Thursday, March 31, 2005


Note to Readers

Red State Rabble is venturing out of our Johnson County warren and onto the free soil of Western Kansas -- Hays, if you must know. Our oldest, Hannah, an eighth-grader, is participating in the state Geography Bee, there. If we survive, look for more posts Saturday.


Social McCarthyism

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank says that the Schiavo case is a precursor of things to come. Republicans, he says, think the case has mobilized their conservative base -- read ultraright Christian fundamentalists -- for battles in the coming months over the appointment of federal judges and, possibly, a supreme court justice.

If Milbank is right, we may soon witness a variety of hysteria not seen in this country since the late 40s and 50s. Then the victims were socialists, communists, labor activists, actors, artists, and writers. The new McCarthyism -- Social McCarthyism -- will target scientists, teachers, doctors, lawyers and others who oppose breaking down the barrier between religion on the one hand and law, politics, public education, and public life on the other.

Perhaps that is the way we are headed, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Perhaps, instead, the Schiavo case will come to be seen as the moment when mainstream Americans finally woke up and began to defend themselves by building a powerful social movement based on reason and rationality.

Those of us who were appalled by the religious zealots and opportunistic politicians who mobbed that Florida hospice to deny Terry Schiavo her right not to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state. Who understand the danger of mixing politics with religion. Who defend science education in public schools, now have a decision to make.

We can wait while the religious right bulks up even more. We can delay until it has accumulated more political power than it already has. We can wait until more laws have been mangled, more right-wing judges appointed, or we can begin to fight back, now.

For too long we have been polite. We mostly remain silent when we hear right-wing zealots spout their fantasies. We don't speak out for much the same reason we don't tell four-year-olds the truth about Santa. But, there's a problem with that -- four-year-olds aren't taking over the government. They aren't passing laws that every house has to have a chimney.

Speaking out is important, but it is not enough. We need to begin to build powerful, well-financed, politically connected institutions that can defend science education, freedom of thought and expression, separation of church and state, and the rule of law.

Some of us believe that it can't happen here. That a small minority of zealouts -- numbering perhaps less than 20 percent of the population -- can take over the country. History shows otherwise.

If we are to prevent it from happening here, we will have to do it ourselves -- there is no one else.

We can stop them now, or we can try to stop them later -- or we can wait until it's too late to stop them. It's up to you, and it's up to me.


Patchwork Plan

“Despite some patchwork progress that provides more money for schools, I still see no long-term plan," says Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, "especially in funding public education for years to come. In the end, this bill fails Kansas children, fails their families, and fails our schools.

Gov. Sebelius will allow the funding bill to become law without her signature, and forward it to the Kansas Supreme Court, which has demanded that the legislature put forward an equitable school funding plan.

Maybe, if the right-wingers in the Kansas legislature weren't so busy drafting anti-evolution bills, anti-abortion legislation, and drafting laws that make it more difficult for families to make end of life decisions, they might have had time to draft a law that provides more than "patchwork progress" in funding for our children's education.


Volcanoes of the Deep Sea Reconsidered in Charlotte

Discovery Place, the Charlotte, N.C. museum and Imax theater, says it is reconsidering the decision not to show "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" and could announce in the next day or two plans to show the film in its theater uptown.


The Devil Made Her Do It

Among the 12,000 attendees at the National Science Teachers Association convention will be Luciana Lang, a biology teacher at Lake Highlands High School in the Richardson (Texas) school district.

One student recently called her un-Christian for trying to teach evolution.

"I get a lot of, `Why are we learning this, that's not what my pastor told me, this is wrong, this is of the devil,'" says Lang. "You hear it all before you actually get into the topic."

Read more in this article by by Alexandra Witze of the The Dallas Morning News.


Indiana School Districts Choose New Science Textbooks

Every school district in Indiana will choose new science textbooks this year. Evolution is part of the state’s academic standards, but local school boards will have to approve textbooks for use in their districts.

Last week, East Allen County Schools adopted new science textbooks by a vote of 6-1, but not without controversy.

“We are a government entity and as such we cannot recognize God in any way possible as a creator of life," said Marvin Hoot who voted against adopting a biology textbook that teaches evolution, "and yet, we have a theory that the government requires us to say is gospel. It has never been proven.”


Teach the Controvery?

"Why fight when you can have a fun discussion?" asks Stephen Meyer, the (Discovery Institute) center's director. The teach-the-controversy approach, he says, avoids "unnecessary constitutional fights" over the separation of church and state, yet also avoids teaching Darwin's theories as dogma.

From a perceptive article on the Discovery Institutes strategy by Linda Shaw in the Seattle Times.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Shermer: Not Science, Not Intelligent Either

The inestimable Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and the author of "Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown", writing in the Los Angeles Times:

If intelligent design is not science, then what is it? One of its originators, Phillip Johnson, a law professor at UC Berkeley, wrote in a 1999 article: "The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism versus evolution to the existence of God versus the nonexistence of God. From there people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.' "


New Blogger on the Block: Ann Coulter and her Black Shirts

There's a new blogger on the block, Robert Richardson, at Un-Apologetic Atheist. Richardson writes from Lawrence. Last night, he attended the Ann Coulter tirade there so that the rest of us didn't have to. He may be new, but already we are in his debt.

According to Richardson's report, Coulter does not yet employ Secret Service screening of the audience for her events as President Bush does for his Social Security world tour. She was forced instead to employ a group of black-shirted Young Republicans to restore order when parts of the audience became restive after hearing comments such as:

"It can be documented that government grows in response to women being given the vote. Women see the government as their husband, as they divorce more, women look to the government to take care of them. The more sexually licentious the society, the more the women look to the government to protect them."

Coulter was born in 1961, that makes her about 44 years old, never married and still, apparently, a virgin. Feel sorry for her old Politically Incorrect boyfriend Bill Maher, though. Had to listen to all that right-wing ranting, but got no sexual licentiousness to leaven the loaf.

Take a look at Un-Apologetic Atheist to get the full flavor of last night's Lawrence lovefest.


It's All About the Health of the Mother

Have you ever noticed that when abortion opponents pass legislation that makes it harder for women to exercise their right to choose, they say they are doing it to protect the woman's health?

So why is it that abortion opponents, such as Mary Kay Culp of Kansas for Life, are howling about new rules to regulate all office-based surgeries proposed by the Board of Healing Arts.

Is it that these self-appointed protectors of women don't think anyone else having office-based surgery needs additonal protection, or was all this talk about protecting women's heath just a bunch of political posturing from the beginning?


Scientists Right to Boycott Evolution Hearings

Writing for the or the editorial board of the Wichita Eagle, Randy Scholfield says:

What if the State Board of Education held evolution hearings and no scientists showed up?

A boycott of the hearings now appears likely -- and it's understandable if scientists stay away in droves.

Simply put, the hearings have no credibility.

Kansas Citizens for Science called for a boycott earlier this month, saying scientists shouldn't participate in a "rigged hearing where non-scientists will appear to sit in judgment and find science lacking."

Mainstream scientists seem to have reached a similar conclusion: This is a show trial.

"We're not getting any takers," said Diane DeBacker of the Kansas Department of Education staff, which is helping organize the May hearings. She said they've contacted the 10 scientists who submitted peer reviews of the "minority report" of the standards committee. They've also contacted all six Kansas regents universities.

No takers.

They've gone national, too, with similarly dismal results.

It's not hard to understand scientists' reluctance.

The format of the hearings --"experts" debating for and against evolution -- suggests a rough equivalence of legitimacy that simply doesn't exist.

And what about credentials? What kind of standard will there be for ID witnesses? A science Ph.D.? Significant publications on evolution in mainstream science journals?

As Steve Case, co-chair of the BOE science writing committee said in opposing the hearings, "This kind of forum has nothing in common with the way the science community advances scientific understanding."

Besides, the three creationist BOE members presiding over the hearings appear to have already made up their minds. So what's the point?

The hearings serve no purpose other than to provide political cover for these board members, who know they must give at least the appearance of academic rigor and legitimacy to their anti-science crusade.

The scientific community shouldn't give them that cover.


His Own Private Idaho: Biology Teacher Sees "Flaws" in Evolution

By KATHY HEDBERGof the Tribune

"Clarkston High School students may be among the few public students in the area who hear opposing theories in the classroom about the origins of life," reports Kathy Hedberg of the Lewiston, Idaho Tribune.

"Clarkston science teacher Don Dotson says he sees a number of flaws in the Darwinian theory of evolution, which is commonly taught in public schools.

"'I find it very difficult to espouse one theory that appears to have a number of flaws,' Dotson said Tuesday.

"'I do not exclusively teach evolution. I explain to (students) the basics for each of those theories (such as intelligent design, creationism, etc.) and I honestly do discuss the attributes and the weak points of each of those theories. And I believe it's up to the kids themselves to use the information available to make up their minds.'"


