Saturday, December 23, 2006

Put 'em up, put 'em up! Which one of you first? I can fight you both together if you want. I can fight you with one paw tied behind my back. I can fight you standing on one foot. I can fight you with my eyes closed. Oh, pull an axe on me, eh? Sneaking up on me, eh? Why, I'll... Ruff!

Remember William Dembski, the ID theorist extraordinaire who fantasized about squeezing the truth out of Darwinists only to put his tail between his legs and run like hell when he was called himself to testify at the Dover intelligent design trial.

Dembski wasn't the only ID hero to go AWOL at Doverloo of course, Discovery's Stephen C. Meyer, John Angus Campbell, and Warren Nord all found they had more pressing duties elsewhere, as well.

Of course, they all have reasons why.

Dembski, deeply stung by Barbara Forrest's account of his desertion under fire, offers his excuses here.

Dembski wanted to testify. He really, really did, it's just that he was held back by forces beyond his control. Don't worry though, Dembski fully expects "there to be future trials where Forrest and I cross swords."

Not only that, but Dembski wants to debate Forrest -- if the honorariam is sufficiently attractive, we suspect. Where Dembski once fantasized about squeezing the truth out of Darwinists under cross-examination, our adolescent hero now envisions himself going "toe-to-toe in a final exchange" with Forrest.

Naturally, this "final exchange" will lack the drama of being conducted under oath in a court of law. Perhaps, George Bush will lend our boy the Top Gun outfit he wore while landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to deliver his "Mission Accomplished" speech.

That should do it.

Red State Rabble will be taking a break next week. See you after the first of the year.


The New Savonarolas

An article by Barbara Forrest, a philosopher who served as a key expert witness at the Dover intelligent design trial, has written a fascinating account of her role in the trial. Forrest's article includes a lot of behind the scenes information that hasn't, to our knowledge, been previously published, like this:
Dover’s problems actually started in 2002. Bertha Spahr, chair of Dover High School’s science department, began to encounter animosity from Dover residents toward the teaching of evolution. In January 2002, board member Alan Bonsell began pressing for the teaching of creationism. In August, a mural depicting human evolution, painted by a 1998 graduating senior and donated to the science department, disappeared from a science classroom. The four-by-sixteen-foot painting had been propped on a chalkboard tray because custodians refused to mount it on the wall. Spahr learned that the building and grounds supervisor had ordered it burned. In June 2004, board member William Buckingham, Bonsell’s co-instigator of the ID policy, told Spahr that he “gleefully watched it burn” because he disliked its portrayal of evolution. He also blocked purchase of a new science textbook that included evolution, forcing teachers to accept Pandas as a reference book in exchange for new textbooks.

"Gleefully watched it burn." Creationists and intelligent design activists may not believe they -- and all other living things -- are descended from a common ancestor, but that's not to say they aren't in touch with their roots.


Fair and Balanced?

A Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views posting says that "in a welcome turn of events" an article in The Scientist by Ted Agres reports "accurately and fairly" about the Sternberg affair. They approvingly call out this descriptive paragraph from Agres' article:
The Congressional report, prepared by the staff of Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources and released Dec. 11, supports Sternberg's claims that NMNH supervisors investigated his political and religious beliefs, sought to discredit him, and aimed to force his removal as an RA by creating a "hostile work environment" after the article was published.

All of which quite accurately reflects what's in the staffer's report. Discovery, whose claim that they support fairness and accuracy in media coverage -- much like Fox News' claim to be fair and balanced -- is undercut by the fact that they fail to mention that Agres also reports this:
"... NCSE's Matzke asserted that both investigations were politically motivated, with Souder being "the leading ID supporter in Congress" and OSC chief Scott Bloch having been 'widely criticized for using the OSC office for right-wing culture wars.'"

Agres reports the conflicting claims. Discovery, as always, does not.

The Scientist article also includes a number of links to documents that will be useful for those who want to learn more about the L'Affaire Sternberg.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Gov. Sebelius on Kline Appointment

Associated Press: Here's the text of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ statement on Attorney General Phill Kline’s appointment as Johnson County district attorney:

With the overwhelming election of Paul Morrison as Attorney General — an outcome even more pronounced in Johnson County — the people of Kansas made a strong and unequivocal statement about Phill Kline’s fitness for law enforcement and his pursuit of misguided, personal priorities in public office.

Out of a deep and enduring respect for the will of the people, I cannot approve of Kline’s appointment as Johnson County district attorney by a small, narrow group of partisan political operatives.

I do not believe such a clear majority of Kansans rejected Kline’s stewardship as attorney general with the intention of seeing him continue a public career in law enforcement paid for by taxpayers.

Since Kansas law treats my response to this decision as purely “ceremonial,” I join the people of Kansas in hoping he conducts himself differently as district attorney than he did in his term as attorney general.


Gay Penguins: Can't Have That

According to Emanuella Grinberg of Court TV, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina says it will review its decision to ban a children's book about a pair of gay penguins raising a chick. The book, And Tango Makes Three, tells the true story of two male penguins that paired up at the Central Park Zoo to raise a baby chick named Tango.


Environmentalism and Faith

In the Asheville Citizen-Times Leslie Boyd reports on a growing movement of evangelical Christians who are becoming active environmentalists.

“It doesn’t matter whether you believe in creation or evolution, caring for the Earth is something we agree is right,” says the Rev. Austin Rios of Grace Episcopal Church in Asheville. “Together, we are a strong force, and when we do all put our effort behind it, we will make a difference.”

Rios says the Creation Care movement is one of the few things that reach across lines of division, according to Boyd.


Quintessentially American

In a review of books touching on the relationship between science and religion Thomas Dixon writes in the Times Literary Supplement, "It was recently reported that teaching materials promoting Intelligent Design had been sent to all heads of science at British secondary schools, but it is unlikely that they will have much impact here. Intelligent Design is a quintessentially American movement responding to a set of constitutional, cultural and religious dilemmas peculiar to the United States."


Parody Abounds

Regular, heavy metal, or full flatulence, it's all a matter of taste.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


All the News That Fits

Reaction to the Cobb County sticker settlement is coming in from the National Center for Science Education, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League, Georgia Citizens for Science.

