Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More of Laura Carder’s Wackiness

I was perusing Ms. Carder’s site and found a bit more she had to say on creation “science”. For anyone unfamiliar with her she is currently running against Rocco Treppiedi for Spokane School District (District 81) board of directors, position 4.

"Apparently, the writers to Spokesman-Review and the left-wing tabloid Inlander have a problem using "Creation" and "Science" together. Instead, they call it "Creationism", a term I seldom use. I'm merely suggesting that if Evolution is being taught in our public schools, so should Creation Science, and let the students choose what to accept. No one knows all the answers. So why the paranoia? Those of you who think I'm a nut-case or a lunatic because I think differently from you, are merely showing off your ignorance and intolerance. Do you think our founding fathers, like Thomas Jefferson who wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights", were lunatic nut-cases too? If so, I'm in good company. Then there's Hitler and Stalin who believed in evolution. Whose company do you prefer?

Evidently, my response to the S-R Oct 18 stirred up a hornets nest and the hornets are buzzing around with their stinging remarks. My hope is that those of you who have seen them will merely consider the source, and vote for me, because we agree that students should have the right to choose. Remember, there are 4 other members of the board, and I will be facing a steep learning curve. I will not be a school dictator. I won't even be president of the board anytime soon, as is Rocky. I will know better what can be done and what can't. Whether I win or lose the election, at least the message is out there, and many intelligent people agree with me."

The most important thing I need to point out to Ms. Carder is that Jefferson died 33 years before Charles Darwin published "On The Origin of Species". So of course he didn't accept evolution, how could he? He also probably didn't believe in cars, planes or Pluto (the ex-planet, not the dog).

I think the problem with referring to creationism as a type of science is that their main tenet, that "god did it", is not falsifiable. Evolution is falsifiable, go find a couple of human, horse, rabbit, etc. fossils that date to 100s of millions of years ago and voila, evolution disproved.

She again argues that we should teach both and let the children decide. The problem with that is that there is no evidence for creationism and literally mountains of it for evolution. Also that begs the question as to whether or not we should teach kids that the earth is flat, that it is the center of the universe and that the Holocaust never happened.

She is right (shocking, I know) that we don’t know everything. Scientistd are constantly gathering more evidence, conducting new experiments and learning new things. Maybe one day evolution will be proved false, seems unlikely with all the evidence, but it’s possible. Right now though everything we know about the world tells us that evolution occurred and that Darwin’s theory of evolution was pretty spot on. So that’s what should be taught.

Another tidbit about Thomas Jefferson, he also said “State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights…Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.” See I can throw around quotes too.

I get a little tired of people holding up the founding fathers as the ultimate moral beacon. Yes, they did a great and brave thing when they founded this country, but they were also slave holders and misogynists (not all, but enough). Hitler also probably liked ice cream, does that mean it’s evil?

And because throwing around quotes is fun “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord…I would like to thank Providence and the Almighty for choosing me of all people…” Adolf Hitler

At the end she stoops to that classic anti-argument “…many intelligent people agree with me.” Which proves absolutely nothing. I’m sure you can find plenty of intelligent people on both sides of every issue. There are actually some very intelligent scholars who are also Holocaust deniers. Just because a morally bankrupt person supports a theory does not in anyway detract from that theory. Only the data/evidence can do that. Science is NOT a popularity contest.

I really hope everyone gets out there and votes against Ms. Carder, let’s be honest, kids already receive a poor education, no reason to add kooky ideas and superstition to the limited time they have in school.

The Rise of Atheism Convention

I wanted to take a second to promote the upcoming Rise of Atheism – 2010 Global Atheist Convention.  It’ll be taking place in Melbourne, Australia running March 12-14.  There will be some great speakers including, but not limited to, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Catherine Deveny and Phillip Adams.  Don’t think I’ll be able to attend, but sure wish I could.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Could Not Resist

From Tom Scott over at Stuff.

Faith and Freedom Network

Most people are probably already familiar with this group of small-minded people, but I’ve been reading over their website and feel the need to mock them after seeing the idiotic tripe they promote.

