LA Burning and Most of California

Monday, August 31, 2009
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 31:  A firefighting p...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
August and September are traditionally bad months in California's notorious fire season. The last few years seem to be getting increasingly worse, can anyone say global warming. Fire is a devastating natural disaster that is not easy to recover from. My heart goes out to those that have died, been injured or lost property. I know the trauma a disaster like this can cause as my sister-in-law and her husband lost their home in Poway, Ca in 2003 and almost lost it again in 2007.

However, what does god have to do with the fire? God certainly isn't helping to put out the fire by reducing the heat and wind. I know maybe God started the fire, after all he works in mysterious ways.

In an AP article today
Fire crews battling the blaze in the Angeles National Forest tried desperately to beat back the flames and prayed for weather conditions to ease."
Also, quoted in the article is U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Dianne Cahir who said,
"If you have any insight into the good Lord upstairs, put in a request."
So, much for the secularism in U.S.F.S.

And again my heart-felt sympathies go out to those affected by fire throughout California.
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A Few Updates

Saturday, August 29, 2009
I have made a few updates to the blog and my other presences on the webs.
 Hopefully, the changes are worthy.
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Casey Luskin says Study Evolution, Think for Yourself

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jan 24th, 4:25pm: Discovery InstituteImage by elfsternberg via Flickr

Casey Luskin suggests students learn everything about evolution they can but to be critical in their thinking. I couldn't agree more however methinks he is expecting them to come to his conclusion. Somehow, I think if students do think critically they will find that the Theory of Evolution is sound.

Students Challenged to Study Evolution, Think for Themselves

By Nathan Black Christian Post

As students step foot on campus for another school year, an intelligent design proponent has offered a few tips for the millions who will face the teaching of evolution in their science classrooms.

Tip number one, "never opt out of learning evolution," says Casey Luskin, co-founder of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center, according to the Discovery Institute.

"In fact, learn about evolution every chance you get."

Having attended public schools from kindergarten through his master’s degree at the University of California, San Diego, Luskin was taught a "biased and one-sided origins" curriculum – basically, the neo-Darwinian theory.

There was virtually no debate or dialogue on the theory when he was learning it and "neo-Darwinian evolution was always taken as a given."

But Luskin does not regret having studied evolution as much as he did. He says the more evolutionary biology he took, the more he became convinced that the theory "was based upon unproven assumptions, contradictory methodologies, and supported weakly by the data."

So he encourages students not to be afraid to study evolution.

His advice comes as a new report reveals that the treatment of biological evolution in state science standards improved dramatically over the last decade. According to the National Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution in public schools, 40 U.S. states – including the District of Columbia – received satisfactory grades for the treatment of evolution in their state science standards. Only 31 states had received such grades in Lawrence S. Lerner's 2000 study Good Science, Bad Science, conducted for the Fordham Foundation.

Meanwhile, five states – Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia – received an "F" and another six states received the grade of "D."

Texas was recently in the national spotlight when the state board of education revised science standards in March to encourage students to "critique" and examine "all sides" of scientific theories.

Denouncing the inclusion of "creationist jargon" – language to justify the use of teaching material that casts doubt on the theory of evolution – in science standards, the NCSE report's authors, Louise S. Mead and Anton Mates, believe creationists have strategized to insert more "innocuous language" such as "critical analysis" and "strengths and weaknesses" into the standards.

Mead and Mates contend in their report, "It is simply not true that there are credible scientific alternatives to evolution, nor that evolutionary theory has 'weaknesses' that make it unlikely to be true, nor that scientific work has been done that casts doubt upon it. Students should be left in no doubt on this score."

Luskin thinks otherwise.

He challenges students to be critical in their thinking when approaching evolution and be proactive in learning about other credible scientific viewpoints that are likely censored by teachers.

"[Y]ou must be careful to always think for yourself," he cautions. "Everyone wants to be 'scientifically literate,' but the Darwin lobby pressures people by redefining 'scientific literacy' to mean 'acceptance of evolution' rather than 'an independent mind who understands science and forms its own informed opinions.'"

For Luskin, critical thinking and his own independent study led him to conclude that neo-Darwinian evolution was a set of questionable assumptions, and not facts.

He also discovered that there were "credible scientific views that dissent from neo-Darwinism" that were never disclosed to him.

"Yes, take courses advocating evolution. But also read material from credible Darwin skeptics to learn about other viewpoints. Only then can you truly make up your mind in an informed fashion."

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Texas Social Studies Curriculum Update

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
American Humanist Association - Action Alert
Texas Social Studies Curriculum Update: We're Almost There!

The Texas State Board of Education recently made public the first draft of their new curriculum—and it looks like your hard work has paid off! Bob Bhaerman, education coordinator of the Kochhar Humanist Education Center, has carefully reviewed the draft recommendations and overall has found them to be satisfactory. The curriculum does not appear to paint the United States as a "Christian nation" in any way, nor does it include other historically inaccurate or misleading standards.

Thank you for your support on this important issue.

Despite this welcome development, however, there are still a few sections of the curriculum that could call into question its ideological impartiality. We need to keep the pressure on the Texas State Board of Education to make sure the final version gets it just right. One particularly troubling area includes directives to teach about the influence of religious conservatives and the Moral Majority—without paying equal attention to progressive figures or movements.

Please click here to send a letter to the Texas State Board of Education, commending the first draft but urging them to maintain an impartial balance when it comes to covering ideologies in the final curriculum.