Reports on the settlement have been broadcast on the major television networks and in newspapers across the country. The blogosphere lit up after the ruling with posts on the settlement at Pharyngula, Dispatches from the Culture Wars and an uncounted number of other blogs.

There are a couple of places where you won't find out about the settlement.

The intelligent design wing of the blogosphere is maintaining radio silence -- as is its want following major defeats -- on the settlement.

While you can't read anything at all about the Cobb County settlement at William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog, you can learn a great deal about the dangers of blasphemy, "a sin for which no forgiveness can be attained and for which the penalty is eternity in hell?"

At the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog, you won't find any mention at all of Cobb County -- that story was crowded out by the exciting news that the University of Virginia Magazine has published "Abbreviated Pro-ID Letters."

Why, that's almost like peer review. Isn't it?

Bye-the-way, it appears that Casey Luskin, who has more titles that a millipede has legs, now identifies himself as "Casey Luskin, President Emeritus, IDEA Center."


Georgia Citizens for Science React to Settlement

Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education has posted a statement on the settlement in the Cobb County sticker case. You can read it here.


The Cost of Being Wrong

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that it's costly to be wrong -- as the Cobb County and Dover school boards have learned:

In the settlement agreement U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper signed Tuesday, the board agreed to pay another $166,659 toward attorneys fees of the five parents who sued the district.

Linwood Gunn, an attorney with Brock Clay who represented the district in the case, said the $166,659 is about one third of the plaintiff's legal fees, which were close to $500,000.

The school district spent $14,243 more to have the stickers scraped off the books after Cooper ordered them removed in 2005. They paid students and teachers $10 an hour to get the job done and equipped them with sponges and solvents, said school system spokesman Jay Dillon.

"It was a big waste of money," said David Chastain, a Cobb school parent and chairman of the Libertarian Party of Cobb County. "There are a lot of other things we could have done with the money like buy more textbooks or fund more programs for students who don't speak English."


Cobb Settlement Posted

The National Center for Science Education has posted the Cobb County settlement along with many other court documents, including Judge Cooper's ruling, here.


ADL Supports Cobb County Settlement

"The real winners here are the students," said Shelley Rose, Interim Southeast Region Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). "Twenty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that any attempt to ban evolution or include creationism in the science curriculum is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The stickers should never have been placed in textbooks, and the Board's action only served to divide the community and undermine science education, which is so critical to our children's future success. We hope that this settlement heals the divisions and puts the focus back on science education."

More on the ADL's reaction to the Cobb County settlement here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Hold Your Nose

"The whole concept of intelligent design reeks of intellectual dishonesty," writes Bo Alawine, a 1987 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi who works for a defense contractor on the Gulf Coast, in the Hattiesburg American.


What Is It?

Guardian columnist Tim Radford says the intelligent design argument of irreducible complexity isn't science. It's not common sense. It may not even be Christian.


The Cost of Being Wrong

The Associated Press reports that the Cobb County school board agreed to pay about one-third of the plaintiffs' court costs. That's on top of the money the district spent to scrape nearly 35,000 anti-evolution stickers off of biology textbooks there.


Sleepless in Seattle

Apparently, the Discovery Institute's John West had trouble sleeping last night.

In the early hours of the morning, West posted a long piece on Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog asserting that a "year after Dover, Darwinists seem increasingly disillusioned as well as shrill."

As the bleary-eyed West was posting, such was the despair among Darwinists that many were just getting to bed after a night of popping champagne corks to toast the big victory in Cobb County.

And celebration was in order because yesterday, the National Center for Science Education and Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced that the Cobb County school board agreed to a settlement that enjoined them not only from "restoring to the science textbooks of students in the Cobb County schools any stickers, labels, stamps, inscriptions, or other warnings or disclaimers bearing language substantially similar to that used on the sticker that is the subject of this action."

The settlement with the school district also enjoined them from taking any of a number of actions that "would prevent or hinder the teaching of evolution," including making oral or written disclaimers about evolution or Darwin, placing statements in textbooks about "creationism, creation science, intelligent design, or any other religious view concerning the origins of life or the origins of human beings," and "excising or redacting materials on evolution in students' science textbooks." The agreement is binding in perpetuity.

All of this, naturally, goes unmentioned in West's post.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Cobb County Victory

Earlier today, the Cobb County school board in suburban Atlanta abandoned its legal fight to place stickers calling into question Darwin's theory of evolution on biology textbooks.

After waging a four-year battle, the board agreed in federal court "never to use a similar sticker or to undermine the teaching of evolution in science classes," according to the Associated Press.

A federal judge ordered the stickers removed in 2005, saying they amount to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The school board appealed, but a federal appeals court sent the case back, saying it did not have enough information.

"We faced the distraction and expense of starting all over with more legal actions and another trial," said board chairwoman Teresa Plenge. "With this agreement, it is done and we now have a clean slate for the new year."

Update: Reaction from Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State can be found here.

Further Update: National Center for Science Education responds to settlement.


We'd been wondering what to get ID theorist William Dembski for Christmas. At first it seemed he wouldn't be an easy man to buy a gift for. I mean what do you get a man whose massive intellect has filled him with the ambition to overthrow not only Darwin, but Kant, Hobbes, Hume, Jefferson, Voltaire, and Locke?

And, then it came to us.



“We tend to think Earth’s climate will always be optimal for human civilization if we just take better care of it. But nothing could be further from the truth,” says Hugh Ross, founder and president of Reasons To Believe . “When we put emotion and politics aside and take a rational look at our planet’s history, we actually see something quite different.”

Yes, by all means, let's take our advice on climate change from creationists who believe the Bible was the world's first science textbook.

You needn't worry your pretty little head about global warming, because the "Bible accurately foretells specific events-in detail-many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur. Approximately 2500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter—no errors," according to Ross.

And climate change ain't one of the prophecies, so relax.


The Great Leap Backwards

"A modest proposal to reverse the national great leap backwards: I say we all familiarize ourselves with the compelling, crystalline logic of The Top Ten Myths about Evolution," writes Ann Druyan, co-author with Carl Sagan of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, about a new book by Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan published by Prometheus Books. "Then, let's do our best to connect with those who have yet to accept the ancient legacy of life on earth as revealed by Darwin and affirmed in countless ways by the generations of science ever since."