My biggest problem with them is their opposition to Referendum 71. Here are their 10 Reasons to Reject R-71:

1. "At the founding of our country we made the conscious decision to promote marriage between one man and one woman above all other legal unions because of its inherent value to children and society." -State Representative Matt Shea

The founders also made the decision to allow slavery and to keep women subservient. Does Matt Shea want to continue with that also? What an idiotic argument. I don’t deny that the founders of this country were great men and accomplished something amazing, but to pretend that because of their deeds they somehow should be considered the ultimate authority on morals is ridiculous

2. “Those who think they can sit this battle out because they believe their values and their children will be safe in a private school or homeschool, need to think again. If the homosexual extremists are allowed to continue down this path, under expanded civil rights and hate crime laws, it will soon be illegal to speak out against homosexual marriage or the dangerous homosexual lifestyle. Please protect the time-honored tradition of ancient and modern society - one man, one woman in marriage. Protect the rights of children to have a mother and a father.” -Pastor Ken Hutcherson, Antioch Bible Church

The awesome part about this guy is that he’s black. You know we’ve come a long way as a society when the formerly repressed start to repress other minority groups. Makes me feel warm all over. I also like that according to this asshole demanding equal rights makes you an extremist. Apparently he thinks homosexuals are dangerous. Yea, when I walk through a bad neighborhood at night I’m constantly on the look out for gangs of homosexuals.

3. “Please defend marriage by Rejecting R-71/SB 5688. SB 5688 was presented as a bill about benefits, yet a day after it was passed, those who sponsored the bill told the Seattle press that it was really part of a long term strategy to re-define marriage and legalize same-sex ‘marriage’. The Seattle Times editorial board agreed and said homosexuals should also be given the name 'marriage’ as a result of the passage of SB 5688. SB 5688 is the final step. If this bill is allowed to become law, partnerships will be elevated to the level of marriage with no legal difference. The Washington State Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be declared irrelevant and same-sex ‘marriage’ will be imposed on Washington State through the courts.”

“SB 5688 is an attempt to deconstruct marriage as it has existed throughout all human history. This unique and exceptional relationship that connects a man and a woman to a child, genetically, is the cornerstone of every successful society in human history and is the master plan of the Creator. There is no other relationship that meets this criteria for marriage. Only natural marriage provides generational sustainability. Please defend marriage by REJECTING R-71/SB 5688” -Gary Randall, President, Faith and Freedom Network and Foundation

Anytime you have to invoke the supernatural (god, fairies, unicorns, et. al.) you know your logic is a bit shaky.

4. SB 5688 is bad legislation for marriage, children, the public schools and the economy. It's a back-door way of legislating homosexuality marriage without the name--which will be next. That step would legitimize immoral behavior-- forcing many families and their children to leave the public schools, and costing the state millions of dollars on a crazy social experiment. People are free to live with anybody they want--but they don't have the right to change the bedrock of society--marriage--between a man and woman, producing, protecting, and nurturing children. We need to honor and strengthen marriage--not re-define it.” -Ron Boehme, Director, US Renewal

He claims this referendum will lead to destruction but he doesn’t explain how or why. Making arguments with no data to back it up is a common way for idiotic people to debate. You get to make a point and no one is able to refute the evidence because you provide none.

5. “I heartily endorse the work of Protect Marriage Washington and the R-71 campaign. If homosexual ‘marriage’ becomes legal in Washington, every public school will be forced to teach that homosexual relationships and marriage are perfectly normal. This will greatly harm our schools and drive an irreconcilable wedge between the public school curriculum and the values and moral code of hundreds of thousands of parents. Those parents with deeply held convictions on this matter will have no choice but to remove their children. It is time for all of us to stand up for marriage in Washington State.” -Dr. Bruce Craswell

Zeus forbid that children should be subjected to other cultures and ways of thinking. If that happened they might not grow up to be as bigoted as their parents and who would want that.

