Friday, September 30, 2005


Biblical Curse Generator

As we all know, Red State Rabble readers are an especially unsavory lot. That's why we're absolutely convinced you'll love the Biblical Curse Generator at Ship of Fools. We tried it and came up with:
Take heed, O thou child of Jezebel, for you will be kicked by an incontinent camel!


Dover, Academic Freedom, and the Alice in Wonderland World of the Discovery Institute

"Once again, academic freedom is under attack and an attempt is being made to censor scientific thought," Robert Crowther, Director of Communications for the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute said today.

Crowther's remarks came in response to a letter from the Campaign To Defend the Constitution to the governors of all 50 states expressing concern about efforts to replace science with creationism and intelligent design. (see post below for the full text of the letter)

(The Discovery Institute news release falsely attributes the letter to the National Center for Science Education, but we'll set that issue aside for now.)

Academic freedom under attack? Censor scientific thought? Only in the up is down world of the Discovery Institute could the facts be so twisted as to be utterly beyond recognition.

In Dover, for example, it is the supporters of intelligent design who have attacked the academic freedom of teachers. There, teachers were put in the position of having to resist the demand -- made by the right-wing fundamentalists who had taken over the school board there -- that they read a statement laced with anti-science, anti-evolution, intelligent design propaganda to their students.

Discovery may have come out against mandating the teaching of intelligent design in Dover -- we believe, because they find the case weak -- but they haven't exactly rushed to the defense of teacher's academic freedom there, either.

Since the fellows at the Discovery Institute did not bother themselves to learn about science before they set out to change the way it is defined, we are not at all surprised to learn that they haven't troubled themselves about academic freedom, either. Perhaps they find the subject irreducibly complex.

Taking a moment out of his busy schedule to Google academic freedom might have led Discovery's Mr. Crowther to the Statement on Academic Freedom adopted by the American Association of University Professors in 1940. It includes these statements:

Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.

College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.

No one would tolerate a teacher who insisted on teaching French in an English class, or calculus in a social studies class. Why should we be surprised, then, that there is opposition to teaching theology or philosophy in a science class?

This opposition comes from two sources.

First, and most familiar, from scientists and educators who want to teach their subject without interference from unqualified outsiders who understand neither the science nor the pedagogy.

Second, opposition is growing from parents who want to be in charge of their own children's religious education. These parents want to choose the church, synagogue, or mosque where their children receive their religious education themselves. They don't want those decisions made for them by people whose religious beliefs they may not share -- such as born-again evangelicals who, increasingly, have insinuated themselves onto school boards across the country.

Other citizens -- and all too often their rights have been ignored entirely in this debate -- simply want to be free to practice their secular beliefs without their children being proselytized in their tax-supported science classes -- as is their constitutional right.

Red State Rabble believes the issue of religious freedom will become increasingly important in the debate over creationism and intelligent design during the coming months. The notion that born-again evangelicals speak for all believers is now being challenged by a demand for the right of teachers, students, and parents to be free of religious indoctrination thinly disguised as intelligent design.

This sense that religious freedom is under attack from intelligent design activists, and their country cousins in the creation "science" camp, is underscored by the presence of the signatures of 100 clergy persons on the Campaign to Defend the Constitution statement, that the Discovery Institute so deplores.

The utter contempt for the truth that has crept into Discovery's public pronouncements is carried to new heights in this latest news release. If you doubt that, read this excerpt from the release:

This issue has been brought to the center of national attention this week as the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District opened in federal court in Harrisburg... The ACLU alleges that the Dover policy violates the separation of church and state.

Discovery Institute strongly disputes the ACLU's effort to make discussions of intelligent design illegal.

Illegal? Here's what the Campaign to Defend the Constitution statement that sparked this news release actually says:

We do not oppose exposing our children to philosophical and spiritual discussion around the origin and meaning of life. There are appropriate venues for such discussion – but not in the context of teaching science in a public school science classroom.

There are, apparently, lies, damn lies, and statments issued by Discovery Institute. And, remember, they are the ones who say they are more qualified on moral and ethical grounds than the rest of us heathens to determine what should, and should not, be taught in public schools.

Discovery's claim that it is a defender of academic freedom reminds us of the days when hard-core segregationists, such as George Wallace, would say some of their best friend were Negroes.

They may oppose the statement in Dover "on policy grounds," but in Kansas, where they are in the driver's seat, the demand for changes in the science curriculum comes not from the teachers, whose academic freedom they claim to protect. It comes, instead, from biblical literalists on the state school board. They overrode the recommendations of teachers and scientists on the curriculum committee to write their own antiscience revisions.

Academic Freedom? They wouldn't know it if it hit them in the head.


Clergy, Scientists, Nobel Laureates Oppose Creationism, Intelligent Design

The Campaign To Defend the Constitution, an online grassroots movement combating the growing power of the religious right, which fights to uphold the First Amendment's guarantee of separation of church and state released a letter yesterday to the goverors of all 50 states expressing concern about efforts to replace science with creationism and intelligent design.

The letter was signed by over 100 clergy, led by Rev. James Forbes of the Riverside Church in New York and Rev. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance. Nearly 100 scientists joined them, including a half- dozen Nobel laureates -- Peter Agre, M.D., Paul Berg, Mike Bishop, M.D., Gunter Blobel, M.D., J. Robert Horvitz, and Harold Varmus, M.D.

Here's the letter:

To All Fifty State Governors:

As scientists and clergy, we write to express our deep concern about the education of our children. Specifically, we are concerned about efforts to supplement or replace the teaching of evolution in our public schools with religious dogma or unscientific speculation. Science classes should help provide our children with the tools and scientific literacy they need to succeed in a 21st century economy.

We are well aware of studies showing American children falling behind those of other nations in their knowledge and understanding of science. We certainly will not be able to close this gap if we substitute ideology for fact in our science classrooms – limiting students' understanding of a scientific concept as critical as evolution for ideological reasons.

We do not oppose exposing our children to philosophical and spiritual discussion around the origin and meaning of life. There are appropriate venues for such discussion – but not in the context of teaching science in a public school science classroom.

We have come together – people of science and people of faith – for the sake of our children and the competitiveness of our country, to urge you to ensure that:



When Dover science teachers told the board their textbooks were outdated and no longer met state standards, they were initially told there wasn't enough money in the budget to purchase new ones.

Board member William Buckingham, the head of the curriculum committee, incidentally, objected to the text book the teachers requested, Biology, by Miller and Levine, saying it was "laced with Darwinism."

Cash strapped though the Dover School District was, it still found a way to obtain 50 copies of the discredited intelligent design tract Of Pandas and People for the Dover High library.

Note: the original version of this post has been edited to correct an error pointed out by an RSR reader (see comments). The original version read: "found a way to purchase 50 copies of... " RSR regrets the error.


Jewish Community Reacts to Dover

Stewart Ain, a staff writer for The Jewish Week, which serves the Jewish communtiy of New York, reports on reaction in the Jewish community to the Dover intelligent design trial now being heard in federal court in Harrisburg.
Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, said the Jewish community in general “sees it as an attempt to sneak biblical literalism and Evangelical Christianity into the public schools.” But he noted that there are some Orthodox Jews who agree with Evangelicals that the theory of evolution is an attack on religion.

Rabbi Chaim Schertz of Congregation Kesher Israel, an Orthodox congregation of 250 families in Harrisburg, said he believes that intelligent design “does a disservice both to science and to religion because religious views should be based on faith and not on so-called scientific demonstrations. Science has its own guidelines … [it] has things that are proven. Religious principles are not subject to demonstrations.”


Fundamentalists: Victims or Victmizers?

Last Oct. 18, after the Dover School Board voted 6-3 to madate reading a statement favoring intelligent design, Carol "Casey" Brown, a longtime member of the board resigned in protest.

"With deepest regret," Mrs. Brown told the board, "I am stepping down...I shall pray that you will learn to represent all the members of this community."

"Just after stepping down from the board," Amy Laura Cahn, a Community Education Organizer from the ACLU of Pennsylvania, quotes Mrs. Brown as saying in her testimony, "[Mr Buckingham] decried my belief and called me an atheist."

A couple months later, at the recess of a board meeting, Mrs. Brown told the court that Mr Bonsell "accused me and my husband of destroying the board. He told me that I would be going to hell."