The Rebel Scientist

"Science is a particular bunch of tools that have been conspicuously successful for understanding and manipulating the material universe," writes physicist Freeman Dyson in his new collection of essays, The Scientist as Rebel. "Religion is another bunch of tools, giving us hints of a mental or spiritual universe that transcends the material universe."

Dyson writes that his ideal scientific rebel is someone who embodies "thoughtful rebellion, driven by reason and calculation more than by passion and hatred."

Update: RSR's original post identified Dr. Dyson as a Nobel Prize winner. We mistankenly relied on a Booklist review for that bit of biographical information. RSR regrets the error. A list of Dyson's many awards can be found here. The Nobel Prize is not among them.

Monday, December 18, 2006


ID: The March of Progress

Can it really be true that mathematician, theolgian, and philosopher William Dembski -- once regarded in some circles as the Isaac Newton of information theory -- has been reduced to making fart noises in response to Judge John Jones' Dover intelligent design ruling?

Dr. Dembski, curious minds want to know, did you do it by pursing your lips, placing the palm of your hand in your armpit, or did you simply have beans for dinner?


Seeing It For What It Is

Dave Davenport, editorial page editor of The Patriot News in Pennsylvania, responds to the Discovery Institute's smear of Judge John Jones:
It's not unusual for the loser in a court battle to criticize the judge who ruled against him.

But attempting to discredit the judge professionally is a more serious matter, especially in a case where the loser hasn't appealed the judge's ruling.

Perhaps it's reflective of the times in which we live, when people who don't have the facts on their side are quick to turn the attack personal. It's a staple of today's politics, where nothing more than a party label becomes, to someone of another label, a presumption of all that is evil.


ID: Science, Except When It's Religion

WorldNetDaily reports that Congress has slammed the Smithsonian Institution's "anti-religious attacks."

Well, not exactly, the report in question isn't by Congress at all. It's by a staffer for Mark Souder a right-wing Republican from Indiana. As such, it will have all the impact -- in the memorable phrasing of the late Senator Everett Dirksen -- "of a gentle snowflake falling on the broad bosom of the Potomac."

The staffer's report concerns Richard Sternberg, a crypto-creationist research associate at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History and (former) journal editor who surreptitiously slipped a paper by the Discovery Institute's Stephen Meyer, a proponent of intelligent design, into print without first advising his publishers he was doing so.

When other members of the "Proceedings" editorial board learned of Sternberg's breech of trust they subsequently voted to rescind the dubious article.

Interestingly, both the report, WorldNetDaily, and the Discovery Institute characterize the response of Sternberg's Smithsonian colleagues to his duplicity as "imposing a religious test on scientists." There's a "strong religious and political component" to the dispute they say.

Does the reaction of Sternberg's colleagues represent an anti-religious attack? How could it, when all along we've been told this is a scientific controversy. ID, they say, has nothing at all to do with religion.


Dover Screenplay Evolves

The York Daily Record has a report on the evolving screenplay being written by Ron Nyswaner on the Dover trial. Somehow, we suspect it won't evolve into the daydream scenario William Dembski once envisioned.


Placing Blame

The Discovery Institute's Johnathan Witt writes that Darwin's theory of evolution has resulted in violence. The crimes of the Nazis, writes Witt, "follow from Darwinian principles."

It may seem strange to some readers that those who learn nature's secrets and describe how they operate might somehow be responsible for the crimes of others, especially when these crimes are committed decades after the discoverer has gone to his grave.

But, according to Witt and Richard Weikart, the author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, one thing led directly to the other.

This notion fails to take into account the fact that natural selection, the mechanism that drives evolution was also discovered by Alfred Wallace. If Darwin hadn't moved quickly to claim credit, Weikart, Witt, and others might today be decrying the evils of "Wallacism."

If neither Darwin or Wallace had gone on to write about their joint discovery it seems unlikely in the extreme that some later discoverer of the workings of evolution would likewise have remained silent. Would that later discoverer have also been made to take responsibility for the religious intolerance and extreme nationalism that led to the Third Reich?

If, as Witt and Weikart suggest, we're to go to go back into history to place blame for the crimes of the Nazis, why stop with Darwin. Aren't his ideas, after all, built on the foundation of Charles Lyell's unraveling of the great age of the earth? Could it be that the theory of Uniformitarianism is what really drove the Nazis to commit their crimes?

And why stop with Lyell for that matter, either? It was Darwin's trip around the world on the HMS Beagle that started him thinking about evolution.

Shouldn't Christopher Columbus shoulder some of the blame, too? After all, if Columbus hadn't discovered the new world, Darwin would never have gone there. He wouldn't have learned that species are descended from a common ancestor through the mechanism of natural selection, and the Nazis would never have come to power in Germany.

It's so simple, anybody could understand it.


ID Takes the High Road

We did not think it possible, but DaveScot has at last succeeded in raising the level of discourse usually found at William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Straight Line

In an exchange of letters with Red State Rabble, Richard Weikart has denied that he draws a straight line between Darwin and Hitler in his book, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. He writes:
Second, note my terminology carefully—“played a key role.” Nowhere do I claim--and in the introduction of my book I specifically deny—that Darwinism is the sole cause or sole factor behind Nazi ideology.

That this quibbling is not to be taken seriously has already been made clear by Weikart's participation in a widely condemned television program produced by right-wing fundamentalist D. James Kennedy on the Coral Ridge Hour which featured, among other experts, Ann Coulter.

Kennedy, of course, has no trouble making the connection:
"To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler," says Dr. Kennedy. "Hitler tried to speed up evolution, to help it along, and millions suffered and died in unspeakable ways because of it."

To this we can now, we can add the reaction of Johnathan Witt, a fellow of the Discovery Institute:
What is striking is how straightforwardly many of the horrors documented in Weikart's book follow from Darwinian principles.

To be sure, Weikart has salted this "history" with pettifogging caveats designed to shield him from criticism in the academic world, but it is nothing more than right-wing propaganda with only the with the thinnest of academic veneers. The fundamentalist audience Weikart's book is directed to knows better than to read the fine print.

Friday, December 15, 2006


How Do You Spell Quote Mine?

Joe McFaul exposes the Discovery Institute's plagiarism charge for what it is, and it turns out to be weaker than you'd ever believe. A new low, and that's saying something. Read it quick, it'll be down the memory hole before you know it.



