Thursday, July 12, 2012

Politicians: Brains Not Required

We all know that being smart is not required for being a politician. Having a good education is also not in the requirements for this particular position, which could have been clearly seen in the recent batch of the Republican presidential candidates.
However, when it comes to politicians without brains, I firmly say "Not In My Backyard!!!" (NIMB).
This is exactly what's happening in one of the Florida State House districts, where all three Republican candidates, Kim Kendall, Mike Davis and Ronald “Doc” Renuart, support teaching creationism in our public schools.
It is amusing, and yet scary at the same time, to hear from Renuart, who is a physician (with higher education and extensive scientific training, I presume):
Evolution is still a theory. It should be taught as a theory, not as a fact. Creationism, divine intervention — a lot of people share this belief.
and then:
[Vouchers] give[s] students a way out (of a failing school). It’s not full tuition. When we don’t provide options for students, what’s really left for them? (These schools) must meet the standards of public education.
What standards? The same he just demolished bringing religion into science classes?

Florida Citizens for Science has a short post about this topic as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pasco County School Board Elections: Vouchers

Our local Pasco County School Board elections are coming up, and as always the idea of school vouchers pops up with the candidates (Don Stephenson is one example). I always found this approach questionable, since it diverts public, tax driven funds from our public schools (where our tax dollars belong) into poorly controlled, private schools, religious in nature in many instances.

Thankfully, by a very wise decision of the good and smart people who wrote the US Constitution, public funds should never be used for religious purposes. However, religious people from all kinds of backgrounds argue differently, trying to prove that they, and their religion, deserves better. Except, when they find out that this slippery slope could also lead to other religions using the tax funds, and sometimes those religions are not as "popular" in this country.

People in Louisiana are finding out this exact thing right now, as reported by The Livingston Parrish News:
Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools.
“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday.
“I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,” Hodges said.
Hodges mistakenly assumed that “religious” meant “Christian.”
It is funny to see how their minds change and suddenly they are not so much for a "religious freedom", because it is not their own religion that's free.

I think we should keep it in mind when it's time to vote in the upcoming elections, and make sure that we select those candidates who are truly concerned about our public schools and do not support diverting our tax dollars to private schools and other organizations (that includes the very flawed Florida Religious Freedom, Amendment 8).

Monday, July 9, 2012

Real Estate in Florida: Invest Wisely

If you are thinking about buying a beachfront property in Florida (or anywhere else for that matter), think twice and choose wisely, as many places known for their beauty today, will become underwater habitats pretty soon.

A climate experts' summit took place recently in Florida, and The Gainesville Sun has the story: Karl Havens: Florida's warm future

The bad news:
The picture painted by the experts was bleak. Discussions included how to abandon areas of the Keys, lose large portions of the Everglades, and how to completely reconfigure Miami into a series of islands on historical ridges along the coast.
Between now and 2100, floods that happen every 100 years will start to happen every 50, then every 20, then every 5 — until large areas of coastal Florida are under the sea.
The good news:
The news is not all bad. Although there probably is enough excess CO2 in the atmosphere to drive some additional rise in sea level, scientists conclude that we can prevent devastating impacts of global warming on places like Miami and the Keys — if there is a concerted effort to reduce CO2 emissions in the next one to two decades. The costs of doing this will end up being much less than such unimaginable things as moving entire cities away from an advancing coastline.
However, the time is running out fast...

Faithful Get Offended... Again

Recently I wrote about a case of a bad "blasphemy law" in Poland (well, there is no "good" blasphemy law in my opinion, since they all infringe on people's freedom of speech in the name of someone unvalidated opinion), and this week brings us another case, this time from India (thanks to the New Scientist).

This particular case has been brewing for a few months, but finally, it is getting attention it deserves in the "mainstream" media, not just in the skeptic and rational circles. Senal Anamaruku, a skeptic from India, is accused of "hurting religious feelings" by exposing a purported miracle. The case is very straightforward: people believe in a miracle, they are swindled by others, who are trying to make money, someone exposes the fraud (intentional, or not, it's irrelevant) and gets blamed for "hurt feelings" of those who prefer to cling to irrational beliefs at all costs.

The main point to learn from this case, is of course, freedom of speech. And someone's opinion, is, and always should be, protected by this basic freedom, even if others don't agree and even if it goes against people beliefs.

There is also an important nugget of wisdom by Senal:
Once trapped into irrationalism, they become more incapable of mastering reality. It is a vicious circle, like an addiction. They become vulnerable to exploitation by astrologers, godmen, dubious pseudo-psychologists, corrupt politicians and the whole mega-industry of irrationalism.
Great point and worth repeating every day, when someone says "what's the harm?"