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Issues, Kansas

Checking Checkpoints

There’s been a lot of attention focused on police authority lately. In these cases, it’s for very good reason. But it’s always good to understand your rights regardless of the extent of the situation. Take, for instance, something that happened back in December in south-central Kansas. It seems simple. It seems harmless. And it seems like it’s for a good reason. Agents of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism and Kansas Highway Patrol conducted a checkpoint to address illegal hunting that’s been taking place in the region. Continue reading

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Culture

As I keep reading posts around Facebook and the web, there’s an emerging theme that I find greatly troubling. It’s a theme that partly inspired me to start this site. Increasingly, we hear these stories about “anti-vaxxers,” “climate deniers,” creationism, and the general trend of rebuking scientific discourse in this country. In all cases, there’s certainly room for healthy, genuine debate on various issues. But, that’s not what’s happening. The discussions are haphazard, sloppy, and filled with hypocrisy and irony – from both sides. Bias and generalizations take precedent over specifics and data. Individual, fringe, and questionable sources are trusted over broad spectrum research simply because it’s contrary.

I don’t blame the issues themselves, either. I like the thought that we can question virtually anything, and talk about it on the merits and value of the science and research behind it. No, what I see is much more scary in my opinion. What I see, I believe, is the result of us entering the second generation of an education system that is putting so much emphasis on teaching to tests, and is being used as a political battlefield. The result is that far too many people are becoming adults missing not just a fundamental understanding of the scientific method and how research takes place and is tested, evaluated, and agreed upon, but that they are simply not capable of critical thinking and problem solving. When people are saying “if all the scientists agree on it, I don’t trust it,” or “peer review processes are designed to squelch breaks in the consensus” – both sentiments I’ve read multiple times – we have a major problem at a basic level of understanding these processes.

In 66 years, we went from the first plane flight to landing on the moon. In the 46 years since then, we’ve stood almost still in so many ways. Sure, we’ve made many other advances in other areas, but I feel like that’s sort of symbolic of our backslide that will not get better until we address our education problem.

Scientific Literacy

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Issues, SEK

Obviously correlation and causation are different things we must consider, but we’re seeing this conversation an awful lot in recent years. The question becomes one of risk-reward: how much risk are we willing to assume in the pursuit of energy resources given our long term rewards (keeping in mind, the ability to continue relying on fossil fuels is not a reward), and at what point do we establish the line in the sand to force reconsideration?

“Reports of earthquakes in Kansas have shot up recently, particularly in the state’s south-central region. Now, scientists are connecting them to the disposal of wastewater that is a byproduct of the oil-and-gas extraction process. Rick Miller, geophysicist and senior scientist for the Kansas Geological Survey, told the Lawrence Journal-World, ‘we can say there is a strong correlation between the disposal of saltwater and the earthquakes.'” Political tremors: Kansas officials link earthquakes to fracking-related process, FoxNews.com

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