Saturday, April 29, 2006


A funny thing happened on the way to the forum

A funny thing happened to RSR on the way to the 3rd District School Board candidates forum the other night. As we entered Shawnee Mission West High School, a man standing near the entrance handed us two pieces of literature.

We noticed there were people stationed at the other entrance handing out the same two pieces. They were also available, lying side-by-side, on a table in the lobby outside the auditorium where the forum was held.

One of the pieces was an expensively printed four page, four color brochure titled, "FAQ About the New Kansas Science Standards." It gives no clue as to who printed it, but it does refer readers to the Kansas Department of Education and the Kansas Science 2005 websites.

Kansas Science 2005, the site tells us "reflects the work of eight of 25 members of the Kansas Science Writing Committee appointed in 2004 by the Kansas State Board of Education." They are the authors, it goes on to say, "of the Proposed Revisions to the Kansas Science Standards. The bulk of their proposals were made a part of Science Standards adopted by a vote of the State Board of Education on November 8, 2005."

The website doesn't tell us that the eight are all supporters of intelligent design led by the ID Network's John Calvert and William Harris.

The FAQ distributed at the candidate forum is prominently reproduced on the Kansas Science 2005 site in PDF.

Here's one of the FAQs and the answer:
Q: Do the changes seek to criticize evolution to advance religion?
A: No. They seek to eliminate rather than advance a religious bias that permeated the old standards.

The other piece of literature handed to me by the man at the door was titled "Faith and Values." It reproduces an article written by the Rev. Larry Taylor titled, "Exposing the fallacies of theistic evolution."

The Rev. Taylor writes that "a growing number of Christians are identifying with "theistic evolution" and that a critical analysis is long overdue. Opposed to modern evolutionary science, or Darwinism, he writes, is "Theism, the belief in a personal God who created the universe; One who transcends, yet is immanent in it. An involved God that has, and is still intervening."

"It makes no sense to assume that a God intelligent enough to manipulate the natural laws of the universe would intentionally make the task unnecessarily difficult and uncertain by using blind evolutionary processes as his creative tool." Rev. Taylor goes on to say, "Another problem with the theistic evolutionary view is the doubt it instills in the authority and authenticity of the Bible."

In other words, there is a battle between Christians, according to Rev. Taylor, over the meaning of the Bible, what Christians can know about God's intentions, how he makes things happen, and whether or not God might have used evolution to accomplish his goals.

The FAQ's assertion that the new science standards adopted in Kansas "seek to eliminate rather than advance religious bias" can't be taken seriously. Certainly, the folks handing out the literature at the candidate forum didn't take it seriously.

The standards were written with one thing -- and only one thing -- in mind. They were written to gain the upper hand in a debate between Christians by teaching students fundamentalist theology based on a literalist interpretation of the Bible to students attending public schools.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Defying Credulity

"As counterintuitive as it seems that a species could develop new physical traits simply because such a mutation might be advantageous (can we all learn to fly or to breathe underwater if we just wish to long enough?), it simply defies credulity to think that human beings not only physically evolved from ape-like creatures, but developed the ability to think rationally by a similar process," writes Greg Franke, a freelance writer in Portage, Ohio and former military linguist in psychological operations, in Human Events Online, the national conservative weekly.

Does Franke really believe that any scientist entertains the notion that wishing for adaptation might make it so, or is he simply so cynical -- contemptuous might be a better word -- about the mental powers of his creationist and intelligent design followers that he doesn't even bother with the truth? Liar or fool: it's not much of a way to go through life.

You might think Franke's piece would be an embarrassment to the egg-headed theorists who promote ID as pure science. Au contraire, Robert Crowther of the Discovery Institute published an approving post on the Evolution News and Views blog -- which actually cites the ridiculous passage above -- under the title of "The Dogma of Darwinian Evolution" this morning.

Franke's ludicrous piece, and Crowther's post, also link ID -- which remember we are told is nothing but disinterested science -- with far-right politics. It's not just scientists and educators -- Darwinists -- who are trying to stop ID. It's liberals.

If ID were to be taught in public schools, our children would not just get a heapin' helpin' of fundamentalist Christianity. They would also get the full menu of right-wing rhetoric jammed down their throats, as well.

When we read what passes for discourse on the radical right -- that adaptation is a result not of mutation and natural selection, but of wishing to "breathe underwater" -- we must conclude that human beings evolved from ape-like creatures. That is the only remaining option, because God would never have created anything that would write such a stupid, stupid sentence.

Evolved from an ape? RSR's mother would have said Franke doesn't have the sense God gave a goat.


Are you wearing that?

Is biologist Ken Miller a candidate for the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" television program? Jacob Stokes, a staff writer for The Maneater, the student newspaper at the University of Missouri - Columbia, observes:
Goateed and slightly balding, Miller wore a brown belt and all-black Nikes with a black suit. What he lacked in fashion sense, he made up with an Ivy League professor’s knowledge of biology. Miller had a message.

Nice small article on Miller's talk, laced with Show-me State humor, which includes a number of interesting details, including this:

“Miller is a remarkable example of a scientist as a civic servant. He’s a remarkable example for the students,” says Frank Schmidt, a professor of biochemistry at MU.

Red State Rabble, we fear, is also fashion-challenged. Fortunately, most of the time we are blissfully unaware of the fact. Until, that is, one of our daughters rolls her eyes at us and enquires, are you wearing that?


Olathe: Take Back Kansas Rally

Sue Gamble, a member of the moderate minority on the State Board of Education, Kathy Cook, of Kansas Families United for Public Education, Boo Tyson, or the MAINstream Coalition, and Dick Morrisey, of the Kansas Alliance for Education are scheduled to speak Tuesday, May 16, at 7:00 p.m. at the Olathe Grace United Methodist Church located at 11485 Ridgeview in Olathe.

Come find out how you can be involved in taking back the State Board of Education!


3rd District Candidates on the Issues

Harry McDonald, left, answers a question at last night's 3rd District State School Board Candidate Forum at Shawnee Mission West High School. Don Weiss, the Democratic candidate, and David Oliphant, right, a Republican, are seated next to him.

About 60 people attended a 3rd District Candidate Forum at Shawnee Mission West High School in Johnson County last night to hear three challengers explain where they stand on the issues in the contentious school board election.

John Bacon, the incumbent Republican candidate who is part of the current board's right-wing majority, declined to participate.

Nick Haines, the host of KCPT's Week in Review acted as moderator.

Three candidates who are challenging Bacon, Harry McDonald, a moderate Republican and former president of Kansas Citizens for Science, Don Weiss, the Democratic candidate, and David Oliphant, a Republican, answered questions from Haines and the audience about the state board's science policy, sex education, the appointment of controversial Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, vouchers, and other issues.

All three candidates said they would not have voted to approve the new science standards which have opened the door to intelligent design and include criticisms of evolutionary theory.

A member of the audience asked if science is anti-God. Harry McDonald responded by saying people don't have to choose between God and science because faith lies outside the boundaries of science.

Don Weiss responded by saying that, in his opinion, the two are not in conflict because science is a way of discovering how God works.

David Oliphant answered the question by saying that as a cancer survivor, he has a strong faith. The science standards should be a matter of local control.

McDonald and Weiss seemed to agree on many of the issues. At one point Weiss urged those in the audience to vote for McDonald in the Aug. 1 primary and for him in the general election.

Oliphant said if he had his way, he'd do away with the Department of Education at the federal level. He said he is a strong proponent of limited government, local control, and parental involvement. He would have voted for the controversial opt-in sex education policy recently adopted by the right-wing majority of the state board.

On the hot-button issue of the Corkins appointment, both McDonald and Weiss suggested that if they were elected, Corkins would be looking for a new job. Oliphant said that while Corkins was unqualified to be a teacher in Kansas, he might be qualified to manage the Department of Education.

A group supporting the new science standards distributed literature at the event. Despite the claims of Bacon, Abrams, Morris, Martin, Willard and Van Meter that the new standards represent strong science, a flyer attacking people of faith who support evolution stated:

Another problem with the theistic-evolutionary view is the doubt it instills in the authority and authenticity of the Bible. Christians believe the Bible to be divinely inspired revelation from god to man, interpretational differences notwithstanding.

Asked about "pornographic books" used in the Blue Valley School District, Harry McDonald drew applause from the audience when he defended the district's policy.


Is Bacon Running?

Nick Haines, host of KCPT's Kansas City Week in Review, fields a question from the audience.

At last night's 3rd District State School Board Candidate Forum, Cynthia Gensheimer, Shawnee Mission PTA Legislative Chair introduced the event by explaining that she'd invited incumbent school board member John Bacon to participate in the event on three separate occasions.

"He never responded," said Gensheimer.

