Monday, February 28, 2005
Banning Books: Is Decency or Diversity the Real Issue
"The recent decision to ban Rudolfo Anaya's classic novel, "Bless Me, Ultima," at Norwood High School in Norwood, Colo., should be a wake-up call to every parent, teacher and writer who has devoted professional and artistic careers to educating the larger world about the cultural traditions of Mexican-Americans."Norwood Superintendent Robert Conder says he removed the novel from the classroom -- even though he had received just a single complaint -- because of "obscene language and paganistic practices."
"That's not the kind of garbage I want to sponsor at this high school," Conder told the Norwood Post.
Naturally, Conder admits he has not read the novel.
There's a parallel between the Norwood censorship case -- which involves a book important to Mexican-American cultural traditions -- and the demand by Janet Harmon, and other Christian Fundamentalist parents to remove 14 books from the Blue Valley (Kansas) reading list. Of the 14 they want banned, five are by black authors Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Walter Dean Myers, and Richard Wright.
The real issue in both these cases is not decency, it's diversity, tolerance, and openness.
There is an important article in the Sunday Kansas City Star about an exhibition at the Bank Gallery in downtown Kansas City entitled, “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945.” The article, by Alice Thorsen, quotes Mike Dalena of the Kansas City Jewish Museum as saying, “I see a lot of parallels between this history and what's happening now.”
"Homosexuals, whose “degeneracy” Nazis believed would taint the Aryan German race," writes Thorsen, "suffered horrors equal to Jews and gypsies before and during World War II: arrest, imprisonment, torture, castration, murder."
Now, Red State Rabble is entering his advanced years and sometimes suffers from short term memory loss. Can anyone remind us who is persecuting gays today? Is it scientists or is it the right?
Let 'em know what you think!
Your comment is valuable even if you live out of state. We want the board to know that the eyes of the nation and the world are on Kansas.
While you're at it, why not vist the KCFS website and become a member. KCFS has been an effective defender of science education for many years, now. They need your active support. Join them today.
Rep. Cynthia Davis: Tragic Victim of Split Personality Disorder?
The first, House Bill 35 would require biology textbooks in the state to contain at least one chapter that gives “a critical analysis of origins.” She admits the measure is aimed at scrutinizing evolution.
“Quite frankly," says Davis, "the theory of evolution is a theory in crisis. We need to find a way for the students to think for themselves.”
The second, House Bill 34, would eliminate the requirement that course materials and instruction on human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases include discussion of contraception methods.
Red State Rabble is curious, Rep. Davis, when it comes to evolution you want students to think for themselves, but when it comes to human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases you want to prevent them from having access to the information that would allow them to make informed decisions. Aren't you troubled by the contradiction?
May the Farce Be With You
Take a look at what they do when they have the power, as they do now in Kansas, to control the discussion:
- The intelligent design minority on the science standards writing committee wasn't able to persuade the majority of their ideas -- so the demanded, and got, a do-over from the creationist majority on the Kansas BOE.
- The board majority held secret meetings with Attorney General Phill Kline to which the moderate board minority was not invited to discuss putting stickers on Biology textbooks in the state.
- A three member sub-committee -- composed exclusively of board conservatives -- will conduct a Scopes-style trial of evolution in the coming months, a deviation from established curriculum development policy. (Since moderates comprise 40 percent of the board, a fair-minded board might have included at least one moderate on the sub-committee.)
- Intelligent Design proponents William Harris, a science standards committe minority member, and John Calvert, who has no elected or official function on the board, have never-the-less been granted special consultative status and apparently meet privately with the sub-committee as advisors on the upcoming Kansas "Scopes" trial.
So much for free and open discussion.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
From Blue Valley to Blue Springs: It's Book Banning Season
These good citizens say "The Giver" is twisted. Here's what Publishers Weekly says:
Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, this thought-provoking novel centers on a 12-year-old boy's gradual disillusionment with an outwardly utopian futuristic society; in a starred review, PW said, "Lowry is once again in top form... unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers."
Now, another group of parents has stepped forward to defend the book and reading choices for their children.
"The Giver" is particularly difficult for religious fundamentalists to swallow because, for them, it hits way too close to home. Twelve-year-old Jonas, the hero of the story, learns the horrible, hidden truth about his comfortable existence as a member of a well-ordered community when he is assigned the burden of being the holder of all its memories. In the process, he learns the real costs of living in a society that is "without color, pain, or past."
The community that "The Giver" is set in looks a lot like the one right-wingers are trying to force the rest of us to live in. That's why they don't want anyone to read it.
Stickers Ordered Removed in Cobb County
The Eleventh U.S Circut Court may not rule on the board's appeal of the decision until the end of this year.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Rush to the Rescue
While RSR would rather cut off our right arm with a rusty boning knife than listen to five minutes of Rush Limbaugh, we are well aware that the symphony of Rush and the ditto heads set against the primal hiss and crackle of the AM band is like mother's milk to some of our readers.
We all know that Rush is a man of high principle, so why don't some of you -- for whom cruising with the radio saint is like an afternoon at the beach -- give him a call and ask what he thinks of our boy Attorney General and his subpoenas?
See the post below for more details, and , if you get through, let RSR know what the airhead of the airways said. We'll post it, and credit you.
BTW, Rush can be found on KMBZ AM 980 Monday through Friday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. You can call The Rush Limbaugh Show program line between at 1-800-282-2882 during program hours.
It was difficult for RSR to type that last paragraph, but sacrifices must be made.
What Will Rush Limbaugh Say About Phill Kline and His Fishing Expedition?
Limbaugh's lawyers rushed into court with a motion that said, "No citizen would wish these highly personal details to be held by minions of the state to finger through at their leisure. Nor would any sane person wish his medical diagnosis and medical prescriptions to be widely published on television shows, tabloid newspapers, Web sites and the like."
In the Limbaugh case, prosecutors had pretty good evidence to base their search warrants on. Limbaugh, himself, admitted he was addicted to painkillers, after the media reported that his former housekeeper had supplied him with powerful prescription pain killers. Later, he checked himself into a treatment program before returning to the air in mid-November.
Here's what Rush had to say about his predicament,
"The issue here goes beyond me, actually. It goes to the privacy of everyone's medical records. If this became a precedent, then no one's medical records would be private. If any law enforcement agency suspected, just wanted to go -- in fact didn't even suspect, had the desire to go -- fishing to find some evidence for a crime."
Here is what Red State Rabble is wondering. Will Rush come to Kansas to defend the 90 women whose private medical records have been subpoenaed by the boy wonder Phill Kline? Remember in Rush's case we had the testimony of the people who supplied his drugs as the basis of the search warrant. In Kansas, we have no evidence of a crime. Just a fishing expedition by a hard-right opponent of a woman's right to choose.
Are you coming Rush? Are you?
Connie Morris: Better Than The Daily Show
You can also read Red State Rabble's report from the meeting, here.
BTW, Thoughts From Kansas has done a little more digging on its own into the incestuous campaign finance relationships between Kansas BOE members and Phill Kline.