Votes or Moral Values? We Have a Winner Here

Item: Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, with sizable majorities saying Congress is overstepping its bounds for political gain.

Item: A bill making it harder to end a person's life-sustaining medical care in some cases has stalled in the Kansas Senate, frustrating supporters who had hoped Terri Schiavo's case would persuade legislators to approve it quickly.

We all know our Kansas legislators are principled, God-fearing, supporters of traditional morality and family values, so there's probably no connection.


Scientists Hold Firm: Kansas Kangaroo Court Boycott Working

"... so far,no evolutionary biologists have agreed to participate in the hearings. They say that the board has already decided to include language that is friendly to intelligent design in the new science standards. 'We will not participate in their kangaroo court,' says Harry McDonald, president of Kansas Citizens for Science. 'We will lose and the creationists will win if we lend our credibility to these hearings," reports Geoff Brumfiel, in Nature.


Florida's Bill O'Reilly Bill

Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley has been watching too much O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Network. The Orwellian "Fair and Balanced" pseudo slogan has been burned into his brain like a ghost image on a plasma big screen television. Baxley, a Republican, has sponsored legislation, the "Academic Freedom Bill of Rights," in the Florida House. This Kafkaesque bill would require university professors who deliver a lecture on a subject -- let's just take radiocarbon dating as example -- to give equal time to the fantasies of intelligent design or creationism.


Blogger Down

Sorry about the dearth of posts this morning. The Blogger servers have been down.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Pakistan: The Kansas of the Future?

"The judiciary appears to put religious concerns above the Constitution and basic fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, when judging blasphemy cases, say Asma Jahangir, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) chairperson. She said that religion was still a major basis for discrimination in Pakistan.

"Judicial rhetoric and vocabulary gradually changed between the 1960s and 1970s when religion was made more important than the Constitution and human rights, she said. An important turning point in judicial history was when the Ahmedis were declared non-Muslims in 1974. “Religion became a deciding factor in more judicial cases when religion-based legislation started in the 1970s,” she said. She said that the punishment for religious criticism was gradually increased and the judiciary started referring to Ummah verdicts in religion-based cases, she said. She said that “the most disgusting” laws were made during General Ziaul Haq’s regime. She added that it was during this regime that the FSC declared any violation of Section 295 C of the Pakistan penal Code (relating to blasphemy) as punishable by death."

From the Daily Times, a new voice for Pakistan.


Two Thumbs Up for Evolution

Film critic Roger Ebert on Job vs. the Volcano: Faith vs. science in IMAX

IMAX theaters in several Southern cities have decided not to show a film on volcanoes out of concern that its references to evolution might offend those with fundamental religious beliefs. -- Associated Press

"I suppose the AP meant to say "fundamentalist," since most people with fundamental religious beliefs, including the pope, believe in the theory of evolution. But what is more disturbing is that the theaters have made this decision simply because they are afraid someone might be offended. Not even a single protester needed to appear before the chilling effect of faith-based intolerance was felt.

"Surely moviegoers deserve the right to decide for themselves what movies to see? "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," according to the AP, "makes a connection between human DNA and microbes inside undersea volcanoes." It says that if life could evolve under such extreme circumstances, it might help us understand evolution all over the planet.

"This is not a controversial opinion. The overwhelming majority of all scientists everywhere in the world who have studied the subject would agree with it. Although discussion continues about the mechanics of evolution, there is no reputable doubt about the existence of DNA and the way in which it functions."


Standing By Stickers

"Stickers describing evolution as a controversial theory will continue to be the first thing that Beebe School (Arkansas) students see when they open their science textbooks.

"Beebe School Board President Butch Rice said that the stickers placed at the beginning of science textbooks will stay, despite a request from the American Civil Liberties Union that they be removed.

"In January, the ACLU sent a letter requesting that the Beebe School District remove the stickers from textbooks, said Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas office of the ACLU. The letter came shortly after a federal judge in Atlanta ruled that Georgia's Cobb County School District had "improperly entangled itself with religion," thereby violating the First Amendment, when it placed in science textbooks stickers similar to those found in Beebe's schools.

"Sklar said that Paul Blume, the North Little Rock attorney who represents the Beebe School District, offered that the district would remove the stickers by the end of the school year.

"We still expect the Beebe School Board to fulfill their promise," Sklar said.

"On Monday, Rice said that the School Board has made no decision to remove the stickers. Any conversation between Blume and Sklar was not intended to be binding, said Rice.

"'Even if they [the ACLU] sues us... I see it as a going to litigation,' Rice said. 'We're standing our ground... We're not going to bow down to the ACLU on this issue.'"

From the Searcy Daily Citizen


Richard Weikart: Workin’ in a Quote Mine

With apologies to Lee Dorsey:

Workin' in a quote mine
Goin' down down down
Workin' in a quote mine
Whop! about to slip down

This is the third of three exchanges between Red State Rabble and Dr. Richard Weikart, a History professor at California State University,Stanislaus. He is the author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany.

You can read Red State Rabble’s original post, "Little Kansas Nazis" here . You can read Dr. Weikart’s initial response and Red State Rabble’s reply, Darwin and Hitler: An Exchange With Richard Weikart here. Our second exchange, Darwin or Social Darwinism?: The Roots Of Nazi Ideology, A Debate With Richard Weikart, can be found here.

Here is Dr. Weikart's latest contribution to the exchange of views:

Thanks for your comments. Concerning social Darwinism, who is it who wrote:

"At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races."

"The more civilised so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been elimnated by the higher civilised races throughout the world."

I'll give you a hint: It wasn't Spencer. For the citations, you can see ch. 10 of my book.

Mike Hawkins book, Social Darwinism in European and American Thought presents abundant evidence to demolish the misconception that Specer is responsible for social Darwinism and Darwin was free from social Darwinism. Desmond's and Moore's biography of Darwin also proves conclusively that Darwin was a social Darwinist. Before dismissing this as "appeals to authority," let me remind you that I have read extensively in the primary sources and present this evidence extensively in my book, but I cannot rehearse all that evidence to you in the course of an e-mail, so I'm referring you to books that incisively present the evidence for my position.

In any case, I agree with you that Darwinism does not entail racism, and nowhere have I said it does. I agree that Darwinism does not entail Nazism, and I specifically warn against that view in my book.

Concerning Hitler's views, it's interesting that religious skeptics, such as I take you to be (forgive me if I have jumped to a wrong conclusion). are so skeptical about anything religious, but are willing to believe an avowed liar (Hitler) in his public speeches (in private he criticized Christianity and Christian morality). You might be interested to know that I am currently working on a book on Hitler's religion, in which I intend to clarify these issues. I don't have time to present all the evidence in this e-mail (I have losts of grading to do, I will be out of town quite a bit in the next two weeks, etc., so please understand if this is my last e-mail). Just to whet your appetite, in my book I will demonstrate that Hitler was a pantheist. Even Richard Steigmann-Gall, by the way, in his overzealous attempt to show that Hitler and many other Nazis were Christians, shows that their religious views were most compatible with *liberal* Christianity, not conservative values. He admits that they were adamantly opposed to Catholicism and more traditional forms of Christianity.

I'm happy to hear that you don't swallow appeals to authority. Now you know why I don't swallow everything Darwinists say (and I might add, they regularly use appeals to authority when confronted with inconvenient evidence). Also, in the course of accusing me of a logical error, you make a gigantic logical error yourself, when you state:

"My point is not the size of your list, but the fact that you employ a logical fallacy – an appeal to authority – to make your case. In order to argue from authority, there must be an adequate degree of agreement among other experts. If, as is the case here, there is a significant amount of dispute among experts, the argument must be deemed fallacious."

Really? So, if there is a "significant amount of dispute among experts" that Darwinism is true, then Darwinism "must be deemed fallacious"? This is obviously silly, as I'm sure you can see if you apply it to other fields, such as things views you support. What you must have meant to say is that the argument "could be" or "might be" wrong, and should be examined carefully.

I probably won't write again, as I need to get on to other things (though I'll certainly read any response you want to send me).

Red State Rabble replies:

What a shame that the press of work requires that you end this exchange of views before you have addressed the central element of my criticism of your work, namely that you focus narrowly on what you see as the scientific or evolutionary roots of Nazi ideology to the exclusion of the role of Christianity.

In your latest contribution to our little exchange, you write: “Concerning social Darwinism, who is it who wrote:” and then you supply two quotes from Charles Darwin.

For our last exchange I had written a few paragraphs about your tendency to take quotes out of context, but in the end did not use them because I felt the post was already too long. I will address that issue now, but before I do, I’d like to relate a little story from my days as a graduate student.

I was taking a class that was team taught by two classics professors. I deeply respected both of them and they liked the work I was doing. Then one day a paper I had written came back with a “B” on it. I will admit to being perhaps a little too proud of my work, and compulsive about grades at that time of my life, as well.

After class I asked to meet with the professor who graded my paper. She invited me to her office, sat down at her desk, and began to peel an apple with a very sharp paring knife she kept in the drawer.

