I called it!

Unnamed Republican official, August 2008:

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate in 2000 and now an independent who is one of John McCain’s strongest supporters, will speak at the Republican National Convention, an official said.

Lieberman will deliver a speech when Republicans gather in St. Paul, Minn., to nominate McCain for president, a party official told The Associated Press today. The official requested anonymity because a formal announcement had yet to be made.

Me, November 2006:

In fact, I’ll go one further. I predict that Joe Lieberman will speak at the 2008 Republican National Convention. You can write that down.

Take that, hypothetical people who thought I was wrong!

The Political Genius of Stephen Colbert

As everyone knows by now, Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA, is running for president of the United States. In South Carolina.

Some people might think that Stephen Colbert’s chances of becoming president are negligible, just because South Carolina only has 8 electoral votes, whereas 270 are needed to win (unless someone intervenes, of course). Some might even write his candidacy off as a joke.

Well, some people are wrong.

Stephen Colbert is a trans-media powerhouse, almost as though he were a white, male Oprah. At least, I’m told he’s white. Like Stephen Colbert, I don’t see color. People tell me he’s white, and I believe them, since taxis in New York stop for him.

Besides his award-deserving cable news program The Colbert Report, his syndicated talk radio show Colbert on the ERT, his autobiography I Am America (And So Can You!), his unpublished novel Stephen Colber’s Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure, his spin-off animated series Stephen Colbert Presents: Stephen Colber’s Alpha Squad 7: The New Tek Jansen Adventures, and his spin-off comic book Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen, he also has his own ice cream and line of premium man-seed.

With that kind of unstoppable juggernaut power, most people would be content to rake in the cash. But not Stephen Colbert. He uses his media power for worthy causes in addition to raking in the cash, such as raising wrist awareness, helping us better know our congresspersons, enriching our lexicon, and reminding us all of the #1 threat to America.

Really, when you think about it, Stephen Colbert has done all he can do for this nation without having control of the executive branch.

And when you think about it, only running for president in South Carolina is a masterwork of political genius that would drive Karl Rove into a jealous rage. While other candidates recognize the value in campaigning only in the handful of states that matter, only Stephen Colbert has the fortitude to focus on a single state, avoiding entirely the risk of squandering his corporate sponsorship money on campaigning elsewhere covering a campaign in other states on his cable news program, in accordance with federal election law.

Besides, the prospect of only getting 8 out of 270 electoral votes isn’t really an issue, if you remember your American history. Did you actually think it’s just happenstance that he picked South Carolina to run for president in? Hardly! Remember what happened last time South Carolina didn’t get its way in the presidential election?

You didn’t think calling his fanbase the “Colbert Nation” wasn’t meant to be taken literally, did you?

While the other candidates are focusing on winning one election across all 50 states, Stephen Colbert is clearly going to take the long view and instead win 50 consecutive elections, one state at a time. At that rate, in January 2205, Stephen Colbert will become president of Stephen Colbert’s United States of America. The Colbert Nation will have no 22nd Amendment to stop him!

And lest you think Stephen Colbert won’t have the votes to pull this off, are you kidding me? When Hungary held a poll to choose who to name a new bridge after, Stephen Colbert received over 17,000,000 votes. Not only was this roughly 15,000,000 more than the runner-up, but it was also roughly 7,000,000 more votes than the population of Hungary itself. The people cry out for Stephen Colbert to lead them!

Or at least, to be able to vicariously drive over him. But in contemporary American politics, isn’t that really the same thing?

Not So Fast

If you believe the so-called liberal media, you might think that the Democrats just won control of the Senate. This is not true.

Assuming the current projections hold, including Webb‘s win in Virginia, that only gives the Democrats 49 seats, which makes them tied with the Republicans, who also will have 49 seats. That’s not even a plurality, let alone a majority.

But what about those other two seats, you ask? One will be held by Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, an independent, self-proclaimed socialist. It’s probably safe to say he’ll be more likely to side with the Democrats than the Republicans, which would make it effectively 50-49 in favor of the Democrats.

