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  • richardmitnick 1:03 pm on July 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Answers in Genesis", A great test case, , , Creationism,   

    From ars technica: “Creationist sues national parks, now gets to take rocks from Grand Canyon” a Test Case Too Good to be True 

    Ars Technica
    ars technica

    7/7/2017
    Scott K. Johnson

    1
    Scott K. Johnson

    “Alternative facts” aren’t new. Young-Earth creationist groups like Answers in Genesis believe the Earth is no more than 6,000 years old despite actual mountains of evidence to the contrary, and they’ve been playing the “alternative facts” card for years. In lieu of conceding incontrovertible geological evidence, they sidestep it by saying, “Well, we just look at those facts differently.”

    Nowhere is this more apparent than the Grand Canyon, which young-Earth creationist groups have long been enamored with. A long geologic record (spanning almost 2 billion years, in total) is on display in the layers of the Grand Canyon thanks to the work of the Colorado River. But many creationists instead assert that the canyon’s rocks—in addition to the spectacular erosion that reveals them—are actually the product of the Biblical “great flood” several thousand years ago.

    Andrew Snelling, who got a PhD in geology before joining Answers in Genesis, continues working to interpret the canyon in a way that is consistent with his views. In 2013, he requested permission from the National Park Service to collect some rock samples in the canyon for a new project to that end. The Park Service can grant permits for collecting material, which is otherwise illegal.

    Snelling wanted to collect rocks from structures in sedimentary formations known as “soft-sediment deformation”—basically, squiggly disturbances of the layering that occur long before the sediment solidifies into rock. While solid rock layers can fold (bend) on a larger scale under the right pressures, young-Earth creationists assert that all folds are soft sediment structures, since forming them doesn’t require long periods of time.

    The National Park Service sent Snelling’s proposal out for review, having three academic geologists who study the canyon look at it. Those reviews were not kind. None felt the project provided any value to justify the collection. One reviewer, the University of New Mexico’s Karl Karlstrom, pointed out that examples of soft-sediment deformation can be found all over the place, so Snelling didn’t need to collect rock from a national park. In the end, Snelling didn’t get his permit.

    In May, Snelling filed a lawsuit alleging that his rights had been violated, as he believed his application had been denied by a federal agency because of his religious views. The complaint cites, among other things, President Trump’s executive order on religious freedom.

    That lawsuit was withdrawn by Snelling on June 28. According to a story in The Australian, Snelling withdrew his suit because the National Park Service has relented and granted him his permit. He will be able to collect about 40 fist-sized samples, provided that he makes the data from any analyses freely available.

    Not that anything he collects will matter. “Even if I don’t find the evidence I think I will find, it wouldn’t assault my core beliefs,” Snelling told The Australian. “We already have evidence that is consistent with a great flood that swept the world.”

    Again, in actuality, that hypothesis is in conflict with the entirety of Earth’s surface geology.

    Snelling says he will publish his results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. That likely means Answers in Genesis’ own Answers Research Journal, of which he is editor-in-chief.

    See the full article here .

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    Ars Technica was founded in 1998 when Founder & Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher announced his plans for starting a publication devoted to technology that would cater to what he called “alpha geeks”: technologists and IT professionals. Ken’s vision was to build a publication with a simple editorial mission: be “technically savvy, up-to-date, and more fun” than what was currently popular in the space. In the ensuing years, with formidable contributions by a unique editorial staff, Ars Technica became a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements, gadget reviews, software, hardware, and nearly everything else found in between layers of silicon.

    Ars Technica innovates by listening to its core readership. Readers have come to demand devotedness to accuracy and integrity, flanked by a willingness to leave each day’s meaningless, click-bait fodder by the wayside. The result is something unique: the unparalleled marriage of breadth and depth in technology journalism. By 2001, Ars Technica was regularly producing news reports, op-eds, and the like, but the company stood out from the competition by regularly providing long thought-pieces and in-depth explainers.

