Author Archives: Dale Roy

About Dale Roy

Recently retired physical science teacher. Going for Masters Degree for Science in the Public thru the University of Buffalo Married to Sc00ter Looking to be more involved and active member of the skeptical community now that I have time.

House Bill 1457 – Scientific Inquiry Bill

Thursday 2/9/11 @ 11:00 am. HB 1457 Science Inquiry Bill Hearing scheduled.

Please go to this or have someone go that can read your letters into record.
—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
HB 1457 is a bill defining how Scientific Inquiry should be defined and taught, by two representatives Gary Hopper and John Burt.

HB 1457 states:

“Scientific Inquiry. Require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”

and can be seen here:  http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1457.html

 

What is the issue with this bill? 

This bill is worded in a very subtle way and may seem benign.  It is true that science does not hold on to one idea, science is always giving a nod to uncertainty and possible change.  However, the most troubling part of this bill comes from   “new evidence” and “Not committing to theories”

By not defining the terms “new evidence”, it becomes unclear as to what kind of evidence will be valid for consideration in the classroom.  Does any kind of evidence get accepted?  What if the evidence brought in by a parent or student, is from a study that has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal?  Will this type of evidence  be required to carry the same weight and consideration as actual scientific evidence provided by a study that has undergone peer-review and has shown up in scientific publications?

How much evidence?

By allowing the term “new evidence” to be so broad, people/students may think a theory will be overturned because one lone scientist discovered it.  Will they make the connection that a scientific theory is same as our day-to-day vernacular suggests?  Instead of what a scientific theory really is actually defined:  A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.  It cannot be overturned because of one new study.  It can be overturned, when a consensus of the scientific community has been reached, thanks to the repeated verification and study of the “new evidence”.

By allowing “new evidence” to be so broad, does it matter the form of evidence?  

Will science teachers have to teach Astrology during the Astronomy units, because of a well known astrologer and blogger posts about the 13 astrological signs and their “influence” on a person in relation to the various planets with those signs?

David Brooks’ “Granite Geek” article of the Nashua Telegraph said it best with

“Mention of astrology, claiming evidence about an instantaneous universal force unknown to science, means physics class should “not commit” to Newton’s ideas about gravity. Homeopathy means classes should “not commit” to basic chemistry. The Hollow Earth Theory means earth science should “not commit” to plate tectonics. Brouwer’s Intituitionism (to dredge up memories from college days) means math class should “not commit” to irrational numbers. And so on.”

“Not committing to just one theory”

Interestingly enough, this does not get limited to just science.  This bill in fact opens up possibilities for other subjects with the “Not committing to theories” statement.  What about our history classes?  Will history teachers have to give equal weight to Sarah Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, if some random person can provide any kind of evidence to it?

An even better example would be Economics!  Economics teachers should consider what they teach as well. For example:  They should not just teach the classic Capitalism theory which is so popular here in America, but Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Neoclassical economics, Keynesian economics, and any other theories deemed relevent by a student or parent.  New evidence may show that any of these economic theories are valid and if a student or a parent should bring these subjects up, then by george the teacher better be ready to do so.

(Wish I could take credit for the economics segment.  It’s brilliant, but it was brought up by a Dartmouth Professor who’s name escapes me right now; I apologize and thank you!)

 

While my questions/examples may seem far fetched and unreasonable, this is what many people think of when it comes to science.  Many people seem to share the incorrect thinking “Anything goes, after all.. science is just guessing”.  No, I am afraid it is not that simple.  Science is not out there just guessing with no guidelines, review, and oversight.  The scientific process is self correcting and stringent.  This type of thinking and other anti-science thinking from the population is not helpful to our society; it is especially problematic when our legislators follow up on this with bad bills.   The news media keeps mentioning how tough these tough economic times are.   It may be safe to assume that science and technology will be the types of jobs that keep growing in demand. Our state should be doing everything we can to attract these types business.  Showing our commitment not just to education, but an educational system that is strong in science and technology, can only help our situation (both present and future).  How can NH expect to attract these industries (that are so readily found in Massachusetts) when our state legislators are set on scaring them away with anti-science legislation such as HB 1457 and its other anti-science counter part 1148?

Representatives John Burt and Gary Hopper as far as I am aware, are not educators nor do they not have a background in science. Instead of helping to strengthen our states educational system,  they are setting  our students up for confusion.  In fact, if these two would go take a look, the NH Dept. of Education already has an extensive outline for how scientific inquiry should be taught in the “Scientific Process Skills” section of the document “K-12 Science Literacy New Hampshire Curriculum Framework”   found at this link.  Why try to change what has already been laid out by the qualified people the state hired, by writing inferior laws?  Now I understand some would argue that the state has not provided a perfect guideline for teaching scientific inquiry.  That may be true, but it is a far better guideline then what Representatives John Burt and Gary Hopper has provided us with.  HB 1457 is a good example of why those who do not have a clue of what they are doing when it comes to education or science, should not be writing bills that influence or affect education.