6. "A domestic partnership diverts rights and resources from a family to an unrelated adult. These include benefits for dependent children, end of life decisions by older children for elderly parents, and inheritance rights of all surviving family members, just to name a few. The homosexual community emphasizes the fact that they have biological children, yet no child is ever produced by a same sex relationship. There is always an opposite sex partner involved and they can lose their rights as well." - Senator Dan Swecker

7. “In 2006 the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the legislature's right to ban same sex marriages. The passage of Senate Bill 5688 this year makes same-sex Domestic Partnerships equal to genuine marriage in every practical way. It's passage has essentially overturned our Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and thus diminishes the value of traditional marriage between one man and one women.” -Senator Val Stevens

8. “Marriage has been defined historically, culturally and morally as the union of one man and one woman. It is an undeniable truth that families led by both a father and mother provide the best structure and support for children and communities. The recent hostile acts of redefining marriage by state legislators and Governor Gregoire have set the stage for Referendum 71. Their assault on marriage in Washington State must not go unanswered. Marriage is ground that cannot be surrendered and we urge every citizen to rise up and defend marriage.” -Cindy Honcoop, Director, Washington Eagle Forum

9. SB 5688 was packaged and presented to the legislature as a Domestic Partnerships expansion of benefits. In truth, it will demolish the state's historical understanding and definition of marriage as Washington will immediately become subject to litigation by same-sex partners demanding the courts overturn our state’s Defense of Marriage Act and impose "same-sex marriage" (as happened recently in California prior to Proposition 8). By REJECTING R-71/SB 5688, we will bring this society changing measure before the people of Washington State and let them make this monumental decision in November.” -Larry Stickney, President, Washington Values Alliance

10. “SB 5688, together with other domestic partnership laws in Washington, represent the most radical rewriting of the statutory scheme in this state since the Code of Washington was first revised. R71 is your opportunity to reject the legislature’s attempt to overthrow traditional marriage in Washington.” -Stephen Pidgeon, Legal Counsel, Protect Marriage Washington

You’ll notice I didn’t comment on the rest. All these people have a tendency to say the same thing over and over.

Bigots on Wellesley and Division

So I was taking a look at that disgusting website Protect Marriage Washington and it looks like the bigots/fundamentalist wackos will be on the corner of Wellesley and Division on Friday October 30 from 4-6pm.  If anyone is available please come out to oppose these immoral people.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Freedom From Religion Foundation Convention

The Freedom From Religion foundation will be having a convention in Seattle November 6-8.  Ron Reagan (President Reagan’s son) will be speaking along with Ursula K. Le Guin, Daniel Everett and Jennifer Michael Hecht among others.

Unfortunately I recently attended AAI’s convention in Burbank and also am planning on checking out skeptrack at Dragon*Con next year so my convention budget is blown.  But if anyone goes maybe send me an email on how it went so I have something to post.

Here’s a link to the convention site for all the details.  FFRF

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Great Letters in Response to Laura Carder’s Ridiculousness

I’ve been reading over the Spokesman Review recently and their have been some great responses to Ms. Carder’s craziness.  I suggest everyone gives them a read.

Make Room For Monsters

No Shortage of Theories

Faith, evolution compatible

Evolution not a matter of luck

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What to Make of Susan Hutchison for King County Executive

Over in King County conservative Susan Hutchison is running for county executive against Dow Constantine. The first thing that brought Ms. Hutchison to my attention was that she is a former board member of that wonderful pseudo-scientific organization...the Discovery Institute. Obviously this immediately caused my blood pressure to immediately shoot through the roof. Let's take a closer look into what she's about.

She pretty much side steps any questions about her time at DI or her views of intelligent design. For instance when asked (from The Seattle Times) her views on intelligent design, she said "I support academic freedom". That seems like thinly veiled support of the "teach kids both and let them decide" strategy. Other than that she's pretty quiet about ID.

I emailed Natasha Jones, Deputy Communications Director for King County, to ask her about an executives powers. Here's what she had to say

Hi Mr. Myers – The executive powers do not include any say in county schools or educational institutes, although most executives are acquainted with local educational leaders and may collaborate on partnership activities, such as a recent effort involving King County, healthcare providers and schools to get dental care for eligible students whose parents are uninsured. Also, some county departments may work closely with school officials to coordinate special educational programs for students and efforts like Public Health programs or notifications.

