April 22nd, 2015- FFRF and Dawkins Foundation combat creationism in Calif. school

Apr 23, 2015

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science have teamed up to protest an Arroyo Grande High School teacher who is reportedly pushing creationism in his classroom.

A concerned family reported that science teacher Brandon Pettenger is attempting to “present both sides of the argument” regarding evolution in his public classroom by showing the debate between scientist Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham and having students summarize blogs on creationist websites. One of the blogs calls the National Center for Science Education “the Darwinist education lobby.”

When the parents contacted Pettenger to express their concerns, he told them, “There is debate within the scientific community about how to answer the question where did life come from. I feel it would be a disservice to my students not to present both sides of the argument. . . . I make it very clear beforehand that I am a Christian but I am trying to present the scientific evidence.”

FFRF and RDFRS wrote the school district a letter on April 22 objecting to Pettenger’s teachings. “There are not ‘two sides’ to the evolution argument as Pettenger claims,” said FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel and RDFRS President & CEO Robyn Blumner.

“Every attempt to smuggle religion into science classrooms by means of ‘alternative theories’ has failed,” they said. The letter quotes from a case, Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which a federal court struck down the teaching of “intelligent design,” saying that any theory that “depends upon ‘supernatural intervention,’ which cannot be explained by natural causes, or be proven through empirical investigation, and is therefore neither testable nor falsifiable” is “simply not science.”


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30 comments on “April 22nd, 2015- FFRF and Dawkins Foundation combat creationism in Calif. school

  • The argument against creationism is too big and diffuse. We need something compact and punchy to broadcast all over the place so that everyone gets to know the top 10 arguments against teaching creationism.

    Some top tens could be printed one coloured cardboard on various topics. Christians seem to like them.

    top ten reasons there was no historic Jesus

    top ten reasons the bible could not have been written by a god.

    top ten things in the bible that are not true.

    Top ten terrible things the bible accused Jehovah of.

    Top ten immoral/foolish things the bible commands.



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  • @OP – When the parents contacted Pettenger to express their concerns, he told them, “There is debate within the scientific community about how to answer the question where did life come from.

    There certainly is – and that is a debate on genetics and abiogenesis.
    It has nothing to do with creationism!

    I feel it would be a disservice to my students not to present both sides of the argument. . . .

    Any competent science teacher knows, there are “not two sides to any argument”. There are assorted experiments and studies on genetics and biochemistry.

    I make it very clear beforehand that I am a Christian

    Some forms of Xtianity, do seem to obstruct and retard attempts to understand science.

    but I am trying to present the scientific evidence.”

    Unfortunately this clown does not know what scientific evidence is, so either needs to educated in science and scientific methodology, or replaced by a competent science teacher. Pseudo-science is not acceptable.



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  • OP :

    “There is debate within the scientific community about how to answer the question where did life come from….”

    Yes there certainly is but what has that got to do with evolution ? Evolution is what happens after abiogenesis. As usual, the YEC confuses the two.



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  • James
    Apr 24, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    If Darwinian evolution is so obviously superior to Intelligent Design, then atheists should have no problem whatsoever if both sides are presented.

    There are not “two sides” to the science. So called “intelligent design” is pseudo-science nonsense made up by incredulous scientific illiterates, who have no competence in teaching science.

    Then the obvious superiority of Darwinian Evolution can come shining through, and this will aid in the stamping out of Creationism and eventually religion in general.

    A science classroom is for teaching science.
    Creationism has no place in it, just as “Flat-Earthism”, (beyond simple dismissal as an ancient misconception), has no place in astronomy classes.

    It would be a great triumph of science over religion.

    Science classrooms are not for debating religion, flat-Earthism, Moon-landing denials, or any other nuttery. Children are not well enough informed to judge such issues – particularly when deceptive lies have been deliberately concocted and should not have their valuable time wasted on long debunked nonsense.

    There should be nothing to fear from preventing other views, and when there is, it looks suspicious.

    Science education is about learning scientific methodology and understanding the workings of the world and the universe.
    There is no such subject as “religious biology”. There is only scientific biology!

    As I pointed out earlier, anyone who does not know abiogenesis from evolution, has no competence to teach anything to do with genetics.



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  • James
    Apr 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    There is no such thing as “settled science.” Science is constantly changing.

    The core laws objective observations and elements don’t change much. They are settled to very high levels of probability, particularly for conditions on Earth.
    Newton was up-graded by Einstein, but at sub-sonic speeds on Earth you need to go to 6 decimal places of 1% to notice a difference.

    There should be nothing wrong with presenting both views in an area that is certainly not settled.