"It's also nice of Steve Abrams, John Bacon, and Ken Willard to contribute to Phill Kline's campaign. It's possible that other Board members contributed to Kline through family members. Anyone know Connie Morris's husband's name? Is it George, who gave $200? Is Kathy Martin married to Douglas Martin, donor of 400?"For background on contributors to right-wing Kansas board candidates look at Red State Rabble's earlier post here.
Then, suddenly, you decide to send them away from their homes, jobs, and families on long deployments in a war zone. As the prudent planner you are, you'd probably want to fix up the old beaters they drive and put some state-of-the-art armor on them-- at least as good as the armor you have on your own limo -- wouldn't you?
Now, let's say you're not commander in chief. You're a brilliant educational leader and you want to change your state's science curriculum. You've decided that traditional science just isn't cutting it anymore. What we really need, you think, is a dose of that ol' time religion in science classes. Most of your supporters think that means teaching the biblical account of creation found in Genesis. Others think it means teaching intelligent design. Still others, the sophisticated few like yourself, feel it's enough to "just teach the controversy. "
Your state has a certification system in place to insure that the people giving instruction to young people are qualified in the subjects they teach. In fact, all the universities in your state have developed teacher training programs for each of the teaching disciplines, such as science, math, music, English, and so on.
Naturally, as the prudent planner you are, you look at those teacher training programs to see what if anything would qualify the teachers of your state to instruct students in the new subjects you've added to the curriculum.
What you find, when you look at the University of Kansas academic program for Biology teachers in secondary schools (to take a random example from among many) is that prospective teachers are required to successfully complete a program of 138-141 hours to graduate with a bachelor of science education, and an additional 34 hours as part of their license requirements.
Since you are on top of everything, you'd also look at the actual classes a Biology major must complete at KU. You'd find that they have to complete 46-48 hours of general education requirements in such subjects as English, Math, History and Biology. You'd also find that they have to complete 52-53 hours in courses such as Principles of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Principles of Genetics, and Foundations of Chemistry.
Because you're a detail man, you'd also discover that teacher candidates must enroll in one "Cultural Achievement Course." Among the classes that meet this requirement are four philosophy and five religion classes.
You have a big, big brain. Multi-tasking is a snap, so you also observe that there is no research to back up intelligent design, no textbooks, and no lesson plans.
This might concern you, briefly, because you wouldn't want to think that teachers -- who are unqualified to teach your new intelligent design subject matter by any university level training -- might have a "Come to Jesus" prostelytizing session with their students instead.
But, you wouldn't worry about it for long, because having learned so much about thinking ahead, you've decided to pursue a new career as a chess grandmaster. You can see the next 15 moves in your head. You are a prudent planner.
The Wit and Wisdom of Steve Abrams
The Light Bulb is Out
"Most importantly, the Revisers make a huge blunder in confusing methodological naturalism (which is how real science is practiced) with metaphysical naturalism (which is an atheistic philosophy). Using methodological naturalism does not entail a belief in metaphysical naturalism. Everybody uses methodological naturalism all the time in their everyday lives, regardless of whether they are theists, agnostics, or theists. For instance, you use methodological naturalism when you figure out why your car doesn’t run well or why the light doesn’t turn on when you flick the light switch. When the light doesn’t turn on, we don’t consider the possibility that a ghost blew it out, rather we perform a test of the hypothesis that the filament in the bulb burned up (usually by looking at the bulb and replacing it with a new one)."
Lesbian Student Banned From Florida Yearbook
The school's principal decided it could not appear in the yearbook, says WJXT, because she didn't follow the dress code.
Kelli, a straight-A student with no discipline problems, is a self-proclaimed lesbian. She said she was uncomfortable to have her chest exposed in the photo.
"Because that's me, you know. That represents me. The drape does not," Davis said. "They're not accepting me, that's the whole reason we're here."
Friday, February 25, 2005
No word yet on a statue for Clarence Darrow who defended young Scopes.
The right's strategy, as Paul Krugman points out in his NYT column today, (see below) is to mobilize Christian conservatives by demonizing:
- John Kerry
- The ACLU
- All of the above and more to be named later, as needed.
The revulsion to the Swift Boat attack on the AARP has revealed some of the inherent weaknesses in their wedge strategy. The Discovery Institute -- by placing an announcement for the talk on its website -- has warned us what's coming, and given us a priceless opportunity to put a stop to it. Those of us in the reality-based community need to roll up our sleeves and launch a pre-emptive attack.
It isn't scientists who are acting as Nazis. The real danger is that the hard right -- empowered by Bush and the corporate elite -- will morph into an incipient Nazi movement.
See the post "Little Kansas Nazis" for the background on the Discovery Institute plan to label science and scientists as nazis.
Krugman and Kansas
Hey, Phill Kline. Subpoena This!
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, and Rep. Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat asked the Shawnee County prosecutor to investigate closed-door meetings held earlier this month between Kline and state school officials on Thursday.
They want an investigation into whether the meetings violated the state Open Meetings Act, which prohibits closed-door meetings when a majority of a body's quorum is present. Kline and the board tried to circumvent the law by holding two separate meetings with conservative members of the board. The KOMA provision that prohibits closed serial meetings that eventually include a quorum is a couple of paragraphs down in the act, and under the pressure of subpoenaing the 90 women's personal medical records, he may not have had a chance to read that far.
Mike Merriam, an attorney for six media organizations -- who have accused Kline and the board of circumventing state open meetings rules and violating the spirit of the law -- said an investigation by a county prosecutor would be valuable.
Mainstream Forum Debates Blue Valley Book Ban
In January, Janet Harmon, demanded that Blue Valley Board of Education remove 14 books she deems indecent from the reading list. The books -- award winning literature for young adults -- are by the authors Tobias Wolff, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Barbara Kingsolver among others. As a group, the authors in question have won the Nobel Prize, The Pulitzer Prize, The National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner award for their writing.
Ms. Harmon submitted 500 signatures at the January board meeting -- although she admitted that many of the signers were members of her church who did not have children in Blue Valley schools.
A group of students is currently collecting signatures on a counter petition supporting the Blue Valley book review policy.
At a recent meeting the board voted to keep the current policy -- a defeat for Ms. Harmon and those who want to dumb down the reading list in the name of decency.
One forum panelist, Cal Berggren, a parent, said that district's philosophy is that humans are a depraved species and vulgarity is the norm.
University of Kansas Education professor Mickey Imber disagreed.
“One thing that strikes me about teachers," said Imber, "is that they are straight, compliant, upright people,” he said. “People in teaching are there because they believe they have a calling or mission and get a great deal of reward from working with kids.”
Red State Rabble concurs.
Two Little Words
Science (siens) noun: a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena. Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us. Science does so through the use of observation, experimentation, and logical argument while maintaining strict empirical standards and healthy skepticism. (Kansas Science Standards Curriculum Committee definition)
Lois Lowry's "Anastasia Again" Banned In Florida
"The book, "Anastasia Again," will be removed from the school's library and sent to the district office. The story, a chapter book for children 9 to 12, is the second in a series about the trials and tribulations of the title character, Anastasia Krupnik, a precocious preteen girl...