First Ken Miller, now Judge John Jones. If only Larry Moran were as effective at taking on creationism.

The work, it seems, of the United Atheists League Diplomatic Corps -- remember, they're uniters, not dividers -- is never done.

Weak sisters, such as RSR, who have strayed from the front lines of rationality, filling in our cowardly way the ranks of the Neville Chamberlain School of Appeasers, may lack the razor-keen wit of our brothers in the UAL, but at least we have the virtue of not having been taken in by Discovery Institute propaganda.


Manly Men

Are Christian fundamentalists about to become even more obnoxious (reg, req.)?

Update: Readers who don't want to register can get a summary here.


Evil Doin's

“Witchcraft is being mainstreamed to our kids today but people are not aware of it. They think these books are fantasies, but Wicca is a real recognized religion,” Laura Mallory said during a hearing in October.

Mallory, a Gwinnett County, Georgia mother of four had asked the Harry Potter books be banned, according to WXIA-TV in Atlanta, because she felt they promoted evil.

Wisely, the board rejected the ban and the books will stay on the shelves for now.


Authoritarianism, Incompetence, and Secrecy

... are the three legs of the stool that props up the Bush administration. Case in point:
The U.S. administration is clamping down on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, who study everything from caribou mating to global warming, subjecting them to controls on research that might go against official policy.


What's Good for the Goose

According to the Lawrence Journal World, creationist poster child Connie Morris pushed on Wednesday for a stricter state school board travel policy that would, in the future, prohibit board members from using tax dollars to travel out of state after they are defeated in an election.

Morris also said she wouldn’t abide by the proposal for her own travel plans which take her to Washington, D.C. next week.

“This whole thing is a sham. I know it’s all politics and just a matter of getting me off the board,” Morris said of complaints about her travel expenses.


Poor, Poor Connie

Yesterday, was Connie Morris' last state school board meeting. And, wouldn't you know it, Connie proved herself just as gracious in defeat as she was when she and her creationist pals, who once ruled the board, were flying high:

On her way out the door, Morris let it be known that other board members ``lie and slander'' and that the news media beat her up before she was defeated by moderate Sally Cauble.

Her own wild accusations and taxpayer financed boondoggle to Miami , of course, had nothing to do with it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Kansas' Dark Night of the Soul Ending

Bill Wagnon, who is expected to become chairman of the board when the newly elected moderate majority is seated Jan. 9 has told Scott Rothschild of the Lawrence Jounal World that "when the new State Board of Education is sworn into office next month, one of the first items on its agenda will be evolution."

Briefing in January, says Wagnon, action in February.


Efficient and Well-Versed

"Any judge who is efficient and well-versed in the law takes advantage of the findings of fact. It's par for the course. Any attempt to make a stink out of it is absurd," says James D. Greenberg, a partner in the York firm Katherman, Briggs and Greenberg of the Discovery Institute's latest epiphany on the Dover decision.

The York Daily Record reports:

Greenberg, who read Jones' ruling, said a verdict slip in a jury trial is the same as the findings of fact in a bench trial. In both scenarios, parties involved in the dispute have an opportunity to offer their respective positions for the fact-finders' consideration, he said.

Sara Austin, president of the York County Bar Association and head of The Austin Group, said parties are required by the courts to submit findings of fact and "a judge can adopt some, all or none of the proposed findings."

In the final ruling, a judge's decision "is the judge's findings and it doesn't matter who submitted them," she said.



Joe McFaul doesn't post often on his Law, Evolution, Science, and Junk Science blog, but when he does, you can be sure it's worth reading.

Joe's an attorney who's been admitted to practice before 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. He's also served as a judge pro tem and court appointed arbitrator. He graduted magna cum laude from Seattle University in 1983 and was Lead Articles Editor for Law Review.

So he speaks with some authority on legal matters. As a matter of fact, he once gave RSR some good (free) advice on how to handle Litigious Larry Caldwell.

Joe's latest post takes up the Discovery Institute's ludicrous charge that Judge Jones plagiarized his ruling from the ACLU's Finding of Fact and Conclusion of Law.

The whole thing is worth reading, but here's one of the better lines to tide you over until follow the link to his blog:
After trial there is as “winner” and a “loser,” as Intelligent Design has found out. About 50% of all parties in trials come out as “losers.” Losers don’t like being losers. They moan, they blame the judges or their own lawyers. It never crosses their minds that the law and facts were against them. At Dover, there is no question that ID was the “loser.”

Okay, what're you waiting for? Get on over to Law, Evolution, Science, and Junk Science.



The New York Times Ingfei Chen looks at Nick Patterson's evolution from unscrambling clandestine communications as a cryptographer at the British Government Communications Headquarters to breaking the toughest code of all -- the human genome -- as a computional biologist.

Patterson is part of a team at the Broad Institute that found patterns in DNA suggesting "that millions of years after an initial evolutionary split between human ancestors and chimp ancestors, the two lineages might have interbred again before diverging for good."

Ooh, Casey Luskin won't like that.


Table Talk

Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow is right.


Looking for God in a Test Tube

Has the secret intelligent design bunker lab been found in Redmond, Washington? This is a big story. Make sure you follow the link to New Scientist.


No Offense Intended

Moscow Times: Maria Shreiber has sued the St. Petersburg city education committee, saying the 10th-grade biology textbook used at the Cervantes Gymnasium was offensive to believers and that the school should teach an alternative to Darwin's famous theory.


Kills Buggs Dead

"We're seeking to have intelligent design and criticisms of Darwinism taught in science lessons," says Dr. Richard Buggs, of the British campaign group Truth in Science.

Anybody got a can of Raid?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


They've Been Framed

Wasn't it the right that was supposed to be so good at framing, that process of using the media to control people's perception of political issues? Weren't they the masters of fine tuning the meanings attributed to words or phrases? The authors who transformed the inheritance tax into the death tax, clear cutting into the "Healthy Forest Initiative," and trampling the Constitution by indoctrinating school children in creationist mythology into "teaching the controversy?"
"Our strategy," writes Phillip Johnson, "has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools."
That was framing then, when ID was initially expanding out of its creationist base and making headway in schools, legislatures, and the media.