And then there’s Joe Lieberman, who everyone seems to keep lumping in with the Democrats, just because he was a Democrat before ditching his party after losing his primary to Lamont. But consider the following.

First, even as a Democrat, Lieberman has largely been a conservative anyway, siding with the typical Republican position on many issues. A particularly cynical person might even say he’d be a Republican if he weren’t Jewish. [Editor's note: lest someone somehow misinterpret this, this is a slam against the Republicans, not Jews.]

Second, Lieberman’s support in the election came from the Republicans, not the Democrats (much to Schlesinger‘s dismay, I’m sure).

So, considering that Lieberman was hardly a liberal to begin with, and his newfound power base lies in the Republicans, it’s foolish to just assume he can safely be counted with the Democrats. (And that’s not even counting whatever bad blood may now exist between Lieberman and the Democrats thanks to beating Lamont, plus whatever wooing the Republicans start throwing at him, assuming woo can be thrown.) In fact, it may prove more accurate to consider his voting to lean towards the Republican side, which would give you a 50-50 split in the Senate.

And since ties in the Senate are broken by the Vice President, who last I checked is very much a Republican, that means that any votes essentially along party lines will still go to the Republicans. That’s not what I’d call Democratic control.

(If my reasoning seems a bit precarious, keep in mind I haven’t also factored in the fact that several of the seats taken from the Republicans in this election were won by conservative Democrats. Social conservatives need not worry about having insufficient strength in the Senate to push their agenda, unfortunately.)

In fact, I’ll go one further. I predict that Joe Lieberman will speak at the 2008 Republican National Convention. You can write that down.

[Editor's note: the author lacks any qualifications for making any of the above statements.]

Democracy Backfires

I think I’ve found a flaw in cunning plan to vote by absentee ballot: I now appear to be on just about every campaign’s mailing list. Oh joy.

(And lest you think I’m just being paranoid, more than one of the campaign letters I’ve received make explicit mention of the fact that they got my name from the absentee voter list.)

A few interesting observations (not to be confused with fun facts, as while these may be facts, they aren’t really fun) from the mailings:

  • The attack ads are purely negative, as in they avoid any mention of who they want you to vote for, just who they want you to vote against. And I’m cynical enough about politics to take this to mean that the candidate I’m supposed to not vote against has the exact same flaw he’s attacking in his opponent. (Especially when it’s a Republican ad accusing the Democratic candidate of increasing spending, when the Republicans of late haven’t exactly been paragons of fiscal responsibility themselves.)
  • All of the Republican ads have been pure attack ads. Only some of the Democrat ads have been pure attack ads.
  • All the Democrat ads are addressed to “Paul Kuliniewicz”, whereas all the Republican ads are addressed to “The Kuliniewicz Family”. I guess they didn’t get the memo; the former lives in Maryland, whereas the latter lives in Missouri, and I’m pretty sure the Maryland State Board of Elections wouldn’t like the latter voting in a Maryland state senate race. Plus, one of my cynical rules of thumb as far as politics go is to be suspicious as soon as someone says the word “family”.

(And lest you get the wrong impression from the above list, no, I’m not voting straight Democrat. And no, that’s not just because in one of the races a Republican is running unopposed (yes, in Maryland!). Who taught you to be so cynical about politics? Sheesh. It’s just that the Republican ads so far have been easier to poke at.)

Also, one thing you learn from perusing the ballot is the races with people you’ve never heard of for offices you never even knew existed. I mean, everyone knows about the races for governor or Congress or the state legislature, and even if they don’t, it’s pretty well-known what those people do. But then you run into something like electing the Register of Wills. I’m not entirely sure how that’s a partisan office. And wait, I’m supposed to pick three out of a pool of six people to be a Judge of the Orphans’ Court? Which doesn’t even have anything to do with children?

And if you think that’s weird, try this on for size: the Libertarians, Greens, and Populists are all backing the same candidate for the U.S. Senate! How exactly does a Libertarian, a Green, and a Populist agree on anything?

To my Maryland readers

Did you know that Maryland voters can vote by absentee ballot, no questions asked? Just send in the request form by the end of the month and you’re good to go.