“You don’t like your grade,” she said without looking up from her apple.

“No,” I said.

“I’ll let you rewrite it,” she said, looking up at me now from her apple, “but remember, you are a graduate student at this university.” She pointed with her knife at a sentence in my paper that she’d underlined in red. “I don’t ever want you to think you can get away something like that” Then she explained how I had mishandled a passing reference to Greek mystery cults.

Although my face burned with shame as we discussed the issue, I have always been deeply grateful to her for demanding the highest level of intellectual integrity and scholarship from me. She also tried to break me of using the coma splice, but I must confess, despite her most diligent efforts, she was notably less successful there.

I have made my share of mistakes. We all do. That being said, even as an undergraduate, I would never have dared (or wanted to) employ the sort of quote mining that is routine in your published work. It is a shame that the professors who guided your education did not require you to fully engage the people and ideas that are the subject of your research.

Now to your “proof” that Darwin is a social Darwinist. Here is the first of your quotes in its full context (I bolded your citation, amounting to less than a full sentence from the whole, and which you use without ellipsis):

“The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies -- between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae -- between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly xterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.” (Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. 2nd edn., London, John Murray, 1882, p. 156)

When the whole context is supplied it is quite clear that Darwin is not rooting for the civilized races to exterminate the savage. Rather, he is discussing apparent gaps in the fossil record, and what the state of things in 1882 might look like to observers in the future.

Our understanding of race and our sensitivities to words like “savage” and “civilized” has – there’s no other way to say it – evolved since Darwin’s time. Language has a way of doing that. When we try to understand people who, like Darwin, lived in another era we have to look at them in the historical context in which they lived. We have to account for the ways that the use of language has changed in the intervening years.

Your other citation, from a letter Darwin wrote to W. Graham and reprinted in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. (F. Darwin, ed., New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1905) as well as the quote you open your Darwin to Hitler book with, can both be disposed of in the same way.

A useful resource on this subject can be found on the TalkOrigins web site “The Quote Mine Project: Or, Lies, Damned Lies and Quote Mines

You write that skeptics like myself are a little too willing to believe the worst about religion. Our prejudices, you feel, have allowed us to be fooled by Hitler’s public appeals to Christianity. Your own belief is that Hitler was a pantheist.

Here is what I wrote:

Whether Hitler believed or not, the great mass of his followers were believers, and they were attracted to his movement not by some vague attachment to social Darwinism, but by the many overt appeals to Christianity embodied in his speeches and writing.

Moreover, and this is what you have not – through the course of three letters – responded to, or accounted for:

The reality is that traditional moral values, or religious belief, did not act as a barrier for people who wanted to become Hitler's willing executioners. In fact, the religious movements of the day may have provided one of the most fertile recruiting grounds for the Nazis.

Your position – that Darwinism devalues life and, unlike religious belief, does not provide a sufficient moral underpinning to prevent tragedies like the rise of the Nazis in Germany – can’t be successfully defended until you explain this paradox.

You accuse me of making a gigantic logical error, but in fact there is no significant dispute among experts about the explanatory power of evolution and its central role in modern biology. Simply put, evolution is a fact. The Discovery Institute has made no headway, despite the expenditure of enormous sums of money, to win over scientists to the "theory" of intelligent design, or to assemble a group of scientists -- not theologians -- to oppose teaching of evolution in public schools. I refer you to the National Center for Science Education's "Project Steve" as a real-life example of the overwhelming support among experts for the theory of evolution.

You also remind me that you’ve read extensively in the primary sources. I would say extensively, but not deeply. As a university professor, you have had the rare privilege of reading, thinking and writing for a living. I think it’s a shame you’ve wasted the opportunity to come to a deeper more rounded understanding of all the factors involved in the rise of Nazi ideology, and allowed yourself to become a mere propagandist instead.

Demonizing Darwin, evolution, and science is not a noble calling.

Pat Hayes

Monday, March 28, 2005


The Passing of A Generation

Regular Red State Rabble readers know we are on the verge of becoming old, really old. But, we did not know just how old until today. We were listening to our favorite radio station this morning, "Oldies 95" when to our shock we heard an ad for Polident, the denture adhesive. The ad promises some lucky winner a free trip to Las Vegas. We will not be signing up.


How Intelligent Design is Making Agnostics of Christian Fundamentalists

For eons Kansas was thought of, when it was thought of at all, as the place where the decision to get a DVD player for the family van was finally made. Kansas occupied that archetypal space in the collective unconscious where the childish mantra, “Are we there yet?” morphed into an ominous silence punctuated almost at once by the sharp report of a smack, a muffled shriek, and the childish hiss, “That didn’t hurt.”

Kansas was the place where dads whose patience had finally run out made family history by throwing the old station wagon into a sharp skid that burned a trail of rubber all the way to the shoulder of I-70 so that they could bellow into the rearview mirror, “If I hear one more peep out of the back seat you can just forget about Colorado. I’m turning around, and we’re going home.”

Then, in 1999, everything changed.

Those of us who could stay up late enough, watched in utter amazement as Kansas entered the zeitgeist for the first time. Conan O’Brien was talking about Kansas. David Letterman led off his monologues with Kansas. Even Jay Leno was making jokes about us. Suddenly, we weren’t just flat, and windy, and empty. We weren’t the place you had to drive though, or fly over to get somewhere else, we were the state where evolution was banned and monkeys ran the school board.

Today, the battle over science education has moved on. All the old players are still on the scene, but we find ourselves at a new stage. We're not fighting over teaching creationism anymore. We've evolved. The people who once hawked the wares of young earth creationism have a new product. They’ve been born again as disciples of intelligent design. The chief apostles of intelligent design in our section of the heartland, William Harris and John Calvert, tell us – oh so earnestly -- they don't want to teach the Bible in science class anymore. Heck, they don’t even want to teach intelligent design. All they want to do, they say, is to “teach the controversy” over evolution.

The more cynical among us have questioned this conversion experience. Many a doubting Thomas suspects that intelligent design is nothing more than a clever ruse. Where some see a grand theory, these skeptics see only a thinly veiled legal and political strategy designed to make an end run around church state separation and court rulings that bar the teaching of religion in public schools.

You may doubt all you want, but Red State Rabble is sanguine about this change. We prefer to look on the bright side. If you want to know the truth, we think it’s an amusing spectacle to watch.

Christian fundamentalists who once insisted at school board meetings that the Bible proves the earth is only six thousand years old, now say they don’t know how old it is. Preachers – it seems only yesterday – who thundered from the pulpit about the one true God, now say they don’t know who the creator, uh, designer is.

It’s the law of unintended consequences in action. Intelligent design makes agnostics of biblical literalists. Why, it’s evolution in action.


"Take a Little Bite, Then Another and Another"

AFP has a good report on the Dover, Penn. situation where last January the school board ordered teachers to tell students that Darwinism is not proved, and to teach as well an alternate theory, "intelligent design," which posits that a grand creator, God, is responsible for the development of living organisms. Here's a sample:

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Right Wing Watch Online 2005

People for the American Way has an excellent online report on the Kansas school board's upcoming evolution witch hunt trial. Here's a little Hors D'oeuvre to sustain you until your browser gets you to their link:
"A casual observer of the national media might assume that the local controversies, like the one brewing in Kansas, are merely isolated events, but “intelligent design” proponents are part of a concentrated national campaign. These groups effectively work together to oppose evolution in science education, bringing together sympathetic legislators, academics and religious activists to support and engender local controversies."


A New Day for Evangelicals

Kansas evangelicals, emboldened by their success in getting a constitutional ammendment on the April 5 ballot banning gay marriage, are setting their sight on the teaching of evolution in the public schools.

"It's a new day for evangelicals," says Rev. Jerry Johnston, senior pastor at Overland Park's First Family Church.

They see a deep connection between the issues:

"Same-sex marriage, abortion, are symptoms," says Pat Bullock of the Heart of Kansas Southern Baptist Association, "of the cause of rejecting a Supreme Being, taught through evolution."

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Profiles in Courage

Item: Kansas House members approve, 95-29, a bill to make it more difficult for court-appointed guardians to withhold food and water from people under their care.

Item: A bill sought by anti-abortion activists to make it more difficult for women to get an abortion wins Senate approval, 27-12.

Item: Forty Kansas House members sponsor a resolution declaring, "Objectivity is needed in science education."

Item: The Kansas Senate approves an education funding bill that, accoring to Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, is like "the Pontius Pilate routine. We are washing our hands and saying to local school boards, ‘It's up to you.'"

Stay tuned for more courageous leadership initiatives.



Red State Rabble is not sure who to credit, but we enjoyed it enought to pass along...

In the beginning God created Dates. And the date was Monday, July 4, 4004 B.C.. And God said, let there be light; and there was light. And when there was Light, God saw the Date, that it was Monday, and he got down to work; for verily, he had a Big Job to do.