This is framing now that ID has begun to contract back into that base following the Dover decision:
"Judge John Jones copied verbatim or virtually verbatim 90.9% of his 6,004-word section on whether intelligent design is science from the ACLU's proposed 'Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law' submitted to him nearly a month before his ruling," said Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.
Both Ed Brayton of Dispatches From the Culture Wars and Timothy Sandefur on Panda's Thumb have done an excellent job of pointing out why there's nothing to Discovery's latest attack on Jones.

But the really funny thing about the masters of framing at the Discovery Institute is that the more they flail away at the Dover decision, the more they call attention to the fact that ID has been ruled not to be science and can't be taught in public schools.

That was the take-away message voters in Ohio and Kansas took from the trial, and nothing Discovery writes -- and they've done nothing but write about Dover for the past year -- can change that real-world fact.

There's a bonus in all this for defenders of science education, as well. The first ID activist to make the latest, bogus charge against Jones is Michael Behe. He tried it out when he was here in Kansas speaking at KU. Behe's problem -- which is ID's problem -- is that he's now stuck trying to argue that he doesn't really believe astrology is a scientific theory as he testified at Dover.

Every time Behe gives his lame explanation, it calls attention to that testimony, ID's association with pseudoscience, and the outcome of the trial itself.

They made that bed, and now they have to sleep in it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Pretty Disgusting

A lot of people -- even some such as RSR who agree with him on other issues -- are upset with Richard Dawkins for suggesting that the religious indoctrination of young people may amount to child abuse.

But, an audience that viewed the film "Jesus Camp," a documentary that features evangelicals indoctrinating their children in the faith, may not be among them.

A screening in central Kansas at the Salina Art Cinema prompted this response from audience member Michelle Clark who said she viewed it as "nothing less than child abuse."

"I'm a little surprised how gently everyone has been talking about the film. Because I wouldn't say I was horrified, but I was really disgusted by what I saw," Clark said. "Children should not be indoctrinated and brainwashed in that way.

"Opinions of people who are powerful to them, forced upon them at such a young age, was to me pretty disgusting."

Is "Jesus Camp" just an isolated example of fundamentalist zeal, or is it a preview of coming attractions should the religious right have its way with our public schools? Either way, it's frightening.


Brownback's Inner Circle

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza has the rundown on Soapy Sam's inner circle. Funny, there's not mention of God.


Shearing Sheep

If you're the sort of person who's convinced by the arguments for creation science or intelligent design, there are people who have a bridge they want to sell you.

Note: RSR is eagerly looking forward to the day when the Fraud Discovery Institute casts its eye on the Discovery Institute.


Phill's Folly

Republican precinct captains in Johnson County have picked Phill Kline to finish out the term of District Attorney Paul Morrison, the Democrat who ousted him as Attorney General last month.

We knew Republicans were despondent over the election results, but we didn't know the persistent sadness would lead to self-destructive behavior.

Diane Silver who writes the In This Moment blog has more.


God Forsaken?

Evangelical and gay. Neela Banerjee has a report in today's New York Times on the coming out party.


Cruel and Unusual

Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, is in jail waiting to be sentenced on his conviction for tax evasion. Presidential aspirant Soapy Sam Brownback, the super-sanctimonious senator from Kansas, launched his election campaign by going to prison.

RSR doesn't wish to heap additional misery on inmates serving time in America's penal system, but is it possible that we have the beginnings of a solution to two of the country's biggest problems?

With religious fundamentalists occupying cells in the nation's prison system, they'll not only have less time to meddle with public schools, re-write the constitution, and bully gays, but they may just provide the disincentive to the criminal activity that we've been looking for.

We suspect that many career criminals may decide to go straight rather than spend years inside memorizing bible verses with religious zealots.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Kent Hovind's Letter From the Escambia County Jail

While awaiting sentencing on his conviction for tax evasion, Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, has been whiling away the tedious hours at the Escambia County Jail by teaching fellow inmates to memorize bible passages. Hovind writes in a blog post, "Update From Bunk Three:"
There is no way to describe the joy that they show when they get it right. Many have never memorized scriptures in their life, and maybe that is why they are in jail.

Okay, were confused. If that's how they ended up in jail, what's Hovind's excuse. Is it that the good Rev. Hovind never quite got around to memorizing scripture himself. Or, does it simply mean that knowing scripture has no effect on behavior.

It certainly doesn't appear to have prevented Hovind from engaging in criminal behavior.


Cut a Fat Hog

In Ouachita Parish, down in Louisiana, the school board has granted teachers the academic freedom to teach "scientific evidence" in science classes, by which they mean intelligent design inspired nonsense.

This pleases Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute who claims, disingenuously, that opponents of the new parish policy such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union dislike "freedom of inquiry and academic freedom."

Here in Kansas, we'd say Casey, the Ouachita Parish school board, and the Louisiana Family Foundation have "cut a fat hog." Or, in language that those of you who live in other parts of the country might better understand, they've bitten off more than they may be able to chew.

There's an odd conjunction of events in the news just now that neatly illustrates why these Johnny-come-lately recruits to freedom of inquiry and academic freedom -- they are, after all, the ideological descendents of those who once prosecuted John Scopes for teaching evolution -- may soon find they're suffering from a bad case of indigestion.

Right-wing Christians in Albemarle County, Va. were shocked and outraged recently when they found fliers sent home from school in their children's backpacks inviting them to “an educational program for children of all ages (and their adults), where we’ll explore the traditions of December and their origins, followed by a Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule.”

As Rob Boston of Americans United reports:

The dispute started last summer when Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski, twins who attend Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church’s Vacation Bible School to their peers via “backpack mail.” Many public schools use special folders placed in student backpacks to distribute notices about schools events and sometimes extra-curricular activities to parents.

School officials originally denied the request from the twins’ father, Ray Rakoski, citing a school policy barring “distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes.”

A Charlottesville weekly newspaper, The Hook, reports that Rakoski “sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county,” and the policy was soon revised to allow religious groups to use the backpack mail system.

That's when some local Pagans who attend Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation in Charlottesville, decided to take advantage of the backpack mail system to advertise their event, as well.

That was a turn of events the religious right -- those intrepid defenders of religious freedom -- hadn't anticipated. One Baptist minister blogged that the Pagan note "adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools).”

The creationist and intelligent design faithful want the academic freedom to teach "scientific criticisms" of evolution. We wonder how they'll like it when a teacher uses that academic freedom to teach scientific criticisms of the Christian creation myth and intelligent design.