Why would you want to do this? Two reasons spring to mind:

Fun fact: Maryland’s governor is encouraging voters to use absentee ballots instread of Diebold’s machines as well. And being an election year, people will argue about why that is.

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Two strikes against Maryland elections:

  1. Only voters who declared a party affiliation on their voter registration form are allowed to vote in primaries. (What’s your excuse for not voting today?)
  2. Maryland uses Diebold voting machines anyway, so it’s not like there’s any assurance the votes wouldn’t be tampered with anyway.
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Good News on HB 1266

According to NCSE (third item down), HB 1266, this year’s anti-evolution bill in Missouri, is effectively dead. Its supporters are claiming it’s just because the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee can only submit so many bills to the House per year, and they dropped HB 1266 to make room for others. No idea if that’s the only reason, or if the opposition from teacher and school organizations also played a role.

Whatever the reason, it’s good news for science education in Missouri. We’ll see what happens next year.

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HB 1266 Update

Remember HB 1266, the Missouri bill that would gut science education? Well, it emerged from committee with a thumbs up.

Memo to Missouri: we’re supposed to be a bad influence on Kansas, not the other way around.

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Missouri Legislature v. Establishment Clause

Behold HCR13, which if passed would move Missouri towards establishing Christianity as the state’s official religion.

Ed Brayton has a good point-by-point analysis, but he misses one important if subtle point:

Whereas, as elected officials we should protect the majority’s right to express their religious beliefs while showing respect for those who object;

Besides fanning the religious right’s martyrdom complex, note how Christians have the “right” to express their beliefs but others merely should be “show[n] respect” for theirs. Clearly, those proclaiming how their religious beliefs are under attack are reluctant to extend the protection they demand to those who might think their beliefs are under attack by, I don’t know, the legislature wanting to establish an official state religion.

But since HCR13 would be such a blatant and egregious violation of the Establishment Clause, why would anybody even propose it in the first place? Joshua Holland has the right idea:

But people who write bills like this aren’t trying to make law. Their intent is to further the right’s narrative that Christians are a persecuted minority under siege. They want to guarantee that the good folks at the Anti-defamation league, the ACLU and Americans United fight to have their silly legislation overturned, proving that those civil rights groups have an anti-Christian agenda (and perhaps even a direct association with Satan). And bills like this — you couldn’t write a piece of legislation that more obviously violates the Establishment Clause –are meant to give those groups a victory in court, thereby proving the existence of out-of-control activist judges dedicated to stymieing the popular will of the Christian majority.

Aftertaste the Democracy

Since Ryan asked, here’s the text of the letter.

And for the record, I refrained from dotting my i’s this way.

Dear Rep. Schoemehl:

I am writing to you in regards to the proposed “Missouri Science Education Act” (HB1266) currently sitting in the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee of the Missouri House of Representatives. Even though this bill is not yet up for a vote, I believe the consequences of it passing are so severe that I must exhort you to strenuously oppose it.

As you are no doubt aware, the teaching of the scientific fact of evolution is under a concerted attack nationwide. Supporters of a rebranded, watered-down variant of creationism called “Intelligent Design” have been pushing for its inclusion in science curricula as an allegedly scientific alternative to evolution. But with Judge Jones’s recent ruling in the Kitzmiller case in Dover, Pennsylvania, having rightly found ID to be scientifically vacuous and a disingenuous ploy to sneak religion into the science classroom, creationists are currently changing tactics yet again, this time advocating so-called “critical analysis” of evolution.

Alas, with HB1266, Missouri risks becoming yet another front on the ongoing war on evolution and, even more disturbingly, on science education in general. At first glance, the bill seems to be an attempt to improve the accuracy of science education in public schools. However, a closer reading reveals it to be a vicious attack on science education itself.