Moderator Nick Haines, the host of KCPT's Kansas City Week in Review, told the crowd gathered at Shawnee Mission West High School for the event that he'd spoken to Bacon earlier that evening. Bacon told him, Haines said, that he would decide by May 9 whether or not he was running for re-election. The deadline to file is June 12.

Bacon has accepted $2,000 from a group of right-wing PACs associated with the Kansas Republican Assembly for the primary election cycle.

Although Bacon did not participate in last night's candidate forum, three challengers for Bacon's seat on the board were present: Harry McDonald, a moderate Republican and former president of Kansas Citizens for Science, Don Weiss, a Democrat, and David Oliphant, a Republican.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Skeptic's Circle

The new edition of The Skeptics' Circle, the bi-weekly round-up of the best of skeptical blogging, has been posted on the Science And Politics blog. Why not take a look?


Evolving Diversity

Susan Brown, an associate professor of biology at Kansas State University, is interested in how evolution generates so much diversity in insects shapes and forms, according to a news release from Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Take the fruit fly and the beetle, for example. Even though they look very different, they have the same segmented body plan consisting of head, thorax and abdomen, Brown said. They differ, though, in how they make segments in the embryo. Fruit flies make segments all at once; beetles make segments one at a time.

"Imagine slicing a loaf of bread," Brown said. "Segmentation in fruit flies is similar to a pre-sliced loaf of bread. In other insects and even humans, segments are added one at a time, like slicing a loaf of freshly baked bread."

It is this segmentation that is the basis of a paper by Brown and two K-State doctoral students. The appears in a recent edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"We wanted to know how the same genes that slice a space like a loaf of bread can also add slices one at a time," Brown said.

According to Brown, the groundwork for this research was laid about 20 years ago when scientists first learned about the genes that regulate embryonic development in the fruit fly. She said one question that many scientists have been asking since is do other insects have those same genes? If they do, what role do these genes play to give insects such different ways of making segments?

Researchers first identified the genes associated with segmentation and discovered other insects, as well as humans, possessed the genes. But they wondered if the genes functioned the same in every organism.

"We figured that it would be good to start with another insect -- but an insect that looks very different," Brown said. "A fruit fly has a very specific shape and a beetle looks quite different. We thought it would be a good place to start, since they also develop very differently.

"Once the genes involved in segmentation were identified in other insects, we asked if they function the same as in fruit flies. If the function of these genes is eliminated, can the beetle still make segments?"

According to Brown, some of the genes that make segments in fruit flies are also needed to make segments in beetles. Other genes were found not to be needed.

"These results will help us decide which genes to investigate in other insects and arthropods to better understand the basic process of segmentation and how it is regulated at the genetic level," Brown said.


Forum: "Intelligent Design, Intelligent Media: Is Coverage Accurate?"

According to a report in the Kansas City Star:
A free forum Wednesday at Johnson County Community College will examine media coverage of the Kansas State Board of Education debate on science standards and evolution.

The forum titled "Intelligent Design, Intelligent Media: Is Coverage Accurate?" runs from 7 to 9 p.m. in Room 211 of the Carlsen Center on the college campus, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park.

Panelists are state board Chairman Steve Abrams, Kansas Department of Education spokesman David Awbrey, WDAF-TV morning anchor Toby Cook and KCUR-FM reporter Ben Embry. Derek Donovan, readers' representative for The Kansas City Star, will moderate the discussion.

The program is sponsored by the college and the Kansas City Press Club.


A profile in courage

The day after he ruled the teaching of intelligent design unconstitutional in Pennsylvania public schools, Judge John Jones' pastor, Harold Hand of Trinity Lutheran Church in Pottsville, gave him a hug and told him he was proud.

At a convocation at the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary on Tuesday, Hand added, "I was certainly hoping that was the way he was going to rule."

From a report in the York Daily Record by Michelle Starr.


Rather an American value

"We must remember that we have a rule of law. It is not a conservative or liberal value. It is not a Republican or Democratic value . . .The rule is rather an American value," Judge John E. Jones III told a crowd Tuesday afternoon at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.

From an article by Michelle Starr of the York Daily Record.


FSU: Keeping Science and Religion Separate in Schools: The Vigil After Dover

The first high-level public discussion of how science is taught in public schools—in light of the recent federal court ruling on the intelligent-design challenge in Dover, Pa.—will be conducted next month by a nationally known panel of scholars at Florida State University.

"Keeping Science and Religion Separate in Schools: The Vigil After Dover," is scheduled for 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 17, at the FSU College of Medicine Auditorium.

Those issues will be considered by the FSU-based forum, moderated by Deborah Blum, professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist. Blum will moderate a panel of six scholars that includes Eugenie C. Scott, executive director for the California-based National Center for Science Education; Robert T. Pennock, a professor of philosophy at Michigan State University; and John F. Haught, a theologian from Georgetown University. Three scholars from the FSU faculty also will participate: Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science and history who holds the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Eminent Scholar Chair in Philosophy; Joseph Travis, an evolutionary biologist and dean of FSU's College of Arts and Sciences; and Steven Gey, a nationally known specialist in constitutional law involving church/state issues.

More information, here.


So, What's the downside?

Exodus Mandate, a South Carolina group that advocates private, Christian, and home school education says parents should remove children from public schools, reports AP.

The group is led by Ray Moore, who is describes himself as a Bible teacher, Army Reserve Chaplain, and campaign consultant.

This lovely bunch of coconuts is deeply concerned about the homosexual recuritment in public schools. Their website is loaded with this sort of thing:
Gary Glenn of AFA Michigan, says, "Many parents have no idea that homosexual activists are allowed to use our public schools as a propaganda forum to indoctrinate and recruit young children and adolescents. Here in Michigan, the homosexual Triangle Foundation boasts that it has been allowed to use public school classrooms as early as first grade to promote their high-risk agenda. Parents need to be informed that the behavior and lifestyle homosexual activists are promoting leads to dramatically higher risk of domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse, eating disorders, serious life-threatening disease, and even premature death."


Dodos on NPR

Filmmaker Randy Olson discussed his new documentary, "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution -- Intelligent Design Circus," which premiers this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival on NPR's Talk of the Nation, yesterday. Listen here.


Making Sense of the World

Scientists know a tremendous amount about things like how animals walked out on land and how birds started to fly, says Kevin Padian, a professor of biology and curator of paleontology in the Department of Integrative Biology at University of California at Berkeley and an expert witness in the Dover intelligent design trial, “but that never gets communicated in textbooks to children, and I think they need this stuff."

"They’d be so much less confused about things, and there wouldn’t be such a disconnect between hearing about little changes in peppered moths and connecting that to something big, like how we got whales. There are central organizing theories in science, and we should be teaching people the questions they need to ask to understand and make sense of the world.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Dembski and Coulter: A marriage made in heaven

Intelligent design theorist extraordinaire William Dembski is flogging Ann Coulter's new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism. Dembski was, he informs us, "in constant correspondence with Ann regarding her chapters on Darwinism."

One of the things Dembski's embrace of Coulter makes explicit is that intelligent design is not just an expression of religious fundamentalism, but of ultra-right fanaticism, as well. The cranks who embrace intelligent design have always argued that anyone who accepts the science underlying evolution is, by definition, an atheist -- Ken Miller, Fr. George Coyne, the 10,000 clergypeolple who signed the Clergy Letter Project notwithstanding.

Coulter now informs us that all liberals are atheists, as well:

"Ann Coulter," Dembski righteously informs us, "throws open the doors of the Church of Liberalism, showing us:

  • Its sacraments (abortion)
  • Its holy writ (Roe v. Wade)
  • Its martyrs (from Soviet spy Alger Hiss to cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal)
  • Its clergy (public school teachers)
  • Its churches (government schools, where prayer is prohibited but condoms are free)
  • Its doctrine of infallibility (as manifest in the “absolute moral authority” of such spokesmen as Cindy Sheehan and Max Cleland)
  • And its cosmology (in which mankind is an inconsequential accident)
  • Then, of course, there’s the liberal creation myth: Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The far right intends not just to proselytize our children for their lunatic religious beliefs, they also fully intend to use science, history, social studies, English, home economics, speech, even physical education classes to "inform" kids that their parent's support for tolerance, civil rights, science, freedom of religion, fluoridation of the water supply, a sane foreign policy, social security, and Sponge Bob Square Pants amounts to atheistic treason.

Of course, Muslims who find intelligent design attractive may want to rethink their commitments. In her February 8 nationally syndicated column, Coulter wrote:
Making the rash assumption for purposes of discussion that Islam is a religion and not a car-burning cult, even a real religion can't go bossing around other people like this.

In a Dec. 21 column Coulter also wrote:

I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo.

Mainline Protestants, Jews, and Catholics might also want to ponder their fate under a regime run by these people, as well. You wouldn't want to assume, for example, that to Dembski and Coulter, your religion, is a real religion.