And God made pottery shards and Silurian mollusks and pre-Cambrian limestone strata; and flints and Jurassic Mastodon tusks and Picanthropus erectus skulls and Cretaceous placentals made he; and those cave paintings at Lasceaux. And that was that, for the first Work Day.

And God saw that he had made many wondrous things, but that he had not wherein to put it all. And God said, Let the heavens be divided from the earth; and let us bury all of these Things which we have made in the earth; but not too deep. And God buried all the Things which he
had made, and that was that. And the morning and the evening and the overtime were Tuesday.

And God said, Let there be water; and let the dry land appear; and that was that. And God called the dry land Real Estate; and the water called he the Sea. And in the land and beneath it put he crude oil, grades one through six; and natural gas put he thereunder, and prehistoric carboniferous forests yielding anthracite and other ligneous matter; and all these called he Resources; and he made them Abundant. And likewise all that was in the sea, even unto two hundred miles from the dry land, called he resources; all that was therein, like manganese nodules, for instance. And the morning unto the evening had been a long day; which he called Wednesday.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth abundantly every moving creature I can think of, with or without backbones, with or without wings or feet, or fins or claws, vestigial limbs and all, right now; and let each one be of a separate species. For lo, I can make whatsoever I like, whensoever I like. And the earth brought forth abundantly all creatures, great and small, with and without backbones, with and without wings and feet and fins and claws, vestigial limbs and all, from bugs to brontosauruses. But God blessed them all, saying, Be fruitful and multiply and Evolve Not.

And God looked upon the species he hath made, and saw that the earth was exceedingly crowded, and he said unto them, Let each species compete for what it needed; for Healthy Competition is My Law. And the species competeth amongst themselves, the cattle and the creeping things; and some madeth it and some didn't; and the dogs ate the dinosaurs and God was pleased. And God took the bones from the dinosaurs, and caused them to appear mighty old; and cast he them about the land and the sea. And he took every tiny creature that had
not madeth it, and caused them to become fossils; and cast he them about likewise. And just to put matters beyond the valley of the shadow of a doubt God created carbon dating. And this is the origin of species. And in the Evening of the day which was Thursday, God saw that he had put in another good day's work.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, which is tall and well-formed and pale of hue: and let us also make monkeys, which resembleth us not in any wise, but are short and ill-formed and hairy. And God added, Let man have dominion over the monkeys and the fowl of the air and every speices, endangered or otherwise. So God created Man in His own image; tall and well-formed and pale of hue created He him, and nothing at all like the monkey.

And God said, Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth. But ye shalt not smoketh it, lest it giveth you ideas. And to every beast of the earth and every fowl of the air I have given also every green herb, and to them it shall be for meat. But they shall be for you. And the Lord God your Host suggesteth that the flesh of cattle goeth well with that of the fin and the claw; thus shall Surf be wedded unto Turf.

And God saw everything he had made, and he saw that it was very good; and God said, It just goes to show Me what the private sector can accomplish. With a lot of fool regulations this could have taken billions of years. And the evening of the fifth day, which had been the roughest day yet, God said, Thank Me it's Friday. And God made the weekend.


Volcanoes of the Deep Sea in the Heartland

Volcanoes of the Deep Sea
A number of readers have asked Red State Rabble where they can see Volcanos of the Deep Sea. It's currently showing at: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, 3701 South 10th Street, inb Omaha, 402-330-4629 at 11 a.m., 2 & 5 p.m. It's a great zoo, by the way. A visit to the zoo and Imax would make a great day trip for kids.

At Science City, in Kansas City, Union Station and the University of Kansas have formed a partnership to develop this unique laboratorywhere the whole scientific process involved in prepping dinosaur specimens will be on full public display. You can see it all, from the delicate work of extracting the ancient bones encased in rock, to pouring plastic replicas.

Neither of the Imax theaters in Kansas City, of the one in St. Louis currently are showing Volcanoes of the Deep Sea at this time and none of them have it on their calendars. If you'd like to give them a call to urge them to consider booking the movie, here's the contact information:

Imax contact info:

Ararensis has good coverage on the Imax issue including news from the Ft. Worth Imax.


More on the Imax Capitulation

Who died and left this guy in charge of science?

President John Mackay Jr. the head of Discovery Place, the uptown Charlotte (North Carolina) science museum that took a pass on the Imax film "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," says the issue of evolution had come up when museum staff looked at the film.

"However," Mackay says, "the primary concern was that, with other good film product out there, we didn't feel it was the film we should bring in at that time. We've shown many films and exhibits that touch on evolution. But we felt the way this was phrased was over the top. It was put out there with such in-your-faceness.

"Filmmakers can be strident in their language -- `This is the way it is' -- and what's held as theoretical is presented as fact."

This guy is running a science museum, and he doesn't yet know the difference between a theory and a fact. Where do they find these guys?


National Academy of Sciences Letter on Intelligent Design

Bruce Alberts, President, National Academy of Sciences, has sent a letter on Intelligent Design and the tactics of its proponents to all members of the academy. He says, in part:

"If your discipline is not the life sciences, you may be wondering why I have chosen to write to all members of the National Academy of Sciences. Although the controversy focuses primarily on biology, some who challenge the teaching of evolution in our nation's schools have also focused their sights on the earth and physical sciences.

"For example, when the Kansas Board of Education first removed portions of biological evolution from their science standards in 1998, they also eliminated statements mandating that Kansas students learn about the Big Bang, that there is overwhelming evidence that the earth is much older than 10,000 years, and the theory of plate tectonics.

"All of these items were returned to the Kansas standards following extensive pressure from many organizations, including a joint letter signed by me and the Presidents of AAAS and the National Science Teachers Association and the removal of several Board members during a subsequent election. But, as noted earlier, the Kansas Board of Education plans to re-examine their science standards because the 2004 election has again resulted in a majority who favor the inclusion of "alternatives to evolution" in the state's science curriculum."


Kansas superintendent of Schools Search: The Fix is In

Kansas education superintendent Andy Tompkins has announced he will leave his post in June to take a job at KU.

Now the board has announced that each of its 10 members will appoint one person to the committee committee seeking a replacement for Dr. Tompkins. The board makes no mention of what qualifications are necessary to serve on the search committee. Will they be professional educators? Administrators? Academic experts?

Given the track record of the six conservatives on the board in the science standards dispute, most likely the majority of the appointments will be made on the basis political or ideological agreement rather than professional qualifications or experience.

If that happens, Kansas will be saddled with a know-nothing board and a know-nothing superintendent. That's a bad combination when you're trying to educate kids.

Friday, March 25, 2005


T-Rex Bone Yeilds Soft Tissue Structures

Palaeontologists have extracted soft, flexible structures that appear to be blood vessels from the bone of a Tyrannosaurus rex that died 68 million years ago. They also have found small red microstructures that resemble red blood cells.

The discovery suggests biological information can be recovered from a wider range of fossil material than realised, which would greatly help the tracing of evolutionary relationships.

Reported by Jeff Hecht in New Scientist.


Researchers trace evolution to relatively simple genetic changes

In a stunning example of evolution at work, scientists have now found that changes in a single gene can produce major changes in the skeletal armor of fish living in the wild.

The surprising results, announced in the March 25, 2005, issue of journal Science, bring new data to long-standing debates about how evolution occurs in natural habitats.

Reported by the Howard Huges Medical Institute.


Sedalia High School Students Will Hear Origins Debate

Smith-Cotton High School (Sedalia, Missouri) science club and science teacher Tim Hutchinson lined up a biology professor from the University of Missouri in Columbia to defend Charles Darwin's theory. He will face the Florida founder of a ministry devoted to creationism.

"The school and the whole education system want our students to start thinking critically on current issues," Mr. Hutchinson said. "What better way than to have a debate ... They can see two knowledgeable people present opposing views in an orderly, academic, respectful manner."

Reported by Jack Tynan in the The Sedalia Democrat.


Teachers Pressured to Include Creationism

Of the more than 1,050 teachers who participated in the National Science Teachers Association survey, 31 percent said they felt pressured by either students or parents when teaching evolution to include creationism, intelligent design and other concepts that are not supported as valid scientific theories. Only 5 percent or less said they felt the pressure was being exerted by school administrators or principals.

Read more here.


Kansas Isn't Kansas Anymore Toto

Red State Rabble is pleased to present the following report by Jason Miller -- who runs the Thomas Paine's Corner blog -- on a community forum held to discuss the upcoming April 5 vote on a constitutional ammendment to ban gay marriage.

I remember a time when I felt exasperation when a New Yorker would ask me how Dorothy, Toto, and the tornadoes were. Not anymore. Somebody please razz me about being from the Land of Oz. I need to hear that so I can forget that Kansas has become a hotbed of bigotry, homophobia, and Christian fundamentalism.

