Dino Trax

That Old Time Creationism

Some of us remember a few years back when creationism was the hottest thing going, and all the skeptics wanted to pile on—get out, meet the creationists, write a funny journal. Yeah, those creationists don’t get around locally so much anymore. But we still have our memories.

The above is from 1990—seems like yesterday. I heard there was this Metroplex Institution of Origin Science (MIOS) and I hauled myself over to their Tuesday night meetings, once a month at the time. About this time a guy at work gave me a pamphlet. He’s a creationist of  the first order. The pamphlet is Dino Trax, and I need to explain. That’s a cute way of spelling dino tracks, rather dinosaur tracks. The allusion is to the dinosaur tracks still visible in the Paluxy River, a few miles from where I was born.

Beginning maybe 40 years ago creationists started selling the idea there were human footprints in the limestone river bottom as well as dinosaur tracks. The implication was (is) that dinosaurs made some tracks, and people made some tracks, in the same soft limestone mud, about the same time.

The problem, of course, is that modern geology and modern paleontology inform us that dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago, and humans didn’t show up until something like three million years ago. Were that true, it could be demonstrated, that  the underpinnings of modern science are wrong, and the creationists have had it right all the time.

Anyhow, Dino Trax is intended to provide all the straight skinny you need to convince yourself the Bible, particularly Genesis, is true, and also much of what you were taught in school about geology and the age of the earth is false. During my visits i garnered several copies of these tracts, and have since recycled them, retaining scanned copies.

What is interesting about this edition is it introduces the Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon creationist school supplement titled “Of Pandas And People: the Central Question of Biological Origins,” which book came out the year before. The Intelligent Design controversy was just beginning to heat up in those days. They were heady times.

This edition of Dino Trax contains a section on “MIOS Books.” They are creationist books you can order through MIOS. Pandas is included, and it lists for $18.95, including a teacher’s guide, and it’s intended for use by high school students. Here’s what Dino Trax has to say about the Pandas book:

Designed as a supplement to High School Biology text books. Provides a scientific alternative to conventional evolutionary propaganda. Its academic integrity has earned it endorsements from a wide range of representative scientists and educators nation-wide.

I note use of the term “academic integrity.” Working with creationists provided my first encounter with purveyors of fake news.

As we all know, the Pandas drama swelled before collapsing 15 years later. A board member attempted to introduce the book into the science curriculum in Plano, Texas, and much push back from parents and teachers ensued. The North Texas Skeptics weighed in on the side of the citizens, and Ginny Vaughn had produced and distributed a passel of name badges for people to wear to the public discussion. Here’s what they look like:

There was perhaps more than one school board member pushing for the Pandas book that night, and I am told the view they received was a sea of No-Pandas badges. The steam went out of that road machine, and there was not much more said about it.

The issue came to a head ten years later, when two school officials attempted to crowd Pandas onto the study list in a Pennsylvania town. This time there was a law suit, and the ACLU took the case. Federal Judge John E. Jones III, in a 129-page scorching, concluded that Intelligent design is a religious movement with no basis in science. The school district ate the cost of the trial, and the official miscreants shucked off all responsibility.

And Dino Trax was there when it all began.

The few copies I was able to snag have been scanned to PDF for all interested in viewing a bit of history. I have the copies, and I am copying them to the NTS archives. Send an email if you want to read some ancient history.

The National Center For Science Education

The NCSE is the premier organization in this country promoting legitimate science in public schools and in the public forum. They are a 501 (c) (3) organization, deserving of your contributions. I give money to the NCSE. You should, too.

Following is a recent notice from the NCSE:

1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600 Oakland, CA 94612-2922

510.601.7203 • www.ncse.com

With the unprecedented 2016 election finally behind us, we can all turn our attention back to issues that haven’t been in the spotlight lately. Like science education. As you’ll read below, there’s plenty to be concerned about. But NCSE has not taken its eye off the ball, and our new programs are really starting to pay off. I hope that you’ll consider joining our effort to help teachers cover evolution and climate change confidently and completely.

When you consider the state of science education today, it’s easy to be disappointed, disturbed, and dismayed. Consider the following recent incidents.

