Michigan Science Teachers on Teaching Evolution

The Michigan Science Teachers Association has released a position statement on Evolution Education and the Nature of Science:

It is the mission of the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) to support and provide leadership for the improvement of science education throughout Michigan. In fulfillment of this mission, the MSTA recognizes that it is essential that students be introduced to the most contemporary scientific scholarship available. The MSTA recognizes that evolutionary theory is representative of this contemporary scientific scholarship as is evident by the scientific community’s resounding consensus on the validity and robustness of evolutionary theory.

However, in spite of the scientific community’s repeated validation of evolutionary theory, there continues to be socio-political pressure to eliminate, mitigate or weaken the instruction of evolution theory and/or to introduce non-scientific ideologies into the science classroom. Opponents of evolution education have suggested that evolutionary theory does not represent an empirically (tested) derived body of knowledge. This assertion demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the nature and process of science.

Scientists view and seek to explain the natural world through the empirical lens of science. The nature of scientific investigation is to ask a question and then to work to find the answer. While philosophy and theology are valuable forms of human inquiry that also seek to explain our world, science is unique in its approach by relying exclusively upon empirical natural law (e.g., the laws of physics, chemistry, geology, etc.) in its explanation and not upon supernatural intervention or untestable conjecture. It is this testability that is a hallmark of the nature and process of science. Scientific hypotheses and theory must be testable against the natural world and therefore at least potentially falsifiable. Furthermore, any conclusions formulated from these tests are tentative pending new data to the contrary. As our scientific knowledge expands and provides us with better insights into the natural world, science is able to modify previous conclusions and theory to incorporate this new knowledge. Like all scientific theories, evolutionary theory is dynamic and will be modified as new information becomes available. (more…)

Former Canadian Defense Minister Calls For Use of UFO Science to Halt Climate Change

Here’s the offbeat story of the day:

A former Canadian defense minister is demanding governments worldwide disclose and use secret alien technologies obtained in alleged UFO crashes to stem climate change, a local paper said Wednesday.

“I would like to see what (alien) technology there might be that could eliminate the burning of fossil fuels within a generation … that could be a way to save our planet,” Paul Hellyer, 83, told the Ottawa Citizen.

Alien spacecrafts would have traveled vast distances to reach Earth, and so must be equipped with advanced propulsion systems or used exceptional fuels, he told the newspaper.

Such alien technologies could offer humanity alternatives to fossil fuels, he said, pointing to the enigmatic 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico — which has become a shrine for UFO believers — as an example of alien contact.

“We need to persuade governments to come clean on what they know. Some of us suspect they know quite a lot, and it might be enough to save our planet if applied quickly enough,” he said.

Hellyer became defense minister in former prime minister Lester Pearson’s cabinet in 1963, and oversaw the controversial integration and unification of Canada’s army, air force and navy into the Canadian Forces.

He shocked Canadians in September 2005 by announcing he once saw a UFO.

If there are alien spaceships we most likely could learn a lot, but that’s a huge if. I guess the truth is out there.

Kerry Gets Opportunity To Grill Swiftie Backer

AP reports on John Kerry’s questioning of Sam Fox who was nominated to be ambassador to Belgium:

“Might I ask you what your opinion is with respect to the state of American politics as regards the politics of personal destruction?” Kerry asked near the end of the hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Fox, one of the nation’s most generous contributors to Republican candidates and causes, said he shared Kerry’s concerns that politics “has become mean and destructive.”

Fox said he didn’t recall who asked him to give to the group and blamed partisans on both sides for contributing to so-called 527 groups that are not subject to conventional campaign finance rules.

“So is that your judgment that you would bring to the ambassadorship, that two wrongs make a right?” Kerry asked.

Obama was also displeased with Fox’s contributions to the Swift Boat Liars:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a presidential hopeful and chairman of Tuesday’s hearing, said he found Fox’s responses “unsatisfying.” He said he would have preferred if Fox admitted it was a mistake to contribute to the Swift Boat group.

Update: Kerry Called Hero By Swiftie Backer

Conservative Blogs Exploit Attack on Cheney To Make Absurd Attacks on Liberal Bloggers

A day after they launched a dishonest smear campaign against Al Gore we see yet another example of how the right wingers smear without any regard for honesty in their claims about the liberal blogosphere’s response to the attempted assassination of Vice President Cheney in Afghanistan. It is dangerous to say that no blogger holds a viewpoint as you can always find a lone wacko who believes anything, but liberal bloggers are not going to applaud any such action from terrorists or wish harm to the Vice President regardless of how we feel about the individual currently holding the office. In the fantasy world of the right wing bloggers, however, liberal bloggers would be rooting for the terrorists. In order to make their case they resort to a common tactic of quoting not actual bloggers but those who post comments to blogs.

Liberal bloggers as well as conservatives recognize that there are a lot of kooks who post comments to blogs, both left and right. On top of this there are many conservatives who get their kicks posting like left wing fanatics to make the blog look absurd, and then go back to their silly forums to brag about what they’ve done (apparently unaware that such antics are easily seen by following links in stat counters back to the source.)

