One of my best Carl Sagan Quotes


Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.” – Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Homo neanderthalensis

Modern human DNA not found in Neanderthal DNA

Most Modern Euro-Humans have Caveman DNA

According to my 23andMe results, I have less than 1% Neanderthal DNA. This isn’t really surprising as I share ~20% of my DNA with northern Europeans. Most endogenous Africans don’t have any Neanderthal DNA. Ever since scientists first successfully analyzed most of Neanderthal genome, we have known for some while that those of European descent contain some remnants of Neanderthal DNA. A recent study by Mateja Hajdinjak of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, reveals that there isn’t any immediately detectable evidence that there is gene backflow into modern humans.


Hajdinjak’s team recovered samples from four Neanderthal specimens which lived during the time in which scientists believe the swapping of DNA should have occurred based on molecular evidence, between 39,000 and 47,000 years ago.  The results revealed no gene flow between these samples and modern humans.

What does this mean? 

Not finding human DNA in the Neanderthal genomes screened could mean a few things. One is that over time, those sequences unique to humans simply didn’t get passed down. Another is that the sample itself isn’t complete enough to make a strong determination but this is highly suspect. Another is that it could be that some populations simply don’t obtain the modern human components. It is possible that perhaps only a small number of Neanderthals bred with humans and that members of that surviving lineage made its way into the modern human genome.

In a way, Neanderthals survived through us.

Saving Our Minds – From Enemies Foreign and Domestic.

We have recently learned that Cambridge Analytica, and probably many other companies, were data mining Facebook users’ personal information. It was revealed that certain apps were downloaded by users, and friends of those users would have relevant data extracted from them as well. Cambridge Analytica designed an algorithm to not only extract this information, but to apparently parse this information into manageable information that could be then be used to target users via ads and emails. Users would then be led down a carefully constructed maze of fake news, disinformation sites, sites reinforcing their beliefs, sites which create new beliefs in their victims, and sites that attempt to change the minds of fence-sitters.

This technique is not new. Anyone paying attention would have seen similar such attempts by advertisers.  I myself created a network of sites 15 years ago in which every link led to another one of my websites and pages. In my site stats, I could see users leaving one site and going to one of my other sites in my network. It’s fairly easy to set up. My goal at the time however was to increase ad revenue, not trick minds with fake news stories.

Christopher Wylie, formerly of Cambridge Analytica, blew the whistle and reported that over 50 million FB users had their information taken with the express goal to lead them down a number of notorious rabbit holes of propaganda and lies. Wylie mentioned on his media tour that Cambridge field tested this, and it worked! The success of the data they compiled and the algorithm used to influence users (their product) is believed to have been later sold through Cambridge Analytica to various external parties. CA apparently helped out Ted Cruz during his campaign but when it was apparent that he was going to lose, CA began working on other data gathering projects for the Trump Campaign.

A Russian Connection?

One individual involved in the creation of the notorious app which pulled user data was a Russian-born professor, Aleksandr Kogan, who was working on projects dealing with how to psychologically profile net users, allegedly funded by Russia. He has been asked to speak to congress about his role. He denies any wrongdoing.

Sometime in March, 2018, the CEO of CA, Alex Nix, was caught on hidden camera boasting about the effectiveness of his operations, in particular, that he helped get Donald Trump elected. Worse, that he essentially entraps certain politicians by showering them with women so that his clients, and possibly CA itself, can have something on them at a later date.

Since this has come up, Trump supporters, thanks to conservative news media outlets, are convinced that this is all a liberal lie and simply another “deep-state” diversion tactic. Sadly, many of these Trump supporters are victims of CA’s efforts! Many of their beliefs about the “deep state”, crooked Hillary, and even President Obama’s birth certificate have come out of these efforts to influence gullible minds.

How Can We Fix This Invasion of Lies and Disinformation?

What is the solution? Well, Facebook has recently banned CA, which is great! But what could have inoculated the public against such obvious fake news and emotional pandering? I argue, Critical Thinking.