    And thanks to its readership, Ars Technica also accomplished a number of industry leading moves. In 2001, Ars launched a digital subscription service when such things were non-existent for digital media. Ars was also the first IT publication to begin covering the resurgence of Apple, and the first to draw analytical and cultural ties between the world of high technology and gaming. Ars was also first to begin selling its long form content in digitally distributable forms, such as PDFs and eventually eBooks (again, starting in 2001).

     
  • richardmitnick 6:49 am on May 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Creationism, Grand Canyon,   

    From NYT: “A Creationist Wants Rocks to Study. The Grand Canyon Says No” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    MAY 29, 2017
    FERNANDA SANTOS

    1
    Officials at the Grand Canyon are in a dispute with a geologist who is a creationist and wants rocks from the canyon to study. Credit Richard Perry/The New York Times

    Did Noah’s flood create the Grand Canyon? Not a chance, say mainstream scientists, who maintain that the canyon’s layers of rocks were carved and chiseled by a persistent flow of water beginning some five million years ago. But Andrew A. Snelling — a geologist by training, a creationist by conviction — has a minority view, and he hoped to prove himself right.

    In November 2013, Dr. Snelling — he has a doctorate in geology from the University of Sydney, in Australia, where he was born — asked administrators of Grand Canyon National Park for permission to remove some 60 half-pound rocks from certain areas along the edges of the Colorado River, which snakes through the canyon.

    Last July, the administrators denied his request. This month, Dr. Snelling sued them, the National Park Service and the Interior Department, claiming the denial amounted to discrimination against his religious beliefs.

    In an interview on Thursday, Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian legal defense group that is representing Dr. Snelling, said, “It’s one thing to debate the science, but to deny access to the data not based on the quality of a proposal or the nature of the inquiry, but on what you might do with it is an abuse of government power.”

    Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, referred questions about the lawsuit to the Justice Department, which did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. McCaleb said that Parks Service officials reached out to him recently and that both sides would meet soon.

    As a young-Earth creationist, Dr. Snelling embraces a literal interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Genesis: God created the universe, Earth and all life in it in six days, and the flood caused rapid geological transformations. By these measures, Earth is not billions of years old, but only several thousand.

    His beliefs did not come up in his permit request, but he was no stranger to park officials, as he had guided many Biblical-themed rafting trips through the canyon and done research there. According to the lawsuit, the officials subjected him to cumbersome requirements, such as providing coordinates and photographs of each of the places from which he planned to collect rocks and submitting his proposal to peer reviews.

    The park also commissioned reviews of its own. One of them, by Peter Huntoon, a professor emeritus at the University of Wyoming, said the problem was not so much Dr. Snelling’s perspective, but the park’s adherence to its “narrowly defined institutional mandate predicated in part on the fact that ours is a secular society as per our Constitution.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:34 am on December 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Creationism,   

    From The Atlantic: “The Evolution of Teaching Creationism in Public Schools” 

    Atlantic Magazine

    The Atlantic Magazine

    12.20.15
    Eric Jaffe

    A new study shows that anti-evolution lessons have become more stealthily integrated into curricula.

    1
    AP

    Some 90 years out from the Scopes Monkey Trial, and a full decade after the legal defeat of “intelligent design” in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the fight to teach creationism alongside evolution in American public schools has yet to go extinct. On the contrary, a new analysis in the journal Science suggests that such efforts have themselves evolved over time—adapting into a complex form of stealth creationism that’s steadily tougher to detect.

    Call it survival of the fittest policy.

    “It is one thing to say that two bills have some resemblances, and another thing to say that bill X was copied from bill Y with greater than 90 percent probability,” Nick Matzke, a researcher at the Australian National University and author of the new paper, tells CityLab via email. “I do think this research strengthens the case that all of these bills are of a piece—they are all ‘stealth creationism,’ and they all have either clear fundamentalist motivations, or are close copies of bills with such motivations.”