"Kristi Hardee, the parent who filed the complaints... objected to the book's references to beer, Playboy magazine and Anastasia making light of wanting to kill herself...
"In the most controversial passage of the book, one Hardee and several committee members cited, Anastasia and her friend discuss a home movie her friend and another girl appeared in. The two girls ran on a beach with no clothes while one of their fathers filmed.
"Spook Hill principal Matt Burkett said. ". . . I am real bothered by that particular section."
Thursday, February 24, 2005
A consensus is emerging, at least in the media, that the hearings will be a replay of the 1925 Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee. Astute RSR readers will remember that the Scopes trial started as a publicity stunt by the Dayton Chamber of Commerce to boost tourism there. (The resemblance to the plot line of the latest episode of the Simpsons -- where legalized gay marriage is the tourist draw -- is simply uncanny.) In the comic opera now unfolding here, Kansas will replace Dayton in the public imagination in the same way WallMart has replaced Main Street.
Here's the take from Joel Mathis of the Lawrence Journal-World,
The Scopes Monkey Trial could be up for a 21st century replay in Kansas. Sometime this spring, three members of the Kansas Board of Education plan to hear testimony from proponents of evolution and intelligent design, in a trial-like hearing with a court reporter and cross-examination of witnesses. The result could change how science is taught inKansas schools.
"Nothing's on trial, except maybe evolution," said Kathy Martin, one of the three board members -- all conservative -- who will hear the evidence.
Today, the Kansas City Star report that the trial may last 10 days.
Red State Rabble found the sub-committee meeting fascinating. Board member Steve Abrams kicked things off with a long monologue in response to an email from science standards committee chair Steve Case, who was also present at the meeting. Sub-committee member Kathy Martin was also there, and Connie Morris was teleconferenced in.
Morris provided the comic relief last night, calling Case "obstructionist" for scrupulously maintaining his neutrality as chair of the standards writing committee, and refusing to walk into the ambush the ID proponents and the board sub-committee have set for him. Her allies on the sub-committee were visibly embarrassed by her remarks, smirking at times. Martin tried to smooth things over as soon as Morris finished her harangue and went back to watching the 700 Club with the volume turned down (Okay, okay, I'm just guessing about the 700 Club.)
Bill Harris sat at the conference table with the board members and Steve Case although it's not clear what official function he has other than being the leader of the minority on the standards committee -- they're the ones that lost the vote and now want a do-over.
Red State Rabble was charmed by the presence of John Calvert who , having no official function at these proceedings, nevertheless pulled a chair up from the spectators gallery to sit with the board and offer wise counsel. He gives the impression of a man who, having retired as a trial lawyer, has rejected competing in the greenest lawn in the neighborhood competition, in favor of changing the world.
Case has thrown the board sub-committee and their ID advisors, Harris and Calvert, a curve by declining to organize their hearings for them. Abrams, having been talked into the hearings by his erstwhile ID kitchen cabinet, now seems concerned that the hearings will have no credibility. All that could be agreed upon last night was that a list of topics to be taken up at the "hearings" will be drawn up.
Harris and Calvert seem already to have their list of hearing participants -- the usual suspects, mostly bible college biologists, no doubt -- which they are eager to put before the sub-committee, but Case is not sure real scientists will want to participate in a kangaroo court in which the outcome is all but foreordained.
New Addition to the Kansas Science Curriculum?
Topeka Science Standards Hearing
Particularly notable was the presence of a strong contingent of KU science faculty members speaking in opposition to the minority proposal.
A Presbyterian theologian seemed to connect most directly with the audience, however. His humorous example -- delivered through a thick Scottish brogue -- of a high school tennis coach insisting that the hugely successful baseball team play by tennis rules put smiles on the faces of almost everyone in the room.
Several high school students and recent graduates recounted the effect the 1999 vote to de-emphasize evolution had on their education and future plans. They pointed out that the practical effect was that evolution simply wasn't taught at their school. One student, a National Merit Finalist, spoke about the danger of bright students leaving Kansas because of the anti-science atmosphere in the state.
Supporters of the intelligent design proposal put forward by William Harris and John Calvert seemed to have received some coaching. There were fewer of the heartfelt appeals to teach God's word, that have so embarrassed Calvert and Harris, who protest that they aren't calling for the teaching of creationism, or even intelligent design, but for teaching "the controversy."
This largely legal tack has fooled no one in the science camp, but it may have disarmed the simple folk who see no reason why their particular brand of religion shouldn't be taught in the public schools.
Sense or Censorship Forum Tonight
On the panel are: Calvin Berggren, a parent in favor of removing books; Pam Crandall, a parent opposed to removing books; Mickey Imber, a professor in the KU School of Education, who specializes in educational policy and law; and Matt Patterson, a teacher of high school English in Lawrence at Seabury Academy.
The moderator will be Laura Ziegler of KCUR 89.3 radio. Co-Sponsors include: Jewish Community Relations Bureau/American Jewish Committee, Kansas Families United for Public Education, Johnson County League of Women Voters, Olathe Branch NAACP, Shawnee Mission American Association of University Women
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Even in the Heartland -- We Can See Clearly
The political life of the nation is also seen as from a great distance.
But we do see -- and we see right through -- things like this:
Yesterday, the extreme right American Spectator, posted an ad produced by the media advisors to that lovely group, the Swift Boat Vets. You remember them, they produced the dishonest ads designed to dishonor the wartime heroism of John Kerry.
Now, these hard right Republican operatives have been employed to savage the American Association of Retired Persons (disclaimer: Red State Rabble dropped his membership in AARP over their support for the Medicaid Perscription Drug Bill, but is now thinking of renewing because AARP has taken a strong stand in defense of Social Security and against the Bush privatization swindle. Yes, I'm that old.)
The ad shows a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq with a red "X" over him, and a newly married gay couple kissing with a green check mark. The ad suggests that the AARP is somehow against our troops and for gay marriage. The American Spectator quickly pulled the ad as outrage mounted quickly through the day, but you can still see it on the Midwest Grass Roots Community web page. MWGC has been doing a good job of covering this example of right wing excess -- and other outrages here in the flyover zone. Check them out.
Even here, in the heartland, we can see through this sort of low smear.
Topeka Science Standards Hearing Tonight
Following the hearing, the BOE subcommittee will discuss process and procedures for conducting hearings before the subcommittee. There will likely be discussion of the Harris/Calvert intelligent design proposals and the response by science standards chair Steve Case. This will be the first public meeting -- until now everything has been done behind closed doors -- and defenders of science education are encouraged to attend.
This meeting will start at 9:15 pm at the Kansas State Department of Education Board Room120 SE 10th Avenue, Topeka, KS.
Red State Rabble in Carnival of the Vanities
Kansas' Rich Evolutionary History Preserved in Fossil Record
Kansas rocks are full of fossils. Although vertebrate fossils are common in Kansas rocks, particularly in the Niobrara Chalk of the Smoky Hills, invertebrate fossils are much more numerous.