What Dembski makes unmistakably clear is this: If you buy intelligent design, you buy whole package. Any takers?


Get Smart Wise

Christianity Today has published an article chronicling the transition at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from ID advocate William Dembski to creationist Kurt Wise that's not, shall we say, overly kind to intelligent design.
While the press railed against efforts to introduce Intelligent Design into classrooms, spokespersons at the Discovery Institute routinely distanced their theory from creationism and from those who wanted to teach ID in science classrooms. At the same time, creationists were warning their millions of followers about the dangers of ID. Its foundation in science, not the Bible; its willingness to accept large aspects of evolutionary theory; and perhaps a little jealousy of ID's quick rise to prominence make ID unacceptable to creationists.

Besides, they don't need ID's help to topple evolution. They're doing just fine.

The big tent may be open, but that doesn't mean it isn't empty.


George Coyne: Faith and Science

"Science is absolutely neutral with respect to anything that is beyond matter," says Father George Coyne, the director of the Vatican Observatory. "If I believe in God, then my science to me personally, and I think to many, says a great deal about my faith and about God. My sense of the evolutionary universe very much colors the God in whom I believe. Absolutely. Why shouldn't it?"


ID: A diluted account of Creation?

Paul Chesser, an editor at a North Carolina Christian think tank, the John Locke Foundation, calls intelligent design a "diluted account of Creation." He wonders why it left out God.
"Why do Christians wage combat over taking Christ out of Christmas but employ weak dodge-and-parry tactics when educating their kids about life's beginnings?" Chesser wrote in a column headlined "Cowering Christians."

More from The Seattle Times article, "Seattle's Discovery Institute scrambling to rebound after intelligent-design ruling," by David Postman.

This article is chock full of little nuggets like this. A definite must read.


Rush to Judgement

Here at RSR, we have never exactly been fans of conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh but, we'll be the first to admit, when he's right, he's right:

"Let's make no mistake, the people pushing intelligent design believe in the biblical version of creation. Intelligent design is a way, I think, to sneak it into the curriculum and make it less offensive to the liberals," David Postman of The Seattle Times reports Limbaugh said on his radio show.


Controlling Fallout

"Nearly five months after the [Dover] ruling, the Discovery Institute is fighting to control fallout from the decision," reports David Postman in The Seattle Times.
"Dover is a disaster in a sense, as a public-relations matter," said Bruce Chapman, a former Seattle city councilman and founder of the Discovery Institute, the country's primary supporter of intelligent design. "It has given a rhetorical weapon to the Darwinists to say a judge has settled this," he said.

Discovery's hometown paper reports that, "[e]ven some critics of evolution have taken the ruling as a sign that the fight to bring intelligent design into public schools may be over."


3rd District State Board of Education Candidate Forum

Mark your calendar for the 3rd District State Board of Education Candidate Forum to be held tomorrow, Thursday, April 27, at 7:00 pm at Shawnee Mission West High School located at 85th and Antioch, in Overland Park.

Forum participants will include moderator Nick Haines, host of KCPT's Kansas City Week in Review. Candidates: Harry E. McDonald, III, a moderate Republican, Don Weiss, a Democrat, and David Oliphant, Republican.

Right-wing incumbent John Bacon, apparently, is giving this one a pass.

Sponsored by the Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA


Reader Report: The Hays "Take Back Kansas" Rally

A reader sends this report from the Hays "Take Back Kansas" Rally this past Wednesday:

Once again, Hays was the site of organized protest against the current state board of education majority. In contrast to last November’s chilly reception of Connie Morris and Bob Corkins on their state-funded western Kansas Roadshow, Wednesday’s gathering at the “Take Back Kansas” rally was warm and welcoming to the Kansas Alliance for Education and its affiliates.

The Hays High School lecture hall hosted a panel of speakers led by Sue Gamble, a moderate Republican member of the Kansas State Board of Education. Ms. Gamble noted that the current state board of education has lost its focus on core issues facing Kansas education such as the need for a massive upgrade in reading skills for our world’s quickly changing economy, and the necessity of abstract, analytical thought that extends far beyond rote memorization and calculation. Instead, the state board has focused on narrow ideological wedge issues such as intelligent design, sex education, vouchers, and pornography.

Don Hineman of the Kansas Alliance for Education was proud to announce his group’s endorsement of Sally Cauble (R ) and Tim Cruz (D) for the District 5 State Board of Education for the upcoming August 1 primary elections. He spoke of the need for massive amounts of fund raising for these candidates due to the fact that these Kansas school board elections are of great interest to right-wing groups across the country. The bi-partisan KAE is unique among other Kansas political organizations in that it exists solely to focus on state school board races.

Although Boo Tyson’s sentiments were expressed in her softly-southern voice, they resonated well with an audience that seeks to restore some sanity to our state board of education. Boo spoke of the grass-roots history of the MAINstream, how it grew from a neighborhood of concerned women to a movement to be reckoned with in Kansas politics

Kathy Cook of Kansas Families United for Public Education minced no words at all in declaring the hiring of Bob Corkins to be the most dangerous move made by our radical state board majority, and that Corkins’ ideology mirrors that of the majority of the board. The hemorrhaging of top-level personnel from the KSDE is a clear signal that there are serious issues with the KSDE leadership. Ms. Cook spoke of the fair funding lawsuit for which KFUPE submitted two amica curiae, as well as of the need for state legislators to do their job.

Craig Grant of the KAE emphasized that all of us must be involved in the process, as volunteers and contributors, in order for success in these elections.

Most of the crowd stuck around after the rally ended to discuss other issues with the speakers and candidates, and to make those interpersonal connections that will provide a scaffold for building a highly effective organization.

This rally wouldn’t have happened without the local volunteers. Hays is truly blessed to have the talents & energies of these committed individuals, and their time, talent, and organizational skills will be invaluable in the months to come!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Traipsing Into Evolution, or the reincarnation of Bagdad Bob

Joe McFaul, a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a retired Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. He graduted magna cum laude from Seattle University in 1983 and was lead articles editor of The Law Review there.

McFaul has been admitted to practice in California and Washington. He's also admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court of Military Appeals, U.S. Claims Court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, various U.S. District Courts and all Courts in California.

Now those are some legal qualifications that make Casey Luskin's years of pouring coffee into styrofoam cups at sparsely attended IDEA Club meeting pale in comparison.

McFaul also writes an excellent blog, Law Evolution Science and Junk Science, that explores intelligent design, other pseudo sciences, junk science and the abuse of science in law, generally. Red State Rabble subscribes to McFaul's RSS feed and we highly recommend his blog to others.

McFaul has just posted his own review of Traipsing into Evolution, the Discovery Institute's long, "poor us" whine about the Dover decision -- and it's hilarious. A must read.

Here are a couple of snippets to whet your appetite before you follow the link to McFaul's blog:
Losing a court case is like suffering a poker "bad beat." Nobody really wants to hear your story, and it's considered "whining" if you don't get over it after one beer. Amazingly, losers comprise more than 50% of all lawsuit participants. Most go away muttering under their breath about judges who don't understand them. Some can't get over their legal "bad beat" and write books about their loss...

The Discovery Institute PR campaign for Intelligent Design bears a laughably strong resemblance to Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi "Information Minister" who claimed there were no Americans in Iraq's capital city as those same Americans pounded up the stairs into his own studio.

What are you waiting for, get on over to Law Evolution Science and Junk Science.


Solid Answers

From a review of DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design, by Sean B. Carroll, Jennifer K. Grenier, and Scott D. Weatherbee; Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, by Sean B. Carroll; and The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma, by Marc W. Kirschner and John C. Gerhart in the May 11 issue of the "New York Review of Books."

"We now have a far deeper understanding of evolution than even a decade ago. And although our knowledge is still incomplete, our new understanding, as the books under review admirably show, has opened the way toward a comprehensive account of evolution and has supplied solid answers to the critics of evolutionary theory, write Edward Ziff, a professor of Biochemistry at the NYU School of Medicine, and Israel Rosenfield, the author, most recently, of Freud's Megalomania.


The list is endless

The Rev. Tony Hammack, a youth pastor at Christian Faith Fellowship in Cape Girardeau, Mo. says there is no mention of evolution in the Bible.

Here are a few other things that go unmentioned in the Bible: The fact that the earth orbits the sun, not the other way around. The continents of North America, South America, and Antarctica. Freedom and democracy. The rights of women. How to build a telescope, microscope, or refrigerator. The cure for smallpox, leprosy, and polio. The real cause of storms, earthquakes, and floods.

None of this is surprising given the fact that the Bible was written by people who were ignorant of modern science, but that doesn't make any of the discoveries of the past 2,000 years any less true.