The official powers are spelled out in the county charter, available here in PDF form and in a searchable format here:

It’s a little challenging to navigate, so I’ve pulled out the appropriate sections below. To find it yourself, search for section “320.20” which lists executive powers and duties.

Let me know if I can provide any additional information or if you have any questions.

Natasha Jones

Deputy Communications Director
Office of King County Executive Kurt Triplett

Seattle, WA 98104





Section 310 Composition and Powers.

The executive branch shall be composed of the county executive, the county administrative officer, the county assessor, the officers and employees of administrative offices and executive departments established by this charter or created by the county council and the members of the boards and commissions, except the forecast council and office of economic and financial analysis, the board of appeals and the personnel board. The executive branch shall have all executive powers of the county under this charter. (Ord. 16207 § 1, 2008).

Section 320 County Executive.

320.10 Election, Term of Office and Compensation.

The county executive shall be nominated and elected by the voters of the county, and his term of office shall be four years and until his successor is elected and qualified. The county executive shall receive compensation at least one and one-half times the compensation paid to a councilman.

(King County 12-2008)

320.20 - 340.10 CHARTER

320.20 Powers and Duties.

The county executive shall be the chief executive officer of the county and shall have all the executive powers of the county which are not expressly vested in other specific elective officers by this charter; shall supervise all administrative offices and executive departments established by this charter or created by the county council; shall be the chief peace officer of the county and shall execute and enforce all ordinances and state statutes within the county; shall serve on all boards and commissions on which a county commissioner was required to serve prior to the adoption of this charter, but if more than one county commissioner was required to serve, the county council shall appoint a councilman or councilmen to serve on the board or commission with him; shall present to the county council an annual statement of the financial and governmental affairs of the county and any other report which he may deem necessary; shall prepare and present to the county council budgets and a budget message setting forth the programs which he proposes for the county during the next fiscal year; shall prepare and present to the county council comprehensive plans including capital improvement plans for the present and future development of the county; shall have the power to veto any ordinance adopted by the county council except as otherwise provided in this charter; shall have the power to assign duties to administrative offices and executive departments which are not specifically assigned by this charter or by ordinance; and shall sign, or cause to be signed, on behalf of the county all deeds, contracts and other instruments. The specific statement of particular executive powers shall not be construed as limiting the executive powers of the county executive.

So at least Ms. Hutchison won't have a say in curriculum if she is elected.

One good thing to say for her is that she supports R-71 (the domestic partnership law). Although homophobe Larry Stickney (the idiot running Protect Marriage Washington) said (according to The Seattle Times) "I think in her heart of hearts she is really with us".

I'll email her and see if she'll say one way or another where she stands on intelligent design/creationism in the classroom, she always side steps the question so I don't expect anything.

Catholics Pander to Anglicans

Apparently some conservative Anglicans are pissed of that the church allows women and gay pastors. Who can blame them? What decent person would want to take mythological advice from a woman or a gay? I mean it's not like women or homosexuals add anything to society.

Yes this whole thing is crazy. Of course the fact that it involves religion pretty much guarantees it.

The Catholic church is going to allow Anglican priests who are married come into the church, likely bringing their congregation with them. I'm not a theologian, so I'm not well versed in the differences between the different sects, but it seems odd that if you're only problem with your church is that they let women and gays preach that you wholesale give up on it and take up a completely new set of beliefs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Richard Dawkins Greatest Show on Earth

Hoping everyone has had a chance to read Richard Dawkins newest book The Greatest Show on Earth. I was on a road trip right after it came out so I bought the audio version and really enjoyed it. Dawkins does a great job narrating the book and I would definitely recommend it.

