Sunday, May 02, 2010

Anti-evolution sentiment in Massachusetts and Connecticut


An anti-evolution billboard on I-90 (Mass-turnpike) near Ludlow, MA

We hear rumblings of anti-evolution battles - but usually in Texas, rural Pennsylvania, Kentucky, etc. The New England area is often spared from this particular anti-science fight. However, just last week while driving to Boston I saw an anti-evolution billboard (see pic above) on Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90E) near Ludlow, MA (exit 6)! It says "In the Beginning, God Created...", and it has the iconic, but scientifically inaccurate, symbol of evolution with an X on it. Really? This close to the 5-Colleges area? What a shame. It is hard to see in the pictures, but a CBS logo is also under the billboard. I'm assuming that this billboard is not an endorsement by CBS - the broadcasting station, rather that this is a reference to some nutty program on CBS, like the 700 Club. Initially I thought of CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) - but I double-checked, and it is indeed CBS (you can see the "eye" of CBS in the second image above). In any case, it is just odd to see such anti-science crap in this area.

Talking about our area, we also have this story of self-censorship in neighboring Connecticut:

Evolution education is under attack in Weston, Connecticut, but not from the usual direction.

Nobody is promoting intelligent design in the curriculum, or asking schools to teach evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses.” There’s just an administration afraid that teaching third graders too much about Charles Darwin will cause trouble.

“They might have just been looking to avoid controversy, but that has the same effect,” said Steve Newton, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education. ” If you’re not looking to teach children the best science, that harms their education.”

At issue is a class section proposed in 2008 by Mark Tangarone, teacher of the third, fourth and fifth grade Talented and Gifted program at the Weston Intermediate School. Tangarone wanted his third graders to study and compare the accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.

To learn about Darwin, students would have retraced the path of the HMS Beagle, the expedition that inspired a young Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each student would study a stop in the voyage, reporting on the animals and adaptations that Darwin observed.

When Tangarone ran his class plan by then-principal Mark Ribbens, he was denied.

In an email obtained by the Weston Forum, Ribbens explained that his objections had nothing to do with the soundness of the theory of evolution. Instead, he was worried about parent reaction.

“While evolution is a robust scientific theory, it is a philosophically unsatisfactory explanation for the diversity of life. I could anticipate that a number of our parents might object to this topic,” wrote Ribbens. “It is not appropriate to have [Darwin's] work or the theory part of the TAG program since the topic is not age appropriate.”

...

However, the class wasn’t out of step with official state science standards [.doc]. At the time, these instructed teachers to impart to third graders the ability to “describe how different plants and animals are adapted to obtain air, water, food and protection in specific land habitats.” That section of the standards was subtitled, “Heredity and Evolution — What processes are responsible for life’s unity and diversity?”

5 comments:

Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Silly people...they don't know that they created themselves. Crazies!

Diogenes said...

Pathetic cowardice from the administration, weak minds servilely crouched.

"Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because if there be one, it must surely more approve of the homage to reason than that of blindfolded fear." - Thomas Jefferson

CogSci Librarian said...

what a shame, on both counts.

Mike Deutsch said...

Yeesh, what a billboard. Maybe someone will step up and counter-ad like what was done in London a few years ago ("There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."). FYI, I'm guessing the CBS logo refers to some CBS outdoor advertising subsidiary, not any TV program -- I've seen that on a lot of billboards all over the northeast.

Anonymous said...

I just saw one in NH as well, on my way up the Everett turnpike.