To peer into the depth of Kansas' hatred, look to the example of Kansas City, Kansas. Recently, it looked inviting enough that it came very close to becoming the new world headquarters of the Aryan Nation, one of the most vile and potentially dangerous hate groups in America. Topeka is the home to the "Reverend" Fred Phelps, whose website is, which speaks volumes about his repulsive way of being. Sam Brownback, one of our US Senators, is a social fundamentalist of the first order who is spearheading the conservative agenda to turn back the clock on many of the progressive gains we have made over the last century. His "glorious"efforts include his strong support of the "Constitution Restoration Act", which would grant judges the leeway to mete out biblical punishments, and would legally define god as the ultimate source of US law in lieu of our Constitution. Social fundamentalists will not rest until they have manipulated the Judicial system to reflect their view of how things "should be" in America. Fortunately, the Restoration Act did not pass in 2004, but our "Good Sam" will make another run at it in '05. Count on it!

Last night, my wife and I attended a forum on Kansas' most recent display of bigotry and ignorance. On April 5, we will go to the polls to vote on an amendment to the Kansas constitution to ban gay marriage. It is not enough that Kansas state statutes define marriage as a right reserved for heterosexuals. Now the fundamentalist hate-mongers need to take it to the next legal level, where the law will be virtually impossible to modify or strike down without the intervention of a federal court. On April 5, the "good people" of Kanas will probably vote to amend our constitution to ban gay marriage, and while voting on that same ballot, will probably stock public school-boards with folks whose "good Christian values" include book-banning and teaching Intelligent Design as a "rival theory" to Evolution. I am not a defeatist, but this is Kansas after all.

Reverend John Tamilio III from the Colonial Church inn Prairie Village spoke as the voice of reason and moderation as the forum evolved into more of a debate than a discussion. His assertions that homosexuality is neither a sin nor a choice were welcome to my ears. It was the first time I had heard such a statement from the clergy. Tamilio reminded us that Christ spent much of his time with the pariahs of society, and that one of his commandments was to "love thy neighbor". Kansans' push to deny gays their civil rights certainly does not qualify as a loving act.
Tamilio was highly critical of a literal interpretation of the Bible because the Bible was written by men (making it subject to errors), was passed down through oral tradition before it had been written, and it has been translated so many times into several different languages. Being bilingual, I recognize how much can be lost or altered in simply translating a Spanish text into an English text (or vice versa) due to cultural and idiomatic differences. Tamilio took exception to the Christian fundamentalists' assertion that they are biblical literalists. In reality, they only interpret the Bible literally when it suits or furthers their agenda. When it comes to biblical passages that endorse selling daughters, wives being property, stoning non-virgin brides, compelling rape victims to marry their rapists, and woment being the spoils of war, the Christian Right loses its zeal for literal interpretation.

My blood boiled as I listened to the sophistry of Reverend J.K. Warren of the College Church of the Nazarene in Olathe. Bigotry and homophobia were incarnate on that stage and were cleverly veiled under a cloak of "Christianity". Soft-spoken, calm, and polished in his speech, Warren "schooled" the audience with his piercing insight into the "scriptural proof" that homosexuality is a sin. He advised us that one must interpret the Bible literally, and that numerous scriptures throughout the Bible reference homosexual behavior and decry it as a sin. According to Warren, since science has not found a gene responsible for homosexuality, homosexuality is a lifestyle and a choice. He argued that gays and lesbians are capable of choosing to convert to heterosexuality, and that if they embraced God, He would lead them there because that was where He wanted them to be. The line of questioning from the audience, and the level of applause for each pastor at the end, strongly indicated that this particular group of people (at the local community college in a large Kansas suburb of Kansas City) heartily disapproved of Warren and his message. Unfortunatley, I believe that many Kansans would have given him a standing ovation.

Warren represented a growing movement of Americans who yearn to inflict their Christian morals on our secular public school system and society. Evolution is under siege in the schools by an "opposing theory" called Intelligent Design, which is supported by few serious scientists, and little or no evidence. Legislators want to bring God into the Judicial system through the Constitution Restoration Act. Bush's faith based initiatives violate the Establishment clause of the Constitution by breaking the wall between the separation of church and state. Ironically, the good Reverand Warren tried to convince the audience at the forum that the Establishment clause was written into the Constitution solely to protect the church from state domination. If one believes that, one has not studied their American history very well. James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and some of the other key founding fathers were quite concerned with the potential tyranny of religion over our government and the people. Our Evangelical citizens might feel "warm and fuzzy inside" living in a theocracy, but our founding fathers shed their blood and risked their lives to avoid it.

One of the key strategies of this movement has been to use gays as a scapegoat and a way to motivate their "faithful" to vote and donate money. Christian fundamentalist and social fundamentalist leaders are sacrificing homosexuals at the holy alter of the dollar, and they are pocketing the dollars. They mobilize their minions with Gideon's trumpet call to stamp out the evil hordes of gays in our midst. Dutifully, Kansans respond with money and votes. Those homosexuals must be stopped before they destroy the fabric of our society!

Not surprisingly, the Christian conservatives' twisted arguments lack scientific merit. In the forum, Reverand Warren suggested that homosexuality is a choice and that gays can change their sexual orientation by "coming to God" and changing their behavior. The American Psychological Association has determined that sexual orientation results from a variety of factors, including environmental, cognitive, genetic and hormonal, and that its exact causes vary from person to person. Their position is that sexual orientation manifests itself in early adolescence (prior to sexual experience) and is not a choice. Acting on one's sexual orientation, or not, is a choice, but then again some heterosexuals choose to remain asexual or even experiment with homosexuality. The American Psychological Association takes a very skeptical view of alleged "conversion" therapies touted by the vile group called Focus on Family and James Dobson, its demagogue. As a critical thinker, I find it very difficult to imagine people accepting the beliefs of Christian fundamentalist and social conservatives, whose "evidence" consists of a literal interpretation of a book that was written thousands of years ago in a different language, over that of an organization representing professionals who have devoted their lives and careers to the study of human behavior.

What I find almost amusing about the gay marriage debate, and I emphasize the word almost, is that the Christian conservatives make virtually all of their arguments based on the assumption that "everyone" is a Christian who believes that the Bible is the source of absolute truth and law, and that somehow their religion and morals trump all others. I am a deist. I believe in a Higher Power of my understanding. While I deeply respect Christ as a historical figure, and regard him as one of the ultimate liberals, I do not embrace him as my god. I see much wisdom contained in the Bible, but I do not look to it as my sole guidance for moral conduct. Contrary to Bush's belief, and that of many of the Christian right, we are not a Christian nation. The Constitution does not mention God, and was crafted over a period of years by a diverse group of people, including deists and freemasons (whose principals strongly embrace religious diversity). Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, both of whom were instrumental in shaping our nascent country, shared a signficant skepticism of religion and its potential for tyranny. Our government was intended to be secular. Many of our citizens embrace religions other than Christianity, or are atheist. While a majority of Americans happen to embrace the Christian faith, there are many non-Christian Americans, and one of our key Constitutional principals is that our government will not establish a national religion. The Christian Right needs to study history, demographics, sociology, psychology, and Constitutional law to a much greater depth if they hope to ground their arguments in reality. However, if they studied too deeply, they would find that their position is absurd, and would ceast to exist as an ideology. Ignorance can be bliss!

On April 5 Kansans will vote. This is one Kansan who is predicting that the "faithful" will come out in droves to vote to "preserve the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman". Hopefully, my prediction will ring hollow, and sanity will prevail, but in the land of Oz, almost anything can happen.....

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Out of the Mouths of Babes

My ten-year-old daughter, Molly, is in fifth grade and curious about the battle raging in Kansas over evolution. She sat down next to me a few moments ago -- as I was writing a post -- to ask about the controversy. We talked a little, and then she said, "Teachers tell us to tell the truth, and not to lie to them. If they teach intelligent design to us, they're basically lying to us. In that case, they're doing something they tell us not to do."


At the Other End of the I-70 Corridor: Afarensis

As you know, Red State Rabble is approaching advanced age and our memory is sometimes faulty. Some time ago we promised ourselves to add a link to Afarensis, a great blog out of St. Louis, at the other end of the I-70 corridor, but, we forgot.

Afarensis has been checking with the Imax in St. Louis about whether they too will bend to pressure from the right and stop showing movies that feature evolution.

Read their answer here.


Delay: Schiavo "Lucid"

Red State Rabble came across this from House Majority Speaker Tom DeLay, former Texas exterminator and congressional ethics advisor:

"That Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person (Terri Schiavo) that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks."
RSR was going to write an outraged post protesting DeLay's characterization of Schiavo as "lucid" until we realized that by Delay's standards, she probably is.


Darwin or Social Darwinism?: The Roots Of Nazi Ideology, A Debate With Richard Weikart

Red State Rabble is posting a new round in an ongoing discussion with Dr. Richard Weikart, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, and author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, over whether Darwin's theory of evolution or Herbert Spencer's distortion of it -- social Darwinism -- is at the roots of Nazi ideology. Readers can find Red State Rabble's initial post here, and Dr. Weikart's first reply along with RSR's comments here.