Heidi Olson Dist 81 Board Position 3

I wrote the following email to Ms. Olson:

Dear Ms. Olson,

I run a small blog ( and was hoping you could spare a moment to answer a few questions. I know there are many important issues this election and the one I'm most curious about is probably not high up on the priority list, but I'm sure there are a few people out there who are curious. I've recently been looking into Laura Carder's position on teaching creation "science" in school and I felt that I should clarify everyone's position on the subject. Do you support the teaching of creation "science" in school and if so for what reasons? Ms. Carder claims that students are being punished for saying "Merry Christmas" and bringing Bibles to school. Are you aware of any instances where this has actually occurred in Spokane? Finally, is there anything you would like to say to voters? Something that I could post to give my readers an overall idea about what you stand for and plan to accomplish if elected to the board?

Thanks you so much for your time.


Andrew Myers

Here's the response I got back:

Dear Andrew,
Thank you for your interest in the current election. I am not aware of specific instances in which the alleged persecution
has occurred in Spokane. I am very concerned about the high drop-out rate in our schools and have some specific
ideas about how to lower the drop-out rate based on programs that have been successful in other districts. I am also interested
in maintaining the strengths of our very individualistic educational culture while balancing, or compensating for, its inherent weaknesses, which are
becoming increasingly apparent. These ideas are explained more completely on my website:
Heidi Olson

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed over her failing to answer my question about teaching creation "science". Here's her site if you'd like to read a little more about her. Comparing her response to Mr. Bierman I'd say that I'm in the Bierman camp.

I've still yet to hear anything from the Position 4 candidates.

Laura Carder's Letter to the Spokesman

On Sunday October 18 Ms. Carder posted a letter in the Letters section of the Spokesman-Review titled Creation science is logical. I checked with Doug Floyd at the Spokesman to verify that it was actually posted by her and he said it was the real deal. Here's what she had to say:

"Creation science acknowledges a designer far more intelligent than we. Macro evolution (from one species to one more evolved such as Darwin's) is only a theory. It violates the law of biogenesis, among others. It is the atheists' way to explain origins without a creator. How could the complex DNA, the blueprint of the life form, among other examples, come about by billions of years of lucky chances? However, Micro evolution (within the species), or the "law of the jungle," is proven, therefore scientific.
Creation is not only about religion, it's logical. If you are pro-choice, surely you would allow each student to choose which theory to accept.

What she wrote is so ignorant on so many levels that I laughed and cried a little. How could any sane person wish to see Ms. Carder be in charge of anything that even remotely involved education. It's a joke, she's a joke.

Let's look at her arguments, the only nice part is that she's made the same ridiculous claims that most creationist and IDers make so this should only take me a minute.

She starts with usual "evolution is only a theory" argument. I see no reason to attack this one myself when the eminent Stephen Jay Gould said it pretty well to begin with:

"In the American vernacular, "theory" often means "imperfect fact"—part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus creationists can (and do) argue: evolution is "only" a theory, and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is less than a fact, and scientists can't even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? Indeed, President Reagan echoed this argument before an evangelical group in Dallas when he said (in what I devoutly hope was campaign rhetoric): "Well, it is a theory. It is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science—that is, not believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was."

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered."

She then says that the theory of evolution contradicts the Law of Biogenesis. Biogenesis basically comes down to life can only come from life, in other words your computer can't turn into a dog. The problem with that is that evolution has nothing to do with life first forming. The fact is we don't know how life first came to be on this planet and evolution is not intended to explain that event. The theory of evolution by natural selection explains how simple cells or amino acids (or whatever was first here) evolved over billions of years into us and everything else we see around the planet.

Oh and she says it violates other Laws, but fails to mention what they are. Nothing like throwing out an argument without telling anyone what it is.

She says it's the atheist way of explaining origins without a creator. She's incorrect here because atheists (with the exception of the ignorant ones) don't try to explain how life first came about, because we don't know. Now if by origins she means how humans (and everything else) came to eventually inhabit the planet, then I would disagree again, because that's how anyone who has picked up a biology book in the past 150 years would explain how humans evolved without a creator.

She then goes into the usual irreducible complexity and how could this all have come about by chance argument. Firstly, evolution already explains the why and the how things are so complex and I'm going to leave it there. Secondly, the gene mutations that produce differences among species are by chance but natural selection which is the means of those genes being passed on or not is the antithesis of "chance".