For example, the bill deliberately confuses the colloquial meaning of “theory” — a guess or conjecture — with its scientific definition: a
falsifiable statement that makes testable predictions and is supported by evidence. The theory of gravity, the germ theory of disease, the heliocentric solar system, and evolution are all theories, and all are supported so well by the vast preponderance of evidence that they are considered to be true. Without theories, science is reduced to a dry collection of facts without ever understanding how they fit together into a cohesive view of the natural world. Adopting such a gravely flawed meaning of “theory” in the science classroom, as this bill would do, would prevent students from understanding the very fundamentals of the scientific method, upon which all modern science is based.

HB1266 invents the term “verified empirical data” to refer to raw, uninterpreted experimental data in order to cast aspersions on “theories,” which it lumps together with terms like “conjecture” and “speculation.” Its intent is to suggest that theories are not verified, which is hardly the case for those being taught in the science classroom. Few would argue that gravity is merely a “conjecture,” yet according to HB1266 even it is not “verified” and thus deserves to be eyed with suspicion and distrust.

Yet HB1266 goes further still. It mandates, through a creative definition of the term “substantive amount,” that any scientific theories that make predictions about the future or the distant past — that is, all scientific theories — must be balanced with equal time for “critical analysis.” This goes far beyond attacking evolution, which is singled out in particular. Not only does the language of the bill implicitly target other well-supported scientific facts often criticized for non-scientific reasons, such as global warming, the age of the Earth, and the Big Bang, but it also impacts every other topic in science. If HB1266 passes, at least half the time spent in the science classroom must be spent attacking the science taught during the other half.

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not claiming that scientific theories are flawless. By their very nature, scientific theories are always tentative explanations subject to change or even falsification pending new evidence. However, evolution is hardly a flawed theory “on its last legs,” as creationists would have you believe; in fact, evolution is the foundation upon which all of modern biology rests. While scientists continue to refine the details of our understanding of evolution, there is no controversy over the validity of evolution itself within the scientific community. The “controversy” ID supporters continuously clamor about is nothing more than a public relations campaign.

The enemies of evolution attack it because of the social, ethical, and religious messages they erroneously read into it. They claim their
objections are based on science, but if that it true, the burden of proof falls upon them to collect and establish the scientific evidence to support their position. Intelligent Design is a total failure in this regard, offering only a handful of specious analogies and easily debunked arguments against evolution. The so-called “design hypothesis” advanced by ID advocates is not even a scientific hypothesis, let alone a theory, because it is unfalsifiable; any conceivable observation can be explained away by saying “that’s just the way the designer made it.” It is no wonder, then, that they have relied upon political pressure, not science, to force attacks on evolution into public schools.

If HB1266 comes to a vote, the debate surrounding it will almost certainly be highly contentious and even vicious, if similar efforts in Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere are any indication. Nevertheless, it is essential that you take a strong stand against this bill, and I encourage you to urge your colleagues to do likewise.

The future of science education in Missouri’s public schools is at stake.

Paul Kuliniewicz

P.S. Lest my return address mislead you, I am a fellow resident of Oakville. I am currently finishing studying for my master’s degree in
computer science at Purdue University, thus the West Lafayette, Indiana return address.

Taste the Democracy

Any moron on the Internet can blog about an awful piece of anti-science legislation pending in his home state. But it’s highly unlikely those in power happen to be lurking here. What to do?

The obvious answer is to write to one’s state representative to urge her to oppose the bill, should it come to a vote. (Similar bills have been floated in the past few years, but none ever came to a vote.) Democracy in action, baby.

Of course, the letter was far less snarky than aforementioned blog post. And I didn’t even get into the constitutional issues or the Dover trap that the bill would set for the schools. Instead, I focused on how the bill advocates bad science.

Here We Go Again

Lest you think I was reading too much into pending anti-science legislation in Missouri earlier, and think efforts like that are “only” anti-evolution, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on over at NASA lately.

Phil Plait describes efforts by the current administration to attack science coming out of NASA and is well worth reading.

To whet your appetite, George Deutsch, a presidential appointee, instructed the NASA webmaster to add the word “theory” after every mention of the Big Bang. Why? Here’s his rationale:

[The Big Bang is] not proven fact; it is opinion. [...] It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.


This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.

Weren’t the creationists holding up the Big Bang as an example of a religion-friendly scientific theory just a few months ago in the Dover trial? I guess now that they don’t see any immediate religious or political need for it, they’re tossing it aside.

