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CFI Skeptics of Eugene Message Board › Yet another science thread

Yet another science thread

Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 205
Non-scientist Marco Rubio has no idea how old the planet is

Republican Marco Rubio is widely expected to run for president in 2016, and he's fully aware that not all of his party's base is totally down with geology — or any science that puts the age of the Earth at more than 6000 years old. He, and other Republican leaders, are also grappling with the fact that the base isn't enough to win the presidency. So, when asked by GQ magazine to state the age of the planet — a litmus test for science-versus-theology beliefs — Rubio hedged, just short of sticking his fingers in his ears when he heard the question: "I'm not a scientist, man. ... I'm not a scientist." If he ignores it, does the cultural gap just go away? [Source]
Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 206
Possible topic for a future Open Topic night?


Neuroscientist Ed Boyden shows how, by inserting genes for light-sensitive proteins into brain cells, he can selectively activate or de-activate specific neurons with fiber-optic implants. With this unprecedented level of control, he's managed to cure mice of analogs of PTSD and certain forms of blindness. And on the horizon: neural prosthetics.


Some say it’s tough to break a habit—a behavior so ingrained in our mental infrastructure that it’s automatic. But new research says maybe it’s not so tough when you shine some light on an alternative.

Turns out that a small part of the brain’s prefrontal cortex—the infralimbic cortex—is key to seemingly inflexible, habitual behavior.

Scientists trained rats to run a maze by using rewards. Eventually the rats ran the maze without any reward, or even when being punished by completing it with a drink that made them nauseous. So running the maze in a certain direction had become a habit.

The scientists then used what’s called optogenetics—a procedure that uses light to stimulate or inhibit specific brain areas—to turn “off” this small brain area involved in forming habits.

Within seconds the rats stopped running the maze in the direction that gave them the icky reward. The scientists note that silencing the neurons in that brain area allowed the rats to have more cognitive control over their supposedly reflexive habit of running in that one direction.

The hope is to eventually treat disorders involving obsessive or addictive behavior. And to hopefully show that old habits can die easy.
Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 207
Required science background for Congress-persons advising on Science

Dear Oregon MoveOn member,

Congress needs scientific literacy requirements for members serving on the Congressional Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Without a minimum understanding of these types of topics, our representatives will most likely continue making poorly thought-out decisions regarding such matters.

That's why I created a petition on to Congress, which says:

Those in the U.S. government making decisions regarding scientific matters that affect the entire country must have a working knowledge of science, or at least have a basic understanding of the difference between science and magic, for example.

Click here to add your name to this petition, and then pass it along to your friends.


–Adrian Bergeron

This petition was created on, the progressive, nonprofit petition site. is sponsored by MoveOn Civic Action, which is not responsible for the contents of this or other petitions posted on the site.

Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 208
Tell HHS Secretary Sebelius: Allow the FDA to Revisit its Plan B Decision

from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Last December, the Obama administration prevented the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from making the emergency contraception drug Plan B available over-the-counter, despite the agency's scientific determination that the product was safe and effective for over-the-counter use.

The move was unprecedented: never before had the Department of Health and Human Services overruled an FDA drug decision. It was also contrary to the best available scientific information. Numerous medical societies—including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics—disagreed with the HHS decision.

The law requires the FDA to make decisions based solely on the best available scientific information.

On the anniversary of this flawed decision, please urge HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow the FDA to revisit its Plan B decision to ensure that the agency is able to use the best available science to make all drug approval decisions.

We will deliver petition signatures to Secretary Sebelius around December 7.

For more information, see an overview of the decision, testimony to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on the decision, and a perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine, as well as the responses from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 210

Atmospheric Rivers in Weather Models

Megastorms Could Drown Massive Portions of California

The intense rainstorms sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean began to pound central California on Christmas Eve in 1861 and continued virtually unabated for 43 days. The deluges quickly transformed rivers running down from the Sierra Nevada mountains along the state’s eastern border into raging torrents that swept away entire communities and mining settlements. The rivers and rains poured into the state’s vast Central Valley, turning it into an inland sea 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Thousands of people died, and one quarter of the state’s estimated 800,000 cattle drowned. Downtown Sacramento was submerged under 10 feet of brown water filled with debris from countless mudslides on the region’s steep slopes. California’s legislature, unable to function, moved to San Francisco until Sacramento dried out—six months later. By then, the state was bankrupt.

A comparable episode today would be incredibly more devastating. The Central Valley is home to more than six million people, 1.4 million of them in Sacramento. The land produces about $20 billion in crops annually, including 70 percent of the world’s almonds—and portions of it have dropped 30 feet in elevation because of extensive groundwater pumping, making those areas even more prone to flooding. Scientists who recently modeled a similarly relentless storm that lasted only 23 days concluded that this smaller visitation would cause $400 billion in property damage and agricultural losses. Thousands of people could die unless preparations and evacuations worked very well indeed.

Was the 1861–62 flood a freak event? It appears not. New studies of sediment deposits in widespread locations indicate that cataclysmic floods of this magnitude have inundated California every two centuries or so for at least the past two millennia. The 1861–62 storms also pummeled the coastline from northern Mexico and southern California up to British Columbia, creating the worst floods in recorded history. Climate scientists now hypothesize that these floods, and others like them in several regions of the world, were caused by atmospheric rivers, a phenomenon you may have never heard of. And they think California, at least, is overdue for another one.

[Read More]
Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 219
Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 230

New Orleans Schools Ban Creationism, 'Revisionist' History Course Promoted By Texas

The newly approved policy bans teachers from including "any aspect of religious faith" in science courses and from using history textbooks adjusted to include Christianity.