  • In Alabama, the state board of education voted to continue to mandate a disclaimer about evolution in the state’s textbooks. Such disclaimers date back to 1996. But even after Alabama adopted a new set of state science standards in 2005, that described evolution as “substantiated with much direct and indirect evidence,” the board disappointingly voted to retain the scientifically unwarranted and pedagogically irresponsible message.
  • A national survey conducted by NCSE with researchers at Pennsylvania State University, which asked 1500 science teachers in public middle and high schools about their attitudes toward and practice in teaching climate change, found disturbing gaps in their knowledge. For example, less than half of the teachers realized that more than 80% of climate scientists agree that recent global warming is caused primarily by human activities.
  • In Kentucky, a young-earth creationist ministry opened a Noah’s-ark-themed amusement park. The truly  dismaying aspect of Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter was its invitation to local public schools to flout the principle of church/state separation by bringing students there on field trips, at a special discounted rate. Judging from reports received by NCSE over the years, public school excursions to creationist attractions are dismayingly common.

Dealing, and helping people to deal, with such assaults on science education is all in a day’s work for us at NCSE.

But as you know, that’s not all that we’re doing. A suite of innovative new programs is aimed at reinforcing the confidence of teachers, recruiting scientists to help, and rallying communities to support science education locally:

  • NCSEteach (http://ncseteach.com/), NCSE’s network to support climate change and evolution educators, now includes nearly 6,000 teachers, each of whom receive regular advice and resources from NCSE aimed at improving their scientific knowledge and pedagogical confidence. And they now know that NCSE will have their backs when they encounter challenges to the teaching of evolution or climate change!
  • NCSEteach’s “Scientists in the Classroom” program is bringing eager and energetic early career research scientists into middle and high school classrooms across the country to enrich students’ climate change and evolution learning experiences. Over one hundred teacher—scientist partnerships have already been formed, to the great and continuing benefit of all involved. More are in the works.
  • NCSE’s Science Booster Club project, piloting in Iowa, has provided fun, hands-on, and accurate educational activities on evolution and climate change to over 50,000 participants at local events in the last year, and raised funds to purchase science equipment for the benefit of over 3,000 local students. In 2016, the project not only exhibited at county and state fairs but also hosted a free summer science camp to provide rural low-income students with evolution education.

Are these programs working? Judging from the heartfelt expressions of thanks from teachers who have participated in NCSEteach, from teacher/scientist partners who have participated in Scientists in the Classroom, and from thousands of Iowans involved with a Science Booster Club, yes!

But to science fans like you and me, what’s even more convincing than testimonials is data. The Science Booster Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, administered a twenty-four-question science literacy survey at its public events throughout the year. And voilà:

That’s significant—literally (p = 0.03) and figuratively. Working with a low budget but a high degree of enthusiasm, the science boosters in Cedar Rapids—and elsewhere in Iowa—are making a measurable difference.

I’m excited about these efforts, and I hope that you are, too. We want to extend these programs to communities across the country. To do so, we need your support. Your gift to NCSE will help us help teachers to present science properly.

You can donate on-line at ncse.com/join. A gift of only $500 will allow us to provide a new booster club with all the materials needed to provide hands-on evolution or climate change activities to 10,000 participants! Or consider a recurring gift of $10 or $20 per month; such donations help make our budget more predictable so we can start new projects with confidence. A gift of any size will go directly to improving science education.

By reinforcing the confidence of teachers, recruiting scientists to help, and rallying communities to support science education locally, NCSE is helping to ensure that science will be taught honestly, accurately, and confidently. Please help us to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Ann Reid

Executive Director, NCSE

Skepticism 101

Skepticism 101 BannerAre you new to the skeptic movement?  Are you looking for material to educate others about skepticism and critical though?  Need a refresher?  The Skeptics Society has a new Skepticism 101 resource section of their website.  It is a collection of recommended books, courses, papers, presentations, etc.  The material can be used in classes or for self-study.  The collection can be searched by topic, by resource type, by academic discipline, and by academic level.  Check it out.

There is also extra background information about the resource center from Michael Shermer in his blog post, How to Learn to Think Like a Scientist (Without Being a Geek) .