How Christian Fundamentalists Buy Textbooks

Having observed the Kansas science curriculum hearings first hand, we already knew that Christian fundamentalists are process oriented. We just didn't understand the process.

Now, having read the testimony of Carol "Casey" Brown, a Dover resident and former school board member who, until her resignation, opposed efforts to introduce creationism and intelligent design into the curriculum there, we think we finally see what that process is.

According to a report on the Speaking Freely blog by Amy Laura Cahn, a Community Education Organizer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, "Mrs. Brown stated that teachers had stopped using the old [biology, RSR] books because they were not in accordance with the state mandate. They had requested the purchase of Biology by Miller and Levine. The request was denied due to budget concerns... "

At the next meeting, Mr. Buckingham continued his objections [to the Miller and Levine Biology textbook, RSR].

In addition, Mr. Bonsell [board chair, RSR] allowed Mr. Buckingham's wife to speak for 10-15 minutes, in a manner described by Mrs. Brown as akin to an "old tent revival."

"She described how to accept Christ as our personal savior. She spoke very vehemently in favor of creationism...she read from Scripture." Mrs. Brown recalled that "there were muttered amens" from board members, including Mr. Buckingham.

In the meeting, Mr. Brown [Mrs. Brown's husband, also a board member, RSR] raised concerns about the legality of bringing the subject of creationism into the schools and was called a coward by Mr. Buckingham.

Here is the process as we now understand it...

  1. Deny students and teachers the textbooks they need because there isn't enough money.
  2. Turn a public board meeting into a revival meeting and make a decision based on scripture.
  3. Vilify those who disagree with you by calling them cowards.
  4. Make a decision that will insure a long and costly court battle.
  5. Cast yourself as a representative of all Christians -- or even better, a representative of all good Christians.
  6. Cry loudly about how god's people are being victimized by heartless secularists and the media.
  7. Deny ever having made any of the statements above.
  8. Assure one and all that your decision was based solely on the best science available at the time.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Dover Testimony: Ken Miller Transcipt Now Online

The Pennsylvania ACLU's Speaking Freely blog now has a partial transcript of biologist Ken Miller's testimony posted here.

Here's a brief excerpt to whet your appetite:

Q. (By Witold Walczak, Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union legal director ) The School District argues, you know, it takes a minute to read this statement. I haven't timed it. It takes about a minute to read this statement. What's the big deal? What's the harm in reading this to Dover School District students?

A. (By Kenneth R. Miller) That's a very interesting point. And if they raised the issue, what is the harm in reading it, one might well turn around and say, well then why read it in the first place, if it makes so little difference, if it is of so little consequence? Then why have you insisted on doing this and why are you in court today? The only thing I can infer from turning that question around is that the Dover School Board must think this is enormously important to compose this, to instruct administrators to read it, to be willing to fight all the way to the court. They must think that this performs a very important function.


Street Cred

To get a real sense of how things went in Harrisburg yesterday read Mike Argento's article, "Have you ever really looked at intelligent design?" in the York Daily Record.
... as day three of the Dover Panda Trial meandered into discussions of stoner logic and street cred, one of the lawyers for the school district, Patrick Gillen, asked Robert Pennock, a philosopher of science from Michigan State University and a serious, serious brainiac, whether the idea of "intelligent design" was a Big Ten theory...


Dover: Digital Organisms

Dr. Eugenie C. Scott and Nick Matzke discuss the testimony of Robert Pennock in a podcast on the National Center for Science Education Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District website.

In his testimony, Pennock was asked about his work using digital organisms to test hypotheses about the evolution of complexity and of altruism. His work with microbiologist Richard Lenski is discussed in the cover story of the Feb. 2005 issue of Discover magazine by Carl Zimmer.


Monkey Business

The ACLU's Speaking Freely blog reports on the testimony of Julie Smith, Christy Rehm, and Beth Eveland at the Dover School Board intelligent design trail in Harrisburg, yesterday.

"As a teacher, I feel teachers in general have been harmed," said Christy Rehm, a teacher in a public school outside of York County.
"Everything you do in the classroom is teaching. How I dress is teaching. Statements I don't make teach my students.""This has spilled over into other classes," she continued. "Children of school board members say, 'Do you think we came from monkeys? How can you think we came from monkeys?'"


Plamegate Comes to Dover

Referring to a "designer" rather than "God" is like referring to "Ambassador Wilson's wife" rather than "Valerie Plame Wilson," said Dr. Robert Pennock, a professor of philosophy of science at Michigan State University in testimony at the Dover School Board trial in Harrisburg, yesterday.

As the gallery laughed, Judge Jones chuckled and said, "As an example," reports Andy Hoover, a community education organizer with the ACLU of Pennsylvania.



Iowa School District Bans Pullitzer Prize Finalist

The Associated Press reports the Solon [Eastern Iowa] school board committee has voted to ban Tim O’Brien’s novel ‘‘The Things they Carried’’ from the eighth-grade curriculum.‘‘

They thought it was a good book, quality literature, but probably a little mature for eighth-grade students,’’ Superintendent Brad Manard said.

Manard said one parent complained about language in the book, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1990.

Hey, you can't say they don't know how to celebrate Banned Books Week in Solon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Dover Slideshow

You can't tell the players without a program, but Yahoo has provided a nifty slideshow with photos of all the players in the Dover intelligent design case being heard now in Federal Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


American Library Association: Banned Books Week

The American Library Association's Banned Books Week celebrates the Freedom to Read. Observed during the last week of September each year since 1982, the annual event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted.

Drop in at the ALA Banned Books Week web page where you can order buttons, posters, bookmarks, and T-shirts to let 'em know where you stand on censorship.

Here's the ALA's list of the 25 most often challenged books (you can read the whole 100 on the ALA Banned Book Week website):
  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Here's a radical idea: take a banned book to bed with you tonight.


Intelligent Design Extinction Event

Discovery Institute's renowned list of 400 scientists who dissent from Darwinism seems to be shrinking, rather than growing. Are we witnessing an extinction event in the making?

Red State Rabble already reported on Bob Davidson, an M.D., scientist, and professor for 28 years at the University of Washington medical school -- an ardent Christian whose name appears on the list -- who now says he believes "the scientific evidence for evolution is overwhelming."

"When I joined [the Discovery Institute] I didn't think they were about bashing evolution, says Davidson. "It's pseudo-science, at best ... What they're doing is instigating a conflict between science and religion.""I'm kind of embarrassed that I ever got involved with this," Davidson now says.

Today, Robert S. Boyd, Knight Ridder Newspapers reports this little nugget:

... the Discovery Institute has collected about 400 signatures on a statement labeled "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism." About 80 of the signers are biologists; the rest are mostly philosophers, mathematicians, chemists, computer scientists, historians and lawyers.

The statement of dissent, however, doesn't even mention intelligent design. Instead, it simply raises doubts about the present state of evolutionary theory. In its entirety, the statement reads:

"We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

"That statement is one that most scientists can or should be able to sign," said Martin Poenie, a cell biologist at the University of Texas in Austin, one of the signers.
Some who signed the statement of dissent said that doesn't mean they support intelligent design. One signer, Stanley Salthe, a zoologist at the State University of New York in Binghamton, replied "absolutely not" when he was asked if he agrees that there must have been a supernatural designer.


Dover Testimony: Teachers Not Comfortable With ID

Brian Rehm, a former Dover physics teacher with four children who attend school in Dover, testified Tuesday. He told the court, according to the Pennsylvania ACLU's Speaking Freely blog, about "several lunchtime conversations in which teachers discussed the issue of the biology curriculum. After several discussions, the science teachers received a video by a school board member, called 'Icons of Evolution.' After they viewed the movie, they met with board members, and voiced their concern regarding the teaching of intelligent design. The science teachers concluded that they were not comfortable teaching ID in biology or other science classes.


Dover Podcast

The National Center for Science Education is podcasting from Kitzmiller vs. Dover School Board. Go here, to listen to NCSE's Nick Matzke and Eugenie Scott reviewing yesterday's testimony by Tammy Kitzmiller and former school board member Aralene "Barrie" Callahan, who testified about the religious motivations of the board members who pushed for intelligent design, and others.

The NCSE site is also a great resource for legal documents, trial materials, and updates.