The first part regarding textbooks reads: “No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories."

The second part delves specifically into teaching: “No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.”

The Texas State Board of Education in 2010 adopted a statewide social studies and history curriculum that amended or watered down the teaching of the civil rights movement, religious freedoms, America's relationship with the United Nations and hundreds of other topics. Its approved social studies curriculum included religious and right-wing viewpoints, the New York Times previously reported. Social studies and economic textbooks were altered to include "the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."

A report out last year by Keith Erekson, an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso, says that Texas K-12 standards in history are inadequate, ineffective and "fail to meet the state's college readiness standards." The report notes that the Fordham Institute gave Texas's history standards a "D" grade, calling them a "politicized distortion of history" that is "both unwieldy and troubling" while "offering misrepresentations at every turn."

"When this was done in Texas, all this talk was what massive influence would do in other states," Robichaux told Gambit's Best of New Orleans blog. "We want to make sure kids are taught history that has been properly vetted by academics and prepared for their consumption.... I have no problem teaching [religion] in a religion or philosophy class, but the science class is not the appropriate place for it."

Robichaux is a liberal Democrat and the school board's first openly gay president, according to The Times-Picayune. His policy was reportedly influenced by a concern that, in the future, the school board could be pressured to adopt a curriculum with religious connotations.
Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 244

Scientists do not disagree about human-caused global warming. It is the ruling paradigm of climate science, in the same way that plate tectonics is the ruling paradigm of geology. We know that continents move. We know that the earth is warming and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause. These are known facts about which virtually all publishing scientists agree.

Of 13,950 Peer-reviewed climate change articles only 24 -- (0.172%) -- reject global warming

James Lawrence Powell
Science and Global Warming
The Inquisition of Climate Science -- now available in paperback. Amazon. Columbia. Contact author for discount.

click here to view ANIMATED CHARTS

Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 245
American Association for the Advancement of Science­

The activities of the Center for Public Engagement focus on:

Providing scientists and scientific institutions with the resources they need to have meaningful conversations with the public, and

Facilitating dialogue between scientists and the public to discuss the benefits, limits, and implications of scientific knowledge.
Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 266­

Four US states considering laws that challenge teaching of evolution
Critics charge 'academic freedom' legislation in Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma is just creationism in disguise

Four US states are considering new legislation about teaching science in schools, allowing pupils to to be taught religious versions of how life on earth developed in what critics say would establish a backdoor way of questioning the theory of evolution.

Fresh legislation has been put forward in Colorado, Missouri and Montana. In Oklahoma, there are two bills before the state legislature that include potentially creationist language.

A watchdog group, the National Center for Science Education, said that the proposed laws were framed around the concept of "academic freedom". It argues that religious motives are disguised by the language of encouraging more open debate in school classrooms. However, the areas of the curriculum highlighted in the bills tend to focus on the teaching of evolution or other areas of science that clash with traditionally religious interpretations of the world.

"Taken at face value, they sound innocuous and lovely: critical thinking, debate and analysis. It seems so innocent, so pure. But they chose to question only areas that religious conservatives are uncomfortable with. There is a religious agenda here," said Josh Rosenau, an NCSE program and policy director.

In Oklahoma, one bill has been pre-filed with the state senate and another with the state house. The Senate bill would oblige the state to help teachers "find more effective ways to represent the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies". The House bill specifically mentions "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning" as areas that "some teachers are unsure" about teaching.

In Montana, a bill put forward by local social conservative state congressman, Clayton Fiscus, also lists things like "random mutation, natural selection, DNA and fossil discoveries" as controversial topics that need more critical teaching. Meanwhile, in Missouri, a bill introduced in mid-January lists "biological and chemical evolution" as topics that teachers should debate over including looking at the "scientific weaknesses" of the long-established theories.

Finally, in Colorado, which rarely sees a push towards teaching creationism, a bill has been introduced in the state house of representatives that would require teachers to "respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution". Observers say the move is the first piece of creationist-linked legislation to be put forward in the state since 1972.

The moves in such a wide range of states have angered advocates of secularism in American official life. "This is just another attempt to bring creationism in through the back door. The only academic freedom they really want to encourage is the freedom to be ignorant," said Rob Boston, senior policy analyst at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Over the past few years, only Tennessee and Louisiana have managed to pass so-called "academic freedom" laws of the kind currently being considered in the four states. Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and close observer of the creationism movement, said that the successes in those two states meant that the religious lobby was always looking for more opportunities.

She said that using arguments over academic freedom was a shift in tactic after attempts to specifically get "intelligent design" taught in schools was defeated in a landmark court case in 2005. Intelligent design, which a local school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, had sought to get accepted as legitimate science, asserts that modern life is too complex to have evolved by chance alone. "Creationists never give up. They never do. The language of these bills may be highly sanitized but it is creationist code," she said.

The laws can have a direct impact on a state. In Louisiana, 78 Nobel laureate scientists have endorsed the repeal of the creationist education law there. The Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology has even launched a boycott of Louisiana and cancelled a scheduled convention in New Orleans. Louisiana native and prominent anti-creationist campaigner in the state Zack Kopplin said that those pushing such bills in other states were risking similar economic damage to their local economies. "It will hurt economic development," Kopplin said.

There is also the impact on students, he added, when they are taught controversies in subjects where the overwhelming majority of scientists have long ago reached consensus agreement. "It really hurts students. It can be embarrassing to be from a state which has become a laughing stock in this area," Kopplin said.

Others experts agreed, arguing that it could even hurt future job prospects for students graduating from those states' public high schools. "The jobs of the future are high tech and science-orientated. These lawmakers are making it harder for some of these kids to get those jobs," said Boston.
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