Update: Our original post said that there is no mention in the Bible of homosexuality. This is, of course, incorrect. The biblical condemnation of homosexuality is in Leviticus, which also calls for the death penalty for adultery, banishment for people who have sex while the woman is having her period, and the stoning of wizards.

We'd like to see them try that with Harry Potter. Come to think of it, Vernon and Petunia Dursley, Harry's sanctimonious step parents, seem the perfect embodiment of people who believe this foolishness.


Catch and release

Creationists have not, in the past, been known for their commitment to wise stewardship over the Earth's resources. In the past, many have interpreted the biblical injunction to exercise dominion over the Earth to mean paving paradise in order to erect fast food restaurants and WalMart superstores.

Much of this was motivated by the notion that there's no need to preserve anything because it's going to be destroyed in the Apocalypse, anyhow. Born-again Christians, the thinking goes, won't need the Earth after they've been swept to heaven in the Rapture, anyway.

If the end is near, you might as well exploit this poor old planet to the max.

Recently, a group of evangelicals has indicated some concern about the ecological health of the planet. This is a welcome event.

While RSR is grateful that some evangelicals have now embraced wise stewardship of the planet's resources, we never imagined that concern would extend to Ken Ham, who leads Answers in Genesis.

Ham, apparently has embraced the catch and release ethic of fishermen who want to preserve healthy stocks of fish for future generations. Lisa Anderson of the Chicago Tribune reports:
Just hours after the fossil fish, called Tiktaalik roseae, landed on the front pages of many newspapers earlier this month, it also surfaced on the Answers in Genesis Web site. In a posting titled "Gone fishin' for a missing link?" the organization, in effect, threw Tiktaalik roseae back.

"Because evolutionists want to discover transitional forms, when they find a very old fish with leg-bone-like bones in its fins, they want to interpret this as evidence that it is some sort of transitional creature. . . . It may be just another example of the wonderful design of our Creator God," the posting said.

Too bad this wonderful design, like 99.9 percent of all species that ever lived on the planet Earth, went extinct.


ID's Mad Scientists

Crandaddy, the pseudonymous Igor to William Dembski's Dr. Frankenstein down in the dungeons of Uncommon Descent has a bone to pick with RSR. Crandaddy didn't like our Barbara Forrest profile. He writes:
Now, here’s what I don’t understand. Forrest has a PhD in philosophy from Tulane, yet the best ID=Creationism arguments she seems to be able to put forth are either red herrings (The designer has to be supernatural.) or ad hominems (The IDists are big, bad Creationists trying to sneak religion into science classrooms.) Why
can’t ID opponents focus on the arguments, themselves, and show how they are equivalent to Creationism?
Now, by ad hominem, Crandaddy seems to mean appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason, but as we point out in our profile, Forrest doesn't really claim that the ID faithful are creationists in disguise. All she does, is cite their own statements to prove it so.

In her Dover testimony, Forrest read into the court record this statement by Phillip Johnson, the father of the intelligent design movement:
"My colleagues and I speak of theistic realism, or sometimes mere creation, as the defining concept of our movement. This means that we affirm that God is objectively real as creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology."
She also demonstrated, quite convincingly, that the authors of the intelligent design textbook, Of Pandas and People, believe that intelligent design is the same as creationism. They simply substituted the words intelligent design for creationism in the text, without changing the definition.

In his ruling, Judge Jones underscored the importance of this point:
(1) the definition for creation science in early drafts is identical to the definition of ID; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards.
Crandaddy asks why ID opponents can't "focus on the arguments, themselves, and show how they are equivalent to Creationism." The fact is, that is exactly what Forrest has done. She's listened carefully to all the leading ID proponents. She recorded what they had to say. And now, she's simply playing them back for all to hear.

That's why ID activists hate her so.

The truth is, intelligent design theorists are a bit like mad scientists. They've made a crude attempt to graft the head of fundamentalist Christianity onto the body of science. The result is a monster.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Day from hell

Blogger has been giving us fits all day. We've been trying to post since about 5:30 am but weren't able to publish successfully until about 1;30 pm. In the process, something has happened to the template and the sidebar is out of position. As a result, RSR has been tearing out what little is left of his hair. Please bear with us...


Connie's Nasty-Gram

The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has sent Connie Morris' campaign committee a letter stating:
According to the reports filed with the Secretary of State, the following PACs report making contributions to Connie Morris.
These contributions were not reported by your campaign. If these contributions were received, they must be reported on Schedule A (Contributions and Other Receipts) on the January 10, 2006 Report.
The letter, signed by KGE Commission Executive Director Carol Williams, notes that, "The intentional failure to file an amended report within thirty (30) days is a class A misdemeanor. In additionl you may not accept contributions or make expenditures following the end of the thirty (30) day period if the amended report has not been filed."
That letter was dated March 15, and Morris failed to respond.
A second letter from Williams, dated April 19 gives Morris 15 days --or until May 4 -- to comply with the reporting requirements before a civil penalty is imposed for each day the required document remains unfiled.
It really shouldn't be too hard for Morris to comply. All four contributions are from Political Action Committees that share the same post office box -- PO Box 626 in Topeka. All four contributions come from PACs that share the same treasurer -- Merrilee Martin. All four PACs were set up to elect radical right-wing Republicans, like Connie. All four PACs function as a single slush fund to circumvent the state's $500 contribution limit for state board of education candidates.
You don't suppose Connie has accepted any more contributions since the 30 day deadline expired? No, she wouldn't do that.


It's a dirty, dangerous job, but somebody has to do it

In the course of a lifetime of fossil hunting, Tim White, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, has contracted malaria, as well as giardia, dysentery, hepatitis and pneumonia, according to a report, "Discovering fossils can be difficult and dangerous," by Charles Matthews in the San Jose Mecury-News.

Naturally, after reading this, we were concerned for the safety of intelligent design researchers, who we've learned from reading the "Wedge Strategy" plan to launch a scientific research program someday... soon...

Accordingly, we made a quick check to acertain the health of signatories to the Discovery Institute's much vaunted list of scientists who doubt Darwin.

You can relax. They are all safe and sound. No one has yet been injured by falling headlong into one of the famous gaps in the fossil record.

There has been a disturbing incidence of paper cuts, however.


Patzer tied to right-wing PAC

Right-wing incumbent Iris Van Meter has decided not to run for Kansas School Board again. Her son-in-law Brad Patzer, newly arrived from the Republic of Idaho, is running in her place.

Patzer hasn't exactly run as a stealth candidate, as Van Meter did when she was elected in 2002. He was, apparently, so deeply outraged by the thought of students putting condoms on bananas in sex education classes, he couldn't keep quiet about his extreme right views.

Any remaining doubt about where he might stand on the issues was erased this past week when the Federal Election Commission posted federal election campaign reports. The report of the ultra-right Free Academic Inquiry and Research Federal PAC -- formed to raise money to elect creationist candidates to the Kansas School Board -- lists a single contribution to a candidate during the first three months of the year -- Brad Patzer, who got the maximum allowable $500 during the primary election cycle.

Just before the end of 2005, FAIR funneled the maximum contributions to right-wing candidates Connie Morris, John Bacon, and Ken Willard.

Jana Shaver, a moderate Republican educator from Independence will face Patzer in the August primary. Kent Runyan, an education professor at Pittsburg State University and a Democrat, will face the winner in November.


Women are From Venus, Men are From Mars, Connie is From...

Our intrepid Western Kansas reporter, KDN, sends us this tidbit from Thursday's Garden City candidate forum featuring Democrat Tim Cruz, moderate Republican Sally Cauble, and the eminently quotable Connie Morris:

"I want us to put the next Sputnik on Mars," Connie told the crowd.

RSR readers will remember that Connie wasn't what you'd call overly familiar with the Kansas pseudo-science standards she voted to approve. Is it possible she's also missed the dozens of unmanned orbiters, landers, and rovers, that have been launched toward Mars since the 1960s, as well?


Is Creationism Anti-Christian?

"There's a new creationist documentary distributed by The Way of The Master intended to 'slug atheists over the head' with it's anti-evolution message," writes Benjamin Glasgow, a graphic designer and evo-devo enthusiast living in Tallahassee Florida on

Glasgow had the chance to see the documentary recently and found it, he writes, more than a little insulting, both to his intellect and his Christian worldview.

Glasgow says he "found the tenor and implications of the film very un-Christ-like. Laced through the entirety is a subtle yet persistent message that Christianity, or theism of any sort, is entirely incompatible with evolution."


Lying for God

"The people who make a hue and cry about creationism are out-and-out atheists. They don't want the issue to be debated," says Randall Hardy, a spokesman for John Mackay, an Australian preacher who followers claim he is "anointed by God" to spread the creationist good news.