From the Flint Hills on east, small invertebrate fossils (crinoids, corals, fusulinids, bryozoans, to name a few) are widespread in the limestones that crop out in roadcuts and stream banks. In the Smoky Hills region, the Fencepost limestone is loaded with clams, and the Niobrara Chalk also contains fossilized clams and oysters, as well as larger vertebrates, including fishes, sharks, and large swimming reptiles called mosasaurs and plesiosaurs.
You can learn more at the Oceans of Kansas website, and at here at GeoKansas.
Cobb County Mediation Ordered
A suburban Atlanta school district under fire for placing evolution disclaimers in biology texts is expected to enter into mediation talks with the parents who have sued them.
Cobb County School District officials are expected March 1 to meet the parents, their attorneys and an official from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' mediation office, said Gerry Weber, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper ordered the district to remove the stickers that called evolution "a theory, not a fact" from science textbooks. Six parents previously sued the district to have the stickers removed. The school board then voted to appeal Cooper's order last month. The school district also requested a stay from the judge's order that the disclaimers be removed
"We're always open to hearing the mediator's ideas for how to resolve a case," Weber said. "We will certainly keep an open mind but we know the school district has already expressed skepticism over the process of mediation. It may be difficult to resolve anything."
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Kansas Academy of Science Statement
"... I would like to convey to the panel that the Kansas Academy of Science strongly supports the draft of the 2004-2005 Science Standards as written. The KAS does not support changes that would involve inserting non-scientific dogma into the teaching of science in our public schools...
"The theory of evolution is open to scientific examination and criticism. It has been reviewed and discussed by scientists since it was first proposed, and has continuously been modified by new data. Science is based on propositions that are open to being disproved on the basis of better information. If there is an alternative, valid scientific explanation for this process, then it should be presented in a scientific forum and be open to rigorous examination by others...
"The public school system is not that forum. The religious concepts of creationism and intelligent design have no scientific basis. They are beliefs, not testable theories, and are not science. They have no place in the science standards adopted for thepublic school system in Kansas."
It seems, that while the religious right was busy mounting a campaign to label defenders of science as Nazis, they neglected to take a little look around their own glass house first.
Students at Cary Christian School, one of the largest and fastest growing Christian schools in the Raleigh-Durham, SC area, are reading a controversial booklet that critics say whitewashes Southern slavery with its view that slaves lived "a life of plenty, of simple pleasures."
One of the booklet's authors, Steve Wilkins, is a member of the board of directors of the Alabama-based League of the South, which is classified as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights group.
The booklet argues that southern slavery was not only sanctioned by the Bible but, thanks to the patriarchal kindness of their wise evangelical masters, a positive, happy, and pleasant experience for the majority of southern blacks.
Are we looking at a future addition to the Kansas curriculum, here?
Faith and Physics Seek Ultimate Truth Rector Says
Little Kansas Nazis
Little did you suspect that...
"Auschwitz... did not come from the Nazi high command," as John James told told those of us huddled in the Schlagle High auditorium for the first of the science hearings in February, "they (sic) came, rather, from the teachings of the scientific and philosophical worlds, which produced nihilism, and I submit to you that much of that, if not vast proportion of it, came due to the teaching of Evolution which, in turn, produces nihilism. So what are we doing? Are we producing little Kansas Nazis?"
If that statement galls you -- coming as it does from representatives of a movement that, not long ago, was telling us that AIDS was God's punishment to gays, or that the 9/11 terror attacks happened because the activities of pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians, the ACLU, and People For the American Way "which possibly has caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812" -- well, you'd better get used to it. There's more on the way. (To read the whole incredible statement, look here)
On Thursday, April 7, at Seattle Pacific University, Dr. Richard Weikart a fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture is scheduled to deliver the lecture "From Darwin to Hitler: Does Darwinism Devalue Human Life" based on his book which concludes 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.
There is no doubt that many German scientists shared the anti-semetic cultural assumptions of the Nazis. Some allowed themselves to be used in the war effort. Others conducted inhuman experiments on Nazi concentration camp victims.
But, it should also be remembered that many other scientists courageously fought back against the Nazis at the risk of their own lives. Some, like Albert Einstein, escaped Germany, coming to the U.S. and Britain, to help the allies defeat Hitler.
It is important that all of us take the time to understand how the horror in Germany happened. While we're doing that, here's something the religious right might want to consider:
Fritz Stern, a refugee from Hitler's Germany and a scholar of European history, who has devoted a lifetime to analyzing how the Nazi barbarity became possible says this:
"We who were born at the end of the Weimar Republic and who witnessed the rise of National Socialism (are) left with that all-consuming, complex question: how could this horror have seized a nation and corrupted so much of Europe?"
Stern does not see science as the culprit.
"Hitler himself, a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany’s savior, that he was the instrument of Providence, a leader who was charged with executing a divine mission. God had been drafted into national politics before, but Hitler’s success in fusing racial dogma with a Germanic Christianity was an immensely powerful element in his electoral campaigns. Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas."
Science is a human activity. Its conclusions are provisional, and subject to revision based on new evidence. For those defenders of science who want to understand the issues that lie beneath this looming discussion, "The Mismeasure of Man," by the eminent palentologist and leading spokesperson for evolution, Stephen Jay Gould, takes an indepth look at the uses, and misuses, of science. Also take a look at Gould's "Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life" for its surprisingly sympathetic portrait of William Jennings Bryan, and condemantion of eugenics, which was then fashionable in scientific circles.
Kansas Board Changes the Rules in the Middle of the Game
This rump body is designed to provide a forum for the Intelligent Design creationists to present the "evidence" for their Proposals to the state science writing committee.
Jack Krebs, of Kansas Citizens for Science reports that on February 15, Dr. Steve Case, chairperson of the science writing committee, received an email from Bill Harris, leader of the ID creationist contingent on the writing committee, proposing an elaborate procedure for the “Science Hearings.”
This proposal, essentially proposes a “trial” with witnesses, cross-examination, and so on that would allow them as many as ten full days to present their ID creationist arguments in public.
The proposal is clearly a product of lawyer John Calvert, head of the Intelligent Design network who has been retained as counsel and spokesperson for the ID creationists. KCFS urges you to read the entire proposed procedures at here.
Last Friday, Dr. Case replied. The full text of his reply is here. In his letter, Case suggests the Board take a survey of all institutions in the state concerning the extent to which the Intelligent Design creationists’ concerns adequately reflect science as it is taught in those institutions. In particular, he asks that the Board gather responses to these questions:
- To what extent is Intelligent Design used as a theoretical foundation for research at the institution?
- What courses is Intelligent Design taught at the institution?
- Is antievolution or evidence against evolution teaching included in the instructional program of your institution?
- Is there any scientific research that looks for explanations beyond the material world at your institution?
- Is evolution taught as philosophy at your institution?
An Israeli research team filmed octopuses as they stretched out an arm from a hidey-hole in an aquarium to grab a piece of food with their tentacles and bring it to their mouths.