Dover: Implicit Irony

Johnathan West is keenly attuned to the irony he believes implicit in biologist Ken Miller's testimony in the Dover intelligent design case. In a blog posting on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog he writes:

Under questioning from the defense, Miller said that in his biology classes he directs students to his website for additional resources, which includes material written by him about intelligent design. He said that he felt it was good pedagogy to offer his students resources for answering questions they might have about intelligent design.

The defense attorney questioning Miller left the irony of this implicit: The Dover school district’s policy calls for administrators to read a brief statement to biology students indicating that if students want to learn about intelligent design, they can find a supplementary science textbook, Of Pandas and People, in the school library. This is the policy that Miller and the ACLU oppose.

Perhaps Red State Rabble really is merely the humorless skeptic we are sometimes accused of being. We are painfully aware, after all, that we are now very old, and resigned to the fact that the zeitgeist no longer speaks to us in quite the same effortless way it once did. Our daughters now help us to program our cell phones. Perhaps most telling, we watched the film "Napoleon Dynamite" -- to our oldest daughter's utter dismay -- quite unmoved.

Taking all these painful admissions into consideration, we still find it singularly un-ironic that a university professor might contemplate presenting a different -- and perhaps more advanced -- curriculum to his students than a high school biology teacher would present to students getting their first exposure to the science of biology.

Red State Rabble can't help wondering why it is that creationists and intelligent design activists choose only the youngest, the most impressionable -- those least able to discern the difference between science and pseudoscience -- as their target audience. If their ideas truly represented the advanced science they claim, wouldn't they take it to our institutions of higher learning first?

Are we missing something here? Let us know, will you. As the rather elderly father of young girls, we are quite used to finding ourselves out of touch. We can take it.


Speaking Freely

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has set up a blog, Speaking Freely, to cover the news coming out of Kitzmiller vs. Dover School Board. It's a great resource.

Here's an excerpt from a posting by Andy Hoover, community education organizer of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, on Ken Miller's testimony from Tuesday. Dr. Miller is also the author of Finding Darwin's God, in which he comes to terms with his scientific work and his Roman Catholic faith:
"The statement of the Dover School Board falsely undermines the theory of evolution," he said. "It does a great disservice to Dover and the students of Dover."

"... By holding this [the statement, RSR] up as an alternative, the students will get the message in a flash," Dr. Miller said. "The message is, 'Over here you have a theory based on God, and over here is evolution, which is based in atheism'."


Muddy Waters

"Each year" says Tammy Kitzmiller, one of 11 parents suing the Dover School Board, "the US science and math scores fall further behind the rest of the world. ID, introduced as a 'scientific' explanation, would only increase that gap. I've always encouraged my children to explore new ideas, try new things, to think outside of the box. But at the same time, I've stressed the importance of education and having a firm knowledge of the basics. To have a school muddy the waters of science - when within the scientific community there is no controversy - left me greatly disappointed. When and where my children learn about theological ideas should be my decision, not the Dover Area School Board's."

Read more on the Pennsylvania ACLU blog, Speaking Freely.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


On Earth, as it is in the Unspecified Good Place

Over at Panda's Thumb, the Intelligent Designer's Prayer, check it out.


Dover: Supreme Court Bound?

Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War On Science, and blogger at "The Intersection" provides what RSR believes is a sound analysis of the chances for Kitzmiller vs. Dover to go all the way to the Supreme Court:
A lot of journalists are reporting that this case may go to the Supreme Court. (See for example here.) And while it's true that that is a possibility, it doesn't strike me as a very likely one. There are far too many reasons for suspecting a very different outcome: 1) The leading lights of "intelligent design" don't think this is their best case (as I explain in my Seed cover story); 2) the relatively poor Dover district will run the risk of a bigger and bigger legal bill the longer the trial goes on; 3) upcoming school board elections in Dover could lead to the pro-ID board being thrown out by a new board that refuses to appeal the case; 4) there's strong grounds for expecting a firm anti-ID decision from the judge that anti-evolutionists won't want to reinforce through an appeal; and so forth.
We don't want to seem unduly parochial just because RSR writes from Kansas-- being from the flyover zone is nothing to be unduly proud of just now -- but we think Discovery made their big bet here, and this will be where they will want to play out the hand.

To win the pot and rake in all the chips, they'll need to find a way to keep Kansas School Board President Steve "God or Evolution, You've Got to Choose" Abrams from tipping their hand. His recent off-script babbling about the incompatibility of the Bible and evolution -- while they accurately reflect the views of intelligent design insiders -- tend to give the game away. That's called a Tell in poker.

The Kansas case over intelligent design will be heard in the aftermath of the Dover decision, and for that reason, we think there's reason for optimism in both cases.

Oh, by-the-way, they're still more than a year off, but school board elections in Kansas may also determine the fate of anti-science curriculum changes here, as well.


Class Dismissed

Martha Raffaele of the Associated Press has this report of the first day of testimony in the Dover intelligent desing trial. Here's an appetizer:

Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, the first witness called Monday by lawyers suing the Dover Area School District for exposing its students to the controversial theory, sprinkled his testimony with references to DNA, red blood
cells and viruses, and he occasionally referred to complex charts on a projection screen.

Even U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III was a little overwhelmed.

"I guess I should say, 'Class dismissed,'" Jones mused before recessing for lunch.


Dover Trial Enters Second Day

Word is, the Kitzmiller vs. Dover School Board trial is expected to take five weeks.


Duke Law Professor: Dover Policy Violates Establishment Clause

The Dover, Pa., school board policy mandating that high school biology classes cover "alternatives" to evolution, including the idea of "intelligent design," violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a Duke University constitutional law expert says.

"Almost 20 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a state law that required 'balanced treatment,' that creationism be taught alongside evolution," said Erwin Chemerinsky, the Alston & Bird Professor of Law at Duke's School of Law.

"The Supreme Court invalidated this statute and explained that evolution is a scientific theory accounting for the origin of human life, while creationism is religion's answer. The Court said that there is no secular purpose in having creationism taught in the schools."

"'Intelligent design' is the new label for the religious account of the origins of human life," Chemerinsky said. "The Dover policy requiring it to be taught violates the Establishment Clause because again there is no secular purpose. It is the schools inculcating religious views and religious values. This, above all, the Supreme Court has held, violates the First Amendment."


Dover: First Day Action

"Eric Rothschild, attorney for the 11 parents suing the school district over the inclusion of intelligent design in biology class, told U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III of the numerous instances of school board members speaking of finding a biology textbook that balanced evolution with creationism and included television news clips of former school board member Bill Buckingham speaking on the issue," reports The York Daily Record.

"But Dover’s attorney, Patrick Gillen, in his opening remarks, tried to distance Buckingham’s role from the decision of the school board. He said the efforts that led to what he called “modest change” in the biology curriculum had been a contentious issue, but the board was not led by Buckingham in the final decision."

Despite what Gillen says, Buckingham was the head of the school board's curriculum committee and the driving force behind the decision to order teachers to read a statement designed to create doubt about evolution and provide support for intelligent design in Dover science classes.


Laced With Darwinism

If, like Red State Rabble, you love learning about the science that backs up intelligent design, listen to this news clip from Fox43 News as Bill Buckingham, the former head of the Dover School Board curriculum committee, explains the scientific basis -- and secular intent -- behind the board's decision to mandate that a statement dissing evolution and favoring intelligent design be read in science classes there.


KU Chancellor Stands Up for Evolution

“The attack on evolution continues across America and compels me to again state the obvious: The University of Kansas is a major public research university, a scientific community,” Hemenway said in an e-mail. “We are committed to fact-based research and teaching. As an academic, scientific community, we must affirm scientific principles.”

Reported by Joel Mathis in today's Lawrence Journal World.


Riding the Theory Horse Into the Ground

The York Daily Record reports that during cross examination of biologist Ken Miller yesterday, Robert Muise, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the Dover School Board, asked Miller, “Is it not true evolution is a theory not fact?”

This theory versus fact mumbo jumbo may have been very good public relations, but is it brilliant law?