Note: Ed Brayton of Dispatches From the Culture Wars has been writing about this story as well.


ID's Age of Aquarius

Intelligent design activists are burning up a lot of pixels just now explaining what Michael Behe really meant when he testified at the Dover intelligent design trial that his definition of the words "scientific theory" would include astrology. Behe himself tried -- a little less than successfully -- to explain it himself when he spoke at KU recently.

Over at the intelligent design blog, Telic Thoughts, they say the notion that Behe believes astrology is a scientific theory is "obviously false... for anybody who read the actual transcript of what Behe said."

Well, here's an excerpt from the actual transcript of what Behe said and a link:

Q Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?

A Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well.

Q The ether theory of light has been discarded, correct?

A That is correct.

Q But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?

A Yes, that's correct. And let me explain under my definition of the word "theory," it is -- a sense of the word "theory" does not include the theory being true, it means a proposition based on physical evidence to explain some facts by logical inferences. There have been many theories throughout the history of science which looked good at the time which further progress has shown to be incorrect. Nonetheless, we can't go back and say that because they were incorrect they were not theories. So many many things that we now realized to be incorrect, incorrect theories, are nonetheless theories.

Sounds to us as though Behe said quite plainly that his redefinition of the words -- not so intelligently designed to welcome ID to the realm of science -- also admit astrology.

And that's a damning admission if there ever was one.

RSR's question is this: If redefining the words "scientific theory" opens the door to astrology, why do it?

The word has a perfectly good definition now: a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

If ID activists like Behe can't come up with definition for scientific theory that doesn't admit pseudosciences such as astrology, perhaps they ought keep quiet about it until they do.


Hell on Earth

As if American prisons were not already hellish enough -- RSR still can't get it out of his head that both Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick and Specialist Charles Graner were civilian guards in U.S. prisons before they organized the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib -- inmates now have to contend with proselytizing evangelicals, as well.

According to a report by Diana Henriques and Andrew Lehren in The New York Times, inmates who are judged by their born-again guards to be making "acceptable spiritual progress" qualify for special privileges, such as movies, live bands, and pizza. Those that don't? Well, they may find themselves on the receiving end of a disciplinary report that could effect their eligibility for parole.

All of this, naturally, is paid for with your tax dollars.

Prison Fellowship Ministries, one of whose founders is born-again Watergate felon Chuck Colson, is the beneficiary of $56 million of those dollars.

Would it surprise you to know that, like other Bush-sponsored faith based initiatives such as Iraq and Katrina reconstruction, supplemental audits required of many federal programs "would probably violate the Bush administration's new regulations?"

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Middle Ground

Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian Ed Larsen spoke on "From Dayton to Dover: A Brief History of the Evolution Teaching Controversy," Dec. 5 at Drexel University:

"People can draw atheistic implications out of evolution and they can also draw theistic explanations out of evolution," Larson said. "I don't think we should perceive there's a war between science and religion. There are people on the science side who use science to club religion and there are people on the religious side who use religion to club science. But there's also lots of middle ground."


The Evolution of "Divine Design"

Utah State Senator Chris Buttars of "Divine Design" fame says he won't sponsor another origins of life bill this year, but something else could be in the works.

"Yes, it's coming, but it's not coming this year ... something that will address this opinion about Darwinism, that defines how life started,"


Difficult Dialogues

The Lawrence Journal World has posted a report on the panel discussion last Thursday at KU that wrapped up the "Difficult Dialogues" series on faith and reason. You can read it here.


ID: What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothin'. Say it Again

Michael Behe spoke last Thursday at KU as part of the Hall Center's "Difficult Dialogues" series on faith and reason. In answer to a question from moderator Leonard Krishtalka, director of KU’s Biodiversity Institute, Behe said he doesn’t get into questions of who the designer is or how and when the design was done.

As Behe suggests, the universe of things that intelligent design can't or won't explain is limitless. What can it explain? What can it contribute to the stockpile of human knowledge? What value does it offer?

Behe doesn't get into questions like that either.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Molecular Evidence

The American Scientist has published a review of Sean Carroll's new book, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution.

Carroll, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the University of Wisconsin, opens his latest book by asking why so many Americans accept the use of DNA evidence to convict those accused of rape or murder but refuse to accept the overwhelming molecular evidence for evolution.

Good question.

Carrol, many readers will remember is also the author of Endless Forms Most Beautiful, a wonderfully accessible book for the non-professional about the new science of evolutionary developmental biology.


Soapy Sam

Kansas own Soapy Sam Brownback has filed the paperwork to form an exploratory committee as the first step in his run for the presidency. That he's running as the "true" conservative in the race tells you something, but probably not enough about how truly reactionary the man is.

If you want to learn more about Brownback's theocratic politics there's no better place to start than The Anti-Sam Brownback Blog which is run by a student of political science at the University of Kansas.

When you're done there, read "God's Senator" by Jeff Sharlet in Rolling Stone.

How he ever gave Sharlet access is a mystery.


Channeling Skeptics

The 49th edition of the Skeptic's Circle is up, but did it require psychic energy to go online?


The Know-nothings and the Know-everythings

"The know-nothings and the know-everythings are at it again," writes Leonard Fein in an eloquent essay published in the Jewish Daily Forward.

The know-nothings, as ever, mock Darwin, scorn stem-cell research, affirm abstinence, blame science for what they see as a collapse of American values and an imminent threat to the American family.

The know-everythings — i.e., the scientists — agitated by endless debates about evolution and stem-cell research, irritated by the blatantly anti-science policies of the Bush administration, and emboldened by several recent books — Richard Dawson’s “God Delusion,” Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation” and Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell” — are making their anger with the know-nothings very public. They refuse any longer to suffer in silence or just to live and let live.

This will be a difficult essay for some RSR readers to read because it's critical of those scientists and defenders of science who conflate creationism with all religious belief, but it's equally critical of primitive religion -- religion that unwisely offers puerile explanations of the natural world -- as well.

There is much in the Fein's essay that skeptics will disagree with -- RSR, for example, would prefer to substitute the humanities for religion -- but it will reward anyone who reads it with and open mind and follows its sound reasoning through to the end.