 

Please go to the Educational Committee hearing and ask that Bill 1457 be killed in committee.  If you cannot go to the hearing, then please write the committee members and also send someone to read your letters to the committee for the record.

 

Sources:

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/945078-196/lawmakers-zero-in-on-science-theory.html

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1457.html

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committeedetails.aspx?code=H05

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.education.nh.gov%2Finstruction%2Fcurriculum%2Fscience%2Fdocuments%2Fscience.doc&ei=8ZAUT6CyDOnl0QG-r6TKAw&usg=AFQjCNEZ_YmW_18wmLvuYLH9L3e9oaQm0A&sig2=dHBYUKMC_usI3AxIxB9Q1A

Opinion: On Staying Silent

People are remaining silent on various issues.  For many, silence is considered supportive of one side or another.  If you don’t disagree visibly or vocally, then you must agree! It’s a fallacy, we all know it, but never the less it’s happening.  Right now, we have members of the skeptical movement who are staying silent out of fear of the resulting backlash.  It seems the silence is greatest when something is going wrong but, people are afraid to comment.  We all know when something has gone awry and we all know the moment of clarity that happens each of us, when it does.  What is puzzling for the skeptical movement is the silent stance.  After all, what has been one of the big tenets of our movement? Engagement.  We skeptics research, read, get informed, find answers that get us upset… then do nothing? What good comes from that?

Continue reading

It’s From Nature – It Must Be Better

Image from Flickr - Matthew Beckler

Ah nature, its beauty astounds me and I gladly walk through its many wonders. To think, all it took was time, pressure, and a few chemical reactions to make some impressive features. I am even more impressed by how our means of better living was achieved through nature. Achieved through our ancestors curiosity and survival instincts. As a result many of the proven natural aides are used today, albeit in different form. However, today, we have a population of people who think the world is in trouble. That our world is better served by abandoning our advancements and return to the primitive past. While it is true many of our products used today are nature based; that does not mean abandoning our advances will provide a safer or better environment.

 

Many things that make life easier came from plants. Aspirin, for example originated from the bark of a willow tree in the form of salicylic acid. Thanks to Bayer and other makers of aspirin, most people no longer have to worry about their stomach becoming upset. Retinal is another plant-based product that has been manipulated to suit our purpose. Cosmetic companies figured out retinal are good for smooth skin. A third chemical, and the focus of this article, is oxalic acid. This is a chemical found in many plants and it is made readily in the lab for industrial and commercial use. Oxalic acid is used in many disinfectants, bleaching agents, and insecticides for household, commercial, and industrial use. As for plants, it can be found in Spinach, Swiss chard, and most notably –if you are a New Englander-Rhubarb.

Continue reading

Over the Edge…

One woman with a man’s name tale of annoyance, criticism, research, decision making, and discovery on the topic of feminism.

I have been pushed! Pushed to write my thoughts on feminism. For the past year I have heard about feminism and skepticism. Which normally, does not bother me. Feminism, serves a very important purpose when pointed in the correct direction. Today, I wonder if feminism is still going in the correct direction. Apparently, members of our own community are putting us women in a submissive and inferior role. There are several women in our community that are leading the charge vocally and thank goodness they are there to tell me how to feel about it! At least this is the impression I have been left with. I have been wrangling with and hashing out my own thoughts over the past several months. I keep biting my tongue, holding myself back. I hold myself back because; I have only been a member for the skeptical community actively for a short time. I keep waiting for someone more established in the community to speak up for those of us that do not feel the same as the popular opinion. No one has spoken up, which possibly means I stand alone… That is a very scary position to be in.
Continue reading

My thoughts on a skeptical year…

2010 has been a relatively uneventful skeptical year for me.  When I say uneventful, I personally have not done much in the way of promoting skepticism.  However, I have finished my first semester of grad school, attended my first Australian TAM, my second TAM Vegas, and finding myself getting more involved in the workings of skepticism.

I am attending the University of Buffalo via the Internet.  It is amazing to me how much technology lets you find out.  I have spent a semester nose to texts/screen and learning!  I know a real revelation right!  Learning how to read a study has been one of the best things.  If I learned nothing else in my years in grad school, this will do me a huge service.  Turns out you should probably ignore the television reports on the latest study that comes out.  Far better for you to read the study yourself, too much room for interpretation from the vague reports depending on the type of study.

Read the study your self, read the study from beginning to end.  You would be amazed how many of them do a 180 from what the results actually show.  The ones that are just poorly done would also amaze you.  What is an example of a good study?  One where the author states his or her study’s limitations stays true to what the results show, and one that offers up suggestions for further study.  One of the better studies I read was written by Mathew Johnson and Massimo Pigliucci, they were very thorough and fully explained their results in the discussion.  Well worth a read if you get a chance.