In a ruling handed down last January by Judge Clarence Cooper in the Cobb County, Georgia evolution disclaimer sticker case. Judge Cooper ordered the removal of evolution disclaimer stickers from textbooks there writing:

"... the distinction of evolution as a theory rather than a fact is the distinction that religiously motivated individuals have specifically asked school boards to make in the most recent anti-evolution movement, and that was exactly what parents in Cobb County did in this case. By adopting this specific language, even if at the direction of counsel, the County School Board appears to have sided with these religiously motivated individuals... "


Discovery Institute: They'd Rather Lie Than Tell The Truth

"Although Discovery Institute doesn't favor Dover's policy (see here for why)," writes John West on the Discovery Institute Evolution News and Views blog, "we strongly oppose the ACLU's heavy-handed effort to shut down even voluntary classroom discussions of ID through government censorship."

It's a relatively short sentence, but West, as is his way, has nevertheless managed to completely misrepresent the truth in at least two ways.

First, the ACLU is representing those parents who object to having their children proselytized in science classrooms. Indirectly, the ACLU also represents teachers -- mindful of their professional responsibilities -- who objected to being ordered to read a statement they know is false to their students. In fact, all Dover science teachers refused to read the statement, forcing the board to order administrators to do their dirty work for them. Likewise, The ACLU represents students who walked out of class rather than be subjected to a mandatory reading of the Dover School Board intelligent design tract.

So, it is a group of Dover parents, teachers, and students who object to the policy. They sought out the foremost defender of religious freedom in the country -- the ACLU -- to represent them.

Second, you will search the Kitzmiller vs. Dover complaint in vain for any evidence whatsoever of a "heavy-handed effort to shut down even voluntary classroom discussions of ID."

There is no suggestion anywhere in the complaint that, for example, a student would be barred from asking a question about intelligent design or creationism in a science classroom, or that a teacher might be prevented from giving an answer.

In fact, the issue in this case is just the opposite. Parents, teachers, and students object to being forced to read, listen to, or allow their children to be exposed to a religiously motivated mandatory statement that makes false statements about evolution and endorses intelligent design pseudoscience in their tax-supported public schools.

The real issue is whether the school board should be allowed to mandate -- as it has done in Dover -- that students and teachers of many religious denominations and beliefs be subjected to attempts to convert them to the religious beliefs of biblical literalists -- a distinct minority in this country.

The intelligent design activists have the utter temerity to insist that any Catholic, Protestant, or Jew who attends church or synagogue and accepts the fact of evolution is either deluded or an atheist in disguise.

Muslims, Buddhists, secular humanists? Well, let's not even go there.

The real issue in Dover is not suppression of voluntary classroom discussion, but whether a minority religious viewpoint will be given the special privilege of using tax-supported public schools as a tool to convert school children to their peculiar set of beliefs.

Monday, September 26, 2005


You, Yes You, Are Willfully Obtuse

You just refuse to get it, don't you? No matter how many times Michael Behe, or William Dembski, or Stephen Meyer, of Johnathan Wells repeat their soothing mantra: intelligent design is science... intelligent design is science... intelligent design is science... You just won't believe them, will you? You are hard-headed. You are dogmatic. Not only that, you are an atheist -- even if you attend church. You are unpatriotic. You are a bad, bad person.

You will just not accept the view that there really is a scientific controversy over whether or not evolution happens.

Maybe you've been thinking thoughts you're not supposed to think. Maybe, you've been reading things you're not supposed to read. Things like the now suppressed tapes from Dover school board meetings. Newspaper articles that quote school board members as saying things they now deny saying. Perhaps, you've even seen video footage from news programs -- where Dover board members spoke openly, even hopefully, about their intentions -- that were taped before they were lawyered up.

Things like this:

"This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution," William Buckingham, who once headed the Dover School Board's curriculum committee, is quoted as saying in the complaint filed by parents against a board mandated statement endorsing intelligent design. "This country was founded on Christianity and our students should be taught as such."



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The Sham(e) in Dover

When Justice William Brennan, delivered the Supreme Court's decision in Edwards vs. Aguillard -- the 1987 Supreme Court ruling that the teaching of creation "science” in public school science class violated the First Amendment, he said,

"While the Court is normally deferential to a State’s articulation of a secular purpose, it is required that the statement of such purpose be sincere and not a sham.”

In Dover, today, the federal court will begin hearings in Kitzmiller v. Dover, a suit brought by a group of parents who oppose the introduction of intelligent design indoctrination in the public schools there.

The question of secular intent will be central to the Dover case, just as it was 18 years ago in Edwards vs. Aguillard. Once again, the courts will be called on to evaluate whether or not the intent of Dover board members was sincerely secular or not.

Last June 14, at a board meeting, chairman Bill Buckingham was widely reported in the newspapers to have said, “Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?”

Lauri Lebo, a reporter for the York Daily Record, reports that "[o]ther board members at the time, such as Noel Wenrich and Alan Bonsell, spoke during the meeting of finding a biology book that balances the Christian views of “creationism” with evolution.

Today, of course, the moral exemplars on the Dover board can't remember having said any such thing.

RSR wonders, how we are to teach children that telling the truth is important when those who claim to have a special relationship with the God of the Ten Commandments -- who are the elected officials charged with running the schools -- refuse to do something so simple, so basic, as to tell the truth.


Survey: Are You Possessed By Demons?

1. Do you smell foul odors?
Yes [ ] No [ ]
2. Are you homosexual?
Yes [ ] No [ ]
3. Do you deny Jesus of Nazareth is God?
Yes [ ] No [ ]
4. Do you read Red State Rabble?
Yes [ ] No [ ]

An answer of Yes to one or more of these questions, could indicate demonic possession according to psychologist Rex Rosenberg. Who, you are asking, is Rex Rosenberg? Why, he's Kansas' chief evaluator of who is committed to the state’s sexual predator program at Larned State Hospital.

Since Rosenberg took over evaluations at Larned four years ago, reports Eric Weslander in the Lawrence Journal World, the percentage of people labeled as sexual predators has skyrocketed.

(Okay, we just threw the Red State Rabble survey question in. It's not really on Rosenbergs survey, but, we're willing to bet, there are more than a few of you who would, in Carl Sagan's memorable phrase, like to light a candle in this demon haunted world.)


A Common Sense Republican

Connie "I'm a little confused by the pre-biotic soup" Morris, the ethics challenged member of the creationist majority on the Kansas State Board of Education will now face a Republican challenger in the Aug. 1, 2006 primary election.

Sally Cauble, 54, a former teacher and local school board member from Liberal -- for all of you blue state RSR readers, we assure you there is a Liberal, Kansas -- has announced she will run against Morris.

Cauble is being a bit cagey about where she stands on the issues, preferring to say only that, "I'm running on common sense, and I'm a Republican."

"I believe God created the universe," Cauble adds. "I taught evolution and I find the two compatible," "I may teach intelligent design in a philosophy class, but I'm not sure I would put it in the science curriculum."

Whoever wins the primary will face Democrat Tim Cruz, the former mayor of Garden City, in the Nov. 7 general election. Five of the board's 10 seats are up for election next year, and four of those belong to conservatives, including Morris.

Although it was many, many years ago, Red State Rabble is old enough to remember when there were still Republicans who possessed common sense. We thought, like the Dodo, they'd gone extinct, but perhaps they're merely endangered.


False Dichotomies and Misinformation

RSR reader Bill F. may have been chased from this home in Sugar Land, Texas by Hurricane Rita, but he's still on the intelligent design case. From his daughter's condo in Austin (where his thoughtful, pre-Rita, decision to install wireless Internet access now seems almost prophetic, he's called our attention to this guest commentary by Wade Worthen in The State -- from that well-known hotbed of atheistic science, South Carolina.
Proponents of intelligent design have suggested that its exclusion from classrooms is simply another assault on victimized Christians. This is an excellent example of the intelligent design strategy: Use false dichotomies and misinformation to obscure the real issue. Whether it should be taught in public school science curricula should not be about politics or religion. The real issue is this: Is intelligent design a legitimate scientific theory?


God After Darwin: Evolution and Divine Providence

Discussion of the compatibility of evolution and theology will open the fall 2005 distinguished lecture series by the Center for the Understanding of Origins at Kansas State University.

Jack F. Haught will present the public lecture, "God After Darwin: Evolution and Divine Providence," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in the K-State Alumni Center. He also will present the seminar talk, "Science, Theology and the Origin of Life," at 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Little Theatre at the K-State Student Union.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Abrams: Evolution, the Bible, the Bottom Line

“At some point in time, if you compare evolution and the Bible, you have to decide which one you believe. That’s the bottom line.”