    Matzke performed a close textual analysis of 67 anti-evolution education bills proposed by local government since 2004. (Three U.S. states have signed them into law during this time: Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.) The result was a phylogenic tree—in effect a developmental history—tracing these policies to two main legislative roots: so-called “academic freedom acts,” and “science education acts.”

    2
    This phylogenetic tree traces most of the 67 anti-evolution education policies proposed in U.S. states since 2004 to two main roots: one group of “academic freedom acts,” and another as “scientific education acts.” (Nicholas J. Matzke / via Science)

    Matzke’s analysis shows that academic-freedom acts were popular in 2004 and 2005 but have since been “almost completely replaced” with science-education acts, which emerged as the strategy of choice after the adoption of a 2006 anti-evolution policy in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. (That policy’s lingering impact on creationist teaching was thoroughly exposed by Zack Kopplin in Slate earlier this year.) These acts tend to call for “critical analysis” of scientific topics that are supposedly controversial among experts. They often lump evolution alongside research areas like climate change and human cloning—an effort, argues Matzke, to skirt legal precedents that connect policies solely targeting evolution with unconstitutional religious motivations.

    “Kitzmiller was mostly about policies that specifically mention intelligent design, says Matzke, who uncovered an explicit link between creationism and intelligent design during that case while working for the U.S.-based National Center for Science Education. “If a policy encourages evolution bashing, and has the same sorts of sponsors and fundamentalist motivations, but doesn’t mention intelligent design or creationism, is it unconstitutional? If I were a judge, I would say ‘yes, obviously,’ but judges have all sorts of different philosophies and political biases.”

    Another marker of science-education acts is that they typically go out of their way to note that only scientific information, not religious doctrine, is protected by the policy. That’s a revealingly insecure stipulation, given that U.S. public schools are secular arenas by default.

    3
    A school bus collects students at Dover Area High School in 2005; the Pennsylvania town’s school system was a focus of a 2004 court ruling that teaching “intelligent design” as a scientific concept was unconstitutional. (AP / Carolyn Kaster)

    A review of six anti-evolution education bills proposed at the state level in 2015 shows many of these legislative tactics on display:

    Missouri. This act looks for ways “to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies”—with “biological evolution” among them.
    Montana. This House bill pushes “critical thinking” in science class on the grounds that “truth in education about claims over scientific discoveries, including but not limited to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries, can cause controversy.”
    South Dakota. State S.B. 114 gives teachers full freedom to help students “understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories,” with “biological evolution” mentioned as one such theory alongside global warming.
    Oklahoma. This bill—creating a “Science Education Act”—urges teachers to help students develop “critical thinking skills” about unidentified “controversial issues” with the understanding that it “not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine.”
    Alabama. Much in line with the aforementioned legislative efforts, the sponsor of this bill, Representative Mack Butler, betrayed its intentions when he noted on Facebook that its aim was to “encourage debate if a student has a problem learning he came from a monkey rather than an intelligent design!”
    Indiana. S.B. 562 only mentions “human cloning” as a controversial scientific subject, but its mission to help students “understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing conclusions,” with its caveat about protecting “only the teaching of scientific information,” tags it firmly within the science education act lineage.

    That none of these bills passed in 2015 isn’t the point, says Matzke. After all, several states have adopted such policies into law in recent years, placing millions of public-school children in the hands of educators who might promote creationist alternatives to evolution, either because they have religious motivations themselves or simply weak scientific backgrounds. That Matzke’s analysis links two such laws to science education act language—those in Louisiana and Tennessee—is evidence enough that anti-evolution policies can, indeed, adapt to new times.

    “Successful policies have a tendency to spread,” he says. “Every year, some states propose these policies, and often they are only barely defeated. And obviously, sometimes they pass, so hopefully this article will help raise awareness of the dangers of the ongoing situation.”

    See the full article here .

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