• Science,  Stateside

    For Republicans in Congress, climate change denial trumps national security

    Pete Hamilton, a resident of Rockbridge County, Virginia, has written an op-ed for The Roanoke Times explaining why, as a former lifelong Republican, he now identifies as a political independent. He cited one Congressional vote in particular: My latest dismay arises over the May 22 vote on House Roll Call No. 231, which amended the Defense Department’s 2015 budget. This amendment specifically prevented any branch of the military from spending funds for contingency planning to contend with potential adverse effects on military preparedness caused by global warming. Two hundred sixteen Republicans supported this amendment on the final vote, while only 13 opposed it. [See update below.] Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Robert…

  • Science,  Women's Rights

    Are girls discouraged from science and technology?

    Verizon is not exactly one of my favorite companies (employees of their Wireless division in Brooklyn, New York, recently voted to unionize despite fierce resistance by management), but I appreciate the message of this ad produced by the company: (It’s symptomatic of modern corporate values that it’s possible to be seemingly progressive on women’s issues while also being hostile to the basic right of workers to organize.) But I wonder how our readers (especially our female readers) feel about the ad. Are such parental discouragements commonplace for girls? Does it reflect anything that happened to you while growing up? Is the problem not so much that girls are actively discouraged…

  • Religion,  Science,  Stateside

    The State of Louisiana versus science: the saga continues

    Remember when Louisiana’s Republican governor Bobby Jindal mocked the very idea of monitoring volcanic activity? And when Louisiana adopted a law that no public school teacher could be disciplined or fired for teaching an “alternative theory” (for example, creationism) to evolution? And when Jindal’s administration tried to provide state-funded vouchers for students to attend schools that teach only creationism? Now comes the news that a federal court has upheld a complaint of religious discrimination by a Buddhist student at the public Negreet High School in Sabine Parish, Louisiana. The complaint alleged that a science teacher [!] at the school, Rita Roark, told her class, which C.C. [the Buddhist student] attended,…

  • Science,  Stateside,  The Right

    Republicans and evolution

    According to a recent Pew Research poll, more self-identified Republicans now reject the theory of evolution than accept it. Forty-eight percent of Republicans believe “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” while 43 percent believe “humans and other living things have evolved over time.” This compares to 33 percent of the general population who reject evolution and 60 percent who accept it. Among Democrats, the ratio is 27 to 67 percent and among Independents 28 to 65 percent. Most startling, however, is the change in results among Republicans from a poll in 2009: While belief in evolution held steady among Democrats…

  • education,  Religion,  Science,  Stateside

    Still stupid after all these months [see update]

    After Barack Obama’s reelection last November, Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal declared that the GOP needed to “stop being the stupid party.” “… It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults,” he said. “We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.” While I admire Jindal’s forthright talk, I would take him more seriously if his own policies in Louisiana weren’t, in effect, promoting stupidity. As Laura Clawson reports at Daily Kos Labor, Jindal’s administration is providing state-funded vouchers for students to attend schools that teach creationism. Creationists usually claim that…

  • Crime,  Science

    A link between lead and crime?

    I’m not a toxicologist, a criminologist or a statistician (and I’d be interested to hear from anyone with expertise in these fields). But I think Kevin Drum at Mother Jones makes a compelling case for a causal relationship between the rise and fall of violent crime rates in the US and other countries and the rise and fall (especially since the elimination of leaded gasoline) in the amount of lead in the environment. Although I hope people will read Drum’s entire piece before commenting, I’ll note one passage in particular: [A] single correlation between two curves isn’t all that impressive, econometrically speaking. Sales of vinyl LPs rose in the postwar…

  • Religion,  Science

    Obama fudged it too

    In fairness, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t the only politician who had Christian fundamentalist sensitivities in mind when he answered a question about the creation of the Earth. At least Obama didn’t start wittering about the gross domestic product.

  • Science

    What’s the big news from Mars?

    A report from Joe Palca of NPR news: Scientists working on NASA’s six-wheeled rover on Mars have a problem. But it’s a good problem. They have some exciting new results from one of the rover’s instruments. On the one hand, they’d like to tell everybody what they found, but on the other, they have to wait because they want to make sure their results are not just some fluke or error in their instrument. …. The exciting results are coming from an instrument in the rover called SAM. “We’re getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting,” John Grotzinger, the principal investigator…

  • Science,  Stateside

    Age-of-Earth question throws GOP presidential hopeful into tizzy

    You can gauge the post-election state of much of the Republican party– desperately trying not to offend its religious-right base while also striving to signal that it is rooted in reality– by Florida Sen. (and possible 2016 candidate for president) Marco Rubio’s answer to a question. The question: How old do you think the Earth is? I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of…