-- Kansas State Board of Education Chair Steve Abrams in a Sept. 22 talk to Open Public Education Now, a Christian men's group.

Abrams, the leader of efforts to introduce intelligent design on the board, obviously, is motivated solely by a secular intent to teach the scientific controversy over evolution.

Abrams statement that one must choose between evolution and the bible is somewhat different than his mantra at the science hearings in Topeka last May. There, he said "I have been a proponent... of empirical science being defined by observable, measurable, testable, repeatable, and falsifiable... " so often, that the audience began to mouth the words with him.

This is but one more example, among the many that might be cited, of the basic dishonesty of creationist and intelligent design advocates who say one thing in public where everyone can hear them, and quite another when they are speaking privately before groups that share their views.


Kitzmiller Complaint Available Online

Here's an excerpt from the complaint in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the intelligent design case that will be heard in federal court beginning Monday. You can read the whole complaint here.
Intelligent design has been publicly promoted by an organization called the Discovery Institute and others as a means of challenging the scientific theory of evolution in public classrooms and replacing it with so called "science" that is "consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." The purpose of the Dover School Board in passing the October 18 resolution was similarly religious. The Board decided to amend the district’s biology curriculum to include the presentation of intelligent design over the objection of the Dover High School’s science faculty. The leading proponent on the Board of the October 18 resolution stated during the Board’s discussion of the biology curriculum, "Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?" The Dover Area School
District has also arranged for Dover High School to be supplied with the book Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origin. Of Pandas and People is, by acknowledgment of its authors, directed at making the "favorable case for intelligent design," and raising doubt about natural descent (i.e., the scientific theory of evolution).


Meet the Parents

The ACLU, which is representing a group of 11 parents who are suing the Dover School District in federal court to stop the reading of a statement endorsing intelligent design, has put a number of resources online about the case.

One page features photos and statements by the parents in the case, including this from Brian Rehm:
As a parent and a person of faith, I want to share my religious beliefs with my own children. But as a high school physics teacher, I believe it would be a great disservice and fallacy to teach students that a perfectly valid faith constitutes scientific knowledge.

Reading these statements help cut through the fog of bamboozlement currently being laid down out by the creationist and intelligent design forces that have coalesced around the case. Read it here.


Niall Shanks to Speak at WSU

Niall Shanks, the Curtis D. Gridley Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science at Wichita State University will deliver a free public lecture “Cellular Darwinism: Medicine in the Light of Evolution” at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5 in 107 Devlin Hall on the Wichita State University campus.

For further information contact Keith Pickus of the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at 316-978-7791.

This lecture will address the implications of evolutionary mechanisms for events that take place within the populations of cells and organisms,” said Shanks. “This can include the operation of the immune system, diseases such as cancer, and events such as brain development.”

Shanks was appointed to the new tenured faculty position, which was made possible by a gift from alumnus Curtis Gridley, following a national search. He started teaching at WSU this fall. His faculty appointment is split between the departments of history and philosophy.

Shanks’ current research interests include the theoretical issues in the biological and biomedical sciences. He is the author of three books, of which the latest is “God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory.”

Friday, September 23, 2005


Orwell Comes to Dover

"While Discovery Institute opposes efforts to mandate the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, it even more strongly objects to the ACLU's Orwellian efforts to shut down classroom discussions of intelligent design through government-imposed censorship," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, the Seattle-based intelligent design think tank in a news release, issued late yesterday, on the Dover intelligent design trial.

Let's clear one thing up, right away. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which is scheduled to open in federal court in Harrisburg, Penn. Sept. 26, is being brought by a group of 11 parents whose children attend school in the district, not by the ACLU.

Further, after the school board voted 6-3 to instruct teachers to tell students, falsely, there are gaps and problems in Darwin's theory of evolution, and to tell them that intelligent design was an alternative theory to evolution, the seven biology teachers at Dover High School refused to read the statement.

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District has nothing to do with government imposed censorship, and everything to do with parents who do not want their children proselytized by right-wing religious fanatics in science classrooms. Although teachers are no longer directly involved in the case, a victory for the parents will also protect teachers, who take their responsibility to teach students the difference between fact and fantasy seriously, from reprisals by the board.

The truth is, the Discovery Institute's news release amounts to something less than a convincing indictment of the ACLU. A close reading, in fact, reveals the news release, itself, to be a near perfect example of Orwellian doublespeak.

The term Orwellian is normally taken to mean the manipulation of language for political ends, usually by inverting the accepted definition of words.

So, our intelligent design "theorists" tell us that science is dogma. Scientists are priests -- this of course at least partially reflects the unconscious (let's give them the benefit of the doubt here, shall we?) anti-Catholic biases of the mostly Protestant evangelicals who make up the bulk of creationist and intelligent design activists.

Theology is science. Science is atheism. The supernatural is natural.

Nowhere is the utter contempt in which the Discovery Institute, acting as Big Brother, holds its followers more clearly revealed than in their "Evolution is only a theory" argument.

The completely conscious distortion of the meaning of the words theory, fact, hypothesis can only happen in a context where movement leaders can be utterly confident that their followers will never bother to learn the truth, or, if they do, they can be counted on to keep their mouths shut. Stalin could have learned a lesson from these guys.

If the courts swallow the intelligent design argument -- made here by attorneys for the Thomas More Law Center, the sword as shield of people of faith as their web site would have it -- we will have advanced farther toward that Brave New World than at any other point in our history.

In the first country in history to grant religious freedom to all its people, doublethink will become the order of the day. Like Discovery's benighted followers, we will be forced to learn to embrace doublespeak without dissent as a minority of right-wing fundamentalists represent themselves to the rest of us as the one, the only, true religion. Religion will take over the schools and the government, and we will worship at their altar.


Dover and the Rift on the Right

An important part of the backstory in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which will open in federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Monday, September 26, is the exclusion of the Discovery Institute -- the most prominent proponent of intelligent design -- from the defense of what promises to be ID's first, and quite possibly precedent setting, legal test.

Late yesterday, the Discovery Institute issued a news release saying it "opposes on policy grounds the science education policy adopted by the Dover School District."
Discovery (the statement goes on to say) holds that a curriculum that aims to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories (rather than teaching an alternative theory, such as intelligent design) represents a common sense approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on.

The Discovery Institute, and attorneys for the right-wing fundamentalist Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the Dover School District have been exceptionally closed mouthed about the rift between them.

However, an article (subscription required) in the Sept. 16, issue of Science by Constance Holden, "ID Goes on Trial This Month in Pennsylvania School Case" gives a glimpse behind the curtain at what's going on:
The defense is now down to two scientists: Lehigh University biologist Michael J. Behe and Scott Minnich, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Neither would comment on the pending trial. Two prominent figures who agreed to be witnesses--Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute, a think tank that promotes ID, and mathematician William Dembski, a Discovery fellow--pulled out before they could be deposed, reportedly on orders from Discovery leadership. John West, associate director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture, would say only that there were "differences of opinion between lawyers."

But ID opponents think they know what's going on. "Discovery has been very cagey--they're worried about a big court defeat," says Joseph Conn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of the groups supporting the plaintiffs. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, says that the appearance of Dembski, editor of the latest edition of Of Pandas and People, would have allowed the plaintiffs to introduce the book into the trial and put ID front and center. Instead, Miller expects the defense to "present as small a target as possible," arguing that "the board did not teach ID and that they didn't even endorse it."

Of course, as Red State Rabble regulars are already aware, the board's statement specifically mentions that:
Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Re: Rita

Friend, RSR Reader, and fellow blogger, Bill F., writes to say he and his family were part of the mass exodus fleeing Houston as Hurricane Rita approaches landfall:
12tutufondue [Bill's Blog, RSR] is reporting from Austin, Texas where we arrived this morning more than bone tired after a 7 hour drive from Houston. Normally the 160 mile trip takes just under 3. It took us nearly an hour to cover the final mile up Highway 99 to connect to I-10, and the fastest we ever got on I-10 was 40 mph for a distance of less than a mile. Our average speed was about 5 mph. Fortunately for us, most people were going to San Antonio, so when we headed north on Highway 71 to Austin it was clear sailing, flankspeed, 70+ mph all the way. Today, we hear it's a 15 hour drive to Austin.