Given their track record with science, it’s hardly surprising.

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A Word of Advice

If you’re offended by a couple of Danish cartoons that imply that Islam is a religion of violence, calling for the massacre and extermination of the artists may not be the most effective response.

I’m just saying.

Missouri Legislature v. Gravity

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the War on Science came back to my home state of Missouri. Let’s take a look at House Bill 1266, creationists’ latest attempt to attack the teaching of evolution. This bill is so bad, it would require that Intelligent Falling be taught side-by-side with gravity.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at what the bill says. It starts off with some unusual definitions:

170.025. 1. This section shall be known and may be cited as the “Missouri Science Education Act”.

2. As used in this section, the following terms mean:

(1) “Substantive”, equal to or greater than. Each public school district may modify or expand this definition as necessary within the meaning of substantive for local use;

We haven’t even gotten to the science bits yet and already we’re given a head-scratcher. Apparently 3 is substantive 2? Someone needs to point the legislature to Dictionary.com — “substantive” is not a comparison operator!

Yes, the rest of the bill makes it more clear what the intent behind this definition is, but still.

(2) “Verified empirical data”, information representing physical reality based upon repeated independent human observation, measurement, and experimentation with consistent results. Verified empirical data is without significant inference and is not theory, hypothesis, conjecture, speculation, estimated data, extrapolated data, or consensus of scientific opinion.

We then define a new term which seems to just mean “raw experimental data” without any interpretation or analysis applied to it. A cursory Google search for the term shows the top hits are all references to this or similar proposed legislation, so this isn’t some pre-existing scientific term. But at least this definition isn’t sheer nonsense.

You may be wondering why the bill defines a new term for “raw experimental data” when “raw experimental data” seems just as good. Patience.

Now the set-up:

3. Public elementary and secondary school science teacher instruction for sixth grade through twelfth grade courses in physics, chemistry, biology, physical science, earth science, and other natural science courses shall comply with the following best practices, subject to the availability of teaching material but no later than five years after the effective date of this section:

(1) Teacher classroom instruction shall use the following best practices to support the truthful identity of scientific information and minimize misrepresentation while promoting clarity, accuracy, and student understanding:

All right, best practices! Who wouldn’t want teachers to use best practices in the science curriculum? Gee, I wonder just what those “best practices” are…

(a) Information that appears to be verified empirical data, but is not, shall be identified to distinguish it as separate from verified empirical data. Verified empirical data needs no specific identification. Inability to determine if specific information is verified empirical data shall not invalidate such best practice;

So, anything presented as raw experimental data must actually be raw experimental data, right? It seems pretty hard to object to that; fudging such data would set a bad example for students. I’m reminded of an anecdote from Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! where, when giving a talk about why Brazilian science education is a failure, Feynman takes a science textbook being used and points to the only time when experimental data is presented to demonstrate a topic. But he points out that the numbers are faked — had the authors actually performed the experiment, they would’ve gotten completely different results.

But hang on; is this possibility really what the bill is trying to address? There’s that phrase again: “verified empirical data.” Sure, we defined it to mean “raw experimental data,” but it sounds a lot more like “things we can demonstrate are true,” doesn’t it? As opposed to “unsubstantiated guesses,” I guess. Surely creationist legislation wouldn’t try to exploit confusion in terminology to their benefit, right? After all, it’s not like they ever use “theory” in its colloquial meaning of “guess” and not its scientific meaning of “a falsifiable model that predicts observable phenomena.”

(b) Information representing scientific thought such as theory, hypothesis, conjecture, speculation, extrapolation, estimation, unverified data, consensus of scientific opinion, and philosophical belief shall be identified to distinguish it as separate from verified empirical data;

Wow, am I psychic or what? The bill wants to keep “verified empirical data” distinct from “theory.” If we’re being careful with our definitions, this seems so obvious as to be silly to even mention; how could you possibly confuse raw experimental data with a falsifiable model that makes predictions about observable phenomena? The latter makes predictions of what we expect to see in the former, but they’re hardly the same thing.

