An Interesting Article From a Formerly Anti-Vaccine Mother

Tara Hills (the mother in this picture) explains why she is no longer anti-vaccine.  (click for credit)

Tara Hills (the mother in this picture) explains why she is no longer anti-vaccine. (click for credit)

I ran across an interesting article on my Facebook news feed yesterday. The author (a mother of seven) wrote it from hospital* quarantine, because all seven of her children have pertussis, which is better known as “whooping cough.” While her older ones are getting better, her younger ones are still struggling. What is so important that she thought she should write the article now? Because she wants people to know that had she vaccinated her children, she most likely wouldn’t be where she is right now. She had been convinced that vaccines pose too much risk and too little benefit, but now she understands how wrong such a notion is. She hopes to help others learn from her mistake.

Ironically, she had already been convinced that the anti-vaccine movement was wrong before her kids ended up in the hospital. In fact, she and her family doctor had worked out a catch-up vaccination schedule for all her kids, but before they could start it, pertussis raged through her household. Here’s how she expresses it:

…the irony isn’t lost on me that I’m writing this from quarantine. For six years we were frozen in fear from vaccines, and now we are frozen because of the disease.

She expects some backlash from the anti-vaccine community, and some gloating from the pro-vaccine community. However, I applaud her for making her story known. I hope others will read it and benefit from it. As she says:

Right now my family is living the consequences of misinformation and fear. I understand that families in our community may be mad at us for putting their kids at risk. I want them to know that we tried our best to protect our kids when we were afraid of vaccination and we are doing our best now, for everyone’s sake, by getting them up to date. We can’t take it back…but we can learn from this and help others the same way we have been helped.

This mother isn’t the first to experience tragedy because of misinformation about vaccines. A mother named Tammy contacted me several years ago and said:

Thank you for your vaccine stance and research! I am a mother who had heard some “horror stories” and was wary of vaccines. As a result, my 3 year-old daughter (now 7) went deaf in one ear due to complications of chickenpox. I have since immunized my younger son (& dear daughter has been immunized against all other known diseases for which vaccines were appropriate).

Two other mothers have written me with similar stories (here and here).

Now please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying that children should be vaccinated because of the experiences of these four mothers. I am saying that children should be vaccinated because the science is very clear: vaccines are both safe and effective for the vast majority of people. Anecdotes like these simply illustrate the importance of making the correct decision.

Please see Jo’s comment below. They may not be in hospital quarantine, even though the article makes it sound that way.
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Another Easter Drama

One artist's conception of Mary Magdalen seeing the risen Christ.  (click for credit)

One artist’s conception of Mary Magdalen seeing the risen Christ. (click for credit)

Easter has always been my favorite holiday. In my view, it is the most important event in history, and as the Scriptures tell us, “…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) Not surprisingly, the church I attend tries to make the Easter service as special as possible, so once again, I was asked to write a short drama that blended the Easter message with the sermon. This year was a challenge, because the sermon was about dealing with disappointment. At first, I wasn’t sure how to blend disappointment with the Easter message. Nevertheless, after a lot of prayer, I came up with something that many in the congregation thought was powerful. I hope you find it meaningful.

I think this drama needs to have some strong performances. The first merchant needs to be able to realistically portray someone who is very skeptical of the idea that Christ rose from the dead but at the same time appreciates the joy in the boy who brings the news of the resurrection. The second merchant needs to go from depressed to angry, in a slow fashion that builds to a crescendo when he says, “Jesus might be risen from the dead, but he hasn’t done anything for us!” While it is natural for the boy to get angry at the two merchants, he cannot. He must be filled with joy the entire time. The song must be there at the end, to bring home the point of the drama, and because of the nature of the song, you need a powerful soprano.

As is the case with all my dramas, feel free to use this in any way you think will edify the Body of Christ. If possible, I would like a credit, but that’s not nearly as important as using it to build up the church!