Bill promises to fill in the details on his blog in the morning. You might want to check it out. Not long ago, Heather Armstrong, who writes -- ranked No. 9 on the Technorati Top 100 -- described 12tutufondue as one of three blogs she thought deserved wider recognition. Bill, said Armstrong,
"can spin a yarn, whether it be about cooking filet mignon, or doing yard work, or describing his rocket scientist daughter. He offers up this really unique slice of life. Even his recipes are fun to read."

Bill is a man after our own heart. Fleeing the Rita's wrath, he nevertheless had time to think about intelligent design, and to pose a number of questions about design theorist extraordinaire Casey Luskin, including this one: "If the DI only wants to discuss "ID" in scientific circles, what's stopping them?

(Hey, maybe RSR is a little slow on the uptake, but we just noticed that DI and ID are a palindrome. More evidence for design?)


Putting Creationism Where it Belongs

"About once a month, Jerry Choate says, workers at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays find brochures in the restrooms promoting creationism over evolution," reports Joel Mathis in the Lawrence Journal-World.

Now, RSR's grandfather once told us his family kept a copy of the Sears Catalog in their privy for that purpose. We guess the catalog is no longer as widely available as it once was.


Kansas Museums Plan New Evolution Exhibits

Two Kansas natural history museums, the Sternberg in Hays and the Kansas University Museum of Natural History in Lawrence, plan new exhibitions focused on evolution, according to Joel Mathis, writing in the Lawrence Journal-World.

This November, KU will open “Explore Evolution,” a traveling exhibit that examines how evolution influences ongoing scientific research that "will look at how evolutionary theory is used in current scientific research — to explain changes in HIV, the adaptation of Galapagos finches and genetic ties between humans and chimpanzees. KU is one of six museums across the Midwest that helped sponsor the project."

RSR readers may also want to read "A Trip to the Museum" by Carl Zimmer, the author of several popular science books who writes frequently for the New York Times.
"Last year I was contacted by a team of scientists and museum exhibit designers to help put together a show about evolution. The result is Exploring Evolution, which is now opening at a string of state science museums... "


The Misinformation Train

Casey Luskin complains on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog that the "Darwinist Misinformation Train is Still Chugging Strong." Luskin writes that while there are ID proponents who have talked about the designer as being God...
... Darwinists always fail to inform the public of the many (if not an overwhelming majority of) instances where ID proponents make it excruciatingly clear that the designer cannot be identified by ID theory. Darwinists are thus still misrepresenting ID theory to the public because they make statements indicating that ID theory universally identifies the designer as God.

Isn't it possible, though, that the tactics employed by intelligent design advocates lead critics to believe, legitimately, that they are hiding their real beliefs about the identity of the designer from the public.

A case in point is being played out in Dover, Pennsylvania. A group of parents there are suing the school board for ordering that a statement be read in high school biology classes that says, in part,
"... Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence... Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, "Of Pandas and People," is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves."

A key issue in the Dover case, to be heard in federal court beginning Sept. 26, will be to decide what, exactly, was the school board's intent when it mandated reading the statement.

Determining intent became central to creationist and intelligent design challenges to teaching evolution in public schools following the 1987 Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578. In that case, the Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught every time evolution was taught was unconstitutional, because the law was designed to advance a particular religion.

However, the court also held that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."

So, what was the Dover board's intent? Was it secular or religious?

Some insight into how the court may view the board's intent may be gained by looking at a ruling handed down last January by Judge Clarence Cooper in a case involving the Cobb County school district in Georgia. Judge Cooper ordered the removal of evolution disclaimer stickers from textbooks there writing:
... the Sticker sends a message to those who oppose evolution for religious reasons that they are favored members of the political community, while the Sticker sends a message to those who believe in evolution that they are political outsiders.

... the distinction of evolution as a theory rather than a fact is the distinction that religiously motivated individuals have specifically asked school boards to make in the most recent anti-evolution movement, and that was exactly what parents in Cobb County did in this case. By adopting this specific language, even if at the direction of counsel, the County School Board appears to have sided with these religiously motivated individuals.

... the Sticker has already sent a message that the School Board agrees with the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists and creationists. The School Board has effectively improperly entangled itself with religion by appearing to take a position. Therefore, the Sticker must be removed from all of the textbooks into which it has been placed.

We are dealing with a textbook disclaimer sticker in Cobb County, and a verbal disclaimer in Dover, but the substance of both is nearly identical -- even down to the willfully perverse "it's only a theory" argument.

The school board -- represented by the Tomas More Law Center, which describes its mission as defending the religious rights of Christians -- claims its intent in ordering the statement read was entirely secular.

Even so, The York Dispatch quoted one board member, William Buckingham, as saying, ''Nearly 2,000 years ago, someone died on the cross for us. Shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?''

The tape recording of that board meeting has been destroyed -- in line with district policy, we're told -- and tape recordings of subsequent board meetings, while they have been preserved, have been withheld from the public.

Attorneys for the board have demanded, and the judge in the case has ordered, two reporters Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, a freelance writer for The York Dispatch, and Joseph Maldonado, a freelance writer for the York Daily Record, to testify about what they saw and heard at school board meetings.

Arguing that others heard the board members make such comments, the two newspapers have appealed the judges decision. The reporters have said they stand by the accuracy of their articles, and have decided that, if necessary, they will be held in contempt of court rather than testify.

The suppression of the tapes raises an interesting question. We are often told that "Darwinists" want to suppress the beliefs of intelligent design activists, such as those held by Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin, by keeping them out of science classrooms. But, when it comes to suppressing just exactly who they really believe The Designer is, nobody can beat intelligent design actvists.

The fact is, supporters of real science have legitimate reasons to question the sincerity of intelligent design activists. Court rulings give the intelligent design activists a strong motivation to conceal their intent from the rest of us. In fact, the intelligent design movement came into being shortly after the Aguillard decision. Internal documents -- such as the Discovery Institute Wedge Document -- give added support to the view that the public pronouncements of the intelligent design movement are out of sync with their private intentions. Further, it has been noted that when intelligent design activists believe they are speaking only to groups of committed supporters, they tend to sing out of a different hymn book than when they are speaking in public.

It is the obfuscation and suppression of information by intelligent design supporters that casts doubt among reasonable people about their real intentions. The misinformation train left the station from Seattle. Next stop, Dover.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Cowbirds, Parasitism, and Intelligent Design

Red State Rabble reader Neil M. was eating lunch at his desk, reading Scientific American, and thinking about the many spurious arguments for intelligent design coming out of Seattle's Discovery Institute when it suddenly occurred to him that -- huge though their brains may be -- the boys at Discovery could not possibly have come up with any of their many arguments for intelligent design in the absence actual science.

Behe, Dembski, and others talk about irreducible complexity, their favorite examples are the many proteins in the blood that are involved in clotting. They talk, also, about the structure of the eye, and bacterial flagella. They talk, and they talk, and they...

But, Neil asks, how would anyone know anything about the structure of the eye, or proteins in the blood, or even what a protein is, for that matter, without science?

Infallible though it may be, you can’t look any of these things up in the Bible.

This is an excellent point that set RSR to thinking:

Perhaps we should begin to think of intelligent design not as a theory, or an intuition, or even a glimmer in Behe's eye, but rather as a form of intellectual parasitism -- a half-baked concept become cowbird that propagates by laying its eggs in the nests of other birds leaving its young to be raised by the unfortunate hosts.

In the same way the cowbird slips into the nests of others to lay her eggs, dissolute intelligent design "theorists" want to drop their ill-formed idea off in science classrooms with a note pinned to its jacket -- "please take care of little so and so."

The intelligent design dilettante -- like the cowbird -- refuses to do the hard work of field or laboratory research to feed and clothe their gawky child. They refuse to nurture the little monster they've so crudely stitched together in that Frankensteinian laboratory in Seattle.

I'm told that robins push cowbird eggs out of their nests...


Reporters Say They Will Refuse to Testify in Dover Case

"Two York newspapers are appealing a judge's order for reporters to testify in the upcoming Dover Area School District intelligent design trial," reports Christina Kauffman of the York Dispatch.
"Bernhard-Bubb and Maldonado [the reporters ordered to testify, RSR] covered Dover Area School Board meetings last year when the board was discussing intelligent design. They quoted board members making religious statements that the board members now deny making...