And look at the company that “theory” keeps in that sentence. Hypothesis. Conjecture. Speculation. Extrapolation. Estimation. Unverified data. Consensus of scientific opinion. Philosophical belief. You don’t suppose they’re trying to improperly conflate scientific theories with guesses, do you?

(2) Teacher classroom instruction shall use the following best practices to support the objective teaching of scientific information and minimize dogmatism while promoting student inquiry, healthy skepticism, and understanding:

Isn’t it cute how creationist legislation is careful to explicitly state it’s trying to “minimize dogmatism”? Almost as though reading the rest of the bill would lead to the opposite conclusion….

(a) When information other than verified empirical data is taught representing current scientific thought such as theory, hypothesis, conjecture, speculation, extrapolation, estimation, unverified data, consensus of scientific opinion, and philosophical belief, such information shall be within the purview of critical analysis and may be critically analyzed. Critical analysis includes the teaching of anomalous verified empirical data, contrary verified empirical data, missing supporting data, inadequate mechanisms, insufficient resources, faulty logic, crucial assumptions, alternate logical explanations, lack of experimental results, conflicting experiments, or predictive failures where applicable;

Wait. We’re teaching “verified empirical data”, a.k.a. “raw experimental data”? That doesn’t make sense at all. Raw data, by itself, tells us nothing about the world around us. When I pushed a 5 kg block with 14 N of force, it accelerated by 2.8 m/s2 in the direction of the force. So what? That tells me nothing about what will happen if I push the object with a different amount of force, or if I push a different object, or if I pull instead of pushing, or even if I try doing the exact same thing again. That one piece of raw experimetal data tells me nothing useful.

It’s not until raw experimental data is integrated into a theory that it becomes scientifically useful. I can try my experiment with different masses and forces, and from looking at the data I collect I can hypothesize a relation among the force, mass, and acceleration. Then I can test that hypothesis by using it to predict what will happen under different conditions, and see if it works. As more and more predictions are verified, we have a theory supported by raw experimental data which we can use to predict new data. Knowing that F = m a tells us far more than a pile of raw data ever will.

Of course the theory or model isn’t the same as the raw experimental data; it represents our understanding of how the natural world works. As science progresses our theories become better and better approximations of reality as we collect new data and refine our theories. (F = m a works pretty well, until you start getting close to the speed of light.) That’s the scientific method in a nutshell.

But when you look at the bill, that’s not the picture it presents about science at all. It distinguishes between raw data and theory, but with the intention of calling the raw data good and reliable and the theory unreliable and full of holes. No theory is perfect, but that hardly means that every theory has a scientifically viable alternative or is on the verge of collapse.

(b) When information other than verified empirical data is taught representing current scientific thought such as theory or hypothesis regarding phenomena that occur in the future or that occurred previous to written history, a critical analysis of such information shall be taught in a substantive amount. If a theory or hypothesis of biological origins is taught, a critical analysis of such theory or hypothesis shall be taught in a substantive amount.

You know, just in case it wasn’t clear the primary target here is evolution.

Particularly disturbing here is the mention of “phenomena that occur in the future” as something needing so-called “critical analysis”. Anything in science that makes predictions about the future — in other words, everything in science — should be viewed with the same suspicion the creationists levy against evolution. The very notion that we can learn about the world around us by observing it is repugnant to creationists.

We also see here the appearance of that curiously defined term “substantive”. Not only do we have to “teach the controversy” (invented or otherwise) about every single scientific theory presented, but we have to exert effort “equal to or greater than” that used to present the science. Not only do you have to criticize evolution (amongst other things), but you better spend at least as much time doing so, if not more, than you do actually teaching evolution!

In other words, at least 50% of the science curriculum must be aimed at dismantling science. Creationism, of course, need not have any scrutiny applied to it whatsoever.

4. No public elementary or secondary school science teacher shall be refused employment, disciplined, denied advancement, transferred, or otherwise discriminated against for teaching in accordance with the best practices in subsection 3 of this section within the time allotted the affected subject matter by the course curriculum.