TAM Australia was FANTASTIC!  The trip itself was fantastic, but the organizers did a wonderful job of pulling off their first TAM.  I mean they really made it look flawless.  They were quick on their feet with the surprise changes that needed to be made with speakers suddenly canceling.  The little details like the name tags with the logo, the itinerary folds up and fits into the name tags so people don’t have another thing to hold.  The speakers were quality Dr. Karl, Eugenie Scott, SGU, Dr. Simon Singh, Dr. Robert Morrison, and many others.  Many people have said some very good things; I just wanted to add two more… Travis and I!  We were on panels for TAMOz!  That was very exciting experience for both of us.  I hope I was informative and answered the questions with relevant responses.  I can tell you when there is a microphone and cameras in front of your face, you get a little nervous.

Are there some things that could be done differently?  Sure.  However, these are minor things and not a reflection on the overall conference.  The over all conference was very impressive and the amount of time and effort put in by all was apparent!

TAM8 in Vegas, was one of the biggest meetings yet.  This was the JREF’s new president DJ Grothe’s first time in charge of TAM and he did a good job.  All of the usual things an experienced TAMer have come to expect. Two things that could be done differently, I would have like to have seen the keynote speaker actually speak rather then a question/answer session.  The other is during the cocktail hour, I would have liked to seen the James Randi interview of Richard Dawkins happen at the end of the cocktail hour.  Not so close to the beginning, people had not seen each other in a while.  people wanted to talk and to be shushed was kind of off putting.

For me it was a wonderful experience, almost as awesome as my very first one.  Once again the speakers were quality.  People like Dr. Simon Singh, Richard Dawkins, SGU, my personal favorite Adam Savage, and again many other notable people.  The effort and the planning was apparent and I think the JREF overall did a good job as well.

I am increasingly finding myself getting more and more annoyed by the obvious false claims out there.  I am finding myself becoming more intolerant of people getting mislead and ripped off as a result.  Lets talk about my Energy Armor Experience.  Travis tells me they have a kiosk and to make matters that much better, they have the ability to count the ions in their bracelets!!  Needing to see this, I head over to the kiosk.  They are doing the same physical tests that Power Balance does; only they are worse at it.  I can see the direction they are pulling their subjects.  I go through their tests and call them on their flaws.  I end up with three sales people trying to test me; the last one is apparently the manager or the guy “in charge” that day.  He tests me about ions, how they add energy to my body, how the FDA has approved negative ions for years!  I ask, “How do negative ions add energy to my body?”  I don’t get any real answers.  I ask again, I keep pushing for two answers: 1. This is exactly how ions do their job or 2. You know I wasn’t trained for this; here is someone you can contact.   Instead what I get is accusation of working for someone, and sworn at.  “Go f’n Google negative ions” “My name is none of your f’n business”.  Real nice.

Complaint letter sent to the director of the mall.  Here is the letter ** Only changes made was the recipients name.

I get what I would consider an unacceptable response back.  Here is the response. ** Only changes: removal of name and header of the email.

I send back the following letter: Here is the letter ** Changes made, removal of name of recipient

The good news is, people saw and heard the man swearing and getting angry with me.   The good news is Travis has a contact at the FDA from prior experiences and this has resulted in the FDA looking into Energy Armor’s claims.  This can only result in what I hope is Energy Armor having to do the same thing as Power Balance; report their false claims!

I have now found out that a local schoolteacher is selling Energy Armor to the students via the school store.  Talk about a lack of business ethics!  I am working out a way to word this properly and effectively.  It will be dealt with; I am just working out the proper language.  I do not want to burn bridges with the school, which will not be helpful or effective.  I will keep you all posted on the results and lets see what happens!

I am enjoying what I am doing so far.  I love my training in proper information seeking! I have a lot of work to go, but I feel I have improved far beyond what I use to have for skill.  I am really looking forward to seeking out a career that involves this sort of work.  I will work on figuring out my future career path when I am further in.

2011 should prove to be a more interesting year for Granite State Skeptics.  We are looking for ways to be more involved and active.  Several things in the works: We are working on our first skepticamp, I will be blogging more (resolutions you know), A certain charlatan will be coming to NH and we hope to be there, working on future speakers for SITP, and of course there is the standard events to attend NECSS and TAM9!



Bracelets/Necklaces of Magic

This is a Blog post I made on a free exercise/diet site I am a part of called SPARKPEOPLE. It has recently come to my attention that they are allowing ads for bracelets that promote better performance.

Everywhere I look; there are increased amounts of bracelets/necklaces for sale that promise increased performance, better health, increased strength. I have noticed them more and more in sport stores, vitamin stores, infomercials, and ads. Now sparkpeople.com is showing ads for these types of bracelets and necklaces. (I understand that ads pay for the site so we may use it for free) While Sparkpeople may choose to take their money where ever they can get it, as consumers should be cautious with our money. With our society in seemingly desperate need for science understanding, these bracelets/necklaces drive the point home even more. Continue reading