Our society is crumbling in its ability to decipher reality. To repair the damage, we must teach our children the ability to question not only everything external to them, but to question themselves as well. It begins with all of us as citizens, educators, and parents. We must allow our children the flexibility to question dogma, while simultaneously giving them tools to discern fact from fiction. As an educator, I see the value daily of having my students question everything, even me. My classroom is one of the rare institutional learning spaces that openly allows the students to question my lessons, statements, and claims. I believe this helps them grow to be more intelligent, critical thinkers. Developing the mindset and courage to question freely helps us all grow; as such, society will eventually evolve into one that is full of citizens with the ability to think and probe more deeply.

Parents: What can you do?

Allow your children to question what you have asked of them or claims that you have made. Teach yourself how to respond adequately. I recommend encouraging and celebrating their out-of-the-box thinking. Sadly, many of us have grown up in authoritarian homes in which being inquisitive was considered, “talking back” and punishable by physical pain. Teach them that there are ways to converse without violence. Teach them that it’s okay to be wrong. Lead by example. Check your own biases. Be honest when you are wrong. And please, please, stop sharing information that you yourself haven’t properly vetted. It is with these actions today that we can begin to see a brighter day tomorrow.

Recommend Resource: (Fact Checking Website Specializing in Debunking Urban Legends and Internet Memes)

How To Create a More Intelligent and Reflective Society

We continue to hear from many teachers and politicians that schools need more money. The thought in of itself has become somewhat of a religious ideology moreso than one based on careful arguments and factual evidence. Don’t get me wrong, most, if not all of our public and private schools do indeed need more money to provide the services that they provide. As populations grow, so do schools, we do indeed need to support them. But is money alone the solution? What is the actual goal? To improve the quality of education in America? Or is the goal to just graduate students so that they can go to college or trade school? Certainly it is many things and most are not mutually exclusive; but, if our primary goal is just to graduate students, we have missed the boat entirely and are doing society a disservice.

Money is needed yes, but what do we do with this money? Do we get more supplies, computers, pay for million dollar learning systems that haven’t even proven its efficacy in a real-world environment? Perhaps, but what is more valuable than all of this? Content and curriculum is needed, but I think we should go much further. There are a few major components that I think are missing and they go far beyond just superior content, good lesson plans and curriculum maps.

I suggest three main appendments to our status quo, some may not be able to be quantified or even tested for, but it’s a start.

1.) Finding teachers with a true passion for the subject. – Evaluating one’s passion can prove difficult but I think it imperative to scout for and support teachers that not only have the education which qualifies them to teach the subject, but to additionally hire those teachers that exude a true passion and love for their content (or the classroom). This translates over well to the students and also piques their interest, thus, improving their learning and experiences.

2.) Inculcating and Promoting Critical Thinking in Every Unit – Students should have the freedom to question all things and should be given time and space for this. Every unit should delve into the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the subject or topic at hand. How do you know something? Could this be incorrect? Why is this important to know? How can we discover more? Can we trust this source? Where did these “facts” come from? If teachers aren’t doing something akin to this, I beg to argue that their students aren’t really learning anything of value.

3.) Revise teacher certification and licensing – This is controversial but let me expound on my point. I don’t think being “Highly Qualified” or “Licensed” means anything ultimately. What matters is what impact we are having on future generations. Pearson Group, and others like them, is a business and they market their tools and services to educational organizations, but has anyone stopped to ask, “Is there any evidence that teachers passing Pearson tests move on to be great teachers?” Even county training cannot truly prepare you for the classroom. I know far too many teachers that are highly qualified and licensed and just horrible teachers. Are we doing the right thing by engaging in this testing insanity? I’d say, “Hell No”. It’s possible that we are just putting billions of dollars into companies like Pearson and learning frameworks like Marzano without any evidence that such testing and support systems actually work. I think we need a new standard to assess and assist good and capable teachers, not arbitrary tests and learning fads. There is simply too much testing going on for students and teachers. Many teachers are forced to take tests that in many cases have nothing to do with one’s content area. An Art teacher shouldn’t have to pass general Math, nor should a P.E. teacher have to take some arbitrary essay writing test. They have a degree in their field, they exude the passion, they have been interviewed. Let them teach! Then we wonder why we are short teachers in so many fields. The only one’s benefitting are companies like Pearson, not our students.