We Know that Fox News' Tony Snow has the inside track as Scott McClellan's replacement as White House press secretary, but Hardy seems to have qualifications in spades. If the Snow appointment falls through...

Saturday, April 22, 2006


In Your Face Fundamentalism

Reuters: "Three Pennsylvania high school students backed by a conservative legal group have sued their school district, claiming they were prevented from quoting Biblical verses in school and expressing opposition to homosexuality, their lawyers said on Friday.

"The students of Downingtown Area School District near Philadelphia say school officials denied them permission to put up a poster containing Bible verses and a picture of a Christian cross on the grounds that it would have violated rules aimed at preventing discrimination."

Sometimes, RSR thinks the quickest way to put fundamentalists back in their box is to let them do all the overbearing, insufferable, intolerant things they say they want to do. The vast majority of people, we believe, would quickly see what they're all about. We really wonder how these young fundamentalist would react to their exasperated fellow students expressing opposition to their intolerance.


Rawlings to Speak on ID at Wilson Center

Via the DC-area Alliance for Science: Hunter Rawlings III, the president of Cornell University, will speak at a Woodrow Wilson Center Director's Forum in Washington, D.C. on Intelligent Design and the Place of Religiously-based Ideas in American Politics on Tuesday, April 25 from 10:00 am-11:00 am.


Connie Morris: The Best and the Brightest

According to the Hutchinson News, in an appearance at a 5th District candidate's forum, Connie Morris said that in her experience as a teacher, the "brightest" children sometimes suffered because she had to grant Spanish speakers extra attention owing to the language barrier.

How would you like to be on the receiving end of "extra attention" from Connie Morris?

Friday, April 21, 2006


Emerging Agenda

The Naperville school district near Chicago is discussing textbook adoptions and, as Britt Carson and Tim Waldorf of The Sun report, Darwin's theory of evolution isn't the only target anymore.
One parent who reads the textbooks and provides the board with input is also a board member: Jim Caulfield. In September, he took issue with a biology textbook that he said presented an agenda of contraception, promoted embryonic stem cell research and showed disdain for evolution non-adherents.

The board approved the book against Caulfield's recommendation. But officials did approve a policy he proposed that now puts any teaching materials containing content covered in the sex education component of health classes under greater scrutiny.

But on April 17, Caulfield disapproved of the district's choice of textbooks for an Advanced Placement world history course because it cast Christians in a bad light in some instances.

He also voiced concerns about Advanced Placement environmental science textbooks that present opposing views of controversial environmental issues.


Suggesting that creationism and evolution be given equal weight in education is "rather like starting genetics lectures by discussing the theory that babies are brought by storks," says award-winning geneticist and author, Steve Jones. From The Independent.


The Law of Evolution

Via The Guardian: "We should no longer talk of the theory of evolution as though it is just an idea," says Richard Pike, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry. "So well-established is it, that it now warrants the designation of an immutable scientific law, and should be taught as such. It is on this basis that further dialogue should begin."

"In this there is no role for creationism or intelligent design, and religious education must recognise the allegorical nature of much of its source material," adds Pike.


In many ways, Barbara Forrest seems an unlikely opponent for the Christian fundamentalists who want to teach creation "science" or its highfalutin cousin, intelligent design, in our public schools.

Forrest combines a frank, straightforward manner with considerable personal charm. A barely detectable drawl hints at her Louisiana upbringing. Even in this newly liberated age she insisted on a courtly chivalry from her sons, who she raised to open doors and give their seats to sometimes uncomprehending modern women. She is a tiny woman, whose diminutive physical size belies great personal courage and a strong commitment to acting as a public intellectual.

Despite her tiny physical stature, personal warmth, and old-fashioned Southern manners, Forrest seems to bring out the worst in those who say they want to restore traditional values to a society they fear is fast going to hell in a handbasket.

Richard Thompson, the lead attorney for the Thomas More Law Center, which describes itself the sword and shield for people of faith, went to extraordinary lengths to prevent the soft-spoken Forrest, a professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, from testifying as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Dover intelligent design trial last fall.

In June, before the trial began, Thompson flew to New Orleans to take Forrest's deposition. As attorneys, witness, and stenographer met in the offices of a local law firm for the deposition, Forrest was surprised to find that Thompson had intelligent design activist William Dembski in tow.

Dembski, who was himself to have been an expert witness for the defense, sat in on the early stages of her deposition. He was brooding presence, Forrest recalls, and extremely hostile.

"I just did my Southern magnolia routine on him," says Forrest, "and made him shake my hand."

In September, as the Dover trial got underway, Thomas filed a highly unusual motion to exclude Forrest's testimony, expert reports, and the data they were based on. The motion described Forrest as "little more than a conspiracy theorist and a web-surfing cyber-stalker."

At the trial, Thomas' questioning of Forrest's credentials centered on her membership in the American Civil Liberties Union, American United for Separation of Church and State, and the New Orleans Secular Humanist Organization, which, he hinted darkly, made her unfit to be an expert witness.

The hostility of Richard Thompson’s defense team was more than matched by activists in the intelligent design movement. John West of the Seattle-based intelligent design think tank, the Discovery Institute, for example, described Forrest's expert witness report as "innuendos and conspiracy-mongering" a "potpourri of smears and overheated rhetoric." He went on to predict, wrongly as it turned out, that Judge Jones would rule Forrest's expert report and testimony inadmissible in court.

In the end, Forrest was allowed to testify for the plaintiffs, a group of 11 parents who opposed having a board-mandated statement endorsing intelligent design read to their children in biology class.

Forrest's testimony would prove devastating to the intelligent design cause. It would reveal as well the source of the ID activist's bitterness toward Forrest, and reasons that lay behind the defense team’s feverish efforts to prevent her testimony in Dover.

Fundamentalist opposition to the teaching of evolution in the United States goes back to the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial when creationists, those who believe the biblical story told in Genesis to be literally true, tried to ban Darwin's theory from the public schools in Tennessee.

The popular film based on the Scopes Trial, "Inherit the Wind," leaves the impression that creationist champion William Jennings Bryant was badly beaten by Clarence Darrow and the forces of reason. In fact, the jury returned a guilty verdict against Scopes after just eight minutes of deliberation, and the judge fined him $100.

It wasn't until 1968, when the Supreme Court, ruling in Epperson v. Arkansas, invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution, that creationists switched tactics to demand equal time for the Genesis story in science classrooms.

The short-lived equal time tactic was dealt a death blow in 1987. To the creationist's utter dismay, The Supreme Court ruled, in Edwards v. Aguillard, that Louisiana's Creationism Act, a statute that prohibited teaching evolution in public schools except when it was accompanied by instruction in creation science, was unconstitutional.

It was the Edwards v. Aguillard ruling that gave birth to the intelligent design movement and Forrest, a disciple of pragmatists John Dewey and Sidney Hook, was there to watch it unfold.

An expert on the history of the creationist and intelligent design movement, Forrest is the author, along with Paul Gross, of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. The book describes the intelligent design movement, as "the most recent manifestation of American creationism."

Their book was especially good at exposing the purely religious motivations lurking behind the scientific veneer of intelligent design. Forrest and Gross also called attention to the movement's "Wedge Strategy" which sought "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."

"The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built," wrote the authors of the "Wedge Strategy."

The cultural consequences of this triumph of materialism were devastating. Materialists denied the existence of objective moral standards, claiming that environment dictates our behavior and beliefs. Such moral relativism was uncritically adopted by much of the social sciences, and it still undergirds much of modern economics, political science, psychology and sociology.

Leaders of the movement such as Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and William Dembski often claim that intelligent design is disinterested science, nothing more. They say it has nothing at all to do with religious belief.

Based on her study of the ID movement over a number of years, Forrest read into the court record a number of statements by movement leaders such as this one by Phillip Johnson:

"My colleagues and I speak of theistic realism, or sometimes mere creation, as the defining concept of our movement. This means that we affirm that God is objectively real as creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology."

Perhaps even more damning, Forrest analyzed 7,000 pages from successive drafts on the intelligent design textbook, Of Pandas and People -- produced under subpoena by the publisher, The Foundation for Thought and Ethics -- that clearly demonstrated the movement's roots in creation "science."

A 1986 draft of Pandas, for example, then titled Biology and Creation said, "Creation means that the various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc."

A later edition, written in 1987 after the Edwards v. Aguillard decision said, "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc."

In fact, as Forrest's testimony clearly demonstrated, following the Edwards v. Aguillard decision the Pandas textbook authors simply did a search and replace where they substituted the words "intelligent design" for "creationism" in the text.

In his Dec. 20 decision, Judge Jones ruled that the Dover Area School Board's ID policy was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He ruled that intelligent design is not science, and barred the board "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." He called the board's action a case of "breathtaking inanity."