The octopuses, filmed about a hundred times, used a vertebrate-like strategy to carry out the complex movement.
Now That's Really Useful
Monday, February 21, 2005
Patty Bouvier Comes Out of the Closet, the Untold Story
What is it about cartoon characters and gays, anyway? First the Teletubbies, then Spongebob Squarepants, and finally, we thought, Buster the Rabbit.
Bloggers all over the country are flogging their computer keyboards to put up posts about this latest cultural flap, but only at Red State Rabble will you get the exclusive behind the scenes story.
Sources close to the Showtime network tell Red State Rabble that Patty originally planned to come out on the critically acclaimed television series "The L Word" which features a group of lesbian friends. Showtime insiders say a love scene between Patty and "L Word" star Laurel Holloman, who plays Tina on the show, was taped last year, but deemed "too hot" by network executives who favored acting cautiously in the wake of the flap over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at last year's Superbowl.
Writers for the "L Word" protested to network execs at the time saying that the fireworks between Patty and Tina fit perfectly into a series subplot that had Tina looking for love following her breakup with Bette.
Bootleg copies of the steamy sex between Patty and Tina are said to be circulating on the internet, and Larry Flynt has purportedly offered Patty $1 million to pose in "Hustler."
Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, who has carved out something of a niche for himself by commenting publically on gays in the cartoon industry has not yet delivered a judgement on this latest outrage.
Speedy the 18.7 Foot, Tye-died Sperm
Connection Institute receives state grants to provide two-week abstinence-only programs in 31 schools. It receives direct federal support for other abstinence education efforts, and Wendt estimates it serves 8,000 students.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says, “Laboratory studies have demonstrated that latex condoms provide an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens.” It also notes, “Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including discharge and genital ulcer diseases.”
Wendt, on the other hand, who uses a handfull of marbles to demonstrate the size difference between STDs and sperm, claims that Speedy proves that latex condoms aren't that great at preventing disease.
Well, who ya gonna believe, the CDC, or the world biggest sock puppet?
If Cynthia Davis, who has introduced legislation favoring abstinence only sex education in Missouri has her way with our children, this sort of nonsense will become more widespread, and Speedy will make tons of money for his makers -- all paid for by Missouri taxpayers.
Academic Freedom, Part 2
At the science standards hearing held in Derby, Kan., for example, Mark Neas, a science teacher with 16 years experience and a master's degree in science education, said, "I cannot teach a science class without stopping and giving God a little bit of credit ..."
This reminded Red State Rabble of our own experience in high school Biology, when we were exiled to the library for defending Darwin and evolution to a class in which the teacher presented Genesis as the true origin story and neglected to present any of the concepts of evolution to our class.
"In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue," according to Cornelia Dean, of the New York Times. "Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities."
Then, there is this...
"In some areas of the country, many biology teachers are themselves believers in creationism," reports the Bennington Banner. "A 1998 doctoral dissertation found that 24 percent of the biology teachers sampled in Louisiana said that creationism had a scientific foundation and that 17 percent were not sure. Several surveys have shown that many teachers give at least some instructional time to creationism or intelligent design out of a sense of fairness.
Red State Rabble believes that the academic freedom argument put forward by intelligent design proponents is not only false, but that more students than we realize are the victims of Christian fundamentalist teachers who ignore the curriculum and proselytize for their particular faith before a captive audience of students.
The Philospher, Stoned
That’s why we were so excited when Eugene Stohs, who introduced himself as an adjunct instructor in philosophy at several colleges here in the metropolitan Kansas City area, spoke at the first science standards hearing on the subject of academic freedom.
“In the interest of good science and progress in science,” Mr. Stohs informed us “it is important that science teachers and science students have the freedom to examine and to describe both the evidence for and the evidence against any current science theory.”
Who in their right mind, we wondered, could possibly be against academic freedom, and a sober examination of all the evidence?
“I support the Harris committee revision (intelligent design -- RSR) proposals,” concluded our Plato of the people, “since these revisions allow greater academic freedom.”
And, frankly, that’s where he lost us.
In 1940, the American Association of University Professors adopted a statement on academic freedom and tenure that states, “Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results.”
“Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject,” the AAUP statement continues, “but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.”
“As scholars and educational officers,” the AAUP statement cautions, “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…”
Curiously, the account of academic freedom produced by our philosopher friend Mr. Stohs at the Schlagle High School science hearing, while including some blather about red shift, failed to consider the quaint notion that teachers should be careful not to introduce controversial matter that has no relation to their subject, or that they might have the responsibility to be accurate and exercise restraint.
Then, there is the question of what constitutes evidence, or does not constitute evidence, against evolution.
The Discovery Institute has done its best to gather “scientists” who find the evidence for evolution unconvincing. To date, the lists produced have leaned heavily on attorneys who took a geology class in college, a small handful of bible college biologists, and the odd crank or two. These individuals, brilliant researchers that they no doubt are, have neither produced any research to support their claims, nor contemplated conducting any.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, which “seeks to assist the general public, especially the religious communities, to understand the scientific robustness of the contemporary theory of biological evolution,” on the other hand, serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, including 10 million individual scientists.
A striking contrast, eh?
Like we said, Red State Rabble loves the dreamers, but then maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason why Mr. Stohs is adjunct.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Blue Valley Board Candidates
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Physics Teacher Runs for Dover School Board
Richard Dawkins: Evolutionary Arms Race
"The tortoises did something similar (to the finches), evolving distinctive shell shapes on the different islands. The races on the larger islands have high domes. Those on smaller islands have saddle shaped shells with a high-lipped window at the front for the head. The reason for this seems to be that the large islands are wet enough to grow grass, and the tortoises there are grazers. The smaller islands are mostly too dry for grass, and the tortoises resort to browsing on cactuses. The high-lipped saddle shell allows the neck to reach up to the cactuses which, on their side, grow higher in an evolutionary arms race against the browsing tortoises."You can read the whole essay here.
Peer Review of Intelligent Design Minority Report Is In, and It Isn't Pretty
Here are some of their comments:
Responding to this section of the minority report:
"Methodological naturalism is scientifically problematic in origins science because it violates two key aspects of the scientific method. It philosophically limits both the formation and testing of competing hypotheses. It limits hypothesis formation by philosophically ruling out a logical, evidence-based competitor to the evolutionary hypothesis, that is, that life and its diversity are the result of a process that is at least partially guided."
Peer reviewer Karen E. Bartelt, Ph.D., a Professor of Chemistry at Eureka College tells ID proponents that they need to roll up their sleeves and do some real work,
"No one is suggesting that the Proponents not go out and test their hypotheses. In fact, this has been recommended numerous times. When this has been done and there is actually some evidential support, then it is time to have the discussion about whether or where to include it."
Peer reviewer Scott Brande, Ph.D. , Associate Professor of Natural Science & Mathematics at the University of Alabama-Birmingham debunks the notion that because evolution looks at the past, it isn't science:
"(The Intelligent Design Network proposal) suggests that a distinction be made between scientific investigations of contemporary phenomena and that of historical phenomena. As a paleontologist, I investigate the past, but not by criteria different from that needed to explore the present. The primary criterion for assessing the strength of hypotheses is the conformity of the hypothesis with the evidence, regardless of whether the evidence is 10 minutes or 10 million years old. "
There's more, much more here. I urge you all to go to the KSDE site and take a look.
Friday, February 18, 2005
An Informed Opinion, Or Just An Opinion?
"Mr. Calvert mentioned that these discussions would be a national forum the issues at hand. I believe that our mission is to serve the children of Kansas. We need to determine what is in the best interests of our Kansas children and not allow anyone to use the citizens and specifically the children of Kansas to advance a national agenda...
"In the current format I am concerned that are not specific standards for reviewing speakers. Are the individuals qualified to speak to the issues? Do they have an opinion or an informed opinion? It also appears that there are no standards of evidence presented by speakers. What constitutes evidence that supports a speaker's opinion? For example, does publication count or is publication in a peer-reviewed journal required? What is the bar that moves us beyond opinion and makes the evidence credible? This discussion must be driven by qualifications, rules, and standards of evidence."
This Just In...
"John Calvert, head of the Intelligent Design Network,who is acting as 'counsel' to the eight ID proponents on the science standards writing committee, has proposed a sort of 'trial' scenario in which 'witnesses' for and against including ID in the Kansas science standards would testify before three creationist BOE members."
Can we put William Jennings Bryan on the stand again? Look here for more details.
BTW, if you haven't joined KCFS yet, don't you think you should? Follow the KCFS link at the top of this post, its one of the best investments you'll ever make.
Since then, a number of my atheist friends have contacted me to say that, after reading the post, all the joy had gone out of their lives.
Now the quote from Robertson is not new. In fact, it's been bouncing around the internet for years, but my atheist friends don't get out much, so the news came as something of a shock.
For these guys, atheism is a badge they wear on their sleeves. They took real pride in the notion that, to men like Robertson, they were the Antichrist.
To give you an idea just how central the notion of being the Antichrist has become to some of my atheist friends, let me relate the following story from an old college pal now living in California.
As an opening conversational gambit on long, cross-country business flights, my friend had developed the habit of leaning over in his seat, early on in the flight, to confide in the passenger next to him, that she was flying with the Antichrist.
He stopped this after Sept. 11, he told me, for fear of causing an emergency evacuation of the plane and ending up a prisoner at Guantanamo.
Then, after reading that one of the standard operating procedures at Guantanamo is to have a particularly good looking, young, woman Marine wearing a tight T-shirt, military boots, and a thong, rub up against a prisoner who is shackled to a chair, my friend briefly considered dusting off his old conversational opener.
This particular fantasy, it turns out, is the very one that, all his life, has prevented him from consummating any long-term, consensual relationships with a member of the opposite sex.
After much thought, however, my friend decided to open himself to new experiences. Last week, at a local watering hole, he had the bartender send a drink to a likely looking young woman with a note that said, "When you woke up this morning, did you know you'd be going home with the Antichrist, tonight?"
The doctor tells him he'll be out of the hospital in a few days, but lying in bed with nothing to do but watch the soaps has given him time to think, and the more he thinks, the more discouraged he's become.
The idea that your garden variety Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists are the Antichrist, and hard-working atheists, like himself, aren't really on the radar screen of Pat Robertson and his flock of fundamentalists is a very depressing thought.
As you can imagine, my friend has experienced many rebuffs during the course of his life, but he's always bounced back quickly in the past. That's why I was so concerned that his joie de vivre might have flickered and gone out. As you can imagine, I felt guilty, and more than a little responsible, as well.
He called me from his hospital bed this morning to tell me that he feels at loose ends. He senses that he needs to do something dramatic and utterly pointless to break out of his funk, but doesn't quite know what that something should be.
That's when it came to me.
"Why don't you move to Kansas?" I said.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Common Ancestor to All Living Humans and Great Apes Found
The Power of the Blogosphere
How Could This Have Happened?
"America's lead in education and research that enabled the country to leap ahead of other nations and into space is eroding as competitors catch up to the U.S. in math and science, said former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn.
"Glenn, 84, spoke Wednesday at the Distinguished Speaker Series at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and received a standing ovation when introduced as "a true American hero." In 1962, Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 Friendship 7 spacecraft on the United State's first manned orbital mission.
"He made history again in 1998 when, at the age of 77, he became the oldest astronaut in history during a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
"Cut backs in education and research are causing America to lose its once commanding lead in scientific fields, he said."
Now, I wonder how that happened.
70 Million Year Old Croc
Speaking of Children Choosing What to Believe, Unsurprisingly, They Want to Learn About Contraception
"At a House Education Committee hearing, the bill pitted advocates of abstinence-only sex education against those in favor of offering a broader range of information. And most of that testimony was offered by a handful of teens, the majority of whom told lawmakers that they want instruction on contraception.
"'To teach abstinence only is insulting to our intelligence,' said Montana Mallett, 18, a recent graduate of Webster Groves High School. 'You don't have to hand out condoms. Just teach them what's out there.'"
"Arizona Sen. Karen Johnson (R-Mesa) co-sponsored a bill that would've required the state's science teachers 'to present evidence that supports and evidence that does not support the theory of evolution,' To Johnson, a Christian fundamentalist, the teaching of evolution in the schools isn't simply unfair; it could be 'faith-destroying,' she says. 'It's hard for me to understand how evolution can get put into school science programs and get stuffed down the throats of those who don't want to hear it and who don't believe it anyway,' Johnson says. "Children should choose what they want to believe. ..."
A must read.
Sticker Shock Strikes Tennessee
Sense and Censorship Panel Announced
Mainstream Coalition has announced the panelists for the Sense and Censorship Forum to be held Feb. 24 at the Jewish Community Campus (see my previous post for details.)
Calvin Berggren – parent in favor of removing books
Pam Crandall – parent opposed to removing books
Mickey Imber – professor in KU School of Education, specializes in educational policy and law
Matt Patterson – teacher of high school English in Lawrence at Seabury Academy
Sense or Censorhip?
Some parents feel that some of the books currently used are inappropriate, due to language and content. Other parents feel the books in question are literature.
Come to this forum to hear all sides of the issue, and voice your own concerns. A panel of parents and experts will explain the issue, from both sides, then answer questions. Check back at Red State Rabble later for a list of speakers.
The public is invited. The moderator will be Laura Ziegler of KCUR 89.3 radio.
Co-Sponsors include: Jewish Community Relations Bureau/American Jewish Committee, Kansas Families United for Public Education, Johnson County League of Women Voters, Olathe Branch NAACP, Shawnee Mission American Association of University Women
For more information contact: Caroline McKnight, 913-649-3326, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Call to Action
KCFS, which has been fighting the good fight for years now, observes that "one part of the state Board's recent Resolution concerning the science standards was to "collect comments from the public regarding the various proposed changes to the Science Curriculum Standards, either contained within the Science Curriculum Standards Draft or contained within the Minority Report." KSDE has set up a web page where one can offer comments on either or both of these.