I am afraid that if we continue on this uncritical and greed-driven path, that we are failing ourselves and our collective futures. We need a society that encourages rational thought, critical thinking, intellectual honesty, humanism, freethought, scientific thinking, honesty, courage, and the freedom to question. In our schools, we need passionate educators that love their fields and who know how to impart that passion onto others. Teachers passing content knowledge exams and achieving high student test scores will not fix our unsupported biases, our dichotomous political system, our religious and cultural intolerances, our greed, the celebration and perpetuation of violence, the constant “fake news”, nor our gleeful ignorances. To move towards a more enlightened world, we must continue to reach out through civic passion, patience, purposeful listening and understanding, self-reflective honesty, and we must produce truly decent and intelligent citizens for our youth to model. As educators, parents, and concerned citizens, we can begin by placing a foot on the right path by at least modifying our curriculum in all fields to include aspects of what we wish to become. In time, hopefully we can produce a society and a world that is far better off than we are now. We can avert this idiocratic dark age that we are spiraling into. It begins, with you.


Gender stereotypes about scientists have improved study says

Wiley Online – A new study sheds light on what we hoped was true about visions of women in science, well mostly. The study shows that a shift has occurred with regard to perceptions of the gender of scientists.

Scatter plot provided by Nature. Source material : Miller, D. I., Nolla, K. M., Eagly, A. H. & Uttal, D. H. Child Development doi:10.1111/cdev.13039 (2018).

In the 70’s, about 1 in 100 children considered females in science.  Now, that has whittled down to 1 and 3. As children age however, those perceptions appear to shift even more toward perceptions of men as scientists.

A female chemist drawn by a girl aged 11. Credit: Vasilia Christidou. Found at Nature


My Opinion: With regard to the age disparity, societal reflections and personal experiences may be what changes this perception as kid’s shows are not watched by older kids which may feature female and other diverse scientists. I am also curious as to what the data shows about race perceptions of scientists even among schools dominated with minority students. Without any teacher prodding or suggestions, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some reflections of color in the student’s works but there would undoubtedly be more white or equal amount of white scientists illustrated.

We have come a long way in our perceptions of who does science, but the public is still in dire need of understanding and accepting science.

Accepted New Biological Sciences Instructor Role

I was recently extended an offer to join the new online education initiative started by Reg_09_2015Citizens’ High School as an online course developer as well as their Biology and Zoology instructor.  Citizens’ High School has been in business since 1981 mostly as a long distance correspondence school. It was recently acquired by the founder of American Public University, Dr. James P. Etter, and will soon begin onlines courses for High School students.

This program can be appealing to homeschooled families as well as independent learners and partnered schools seeking some online enrichment and convenience. The school is accredited by DEAC and is now working toward accreditation with Middle States Commission for regional accreditation.

Image Source: Atidamilare 

D.C. Lawmaker believes that cold weather is man-made

Washington, DC – The bar just keeps getting lower in public office it seems. D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr reported on Facebook at 7:21am ET Saturday.

Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this is climate manipulation…. And D.C. keep talking about, ‘Were a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate, to create natural disasters they can pay for it and own the cities, man. Be careful.

It should go without saying but this is completely bonkers!  However, a small constituency will believe what this young brother is saying. That absolutely scares me.

Increasingly, Americans in general, appear to be lacking the ability to determine what information is false, from what information is true and accurate. is attempting to educate the public but fake news is arising faster than they can address it.

Schools may need to start hiring critical thinkers for Professional Development so that our children can be inoculated against non-evidence-based dogma and beliefs. If done well, we could unleash more enlightened and patient minds that can look at information more objectively rather than responding out of blind emotion.

In a society where contradictions are now status quo, insults are talking points and bad behavior is now considered a way of sticking it to the liberals, can we at least have our science facts correct?

In many ways, I wish our politics were more like scientific processes. In science we must: be critical thinkers, be honest with the information we put forth, be aware of our biases, be careful in how we draw conclusions, present data and information as it is and not how we wish it to be. If more people used their brains to think more critically, our world be probably be in a much better place.

Video of the young councilman below: