Friday, December 30, 2005


Wiggle Room

Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa, is locked in a tight re-election race with Pennsylvania State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat. Currently, Santorum, the incumbent, trails Casey by 12 points in public opinion polls.

In a 2002 newspaper op-ed piece, Santorum called intelligent design "a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes."

"But the day after a federal judge ruled the Dover, Pa., school board's policy on intelligent design unconstitutional, Santorum said he was withdrawing from the advisory board of the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which defended the district's policy. He said he never thought teachers should be required to teach intelligent design," according to Associated Press reporter Kimberly Hefling.

We are beginning to see some conservative politicians, such as Santorum, and Jeb Bush in Florida, back away slightly from public support for intelligent design. It will be interesting to watch them maneuver to retain support from their fundamentalist base without alienating mainstream voters in the coming months.


Potemkin Village

Gina Passarella reports on Pepper Hamilton attorneys Eric Rothschild and Stephen G. Harvey who represented the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board intelligent design case in
"The science is just a facade, a Potemkin village," Rothschild said.

He said the biggest challenge for his team was deconstructing the defense's argument that intelligent design is a science.

"The argument that intelligent design qualifies as science is incredibly weak," Harvey said. "Intelligent design doesn't even qualify as bad science -- it's not science."

"They have manufactured a controversy in the public arena and then insisted that it should be taught," he said.


Pretzel Logic

In, a project of Frontiers of Freedom, Jim Jordan writes that "[w]e live in an era of pretzel logic."

The discovery of DNA, says Jordan, "was a terrible blow to Evolution... DNA started out as something much simpler which evolved into DNA. This pre-DNA then disappeared without a trace. There is no evidence for this."

"For the sake of disclosure, [adds Jordan] I believe that religion should be taught in the classroom, but not in science class."



Dover Board to Vote on ID Policy

Christina Kauffman reports in the York Dispatch that the newly elected Dover Area School Board is expected to vote Jan. 3 to rescind the intelligent design policy enacted by board members who lost their seats in the November election.

Judge John Jones III ruled the policy unconstitutional earlier this month.

In other Dover news, a re-vote has been ordered by a Court of Common Pleas Judge between candidates James Cashman, a board member who voted for the intelligent design policy, and Bryan Rehm, a physics teacher, plaintiff in the Kitzmiller case, and member of the pro-science Dover CARES slate, because of a faulty voting machine.


An Odd Argument for Conservatives to Make

The argument that imposing objective standards infringes on believers’ freedom of speech, says an editorial in The Forward, a Jewish newspaper published in New York, "is a common one among opponents of science and their conservative defenders. This week, in response to the Pennsylvania ruling, the nation’s editorial pages were filled with libertarian-sounding arguments that Judge Jones’s decision amounts to an assault on intellectual pluralism and denies parents the right to teach their children their own way of seeing the world."

"It’s an odd argument for conservatives to make. For three decades they’ve been calling for standards, railing against the possibility of multiple realities and blaming woolly-headed liberals for spreading the notion that knowledge is relative. It turns out that the greatest single threat to intellectual standards comes from their own backyard."


Ken Miller: The Collapse of Intelligent-Design

Kenneth R. Miller, will speak at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland on "The Collapse of Intelligent-Design… Will the next Monkey Trial be in Ohio?"

Miller was the star witness in the recent Dover “Panda Trial” in Pennsylvania where Judge John E Jones found “intelligent-design” to be a religious view, not science. He is the author of a bestselling high school biology textbook that was subject to the Cobb County disclaimer sticker that warned students that evolution was “a theory, not a fact.” The stickers were removed by court order in 2005. Miller is also author of the bestseller, Finding Darwin’s God.

The talk will be held on Tuesday, January 3, in Strosacker Auditorium on the Case Campus at 7:00 pm. It is free and open to the public. The event will be webcast at RSR hopes to get more details on the webcast. We'll report them when we do.


Thin, Naive, Disappointing, Flat Wrong: Did We Leave Anything Out?

"Gov. Jeb Bush staked out a curious position on a hot-button issue last week: Florida's K-12 science standards need beefing up, he said. But Darwin's theory of evolution should not be part of them," reports Ron Matus of the St. Petersburg Times-State.

Not surprisingly, the Fordham Institute calls Florida's standards "thin," "naive," "disappointing" - and in some cases, flat wrong.

"The superficiality of the treatment of evolutionary biology alone justifies the grade "F,' " it says. "But there is in any case scant mitigation elsewhere in these documents."

Thursday, December 29, 2005


ID at the Crossroads: Dover, Dembski, and the Demise of Uncommon Descent

ID theorist William Dembski has announced he will put his blog, Uncommon Descent, into mothballs indefinitely, in order to test design detection gear jointly developed by teams from the Discovery Institute and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dembski is seen, above, testing a prototype device.

William Dembski, one of the best known advocates for intelligent design in the country, announced a couple of days back that he'd decided to put his blog, Uncommon Descent, into mothballs indefinitely. In the same post, Dembski advised his readers to watch for, which he expects will provide a suitable antidote to the Dover trial."

Saying that Dembski is one of the best known advocates for intelligent design probably understates his significance to that tatty band of true believers, better known as the brotherhood of bible college biologists, by several orders of magnitude.

Dembski's influence in ID circles should not be underestimated. His acolytes refer to him as the "Isaac Newton of information theory," a designation he hasn't bothered to correct. Perhaps because he wants to spare coarser souls -- such as the readers of this blog -- from exposure to a less than convincing display of false modesty.

Red State Rabble has always thought that being hailed as the Issac Newton of information theory by intelligent design advocates was a bit like being called the Captain Cook of exploration by the flat earth society. The accolade, it seems to us, says rather more about the pool from which the talent is drawn than the actual accomplishments of the recipient so honored.

Although Red State Rabble claims no access to Dembski's inner thoughts, we do find it significant that he announced his intention to end the publication of his blog so soon after the Dover decision. That impression is strengthened by his offering a "suitable antidote to the Dover trial."

The sad fact for ID advocates is that there is no suitable antidote. The game is up. Men such as Howard Ahmanson who have bankrolled the Discovery Institute, where Dembski is a senior fellow, will be looking at their investments over the coming months and asking themselves hard questions about the likely payout.

That the news out of Dover is grim beyond all belief for the ID crowd has been convincingly demonstrated by the feverish output on the Evolution News and Views blog since the decision. No, matter how Discovery spins the decision, in the end all they've succeeded in proving is that you can't spin a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Red State Rabble, for one, will miss Uncommon Descent. That's because, on days when the news was slow to provide inspiration for a post with a good belly laugh, Dembski's blog was our go-to site.

They say that in every cloud there is a silver lining. Perhaps, will replace Dembski's old blog as a source of inspiration for bloggers like ourselves, students of the human condition, who want add a touch of humor to their posts.

Certainly, the title of the new blog gives us great hope that it will be up to the task.

Thanks to reader SC for prodding us to write about this, something we were intitially slow to do.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Laughably Misguided

The New York Times' Cornelia Dean reports that scientists "have long marshaled heavy intellectual weapons in their battle to keep creationism and its cousin, intelligent design, out of the nation's public schools.

... "now guerrilla forces are joining the fray, with an unorthodox weapon: laughter.

"On Web sites, with games and in silly songs, they advance the idea that creationism and its doctrinal relative, intelligent design, are not just misguided - they are laughably misguided."

Here's an example from Dean's piece: "Marching Song of the Incompetents," by Donald U. Wise, an emeritus professor of geology at the University of Massachusetts, which describes the ills to which the human body is prey, as a result from the way evolution produced Homo sapiens from our hominid ancestors. It's sung to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic:"

My bones proclaim a story of incompetent design
My back still hurts, my sinus clogs, my teeth just won't align
If I had drawn the blueprint I would certainly resign
Incompetent Design!
Evo-Evo-Evolution. Design is but a mere illusion
Darwin sparked our revolution. Science shall prevail!


That's All, Folks

"Backers of 'intelligent design' have been advising school boards to avoid lawsuits by encouraging criticism of evolution rather than mandating that students learn about intelligent design," according to a report from USA Today. "But a judge's ruling last week has given ammunition to those fighting challenges to evolution in three states."

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, the leading proponent of ID, told Dover its policy would invite a lawsuit. Instead, the think tank urges schools to "teach the controversy" about evolution without mandating intelligent design.

That's the approach several boards are taking. Jones tried to drive a stake through it.

"This tactic is at best disingenuous and at worst a canard," he wrote. "The goal of (ID) is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID."

... Richard Katskee, a lawyer for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says lawsuits are possible in Kansas and Ohio if voters or board members don't bring about change.

"They've taken the plan from ID without using the label," he says of the two states. "That plan is really about attacking evolution. That's all there is to ID."


Ooh... Twisted, Baby!

Our old friend, John Calvert, retired Lake Quivira attorney and founder of the ID Network, who represented the intelligent design forces at science hearings in Topeka last May, says Judge John Jones decision in the Dover case is ''twisted'' and said it converts evolution ''into an ideology,'' according to Associated Press writer John Hanna.

"So what is the significance of the decision for Kansas?" asks Hannah.

''This is a sweeping and bold decision that I think ought to make states, including Kansas, rethink any promotion of intelligent design,'' said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

''It'd be pretty hard to fit the Kansas policy in between the lines of this decision [adds Lynn]...

''What we're trying to do is simply to give teachers permission to open up the discussion,'' Calvert said...

... Lynn said, the board isn't helping its case with the disclaimer saying the standards don't promote intelligent design.

''I don't think that such a statement passes the laugh test,'' Lynn said.

Take a look at the article, there's more analysis in Hanna's report about Dover-Kansas connection.


Florida Feels the Effects of Hurricane Dover

Daniel A. Ricker, who writes the "Watchdog Report" for the Miami Herald reports on comments by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on intelligent design in the wake of the Dover decision. According to Ricker, Bush wants the science standards to become more rigorous -- and raising the standards should take priority over discussing whether intelligent design has a place in the public schools' curriculum.

Does Bush believe in Darwin's theory of evolution?

"Yeah, but I don't think it should actually be part of the curriculum, to be honest with you," Bush replied. "And people have different points of view and they can be discussed at school, but it does not need to be in the curriculum.''

Thanks to reader Gerry Lukos, who publishes the Evolutionary Times blog for the tip.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Bacon Picks the Next Windmill

A Hutchinson News editorial says board member John Bacon should return the $500 he billed the taxpayers to attend the Worldview Conference at the Free Methodist Church on the campus of Central Christian College, Nov. 11 and 12.

"The conference offered nothing relevant to the operation of public schools," says The Hutch News editorial. "Will Kansas taxpayers pay state board members to attend religious retreats and worship services?"

While Red State Rabble is sympathetic to the editorial's point of view, we're not so sure they're correct in saying the conference offered nothing relevant to the operation of public schools.

Now that the board has so successfully re-defined science, shouldn't we anticipate that they may be planning to turn their attention to the history curriculum?

Just as the board leaned on the ID Network and the Discovery Institute when it wanted to write ID inspired criticisms of evolution into the science standards, they may now be planing to rely on David Barton, a fundamentalist who makes a living attacking separation of church and state, and a keynote speaker at Bacon's Worldview Conference, to help them re-write the history curriculum.

According to Sourcewatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, Barton is credited with making up quotes and putting them in the founding Father's mouths. Here's an example of one Barton falsely attributes to James Madison:

"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."

That quote has been proven completely bogus, but it still circulates in Christian Right circles.

Why should the board stop at placing ID inspired criticisms of evolution in the science curriculum, when they have the power to write fundamentalist fantasy into the history curriculum, as well?

The fact is, the theocrats on the state school board fully intend to replace public education with religious indoctrination. After all, church-state separation -- like the theory of evolution -- is just a liberal myth.

Ah, the board has so much to do and, with any luck, so little time to do it.


Pants on Fire

U.S. Middle District Attorney Thomas A. Marino says testimony in the Dover Area School District's intelligent design case is under review to determine if perjury charges should be pursued.

In his ruling, Judge John E. Jones III wrote that former board members Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham, leading proponents of the intelligent design policy, "lied at their Jan. 3, 2005, depositions about their knowledge of the source of the donation for Pandas..., This mendacity was a clear and deliberate attempt to hide the source of the donations by [Bonsell and Buckingham] to further ensure that Dover students received a creationist alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution."

Why is it that biblical literalists -- self-proclaimed experts at interpreting the Bible -- have such trouble understanding a simple, straightforward phrase such as, "Thou shalt not bear false witness... ?


Barbara Forrest Profile

Debra Lemoine has written a profile of Barbara Forrest and her work on the Dover intelligent design case in The Advocate:

When a federal judge in Pennsylvania banned public schoolteachers from offering intelligent design as an alternative theory to evolution last week, he relied heavily on the work of a Southeastern Louisiana University professor and Hammond native.

A proponent and product of Hammond public schools, philosophy Professor Barbara Forrest says her work to debunk intelligent design stems from her desire to protect the integrity of public education.

"It's because of the good education I got in the public schools here that I am able to
do what I do," she said.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Selling Charter Schools

When he was appointed Kansas Education Commissioner, Bob Corkins, a man with zero experience or training in the field of education, knew he needed help. So, Corkins put together a transition team to teach him how to do his job.

Before stepping up to his big payday as Education Commissioner -- Corkins now makes more than the Governor -- he was a lobbyist. His stock in trade was scratching politicians backs and retailing the hard right's low-tax gospel to the legislature. In short, he was a salesman.

Corkins may not know much about curriculum development, teacher training, or managing a large government department, but he does know sales. Just a few weeks into the job, he and his transition team are already selling vouchers and charter schools with the dogged persistence of aluminum siding salesmen.

Our schools need the product they're moving -- known as as "scholarships" and "school choice" in the tortured language so favored by the theocrats on the state board of education -- like small Kansas towns need a second WalMart.

Looking past their well-polished shoes, Winston Brooks, the Wichita superintendent of schools, noticed something odd about Corkins' sales team advisers: they all live within a few miles of I-70. None lives farther west than Abilene. And, one lives in Missouri.

But, that doesn't mean Corkins doesn't have something to sell folks in those parts of the state that went unrepresented on his transition team.

"In rural areas," Corkins says charter schools "could be the best insurance policy against further consolidation."

In many parts of rural Kansas, the population has been declining for years. Some Kansas counties reached their maximum population over 100 years ago. In some places, the population density is just five people per square mile, making it difficult to support infrastructure such as governments, roads, education, and health care.

This has forced difficult decisions -- including school consolidations -- on people who remain behind in small towns across Kansas.

Red State Rabble has been through school consolidation discussions and knows there's nothing easy about them. Students face long bus rides to attend schools in other towns. Distance prevents parents from interacting with teachers and attending their children's extra-curricular activities. Teachers, administrators, and school staff lose their jobs, further eroding the local economies. High school sports teams that provide an identity to many small towns disappear.

That's why introducing the suggestion that charter schools might prevent further school consolidation in rural areas into these wrenching discussions, as Corkins, the transition team, and the conservative majority on the board have done, is an especially cynical ploy, even for a state school board that cut its teeth selling the idea that biblical literalism is science and science is religious dogma.

The low-tax crowd that now runs education in Kansas says that charter schools and vouchers will bring much needed competition to the state-run public education monopoly. Competition will spark innovation. Innovation will force new efficiencies on a bloated bureaucracy. Efficiency will lower costs. Taxes will go down.

The Republican Revolution's tax-cut mania, coupled with an inability to cut government spending, is leading to ever higher, possibly unsustainable, deficits in Washington. Likewise, Corkin,s promise to stem the tide of school consolidations with charter schools in small town Kansas can't be reconciled with his -- and the board's -- opposition to higher school funding.

If the state school board is given the power to approve charter schools -- a power that now resides with local school boards in Kansas-- newly consolidated public schools with be robbed. The efficiency of consolidation will not be achieved because small, unregulated charter schools will siphon off at least some students and revenue.

Small towns with dwindling populations that can no longer support quality public schools will sprout poor-quality, unregulated charter schools instead.

The irony in this situation is that the board, completely persuaded by the supposed virtues of creation science and intelligent design, is utterly convinced that unfettered competition will inevitably lead to adaptation and survival of the fittest among public and private schools.

Rejecting Darwin's theory of evolution as an explanation for the origin of species, they nevertheless embrace Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism in relations between human beings. But adding another hungry competitor to the contest for the meager resources remaining in rural Kansas is not likely to lead to survival of the fittest, instead it will lead to starvation and eventual extinction of what once was one of the best school systems in the country.

Truth is, Corkin's sales pitch is nothing but a snow job.


Curses, Foiled Again!

Red State Rabble spent the holiday weekend twirling our handlebar mustache, thinking dark thoughts, and muttering "curses" and "drat" under our breath. Despite all the careful planning and effort, our war against Christmas was an utter failure. As Frank Rich observes in the New York Times (sub. req.):
Secularists, Jews, mainline Protestants and all the other grinches failed utterly to take Kriss Kringle down. Except at those megachurches that canceled services today rather than impede their flocks' giving and gorging, Christmas is alive and well everywhere in America. Last night NBC even rolled the dice and broadcast "It's a Wonderful Life" in prime time. With courage reminiscent of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's defiance of Stalin, the network steadfastly refused to redub the final scene's cries of "Merry Christmas!" with the godless "Happy holidays!"

Frank Rich, former theater critic for the Times, is currently the keenest observer of the intersection between culture, politics, and religion: the farce that's playing just now in places like Washington, Dover, and Topeka.


Science Fiction

An image from Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong.

The list of subjects ID theorists, such as William Dembski, don't know anything about is seemingly endless. Somehow, though, that never stops them from lecturing the rest of us about just how wrong we are.

A case in point, is a recent post on Dembski's Uncommon Design blog, "When Will Sci-Fi Push Evolution’s Envelope?" Here, Dembski quotes yet another "unnamed acquaintance" to the effect that,
“Sci-Fi authors have no problem pushing the envelope on physics, chemistry, astrophysics, cosmology, planetology, genetics, nanotech, biotech, neurotechnology, information technology, longevity, robotics, xenology etc. They regularly eat Einstein, or the speed-of-light barrier, for breakfast. But one staple of modern science is consistently taken for granted, never questioned, never paradigm shifted, pushed beyond its current state: the Neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution. In the science-fiction literature, every thing seems to evolve: physics, politics, language, culture, philosophy, fashion, morality, religion, entertainment, transportation, music, psychology, sociology, etc. etc. But there’s one glaring exception: the science and theory of biological evolution! How ironic. The science and theory evolution itself is an axiomatic constant.”
Like the fuzzy math that lies at the heart of "specified complexity" this statement employs rather fuzzy logic itself. Is there really a difference in the way science fiction writers, and the movie-makers who adapt their work, treat evolution?

No examples of "pushing the envelope" of the other sciences mentioned in Dembski's post are offered, probably because no thought was given to what they might be.

We can think of many examples of plot devices and science fiction themes drawn from science. The time travel plot device, for example, makes use of the special theory of relativity to add verisimilitude, but how have science fiction writers and directors paradigm shifted it? Neither Dembski or his unnamed acquaintance tell us.

Certainly, science fiction books and movies don't ignore evolution. In fact, the theory of evolution seems to have been just as productive an idea for writers and directors as it has for scientists. A number of books and blockbuster movies over the years -- The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park and its sequels, King Kong, come to mind -- use evolution as a plot device.

Never paradigm shifted? What about "Planet of the Apes" where space travelers kept in suspended animation return to the Earth of the future to find their friends and family long since dead, and the human race subjugated by highly evolved -- if still hairy -- apes.

What about "War of the Worlds" where highly advanced invaders initially overcome Earth's defenses, only to be defeated by the infectious microorganisms humans have become immune to through adaptation.

Didn't "Godzilla" push evolution beyond its current state in the 50s (and today) by examining what effect nuclear testing might have on the biosphere. Isn't the plot of Jurassic Park set in motion by a scientist who uses dinosaur DNA preserved in the gut of a mosquito encased in amber to bring long extinct species back to life.

In "Star Trek," Captain Kirk urges his engineer, Scotty, to boost the engines into a kind of hyper warp drive -- riffing off Einstein by going faster than the speed of light -- to go back in time, while Dr. McCoy instantly heals injured crew members by employing futuristic, evolution-based, bio-technology.

Red State Rabble readers will be able to think of a hundred more examples.

Over the years, evolution has been a very fertile soil for both scientist and writer, alike. RSR can't wait -- though we won't hold our breath -- until Demski and this fellows come up with anything that inspires either research or writing.

"ID: The Movie!" isn't likely ever to be made, though, because ID is for people who want to stop thinking. They want certainty. They demand assurances.

Evolution, on the other hand, is for creative types. People who like a challenge. People who do science, write books, make movies, and live in the reality-based world.

In the end, Dembski's post reflects, more than anything else, the loneliness of the ID position. If, as Dembski's unnamed acquaintance asserts, no one is pushing the envelope of evolution in science fiction, perhaps there's a reason.

As much as we'd like to, we can't help the ID theorists overcome the loneliness imposed by the intellectual territory they've staked out. Except, perhaps, by suggesting that Dembski, and his unnamed acquaintances, get out more -- read a good book, see a movie.

Friday, December 23, 2005


Help Wanted

Yesterday, Red State Rabble turned 11 months old. The first day we were online, Jan. 22, we got just 23 hits. It took nearly a month before we topped 100. Today, RSR averages about 1,000 hits a day, and we expect to top 200,000 hits by the time we turn 1 year old, next month.

We know our yearly total amounts to a very slow day for the biggest blogs, but it still seems like an amazing number to Red State Rabble, who started out in writing by publishing an anti-war student newsletter on a mimeograph machine way back in the 60s.

We want to celebrate our first anniversary, not by patting ourselves on the back, but by making Red State Rabble better. Over the next month we'll be evaluating, in a serious way, what we can do improve the site and to make it more valuable to our readers -- both present and future.

And, we'd like your help.

Please drop us a note, or leave a comment, telling us what you like and -- and perhaps more importantly -- don't like about RSR. Are there other issues we're giving short shrift to now, you'd like to see covered in the future? What sort of posts do you look forward to. What leaves you scratching your head and asking, "What the ... "

In general, do you look forward to reading the longer, more in-depth posts, or do you prefer short, to-the-point pieces? Too much local coverage, or not enough? Got an idea we're too dumb to ask about? Is there something about RSR that drives you crazy? Let us know.

From the large volume of correspondence we get from our readers, we know you are well educated, and very well-informed. We value you as readers. Please take the time to let us know how we can make Red State Rabble more useful and more entertaining.


New Battlefield

In an article published in The Guardian (UK) titled "Court defeat fails to deter intelligent design backers," Julian Borger reports from Washington that, "Both sides are looking to Kansas as the most likely new battlefield in the culture war over education."


ID in Kansas: Far From Resolved

"Judge Jones has drawn a clear legal line between science and belief that may be the basis for litigation in Kansas. Or Kansans may keep this issue out of the courts by seeking — as Dover, Pa., voters did — a political resolution to the controversy and simply removing board members who are pushing to inject non-science into science classrooms," observes the Lawrence Journal-World in an editorial.

"With the added fuel provided by the Pennsylvania ruling it seems that the evolution controversy in Kansas — whether it is dealt with by political or legal means — is far from resolved."

Far from resolved. Got that right.


Reign of Terror

"This decision [the Dover ruling, RSR] is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito," said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a political ally of White House adviser Karl Rove. "This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries -- if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung."

Friend of Karl Rove. President of Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Maybe they do have a sense of humor after all.


Timing is Everything

One of the things we've learned, both in Kansas and Dover, is that intelligent design proponents are reading challenged. Apparently, the aversion to reading among the ID theorists extends to Missouri, as well.

How else might we explain why -- just one day after Judge John Jones ruled in Dover that teaching ID in public schools is unconstitutional -- Missouri State Legislator Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, announced she will re-introduce a bill requiring biology textbooks sold to public schools to have one chapter containing a critical analysis of origins.

Davis, Missouri's ethics-challenged answer to Connie Morris, introduced the same bill last year, but it never came to the house floor for a vote.

Supporters of the bill, such as Ann Painter Ihms -- who describes herself as a Christian who believes the Bible's story of creation but doesn't try to separate ID from creationism -- are, of course motivated solely by the science that supports ID and a burning desire to improve the critical thinking skills of Missouri students.

Evolution isn't mentioned in Missouri's science standards. Unlike Kansas, the state school board is appointed by the governor and sets only standards. Local school boards set policies on what's taught in classrooms.

Read more in this article by Donna Hickman in The Daily Journal.


Science: 2005 a Banner Year for Evolution Breakthroughs

When the editors at Science looked back over the research reported in 2005, they decided that several high-impact discoveries made evolution stand out as the Breakthrough of the Year. Among the research highlighted is work by David Kingsley, PhD, professor of developmental biology at Stanford University School of Medicine, who studies the evolutionary process in a diverse group of fish called the stickleback, according to a news release from the Stanford University Medical Center.

In a roundup of breakthroughs to be published in the journal's Dec. 23 issue, Science points out that evolution is the underpinning of all biological research. "Today evolution is the foundation of all biology, so basic and all-pervasive that scientists sometimes take its importance for granted," the editors wrote.

Kingsley's highlighted work was published in the March 25 issue of Science, when he reported finding that 15 isolated freshwater stickleback populations all lost their bony armor through mutations in the same gene. This was among the first times that scientists had shown the same genetic change was responsible for an evolutionary adaptation in disparate populations.

"Our work shows that even major morphological changes are controlled by relatively simple mechanisms," Kingsley said.


Kathy Martin: The Facts and Nothing But the Facts

Kathy Martin, one of the wing-nut majority on the Kansas Board of Education, has an aversion to reading. That's why we were so surprised to learn she'd heard about Judge John Jones decision that teaching ID in public schools is unconstitutional.

Perhaps she heard it on television. Although we didn't see it ourselves, Fox News must have covered the Dover ruling, right?

In any case, Martin is convinced that the Pennsylvania ruling will not affect Kansas. After all, the board didn't mandate the teaching of intelligent design. It just re-defined science and wrote ID inspired criticisms of evolution into the standards. That's all.

While readers of this blog may be under the mistaken impression that biblical literalism is the foundation on which the board has made its decisions, Martin and her fellow fundamentalists on the board say they are all about science. Want proof?

"Irreducible complexity is a scientific term," says Martin. It is not ID. It is scientific fact."

In the part of Oz Martin hails from, evolution is a theory, a hunch, a wild-ass guess, but irreducible complexity is as solid as it get.

Read more in this article by Mary Hufford in The Clay Center Dispatch.


The Wisdom of Solomon

"Judge John Jones III issued a compelling decision Tuesday, ruling that "intelligent design" is religion, not science, and can't be taught in public school classrooms. In theory, the federal court ruling is binding only on the Dover Area School District in central Pennsylvania. But it is likely to have much wider influence. That's good because there's far more of value here than legal argument. There's wisdom."

From an editorial in The Chicago Tribune.


Evolution Theme Song?

Jeremy Mohn is a Kansas biology teacher and a strong defender of science education in the state. Until now, we didn't know that he was also a talented singer and guitarist in the folk music tradition. Red State Rabble, being very old, cut his musical teeth in the 60s when the folk scene was strong. That's why we like a song that has a melody, a beat, and a message.

Jeremy's got a song, "Just Because We Don't Know," about intelligent design online. You can listen to it here.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Astronomer, writer, and skeptic, Phil Plait, who publishes the Bad Astronomy blog called our attention to a public display of reverance for the Flying Spagetti Monster that showed up recently in Baltimore.

This shrine is obviously a product of intelligent design, though whether the designer is the FSM, a space alien, or simply a skeptic with a sense of humor, we can't be sure. Any readers out there with insights into design theory that might help us sort this out?

Check out Phil's blog for more details on this FSM sighting.


Discovery Disses Dover's "Darwinist" Judge

Over the past couple of years, the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture has spent a lot of time demanding that journalists report on intelligent design theory, not as it really is, but as their highly paid public relations firm would spin it.

Now that Judge John Jones has ruled it unconstitutional to teach intelligent design in public schools, we are beginning to get a glimpse at the portrait of intelligent design and its boosters that the boys in Seattle have tried to keep locked away, out of view, in the attic. It's not a pretty picture. In fact, it's just the sort of portrait Oscar Wilde must have had in mind when he wrote "The Picture of Dorian Gray."

We get a glimpse behind the curtain that hides the real nature of intelligent design from public view, not so much from Judge Jones ruling, although it revels a great deal. Rather, it is Discovery's frenzied reaction to the judge's ruling that shows the true ugliness that lies at the heart of their movement.

Judge John E. Jones III is a conservative, and a lifelong Republican . He was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002. He's an assistant scoutmaster. A close friend of Republican senators Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. His mentor, reportedly, is Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania and Secretary of Homeland Security. Jones has been praised by Republicans and Democrats alike as a man of integrity and intellect.

Those are facts.

Here's the way he's now described by the fellows of the Discovery Institute:

Journalists now have a choice to make. They can accept at face value the sanitized public relations version of intelligent design and its boosters, or they can take note of the ugly disparity between what is known about Judge Jones and the false portrait Discovery paints of him.

For our part, the unconvincing distortions contained in posts published on Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog reveal far more about the dishonesty of the intelligent design movement than it does about Judge Jones.

Journalists might now reasonably ask themselves. If the picture ID activists paint of Judge Jones is so at odds with the known facts, how much weight should be given to anything else they might have to say?


Skeptic's Holiday Blogging

Roast some chestnuts on an open fire, pour yourself a cup of eggnog, and sit down to read the 24th Skeptics Circle over at Joseph O'Donnell's Immunoblogging, where the claims of pseudoscience are debunked one quack at a time. Among other pressing issues, at least one entry in this holiday edition examines the ever important question: can science determine if there really is a Santa?


Our First Activist Judge

John Bacon, a member of the wing-nut majority on the Kansas State Board of Education tells the Kansas City Star that Judge Jones’ ruling in the Dover case “went too far” in saying discussions with religious implications had no place in public schools.

“I can’t think of a better place to talk about it,” he said. “Public schools should be an expression of the prevailing culture.”

That's an interesting position to hold in the state that gave us the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. There can be no doubt that segregation in the public schools was an expression of the prevailing culture at the time.

In Brown, the Supreme Court struck down the "separate but equal" doctrine in public education, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and required the desegregation of schools across America.

As a result, Chief Justice Earl Warren became the country's first activist judge, and billboards sprang up across the country demanding "Impeach Earl Warren."


Framing Dover

A couple of weeks ago, Chris Mooney, the author of the Republican War on Science, turned us on to a new blog, Mathew Nisbet's Framing Science. We wandered over to check it out and liked it -- a lot. Framing Science tracks how political strategists, scientists, and the news media selectively define science in ways that shape policy decisions, public opinion, and political culture.

We've been going back every day to read the latest posts, and we want to recommend it to our readers, too.

A post up today, "Framing Dover: Advocates, Media Pick Up on Public Accountability Frame." In it, Nisbit provides persuasive evidence that the "central interpretation of the Dover decision that stands out in today's press coverage, and is being used as an organizing device by both sides in the debate is the public accountability frame.

Take a look.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Activist Judge

"It's very troubling to me when people, every time they lose in court, blame it on an 'activist judge,'" Discovery Institute board member Mike Vaska, a Lutheran and a moderate Republican told KOMO News in Seattle following the Dover decision, yesterday.

"I also read the judge's opinion (most of it at least), added Vaska in an e-mail to KOMO. "He's not a 'judicial activist."'


Six Figures

Word is circulating among Kansas political professionals that the Republican party has opened the floodgates, allocating $1 million to right-wing candidates running for re-election to the board of education in 2006. That means that creationists such as John Bacon, Connie Morris, Ken Williard, and Iris VanMeter might have as much as $100,000 at their disposal for the primary election alone.

It goes without saying that this kind of cash is unprecedented in the history of Kansas school board elections.

To mount a serious challenge, moderate, pro-science candidates such as Harry McDonald, Don Weiss, Tim Cruz, Sally Cauble, and Kent Runyan will need strong financial support from supporters of science education across the country.

We won an enormous victory in Dover yesterday, but that was but one battle in an ongoing war. The political battle to elect a board with a moderate, pro-science majority will, RSR believes, become the next front in that war.

That means supporters of science education need to put their money where their mouth is. Red State Rabble is in the process of putting together a list of addresses for candidates who pledge to reverse the disastrous policies of the present board majority.

We ask you not only to donate yourself, but to ask your friends, family, and colleagues to donate, as well.


Pedro Irigonegaray on the Dover Decision

Pro-science attorney Pedro Irigonegaray cross-examines an intelligent design "theorist" during the Kansas science hearings in Topeka last May.

Last night, Red State Rabble spoke with Pedro Irigonegaray -- the attorney who so ably defended the majority on the Kansas science curriculum committee in hearings last May -- about the impact of the Dover decision in Kansas.

Saying that he is very, very happy with the decision, Irigonegaray noted that, "Judge Jones' decision described intelligent design in the same terms we did at the hearings in Topeka last May: intelligent design masquerades as science."

"I stand ready," Irigonegaray noted, "with a dedicated group of lawyers to challenge attacks on science education by the board." In light of the Dover decision that intelligent design violates the Establishment Clause, Irigonegaray expects that such a challenge would likely be successful.

In Irigonegaray's view, the situation in Kansas "a bit more oblique" than the legal situation in Dover where teaching of intelligent design was mandated by the board. "The nuances are different, says Irigonegaray, it's not as clear-cut."

While Irigonegaray stands ready to defend science education -- he's been consulting with attorneys across the country on possible litigation -- he believes the next step lies with the political process -- mobilizing citizens to defeat the current board majority and elect moderates to the board. Four of the six right-wingers on the board are up for election next November.

RSR asked Irigonegaray about moderate school board member Bill Wagnon's announcement that he will not run for the board in 2008. Irigonegaray says that ultimately the decision is up to Wagnon, but he hopes Wagnon might be persuaded to stay on for one more term. Wagnon, says Irigonegaray, brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about education to a board that badly needs it.


The Dover-Kansas Connection

One of the questions everyone is asking right now is what effect the landmark Dover decision, that teaching intelligent design in public schools is unconstitutional, will have in Kansas.

There are differences between the two cases. In Dover, a statement supporting intelligent design was mandated. In Kansas, the new science curriculum -- which is not binding on teachers or school districts -- calls attention to so-called gaps in the theory of evolution.

Here's an excerpt from Judge Jones' decision bearing on that issue:

The history of the intelligent design movement (hereinafter “IDM”) and the development of the strategy to weaken education of evolution by focusing students on alleged gaps in the theory of evolution is the historical and cultural background against which the Dover School Board acted in adopting the challenged ID Policy. As a reasonable observer, whether adult or child, would be aware of this social context in which the ID Policy arose, and such context will help to reveal the meaning of Defendants’ actions, it is necessary to trace the history of the IDM.

Well, children, yes; adults, certainly; reasonable observers, without any doubt. Unfortunately, that list does exclude members of the majority of the Kansas State Board of Education.

RSR believes that this part of the ruling does strengthen our case against the board's anti-science revisions to the new Kansas science standards. Thanks to former KCFS President Harry McDonald -- who is running for the State Board of Education in the Republican primary Aug. 1 against creationist John Bacon -- for calling it to our attention.


Detecting Design in Nature

Does this mud puddle quack like a duck?

Intelligent design activists like to say we can often recognize the effects of design in nature. The photo of the mud puddle above, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the continent of Australia, has been posted on, a site that debunks urban legends. RSR likes this site and visits often.

Snopes has the status of this photo down as "undetermined" noting, people "often find patterns or shapes (representing objects ranging from the whimsical to the religiously significant) in ordinary, everyday phenomena such as clouds, smoke, windows, and even potato chips. And now, as evidenced by the photograph displayed above, in mud puddles as well."

So, here's the question of the day. Is this mud puddle natural, or the product of design? If it was designed, how do we tell?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Dover Victory: Unconstitutional to Teach ID as an Alternative to Evolution in a Public School Science Classroom

More from Judge Jones' ruling today (scroll down for our earlier posts):

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.


Dover Ruling: Permanent Injunction Against ID Policy

More from Judge Jones' ruling (scroll down for more on today's landmark ruling):

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs’ rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants’ actions. Defendants’ actions in violation of Plaintiffs’ civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.


Dover Ruling: Breathtaking Inanity

Here's more from Judge Jones' ruling in the Dover Case:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.


Dover Victory!

The Dover decision is in. This is just preliminary, we haven't yet had time to read the whole 139-page decision and digest it. Nevertheless, Judge Jones' order is short, broad in scope, and decisive:


1. A declaratory judgment is hereby issued in favor of Plaintiffs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 such that defendants’ ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Art. I, § 3 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

2. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65, Defendants are permanently enjoined from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District.

3. Because Plaintiffs seek nominal damages, Plaintiffs shall file with the Court and serve on Defendants, their claim for damages and a verified statement of any fees and/or costs to which they claim entitlement. Defendants shall have the right to object to any such fees and costs to
the extent provided in the applicable statutes and court rules.


For years, scientists have complained that intelligent design theory is nothing more than idle metaphysical musing with no practical application to the natural world.

Now, intelligent design theorists, working in the laboratories of the Discovery Institute, have proven those Neo-Darwinian naysayers wrong.

Building on research pioneered at the Mary Baker Eddy Institute for Applied Biology in the 1870s, a team of researchers at the Discovery Institute has developed a vaccine to immunize against the Avian Flu.

"The key was in understanding how to harness bacterial flagella to deliver the vaccine directly to the body’s immune system," says biochemist Michael Behe.

"The flagellum is like a teensy, weensy little outboard motor that many bacteria use to swim," adds Behe. And, after apologizing for lapsing into technical jargon, he notes excitedly, "they're machines… literally, machines made of molecules!"

Modern Neo-Darwinism is a dead end, argues Discovery's Stephen Meyer. “Darwinists are wedded to the dogma that the virus could evolve from an organism that infects only birds to one that infects humans. We reject that sterile mode of thinking, and that’s why we got there first.

"They (scientists) have been stymied because they insist on testing their vaccines in rats," adds Meyer. “That's because they think humans and rats share a common ancestor and therefore their genetic makeup is similar. That's so 19th century.

"Our breakthrough came because we understood from the very beginning that humans and rats are both products of sudden – and very, very separate – acts of creation," says Meyer triumphantly.

The Discovery team says it has no plans at present to test the vaccine. The new drug does not need to be tested, says Meyer. "We know it will work!"

Asked how they can insure the vaccine is safe for use in humans, Rob Crowther, director of communications for the researchers bristled. “The news coverage on this project has been sloppy, inaccurate, and in some cases, overtly biased,” said Crowther angrily.

“The legacy media routinely stereotype and caricature scientists who are skeptical of Darwin’s theory in a way that would never be tolerated in stories about minorities, Crowther added pointedly.”

The team says it will now turn its attention to developing a cure for cancer.


Intelligent Designs on Evolution

The controversy over evolutionary teaching is as lively today as ever. As many as nineteen states have taken up the battle over the teaching about the origins of life. Yet there still seems widespread confusion about “Intelligent Design.”

What is this rival theory and what are the motivations of its proponents? Is this a debate of God vs. science or science vs. science? And why has this debate re-surfaced, some 80 years after Williams Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow and John Scopes sparred over science, religion and academic freedom?

A documentary produced by American RadioWorks explores the Intelligent Design movement with (among many) its “founder” Phillip Johnson, Pulitzer prize winning historian Ed Larson, and a national radio drama tour of the Scopes Trial, starring Ed Asner.

The feed is scheduled for Jan. 3. KMUW FM 89 in Wichita has announced it will air the special at 9 a.m., Friday, January 6. Check you local public radio station for a listing, or visit the American RadioWorks website to download a podcast.

Monday, December 19, 2005



Turning Their Eyes to God

ID activists just love to say there are gaps in the evidence supporting evolution. Not long ago, we heard ID guru Phillip Johnson titillate a creationist crowd in Topeka with the pronouncement that if the truth about gaps in the fossil record were known by the public, "the sky would fall."

That's why, ID activists like say, scientists refused to testify at the Kansas State School Board science hearings in Topeka last May.

The truth is somewhat different. RSR participated in public hearings on the science curriculum held around the state in February. At those hearings, citizens were free to express their views on the science curriculum. Many supporters of creationism and a few supporters of intelligent design spoke, as did many scientists, educators, and supporters of science education.

At those hearings, the creationists and intelligent design theorists were soundly trounced. That is why John Calvert proposed taking the debate out of the public sphere and putting it in a rigidly controlled environment -- under the watchful eye of three creationist school board members.

Another reason that scientists have been reluctant to engage intelligent design activists in debate is that no matter how many times they're proven wrong, they continue to use the same old, discredited arguments. For the ID activists, the debates serve not as an exchange of ideas, but a platform -- legitimacy supplied free of charge by the scientist's credentials -- for propaganda.

But what about the weakness of the evidence supporting evolutionary theory? Is there any truth to that charge, or is it just more spin? Are scientists really hiding the truth from the public?

In an article by Lisa Anderson in today's Chicago Tribune, Toni Moran, 21, a senior biology major, at Olivet Nazarene University, affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, tells the truth about who is afraid of what. Moran was once a very devout creationist who has since been exposed to the evidence that evolution is real:

"Personally, I think there's such a divide among Christians that we're forced to choose evolution or creationism. I think so many Christians are afraid that if they even look at the scientific evidence, they'll lose their faith," she said, noting that "`evolution' is a taboo word in my church and in my home."

The evidence is there, creationists and their oh-so-very-sophisticated cousins, the intelligent design theorists, simply choose to avert their eyes.


How Do You Spell "Discrimination?"

In our experience, superintendents of schools and school administrators are usually quite deferential to elected school board members. The extreme nature of decisions coming out of the Kansas State Board of Education is beginning to change that equation, however. Superintendents from across the state are beginning to conclude they can no longer remain silent and deferential, as in the past. Increasingly, in Kansas they are speaking their minds.

Here's an example of this new turn of events from the Clay Center Dispatch that should be required reading for anyone trying to understand what's the matter with Kansas. At a meeting held Dec. 6 between Martin and school administrators, USD-379 Superintendent Mike Folks bluntly told Martin, "You represent your constituents. That's us. You need to understand where we are coming from."

Here's a telling exchange:

Several local officials questioned funding allocation and admission policies [if the board majority's proposals to expand charter schools and offer vouchers is approved, RSR]

"Speech therapy, occupational therapy... how will those services be provided to voucher students? How will parochial schools decide which students to accept? Can they turn away voucher students from different religions? How do you spell `discrimination'?" said Ed Koehler.

Martin could not answer.

"I'm not sitting on the state board, Kathy. You are," Ed Koehler, director of special education, said.

Martin, it seems, never bothers to read the policies -- such as intelligent design -- she votes for, but she knows what she thinks:
But Martin reiterated her position that vouchers will give parents more choice."We want to help students and parents. Not just the public schools,"Martin said.

Martin, it seems to us, should really being serving on the board or advisory committee of a private school -- not the state board of a public school system.


Fight Back

Kansas Citizens for Science issued a statement on Friday blaming the state’s Board of Education for earning its public school science standards an “F” from the Fordham Institute.

“We strongly endorse this evaluation of the Kansas science standards,” said Jack Krebs, president of the citizens group.

In the next year, support for KCFS and moderate school board candidates who will vote to reverse the disastrous policies of the radical majority on the current board will be crucial to efforts to defend science education not only in Kansas, but across the country.

If you haven't done so, yet. Join KCFS or make a donation to help organize a response. You can join KCFS by visiting their website, here.


Not Your Grandfather's Georgia

Richard Witt has written a profile of Jeffrey Selman, the named plaintiff in the Cobb County sticker case for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It's an interesting read that shows how the South is evolving and becoming more diverse:
Raised an Orthodox Jew in New York, the 59-year-old computer programmer says he is apprehensive about sectarian religion creeping into public discourse. Government meetings are not the place to proselytize their beliefs," he says. "God is what God is. So I don't need somebody with a small mind telling me how to get to heaven."


Reading the Tea Leaves

As we've noted in the past, and the hearing in the Cobb County appeal makes us uncomfortably aware, predictions about the ultimate outcome of a case are risky. That being said, we think we can get a fairly clear picture of how the leading participants -- both for the plaintiffs and the defense -- in the Dover case see their chances. On the one hand,
"We feel very good about the case we presented," said Eric Rothschild, the plaintiffs' lead attorney.

While on the other,

"There's not much that we can do," said Richard Thompson of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thomas More Law Center. "It's out of our hands."
The glum response from Thompson says it all. Judge John E. Jones III is widely expected to hand down his ruling tomorrow.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Kansas: Back to the Future

Kansas State School Board member Kathy Martin says the state should “provide leadership for teachers looking to teach the controversial issue [creationist and intelligent design inspired criticisms of evolution] objectively.”

While, the idea that the board might provide leadership is certainly novel, the notion that they might recommend textbooks to districts that, in the past, have always made their own textbook decisions is somewhat problematic.

For one thing, the only textbook available is the now thoroughly discredited Of Pandas and People. In the Dover trial, Barbara Forrest provided irrefutable testimony that Pandas is nothing more than re-branded creationism.

Douglas Baynton, writing in today's Washington Post, may have a solution for Ms. Martin and her fellow radicals on the board. Baynton's piece "'Intelligent Design' Deja Vu" suggests:
School boards across the country are facing pressure to teach "intelligent design" in science classes, but what would such courses look like? Thankfully, we need not tax our imaginations. All we have to do is look inside some 19th-century textbooks.

Baynton provides a number of illuminating citations, such as this:
Another book explained that all the plants and animals that lived and died for eons did so precisely because humans, during their industrial era, would need the coal. The author observed that "the wisdom of this Plan is further recognized in the fact that the coal is found, mainly, in those parts of the earth that are best fitted for human habitation -- in the United States, Great Britain, Western Europe, British America, and China."

Baynton's piece is very well done. A must read that demonstrates, perhaps, that the solution to board's textbook conundrum can be found by going back to the future


His Own Through the Looking Glass World

"Eventually people will have to choose between the Bible's explanation for life on Earth or evolution, which is just dogma," says Kansas State Board of Education chair Steve Abrams.

Abrams, apparently, is taking a page from Alice who said, famously: "If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"

Or, maybe Abrams has been playing his old Jefferson Airplane albums:

When logic and proportion

Have fallen softly dead

And the White Knight is talking backwards

And the Red Queen's off with her head

Remember what the doormouse said:"

Feed your Head

Feed your Head!"



Amid protests from such groups as the Los Angeles-based Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, Carroll County Superintendent Charles I. Ecker is reconsidering his decision to ban The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things and could announce his decision soon, according to Gina Davis of the Baltimore Sun.
Ecker, after hearing complaints from some parents and students, ordered school librarians in mid-October to remove all copies of Carolyn Mackler's book about an overweight 15-year-old girl struggling to fit in at school and with her high-achieving family. He said he found the book's use of profanity and sexual references inappropriate.
RSR believes that all books worth their salt are provocative and dangerous. Any decent book for young people has, at a minimum, the duty to make parents uncomfortable. It goes without saying that books about fat people are beyond the pale. Perhaps the various authorities, in their infinite wisdom should just ban them all.


Reality: It's One Sided

Chris Mooney's book, The Republican War on Science is reviewed today by John Horgan in the New York Times. Horgan is director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology. His latest book is Rational Mysticism. Horgan starts out by telling an instructive little story of his own:
After several weeks of interviews, I wrote an article that called the service's treatment of Eller "shameful" - and emblematic of the Bush administration's treatment of scientists who interfere with its probusiness agenda.

My editor complained that the piece was too "one-sided"; I needed to show more sympathy to Eller's superiors in the Wildlife Service and to the Bush administration. I knew what the editor meant: the story I had written could be dismissed as just another anti-Bush diatribe; it would be more persuasive if it appeared more balanced. On the other hand, the reality was one-sided, to a startling degree.

Horgan expresses some reservations about Mooney's book being too strident and one-sided, but he concludes the review by writing:
Increasingly, competent scientists will avoid public service, degrading the quality of advice to policy makers and the public still further. Together, these trends threaten "not just our public health and the environment," Mooney warns, "but the very integrity of American democracy, which relies heavily on scientific and technical expertise to function." If this assessment sounds one-sided, so is the reality that it describes.

Friday, December 16, 2005


John Bacon's New Public School Initiative

Right-wing State Board of Education member John Bacon wants to charge taxpayers for expenses he incurred attending a "church-school sponsored event that featured leaders of the movement to make the Bible the foundation of public life," reports Scott Rothschild of the Lawrence Journal-World.

The Worldview Conference was sponsored by the Elyria Christian School in McPherson. David Case, the administrator of Elyria Christian School, described the conference as a way to assert that the Bible was integral in the founding of the United States and that modern-day society tries to hide that fact, according to Rothschild.

One of the conference speakers, David Barton, the founder and president of WallBuilders, described the conference "as a way to assert that the Bible was integral in the founding of the United States and that modern-day society tries to hide that fact."

"Bacon's expense request," notes Rothschild, "included his board salary for two days, per diem for two days and mileage to and from Olathe. The final report hasn’t been tabulated yet, but it is expected to cost about $500."

RSR is curious, does Bacon's trip presage yet another new initiative by the Kansas State School Board? Certainly, the board hasn't shied away from launching new initiatives, lately.

We just can't be sure if Bacon's attendance at this all-important public education event portends an innovative new curriculum change -- similar to the recently adopted out of the box definition of science -- or a fresh approach to keeping down administrative overhead in the state's bloated education bureaucracy, such as the Connie Morris' luxury junket to Florida.


It's Just a Theory

In making his ruling, last January, that Cobb County school officials must remove stickers asserting that evolution is a theory, not a fact, Judge Cooper noted:
The Court's review of pertinent law review articles affirms that encouraging the teaching of evolution as a theory rather than as a fact is one of the latest strategies to dilute evolution instruction employed by antievolutionists with religious motivations.

That goes straight to the question of the board's motivation in placing the stickers on biology textbooks there.

Here's what the textbook disclaimer sticker says:
"This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

Judge Ed Carnes, who reportedly dominated the hearing yesterday, rarely allowing the attorney for the parents to complete a sentence, was seemingly unaware of this tactic, saying the three-sentence disclaimer seemed to him to be "literally accurate."
"I don't think y'all can contest any of the sentences," he told a lawyer who argued the case for parents who filed suit against the stickers. Carnes, an appointee of the elder President George Bush, said he was hard-pressed to see how a finding could be made that the sticker is an endorsement of religion.


Discovery Institute Misleads on Cobb County Hearing

Under the highly provocative headline "Did the ACLU Lie to the Federal Courts in the Cobb County Evolution Sticker Case?" Robert Crowther of the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog does a bit of quote mining from an article by Bill Rankin in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on the Cobb County sticker hearing held yesterday:

At the end of the session the Judges called the ACLU on the carpet about their
legal briefs:At the end of the arguments,

Carnes took the highly unusual step of
calling Bramlett back up to the podium and suggested he may have mislead the
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in his legal brief filed with the court.

This was the sole basis in Crowther's post for the headline suggesting the ACLU lied.

Anyone who actually follows the link to the AJC article will read this:

At the end of the arguments, Carnes took the highly unusual step of calling Atlanta lawyer Jeffrey Bramlett, who argued on behalf of parents who filed suit against the stickers, back to the podium before the packed courtroom. Carnes suggested that Bramlett may have misled the court in his legal brief on exactly when the petitions here presented to the school board. Bramlett was told to write a letter to the court explaining how the confusion occurred.

But Carnes may have been misinformed by an incomplete trial record. On March 29, 2002, the day after the school board agreed to affix the stickers to science textbooks, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Marjorie Rogers told the board she had collected petitions signed by 2,300 people who were dissatisfied with the new science texts.

When, exactly, do you suppose Crowther, and Discovery will retract and set the record straight?

Note: While discovery has not retracted, or changed the headline on the article, or the body of the post, they have taken the highly unususal step of linking to the Panda's Thumb coverage, which tells the whole story.


Dembski's Midterm

Want to take William Dembski's midterm exam from a class he teaches titled "Christian Doctrine and Natural Sciences?" Now you can. You'll find it online, here. You science types may want to be careful, though. Don't go into it expecting an easy time. Some of the questions are real stumpers. For example:

6. Why does liberalism tend toward relativism and permissiveness?

Okay, now, sharpen your pencils.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Judge Made Errors

Reed Cartwright has a post up on Panda's Thumb which says that the Atlanta Journal Constitution's archives prove Judge Ed Carnes assertions about the facts of the Cobb County sticker case are wrong. Read more, here.

Read an eyewitness account of the hearing by "The Sanity Inspector" here.


Conservative Judge Dominates Cobb County Appeal

Judge Ed Carnes, 55, is a 1992 appointee of President George H.W. Bush to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. According to news reports, he dominated much of the 40-minute Cobb County sticker hearing today by tearing apart sections of U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper's January ruling ordering the removal of stickers declaring evolution "a theory, not a fact."

Carnes joined the court in 1992. He once served as Alabama's assistant attorney general in charge of death-penalty appeals. On the 11th Circuit, Carnes is one of the court's most conservative jurists and regarded for the care he takes to write his opinions --- sometimes coating them with sarcasm and humor and at other times taking direct aim at fellow judges who disagree with him, according to Bill Rankin of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Here's a rundown on the other judges who heard the appeal today from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (sub. req.):

Frank Hull, 57, Atlanta, an appointee of President Bill Clinton. She joined the court in 1997. Her first name was passed down by her great-grandmother. Hull was the first female partner of the Atlanta firm Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy and has served on both the Fulton County Superior Court and U.S. district court benches. Hull is one of five judges on the 12-member court appointed by Democratic presidents.

Bill Pryor, 43, Birmingham, an appointee of President Bush who joined the court in 2004 via a controversial recess appointment after the Senate filibustered his nomination. A Senate compromise this summer led to his formal confirmation. As Alabama attorney general, Pryor successfully obtained an order to oust Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore from the Supreme Court for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Judicial Building.


Judge Echoes Discredited Creationist Claim in Cobb County Hearing

"I don't think y'all can contest any of the sentences," Judge Ed Carnes said to an attorney for parents who sued challenging the stickers during a hearing on the case. "It is a theory, not a fact; the book supports that," according to the Associated Press.


More on Cobb County Sticker Hearing

"Judge Ed Carnes dominated much of the 40-minute arguments by tearing apart sections of Cooper's January ruling that ordered the stickers, which declared evolution "a theory, not a fact," removed from almost 35,000 middle- and high-school science textbooks," reports Bill Rankin of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (sub. req.).


Trouble in Cobb County Case?

UPI reports that "Three U.S. appellate judges indicate a Georgia judge erred in ruling the placement of evolution disclaimer stickers in science books is unconstitutional."
During oral arguments Thursday in Atlanta, all members of the federal appeals court panel noted U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper made errors in determining the stickers violated the First Amendment by endorsing a religious viewpoint, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.


Textbooks and Evolution

"Leading textbooks strongly present major points on evolution, the experts say, despite being jammed with information to comply with the academic standards of so many different states -- a concern across many subjects. Reported by Sean Cavanagh in Education Week (sub. req.).


State Science Assessment Survey

"State science tests differ greatly in what they expect students to know about evolution, with some asking no questions about the theory and others including more than a dozen items related to it," reports Sean Cavanagh in Education Week.

Responses from more than 20 states to a survey on high school science assessments show that the vast majority of those states include at least one question that specifically refers to the term "evolution." Just three responding states: Alabama, Ohio, and South Dakota, indicated that their exams offered no questions using that word.

No states surveyed by Education Week said their high school science assessments include questions about intelligent design.


South Carolina Board Slams Door on Creationism, ID

The South Carolina Board of Education ruled Wednesday that science teachers should continue using the same approach to teaching evolution in high school biology classes they have employed since 2000, reports Bill Robinson in The State.
The panel’s decision deals a blow — at least temporarily — to a percolating movement that calls for giving teachers and students more flexibility discussing other views about the origin of life. The alternatives include “creationism,” which draws inspiration from the Bible, and “intelligent design,” described by its chief proponent as “the theory for making sense of intelligent causes.”

The vote was 10-5.


Board Delays Charter School, Voucher Decision

Melodee Hall Blobaum, writing in the Kansas City Star, reports that the Kansas State School Board put off a vote Tuesday on recommendations to the legislature on charter schools and vouchers because the room was jammed with superintendents of schools from around the state who showed up to oppose the measure.

Presentations for and against the measure had extended past 5:00 pm when moderate Janet Waugh proposed putting off a vote until January.

Connie Morris, the board's leading proponent of teaching the controversy and letting the people's voice be heard, opposed putting off the vote, according to Blobaum, saying:
"There have been numerous outbursts of applause, and I think that generally the opinions of the crowd in the room and the hallway are quite clear,” Morris said, “and hopefully they will feel they’ve been heard.”