As Glenn Greenwald points out conservative blogs are typically more restrictive than liberal blogs in allowing comments. When they do allow comments, their comments are typically more hateful. While conservative bloggers need to resort to quoting comments, we can see expressions of hatred and advocacy of violence coming directly from conservative leaders. Greenwald notes, “Ann Coulter previously expressed sorrow that Timothy McVeigh did not bomb The New York Times building, and she also called for the murder of Supreme Court Justices.”

Perhaps the most absurd attack of all comes from Pajamas Media. They criticize Huffington Post for showing the good taste to remove the comments expressing a desire that Cheney had suffered harm. Apparently they fail to realize that the fact that liberal bloggers will not tolerate such expressions of violence on their blogs undermines their entire argument against the liberal blogs. Of course if they were able to process information in a rational matter they wouldn’t be conservatives.

Sorry Rudy, The Republicans Are Not The Party of Freedom

Earlier I posted some information as to Mitt Romney’s election strategy (attack France and George Bush’s intelligence). Rudy Giuliani has also revealed how he wants to market himself. He wants to call the Republicans the “Party of Freedom.” It’s a shame that this is all marketing which has nothing to do with reality. The New York Sun reports:

Mayor Giuliani is calling on the Republican Party to redefine itself as “the party of freedom,” focusing on lower taxes, school choice, and a health care system rooted in free market principles…

Democrats, he said, would want to raise taxes to pay the higher costs of a war. “That shows a dividing line, and to me, a misunderstanding of how our economy works,” Mr. Giuliani said. He said that while Republicans believe that the American economy is “essentially a private economy,” Democrats “really believe, honest, that it is essentially a government economy.”

In other words, Giuliani wants to run on all the old canards spread by the Republicans for years which few now believe. Republicans cannot run as the party of small government after supporting big government whenever in office. Republicans cannot claim to support a “private economy” after being the party of corporate welfare and the K Street Project. Nonsense such as saying Democrats “really believe, honest, that it is essentially a government economy” makes him sound like the kookie right wingers who believe Democrats are socialists.

While Democrats might raise taxes to pay for the war, the alternative is far worse as Republicans pass on the debt and erode the value of our retirement savings with their deficits. It wasn’t long ago that Republicans recognized the value of fiscal responsibility, just as they once recognized the dangers of unnecessary foreign entanglements.

Giuliani also states the solutions to health care problems “have to be free market solutions.” Republicans have been saying this for years, but we are still waiting to see them come up with ideas that work. Previous Republican free market ideas such as HMO’s and Health Savings Accounts only worsen the problem. Giuliani brings up the old scare stories of “socialization” of medical care, failing to recognize the huge distinction between government involvement in financing health care as opposed to government control of providing health care. While he speaks of freedom, he ignores the fact that Medicare provides the financing for private health care which is more economical than privately financed health care and which is less restrictive than many private programs. If freedom is to be Giuliani’s new mantra, I am far more free in providing the care my patients need under Medicare than under many of the “free market” plans which Giuliani would prefer. The growing number who are uninsured and underinsured do not feel like they are more free under Republican health care plans which do nothing to provide them with adequate coverage. (more…)

Foreign Policy Scholars Believe War Will Decrease US Security

Political Wire reports that a survey of 1,112 international relations scholars by Foreign Policy magazine finds a remarkable concensus on the war:

Eighty-nine percent of scholars believe that the war will ultimately decrease U.S. security. Eighty-seven percent consider the conflict unjust, and 85 percent are pessimistic about the chances of achieving a stable democracy in Iraq in the next 10-15 years. Nearly all those who responded — 96 percent — view the United States as less respected today than in the past, a sentiment no doubt heavily influenced by the current war.

Georgre Bush was ranked seventh from the bottom among Presidents with regards to foreign policy. The top rankings went to Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan.

Romney To Campaign Against France So Voters Will Forget His Flip Flops

The Boston Globe has obtained a document showing Mitt Romney’s campaign strategies. Much of this is predictable, including fears that Romney is vulnerable to charges that he has flip flopped on the issues and that his Mormon faith could be a negative with many voters. The plan has ideas for attacking the other Republican candidates, but not too directly or harshly in the hopes of ultimately getting the backing of their supporters.

Beyond the obvious, the document shows plans to play to Republican xenophobia with a resumption of France-bashing. The campaign equates Hillary Clinton with France and plans bumper stickers saying, “First, not France.”

At least some of this plan is sensible. The plan lists two ways to distinguish Romney from George Bush. The first is “Intelligence.”

Halperin’s Team Continues To Report Right Wing Smears as News

In The Way to Win ABC News political director Mark Halperin and John Harris compare Drudge to Walter Cronkite. They describe how Drudge posts things which are unsubstantiated and, since it is posted on Drudge, it becomes news which is picked up by the mainstream media. By having such items which he posts be reported by the mainstream media, Drudge has the influence of Walter Cronkite without the integrity.

If Halperin was a true journalist, the obvious response to this would be to pass on the word at ABC that Drudge is not a reliable source. Instead, despite accurately describing how misinformation is spread by Drudge, Halperin reliably spreads what Drudge posts. Not surprisingly, it appears that ABC News is the first to post tonight’s smears on Al Gore (discussed in more detail in this earlier post.) Of course they don’t mention that Drudge was greatly responsible for spreading the claims of this pseudo-research organization which has been shown to have strong Republican ties. I can only imagine how they’ll repeat all the right wing talking points in The Note.

The Swift Boating of Al Gore

It comes as no surprise that the right wingers are responding to Al Gore winning the Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth by attempting to swift boat him with attacks based upon the amount of energy he personally uses. While they still attempt to, it is getting harder for conservatives to deny the science of climate change now that it has become the consensus of scientific thought. This leaves their most common strategy of resorting to smears, knowing that the conservative pundits and bloggers will repeat any claim without any requirement for evidence. No matter that all the documented evidence refuted the claims about John Kerry, and that his accusers were found to be paid partisan hacks with a political agenda–its an attack on a Democrat so it will be passed off as truth.

Just as the Swift Boat liars were found have an agenda, James Johnson and James Boyce have found that those raising the charges against Gore are also Republican partisans. So far they have uncovered the following:

Tennessee Center’s President Drew Johnson comes straight out of the right’s network, coming from Exxon-funded American Enterprise Institute and the right-wing-funded National Taxpayers Foundation.

They are part of the right’s State Policy Network. According to PFAW,

“SPN is a national network of state-based right-wing organizations in 37 states as well as prominent nationwide right-wing organizations. Through its network SPN advances the public policy ideas of the expansive right-wing political movement on the state and local level.”

As of Feb. 16, the Tennessee tax dept. considers them “not a legitimate organization” because of their misrepresenting themselves involving questions about the group’s opposition to a state crackdown on drug dealers.

Think Progress has contacted Al Gore for further clarification. (By the way, if you need evidence of how little regard right wingers have for honesty or rational thought, check out the comments by a troll there by the name of Patrick1.) Think Progress received the following answers:

1) Gore’s family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.

2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand. Gore’s office explains:

What Mr. Gore has asked is that every family calculate their carbon footprint and try to reduce it as much as possible. Once they have done so, he then advocates that they purchase offsets, as the Gore’s do, to bring their footprint down to zero.

In a sense purchasing carbon offsets is something that conservatives, who claim to support the free market except when it comes to the real world, should understand. Of course we understand their mind set which makes them not want to understand or acknowledge such a solution.

The mind set in work here is to paint the opponents as extremist crazies and only attack the straw men they create, as opposed to responding to their opponents’ actual views. To the conservatives those who of us who oppose the Iraq war as being counter to our national interests are unwilling to defend America from real dangers. Those who exercise our rights to criticize the government are called unpatriotic traitors. Those who oppose the corporate-welfare schemes of the Republicans are called socialists. Similarly, when dealing with global warming they try to obfuscate the fact that this represents the consensus of the scientific community by claiming it is a religion. They claim those who speak of climate change are tree huggers who oppose the advantages of modern life. When they run into those who want to take real world action, such as lowering their carbon footprint and buying offsets while still living an affluent life style, they call them hypocrites for not living as predicted by their phoney stereotypes. Al Gore’s sin here is not his actions, but not being the caricature of an environmentalist which they would make him out to be.

Update: Halperin’s Team Continues To Report Right Wing Smears as News

Republicans Are Losing the Fiscal Conservatives

I found, via Andrew Sullivan, more evidence for an argument I’ve made many times here that the conventional distinctions between Democrats and Republicans, or liberals and conservatives, over economic matters no longer apply. Sullivan points out a statement from Frank Luntz in The Washington Post:

My polls show that Democrats now hold a perceived advantage with voters not just on reducing deficits and balancing the budget but on an issue long seen as a GOP strength: ending wasteful spending. That alone should jar Republicans into taking a fresh approach.

I’ve long maintained that the Republican claims of supporting small government represents their preferred rhetoric, not reality. As Sullivan also points out, rather than showing evidence of supporting fiscal responsibility, “they seem far more concerned to shore up the battle against abortion and gay marriage.” Or, as I wrote yesterday, Republicans can no longer being taken seriously with regards to developing public policy when they have made ignoring reality part of their political philosophy.

There was a time when being a conservative meant supporting fiscal responsibility and avoiding unnecessary foreign entanglements. Today that’s a far better description of Howard Dean, John Kerry, and many other Democrats than of any prominent Republicans. Of course you’ll never hear this from Republicans who prefer to demonize their opponents rather than engage in an honest discussion of the issues. Earlier in the op-ed, Luntz wrote:

It is unfortunate that the Republican Party is currently dominated by hyperpartisan, gut-punching professional politicians and expert technicians whom I wouldn’t want to face at the dark end of the electoral alley. They specialize in the flawless execution of “wedge” politics. That may have worked well in past elections, but no longer. The latest gimmick is “branding” — a Madison Avenue technique — to reverse the Republican slide. But political parties are not brands, slogans are not a replacement for ideas and you don’t sell leaders the way you sell widgets.

Strange. That’s exactly what I thought Luntz’s role has been in the GOP all along.