Dr. Richard Weikart responds:

Pat, Thanks for your reply. First of all, I think it’s premature for you to say that you find my thesis unpersuasive, when you apparently haven’t read my book. It’s convenient to (publicly) criticize my lecture (and by implication, book) without giving it a hearing.

Second, note my terminology carefully—“played a key role.” Nowhere do I claim--and in the introduction of my book I specifically deny—that Darwinism is the sole cause or sole factor behind Nazi ideology. I specifically mention in my book that Darwinism had nothing to do with the origins of Nazi antisemitism (though antisemitic ideologists before Hitler intertwined social Darwinism and antisemitism, and I explain how they did this). So, I agree, the roots of Nazism are more complex, and my book specifically says so.

You will be happy to know that I also specifically deny that Darwinism leads inevitably to Nazism, so I am not as unable as you think to account for differences between various countries (though I don’t do a lot of transnational comparisons). You claim that I only mention a few historians. This is because I didn’t have time to list dozens more. It is completely uncontroversial among historians (though apparently not among bloggers who know little about the historiography) that Hitler was a social Darwinist and that social Darwinism was an integral part of Hitler’s ideology.

Stern never denied that in his quote, though he focused on a different dimension of Nazism that is much more controversial. Though some historians disagree, most historians still (rightly) see Hitler as more anti-Christian than Christian.

All historians writing on eugenics and euthanasia under Nazism have mentioned social Darwinism as a fundamental underpinning of those programs.

I don’t know who you define as “the Christian right,” but Phelps most certainly has been criticized by evangelical Christians and the vast majority of evangelicals do not endorse his views. One example among many is Christianity Today’s article, “Called to Hate? How antihomosexual crusader Fred Phelps discredits the church” by Jody Veenker.

To “accuse” Discovery Institute of not speaking out against Phelps is silly—they don’t issue statements pro or con about any issues of that sort. Has the NAS or the NCSE or the AAAS issued statements opposing Phelps? I invite you to read my book and look at the evidence.

Best regards,
Richard Weikart
Department of History
California State Univ., Stanislaus

Red State Rabble replies:

Dear Dr. Weikart,

You and I are in agreement about the evils of social Darwinism. If you had limited yourself to a criticism of social Darwinism, we would not find ourselves in disagreement now.

It is my opinion, however, that you play somewhat too fast and loose with the distinctions between Darwin and evolution on the one hand, and the distortion of his theory by proponents of social Darwinism, such as Herbert Spencer, on the other.

In your first letter you write, "many historians… have discussed the role of social Darwinism in the formulation of Nazi ideology." In you second letter you write, "Hitler was a social Darwinist and that social Darwinism was an integral part of Hitler's ideology."

Your book and lecture, however, are titled "From Darwin to Hitler…" If your intention was to write a critical history only of social Darwinism, you might more accurately have titled them "From Spencer to Hitler…"

The fact is, the thesis of your book, and your upcoming lecture (here, I rely on the promotional material posted on the Discovery Institute website) is that there exists a direct causal link between Darwin's theory of evolution and the rise of Nazi ideology, and here you drop the qualifying word "social" from Darwinism.

Despite what you write, social Darwinism is not a product of evolutionary theory. It is a distortion of it. Social Darwinism is a tragic example of the misapplication of a theory – applicable only to the biological sciences – that was hijacked for the purpose of social engineering. These distortions are not implicit in evolutionary theory, rather, they flow from underlying cultural assumptions about race and ethnicity that were once widespread, and perhaps still are, but which science has now proven are without merit or basis in fact.

Over time, many charlatans have tried to appropriate science for their own very different ends, or bask in the reflected glow of its achievements. We have experienced scientific socialism, Lysenkoism, even Christian Science. Today, some in the arts and social sciences have proposed that the uncertainties of the micro world of quantum mechanics also apply to the macro world of human relations.

Neither science nor Darwin can or should be held responsible for the misapplication of their ideas or methods by others.

Christians and Nazis

Your beef with evolution is that evolutionary theory marks "a radical departure from traditional ways of grounding morality" which you believe undermines the "Judeo-Christian conception of body-soul dualism, which endued humans with greater moral and spiritual significance…" (Weikart: Does Darwinism Devalue Human Life?)

Evolution, you write, by asserting that humans descended from simian ancestors denies that man is created in the image of God. This blurs the distinctions between humans and animals, in your opinion, and leads to the barbaric crimes perpetrated by the Nazis.

The obvious difficulty with your position – and the one you studiously avoid addressing in your reply to me – is how so many Christians, grounded as they were in "traditional" moral values could act as such willing participants in Hitler's crimes.

Was Hitler Anti-Christian?

It has been widely observed that ideology and religion often blind their followers to reality. This ideological or religious blindness finds a reflection in your own work when you write, "Hitler's world view was diametrically opposed to Christianity, for which (he) had nothing but contempt." (Weikart: Roots of Hitler's Evil)

Was Hitler a nonbeliever as you assert, or, as Fritz Stern observes, "a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany's savior"? Whether Hitler believed or not, the great mass of his followers were believers, and they were attracted to his movement not by some vague attachment to social Darwinism, but by the many overt appeals to Christianity embodied in his speeches and writing. To take but one example from many hundreds available:

"My feelings as a Christian point me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter," said Adolph Hitler, in a speech given April 12, 1922. "It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders…"

The reality is that traditional moral values, or religious belief, did not act as a barrier for people who wanted to become Hitler's willing executioners. In fact, the religious movements of the day may have provided one of the most fertile recruiting grounds for the Nazis.

For those of us who truly want to understand the roots of Nazi ideology in order to prevent its reoccurrence that means we have to dig deeper than you have. We have to learn how the underlying cultural assumptions about race and ethnicity were developed and maintained. We need to know how ordinary people were manipulated and mobilized to commit genocide. We are faced with the urgent task of developing human institutions to prevent those horrors from happening again.

Side Issues:

Let's clear up a number of smaller issues that you raise in your latest reply:

Early on you ask me to note your terminology carefully: "Nowhere do I claim," you write, "… that Darwinism is the sole cause or sole factor behind Nazi ideology."

Before writing your reply, you might first have taken note my terminology. I do not claim that you say it is the sole cause, in fact, I accurately paraphrase your argument in the first paragraph of my post:

"I find your thesis – that Darwinism played a key role in the rise of eugenics, euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial experimentation, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis – unpersuasive."

I remain unpersuaded.

You also write that I claim you only mention a few historians to support your position, explaining that you "didn't have time to list dozens more."

Once again, you have missed the point. In my post, I write: "Your letter consists primarily of appeals to the authority of a small group of writers and historians… there are other points of view."

My point is not the size of your list, but the fact that you employ a logical fallacy – an appeal to authority – to make your case. In order to argue from authority, there must be an adequate degree of agreement among other experts. If, as is the case here, there is a significant amount of dispute among experts, the argument must be deemed fallacious.

Fred Phelps:

In closing, I'd like to say I'm pleased that you provided me with a condemnation of Rev. Phelps from Christianity Today. Should Discovery Institute also take a stand? Perhaps it's a stretch. However, you should be aware that here in Kansas we see articles in the newspaper like this almost every day:

"Emboldened by their success getting a proposal to ban gay marriage before Kansas voters, some clergy leading that fight say they will tackle other issues, including the teaching of evolution in public schools." (John Hanna: AP, Feb. 5, 2005)

I'm aware that gay marriage is a controversial issue, however, these same ministers also supported a ballot initiative in Topeka that would have rescinded civil protections for gays, and, as you can see, they are key activists in the battle against evolution teaching in this state.

The Discovery Institute, of which you are a part, is playing a key role in this and other fights over evolution teaching across the country. If a group of professional scientists or educators were to launch an attack against the civil liberties of a segment of our population, I would speak out immediately, and I would demand that organizations such as the National Center for Science Education speak out as well. So, perhaps, it not so much of a stretch for you to ask your fellows at the Discovery Institute you speak out against the actions of those who are allied with you in Kansas, after all.

Pat Hayes


Intelligent Design Creationism Crumbling

"Almost nothing has changed in the creationist attack on evolution since 1999," Robert Pennock, an associate professor at the Lyman Briggs School of Science and the department of philosophy at Michigan State University and designer of digital organisms that test hypotheses about the evolution of complexity and of altruism. Dr. Pennock gave a public lecture, "Built on Sand: The Collapsing Creationist Tower," at Kansas State University's Center for the Understanding of Origins and department of philosophy March 17.

"Even as intelligent design creationism makes headway with the Kansas school board," says Pennock, "it is crumbling from within. To give just one example, William Dembski himself recently admitted that there are only a handful of people doing any work in intelligent design. He quoted one supporter whose “interest seemed to have flagged” who explained that “too much stuff from the ID camp is repetitive, imprecise and immodest in its claims, and otherwise very unsatisfactory. The ‘debate’ is mostly going around in circles.” That’s what we critics had concluded years ago.