She accepts natural selection (what she calls "law of the jungle").

She finishes by saying that we should just teach kids both evolution and creationism and let them decide for themselves. Which is great in philosophy or a political class, it seems a little dumb for a science class. Maybe we should have history professors teach their students about holocaust deniers and let the students make up their own minds. Or have geography teachers lecture students about flat-Earther's positions and let the students make up their own minds. The fact is that creationist "science" is no science at all and has no place in a science class room. All the evidence we have right now tells us that evolution is a fact. Until the IDers and creationists (or more likely a competent scientist) can come up with convincing evidence that the theory is false I see no reason that creationism should take up any more of our time.

Here's a link to the Spokesman so that you can read Ms. Carder's original letter.
Laura Carder's Letter

District 81 Final Say

Okay, I know it seems like I'm beating a dead horse, so I'll make this the last post about this particular subject unless I hear something worth mentioning. This was from Terren Roloff, Spokane School District Community Relations Director. Here's what Ms. Roloff had to say:

Hi Mr. Myers. On behalf of Spokane Public Schools, our response to your questions to some of our principals and administrators is as follows: There is no district-wide policy that punishes people for saying "Merry Christmas," encourages swearing, or punishes students for bringing Bibles to school. Thank you.

Terren Roloff
Community Relations Director

So there we have it. I'm still waiting to hear back from Ms. Carder to get her side of this all. Hopefully that will happen soon.

Jeff Bierman for Dist 81 Board Position 3

So while looking over Ms. Carder's (running for Dist 81 Position 4) beliefs, it seemed that I should get the other candidates opinions on the subject. Jeff Bierman was the first to email me back (I like him already). This man has spent more years in education than I've been alive, I recommend running over to his site (Retain Dr. Jeff Bierman) and check out his bio.

Here's what I originally wrote to him:

Dear Mr. Bierman,

I run a small blog ( and was hoping you could spare a moment to answer a few questions. I know there are many important issues this election and the one I'm most curious about is probably not high up on the priority list, but I'm sure there are a few people out there who are curious. I've recently been looking into Laura Carder's position on teaching creation "science" in school and I felt that I should clarify everyone's position on the subject. Do you support the teaching of creation "science" in school and if so for what reasons? Ms. Carder claims that students are being punished for saying "Merry Christmas" and bringing Bibles to school. Are you aware of any instances where this has actually occurred in Spokane? Finally, is there anything you would like to say to voters? Something that I could post to give my readers an overall idea about what you stand for and plan to accomplish if reelected to the board?

Thank you so much for your time.


Andrew Myers

Here's what he had to say:

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for checking in with me. I'll try to give you some feedback here on your questions and, if I don't get them all answered or you have others, please just email back and I'll try again.

I don't support teaching "creation science" in science courses in our schools. I don't believe it falls under the heading of credible scientific models which explain the world around us. However, I'm not a huge fan of how science gets presented to our students. I think too often science is taught as right and wrong, rather than following the intent of "the scientific method." All we have in science are models which attempt to describe the observations we have made and can be used to make predictions about other physical situations upon which we could make observations. When predictions match up with future observations, our model gets credibility and starts to become generally accepted. However, at some point, all of our models are going to be found incompatible with observations and will then either need to be modified or found to be limited in their scope of coverage. A scientist has to have the mindset that their currently accepted models will need to be modified. I'm not sure that important point gets across in our courses. "Creation science" doesn't prove compatible with observations and doesn't make many testable predictions. Intelligent design, from what I've seen, makes few testable predictions and hence, while maybe appropriate for discussion and coverage in a philosophy class, should not be taught in science courses. Evolution on the other hand, makes testable predictions; some of which succeed and some where there are troubles. Evolutionary theory has changed over time to better explain the latest fossil and geography data that is reported and, when there are problems the model needs to be modified. My fear is that often, evolution is taught as "correct" rather than "accepted" and there is a big difference. In my field of physics, Newtonian mechanics was pretty well accepted and many started to believe it was "correct" but then once we could make observations on particles traveling at very high speeds, we found the predictions of Newtonian mechanics to be incorrect. The acceptance of the special theory of relativity was the scientific method at work. That's probably more than you were looking for.

