceanographer, studying squid and octopuses, including their evolutionary relationships. I have always found that God’s creation is “strange and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139). …

“The vast preponderance of scientific evidence, including geology, paleontology, archaeology, genetics and natural history, indicates that Darwin was in large part correct in his original hypothesis.

“I simply find it a rejection of the goodness of God’s gifts to say that all of this evidence is to be refused because it does not seem to accord with a literal reading of one of the stories in Genesis. Making any kind of faith decision is based on accumulating the best evidence one can find[,] what one’s senses and reason indicate, what the rest of the community has believed over time, and what the community judges most accurate today. . . . “

[Also see http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4761130 ]

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Scientists urge evolution lessons
The statement follows fierce debate in the US
BBC – June 21, 2006

The world’s top scientists have joined forces to call for “evidence-based” teaching of evolution in schools.

A statement signed by 67 national science academies says evidence on the origins of life is being “concealed, denied, or confused” in some classes.

It lists key facts on evolution that “scientific evidence has never contradicted”.

These include the formation of Earth 4.5 billion years ago, and the onset of life at least 2.5 billion years ago. . . .

[NOTE: Ironically, the fact that even the BBC got “the origins of life” (how and when life first appeared) and “evolution” (what happens once it has gotten started) confused proves the scientists’ point.]

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Stem cells help repair rats’ paralysis

AP – June 20, 2006

WASHINGTON – Scientists have used stem cells and a soup of nerve-friendly chemicals to not just bridge a damaged spinal cord but actually regrow the circuitry needed to move a muscle, helping partially paralyzed rats walk.

Years of additional research is needed before such an experiment could be attempted in people.

But the work marks a tantalizing new step in stem cell research that promises to one day help repair damage from nerve-destroying illnesses such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, or from spinal cord injuries. . . .

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Ancient web spins evolution story
BBC – June 22, 2006

The oldest-known spider web with prey still entrapped has been found preserved in a chunk of amber in Spain.

The mesh of silk strands – snaring the remains of a fly, beetle, mite and wasp – dates back 110 million years to the time of the dinosaurs. . . .

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[Courtesy of Josh Rosenau’s “Thoughts from Kansas” blog]

Candidate forum in Iola

Reader Joe Myers passes on his impressions from the Board of Ed forum
in Iola last Saturday. . . .

“ . . .Republicans Jana Shaver, Independence, and M. Brad Patzer, Neodesha, and Democrat Charles (Kent) Runyan, Pittsburg, are is seeking the State BOE seat being vacated by Iris Van Meter of Thayer.

“Patzer is Van Meter’s son-in-law, though he steadfastly ran away from that connection before this secular audience. (I’d love to see how he presents his message before, say, an Assembly of God audience.) Brad looked like a bobble-head doll as the two other candidates were speaking on issues of separation of church and state and other “hot-button” issues that have dragged the Kansas BOE into the 13th Century, and when it was his turn to speak the well-crafted Right-
Wing Christianist code words were in play. . .”

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Conservatives get their way

Johnson County Sun – June 22, 2006

The 6-4 ultraconservative majority on the state Board of Education can’t seem to grasp the important issues that confront K-12 schools in Kansas. Instead the right-wing coalition wastes valuable time on matters that are more likely to undermine education programs, in the process subjecting our state to wide ridicule.

The teaching of evolution is one painful example. More recently the conservatives have been dwelling, for months, on sex education. Not only has time been lost, but the sex education program has been jeopardized. . . .

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Coulter mangles Dover case
MIKE ARGENTO – York Daily Record – June 18, 2006

“Liberals,” [Ann] Coulter writes, “just want to kill humans.”

Moving on, she then says liberals worship the theory of evolution.

Which is science.

Which she says liberals hate.

OK, it’s a mistake to try to figure this out. I’ll try, though.

She wrote, “Liberals’ creation myth is Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is about one notch above Scientology in scientific rigor. It’s a make-believe story, based on a theory that is a tautology, with no proof in the scientist’s laboratory or the fossil record – and that’s after 150 years of very determined looking. We wouldn’t still be talking about it but for the fact that liberals think evolution disproves God.”

Where do you begin with that? . . .

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New Bill Moyers PBS show: “On Faith and Reason”
Premiere: Friday, 6/23/06 – Check local listings for time

With the buzz around the book and then the film version of THE DA VINCI CODE reaching a fever pitch and The PASSION OF THE CHRIST ranked among the 10 highest-grossing movies ever, what is it about religion that’s got America hooked? It’s an old debate between absolutes, the contrasting viewpoints of belief and disbelief that stirs the passions. From the popular to the public square—79% of self-identified evangelical Christians cast ballots for President Bush in 2004—the tug of war between reason and faith is the undercurrent of our society in what some see as a fundamentalist era. On one end of the spectrum people say, “Only religion counts.” On the other end, “Only reason counts.” How do we keep the public space between reason and faith, where most of us spend our lives, from becoming a no-man’s land of constant warfare? — Bill Moyers (Read the full essay.) . . .

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Becoming Human: Evolution and the Rise of Intelligence

Scientific American offers download of a special edition on “Becoming Human: Evolution and the Rise of Intelligence” (93 pages of fascinating articles) for just $5.00 Or if you prefer, you can order the print edition.

A savvy handicapper would never have put money on the continued existence of this evolutionary dark horse. Nearly hairless, weak–no sharp claws or slicing teeth here–and slow, with a bumpy bipedal gait, humans might initially appear to be one of the unlikeliest survivors on earth. Except for the oversize brains. As the articles in this special edition collectively underscore, so much of the rise of our ancestors from humble beginnings to today’s world-dominant swell of humanity tracked the stunning growth of all that furrowed cortex. From roughly two million years to 250,000 years ago, the brain’s total volume expanded by a tablespoonful every 100,000 years, estimates Harvard University biologist E. O. Wilson. If we could stretch a modern person’s cortex flat, it would occupy an area the size of four sheets of standard letter-size paper. In contrast, a chimp’s would cover one sheet; a monkey’s, a postcard; and a rat’s, a stamp. . . .

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Scientists Take on Intelligent Design
NY Sun – June 19, 2006


In “Intelligent Thought” (Vintage, 272 pages, $14), he [author John Brockman] has assembled a set of 16 essays, each responding to the current, anti-evolution Intelligent Design Movement (IDM), and the authors include some of the best-known science writers. . . .

. . .If the real values of religion and spirituality, which include humility before the wonders of nature, are to survive our rising tastes for religious war and destruction, then more than just an elite among us must understand science – and what it yields as description of physical reality through deep time. The more often the small faction of us who read can pause to browse engaging books like “Intelligent Thought,” the better is the chance that we can stop the impetus of Homo sapiens toward self-destruction.

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The Loom
A blog by Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer is the science writer behind the companion book to WGBH/PBS’ “Evolution” series, as well as “Parasite Rex” and other fascinating books about nature and science.

Red State Rabble

The Panda’s Thumb

Talk Origins
The foremost source for information about evolution, creationism and related topics.

National Center for Science Education

Creationism’s Trojan Horse

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Kansas Citizens for Science is a not-for-profit educational organization that promotes a better understanding of what science is and does, by:

* Advocating for science education
* Educating the public about the nature and value of science
* Serving as an information resource

If you are a supporter of science education, please join KCFS now. Go to http://www.kcfs.org/join for details.

www.kcfs.org • Kansas Citizens For Science • kcfs@kcfs.org