"Both Bernhard-Bubb and Maldonado have stood by the accuracy of their articles. They have decided that, if necessary, they will [refuse to testify, and] be held in contempt of court... "


And, Speaking of Parasites...

Cyamids, small parasitic crustaceans, more commonly known as whale lice reveal that their hosts, right whales, split into three species 5-6 million years ago reports Alison Ross of BBC News.

Scientists at the University of Utah,

"extracted DNA and analysed certain genes found in the mitochondria, the tiny "power-stations" of cells.

This mtDNA, as it is known, has become a useful tool for studying evolution. It mutates - errors appear - at a steady rate, meaning it can be used as a "molecular clock" to investigate the history of a species.

The study, reported in the journal Molecular Ecology, gives an interesting picture of how geographic -- or, in this case oceanograpic -- boundaries can lead to speciation.

Of course, it's not nearly as valuable a contribution to science as a comparison of Mount Rushmore to the Rocky Mountains, nor is it as nearly as compelling as the notion that some things are sooo complex there's just no way they could have evolved. Novices shouldn't be fooled, either, just because the results of this new study are consistent with previous studies of right whales genes.

Evidence, smevidence as they say in Seattle.



"Just because the creator chose to give monkeys hair and eyes, etc., does not prove a thing for evolution. In fact, one could say humans even share some of the same "building blocks" with other animals and even plants! And I'm glad we do. Just think about it the next time you eat. If there wasn't (sic) some genetic similarities between humans and plants/animals, where would we get our nourishment?"

"To me, it seems that this all points to intelligent design ... so intelligent that who would say it could not have been done in six days? (Note to Stephen Meyer: Guess he didn't get the memo, eh?)

-- From a letter to the editor of the Sanford Herald by Dexter Adams.


Content Free Dogma

"Science teachers have their hands full teaching the things that we actually know about the world we live in," said Dr. Robert P. Kirshner, president of the American Astronomical Society, in a statement issued by the AAS yesterday, "They shouldn't be burdened with content-free dogma like Intelligent Design."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Kansas Education Commissioner: Experts Need Not Apply

The incredible incompetence of the right-wing -- brought into stark relief by FEMA's calamitous (non)response to Hurricane Katrina -- is alive and well on the Kansas School Board.

Last spring, Christian fundamentalist board members Steve Abrams, Kathy Martin, and the ever entertaining Connie Morris, rejected the expert advice of professional scientists and educators on the science standards committee and proposed instead a set of crudely antiscientific revisions designed to open the door to the supernatural in state science classes.

Next, born-again board members so embarrassed the National Association of State Boards of Education, the experts they hired to guide the search for a new Education Commissioner to replace Andy Tompkins, that they dropped out of the process. In a letter to the board, Brenda Lilienthal Welburn, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of State Boards of Education, complained of "irregularities" and of being "disparaged in the press" and of not being treated with "mutual respect" by the right-wingers who dominate the board.

Bill Wagnon, a voice for sanity on an increasingly unstable board, calls the withdrawal of the National Association of State Boards of Education a tragedy.

“All it did was indicate that once again this board majority is unwilling to accept expert advice,” says Wagnon, a member of the moderate minority on the board. “They’re pursuing a political agenda that marginalizes experts. … I fully expect them to select a commissioner that reflects the outrage and anger they have at schools.”


What it's All About

Here's the statement on intelligent design that Dover Area High School administrators are required to read to students at the start of biology lessons on evolution:

"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

"Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

"Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, "Of Pandas and People," is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

"With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments."

Monday, September 19, 2005


Gag Order?

"The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that represents many scholars who support intelligent design, opposes mandating it in public schools," notes an AP report, previewing the trial on a suit brought by a group of parents against Dover school board members who mandated teaching criticisms of evolution and an endorsement of intelligent design, there.

"Nevertheless, it [Discovery Institute, RSR] considers the Dover lawsuit an attempt to squelch voluntary debates over evolution.

"It's Scopes in reverse. They're going to get a gag order to be placed on teachers across the country," said institute senior fellow John West.

Of course, it's not at all voluntary when students find themselves in a classroom with a born-again teacher intent on evangelizing students -- that's what is more properly called indoctrination. Although it was many years ago, Red State Rabble vividly remembers our own experience with a creationist teacher and the evolution unit in our 10th grade biology class. Our public school teacher told us that Darwin was wrong, and the biblical story of Adam and Eve was right.

When we tried to make a case for evolution in class, the adolescent RSR was exiled to the library for the remainder of the unit. We were given a D for our trouble.

Contrary to what West says, there is no problem with voluntary debates over evolution. They go on all the time. West and his fellows at the Discovery Institute freely engage in them, and no one tries to stop them. Teachers are subject to no gag order. They may go into any public square in the country and talk about creationism, intelligent design, and evolution until the cows come home -- if they want to.

In school, however, teachers -- just like all the rest of us -- have professional responsibilities they must live up to. We give teachers an enormous amount of authority in shaping our children. We must be confident that when they are in science classes, they are teaching science, and not proselytizing our children.

Recently, we had a chance to sit down with a large group of science teachers in Western Kansas. They didn't complain about any gag order. And, like so many other teachers RSR has met over the years -- they were highly motivated and professional. They want to teach science to kids.

A ruling in the Dover case that bars creationists -- who have insinuated themselves on to school boards, many through stealth campaigns -- from mandating the teaching of pseudoscience to our children will be welcomed by the overwhelming majority of science educators.

If we really want to do something for teachers, let's give them a raise and provide them with adequate resources to do their jobs.


The Bitter Truth

Intelligent design supporters "seem to have shifted virtually entirely to political and rhetorical efforts to sway the general public," says Eugenie Scott. "The bitter truth is that there is no argument going on in the scientific community about whether evolution took place."

Scott will testify in the suit brought by parents against the Dover School District for mandating the reading of a statement endorsing intelligent design. The trial begins Sept. 26.

If you want an introduction to the Dover case, take a look at this article by Associated Press reporter Marth Raffael "'Intelligent design' debate takes center stage in federal court" on the website.


Child Soldiers in the War of Ideas

"Any Christian school worthy of the name teaches that God's revelation is the foundation for all true instruction and learning," says Paul Edgar, headmaster of Tri-City Christian Academy in Somersworth, New Hampshire.

Red State Rabble has always been struck by the utter reluctance of biblical literalists, their more refined city cousins, the intelligent design "theorists," and their acolytes on the Kansas Board of Education, to defend their ideas in front of an adult audience by doing research and publishing the results in the scientific literature.

On the other hand, they seem quite comfortable forcibly conscripting child soldiers to fight in their own quixotic war with science and modernity.

Chloe Johnson looks at the "[w]ar of ideas fought in the minds of state's youth," in a survey of science education in New Hampshire Christian schools in Foster's Online. The range, as you might expect, runs from crude indoctrination to an understanding that the "theory of evolution does not imply that there is no God."

If you want to know the future of Kansas public school education, you can preview it here.


Raising Eyebrows

"Most adult Sunday school classes don't raise eyebrows," writes Henry Brinton, the pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post, "but my church is planning to hold one that's sure to. It's called 'Evolution for Christians,' and it will be taught this winter by David Bush, a member of the church I lead... His view is that science and religion answer two different sets of questions about creation, with science answering the 'how' questions, and religion answering the 'why' ones. 'With a little bit of wisdom and tolerance on each side,' he tells me, 'I think they can complement rather than contradict each other.'"

We already know that one-sided presentations of creationism and intelligent design feature prominently in fundamentalist churches across the country. We also know the holier-than-thou crowd has a tendency to take the view that anyone who doesn't accept their particular literal reading of the Bible is, by definition, an atheist -- or, perhaps, a follower of the Anti-Christ.

That's why Red State Rabble believes it is critical for mainstream Protestants, Catholics, and Jews -- along with followers of other religions -- to begin to discuss this issue in their own churches, synagogues, or mosques.

Defending science is crucial for believers and non-believers alike. Modern society simply can't function without it.

We also think it's important for the followers of mainstream religious thought to take up the gauntlet thrown down by the fundamentalists. Red State Rabble is by nature skeptical, and that makes it difficult for us to give advice to those who do believe. However, if we were believers, we would not take kindly to others telling us that our God and our beliefs aren't as good as theirs.