In ruling, Judge Jones called particular attention to Forrest's testimony on the creationist underpinings of intelligent design, writing:

A significant aspect of the [Intelligent Design Movement] is that despite Defendants' protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity. Dr. Barbara Forrest, one of Plaintiffs' expert witnesses, is the author of the book Creationism's Trojan Horse. She has thoroughly and exhaustively chronicled the history of ID in her book and other writings for her testimony in this case. Her testimony, and the exhibits which were admitted with it, provide a wealth of statements by ID leaders that reveal ID's religious, philosophical, and cultural content.

Jones also took note of Forrest's testimony on the Pandas textbook:

As Plaintiffs meticulously and effectively presented to the Court, Pandas went through many drafts, several of which were completed prior to and some after the Supreme Court's decision in Edwards, which held that the Constitution forbids teaching creationism as science. By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in early drafts is identical to the definition of ID; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and
cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards. This word substitution is telling, significant, and reveals that a purposeful change of words was effected without any corresponding change in content...

In the months since the Dover decision, leaders of the intelligent design movement have played and re-played the trial a thousand times. The Discovery Institute and the Thomas More Law Center have had a very public falling out. Intelligent design proponents have come to refer to Judge Jones, a lifelong Republican who was appointed by George W. Bush, as an activist judge.

What they have not done, as a movement whose leaders are nearly all men, is come to grips with the great role played in their embarrassing defeat by Barbara Forrest, a tiny but very determined woman from Louisiana, who simply took their own words and turned them against them.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


School Board Choice

In a rally in Dodge City, Don Hineman, chairman of the Kansas Alliance for Education, said that the group is backing Tim Cruz, a Garden City Democrat, and Sally Cauble, a Liberal Republican. Both are running against right-wing incumbent Connie Morris, who has embarrassed the state by her advocacy of intelligent design.

According to the Hutchinson News, the Alliance for Education interviewed the two District 5 challengers before endorsing both. District 5 covers much of western Kansas.

"It's nice to have that kind of choice," Hineman said.

Endorsements in other school board races are expected to follow.


Prairie Ayatollahs

"Members of the State Board of Education can believe that God created the world 6,000 years ago. They can believe that intelligent design actually holds up to scientific scrutiny.

"Privately, they can believe whatever they wish.

"But when they begin imposing their religious beliefs on the public, they overstep their authority.

"They become prairie ayatollahs."

From an editorial in the Hutchinson News.


Pastafarian's Delight

Connie Morris tells Roy Wenzl of the Wichita Eagle that Pastafarians have sent her at least a thousand e-mails since last fall.

"They are very serious about claiming to be a religion," she said. "We know it's a satire. I don't mind the ridicule; it comes with the job. But I do personally object to my own religious beliefs being ridiculed, and that's what the Pastafarians delight in doing."

Beyond Connie's problems with assertive Pastaferians, this article provides a serious profile of science teacher Randy Mousley, the teacher who drew Morris' ire by having his Noodly Eminence stuck to his classroom door.


Dr. Barbara Forrest, a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a key expert witness in the Dover intelligent design trial, spoke to a large, friendly audience at KU's Robert J. Dole Institute last night. Red State Rabble interviewed Forrest over lunch yesterday. Check back later today for the interview and a fuller report on her speaking engagement.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Casey Luskin: A League of his Own

Over at the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog, Casey Luskin is replaying the Dover intelligent design trial... again. The result of Luskin's latest, "Do Car Engines Run on Lugnuts?" is a little like a strange version of Rotisserie league baseball.

The idea of Rotisserie, or fantasy, baseball is to simulate owning and managing a team comprised of pro players. Players are selected from the rosters of actual major league teams. Winners and losers are decided by the on-field batting and pitching stats of the players drafted.

The way Luskin plays Rotisserie Dover is a bit different. Instead of creating a dream team, all the players from the trial stay the same, but Luskin gets to step in for them and say the things he thinks they ought to have said during the trial. He also gets to step in and change the rules at whim, but that's another matter.

In Luskin's fantasy trial, Ken Miller doesn't refute Michael Behe's arguments that the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex. Instead, Miller's pitch -- that a portion of the whip-like bacterial flagellum functions as the "syringe" that makes up the Type III secretory apparatus -- hangs high in the strike zone, and Behe hits it out of the park.

That creates a tricky tactical problem for Luskin because, in the real trial, Miller testified first, and Behe followed him. Behe had the perfect opportunity to refute Miller's testimony. Unfortunately, Behe took a mighty swing -- ended up admitting astrology would have to be considered a branch science if defined the way intelligent design activists demand -- and struck out.

In this hermetically sealed Wayne's World fantasy version of the trial, Luskin, who in real life doesn't know the difference between a bolt and a lugnut, yells, "Put me in, coach!"

And since, this is Rotisserie Dover and Luskin is coach, manager, player, and fan, he goes in. He steps in for his hero -- in his basement, in his mind, he is Behe, he's better than Behe. He, Casey "The Kid" Luskin steps confidently to the plate. The crowd sits forward in their seats and a strange hush settles over the stadium.

Luskin spits. He rubs his hands in the dirt near the plate. He digs in.

Miller lobs his flagellum toward the plate. It's a lazy pitch. Laughable, really.

Luskin smiles a steely smile and plays the testimony the way it should have been played. The crowd is on its feet, roaring in ecstacy as young Luskin knocks it out of the park. The way Behe surely would have if only he'd been on his game. The way he would have if only he knew the things Luskin knows.

Meanwhile, around the country, real school boards react to the real trial by stepping back from intelligent design. In Kansas money is raised, events organized, and votes sought to take back Kansas from the wingnuts who have stolen it. We are doing everything in our power to give Luskin the opportunity to play Rotisserie Kansas starting in November.


UK: Creeping Influence of Religion in Education

Members of the largest classroom teaching union in the UK will warn today of the dangers of the creeping influence of religious organisations in education, including Christian fundamentalist sponsors of state schools where creationism is routinely taught, reports Rebecca Smithers, education editor of The Guardian.

"If one religion gets state funding and another doesn't, allegations of discrimination will be made," says Hank Roberts, a Brent teacher. "And they'd be right. The only logical and fair answer is that no religiously controlled schools should receive any state funding. Absurdly radical? No, it is the wish of the large majority of the British public. A Guardian/ICM poll showed that nearly two-thirds of the public were against government funding of faith schools of any kind."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Flock of Dodos: Rare, Even-Handed Look at Hot-button Issue

Randy Olson's film, "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution -- Intelligent Design Circus" is being screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, and the reviews are beginning to come in. Here's Martha Fischer writing in Cinematical on the film:
Because Flock of Dodos was made by someone with a passion for and background in science, its willingness to listen to and criticize both sides equally will surprise some viewers. It’s Olson’s background, though, that gives the film power -- not only is he well-positioned to ask the right questions of intelligent design advocates, but he’s also respected enough as a scientist that his criticism of evolutionists is easier for that side to stomach than it might otherwise be. Flock of Dodos is a rare, even-handed look at a hot-button issue, and it deserves to be widely seen; one hopes that its world premiere at Tribeca will win it a distribution deal, and get the film before the general audiences. It’s not as if this controversy is going to go away, so we may as well talk about it.


Dover Biology Teacher Tells About Impact of ID Policy on Students

Jennifer Miller, a Dover high school biology teacher explains to Leonard Lopate why she fought to keep intelligent design out of her classroom. Listen to "Controversy in the Classroom" here from WNYC, New York Public Radio.


Fred Flintstone and the Seven Wonders of the World

“There is evidence that dinosaurs used to help man build the pyramids and the other wonders of the earth, including Noah’s ark. Forget the idea that the Jews built the pyramids. Egyptians restored them with talented slaves, Jews. In the book of Job, the dinosaur is described as a hippopotamus with a tail resembling a cedar tree,” says pastor Vince Fenech says, director of the Accelerated Christian Academy, a private independent school in Malta whose 35 students learn physics and biology the creationist way.

And to think, we watched the Flinstones as entertainment, never realizing we were watching the History Channel.


Confusion Abounds

Jon D. Miller, who directs the Center for Biomedical Communications at Northwestern University Medical School "has been asking adults if 'human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals' since 1985. He and his colleagues purposefully avoid using the now politically charged word 'evolution' in order to determine whether people accept the basics of evolutionary theory. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of Americans who reject this concept has declined (from 48 percent to 39 percent), as has the proportion who accept it (45 percent to 40 percent). Confusion, on the other hand, has increased considerably, with those expressing uncertainty increasing from 7 percentin 1985 to 21 percent in 2005."

From "Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology," by Liza Gross, a Science Writer for the Public Library of Science.


