More creationism sneaks into public schools

Reader Hempenstein called my attention to a long piece in yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by David Templeton (no relation, I suspect): “Is evolution missing link in some Pennsylvania high schools?” It’s good in not only laying out why evolution should be taught in public school science classrooms and why ID and creationism should not, but also in raising a red flag about how pervasive creationist teachings still are.  Although the Dover case in 2005 should have stopped the teaching of religiously-based “science” in Pennsylvania public schools, if not in all U.S. public schools, it didn’t. Creationism and ID still sneak in under the radar, and that’s evident from the Post-Gazette‘s survey of science teachers.

The paper surveyed 106 science teachers in Pennsylvania high schools, asking them the two questions below. (Teachers could specify more than one answer, so they don’t add up to 100%. I suppose some teachers could, like Michael Behe, accept a limited amount of “microevolution” but still see ID or creationism as a supplementary process.)  The article doesn’t state at which level the respondents actually taught, but I suspect they represent high-school teachers since evolution isn’t often taught below that level.

Note that although the sample is small, one would expect that the proportion of “creationist” answers would be underrepresented, simply because most teachers don’t want to go public (even in an anonymous survey) with their views.


Now acceptance of evolutionary theory has generally been flat over the past thirty years, with perhaps a very, very slight increase in acceptance of naturalistic (non-theistic) evolution, but the latest Gallup survey also shows an increase in straight young-earth creationism as well.  More disturbing is the 32% of responses showing that some teachers adhere to a form of creationism. And although the survey doesn’t say what proportion of total teachers that represents, it’s clear that a sizable minority of teachers don’t accept the consensus view of the origin and diversity of life.

What’s even more surprising is that at least one of these teachers chose to go public in the paper, risking his school’s being slapped with a lawsuit. I’ve highlighted his names and school below.

Sometimes students honestly look me in the eye and ask what do I think? I tell them that I personally hold the Bible as the source of truth,” said Joe Sohmer, who teaches chemistry at the Altoona Area High School. The topic arises, he said, when he teaches radiocarbon dating, with that method often concluding archeological finds to be older than 10,000 years, which he says is the Bible-based age of Earth. “I tell them that I don’t think [radiocarbon dating] is as valid as the textbook says it is, noting other scientific problems with the dating method.

“Kids ask all kinds of personal questions and that’s one I don’t shy away from,” he said. “It doesn’t in any way disrupt the educational process. I’m entitled to my beliefs as much as the evolutionist is.” [JAC: yeah, but he’s not entitled to foist them on credulous high-school students!]

Mr. Sohmer responded to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette questionnaire distributed this spring to school teachers statewide, and he agreed to discuss his teaching philosophy. He said school officials are comfortable with his methods.

Another teacher wisely chose to remain anonymous but was explicit about how he/she sneaks creationism in under the radar:

An Indiana County science teacher responded to the questionnaire more adamantly.

“Most parents and officials do not want evolution ‘crammed’ into their children. They have serious philosophical/religious issues with public schools dictating to their students how to interpret the origin of life,” stated the teacher, who did not respond to a request for an interview. His questionnaire says he teaches creationism for the equivalent of a class period, with five classes devoted to evolution.

“I have been questioned in the past about how I teach evolution principles, and [school officials] are satisfied with my approach,” he said. “My approach is to teach the textbook content of Darwinian evolution but modified to explain that data can be interpreted differently dependent upon one’s world view.”

Once again the schools are “satisfied” with that approach. Shame on them!

As usual, no matter how good state standards are for teaching evolution, they don’t represent what’s taught in the classroom. The 2009 Meade and Mates paper (free download here), for instance, gives Pennsylvania an “A” grade for having rigorous state science standards in schools, but look at this:

The Penn State survey said the teachers identifying themselves as creationists spend at least an hour of classroom time on creationism in a way suggesting it to be a valid scientific alternative. “Between 17 and 21 percent [of teachers in the survey] introduce creationism into the classroom,” he said. “Some are young-Earth creationist but not all of them are. Some aren’t even creationists.”

But Mr. Berkman said their most alarming finding was that teachers need not introduce creationism in class to undercut interest and belief in evolution.

“You just have to throw doubt and downplay evolution,” he said. “The idea that teachers are doing a really weak job — many a really weak job — of introducing evolution, we think, is because of reactions they get and maybe because of the lack of confidence in what they are teaching. That especially is the case with evolution, where many students have been primed by parents and youth groups to raise difficult and challenging questions.”

More than half of high-school students (at least those who go to Duquesne University, a good school, don’t get much evolution in high school:

Duquesne University biology professor David Lampe, who organizes the university’s Darwin Day celebration each February, asks freshman biology students to complete an informal questionnaire each year before his class on evolution begins. His results indicate that a quarter to a third of freshmen claim to have had no instruction in evolution, with another third saying that only two class days or fewer were devoted to the topic. Only a third received three days or more of instruction on the topic.

“I don’t think we’ll ever stop people from objecting to the teaching of evolution,” Mr. Lampe said. “It is not an issue of interpreting scientific data. No one in science seriously questions whether evolution is real. It is still a theological problem for people.”

OMG! Religion! Shame on Lampe for telling the truth.
The lesson is twofold. First, don’t count on science standards to give an idea of what students are actually taught. Standards are there to sound good, but how often do people check whether they’re actually met in the classroom? Not often, I suspect.  Second, we must be eternally vigilant about creeping creationism—that is, at least, until the problem goes away, which requires the diminution of religion in the U.S.  It’s illegal to teach creationism in public schools under the First Amendment, but many teachers quietly ignore that in favor of foisting their religious convictions, disguised as science, on kids.  That is a form of intellectual child abuse.  As Lampe notes:

Mr. Lampe also objects to the bill.

“Academic freedom? I’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not freedom to say anything you want in the classroom. In the classroom, you are obligated to teach scientific facts and methods. It’s not a forum for teachers to go off and talk about whatever they want to.

Damn straight, and that goes at the university level too—especially public universities. Regardless of what P. Z. Myers and Larry Moran say, it’s not a professor’s right to teach any damn thing he wants in an elective university course. Can a geology teacher blithely tell his students that the earth is flat, or a European history professor that the Holocaust didn’t happen?  That’s not academic freedom, but dereliction of duty. Such professors should be warned, and then removed from teaching the course if they don’t stop.  There are standards of scholarship that should be maintained in universities. And if a professor’s teaching violates the First Amendment, there are other recourses.  Despite Moran and Meyer’s asseveration that this is not a legal issue when it comes to universities, we’ll see what civil liberties lawyers say about that!
A few readers’ comments from the Post-Gazette piece. I was pleasantly surprised at how pro-evolution they are, but of course there are a few skunks in the woodpile:

Creationism PPG

Creationism 2 PPG

Like one of Shakespeare’s tension-reducing clowns, I’ll throw in, at the end, this funny picture about a Pennsylvania reverend who has run a series of classes in his church touting creationism and attacking evolution. The articles quotes him:

“We totally lost our influence in the public schools, which have lost the calling,” he said. “I want to take our schools back and build a base of knowledge, because we have a battle ahead. We are not going to get mad. We are going to get busy.”

The first step, he announced, was passage of an academic freedom bill similar to what Tennessee passed last year and Louisiana passed in 2009.


At Cornerstone Church, the Rev. Donn Chapman, a creationist, delivers a lecture April 10 on what
he says are the “falsehoods” of evolutionary theory. Photo by Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette


  1. Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Creationists want to create a theocracy, and therefore oppose science because they know that critical thinking is incomptabible with religious rule.

  2. Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Perhaps not 32% believe in Creationism / ID, if they could choose more than one response. But even best scenario, 19%, is pretty shocking among science teachers. I think the figure would be way lower in the UK – under 5% would be my (baseless) guess. We’re generally a pretty Godless lot, on the grounds that no benevolent deity would have given us this climate. But worryingly, the only people I’ve encountered here who do take issue with evolution have all made of point of volunteering to work in the local school. They’re on a mission …

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Jeez, & I complain that when I was growing up they read the bible to us & made us say the Lord’s Prayer in a public school (BTW, heathen that I was, I didn’t know what the bible was & I thought the Lord’s Prayer was about our dads because it said “our father”).

    You raise a good point about monitoring and controlling the standards. There should be some threshold of compliance agreed to and although it could be a bureaucratic nightmare),it is ideal that the standards are monitored somehow (annual anonymous surveys?) and then controlled in a way to improve things if compliance to the standards is shown to be waning. This is just process!

    Love the picture at the end; it reminds me of the Life of Brian when his mother says “he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”.

    • neil
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      And I thought “Harold” was his name and “Wilbur Dunn” was his right hand man.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 30, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink

        Ha ha, and I also thought it was “are fathers who aren’t in heaven” so I figured it had to be about our dads for sure. The rest just made no sense to me at all.