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A Few Questions and Answers

questions

About two weeks ago, I spoke at the Greater St.Louis Area Home Educators Expo. It was an excellent convention. One of the sessions I did was entitled “Q & A With Dr. Wile.” It was a forum where students and parents could ask me questions about pretty much anything. Well, the convention wanted to make sure they had plenty of questions in case there weren’t many from the audience, so they solicited questions on their Facebook page and in one of their popular homeschool co-ops. Since there were plenty of questions from the audience, I didn’t get a chance to answer many of the ones that came in before the convention, so I wanted to answer a few of them now. Here they are, in no particular order:

What is your favorite play or part you have done?

My favorite play is The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. It’s a wonderful “boy meets girl” story with a couple of really good twists. It is the world’s longest-running musical, with the original production running off-Broadway for a total of 42 years. I have had the honor of playing two parts in the show: El Gallo (the narrator) and Henry (an old actor). El Gallo is also my favorite part.

I am actually currently in rehearsals for another production of The Fantasticks! This time, I play one of the nerdy fathers, which is a perfect fit for me. Here is a picture of me, my (fictional) daughter, the other father, and his (fictional) son at one of the rehearsals. We aren’t in costume, but I am wearing the hat I will wear in performances:

fatasticks

Do you perform Drama in a ministry setting, or just community theater?

I do both. In fact, I have a section here on my blog that contains original scripts I have written for my church’s drama ministry.

What is your favorite song to play on piano?

Back when I had time to really play the piano, it was the first movement of Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique.” However, that’s beyond my ability at this point in my life. My favorite piece now is an arrangement of “Amazing Grace” by Cindy Berry. It starts off as Edvard Grieg’s “Morning Mood,” moves into “Amazing Grace,” and then moves back into “Morning Mood.” It is stunningly beautiful, and I love it because “Amazing Grace” is my favorite hymn. I actually wrote a play about it a few years ago.

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The 2015 Indiana Association of Home Educators Convention

Governor Mike Pence was greeted by Indiana Homeschoolers with a standing ovation.

Governor Mike Pence was greeted by Indiana Homeschoolers with a standing ovation.

It has been several years since I last spoke at my state’s homeschool convention. I got to end that “dry streak” this past weekend. The convention was very well attended, and it ran incredibly smoothly. I gave a total of six talks at the convention, and two of them were with Diana Waring. Diana and I spoke about Homeschooling: The Environment for Genius and Textbook Myths and How to Deal with Them. The four “solo” talks I gave were: ‘Teaching’ Jr. High and High School Science at Home, Teaching Critical Thinking, How are Homeschool Graduates Doing?, and Vaccines: The REAL Story. As I understand it, audio recordings of all these talks will eventually be available through Resounding Voice.

The vaccine talk is rather controversial in some homeschooling circles. I take a scientific approach to the issue, of course, which means I recognize that for the vast majority of people, vaccines are both very safe and very effective. As a result, I encourage people to vaccinate their children. In the homeschooling community, there is a small-but-strong anti-vaccination movement, however, so I was surprised that the convention asked me to give the talk. They did get some angry e-mails about it, but in the end, it went well, and even though I specifically asked for hostile questions, there were none. All the questions I got were very serious and very polite.

I had two big surprises at the convention. First, a former Ball State University student was at the convention, and she came up to reintroduce herself to me. It has been more than 20 years since I taught chemistry and physics at Ball State University. Also, she took chemistry 100, which is one of those “intimate” classes that contains more than 200 students, so not surprisingly, I didn’t recognize her. We talked a bit about old times, and we took a “selfie” together:

me_bs_stud1

It was really fun to have her mixed in with all the homeschooling students who have used my courses over the years.

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The 2015 Greater St.Louis Area Home Educators Expo

This is me speaking at my favorite session so far this year.

This is me speaking at my favorite session so far this year.

