Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fifty Years Ago On the Teaching of Evolution in Public Schools

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biological Evolution
History of Science
Edward Hessler


The fiftieth anniversary of 
Epperson v. Arkansas was yesterday, November 12, 1968. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled (9-0) that an Arkansas law barring the teaching of evolution in public schools violated the First Amendment's establishment clause . Amendment I reads:


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Susan Epperson challenged a 1928 Arkansas statute.
It shall be unlawful for any [public school] teacher … to teach the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals”, the law stated. “[A]nd also it shall be unlawful for any teacher … to adopt or use in any such institution a textbook that teaches the doctrine or theory that mankind descended or ascended from a lower order of animals.

There is an article celebrating her, the decision and what followed in the November issue of Church and State, a monthly magazine published by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Once Epperson v. Arkansas had been settled, new challenges from anti-evolutionists followed which are discussed in the article, e.g., scientific creationism, intelligent design and teach the controversy under the guise of academic freedom. Three states have enacted laws on teaching the controversy: Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

The theory of evolution is supported by multiple lines of evidence: observational, experimental, DNA, paleontology, developmental, behavioral, population biology, physiology. Anti-evolutionists use arguments that don't explain the data, the hallmark of science.  

Glenn Branch of the Center for Science Education summarizes the importance of the Epperson decision in these words. The Epperson decision reshaped the legal landscape and has had a continuing impact not only on jurisprudence but also in what is being taught in evolution. Biology teachers, whether they know it or not, have benefitted from Susan Epperson standing up for teaching it.

Epperson later taught chemistry and biology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs where she is now Instructor Emerita.

Thanks Ms. Epperson.

Here is the Wiki entry on Epperson v. Arkansas. 








Sunday, November 11, 2018

100 Years Ago An Armistice

Environmental & Science Education
Society
Edward Hessler

World War I came to an end at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of this costly war.  The death toll of WWI is in the millions with some 9 million combat deaths, 21 million soldiers wounded and civilian deaths in the millions.*

Once known as Armistice Day--Remembrance Day in many countries. the United States rededicated November 11 as Veterans Day.

Adam Hochschild, a New Yorker writer, calls attention to how badly the First World War ended.  He writes that "few Germans considered themselves defeated" leading to a festering resentment that contributed to a later war.  "The war," Hochschild writes, "ended as senselessly as it had begun." Commanders knew that firing was to end at 11 am but "thousands of men were killed or maimed during the last six hours of the war for no political or military reason whatever."

The National WWI Museum and Memorial installed Reflections of Hope: Armistice 1918, a grouping of poppies, by artist Ada Koch.

On Receiving the First News of the War by Isaac Rosenberg who was to become known as one of England's finest "trench poets" was one of the victims of WWI. His remains were never found. The poem includes biographical information about him.

Here is another poem, And There Was A Great Calm, by Thomas Hardy on the signing of the armistice. You may link to his biography by placing your cursor on his name.

*In addition to humans, millions of horses, donkeys, and mules were killed. (Note added),


Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

There are many good poems about cats, among them this poem by Marge Piercy--poet, novelist, memorist--who is an observant aleurophile. It shows in this lovely poem.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Young Birders Event

Environmental & Science Educaton
STEM
Biodiversity
Edward Hessler

The Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology has hosted a Young Birders Event for 10 years. These young ornithologists come from all over the world.

This video highlights Lorena Silva (Brazil) who wrote and illustrated a birder's guide for her community and students in her school.

Zeiss has made this annual event possible.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Historic Kids' Climate Lawsuit Goes Forward

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Society
Edward Hessler

Is there a right to a healthy, human-friendly climate that is not destabilized by carbon pollution of the atmosphere? This seems inherent in the unalienable rights stated in the United States Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The question above is the substance of Juliana v. United States, a case first filed in 2015.


In an article about the lawsuit Nature reported that, The plaintiffs*, who include 21 people ranging in age from 11 to 22, allege that the government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by failing to prevent dangerous climate change. They are asking the district court to order the federal government to prepare a plan that will ensure the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere falls below 350 parts per million by 2100, down from an average of 405 parts per million in 2017. 
By contrast, the US Department of Justice argues that “there is no right to ‘a climate system capable of sustaining human life’” — as the Juliana plaintiffs assert.
The Supreme Court ruled  on November 2, 2018 that the lawsuit can proceed although the path ahead is long, tortuous with the outcome uncertain. The Wiki entry provides a comprehensive overview of this case, closing somewhat ominously by noting that some experts... expect that any decision in favor of the plaintiffs would be reversed by the Supreme Court, which is reluctant to declare new rights. In the Nature essay, Andrea Rodgers, a co-counsel for the plaintiffs said that '"we have to show that the United States Government is liable, but also that there is a remedy that the judge can order.'" In addition, I'd expect government lawyers to advance arguments that the United States alone cannot solve the problem.
*There are two other plaintiffs: the organization Earth Guardians and climate scientist James Hansen representing future generations.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Mississippi Flyway Cam

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biodiversity
Nature
Edward Hessler

In mid-September, a new bird camera was established on an island in the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge on Lake Onalaska.

The Mississippi River Flyway Cam lets us take a peek at migrating birds and river wildlife. Some examples are bald eagles, sandhill cranes, cormorants, pelicans and many species of ducks, gulls, and other waterfowl.

One of the rewards of checking it out from time-to-time is to listen in on the conversation.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Malus 'MN#1711'


Image result for honeycrisp

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Genetics
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

I can't let this Botany Picture of the Day (BPOD) pass without posting it.

The feature is the Minnesota Honeycrisp apple, the apple that is described as "explosively crisp."

Note its scientific name Malus 'MN#1711'. Malus is a genus composed of about 35 species. The alphanumeric "species" substitute represents its cultivar designation.

The photograph and a description made me smile as well as appreciate the work of plant breeders at the University of Minnesota.

Okay, I'm a Minnesota homebody although a transplant.


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Fall Back (or Suffer the Consequences)


Image result for clock

Environmental & Science Eduction
STEM
History of Science
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

Why do we do it, all this falling backward and springing forward?

Tonight, well early tomorrow morning, we move the hands or digits of our clocks (and often way too many other devices) back.

The BBC takes aim in this short film (8 minutes) narrated by Frankie McComley who looks at historical, political and social reasons behind changing the clocks and the varying time zones around the world.

Still, the question lingers.


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Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday Poem


Image result for quark

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

I owe today's poem to Jim Culleny, who curates poetry for 3 Quarks Daily

Here is the poem. You will find some information about the author, Maggie Smith, at the same page.

This poem was published in Issue IX, Summer 2016 of the Waxwing Literary Journal.

Mr. Culleny posted the poem 10.24.2018.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Explanation at 5 Levels of Difficulty


Image result for quantum computer

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Computing
Engineering
Edward Hessler

A press release from the Yale Quantum Institute notes that Wired Magazine is producing a video series in which an expert explains a subject to 5 different persons with various degrees of knowledge on the topic.

The persons include a child, a teen, an undergrad student, a grad student, and a professional.

This video features explainer Dr. Talia Gershon, Senior Manager at IBM Quantum Research who talks with her guests about quantum computing. She has an ability to meet people where they are and to feel comfortable.

Take a gander.

Here is an interview with Dr. Gershon at Educon 2018.

h/t: 3QuarksDaily