    • brianbuchbinder
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      I, too, in public school in ’50’s had to say “Lord’s Prayer”. Didn’t keep me from being an atheist as soon as I was old enough to think. I think forced prayer tends to make for disrespect, not reverence. It becomes no more than an empty ritual, like morning announcements over the P.A system.

    • Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      Thought it was about our dads, hilarious! I wish that’s what I had thought at that age, it would have saved me some trouble.

  4. Mattapult
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    “Sometimes students honestly look me in the eye and ask what do I think?”

    Are these really out-of-blue questions. I suspect Mr. Sohmer is baiting them with snarky comments about the science. Then he can defend his preaching by saying, “they asked.”

    • eric
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Yep, that’s probably what’s happening. There’s a teeny, tiny sliver of a chance that he’s talking about a reasonable circumstance. I.e., fundie student comes by privately after class, and asks the question after the teacher has given a perfectly good, thorough presentation of the TOE in cleass. But I would bet money on that not being the actual case.

      Still, even though he’s probably leading the students, I’m much more concerned about (teachers like) the second teacher interviewed. Sohmer appears to be editorializing on a legitimate lesson. Anonymous appears to be incorporating creationism into the actual materials and lesson plans.

  5. Barry
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Obviously borrowed from the script of the Batman TV series, March 17, 1966.
    Robin: “Catwoman, you are not a nice person.”

  6. Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Growing up, my family home had kids science books everywhere. They were a very common gift for birthdays, etc. Astronomy, dinosaurs, space, children’s encyclopedias, etc. I don’t know when I first learned about evolution. It was the only serious origin story I ever heard.

    I still remember how shocked I was the first time I met someone who didn’t believe in it. I really thought they were joking.

    How could you trust the schools to teach the right thing if the teachers can be so corrupted by woo?

    Children really must know the basic scientific picture of nature long before they get to high school. Every trip outdoors is a teaching opportunity.

  7. tomh
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    This Pennsylvania survey echoes the national survey, reported in the New York Times, which showed that less than 30% of public high school biology teachers straightforwardly describe the evidence for evolution, with over 50% ignoring the subject altogether, probably to avoid controversy and harrassment. It’s been said, with some justification, that American high school students have a better chance of being exposed to evolution in a Catholic high school than in a public school.

    • brujofeo
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      True, tomh. My understanding is that the public schools here in Ventura, CA, are pretty good with the sciences in general and evolution in particular. But we sent our daughter to St. Augustine, a tiny (about 100 students TOTAL) K-12. Where she got a very thorough education in evolution.

      I’m sure that it was the standard Catholic “God created man; evolution is how he did it” variety, but if the idea was to teach that evolution is directed, rather than random, it didn’t stick. Nor, AFAICT, did any belief in religious woo of any kind.

      • Matt G
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        And, of course, that is the key point: evolution is adaptive, not directed. It acts in the present, with no memory of the past, nor concern for the future. As soon as you say directed, you’ve crossed over into some form of creationism.

  8. Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Commerce & Arts and commented:
    Here’s the full graphic that goes with the article and blog post:

  9. Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Jesus: humanity’s only hope or a perverted zombie death warrior who enjoyed having his thralls thrust their hands in his gaping chest wound to fondle his intestines?

    Teach the controversy!

    No, really. I’d be just fine with religious nutjobs preaching for a day or two about the problems they have with science, so long as I got to design the curriculum for an equal amount of time teaching the controversy about Christianity’s most dearly-held theories.

    Poor saps think there’s something to be gained by “teaching the controversy.” Any bets on how many kids would still be Christians after I showed them what the real controversy is?

    There’s a reason why religions are protected from the state. And it is very much to the advantage of the religious that it should remain that way — whether they realize as much or not.



    • eric
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      No, really. I’d be just fine with religious nutjobs preaching for a day or two about the problems they have with science, so long as I got to design the curriculum for an equal amount of time teaching the controversy about Christianity’s most dearly-held theories.

      It makes a nice revenge fantasy but IMO: blah, horrible educational policy.

      Far far better to just have them put their creationism in a separate, elective class. Its already legal, completely undermines creationim whines about censorship, and it prevents any possible co-option of the legitimacy of science (which occurs if you cover it in science class time, even if you cover it negatively).