I spoke at another homeschooling convention this past weekend, and I have to say, it was my favorite one in quite a while! There were a lot of factors that went into making it so special. It was the first convention this year where I got to speak alongside Diana Waring, who is an incredible gift to the homeschooling community. Her wisdom and candor is a blessing, and it’s just plain fun when we do talks together. This time, we did one of our classics, Homeschooling: The Environment for Genius, and a new one, Homeschooling: Things We Wish We’d Known. In addition, I gave talks on Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, ‘Teaching’ Jr. High and High School Science at Home, Teaching Elementary Science Using History as a Guide, and The Creatures and Biological Structures Evolutionists Don’t Talk About.

However, my favorite session of the year so far wasn’t a talk at all. It was a question/answer session. I will discuss that in a moment, but first, I guess I need to “toot my own horn” for a moment. For whatever reason, I got a lot more feedback than usual from homeschooling parents and students at this convention, and some of it was amazing. It all started with the speaker coordinator for the convention. She said that at a convention about 10 years ago, her son (who was in high school at the time) asked me a question. He wanted to be a medical doctor, but he also loved ballet. Well, he had a choice between participating in an exclusive ballet event or doing a science camp. He asked what he should do. I guess I surprised him with my answer, because I told him that he should definitely participate in the ballet event.

Why would I tell an aspiring doctor to do a ballet event rather than a science camp? There are at least three reasons. First, as I understood it, it was an honor to be asked to participate in the ballet event, while the science camp was something anyone could do. Second, I encourage students to be as well-rounded as possible, and if he really enjoyed ballet, he should make the time for it, despite the fact that it wasn’t directly related to his career. Third, and most important, getting into medical school is incredibly difficult. There are lots and lots of applicants who have done all sorts of science camps. However, there aren’t lots and lots who are accomplished ballet artists. If he continued with ballet and did things like the event he described to me, it would make him stand out as an applicant.

The mother told me that her son happily took my advice. He participated in the ballet event and continued to pursue ballet in college, even though he was a premed major. Not only did he get accepted into medical school on his first attempt (an accomplishment in and of itself), he was awarded a sizable scholarship! She and her son are convinced that those accomplishments were a direct result of taking my advice. I immediately told her that her son’s talent and hard work were the primary reasons for his accomplishments, but I am happy my advice was helpful to him. For any of my readers who are thinking of becoming medical doctors, it’s worth considering this young man’s path to medical school.

I will limit myself to two other examples of the feedback I received. The second came from a homeschooling mother who told me that her daughter had taken my high-school biology course, Exploring Creation with Biology. She then enrolled in a college biology class while she was still in high school. She ended up getting the highest grade in the class, despite the fact that she was the youngest student there. After that, the department hired her to tutor her fellow students in biology! I have heard some version of this story many times, and it just further confirms how utterly wrong Bill Nye is when he says that children who are taught creationism “…will never feel the joy of discovery that science brings.”

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The 2015 Southeast Homeschool Convention

This is the TD convention center, where the Southeast Homeschool Convention was held.  (click for credit)

This is the TD convention center, where the Southeast Homeschool Convention was held. (click for credit)

This past weekend, I was one of many speakers at the Southeast Homeschool Convention, which is part of the Great Homeschool Convention series. These conventions are always enjoyable, because they are well attended and run smoothly. I gave a total of five talks: Creation versus Evolution: Religion versus Science or Religion versus Religion?, The Creatures and Biological Structures Evolutionists Don’t Talk About, What I Learned by Homeschooling, College and Faith: What’s The Real Story?, and Reasonable Faith: The Scientific Case for Christianity.

Unfortunately, I was about 15 minutes late for one of my talks, because I got involved in a very interesting conversation about Cartesian dualism and lost track of time. Nevertheless, many of the patient conference attendees were still there waiting on me when I ran into the room, huffing and puffing. I apologized profusely, of course, and they readily accepted my apology. After that, the talk went fairly smoothly.