Seeking Consolation in Science

"Did bees sting before Adam sinned? Why would birds need to migrate in a good world? What would polar bears do in a world with no ice and what did great white sharks eat before Aussies went surfing?"

"The answers may seem obvious, but it is proof that even believers in the inerrancy of the Bible feel the need to seek something scientific to bolster their case," writes Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent for The Guardian.

Bates has a nice tongue in cheek piece on an upcoming tour of Great Britain by Australian creationist John Mackay.


Taking ID Personally

Writing in The Guardian, Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Seti Institute in California, says that the battle over teaching creationism in US schools has become achingly personal.
They [ID activists] say: "If you Seti researchers receive a complex radio signal from space, you'll claim it as proof of intelligent, alien life. Thus your methodology is completely analogous to ours - complexity implying intelligence and deliberate design." And Seti, they pointedly add, enjoys widespread scientific acceptance.

... In fact, we are not looking for complex signals, but simple ones (such as a pure radio tone). And we seek this type of signal in places where we suspect planets might exist. It is universally acknowledged that planets don't produce such radio tones; only transmitters do. The analogy with Seti is a poor tactic for defending ID.


Sorting out Religion from Science

Kansas Citizens for Science is sponsoring a talk on “Creationism vs. Evolution: Sorting out Religion from Science,” by Dick Wilson, a former biology department chairman at Rockhurst University. The talk will be held at 7:00 p.m. this Thursday, April 20, at Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church, 7725 W. 87th St., Overland Park.

A tour of the “Exploring Evolution” exhibit at KU's Natural History Museum led by museum director Leonard Krishtalka is set for 10:00 -- 12:00 Noon, Saturday, April 22 at the museum on KU’s campus.

Update: Our intitial post incorrectly reported the start time for the "Exploring Evoluiton" exhibit. The time listed now is correct. here's a link to Kansas Citizens for Science which has more info on the events.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Francisco Ayala

Genevieve Ernst has written a profile of evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala for the New University Paper at the University of California -- Irvine. She quotes Ayala as saying creationism doesn't exist for him—he calls it “anti-evolutionism.”



Apparently, young Casey Luskin sees his musings on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog, "Do Car Engines Run on Lugnuts? A Response to Ken Miller & Judge Jones's Straw Tests of Irreducible Complexity for the Bacterial Flagellum," as such special creations that he's been compelled, quite prominently, to copyright them.

We hate to say it, but we seriously doubt there's much danger Luskin's intellectual baggage property will be of much use to anyone.


Judging Religion

Do those of us in the skeptical community sometimes, falsely, conflate all religious belief with its several fundamentalist variants? Writing in The Guardian, Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford, accuses atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett of focusing "exclusively on the worst examples and excesses of religion."

"From time to time," writes Harries, "I see American creationist magazines with articles by people claiming to have doctorates in science. Judging religion only on the basis of its least credible examples is as though I judged all science on the basis of creationist science."

Part of the reason for the fireworks between secularists and some believers is that biblical literalists are making a concerted effort to write their narrow, sectarian religious beliefs, based on a tendentious biblical literalism, into the law. They demand that all of us, no matter what our beliefs may be, pray to their god -- even worse, they demand that our children pray to their god in tax-supported public schools.

In the current situation, it is natural that those of us who defend religious tolerance and separation of church and state speak out in the strongest terms against the fundamentalist onslaught.

Non-believers have rights.

We have the right to say, as Bertrand Russell once did: “I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.”

That being said, we also have duties.

Those duties include defending, effectively, freedom of religion, freedom from religion, science and reason, tolerance, the rights of minorities, freedom of speech, and separation of church and state.

As a minority, non-believers must make alliances with others who will fight with us to defend those values.

That's why we should be careful not to conflate people of faith who will work with us to defend secular government with those fundamentalists who work tirelessly to establish theocratic rule.


Strictly Interchangeable

Dembski is out. Wise -- in a manner of speaking -- is in.

Intelligent design advocate William Dembski is being replaced by young earth creationist Kurt P. Wise, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Center for Theology and Science.

Wise, a professor at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., is currently director of the Bryan College Center for Origins Research which affirms the "validity of the biblical account" of creation.

The transition, we expect, will be seamless.


Events Calendar

Tuesday, April 18 – Dodge City – Take Back Kansas Rally
The Kansas Alliance for Education will host a rally on Tuesday, April18 at 7:00 p.m. at Dodge City Middle School, 2000 6th Avenue (UseMorgan Street entrance.) Moderate Board of Education member Sue Gamble will speak. Details can be found here.

Wednesday, April 19 – Hays – Take Back Kansas Rally
The Kansas Alliance for Education will host a rally on Wednesday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the Hays High School Lecture Hall. Moderate Board of Education member Sue Gamble will speak. Details can be found here.

Wednesday, April 19 – Overland Park – Barbara Forrest Public Lecture: "Slam Dunk for Science and the Constitution: The Dover IntelligentDesign Trial" 12:00 Noon to 1:00 p.m. at the KU Edwards Campus,Regnier Hall room 153. More information here.

Wednesday, April 19 – Lawrence – Barbara Forrest Public Lecture: "The Naturalism of Science: The Only Way that Works" 7:30 p.m. at the Dole Institute for Politics, KU Lawrence Campus. Prof. Forrest will be available after the talk to sign her book,"Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design" will be copies available forpurchase at the book signing. More information here.

Thursday, April 27 – Overland Park – Kansas School Board: 3rd District Candidate Forum Nick Haines, the host of KCPT's "Kansas City Week in Review," willmoderate a 3rd District State Board of Education Candidate Forum onThursday, April 27. The forum will be held at Shawnee Mission West HighSchool at 85th and Antioch in Overland Park, Kansas starting at 7:00p.m. Forum participants include: moderate Republican Harry E. McDonald,Democrat Don Weiss, and Republican David Oliphant.

Saturday, April 29 – Topeka – Kansas Bishops Conference on "Public Education and the Common Good" The Episcopal, United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran bishops will hold a one-day conference designed to examine vital issues facing public education in Kansas. The conference will take place on Saturday, April 29, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, 8th and Polk in Topeka. The program will include the bishops in a roundtable discussion with former Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Andy Tompkins and a series of workshops led by recognized leaders in the field. The conference is open to all interested persons. There is a $15.00 registration fee and a deadline of April 19 to register.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


The Good Old Days

To listen to the theocratic majority on the Kansas Board of Education, some Kansas schools, those that teach the facts about preventing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, aren't upholding societal values.

Kathy Martin, and others of the wingnut majority, want to go back to the good old days when schools taught the values -- of some -- instead of facts. In fact, they'd like to go back to the days when girls who got pregnant were either forced into marriage or painted with a scarlet letter "A."

An editorial in the Parson's Sun by Ann Charles points out the fallacy of that sort of thinking:
People like to think that back in the good ol' days teens didn't have sex and family values were stronger. The reality is that there's a whole lot of ignorance out there about what really went on.

The teen pregnancy rate is the lowest it has been since the 1940s, when records were first kept. And it is still falling. Keep the politics out of it.


Blatant Misrepresentation

An editorial in the Hutchinson News, "Abstinence Expert Labels Real Success as a Failure," says it all about the Kansas Board of Education's recent discussion of abstinence only education:

Members of the State Board of Education heard testimony Tuesday from Sandy Pickert, executive director of the Abstinence Educators Association in Wichita.

Pickert claimed that Kansas public schools offered two decades of sex education "to no avail."

What a blatant misrepresentation of the facts.

Births to Kansas girls between the ages of 15 and 19 decreased by more than a quarter between 1990 and 2003, according to data collected by Kids Count, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the birth rate stood at 56 per 1,000 girls in the 15-to-19 age group.

By 2003, it dropped to 41 per 1,000.

Yet Pickert considers sex education ineffective.

Again, what a blatant misrepresentation of the facts.


Michigan: Creation "Science" Evolves

Michigan House bill 5606, introduced last January by Rep. Brian Palmer, R-Macomb Town-ship, is still working its way through the legislative process. If enacted it would require the Michigan Department of Education to change the science curriculum to "include using the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories and using relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and formulate arguments for and against those theories."

Although evolution is not mentioned in Palmer's bill, according to Jeffrey Hogan, "its language about using 'the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories' is taken verbatim from House bill 5251, which specifically targets theories of global warming and evolution. Palmer was a cosponsor of that bill, as well as another which would have amended the state science standards to refer to "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a creator."

Biblical literalists may not believe in evolution, but they certainly aren't shy about evolving their strange notion of "creation science" into "intelligent design" and, when that fell apart, evolving again to "critical analysis."


Teaching Evolution

The New York Academy of Sciences will present a two-day symposium, Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science, on Friday-Saturday, April 21-22, 2006, at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The symposium is designed to assist science educators from all levels of American education as well as state and local education officials responsible for their schools' science curriculum respond effectively to the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution.