And here's a bit of shameless self-promotion along these lines: Red State Rabble will part of the St. Paul’s Speakers Series on Hot Topics on Oct. 16 at 9:30 a.m. in the Adult Space of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, located at 7740 Lackman in Lenexa.

John Calvert, a representative of the Intelligent Design Network and a leader of the movement to introduce intelligent design into the Kansas public school science curriculum, will speak the week before. We hope the good folks at St. Paul's will ask Mr. Calvert what he thinks of Christians, like themselves, who attend church regularly and support teaching real science in our public schools.


Agronomy, Crop, and Soil Sciences Societies Issue Statement Backing Evolution

The 2005 Executive Committees of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) are concerned by President Bush's support for teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in K-12 science classes. They have prepared the following position statement in support of teaching evolution:

Intelligent design is not a scientific discipline and should not be taught as part of the K-12 science curriculum. Intelligent design has neither the substantial research base, nor the testable hypotheses as a scientific discipline. There are at least 70 resolutions from a broad array of scientific societies and institutions that are united on this matter. As early as 2002, the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) unanimously passed a resolution critical of teaching intelligent design in public schools.

The intelligent design/creationist movement has adopted the lamentable strategy of asking our science teachers to "teach the controversy" in science curriculums, as if there were a significant debate among biologists about whether evolution underpins the abundant complexity of the biological world. We believe there is no such controversy.

The fundamental tenet of evolution – descent with modification – is accepted by the vast majority of biologists. The current debates within the research community deal with the patterns and processes of evolution, not whether the evolutionary principles presented by Darwin in 1859 hold true. These debates are similar to those surrounding the relativistic nature of gravitational waves. No one doubts the existence of gravity just because we are still learning how it works; evolution is on an equally strong footing.

The discussion of life’s spirituality is most appropriate for philosophy or religion classes. It is a mistake to conclude that reluctance to incorporate spiritual questions in science classes runs counter to the cherished principle that vigorous challenge is vital to the scientific method.

In all scientific fields, including evolutionary biology, challenge has always been essential and welcomed. Scientific challenge succeeds if it is methodical and findings are verified to the satisfaction of the scientific community. This has not happened with creationism either with or without its new label "intelligent design." President Bush, by suggesting that we use intelligent design as a scientific counterpoint to the teaching of evolutionary biology, is unwittingly undermining the scientific method at its core. This is most unfortunate in an era when U.S. students are already lagging behind their international peers in science education.

This Position Statement is an expression of the official position taken by the 2005 Executive Committees of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America on the issue of evolution. This statement serves to summarize the scientific aspects of this issue and serves as official viewpoint of the 2005 ASA-CSSA-SSSA Executive Committees that can be shared with others.

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) are educational organizations helping their 10,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy, crop and soil sciences by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Eugenie Scott to Speak in Bloomington Sept. 21

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education and a prominent defender of teaching evolution in school classrooms, will give a free public talk, "The Pillars of Creationism and the Teaching of Evolution," at the Indiana University Auditorium in Bloomington on Wednesday, Sept. 21, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The event is sponsored by 19 Bloomington campus groups.


K-State Speakers Series Announced

The Center for the Understanding of Origins at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas has announced its visiting speaker program for the Fall:

September 28th, 7:00 pm
Dr. John Haught, Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University will give a public lecture, "God After Darwin: Evolution and Divine Providence" at the Alumni Center

September 29th, 1:00 pm
Dr. John Haught, Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University will give a seminar talk,“Science, Theology and the Origin of Life” in the Little Theater in the Student Union

October 5th, 3:30 – 5:30pm
Dr. Professor Massimo Pigliucci, from the Department of Ecology and Evolution at SUNY Stony Brook will give a public lecture, "Evolution: is it a logical fallacy?" in the Flint hills Room in the Student Union

October 7th 10:00 am
Dr. Craig Nelson, a Professor of Biology at Indiana University in Bloomington will give a public lecture “Effective Strategies for Teaching Evolution and Other Controversial Issues” in the Hemisphere Room in Hale Library

November 8th, 7:00pm

Dr. Simon Conway Morris, a Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University in the UK will give a public lecture, “Why the Evolution of Humans is Inevitable?" in the Flint Hills Room in the Student Union

November 10th, 7:00 pm
Dr. Michael Ruse, the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Program in History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University will give a public lecture, “Darwinism and Atheism: A Marriage made in Heaven?” in the Alumni Center

Saturday, September 17, 2005


DI's Martyr Complex

"When I called the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, intelligent design's intellectual home base," writes Patrick Kennedy, a sophomore chemistry and political science major, in the Johns Hopkins Newsletter, "nobody -- not the researchers, not public relations, not the front desk -- could so much as outline an experiment pertaining to the explanations their organization has promoted since 1996."

Kennedy also takes a look at Discovery's martyr complex and finds it less than convincing:
The downtrodden revolutionary status that intelligent design's disciples love to claim is sketchy at best. After all, few scientific martyrs have been openly supported by the president of the United States, the Senate majority leader and cardinals from the Catholic Church.


Some Christian Schools Report No Problems With UC

Some Christian High Schools have no problems with the University of California admissions policy, reports Jim Curran, a staff writer for the North County Times [California].

The University of California system is being sued by a group of Christian schools for refusing admission to students who take some science courses that use certain popular Christian textbooks, including those published by Bob Jones University Press.

An interesting article that gives some details about UC's review process that have not been reported elsewhere.


Dover Factoid

In the past year, the Dover school board -- which voted in October to make a statement casting doubt on evolution and in support of intelligent design part of the district's high school biology curriculum -- has appointed members to six empty seats because of resignations.

Friday, September 16, 2005



At the Northwest area school board meeting in Pennsylvania last night, they debated evolution vs. intelligent design. Board member Randy Tomasacci wants the district to teach ID there.

Now the Discovery Institute in Seattle often complains that the news media falsely conflates intelligent design with creationism. We wonder how far they will go to counter that impression among their own supporters?

Take this for example, from last night's meeting, reported in the Citizen's Voice by Tom Long:

Terri Muhlenberg has two children in the district and two that graduated from Northwest Area. She doesn't like that her kids are taught only evolution, which she doesn't believe. At the very least, Muhlenberg "would like to seem them (evolution and intelligent design) taught back to back," getting equal class time.

Muhlenberg said intelligent design seemed to be the same thing as Creationism, which she teaches her children at home."It is the same thing," she said. "In my opinion, it's the politically correct."


G. Daniel Harden, or How to FEMAize Kansas Education Without Really Trying

G. Daniel Harden, an education professor at Washburn University, is also a finalist for the post of Kansas Education Commissioner.

A visit to G. Daniel's website -- Traditional Education in The Year of Our Lord 2005 -- tells you all you need to know about him. High up, he quotes Charles Paguy, the 19th Century French Poet:
"We will never know how many acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of appearing not sufficiently progressive."
Rest assured, G. Daniel is not motivated by that fear.

"I find," notes our G. Daniel, "National Review Online and The Washington Times to be of daily interest and the others [Drudge, WorldNetDaily, Kansas Taxpayers Network, Enter Stage Right, etc., RSR] to be worthy of periodic visitation.

G. Daniel is bound to have close and fruitful relations with Kansas teachers and parents of school children. He helpfully provides an approving link to the Education Policy Institute which features an no holds barred expose of the infamous, wait for it... PTA.

The Politics of the PTA by Charlene K. Haar is featured on the EPI web site. It is described as:
[A] fascinating account of the transformation of the National PTA from a mothers-only organization to an NEA-dominated one that explicitly denies that it is an educational organization. In fact, as Haar shows, the PTA has adopted policies that prohibit local and state affiliates from challenging union positions on the issues of greatest concern to parents. Consequently, on issues of concern to parents, the PTA does not and cannot represent parents whenever parent interests conflict with teacher union interest, as is often the case.

[Disclosure: Mrs. RSR is a PTA President]

RSR readers can rest assured that the right-wingers who run the board will choose one of these two Neanderthals -- G. Daniel or Corkins.

After all, as board chair Steve Abrams told the Lawrence Journal-World, “... do I want someone who agrees with us philosophically? Of course, we’d like to do that.”

What Bush did so successfully to FEMA, the Kansas Board of Education now proposes to do to the state's school system. The hurricane of incompetence may well be enough to destroy education in Kansas -- no Katrina-like disaster will be required.

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