"Furthermore, the Resolution instructed KSDE to "make the raw data available to the members of the Board, and will deliver to the KSBE a report that will organize the data into categories of (a) how many respondents were within Kansas; (b) the number of respondents that generally supported and generally opposed the various areas of input."
"We recommend that you make short, firm statements - most of what they will be doing is counting responses. Include both a comment for the Science Curriculum Standards Draft and one against the Intelligent Design/creationist Proposals (Minority Report). Be sure to include your credentials, such as scientist, science educator, parent, businessperson, and so on. Note also that even though they will separating in-state from out-of-state responses, out-of-state responses are important because they show that the nation has its eyes on Kansas."
Red State Rabble readers: It's time to take up the cudgel and fight for what we believe. Use the link and make a comment.
The Phill Kline Saga: Being "Right" Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry
Earliest Known Humans
The study was reported in Nature.
Paging Dr. Harris, paging...
I have a question I'd like to ask you Dr. Harris. Your UMKC web site lists dozens of research papers you've written on blood lipids and the effect of salmon in the diet (yes, he's a fish oil man). You obviously know your way around a research lab. You have scientific training. Why don't you turn the focus of your research toward intelligent design (or creation science, you choose) and turn up some evidence to support your theory?
Think of the things that would come your way if you actually produced some scientific evidence that proved Darwin wrong. Why, you'd be world famous. You'd be showered with prizes -- The Nobel for sure. There'd probably be a pot full of money in it, too.
Why Dr. Harris? Why, the tedious nine to five grind in the fish oil business when all this awaits the first person to produce an experiment that proves Darwin wrong?
"... the intelligent design advocates charge science cannot prove the natural origin of life. 'Why is anybody spending time on this? Why are they spending money and devoting careers to this? For what purpose, when 50 years of experiments show it didn't work?' Harris asked.
"'Would that kind of attitude have led us to antibiotics? Would that have led us to genetic breakthrough that have led us to better crops?" Wiley asked. Wiley believes the intelligent design advocates have a hidden agenda for Kansas classrooms. 'I think intelligent design is just creationism dressed up in a cheap tuxedo,' Wiley said."
Dr. William Harris is a member of the minority of the science writing committee who supports intelligent design. He is an MD who teaches at UMKC's School of Medicine, and a medical researcher. Dr. Edward Wiley is at KU's Natural History Museum.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
And Now the Deluge
"Forty members of the Kansas House are jumping into the debate over how evolution is taught in public schools. They've sponsored a resolution urging the State Board of Education to make sure students get a full range of views on scientific topics. The resolution cites evolution as an example. The board is expected to consider changes to the state science standards later this year. Some critics of existing standards want students exposed to more criticism of evolution. Governor Sebelius said Wednesday she opposes such changes. And some legislators say the issue ought to be left to the Board of Education. But backers of the resolution say they're only trying to promote objectivity in science education."
Look for a future post reporting where these 40 "objectivists" stand on school funding.
A Heavy Helping of Irony
"The utter defeat was not lost on Celtie Johnson, a God-fearing Johnson County mom who was largely responsible for the last battle over evolution in Kansas schools. Back in 1999, she led an honest fight for biblical truth, attempting to get the Genesis creation story taught to schoolchildren. She's back again, fighting evolution once more, but this time she's standing up for the watered-down ID agenda. "
Ortega also observes that,
"So far, the local media have done a pathetic job of explaining the ideas behind "ID," giving us no real clue what's actually at stake in the effort to change science teaching standards. "
Unfortunately, it's hard to argue with that.
Don't Confuse Them With Crazy Theories
Why Fundamentalists and Biblical Literalists Loathe Mainstream Christians
What really sets them off though are the speakers who profess a strong belief in God, but remain convinced of the fact of evolution.
A case in point: Rachel Robson describes herself as a Christian, a microbiologist, and a Kansan. She spoke at the science standards hearing held in Kansas City, Kansas on Feb. 1st.
"As a Christian, I know that there is absolutely no conflict between Evolution and my faith, or between naturalistic science and the Christian religion," Robson told the crowd. "As a Christian, I believe that God wants us to understand the world, and that the naturalistic methods of science are one of the means He gives us to do so."
This sort of statement, simple, straight forward, and deeply felt, absolutely drives the ID-biblical literalist crowd wild.
In their heart of hearts, the fundamentalists believe they are the only authentic Christians. Only they can speak for God.
While ID proponents, such as John Calvert and Philip Johnson, use polite language in public to describe mainstream Christians who understand and support the teaching of evolution -- they have called the thinking of such Christians "incoherent."
Other fundamentalists are not so temperate. Pat Robertson had this to say about his fellow Christians on the 700 Club, on January 14, 1991:
"You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don't have to be nice to them."
Right now, biblical literalists have a lot of power in Kansas. Even so, they are a small minority of the population, even a minority among Christians.
Shawnee Republican Wants to Bring Objectivity to Science. Oh, Really?
Deja Vu All Over Again
"The debate over whether a school district should require students to hear a statement about "intelligent design" is spilling over into this year's school board election. Two Dover Area School District board members who have resigned in protest of the policy say they plan to circulate nominating petitions for the May 17 primary election. A plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the district is also expected to make a bid for the board. The district is believed to be the only one in the nation to require students to hear about intelligent design - a concept that holds that the universe is so complex, it must have been created by an unspecified guiding force.Kind of reminds you of Kansas in 1999, doesn't it? Read the rest here.
School administrators read a statement about intelligent design to ninth-grade biology classes for the first time in January before teachers began their lessons on the theory of evolution."
The Evolution Project
Humans and Other Primates -- 22 Genes is the Difference
Though the distinctions between humans and other primates are easy to see, the genetic differences are tiny. Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg used a trick of evolution, the duplication of genes, to help narrow the search for those differences. Read the rest here
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Elkton Board Appoves Biology Text
"The Cecil County Board of Education unanimously approved Monday night Biology: The Dynamics of Life" as a textbook for next year's 10th-grade science classrooms. The decision came after a board member complained that the book made no reference to creationism. The board approved the text with the stipulation that Cecil County Public Schools administrators agree to discuss, with the state board of education, a science curriculum change that would allow local teachers to present origin-of-life theories in the classroom. Board members also asked that the school system's media specialist provide students who have questions about mankind's conception with materials that also present conflicts in Darwin's evolution theories."
Blue Valley Board Rejects Book Banners
"The Blue Valley school board will continue to review novels using the district's current policy, despite a petition brought to members last month. Blue Valley parent Janet Harmon delivered a petition with 500 signatures at a January board meeting, asking for the removal of 14 books from the curriculum. Blue Valley Board of education President John Fuller said Monday night that the district is reviewing the books based on a policy revised in September. Fuller encouraged the community to concentrate on other concerns, such as school finance. “The real challenge for this community is to see past this book issue and focus on the big picture with the same passion you have for novel selection,” he said.I want to congratulate Fuller and the board for sticking to their guns, a rare enough event these days. I also agree that school finance is crucial to the future of Kansas school children. That being said, we must all remain vigilant to keep the censor's hands off our kid's reading list.