This conference was the first one I have done since deciding to write a new high school chemistry course so that homeschoolers have a better option available to them than the new edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry. Many of the people who came to my booth had heard that news, and they wanted to learn more about my plans regarding the course. Because of the interest expressed at the convention, my publisher set up a website where people can sign up for updates about the course. If you sign up, you will get notified when things like the table of contents and sample chapters are available to review. I know of one online school that already plans to use the course for this coming academic year.

While I was at the convention, the publisher of Exploring Creation with Chemistry posted an article regarding the course. In that article, the owner of the company makes it clear that he will not sell the old edition of the course. I was hoping he would, but now that I know he won’t, I am glad that I decided to write a new one.

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A New High School Chemistry Course Available August 17th

This is a diagram of the famous Rutherford experiment that showed us the basic structure of the atom.  It is one of several important experiments discussed in my new chemistry course.

This is a diagram of the famous Rutherford experiment that showed us the basic structure of the atom. It is one of several important experiments discussed in my new chemistry course.



NOTE: You can get updates on the progress of this course by signing up at the publisher’s website.

If you read my review of the newest edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry, you know that there are significant issues which make it very difficult to use in a homeschool setting. As I stated in that review, I was afraid that I was being overly harsh in my analysis, so I sent it to two other PhD chemists to look over. One of those chemists gave it to two students who had used the older edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry and were successful in his university-level chemistry course. Based on input from those four sources, I changed the review and posted it.

In addition to sending it to the two chemists, I also sent the original review to the publisher of Exploring Creation with Chemistry on January 8th, a full month before I ended up posting my review. I asked the publisher to make the older edition available for those who would like to have a more useful version of the course. It has been more than two months, and I have heard nothing from the publisher. I suspect that the publisher has studied my review, because they posted an incomplete errata sheet for the book. It corrects many of the errors I noted, but surprisingly, not some of the major errors, such as the physically-impossible Figure 3.3 and the claim that Robert Boyle wrote The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation.

Since my review was posted, several homeschoolers have asked for my advice regarding what they should use for chemistry next year. They share my views and don’t want to use the new edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry. I have been recommending that they just use the older edition, but the number of copies available in the used market is declining. I have also been asked the same question by instructors who teach online chemistry classes. They don’t want to use the new edition, and they don’t think they can rely on the used market when it comes to telling their students what course to purchase.

All of this feedback led me to make this a matter of prayer. After a lot of praying, a significant number of discussions with homeschooling parents and online teachers, and some counsel from an attorney, I would like to announce that I am currently writing a new high school chemistry course that will be available on August 17th of this year.

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Gentle Herbivore? Think Again!

This is a white-tailed deer.  Other members of its species have been caught eating birds!

This is a white-tailed deer. Other members of its species have been caught eating birds!

In order to make sense of the living world, biologists attempt to classify the organisms they find in creation. No classification system is perfect, of course, because creation doesn’t conform itself to the definitions that we invent. A classic example is a slime mold, which I have discussed before (see here, here, and here). These interesting organisms resemble fungi during part of their lifecyle, but they resemble colonies of single-celled organisms (called protists) during other parts of their lifecycle. So, are they fungi, or are they protists? Well, they used to be classified as fungi, but later on, biologists began classifying them with the protists. Either way, however, there are problems, because slime molds simply don’t fit well into either category.

Such problems are to be expected when you are trying to make sense of the incredibly diverse creation that God designed. However, there are some classification schemes you would think should be fairly reliable. For example, animals are generally classified into one of three groups: herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. What is an herbivore? Here’s how an article from Northwestern University defines it:

A herbivore is an animal that gets its energy from eating plants, and only plants.

The website lists several examples of herbivores, one of which is a white-tailed deer. Montclair State University has a “Whitetail Deer Fact Sheet” that says:

Whitetails, like all ungulates, are strictly herbivores and have teeth that are adapted for chewing.

