Convoys of Power Company Trucks

For the past two days, we’ve been driving along I-20 through Alabama, Mississippi, Lousiana, and into Texas. Along the way, we passed several convoys of power company trucks from New Jersey and North Carolina on their way to help with the restoration of power in the Gulf areas of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. There were also notices at fuel stations limiting us to $25 gas purchases. We are staying in a hotel in Texas (NW of Houston) which is nearly filled with hurricane evacuees. The human toll from these two storms is very difficult to understand for those us that were not directly affected by these horrendous storms. Let’s hope that the Bush administration does implelment and follow-through-on a Roosevelt-type New Deal plan for the reconstruction of all of the communities in the Gulf.

Intelligent Design Goes to Court

A group of parents in the Dover, PA school district have taken the school board to court to challenge the board’s decision that requires high school biology teachers to read a four-paragraph statement that notes that intelligent design offers an alternative theory for the origin and evolution of life — namely, that life in all of its complexity could not have arisen without the help of an intelligent hand. Apparently, the school board forced the statement on the teachers, and even resorted to threats, and called those who apposed the teaching of intelligent design atheists. The case has been brought before U.S. District Judge John E. Jones (no jury), and is expected to last about five weeks. The case is very similiar to one in Georgia last year in which a group of parents from the Cobb County School District took the school board to court over a similar statement on the theory of evolution. Instead of teachers reading a statement, as they have to in Dover, PA, stickers were placed in every biology and life science book in Georgia’s second largest school district. The school board LOST the case, and had to spend thousands of dollars hiring students to remove the stickers from every book. In the Dover, the case focuses on intelligent design, which critics claim is nothing more than creation science, but dressed differently. Click on the link “court” and read the first news article on the case. I’ll update as the case proceeds.

Teaching Evolution in Church

Several weeks ago, I read an article in the Washington Post, entitled Darwin goes to Church, written by Henry G. Brinton, pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church. In the adult Sunday school classes, David Bush, a member of the church, and a retired government worker is offering a course, “Evolution for Christians.” Being a Christian myself, as well as a science educator, I was especially interested in Pastor Brinton’s article. It turns our that Bush has been interested in evolution for several decades, and teaches classes on theories and origins of life from time to time. Bush’s view is that science and religion answers two different sets of questions; science answers the how questions, religion answers the why questions. According to Bush, a little bit of wisdom and tolerance on both sides can result in complimentarity, rather than contradiction. Today, a group of parents in Dover, PA is seeking to overturn a decision by the local school board insisting that intelligent design – the claim that complex organisms have been designed rather than evolved in response to natural selection – must be included in the curriculum.

In the article by Brinton, he points out that many Christians, including Bush and himself, believe that the biblical account of creation is an ancient piece of poetry that was never meant to be literal, scientific desciption of origins. It answers the question of why, not how. Science on the otherhand, has not answered the question of why, but has provided a powerful explantation of how in the Darwin’s evolutionary ideas. Pastor Brinton worries out loud in the article about the “doors of science classrooms” being opened to intelligent design. Intelligent design is a religious belief and should not be included in the science curriculum. Brinton makes a strong point when he says his faith believes there is divine intelligence at work, and that evolution is a part of God’s creative plan. I think it is important not to impose religion on science, as Brinton points out, but to keep the two separate. I hope the court in Dover, PA sees the light on this, as well.

Science for the Environment

Several years ago, I was a reader on a doctoral dissertation at La Trobe University, in Melbourne. The focus of the study was an examination of the history of environmental education over the past 30-40 years. In an analysis of the research, environmental education projects, and action groups, the researcher used a tri-analytic paradigm in which she identified three clusters of environmental education. They were (1) science education about the environment, (2) science education in the environment, and (3) science education for the environment. Education about the environment includes traditonal teaching about the concepts that underscore environmental education; Education in the environment reflected the 1970s movement in environmental education shown in the many environmental projects in which teachers brought their students outdoors to learn first-hand about the environment. Education for the environment included programs in which students and adults took action on real environmental issues and problems, and acted as if they were using science to make changes in environmental politics, and related issues. A number of projects in the 1990s used the Internet and global collaboration to engage students in education for the environment. Thinking globally and acting as citizen scientists was the theme in many programs (see the GLOBE, Global Lab, or Eco-Connections. Education for the environment is what is needed if we are to make environmental education real for students. In a sense, education for the environment is engaging students in social responsibility and citizen scientist endeavors. The horrendous effects of hurricanes Rita and Katrina underscore the need more than ever for this kind of education.

Rita and Katrina, Linking Natural Disasters, People and Science

The two hurricanes, Rita and Katrina, that have impacted millions of people directly, and the rest of the US population indirectly, as well as many people around the world, bring home the importance of making science education real, and encouraging students to be engaged with real problems and events in nature. Too much science teaching goes on within the confines of the classroom; very little teaching brings students in contact with real phenomena that impact their lives. In the present scenarios of hurricanes originating in the Atlantic, and then moving into the Gulf of Mexico, conditions favored high category storms. There are a host of issues for students to get involved with here. Internet experiences can bring them in contact with others who are dealing with disasters, such as these two hurricanes, and with resources to help them become involved in these important events. A couple of links for you include Hurricane Katrina: A Citizen Resource and Get Real with Katrina.