      Very telling, too, is the reason creationists often oppose this strategy: it doesn’t help them win converts. When driven by parent groups, such electives usually only survive for a few years running (because their kids take it…and then the parent stops caring). Nonfundie students generally aren’t as interested, and ignore it. And both fundie and nonfundie students tend to want electives that will be seen to boost their transcripts ahead of college applications, and this sort of class is not typically seen as doing that. So even all fundie students and parents can’t be counted on to take it – a lot of them will use the time to take an extra AP class or whatever.

      • Posted April 29, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Oh, to be sure — though my offer is serious, it is primarily intended as serious rhetoric.

        The chances that a Christian would even give a passing thought to granting a heathen to mock her Lord and Creator for the same amount of time that she gets to sing his praises are about the same as the daytime high temperature in Phoenix on the Fourth of July being in the double digits.

        But that’s my price for support of Christ in the science classroom: to treat the subject with exactly the scientific respect the subject deserves — less than none.

        Helps put the matter in its proper context, and nicely shifts the Overton window at the same time.



  10. Robert Bray
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I have been a professor in the humanities for more than four decades, at a liberal arts college with a decent reputation. For a time, I supervised our ‘student teachers’ in their practicum semester at middle and high schools around the area. I can say with confidence that our students compared quite favorably with those from state institutions with large ‘departments of education’ (sorry for the scare quotes, but I honestly don’t think such entities should exist). And, too, I watched and sometimes intervened as my two kids made their way through public school.

    My point is simply this: many, if not most, public school teachers were mediocre students in college and by no means carried anything like intellectual curiosity into their middle and high school classrooms. The students I supervised had at least the tools of critical thinking fairly well honed and ready to function like Occam’s Razor. But for the most part they played ‘concealed carry’ with their razors–smart of them, for otherwise they would have practically no chance at getting jobs as teachers.

    The educational ‘system’ in the U.S. models the political and social culture at large, which is thoroughly anti-intellectual. Beginning with primary school, institutions don’t want
    critically-minded teachers, who might just transvaluate students, especially those with high native intelligence.

  11. Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    What have we learned?

    Rev. Donn Chapman is not a very nice man.

  12. Sastra
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I tell them that I personally hold the Bible as the source of truth …”
    “I’m entitled to my beliefs as much as the evolutionist is.”
    “They have serious philosophical/religious issues with public schools dictating to their students how to interpret the origin of life.”
    “My approach is to teach the textbook content of Darwinian evolution but modified to explain that data can be interpreted differently dependent upon one’s world view.”

    Personal. My beliefs. Philosophical issues. World View.

    The problem with religion is not just that some particular sects teach against some particular scientific facts. The problem with religion is that it either introduces or reinforces a very sloppy, dangerous mindset regarding what we can know and how we can know it. When you value ‘faith’ as a virtue, then you can compartmentalize any empirical claim you want and make a conclusion exempt from critical scrutiny. You make the objective subjective … and vice versa.

    “I believe X because of the kind of person I am and want to become.” And with that move you shut down dissent lest you be corrupted and sidetracked from your higher moral goal. It’s insidious. You can special plead yourself out of human progress not just in scientific understanding, but in our understanding of everything.

    Religious people have a love/hate relationship with compartmentalization. On the one hand they need to do it to keep their faith beliefs special and protected. “You can’t use science against religion because religion deals with different kinds of truths.”

    But on the other hand they know it makes no sense to have two sets of real true facts: those which can be known objectively known through demonstration and science and those which seem to exist in the epistemic area we normally put subjective things like dreams, preferences, attitudes, and feelings. Thus you get the teachers speaking the airy-fairy language of “personal world views” (which can’t be right or wrong, just different!) and then sneaking direct, specific criticisms of the theory of evolution (which are damn well wrong!)

    That little dance back-and-forth is what happens when you introduce faith into drawing conclusions. People try to believe things through some sort of ESP ability which rides on their desire to follow Jesus, be spiritual, find God, or otherwise elevate themselves beyond common humanity. And then — like these teachers — they think they’re dealing in some marginal area where your ‘choice’ on what to believe is going to be tipped one way or the other through the exercise of moral virtue. Sad … and frustrating.

    • Matt G
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      The sooner faith begins, the sooner thought ends.

  13. Filipe
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    If you add the numbers you get more than 100%, in particular 90% believe in evolution and 20% in creationism, so at least 10% believe in both.

    • Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      I explain this in my post; did you read it?

      • neil
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        One expects some overlap between ID and evolution, which is what you stated, but I am surprised that half of those claiming to be creationists also believe in evolution. I would have thought to be a creationist is to deny evolution.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          I’ve run into quite a few people who seem to think “creationist” means “Christian”.