Biology Textbook Under Fire
"The Cecil County school board is expected to decide tonight whether the county high schools will use a new tenth-grade biology textbook -- one that has been criticized for not giving equal time to the creationist theory of the origin of life. The book is called "Biology: The Dynamics of Life." Board member William Herold said in December he was concerned that he saw no mention of creationism in the book, but saw constant references to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. He believes students should be taught about flaws in Darwin's theory and taught about reputable dissenting views. However, he says he will likely vote to approve the textbook if district administrators agree to change the school curriculum to include the holes in Darwin's theories."
Why Calvert Kept Quiet
"I thought there would be a crowd, but not 400. The place was packed. Even if I wanted to speak, the line that had been open for speakers was closed well before my arrival. They cut off the list at 60 but allowed time for only 45 or 50."I've noted before that Calvert seemed distracted at the hearing, and I think that points to the real reasons he didn't speak. Calvert is well aware that the ID strategy he's laid out is designed to avoid losing a court challenge. As a principal in the the ID battle he can't speak directly to his supporters needs and desires -- creationists all -- without creating a record that will be used in court.
But, if, on the other hand he speaks to the ID strategy he's laid out, he risks alienating the very supporters he's rallied to his cause. They are motivated by simple declarative statements that are usually followed by an Amen or hallelujah. The speaker who got the most applause that night said, "If we come from monkeys, how come there's sitll monkeys around." People whose minds work in this way might become suspicious that Calvert's putting on airs if he lays out the ID strategy too directly.
That's why its better for him to stay silent and work behind the scenes with the slightly more sophisticated creationists on the board.
Finicky Females Speedy Speciation
"Finicky mating behavior appears to be the driving force behind the speedy speciation of the Laupala cricket, the scientists wrote in the Jan. 27 issue of Nature magazine.
"Females in the Laupala genus detect tiny differences in the pulse rates of male courtship songs, which differ from one Laupala species to the next. They refuse to mate with males of other species, thus promoting the formation of new species."
Monday, February 14, 2005
Intelligent Design Theorists: Do As I Say, Not As I Do
What do they do when they have the power to do what they want -- as in Kansas? Why they hold secret meetings that exclude moderate members of the school board. They set up a science standards hearing committee that excludes moderates and dumps overboard the longstanding curriculum development process in the state. Soon, they'll be holding hearings designed to cut out the the science standards writing committee -- and the public -- relying instead on "focused hearings from experts." You can be sure these experts will hail in disproportionate numbers, not from science laboratories around the country, but the Discovery Institute.
Who Will Choose the Experts? Who Will Pay?
Having rudely disposed of the work by the scientists and educators who make up the majority on the science standards writing committee, the "gang of three" creationist board members who are the sole members of the rump Science Hearings Committee will choose. We can be sure that, just as they have taken direction from John Calvert on doing an end run around the longstanding curriculum development process, they will also take direction on who is, and is not, an expert. We can also be sure that these experts will not be representative of the science community as a whole, but will rely heavily on "think tankers" from the Discovery Institue.
Who will pay to bring these experts here? Why the good citizens of Kansas, of course.
Creationists Take Command
In a posting last week, I noted that John Calvert, the Intelligent Design Network guru, seemed unhappy during the first hearing in Kansas City, Kansas. I speculated that he was not pleased with the performance of his own supporters who spoke not to ID but to their ferverently held belief in the creationist story told in Genesis:
"It's hardly surprising, that the biblical literalists who are the backbone of the movement haven't mastered the fine points of ID "theory" since they haven't bothered to learn the difference between a fact, a theory, or a hypothesis either."Now we have solid evidence that Calvert was indeed dismayed at his troops failure to get with the game plan, and that the new tack taken by the board is a direct result of his criticisms in a commentary posted on the Discovery Institute's web site:
"One thing is obvious," Calvert writes, "This is not the proper process for deciding this issue. Focused hearings from experts are desperately needed to cut through the disinformation, ridicule and half truths."
Jack Krebs of Kansas Citizens for Science has an excellent post that goes into all the juicy details.
Digital Organisms Test Evolution
Read about the work going on at Michigan State's Devolab in the February Discover Magazine.
Fossil Record Passes Test
While fossils of the glamorous dinosaurs get most of the attention, they are too few and far between to answer the most important questions about the evolution of life on Earth. So for decades, paleontologists have turned to humble shelled creatures like sea urchins or mollusks, whose enormous numbers and geographic range make their fossils a much better marker of the history of life. But paleontologists also have worried that some of those fossils decayed much faster than others, so that the remains collected today might misrepresent the true proportions of past life, thereby throwing off their conclusions.
To test this suspicion, Kidwell carefully analyzed the fossil record of marine bivalves, a diverse group of shellfish that includes scallops, oysters, cockles and mussels. Her study ruled out longstanding predictions that patterns in the fossil record would be dictated by differences in shell toughness among evolutionary lineages.
All of her analyses on how shell composition might distort the bivalve record over the past 500 million years showed either no effect, or the opposite effect, compared to what was expected if shell preservation was the most important factor. “The broad outlines of the bivalve record can be counted on as a reliable picture of evolutionary history,” said Kidwell, whose work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Link
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Phill Kline, Kansas School Board: New Evidence for Evolution or Design?
Moderate members of the board, the public, and the media were not informed in advance of the meetings or invited to attend.
Board moderates, the media, Kansas legislators, and members of the Kansas Science Standards committee say those meetings violate the Kansas Open Meeting Act (KOMA).
As criticism of the secret meetings intensified across the state last week, Kline and the board conservatives responded with a series of shifting – some would say evolving – rationales to explain their attempt to evade the law.
Kline first said he held separate meetings with three members each so as not to violate provisions of the open meetings law that prohibits closed by government agencies.
Then critics – reading KOMA on Kline’s own web site – pointed out that a 1988 opinion from the attorney general’s office also prohibits holding a series of meetings that collectively total a quorum of board members and where a common topic of discussion occurs.
Later, Board Chairman Steve Abrams said the meetings had lasted less than 10 minutes, and no one discussed whether they would violate the open meetings law. “It never crossed my mind,” he said.
However, Kline’s spokesman, Whitney Watson, told reporters that Kline consulted lawyers in his office before the meetings were held to ensure they would not violate the law. Was it premeditation or simple incompetence? I’ll let you decide.
As each successive explanation failed to account for the known facts, or contradicted earlier explanations, the pressure mounted, and Kline’s spokesman fell back, inevitably, on the last argument at his disposal: the accusations were motivated by politics.
The question we are left to answer is this: Are the changing explanations by Kline and the conservative board majority an example of evolution or intelligent design? Certainly, we are able to observe variation, but the short, unhappy life of the explanations offered so far speaks less to adaptation and survival than to extinction. Perhaps then, the answer to our question about Kline and the board’s dilemma can be found in design, but is it intelligent?