    There is however in science, such a thing as “refuted claims”, and creationist pseudo-science is firmly in that category, along with geocentricism, young-Earthism, and flat-Earthism.

    There are various scientific views about particular features of abiogenesis and evolution, but none of them fail to recognise the on-going process of evolution in living organisms.

    There are way too many gaps,

    According to various people who have no idea what they are talking about.

    and if God of the Gaps is unacceptable,

    God of gaps is about making unevidenced assertions about what is at present unknown – usually using the fallacy of negative proof as an attempt at justification.

    then Evolution of the Gaps should be equally unacceptable.

    There is no lack of evidence for evolution. Numerous examples of it being observed happening have been recorded in thousands of reputable scientific studies on bacteria, genetics, plant and animal breeding, and on fossils. There are of course some species where there is no record yet, – including the new species not yet discovered.



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  • The former distinction between abiogenesis and evolution is really out of date. We now consider copying chemistry, copying biochemistry, the pre-lipid-pouch, RNA-world of cooperative entities chaotically evolving, before getting to the technically living archaea and prokaryotes.

    Andreas Wagner’s “Arrival of the Fittest” gives an excellent (up to date) account of some of this.

    The next big evolutionary bottleneck, the transition to eukaryotes and evolve-able multicellularity is covered by Nick Lane’s new book “The Vital Question.” I suspect this physicsy, thermodynamic view of life may have something useful to say on abiogenesis too. (I’ve just bought it.)



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  • James :

    If Darwinian evolution is so obviously superior to Intelligent Design, then atheists should have no problem whatsoever if both sides are presented.

    But not in a science class, otherwise the whole class will be bogged down with the 100s of different creationist myths, with little or no time for the science.

    Then the obvious superiority of Darwinian Evolution can come shining through,…

    Oh it’s already done that James. No serious scientist doubts the ToE. It’s only the religious, mainly Christians, who object to it.

    There should be nothing to fear from preventing other views, and when there is, it looks suspicious.

    So should we teach alchemy in chemistry classes ?



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  • I see we had a phantom poster in James.

    The problem with Intelligent Design and Irreducible Complexity is that they cannot produce negatable hypotheses and are thus scientifically useless. Because the evolutionary history may have unknown elements, actual evolutionary paths are inaccessible unless directly discovered. There can be no proof of a designed element. There can only be problems like Rabbits in the Cambrian, of which, none yet….not even close. There is simply nothing to prove and no point in waiting for those rabbits to crop up.



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  • phil rimmer
    Apr 24, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    The former distinction between abiogenesis and evolution is really out of date.

    In some ways yes, as the process is a continuum, but as with the classification of “species”, the steps (some of which you have pointed out) can be separated as areas of study.

    We now consider copying chemistry, copying biochemistry, the pre-lipid-pouch, RNA-world of cooperative entities chaotically evolving, before getting to the technically living archaea and prokaryotes.

    Modern evolution studies DNA based life, and the natural selection of this, as an on-going process.

    The early stages and pre-replication biochemistry, are different processes, even though selection and replication became involved.



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  • The enhanced survivability of a copy process variation starts right at the begining or there is no motive power to change.

    Modern evolution studies DNA based life

    And RNA based viruses. The evolution of Ebola and its treatment is a current case in point.



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  • Phil Rimmer :

    The former distinction between abiogenesis and evolution is really out of date. We now consider copying chemistry, copying biochemistry, the pre-lipid-pouch, RNA-world of cooperative entities chaotically evolving, before getting to the technically living archaea and prokaryotes.

    Yes all natural processes, but the thing that is really out of date is the idea of a magical designer who produces pre-cambrian rabbits out of a hat.

    An explanation, that explains precisely nothing. Our Californian YEC, Pettenger, appears to think that “God” explains life and evolution, whereas it only provides another level of enquiry as to where the designer of the designer came from !



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  • Sure but we should always reflect the latest scientific thinking especialy now it is closing quite rapidly on a good account of abiogenesis.

    Dennett in “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” argued convincingly that evolution was the single best idea anybody ever had and had quite general application (extending Dawkin’s thought on replicators of any arbitrary sort). It seems unduly parsimonious not to give it its due



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  • phil rimmer
    Apr 24, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    The enhanced survivability of a copy process variation starts right at the begining or there is no motive power to change.

    Just coming back to my earlier point: – from a teaching perspective, it is best to start with the evolution of familiar organisms – (vertebrates insects plants etc.), and then go back to abiogenesis and single cells, viruses etc. which only existed in the earliest time-frames.
    While earlier features such as viruses and RNA remain present today, children need more readily observable familiar organisms at first, while they grasp the basics of evolution and selection.



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  • This is an article from New Scientist, which promotes the view that energy transfer may be an indicator of where life began.

    The energy from food is used to pump protons across a membrane to build up an electrochemical gradient.

    The author’s research can find only one location on earth that supports this process, hydrothermal vents.

    And Lane argues that life has been powered by proton gradients from the very beginning. Forget all those primordial soups or “warm ponds”: only the natural proton gradients found in undersea alkaline hydrothermal vents could have provided the continuous flux of carbon and energy that life requires.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22630180.600-the-vital-question-finding-answers-about-the-origin-of-life.html#.VTy9HvD3OYl



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  • Teaching children is always a special case. The understanding of a topic (unlike the mastery of it) has always been cultivated by a series of “half truths”, analogies to achieve as Feynman would have it, an impression of understanding, a wiping away of fear of the subject, preparatory to achieving a fuller personal comprehension and mastery.

    It is though astonishing to see as we project back through the various scenarios to the origins of life (acid black smokers or white alkaline vents, reverse Krebs etc.) how evolution elides seamlessly with the (servo-controlling) principle of least action in the pre-biotic.



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  • “Religious Biology” – a non subject – much like Theology, People should not be allowed to study “Theology” – but allowed to take the subject of “History of Cultural Curiosities…..”.



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  • If there is to be an effective answer to creationism it will require understanding and answering the three major reasons for belief in creationism.
    – The vast majority of those espousing creationism are of the Christian religion. It is important to point out to them that the gospel of Jesus is not concerned with where we came from or how we arrive at our present condition, it is concerned with where one is suppose to be going and how to get there.
    – Jesus made it very plain that there is sin in the world and thus the story of how sin supposedly entered the world based on the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is not necessary for the functioning of the Christian religion. In summary those that proclaim to be Christians must understand that their religion is based on the New Testament and not the Old Testament. Leave the Old Testament to rabbis to explain.
    – Often vocalized as “I certainly didn’t arise from some ape ancestor.” is purely a resort to vanity and has no place in religion. The last branching of apes from the line that eventually produced human kind occurred over six million years ago but creationist carry on as though it happened recently. Line up all your ancestors, either paternal or maternal, five feet apart and the line would stretch some 346 miles. That would require a drive from Los Angeles through Las Vegas, Nevada and on to the outskirts of Mesquite Nevada on the Arizona border.

    Charles Munroe



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  • Charles, An effective answer to creationism would not be a defense of science being taught in schools. It is a theological exercise. While I certainly agree with your theological points, the people who oppose teaching the science behind the theory of Evolution are not liberal Christians or even ex-believers who are trying to salvage something of the faith they once had. They are (in their minds) soldiers of Christ who are out to win. You are preaching to the choir. Creationists aren’t going to listen.



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  • 24
    Peter Clemerson says:

    To Mr DArcy

    You say

    Blockquote

    No serious scientist doubts the ToE. It’s only the religious, mainly Christians, who object to it.

    Blockquote

    I agree it’s only the religious that doubt the ToE but the comment that it is mainly christians who do so may not be right. Many christians of one sort or another accept it, even the pope, in some sense but no pious Muslim does. The qur’an is a creationist book and requires muslims to take its creationism literally.



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  • It seems possible that abiogenesis could have resulted by means of a Darwinian type of evolution.

    Also it seems that for life to form on earth or earth like planet is not improbable, but inevitable.



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  • I agree. This idea of “both views” I have heard several times before. Presenting both sides of an argument sounds very fair. However, Christian creationism is simply NOT a valid different view from evolutionary biology. After all, what about Odin, Thor, Zeus, Vishnu, Allah, or Yahweh?? There are many delusionary gods whose side we “should” present. And don’t forget Richard Dawkins flying teapot as well as the cosmic muffin or hairy thunderer. It is truly absurd to think that some form of creationism is another “valid” side we should acknowledge and present to students or to the public.



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  • cbrown
    Apr 29, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    It seems possible that abiogenesis could have resulted by means of a Darwinian type of evolution.

    That there is a similar selection is likely, but the initial chemistry is probably very different to modern DNA based life.

    Also it seems that for life to form on earth or earth like planet is not improbable, but inevitable.

    I think the probability of finding an Earth (Earth-Moon) like planet, is one of the key issues. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_hypothesis



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  • 30
    Christopher says:

    However, Christian creationism is simply NOT a valid different view from evolutionary biology.

    It is the most relevant anti-thesis to Darwinian evolution that we, unfortunately, have in the U.S. The converse of not teaching evolution at all is not acceptable. In this country, getting Evolution into the classroom is a triumph. And it encourages scientific reasoning which will belie the validity of creationism. I think the teacher is secretly doing her students a favor in the face of religious zealotry.



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