As for students being punished for saying "merry christmas" or bringing bibles to school, I don't know if they were or weren't. The school board isn't supposed to be involved in the day to day operations of schools, rather the board sets priorities and visions for the district; goals to work towards. The board has one employee, the superintendent, who is then responsible for structuring the district such that the policy set by the board is followed and the goals and vision are achieved. During the past 14 months, I haven't seen any policy issues regarding these issues come up to the board nor has any such discipline been reported or described tot he board, however there is no reason that it necessarily would have. The best place to check for verification of those instances would be with the superintendent's office, Dr. Nancy Stowell.

Finally, I can give you a quick summary of my district vision that I would work towards if elected. I want our district to increase the range of academic offerings for all students in our district and to raise the challenge and academic rigor contained in those courses. Our district is huge, almost 29,000 students, however it seems as though we try to force most kids into a one size fits all curriculum. Rather than a single 8th grade english class or a single 9th grade math class that all kids take, I'd rather see multiple courses better tailored towards different student career goals and interests. I believe this would better prepare students for success after K-12 and would do a better job of keeping students connected to their education. I also think we need to raise the level of rigor and expectations, especially at middle school. I believe that is a huge contributor to our high dropout rate. Those key transitions from 6th->7th grade and then from 8th->9th grade are where we actually lose kids that drop out later in high school. They are allowed to drift in middle school, with low expectations, they don't advance academically but they still move on. Then they hit 9th grade where the academic bar is raised a bit and they struggle. According to reports, if a student fails one class in 9th grade, there's like a 60% chance that they will drop out. If they fail 2 courses in 9th grade it goes up to 90%+. I fear that what we are currently doing in middle school, in many cases, is setting kids up to fail a class or two in ninth grade. I want our middle school experience to do a better job of preparing kids to succeed in high school and beyond.

That said, the real challenge for this district (and all districts in washington state) over then next 4 years is going to be finances and budgets. Our state is in a budget mess and will be for some time, which is going to dramatically affect K-20 schools. After a difficult budget year last year, the state is already $1.5 billion behind on the budget for next year. For the bienium that starts the year after, if stimulus dollars aren't replaced from some source there will be another gaping hole. For example, 8% of this year's budget for district 81 comes from stimulus dollars used by our state legislature to backfill where they had cut. That's about $24 million for us. We will undoubtably see reductions from the state for this next year, then if we lose $20+ million dollars the year after that, after having made reductions this year even with an increase in enrollment, the results are going to be very difficult to arrive at and accept. I think it will be a very difficult and challenging time to be on the board, however, it will also be crucially important that we stay focused and prioritize on student success and achievement.

I like what he had to say, overall it seemed pretty solid. Also, it's nice to see that there's a scientist on the board. I look forward to hearing from Heidi Olson who is running against him, as well as the Position 4 candidates.

School Responses to Ms. Carder's Claims

So far I have heard back from a few people who work in the school system and will post what they had to say below.

Here's what I originally wrote to the administrators:

I run a small blog ( and have recently been reading about Laura Carder who is running for School
Board Position 4. On her website ( Ms. Carder claims that students are being punished for saying "Merry Christmas"
but are allowed to swear and that they're getting into trouble for bringing Bibles to school. Are her claims valid? Is that a district wide or school policy? I've emailed a dozen or so school principals and administrators and would like to post the results to my blog so please let me know if you are uncomfortable with being quoted. Thank you very much for your time.


Andrew Myers

Karin L. Short, the Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services had this to say:

Mr. Myers,
I also believe Ms. Carder's claims to be without foundation. Having been a principal myself for 25 years in Spokane, I do not know of anyone who would criticize a student for saying Merry Christmas. Students have choices of reading materials for a variety of assignments...depending on the course and the assignment...the Bible may well be one of those student choices.

I have heard Ms. Carder in public meetings and often she refers to issues and then adds, "but not in Spokane to my knowledge". I don't know if the remark you refer to was made about Spokane or some other situation.