      • Filipe
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Yes, but 10 out of 20 is not «some» teachers, it’s half of them.

  14. lkr
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    remarkably, just about all biographers of Darwin seem to agree that he was a very nice man — assuming that “nice” is generally agreed as “concerned about others’ feelings”

    Perhaps in Jebusland “nice” means “psychopath like me”?

    • Dave
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      As it made any difference what kind of man he was…

      If a secret cache of Darwin’s diaries were to be discovered revealing that he was actually Jack the Ripper, it still wouldn’t make Descent with Modification false.

      • Matt G
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        The genetic fallacy grafted onto a bunch of bull.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Caring about how “nice” an authority is, is a sign that someone is thinking in the terms of religion. You don’t see a lot of rational argument in sacred texts. Instead, you see assertions, proclamations, revelations, and information given out by prophets, seers and mystics who claim to have tapped into some infallible source of knowledge. So you have to trust them. You place your confidence in their word and learn from them like a child learns from a wise elder. The “nicer” the person, the more likely they are sincere and therefore telling you the divine Truth.

      Notice how often creationists, Christians, and theists in general will go on and on about the importance of deciding who to believe — as if each side is without compelling evidence and it all comes down to picking which side you want to follow. Nice people believe true things because you want to be nice like them. Even in science.

      Darwin didn’t have to be nice. Heck, he didn’t even have to be sincere or honest. The theory of evolution stands or falls on the evidence. If he lied about anything significant we would have caught it by now.

      My guess is the “not nice” epithet is either referring to quotations taken out of context which today sound racist or is being pulled from silly or boisterous things he wrote as a youth. But it’s just a guess. It could also be a complaint that he didn’t shore up his wife’s faith enough. Or his own.

      • Posted April 29, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        Besides, the Jesus character is one royal motherfucking bastard asshole. Anybody who came not to bring peace but a sword, to set men against their fathers and daughters against mothers, to rip whole families asunder and who will infinitely torture those who love absolutely anybody who loves another more than himself…

        …anybody whose expressly-stated purposes in this life on Earth are those is as not-nice as one can get.

        Even if he only said so once (he didn’t) and even if it’s only some sort of half-joking “parable” (it isn’t).



  15. Posted April 29, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    [sigh], does it ever stop?

  16. Posted April 29, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Teaching creationism is not allowed in high schools in biology classes. Does this mean that a student cannot raise creationism in class? These students have free speech in their biology classes. They have a full right to speak out on their religious views of evolution.

    Jerry, you must separate the teacher and the student. Students can raise what they wish. The teacher cannot legally teach creationism. Surely you do not wish to wholly prevent your religious students from speaking. The best way is to be open, like a good teacher, to any such comments. Invite others to talk, too. The students can take care of the issue, and the teacher can say, when so prompted, what evolutionists say about the creationist in the class.

    To prevent students from speaking is, both from law and teaching, the wrong approach.

    • Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Classrooms are not a free-for-all free speech zone.

      A student in an History class who wanted to blather some nonsense about Darth Vader’s conquest of the Rebel Alliance a long time ago in a galaxy far away would be disrupting the class; such speech would not be tolerated.

      Similarly, a student in a science class wishing to blather some equally-insne nonsense about humans being animated mud sculptures crafted by an angry wizard in an enchanted garden with talking animals would be just as disruptive and should also not be tolerated.

      If the students want to hand out Chick tracts during recess, that’s fine and dandy and the proper way for them to exercise their First Amendment rights. But that right doesn’t extend to wasting class time on immature fantasies.



    • tomh
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      “These students have free speech in their biology classes. They have a full right to speak out on their religious views of evolution.”

      No, they don’t. Teachers have little enough time to cover the material in the first place, why would they allow irrelevant discussions to take the place of education. Students have no more “right” to discuss religion than they do to discuss sports, or dating, or anything else in classes. It’s just one more privilege that religions insist they are entitled to.

    • Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Jerry’s post suggested nothing of the kind, as far as I can see.

      I agree with you that kids need to have the right to ask any question that comes to mind. A good teacher can use these as valuable teaching moments. A bad teacher will do something else with the opportunity, but most kids can sense bullshit. I think it would be a mistake to tell kids they can’t ask about the conflicts they may see between their faith and reality. If I were a teacher, I’d live for the day when one of my religious students asked me something like that. Of course I’d probably be hounded out of the school the next day by offended Creationist parents….

      • Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Oops. this was in response to Will Provine, #16.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Where did Jerry say anything about students asking questions?