Here's an example of one of the rewards to be found along the way:
The distinctive hallmark of scientific wisdom is that it is cumulative. A graduate student in physics today knows more physics than Einstein knew. The same is obviously not so in religion. It would be absurd to suggest that Billy Graham or the pope or the most distinguished professor of theology at the most distinguished seminary in the world “knows” more religion than did, say, Isaiah.
At times it seems that the fundamentalists on either side dominate the public discussion, but Fein's essay reminds us that a more sophisticated engagement between science and religion is possible. RSR thinks believers such as Fine and secular humanists must do more to defend science from attack by religious fundamentalists. We also believe some scientists must come to understand the contributions of language and literature, the arts, history, and philosophy, and yes, even religion.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Discovery's Doppelgänger

RSR likes to think of himself as a sophisticated man of the world. Someone who's been around the block. A person who know what's what.

Then, we were introduced to a world we never knew existed.

Yesterday, we posted a short item -- nothing more than a link, really -- to an online video and website that claims Einstein's theory of relativity, like Darwin's theory of evolution, is not only wrong, but the product of a dark, dark conspiracy.

We had no idea that the Discovery Institute has a doppelgänger complete with its own demands to teach the controversy and "scientists" who doubt Einstein.

Fortunately, John Farrell has written the whole spooky history. It's fascinating. You can find it here on Salon.


Ohio's Big News

Do you think the Ohio state school board's elimination of a lesson plan and science standards that critics said opened the door to teaching intelligent design, a form of creationism, was the biggest Ohio news story of the 2006?

If so, you could cast your vote here.


Lesson Learned

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft has been schooled.


Flocking to Darwin Day

"Flock of Dodos," the film by Randy Olson, will be screened across the country on Darwin Day, which will be celebrated Feburary 12. In the Kansas City area, the film will be screened at Science City in Union Station. Many screenings will be accompanied by panel discussions on the controversy over intelligent design.

Look here to find a screening near you.


UK Plays Whack-a-Mole

The Guardian: The British government will write to schools telling them that controversial teaching materials promoting creationism should not be used in science lessons.

Now we know he can't speak as authoritatively to the science as Casey Luskin or DaveScot, but The Guardian reports John Sulston, a Nobel prizewinner and prime mover in the Human Genome Project, as saying at a lecture last week at the British Museum: "[Pupils] are somehow being told these agendas are alternative ways of looking at things. They are not at all. One is science - a rational thought process which will carry us forward into the indefinite future. The other is a cop-out and they should not be juxtaposed in science lessons."


Ohio Governor Evolves

"I want people who are really committed to teaching good science in school, and I think that intelligent design does not play a role in the science curriculum," says Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.

Taft says the four people he plans to appoint to the state school board before leaving office will support teaching evolution not intelligent design in Ohio public schools.



Ask yourself this: why do science teachers need to be granted-- as they recently were in Ouachita Parish down in Louisiana -- the academic freedom to teach "scientific evidence" in science classes? Isn't that what science teachers do?

The Bayou Buzz has seen through the transparently disingenuous new policy: "The real agenda is only revealed in the policy’s sub-text, which allows the religious theory of ‘intelligent design’ to be taught as scientific theory in science classes."

The Bayou Buzz isn't fooled either by a flimsy justification inserted into the Ouachita School Board’s resolution which seeks support from Santorum Amendment, "while entirely omitting the first sentence which clearly opposes the teaching of 'religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science.'"


Can't Win for Losing

First the president says “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq. Then his nominee for Secretary of Defense contradicts him saying, no, we're not. Now the bipartisan commission on Iraq piles on by warning “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.”

Not only that, but the Republicans appear to have lost another important battle in their war on science and reason, as well:

The New Scientist reports "researchers in a broad range of disciplines, from embryonic stem cells to climate change, stand to benefit from the tide of voter anger that has swept Republicans out of power in the US House of Representatives and the Senate, handing control to the Democrats..."

Facts. They're pesky little things, aren't they?



First Darwin, now Einstein. Oh yeah, there's a website, too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


The Atheist's Delusion

God is really, really real. If you don't believe it, just ask him.


The Fix is In

Red State Rabble caught a bit of the Senate confirmation hearings for Robert M. Gates, the president's nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Gates told senators the U.S. isn't winning in Iraq. American failure there, he said, could ignite “a regional conflagration” in the Middle East.

Gate's blunt assessment that we're not winning contradicted recent statements by the man who nominated him that “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq.

Much has been written about the missteps that led us down the primrose path to war. Certainly, the issues are complex, but for us, one factor stands out above the rest:

As we learned from the Downing Street memo, the intelligence and facts were fixed around a policy of removing Saddam Hussein by military force which was justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.

The intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy.

And, isn't that the method of creation science and intelligent design as well? Facts -- fossil gaps, bacterial flagella, and the new favorite, unspecified molecular "evidence" -- like nonexistant WMD are all fixed around a policy of belief in a fundamentalist's God and the inerrancy of the Bible.

Can there be any doubt that this method, if it were written into the science curriculum or the law of the land would have different, but equally disastrous results for our country as the president's adventure in Iraq?


When Being Wrong Isn't Enough

Intelligent design, AIDS denialism, doubts about climate change... it's all part of the same whacked out package.


Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more

Intelligent Design theorists from across the country met at Utah Valley State College Dec. 1. The annual conference was sponsored by the UVSC Biology Dept. Religious Studies Department.

Conference participants discussed the latest scientific evidence for design "how evolution and faith relate to physics, and the social implications of all of these topics."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Flea Powder

Hyrum, Steinien, and Greg -- all commenting from this IP -- have been banned for posting multiple comments under different names... again.


Will Miracles Never Cease

There has been some debate here in Kansas in recent days about whether a scheduled speaking engagement at KU by intelligent design activist Michael Behe was prevented by the weather, -- a winter storm passed though the area the day Behe was scheduled to speak -- a diabolical Darwinist conspiracy, or divine intervention.

RSR's skepticism is well known, but we must admit the divine intervention theory holds some attraction for us.

In any event, Behe has been rescheduled:

Thu., Dec. 7, 2006, 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Difficult Dialogues at The Commons Michael Behe “The Argument for Intelligent Design in Biology” Crafton-Preyer Theatre, Murphy Hall.