Just in case you’re a school that does care about science education, you can’t do anything about it. Even if a teacher’s sole scientific “credential” is believing science is an evil liberal plot to destroy America, you can’t do a thing to stop him or her from indoctrinating students in the science classroom.

5. The state commissioner of education shall ensure that any assessment or competency testing of public elementary and secondary school pupils for academic performance used by the state and whose content may be modified by the state complies with the best practices in subsection 3 of this section by the proper identification of scientific information and critical analysis. If questions regarding information within the purview of paragraph (b) of subdivision (2) of subsection 3 of this section are included in a test, questions regarding critical analysis of such information shall be included in a substantive amount.

And just in case students do learn science despite the legislature’s best efforts, at least 50% of any science test must focus on alleged criticisms of science.

Now, what would a lesson on gravity entail under these science standards?

Let’s start with some “verified empirical data,” since the science standards love them so much. Pick up the textbook, drop it on the floor. Verified Empirical Datum #1: When I stood at this exact spot and let go of this exact book at that exact moment of time, it fell to the floor. Pick up a stapler, drop it on the floor. Verified Empirical Datum #2: When I stood at this exact spot and let go of this exact stapler at that exact moment of time, it fell to the floor. Pick up a pencil, drop it on the floor. Verified Empirical Datum #3: When I stood at this exact spot and let go of this exact pencil at that exact moment of time, it fell to the floor.

Now the so-called theory of Newtonian gravity. Some elitist (who wasn’t even American) claimed that every two objects in the universe exert an attractive gravitational force on each other directly proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

Better jump ahead to the “best practices”:

  • “Anomalous verified empirical data”: The Moon goes around the Earth. Scientists say this is because of gravity. But that doesn’t make sense, since gravity supposedly makes things attract, not move around in circles.
  • “Contrary verified empirical data”: Look at that plane. It isn’t falling to the ground. Seems like gravity isn’t so universal after all.
  • “Missing supporting data”: There’s all kinds of gaps in the gravitational record. Scientists haven’t even come close to measuring the alleged gravitational force between every pair of objects in the universe.
  • “Inadequate mechanisms”: Please. Gravitons? Gravity waves? Curved space-time? No one’s ever seen any of these. So how is gravity supposed to work?
  • “Insufficient resources”: NSF isn’t funding anybody to measure the gravitational force between every pair of resources in the universe to try to verify this “theory”. See, even scientists know gravity is a dying theory on its last legs, but they don’t want you to know that.
  • “Faulty logic”: If everything attracts everything else, how come the universe isn’t one giant katamari? Scientists even claim the universe is expanding. What happened to the gravity there, guys?
  • “Crucial assumptions”: Gravitational theory assumes the “laws” of physics apply throughout the universe. How can they so cavalierly assume Aristotle was wrong?
  • “Alternate logical explanations”: Intelligent Falling theory states that God an unnamed pusher is responsible for pushing objects down. You can read more about this explanation for falling by reading the book Of Dropped Pandas and People in the school library.
  • “Lack of experimental results”: No one has ever demonstrated that a black hole’s gravity is so large that even light cannot escape.
  • “Conflicting experiments”: Photons passing near a star have their trajectory bent by gravity. I don’t see the light in this room being bent by gravity. Which is it?
  • “Predictive failures”: Gravitational “theory” predicts that any two objects I drop will fall at the same rate. Watch as I drop this science textbook and this page I ripped out of it (which just so happens to be on “evolution”, a “theory” with so many problems we won’t be covering it because “best practices” for it would take so long; trust me on this). The page fell more slowly than the book. Looks like gravity isn’t right after all.

Class dismissed.

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The Meh on Christmas

The whole “War on Christmas” inanity the right-wing pundits have been pushing lately is begging for an A Christmas Carol parody treatment. I’ve been meaning to write one, I really have, but in between last week’s finals, the rush to get my SELinux stuff in shape for the final paper deadline, and actually wanting to take a break here and there during break, I haven’t gotten around to doing it.

If you’re looking for something to do, go ahead and run with the idea. Heck, I’ll even get you started with an outline:

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