  17. Suri
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    And it gets worse , specially when some of the teachers have a formal education in the sciences and still promote creationism… I think these are the most dangerous as they seem to be very good at misrepresenting evidence to “prove” we were designed.

    The author of this piece calims to be a scientist and according to him there are functional pseudogenes everywhere… Proof that evo biologists are wrong ofcourse…

  18. Occam
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
    Sounding like it’s on a final run
    Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
    Blowing like she never blowed before
    Blue light blinking, red light glowing
    Blowing like she’s at my chamber door

    Who’d have thought that even Bob Dylan might be put to good use, just this once, in the debate over science vs. religious indoctrination in public education?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      That is a good song, isn’t it. However, I’m pretty sure it refers to Duquesne the town, which is a pretty dire place some 10mi upriver on the Monongahela from Duquesne U, and not the U. (Duquesne was one of four milltowns that Andrew Carnegie gave a grand library to, along with a $1M endowment to be shared between the four. But over 40yrs ago, Duquesne tore theirs down. (The other three remain in service.)

      Further interestingly, Duquesne U is a Catholic university whose full name is Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost. So we have David Lampe at Duquesne U, where they have a Darwin Day, vs. Eric Hedin at the public Ball State in the post last week, pushing creationism.

  19. Kurt Helf
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Are there any WEIT readers with children in the Altoona Area High School mentioned in the article? Contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation ( and get their legal staff writing letters to the school board.

  20. Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink


  21. Posted April 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Gamma Atheist.

  22. Gordon Hill
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    The problem extends beyond the science classroom as many other teachers and parents are fundamentalist Christians. Even when the kids are getting sound science in the classroom, they are subjected to opposing views elsewhere.

  23. marksolock
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  24. Venise Alstergren
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    It’s all so marvellously lazy. Two thousand years of God moaners saying ‘God did it’ have reduced millions of children into acceptance. Whereas studying Evolution requires a bit of mental effort. Better fob the kids off with a fairy tale, so they can go out and play footy.

    • Venise Alstergren
      Posted April 29, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      BTW: It is not the job of non-believers to prove there’s no God. However, it is very much the job of religionists to prove there is one.

  25. Cremnomaniac
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Reading this article, I keep reflecting on the conversation I just had with my brother. He’s seemed so proud that my niece was heading off to attend a christian science camp for a week.

    I held my tongue. “Christian science camp”, now that’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one. He had a choice, she doesn’t. I so frickin disturbed that they have polluted their brains like that. I’d really like to know what is being taught at the camp.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted April 30, 2013 at 5:16 am | Permalink

      Since I guess you don’t want to be confrontational, a subtle approach could be to ask him if they have Christian math camps.

      • Newish Gnu
        Posted April 30, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        RE: Christian Math

        You needn’t have bitten your tongue. My local paper just ran a feature story on the 25th anniversary of a fundie christian school. The story included this line from Angela Phillips, the director of development:

        “Math, English and science are all taught from the perspective of God’s word, Phillips said.”

        My initial reaction, of course, was that they must teach that 3 is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle.

        • Newish Gnu
          Posted April 30, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

          Whoops. Replied to wrong person. My apologies.

          • Cremnomaniac
            Posted April 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

            I agree with the approximation of the math. You CAN NOT teach accurate and complete science with christian nonsense interjected, unless it’s to show how incompatible it is.

            Any form of science with a religious slant will only ever be quasi-science. Simply a charade.

  26. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    It’s a sad history. But meanwhile I’m amused with Andy Fletcher’s comment on testing. Since there is a prediction of phylogenies, I would accept the prediction of the existence of something like Tiktaalik and its general living environment, and the subsequent find and its locale as a good test. But I could also say this more immediately on Fletcher’s no doubt taught creationist scheme:

    Under the same circumstances I could claim that dropping a ball on a spike point would make it impossible to test newtonian gravity. The theory itself denies this possibility, since it depends on small differences accumulated over long times (aka mass trajectories).

    In real life I can still test gravity by noting it will predict _some_ trajectory regardless of the low likelihood of repeating the same trajectory after hitting the spike point. In the same way evolution will predict that speciation occurs, and fossil record yadda yadda.

    And what about the snapshot of speciation that known ring species gives? It is like watching the rings of Saturn demonstrating a whole orbit.

    So as always the scheme falls apart. Creationists shouldn’t comment on science, it is hilarious and makes deconverts from religion according to Dawkins’s Convert’s Corner.

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