Thanks again for making the inquiry.

Karin Short

Karin L. Short
Associate Superintendent
Teaching and Learning Services
200 N. Bernard Street
Spokane, WA 99201-0282
(509) 354-7365
Fax (509) 354-5994

If Ms. Short is correct and Ms Carder's claims involve other school districts, why does she not mention this on her website, it's slightly misleading to say the least. Secondly why not take her creationist quackery and run for board in one of those school districts? It would seem like a good mix, a school district that bans Bibles and a board member who would like Genesis to be the foundation of Biology class.

And here's what I heard from Steve Fisk, Assistant Principal of North Central High School:

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for the communication. I am not aware of any disciplinary situations that have involved students at North Central High School who have used the words, "Merry Christmas." Additionally, I am not aware of students being disciplined at North Central for bringing bibles to school either. While inappropriate language continues to be a challenge, we do not ignore acts of profane language and provide appropriate disciplinary sanction and direction to students who violate the policy.

Let me know if you need further clarification or information.

Steve Fisk
Assistant Principal
North Central High School
1600 N. Howard
Spokane, Washington 99205
(509) 354-6300
(509) 342-1156 Cell

So there you have it for now. I have emails out to a few other principals and will post their responses when they come.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


In connection with the following post, I have emailed both candidates for Position 4 and Position 3 for the District 81 board to get their positions on teaching creation "science" in school. I have also emailed several Dist. 81 principals as well as the superintendent to ask them if it is school policy to punish children for saying "Merry Christmas" and bringing Bibles to school. So hopefully I'll hear back shortly and will be able to post their thoughts here.

Creationist for School Board

In the upcoming election Laura Carder is, unfortunately, running for position 4 of the District 81 School District. Here are a couple of scary and irrational thoughts from her website:

Do they pledge allegiance to Our Flag anymore? If so, do they state "One nation under God"? (What the hell does that have to do with education?)

Some children have been punished for saying "Merry Christmas", but it's OK to cuss. (First of all in what school is it okay to cuss? I recall receiving Saturday school for that and I'm only 23 so it wasn't that long ago. I plan on emailing a few principals tomorrow to see if they are actually punishing kids for saying "Merry Christmas", I'll get back to you on the results.)

Some children have been punished for bringing a Bible to school. Why? Who makes such rules? The Bill of Rights restrict the Government, not the people. (Where are these schools where kids are getting in trouble for bringing a Bible and where's the ACLU at? Again, I'll ask a few Dist. 81 principals and see what they say.)

She also tends to mention a lot of getting back to the ethics and values that the country were founded on, which seems like a thinly veiled suggestion that we go back to the Bible and ditch truth and evidence.

The one area I do agree with her is better educating students about their constitutional rights. It does seem like kids are a bit under-educated when it comes to the constitution and what it means.

I emailed her a little while ago to try to nail down exactly where she stands on some of these issues and will post as soon as I hear something from her.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

AAI Conference

I recently got back from the 2009 Darwin's Legacy convention in Burbank, CA. It was hosted by Atheist Alliance International and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. It was an amazing convention and I suggest everyone consider attending one in the future (btw, if you attended this one let everyone know your thoughts on it). It included speakers Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Mr. Deity and many, many more.

The only poor presentation was Maurice Bisheff, I can only hope AAI wasn't too familiar with his subject because it was a bit out there. It seemed like it would be great, he was going to be giving a lecture on Thomas Paine (founding father and author of Common Sense). Mr. Bisheff never went off paper and was a very dry speaker. But the weirdness was when he started talking about science eventually studying and measuring mysticism. Luckily PZ Myers was in the audience and got up and asked him a few questions. Bisheff rambled off some gibberish that didn't come close to addressing the point and that was the end of it.

With the exception of Bisheff the rest was a blast, not only did we have all the wonderful speaker, Bill Maher was there to accept an award from Dawkins foundation and treated us to 20 or 30 minutes of his hilarious self. I would consider picking up a set of dvd's from the convention at