Tellingly, Education Commissioner Bob Corkins said he would not change his voucher recommendations to require that private schools accept every student who applied and meet every standard that the public schools were required to meet.

When Janet Waugh pressed to know why, Corkins responded: “You wouldn’t find any private institution willing to take vouchers if they had to comply with state and federal regulations.”


ID: It's Disinterested Science... Really

Plaintiff’s attorneys in the Dover case have responded to amicus curie briefs filed by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, publishers of the pseudotextbook, Of Pandas and People, and the Discovery Institute. The plaintiff’s brief notes that:
Consistent with the incestuous relationships among the amicis, the brief of the FTE and the Discovery Institute, arguing that intelligent design has nothing to do with religion, are written by the same attorney, Randy Wegner of the Alliance Defence Fund, a legal organization dedicated to advocating the rights of Christians.


Dover Decision Soon

The ACLU of Pennsylvania blog, Speaking Freely, reported yesterday that they expect Judge Jones to release his decision in the Dover intelligent design trial early next week...


Hearing in Cobb County Case Today

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments today in the Cobb County textbook sticker case. In January, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ordered Cobb County, Georgia, school officials to remove the stickers, saying they were an endorsement of religion. In his ruling, Judge Cooper said the stickers convey an impermissible message of endorsement and tell some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others they are political insiders.

Cobb County school district removed the stickers, but appealed the ruling.

The stickers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Word Is

Word around Kansas is the KU chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ is organizing an event featuring intelligent design guru William Dembski around Jan. 23.


Take Back Kansas: How We Can Move Kansas Back to the Middle, and Why It Matters

Learn more about issues like public education funding, the separation of religion and government, and the 2006 Kansas State Board of Education elections. Have the chance to speak to representatives from organizations working to promote moderate to progressive values and issues. Sign up to be a 2006 volunteer at a meeting sponsored by the MAINstream Coalition on Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 7:00 pm.

The meeting will be held at the Plymouth Congregational Church, at 925 Vermont Street, in Lawrence, Kansas

Help kick-off 2006 by finding a way to get involved in moving Kansas back to the middle. Meet
Kansas State Board Of Education member Sue Gamble (R) from District 2, and representatives of Kansas Families United For Public Education, Kansas Alliance For Education, Kansas Action For Children, Kansans For Lifesaving Cures, and Mainstream Voices Of Faith Kansas Equality Coalition.


Discovery's Persecution Complex

When University of Idaho President Timothy White and Cornell University President Hunter Rawlings III forcefully stated the obvious, that intelligent design has about as much relation to science as fish have to bicycles, the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog cried long and loud that they were being persecuted.

Likewise, they were deeply offended by the unfortunate e-mails sent by religious studies prof. Paul Mirecki, and quick to condemn his "calous (sic) and nasty comments over the years about religon (sic)." The university, they sniffed, would be investigating Mirecki's "anti-religious and bigoted" comments.

But, that doesn't seem to stop them from smearing Darwin, scientists, teachers, and supporters of science education as racists, Nazis, eugenicists, and baby killers. Of course, anyone who opposes intelligent design is, by their somewhat tortured definition, an atheist. This last, by the way, is no mere accident. It is part of the strategy laid out by Phillip Johnson. It is done cold-bloodedly and with malice aforethought.

The latest example of this strategy can be found in Evolution News and Views which has published not one, but two, posts condemning the widely acclaimed Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.

In the first, published Dec. 1, "Museum Exhibit Supresses (sic) Darwin's Real Views on Eugenics, Race, and Capitalism," John West writes, "Charles Darwin was an early booster of both eugenics and the application of his biological theory to issues of race and economics."

Here's how it's done:

West, apparently, wasn't satisfied with his first effort, so yesterday, on Dec. 13, we got the second installment, "Rewriting History: Museum Fails to Disclose Own Role in Social Darwinism."

Here, West writes: "The Museum's current exhibit glancingly mentions eugenics as an aberration, but this so-called aberration was supported by most of America’s elite universities and scientists for several decades."

Darwin -- like Abraham Lincoln, who also opposed slavery, but thought blacks inferior -- was a man of his times. Many, though not all, educated people once embraced eugenics.

But, it is also true that many Evangelicals -- the well from which support for both creation "science" and intelligent design "theory" is drawn -- were also ardent supporters of eugenics.

Mary Teats, the National Purity Evangelist for the Women's Christian Temperance Union, for example, served as both a lecturer for the National Purity Association, and the Correspondence School of Gospel and Scientific Eugenics. Here she is in full cry:

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.

For those RSR readers who would like to read more about Evangelicals and eugenics, an article by Dennis L. Durst, "Evangelical Engagements With Eugenics, 1900-1940" is available online from Ethics & Medicine magazine.

Although William Jennings Bryant, and other fundamentalist Christians opposed eugenics, it should not surprise us that many others -- who were concentrated in the Old South where support for slavery, Jim Crow, and opposition to evolution has always been most deeply rooted -- should also have been among the strongest supporters of eugenics.

Today, ringing denunciations of evolution are delivered from the very same pulpits where slave holders were once assured that they were doing god's work. The biblical literalism that lies behind both creationism and intelligent design finds no condemnation of slavery in the bible -- and much support for discrimination against women.

Kansas Sen. Kay O'Connor, a fundamentalist opponent of evolution who has been quick to condemn the Mirecki e-mails, for example, once said that giving women the vote was a symptom of weakness in the American family.

These days, support for Social Darwinism, comes not from scientists or the universities where it has been soundly rejected, but from the religious right -- they call it "rugged individualism" -- which forms the base of support for creationism and intelligent design.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, for example, says that "the philosophy among Republicans of sink or swim explains why some Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans still live in cars while Republicans in Washington prepare next week to enact $70 billion in tax breaks," reports Barbara Liston of Reuters.

"It's called the 'Ownership society' in Washington. This isn't the first time this philosophy has appeared. It used to be called Social Darwinism."

The primary water carrier in the effort to tar Darwin and science with the brush of racism and Nazism is Richard Weikart, the author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. In that book, Weikart argues that Darwinism played a key role not only in the rise of eugenics, but also in euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis.

Red State Rabble has had a number exchanges with Weikart. You can read them, here. Weikart's book has also been reviewed by Sander Gliboff of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University:

The American creationist movement has been waging war against Darwin and modern science for decades, but their strategy is evolving. Instead of pitting only the Bible against the biology, they are cultivating their credentials in a variety of academic disciplines and attacking from many new directions. On the history front, Richard Weikart's book appropriates the Holocaust and indeed the entire course of Western civilization for the creationist side, as it traces a decline in Western morals from the Origin of Species to the origin of National Socialism. It is being sold at a big discount by the Discovery Institute, one of several organs of the religious right that is touting it as an argument against teaching evolution.

Gliboff goes on to note that Weikart skillfully "deploys the bugbear of naturalism to draw attention away from anti-Semitism, with its inconvenient Christian connections, as well as from any other intellectual, political, social, cultural, economic, diplomatic, military, or technological components of Nazism or factors in Hitler's success. The result, by scholarly standards, is an overly narrow and selective history, which makes only cursory use of the extensive secondary literature on the origins of National Socialism and the history of Darwinism."

The lesson in all this is that scientists and science educators must be very careful not to offend our sensitive brothers at the Discovery Institute. Scientists especially, used to the rough and tumble of ordinary scientific discourse, must use care.

No slight is too small to go unnoticed.

Do not blow off steam in an e-mail. Most important, do not approach a member of the brotherhood of bible college biologists and wish them a heart-felt Happy Holiday, or even a sincere Season's Greetings. If you do, you will be a bigot who is discriminating against them and their god.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Slamming God

Supporters of intelligent design are, so they tell us, motivated solely by the scientific issues. That's why we were so surprised to read the following passage, describing the reaction of intelligent design activist Marjorie Rogers, a Cobb County soccer mom who became alarmed about her son's passion for dinosaurs, in an article in the Macon Telegraph about the Cobb County sticker case:

Finding fault with the design of humans exasperates her.

"That's slamming God," she said.


Another Gap Bites the Dust

A research team led by Gregory Wray and David Goldstein of Duke University has discovered the first brain regulatory gene that shows clear evidence of evolution from lower primates to humans. They said the evolution of humans might well have depended in part on hyperactivation of the gene, called prodynorphin (PDYN), that plays critical roles in regulating perception, behavior and memory.

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