This is a step in the right direction. But, the pressure has to be kept up.
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Online School for GLBT Students

Monday, August 24, 2009

LGBT flagImage via Wikipedia

Maplewood-based school gets nationwide applicants

Published : Wednesday, 05 Aug 2009, 11:48 AM CDT

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. - An educator who has launched an online high school catering to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students says he's received applications from across the country.

David Glick says his GLBTQ Online High School removes gay students from potentially hostile school environments and puts them in a "welcoming educational community."

But, others say an online school would further alienate the students. David Johnson teaches social psychology at the University of Minnesota. Johnson says it would be much better to have those students in a regular high school setting.

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning says the Maplewood-based program is the first of its kind for gay students.

Finally, a safe place for GLBT students to learn with out fear of bias, bigotry and reprisal.
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A Quick Email to the Illinois Family Institute

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I was appalled at what was written about Hemant so I sent a short email to the IFI after reading Hemant's post. Here is what I sent, nothing fancy but just something to let them know how I felt:
"I was deeply disturbed to read the professional hit piece penned by Laura Higgins on Hemant Mehta "The Friendly Atheist". Not only was it highly unprofessional to personally attack Hemant over his critique of IFI but the attack on his professional character for something unrelated to "The Friendly Atheist" was particularly egregious."
However, I also wanted to add a few things here:

Higgins wrote:

"Parents have a justifiable concern that the personal views of teachers may find their way into the classroom, either through curricular choices or classroom commentary. Those parents who want nothing more than that their children will believe in God may find someone whose mission in life is to persuade young people to reject a belief in God to be a poor role model."
I couldn't agree more with the first part of her statement as I am very active in finding out the philosophy of my daughter teachers. However, I would be concerned with a teacher that talked about God and their personal beliefs in the classroom.

"Many parents would recoil at having their children spend a school year under the tutelage of a teacher--particularly a charismatic teacher--who in his or her free time blogs favorably about racism and travels the length and breadth of the country preaching racism. Similarly, some parents may recoil at having their children spend a year under the tutelage of a teacher who spends his free time blogging favorably about atheism and homosexuality and traveling the length and breadth of the country preaching favorably about atheism."
I think it is more likely that parents would recoil at the thought of a teacher who spends there free time blogging about religion, Creationism, and Intelligent Design and traveling the country speaking favorably about these unsupported topics.

"Moreover, my fervent hope is that more parents will become involved in public school issues, including asserting their rights regarding the teachers under whose tutelage they place their children."
I certainly hope parents because organizations like the IFI have been pushing for a role in our children's public education for too long.

What I found most interesting though was in her Bio.

"Prior to working for the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), Laurie worked full-time for eight years in the writing center of Deerfield High School, a public high school located in a Chicago suburb."
As a former public school employee she should know how damaging her comments could be to a teacher. Also, I wonder if Ms. Higgins ever spoke about religion in her job.

"Laurie is the Director of the Division of School Advocacy (DSA) for IFI. The newly established Division of School Advocacy is committed to assisting Illinois residents address issues related to the breakdown of Judeo-Christian family values and community standards in public education."
And lastly what breakdown in Judeo-Christian values is she advocating? Aren't public schools supposed to be secular?

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Sorry, I thought I was done. While trying to find a picture of Ms. Higgins (which I didn't find) I did find many articles by and about Ms. Higgins and her very vocal fundie opinions about schools while she worked as a teacher aide. Here are links to a few:

OK that's enough. I need to go to bed.

I'm Going to Become a Believer

Sunday, August 16, 2009
From Blogger Pictures

After seeing this church sign posting I have decided to become a believer There are many things in life that I want that I thought were impossible. Now that I am going to become a believer they will all be possible.

Here is a list of some of the things I want:

  • I want to be famous
  • I want to be rich
  • I want women to crave me
But most of all:

  • I want to fly like a bird

If I'd known about this sooner I would not have wasted time on atheism. See you in the society pages!


Keep Prayer Out of Our Schools

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Under no circumstance should prayer ever be sanctioned in public schools. Public schools are likely the last bastion of government that have successfully fought most attempts to infuse religion. Public schools have had to endure ongoing battles to keep prayer and ID out of the classroom. While I'm OK with silent personal prayer mostly because it is silent and personal, I am NOT OK with publicly led and sanctioned prayer in our schools.

Sanctioning prayer in public schools is not something I can sit on the fence about. Prayer and religion belong in the home or in church or preferably not at all.

From Mark at Proud Atheists:

Prayer in the American public school system has been an ongoing debate for the religious and non-religious alike for decades now. Should school-led prayers for commencements, sporting events and other activities be allowed? To which god or religion would your public school officially sanction? Even though, our nation is one of a Christian majority, shouldn’t we consider that many of our school children are not Christian? Not all are monotheists, but some are polytheists and even atheists.

You can read the whole article, Prayer in Public Schools

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My Daughter is an Atheist

Sunday, August 2, 2009
Not long ago my daughter informed me (and my wife) that she and her BFF are atheists. My daughter and her friend announced their atheism in a very matter fact way while we were all watching TV. For them it was no big deal, kind of like "I like this show and BTW I am an atheist". Although, I had suspected her best friend was an atheist I was not sure about my daughter.

Not only am I a proud father, I am a proud father of a young atheist. My daughter will be a sophomore in high school this fall and is not only a critical thinker but a straight A honors student. What makes me proudest though is that she came to the realization she is an atheist on her own without any pressure from me. In fact, I refused to talk to her about my atheism because I did not want to put any influence, positive or negative, on her.

My daughter excels in math and science and she is my hope for the future.
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