This, of course, makes perfect sense. After all, the ungulates (a group of animals that includes horses, cattle, sheep, giraffes, camels, deer, and hippopotamuses) have a digestive system that seems optimized for plant matter. No matter how obvious this classification seems, however, it turns out that it’s at least a bit wrong!

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More Examples of Organisms Changing the Products of Their Genes!

This is an example of the squid that was studied in the experiment that is being discussed.  (click for credit)

This is an example of the squid that was studied in the experiment being discussed.
(click for credit)

Almost three years ago, I posted an article about an octopus that actually changes the products of its genes so it is better suited to its environment. I had never heard of such a thing before, and it seemed fantastic to me. After all, when I was at university, I was taught the central dogma of molecular biology:

DNA —-> RNA —–> Protein

In other words, DNA carries a set of “recipes” that tell your cells how to make the proteins they need to make. That recipe is copied by another molecule, RNA, and the copy is transported out of the nucleus of the cell to a ribosome, where the copy is then translated into a protein. At that time in history, biologists thought that there was one gene for every protein.

As scientists learned more about the marvelous design of DNA, they found that the idea of one gene producing one protein was far too simplistic. In plants and animals (and many microscopic organisms as well), the genes are interrupted by stretches of DNA called introns. At first, geneticists lumped introns into the category of junk DNA, an evolution-inspired idea that couldn’t be more incorrect (see here, here, here, and here, for example). However, molecular biologists eventually found out that the introns are an integral part of a multi-layered data storage system that allows a single gene to code for up to tens of thousands of different proteins through a process called alternative splicing.

Essentially, the introns divide a gene into several “modules of information.” The cell can chop up the RNA copy and splice those modules together in different ways. Each different way the modules are spliced produces a different protein. Once alternative splicing was figured out, the idea of one gene producing one protein was discarded. One gene can, in fact, produce lots and lots of different proteins. However, even in alternative splicing, the information contained in the DNA is preserved. Each individual module of information codes for a specific part of a protein, and if you look at that specific part of the protein, it is made exactly the way that module of information says it should be made.

Well, the octopus study I wrote about nearly three years ago shows that’s not always true. Some organisms can edit their RNA to make a final protein that is actually different from what the modules of information in the gene actually specify!

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Homeschooling Promotes Intolerance? Think Again!

Two people in a heated argument about religion (click for credit)

Two people in a heated argument about religion (click for credit)

One of the many uninformed criticisms of homeschooling is that it promotes intolerance. The Encyclopedia of Distributed Learning, for example, summarizes how the National Education Association sees it:1

Critics, among them the National Education Association, argue that…because they are not exposed to the broad range of socioeconomic and ethnic groups found in conventional classrooms, home schooled children may become bigoted and intolerant.

Until now, I had never seen any studies on the issue, but my personal experiences with homeschoolers don’t give any credence to this idea. In my personal experience, homeschooled children are significantly more tolerant than those who come from public and private school.

Of course, my personal experience is not a good gauge for the homeschooling movement as a whole. I tend to interact with homeschooled students who first reach out to me, through email, Facebook, or homeschooling conventions. Since they are reaching out to me, they are part of a self-selected group of homeschooled students who many not represent the norm. As a result, I read with interest a recent article in the Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform. In it, the author discusses what studies exist regarding private schooling, homeschooling, and intolerance. He then he reports his own findings on the subject.

Let’s start with the author’s discussion of what previous research has been done on the issue. Most of the research is related to private schools, and the author contends that the literature shows that privately-schooled students are at least as tolerant as publicly-schooled students. That was only marginally interesting to me, because it doesn’t really relate to homeschooling, which is the focus of my work.

He tries to discuss some research related to homeschooled students, but it mostly centers around how involved they are in civic activities. In my opinion, that tells us nothing about the level of intolerance in homeschooling, since intolerance can lead to a high civic involvement. After all, as militant evolutionists have already demonstrated, if you don’t want alternate views to be discussed, one way to get that accomplished is through legislators or the legal system. Thus, I didn’t think that part of the article was very useful.

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