You can read more by Dr. Pennock here.


Blasphemy Conviction: Artist Gets Six Month Suspended Sentence

European artists have rallied around Gerhard Haderer after an Athens (Greece) court convicted him of blasphemy in January and gave him a six-month suspended sentence – in absentia – for creating the tongue-in-cheek comic, which features an often inebriated Jesus whose miracles happen because of luck rather than by divine intervention.

It is reportedly the first book the country has banned in more than 20 years. The book has sold more than 100,000 copies across Europe.

More here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


North Carolina Science Lesson: It's God Not Evolution

A student at Sunnyside Elementary School in Cumberland County, North Carolina said her fifth-grade teacher said certain animals can camouflage themselves because of God, not evolution.

The student's parents believe the teacher violated the separation between church and state. They sued in federal court and won.

School officials agreed with the judge. They said the teacher ignored the curriculum.

School officials will not say whether they disciplined the teacher. They call it a personnel issue, which is not public record.

Reported by WRAL in Fayetville, N.C.


Is Winning the Curriculum Battle Enough?

Red State Rabble has already related the story of being exiled to the library from our 10th grade biology class for challenging our teacher when he dissed evolution, and instead taught the story of Adam and Eve.

There was a time when we thought this was just an odd story from the distant past. Now we learn there is convincing evidence to suggest that around a third of American biology teachers support the pseudoscientific theory of "intelligent"design.

Even if legal challenges eventually lead to court rulings against textbook stickers and the inclusion of intelligent design in science curricula in school districts in states such as Kansas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Ohio, and Minnesota, changing what is actually taught in science classrooms will remain an enormous battle.

In the long run, only a serious, highly organized, and well-financed campaign of public education will ensure that real science is taught in public schools. The sooner we start, the better.


The Caliphate of Kansas

Some people have been fooled by the arguments offered by intelligent design proponents, the most sophisticated of whom say they don't really want to teach ID, they just want to teach the controversy. These people think that the stakes aren't as high now as they were when the battle was over the teaching of creationism a few years ago.

Red State Rabble, among others, believes the assault on science in this latest round is more troubling -- and dangerous -- than it was before. The real aim of the fundamentalists this time is nothing less than to change the very definition of science -- it's not that they want to add something, such as creationism, they now want to remove the methods of science from the classroom.

The confirmation of this comes from an article by Tristram Hunt in the Guardian:
"With the successful assault on evolution behind them, evangelicals are starting to train their sights on the earth sciences of geology and physics."

While we may quibble over whether the assault on evolution is really behind them, it is now impossible to deny what is really at stake in this battle. Some commentators in this country have pointed out that the real goal of extremist Muslims is to re-establish the caliphate -- and Sharia law -- that existed in the Middle East from shortly after the death of the prophet until it reached a high point in the 11th century. With the exception of the symbols and rituals, and the level of violence so far employed, is the ultimate goal of our own Midwest mullahs really so different?


Planned Parenthood to Hold Briefing on Kansas, Indiana Privacy Violations

Planned Parenthood will hold a media briefing at the National Press Club to discuss the issue of medical privacy on March 23. The discussion will focus on the work Planned Parenthood is doing to protect the confidential medical records that are the target of privacy violations launched by attorneys general in Kansas and Indiana.

Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood will join Peter Brownlie, CEO and president, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas Mid-Missouri; Roger Evans, senior director, Public Policy Litigation and Law, Planned Parenthood; Emily Stewart, policy analyst, Health Privacy Project; and Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president of Medical Affairs, Planned Parenthood in briefing the media.


AMA, Holocaust Museam Join Hands to Sponsor "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" Lecture Series

Recently, Red State Rabble has been involved in a debate with Richard Weikart, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, who has written a book and delivered lectures claiming that "Darwinism played a key role in the rise of eugenics, euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis."

It is undeniable that some scientists wrongly embraced social Darwinism and eugenics. Some even became willing tools of the Nazi regime. However, many scientists also risked their lives to oppose the Nazis, or fought against these reactionary social movements in other countries.

Scientists everywhere now agree that Social Darwinism, the notion that "the survival of the fittest" applies to human ethics and politics just as it does to biological evolution, is a distortion of evolutionary theory.

The important question for us now is: what are science and medicine doing to ensure that these ugly movements don't reappear?

For one thing, the American Medical Association Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs is helping to initiate a lecture series in conjunction with the Holocaust Museum special exhibition, "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race," which runs through Oct. 16, 2005.

"The question we are asking is," says Alan Wells, Ph.D., an expert in medical ethics with the American Medical Association, "How could science be co-opted so that doctors as healers evolved into killers and medical research became torture?"

You can view the schedule for the lecture series here.

As RSR has pointed out, Christians -- like scientists -- were divided among those who supported or opposed these dark social movements. RSR's only question is this: will fundamentalist Christians also explore their own role in the rise of social Darwinism, eugenics, and the rise of Nazi power -- and draw the appropriate lessons from it -- or will they continue down the path they seem to be on?


Heartless Heartland

"During the election cycle, there was a lot of rhetoric being used about gay people," says Heather Sawyer, senior counsel for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, New York-based gay rights group that handles cases on behalf of gay students. "When young people hear the message that we as a country want to deny gay families civil protections we provide other families under law, it has a negative boomerang effect on how young people may treat other students they know or perceive to be gay."

Dahleen Glanton of the Chicago Tribune reports that "with heightened national attention on family values as championed by Christian conservatives, students such as Pacer (the teen profiled in the article) said they have felt pressure to keep their sexual orientation hidden, particularly in conservative Bible Belt states where many people believe homosexuality is a sin."


Holocaust Survivor Demands Apology Over Stem Cell Research Comparison

Fred Taucher, 72, a Holocaust survivor and victim of Nazi medical experiments wants an apology from Washington state lawmakers who compared embryonic stem cell research to Nazi atrocities.

"I was just very much hurt," says Taucher, 72. "You don't know how it hit me. It's beyond my comprehension. Usually I do not get this emotional."

Three state representatives who oppose stem cell research made comparisons on the House floor in Olympia, Wash. last week between Nazi experiments and the potential dangers of embryonic stem cell research.

Rep. Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, one of the state representatives who made the comparison, says she is mystified by the uproar.

"I don't understand why they're so upset," she said.

Taucher and other Jewish leaders say the comparison trivializes the Holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Darwin and Hitler: An Exchange With Richard Weikart

Red State Rabble received the following e-mail from Richard Weikart, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, and author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany :

Dear Pat Hayes,

I just saw your comments about my forthcoming lecture, including your following remark:

“Unsurprisingly, they don't see science, Darwin, or scientists as being at the root of that particular evil.”

You obviously have not read much on the Nazi era, for many historians—Ian Kershaw, Eberhard Jaeckel, Brigitte Hamann, Michael Burleigh, Henry Friedlander, and many more—have discussed the role of social Darwinism in the formulation of Nazi ideology. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum currently has a display, “Deadly Medicine,” detailing the involvement of medical science in the Nazi atrocities. They have compiled photos and text about their display in a book by the same title, wherein they discuss the involvement of scientists and medical practitioners in the Holocaust. Detlev Peukert, a highly regarded German historian, published an essay on ““The Genesis of the 'Final Solution' from the Spirit of Science,” which is published in a scholarly book, Reevaluating the Third Reich, edited by reputable historians. Much scholarship in the past two decades has shown conclusively the involvement of scientists and physicians in formulating eugenics, euthanasia, and racial ideology, which fed into Nazi thinking.

Best regards,

Richard Weikart
Department of History
California State Univ., Stanislaus

Red State Rabble replies:

Thank you for your letter on my post about your upcoming lecture, "From Darwin to Hitler." While I don't consider myself to be an expert on the Nazi era, I nevertheless find your thesis -- that Darwinism played a key role in the rise of eugenics, euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis -- unpersuasive. The roots of the Nazi ideology, I believe, are far more complex. Your letter consists primarily of appeals to the authority of a small group of writers and historians, but, as I'm sure you are aware, there are other points of view.

Fritz Stern, a refugee from and eminent scholar of the holocaust, for example, finds the roots of Nazism not in Darwin but in the mixing of religion and politics. He said the following in accepting the Leo Baeck Medal November 14, 2004:

"We who were born at the end of the Weimar Republic and who witnessed the rise of National Socialism—left with that all-consuming, complex question: how could this horror have seized a nation and corrupted so much of Europe? ...

"Hitler himself, a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany’s savior, that he was the instrument of Providence, a leader who was charged with executing a divine mission. God had been drafted into national politics before, but Hitler’s success in fusing racial dogma with a Germanic Christianity was an immensely powerful element in his electoral campaigns. Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas."