The goals of this symposium are: (1) to provide science educators with the tools, both rhetorical and scientific, that will help them deal with issues relating to the delivery of science education; (2) enable science teachers to increase science literacy and develop skills of scientific inquiry among their students; (3) ensure that students understand that evidence is a necessary component of the scientific process; and (4) discuss the investigative nature of science, and how to recognize approaches to the teaching of science that reflect non-scientific propositions.

Speakers include:
  • Glenn Branch, National Center for Science Education: “Infiltration of Intelligent Design”
  • Bruce Alberts, UCSF and Past-President, NAS: “Discovery and Evolution of Protein Machines That Make Life Possible”
  • John Haught, Professor of Theology, Georgetown University: “Evolution and Religion: What are the Issues?”
  • Kenneth R. Miller, Professor of Biology, Brown University: “Science, Darwin and Design: Teaching Evolution in a Climate of Controversy”
  • Robert T. Pennock, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Michigan State University: “The Nature of Science”
  • Jennifer Miller, Biology Teacher, Dover High School: “Teaching Evolution at Dover High School”


Hate Spech: What Would Jesus Do?

Do policies intended to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination end up discriminating against conservative Christians? Ruth Malhotra, a senior at the Georgia Institute of Technology says they do. The school has a policy that bans hate speech based on sexual orientation. Malhotra has gone to court to overturn the policy, which she sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression.

This is a difficult question for Red State Rabble. First, we are well aware that the kind of bigotry exhibited by good Christian fundamentalists, such as Ms. Malhotra, often makes life intolerable for gays and lesbians. Often, the insults lead to outright intimidation, bullying, and physical assaults. We believe that many suicides by young gays and lesbians, particularly in high schools are the inevitable product of the sort of primitive behavior endorsed by Christian fundamentalists.

On the other hand, we also know that bans against certain forms of speech most often end up hurting those they were designed to protect. Back in the 60s, such policies inevitably ended up banning civil rights, antiwar, and women's rights activists from speaking on campus, forming student groups, reserving rooms, and distributing literature. That's why we support freedom of speech for all, even those -- perhaps we should say especially those -- we disagree with the most.

This issue, perhaps more than any other, demonstrates the utter hypocrisy of the religious right. They demand for themselves the right to make the lives of young gays and lesbians miserable -- their faith, they say, demands it.

At the same time, they bray loudly about the discrimination against Christians. Sensitive to the even the smallest slight, they even claim that when stores put signs in the window wishing everyone a "Happy Holiday," they are participating in a war against Christians.

Red State Rabble doesn't believe we should ban hate speech -- vile as it is -- by Christian fundamentalist. We do believe it is imperative confront these bigots forcefully and expose them for the hypocrites they are.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Tinfoil Hats in Short Supply

A new book by Christian C. Nwobi, Ph.D., Facts of Intelligent Design of Creation and Facts I Am Being Radio-Waved (now available through AuthorHouse) states his belief that Jesus did not die on the cross but only slipped into a coma, in which Mary Magdalene found him three days later. After his ordeal, he fathered twins with her, the author writes.

In addition to this treatise on Christianity, Nwobi also outlines his take on people being unknowingly and maliciously struck with invisible radio waves, which he has experienced personally for the past 18 years, he writes.


Barbara Forrest to Speak in Kansas City Metro

Barbara Forrest, author, with Paul Gross, of Creationism's Trojan Horse and a key witness at the Dover intelligent design trial last fall, will speak April 19, on "Slam Dunk for Science and the Constitution: The Dover Intelligent Design Trial" at the University of Kansas Edwards campus in Overland Park. Her talk begins at 12:00 Noon in room 153 of Regnier Hall.

Her talk is sponsored by Kansas Citizens for Science.

Forrest is also scheduled to speak April 19 at the Dole Center on the KU main campus at 7:30 pm on The Naturalism of Science: The Only Way that Works.


Missouri: Creationist Loses Re-election Bid

Twelve year Columbia school board vetern Elton Fay lost his bid re-election to a fifth term, garnering just 25 percent of the vote in the April 5 election, according to the Columbia Missourian.
During the election, Fay, 58, came under fire by the public and the news media for statements he made challenging the teaching of evolution as fact rather than as a theory of creation. Fay, who attends Forum Boulevard Christian Church, also said he thinks schools would suffer without an acknowledgement of God.


The War on Easter

Cal Thomas, the man who wears what has got to be the least convincing hairpiece in television punditry, is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.

Thomas is on to the sinister secular war against Easter and, in his Town Talk column, exposes the malign details for all to see. As you will soon see, the evidence is more damning than even an old pagan like RSR might have imagined.

"The first attack came from St. Paul, Minnesota where local officials decided to ban the Easter Bunny from City Hall," so as not to offend non-Christians. "Apparently it escaped the notice of the city council," adds Thomas, "that the Easter Bunny might offend Christians, because, like Santa Claus, it is a counterfeit."

Next, a Florida State University scientist -- it's always scientists and academics, isn't it --"speculated that Jesus didn't really walk on water; he walked on ice... "

Then there was that missing link business. It couldn't be plainer -- to non-Doubting Thomas -- that was obviously a dart aimed straight at the jugular of honest, Bible-believing Christians who just want to celebrate Easter in the peace and privacy of their own homes and mega-churches.

Then, the Skeptic's general staff, apparently embarrassed by the St. Paul gaffe, got really clever. They unearthed the 1,700 year old Gospel of Judas.

"In this document," sniffs Thomas, "Jesus is revealed as having urged Judas to betray him. That a number of Judas' contemporaries said otherwise in Scripture matters not to skeptics."

Of course, there's the soon-to-be released Da Vinci code movie, although the planning was off a bit, apparently, as it will not be in theaters until after the Easter holiday.

Thomas, however, doesn't stop at a mere cataloging of the attacks. He provides the sort of sober analysis of the background to the war that we've come to expect from him:
What is responsible for this flood of skepticism, heresy and outright denial of the biblical record? Why is there not a similar cultural onslaught against other faiths? Only the suicidal would treat Islam in this way. The skeptics sound like those disclaimers for certain drugs sold on TV: Side effects may include vomiting, hair loss, bleeding, dizziness and disorientation. The side effects of believing in Jesus may include loss of friends, disrespect by the academic and journalistic communities and damage to one's career, not to mention a complete change in the life to which one has become comfortably accustomed.

Biblical literalists everywhere can sleep more soundly at night knowing that they have a man of Thomas' courage, wisdom, and penetrating insight manning the ramparts in their defense.


UK: Labor Government Expands Faith Schools

Polly Toynbee writes in The Guardian "Even an old atheist like me sees no good in this ignorance of basic Christian myths. How do you make any sense of history, art or literature without knowing the stories and iconography of your own culture and all the world's main religions? Total ignorance of religion and its history could make people more susceptible to the next passing charlatan offering Kwik Save salvation from whatever it is people want to be saved from.

"But how odd that in this heathen nation of empty pews, where churches' bare, ruined choirs are converted into luxury loft living, a Labour government - yes, a Labour government - is deliberately creating a huge expansion of faith schools."

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Evolution 101

Don't forget, tonight Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science and a member of the Kansas Science Standards Writing Committee is speaking at 7:00 pm at the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church 7725 W. 87th Street in Overland Park, Kansas on Evolution 101.


Morris Meets the Monster

We must have been too blurry-eyed this morning when we got up to write our blog posts to notice that our dear friend Connie Morris was more than a bit miffed when she stumbled across a picture of our hero, the Flying Spaghetti Monster during a school tour... Josh over at Thoughts from Kansas has the story. PZ Myers at Pharyngula, too.

RSR just hates being the last to know...


Ned Flanders: ID Advocate

Harry Shearer, the voice of Ned Flanders, the Simpson's nauseatingly cheerful next-door neighbor, Mr. Burns, the evil overlord of the Springfield nuclear plant, and a host of other people on "The Simpsons" was interviewed by Mark Rahner of the Seattle Times, who asked:
Q: Seattle is the home of the Discovery Institute. What would Ned Flanders have to say about intelligent design?

A: There's actually an episode next fall, I believe, where he pressures the local school to start teaching intelligent design, so you'll know then.
If, like RSR, you're a big fan of Christopher Guest movies, you'll be interested to know that Shearer also lets the cat out the bag about a new movie coming out in September called "For Your Consideration." Shearer, who is in it, says it's about "actors who are about three rungs below the top of the ladder who suddenly get a fairly bizarre case of Oscar fever, and what happens in the world around them as a result."

Starring Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Rachael Harris, Ricky Gervais "and a whole bunch of other folks familiar from 'Best in Show' and 'Mighty Wind' and 'Waiting for Guffman."

Now, those are two events worth waiting for...

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