Likewise, while some scientists who considered themselves Darwinists were also supporters of eugenics, there were also many prominent Christians, such a Mary E. Teats, the National Purity Evangelist for the Women's Christian Temperance Union, who said,

"The great and rapidly increasing army of idiots, insane, imbeciles, blind, deaf-mutes, epileptics, paralytics, the murderers, thieves, drunkards and moral perverts are very poor material with which to "subdue the world," and usher in the glad day when "all shall know the Lord, whom to know aright is life everlasting." There are hundreds and thousands of men and women today to whom in the interests of future generations, some rigid law should say, "Write this one childless." Men and women whose habits of life are such as to curse their offspring, should be prohibited from marrying."

Many, many other examples could be cited.

Understanding the roots of Nazism or eugenics and preventing it's return remains a key task today. Each of us could search the literature to find quotes by scientists or Christians supporting Hitler or eugenics. Likewise, each of us could also find and list scientists or Christians who opposed both. Neither approach is likely to lead to the deeper understanding of the social and historical roots of those great evils.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Darwin's theory of evolution was as widely accepted by scientists in the United States as it was in Germany, and yet Nazism triumphed in Germany and not in our country. Your simple thesis, that Darwin, science, and evolution are responsible for Hitler's horrors does nothing to help us account for the different outcomes in each country.

My sense is, that as an ardent opponent of evolution, you are less interested in arriving at a deeper understanding of the factors that produced these terribly destructive social movements than in finding a handy club to beat Darwin with. This is scholarship in service of ideology rather than scholarship in the service of expanding understanding.

The right-wing play-book -- or Wedge Strategy --calls for the demonization of political opponents as a first step to winning political power. At its heart, I think this is the purpose of your book and lecture. The similarity between Christian fundamentalism's demonization of science and scientists -- for which your book and public speaking provide intellectual cover --and the Nazi's demonization of the Jews is more than just a little remarkable.

I believe that scientists and those in the medical profession have drawn the appropriate conclusions from the experience with Nazism and medical experimentation in Germany and eugenics in this country.

I don't think that the Christian right -- which forms the backbone of the movement against teaching evolution in the schools -- can say the same. Here in my home state of Kansas there is a minister named Fred Phelps who is attempting to organize a movement against gays that has distinct Nazi overtones. Gays, you will remember from your research were prominent among the victims of the Holocaust.

Rev. Phelps regularly attends the funerals of the victims of HIV Aids to harass their grieving families. He sees in the 9/11 Terror attack on New York, the hand of God reaching out to punish gays for what he, Phelps, deems to be their sins. Likewise, he welcomed the Indian Ocean Tsunami because it killed, he says, 2,000 gay Swedes who were vacationing there among the roughly 250,000 other victims.

As yet, I have heard no condemnation of Rev. Phelps from the Christian right or the fellows of the Discovery Institute.

I urge you, in your April 7 speech, to call attention to the dangers -- so reminiscent of the Nazi era -- of the mixing of religion and politics that we are living through right now in America. I urge you to speak out against men like Phelps who would build a social movement to bully and harass men and women simply because they are gay.

Pat Hayes

Monday, March 21, 2005


Michael Behe: Chain of Fools

Last month, The New York Times published an Op-Ed by Michael Behe, a leading proponent of intelligent design titled, "Design for Living." Dr. Behe is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn. and the author of "Darwin's Black Box."

Red State Rabble is well aware that we are late coming to the pump on Behe's Op-Ed. Others -- perhaps more qualified -- pointed to the many weaknesses in his argument some weeks ago. Still, RSR, believes we have something of value to add, and subscribing, some might say clinging, to the notion that late is better than never, here it is:

Behe steps on thin ice early on by claiming unconvincingly that "intelligent design is not a religiously based idea." I will not question Behe's motives here, for all I know he may be utterly sincere. Whatever Behe's personal beliefs about intelligent design, however, he can't claim to speak for all supporters of the "theory," nearly all of whom are Christian fundamentals who interpret the Bible literally.

Here in Kansas, we have just completed a series of four public hearings on science standards where a large number of intelligent design proponents have spoken publicly about their beliefs.

"What you call intelligent design," said Renee Beauford, for example, at the Kansas City, Kan. hearing on Feb. 1, "I call religion, or Christianity. And I'm a firm believer in Christianity. And if you're going to not allow religion into the school, then I would prefer that you not allow evolution into the school, also, because I'm trying to teach my children religion."

There are more sophisticated intelligent design proponents, of course. Philip Johnson, for example, sees intelligent design as nothing more than a convenient legal and political stratagem.

"Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit," says Johnson, "so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools."

Let's take Behe at his word, even though he may well be a minority of one in intelligent design circles.

Behe asserts in his Op-Ed, "... the contemporary argument for intelligent design is based on physical evidence and a straightforward application of logic."

We can dispose of the physical evidence out of hand, because Behe offers none in the Times. (RSR can't help pointing out that intelligent design proponents love to wave the bloody flag of evidence, but rarely get around to producing any.)

Let's take a look then, at the logic.

"The argument for (intelligent design) consists of four linked claims," Behe writes. The first of those claims is that we can recognize the effects of design in nature. Strangely, he uses the Rocky Mountains and Mount Rushmore to illustrate this first crucial link in the chain.

There are several problems with this approach. First, most intelligent design proponents would say that the Rocky Mountains -- like everything else in God's great universe -- are a product of design. Second, for a man making an argument about biological evolution, the Mount Rushmore illustration just isn't relevant. It utterly fails to support to the case he wants to make. Why, we must ask ourselves, didn't he choose a biological example?

Behe does understand that nature -- what he calls unintelligent physical forces -- can account for the origin of the Rocky Mountains -- that nature is capable of producing results that resemble design.

What Behe utterly fails to explain is how we can distinguish between natural design and intelligent design. Instead he runs lippity lop to the second link in the chain writing, "the physical marks of design are visible in aspects of biology."

Interestingly, he quotes the 18th century clergyman William Paley who likened living things to a watch. According to intelligent design proponents, the theory of evolution is in crisis, and science and scientists are absolutely riven by the battle between advancing design theorists on the one hand, and a rear-guard of retreating evolution defenders on the other. Why then, reach back to an 18th century clergyman when bright, young, design-supporting, paper publishing, prize-winning research scientists at any one of a dozen major universities could make the argument so much stronger?

RSR also finds it striking that in a day and age when computer scientists engineer neural networks that imitate brain function, biologists are on the verge of developing cures for disease that employ genetic engineering, and doctors and technicians routinely build complex bio-medical interfaces, that Behe uses as his key example that marvel of 18th century engineer, the watch.

Next, Behe offers us several riveting paragraphs in which biological structures, such as the cell, are compared to factories, outboard motors, or other mechanical devices.

This exercise is of no use, though, because Behe has failed to tell us how to distinguish between biological structures that are the product of intelligent design and biological structures that are the product of natural design -- what we flatlanders like to call evolution. That forces him to move on to the third link in his chain of fools.

"We have no good explanation," he writes, "for the foundation of life that doesn't involve intelligence."

Well, we have evolution as an explanation. This explanation has several virtues: it is supported by the fossil record; observed speciation in viruses, plants, and insects; and a new and growing mountain of evidence from the field of genetics. Evolution explains a wide variety of observed phenomenon. It has been confirmed time and again by research in a variety of fields. It has been enormously productive in suggesting new areas of research.

The overwhelming majority of working scientists reject intelligent design. In fact, by some estimates, the number of scientists who, like Behe, find evolution unconvincing may be much less than one percent.

Behe writes that intelligent design proponents question whether random mutation and natural selection completely explain the -- deep structure of life -- but they do not doubt that evolution occurred.

Okay, Behe says he accepts evolution, so when he talks about the "foundation" of life, or deep structures, we have to be open to the possibility that he really means the origin of life on the planet. It may be he is saying, that ancient single cell organisms were created by a designer and evolution went on from there without divine intervention. If that is so, why all the filler on outboard motors and watches? If Behe is only talking about origins, and truly believes in evolution, as he says he does, then natural design must explain all those complex mechanical looking structures that developed in the intervening years.

So much for Behe's third -- dare we call it missing -- link.

The fourth and final link in the Behe chain -- in the absence of any convincing non-design explanation, we are justified in thinking that real intelligent design was involved" -- fails on two accounts. First it relies on the third link for which he provided no evidence. Second, his straight forward application of logic contains this fallacy: the failure to confirm one hypothesis does not mean that a contending hypothesis is necessarily true.

A chain, they say, is only as strong as its weakest link. In this case each of the links is so weak that we come, inevitably, to doubt the reality of the chain.

Behe's fails to give guidance on how to distinguish between the products of evolution -- what he would call unintelligent physical forces -- and intelligent design. Telling us that intelligent design looks like a watch, or an outboard motor, or a machine, tells us nothing about what natural design should look like?

On the other hand, if what he's really looking at here are ultimate causes. His line of reasoning is as intellectually unsatisfying as it is lazy. If the origin of life can only be explained by the active intervention of a designer, what is his explanation for the origin of the designer?

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