Thu., Dec. 7, 2006, 3:30-5:00 p.m.
Difficult Dialogues at The Commons Panel Discussion on Knowledge: Faith & Reason with Sue Gamble, Bishop Scott Jones, Richard Lariviere, Derek Schmidt, and Edward O. Wiley at the Hall Center Conference Hall.

All those who would like to ask Prof. Behe about the science of astrology while he's here would do well to View Event Details


Corkins' Epitaph

“From the very beginning, he [Corkins] appeared to be someone who had solutions looking for a problem,” says board member Sue Gamble, a Shawnee Republican who opposed Corkins’ hiring and worked tirelessly over the past summer and fall to elect moderates to the board.


Radical Dude

Now that Bob Corkins has resigned -- saving the incoming moderate majority on the Kansas school board the trouble of firing him -- the search is on for a new education commissioner, and there's been some talk of what his or her qualifications should be.

Tom Trigg, the very competent superintendent of the Blue Valley school district in Johnson County says whoever is hired "is going to need to have an education background.”

Now there's a concept.


War on Christmas

More than 900 lawyers aligned with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) have pledged to go after the “organized plot to remove all religious meaning from the holiday,” The Arizona Republic reports in a recent article.

According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Mike Johnson, an ADF lawyer, claims the group received “over 400 phones calls last year about possible discrimination.” They expect a similar deluge this year.

That means the ADF must have had its hands full last year filing lawsuits, right?

Wrong. Johnson “declined to say how many cases were taken to court” last year. That’s likely because few cases, if any, were actually filed, writes Americans United's Lauren Smith.

Johnson, for example, couldn’t point the Arizona Republic reporter to even one verifiable incident in this “war” on Christmas. It’s also worth noting that every incident brought to AU’s attention in 2005 turned out to be grossly exaggerated or flat-out false. Click here to see last year's AU report.


Department of Lost Causes

William Dembski must be suffering from an irony deficiency. Last night he posted one of those whistling past the graveyard quotes from G.K. Chesterton, the influential Christian thinker and writer, asserting that "Darwinians have this mark of fighters for a lost cause."

Chesterton published it in 1920.


Biblical Illiteralists

What does it mean that most of those who read the Bible literally appear not to have read it at all?

Monday, December 04, 2006


Ouachita Parish: First in Freedom

Down in Louisiana, the Ouachita Parish School Board has granted high school teachers the freedom to "teach the controversy" about such controversial topics as evolution, global warming, and stem cell research.

Granting that freedom to high school teachers is something of a first. Until now, academic freedom has generally been reserved for university professors. Teachers at the secondary level are most often required to teach from a curriculum established at the state or district level -- that's why we've witnessed so many battles over curriculum standards recently.

Even so, firsts are becoming somewhat routine in the Ouachita Parish School District. As the Louisiana Family Forum website notes, the parish was also the first to implement the Bible as History and Literature course in Louisiana.

The parish school board policy, we are told, is designed to support teachers who, as one school board member so touchingly put it, are uncomfortable teaching the Darwin theory of monkey to man evolution.

We trust the new policy will apply equally to those teachers who want to inform their students about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted disease. Surely, in the Bible class teachers will have the same academic freedom to inform their students that a literal interpretation of the good book is only one of a number of possible readings.


Hide the Controversy!

Richard Leakey fights back against evangelicals who want to hide the fossils that tell the story of human evolution. Read about it here.


Conspiracy Theories

Reasonable Kansans, aka For the Kids, has stopped worrying about the shots fired from the grassy knoll and is hot on the trail of a real conspiracy.

RSR knows Leonard Krishtalka possesses enormous powers, but even we were unaware of his control over the weather.


Plain Speaking

"As we move to improve science education, professional scientists and educators must speak plainly: Evolution is the foundation of the biological sciences. Teaching evolution is an essential component of a rigorous scientific education and a shining example of the power and objectivity of the scientific method," writes Jeffrey S. Kieft in the Denver Post.

Kieft holds degrees from the U.S. Military Academy and the University of California, Berkeley. He's an member of Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church. Read the rest of his well-reasoned opinion piece here.


Born Again Agnostic

Some biblical literalists maintain that reading Darwin leads inevitably to atheism. For Kelly Kerney, a former Pentecostal and author of Born Again, perhaps it did.

"I had all these opinions on Darwin," says Kerney, "but I had never read On the Origin of Species."

Reading, it's such a subversive act.


ID Making Its Way

Intelligent design is slowly making inroads in the mainstream science community, the Discovery Institute's Paul Nelson told an Orem, Utah audience Friday.

How do we know?

Evolutionary scientists are increasingly arguing against ID in reputable journals such as Science and Nature.

Next thing you know evolutionary scientists will be arguing against ID in peer-reviewed articles. And won't that be a coup.

ID isn't yet a fully articulated theory of biological design, says Nelson, but it could be if only you tweak the definition of such words as miracle and supernatural.


Fed Up With Phill?

Kansas Attorney General and radical right poster child Phill Kline went down in flames Nov. 7, losing to Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison 59 to 41 percent, notes Steve Kraske of The Kansas City Star. Now Kline wants Morrison's job and the big pay raise that goes with it. Are Johnson County Republicans dumb enough to pick him to serve out the remaining two years of Morrison's term?

Right wingers control the Republican Party in Johnson County and Kline is their boy, but having lost to Morrison in the county 65 to 35 percent it may well be that even for true believers Kline no longer seems the Great White Hope he did just a few short years ago.

Still, no one's gone broke yet betting against Republicans to do the right thing.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Next Wave: Ouachita Parish

The Louisiana Family Forum, whose goal is to present biblical principles in centers of influence, loves the new Ouachita Parish "science" curriculum. So does the Discovery Institute.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, calls it "an underhanded way to undercut the theory of evolution." It represents, he says, the next wave of attack by anti-evolution forces to get their materials into public schools."

What is interesting about the Louisiana parish's new policy -- and the change in strategy it represents for the religious right -- is that the policy paints itself as protecting the academic freedom of teachers to "respond appropriately to differences of opinion about controversial issues."

The Louisiana Family Forum interprets this to mean that it gives teachers "the freedom to teach the full range of scientific evidence regarding controversial subject like evolution, thus supporting public expectations that Darwin's theory should be taught alongside scientific evidence both for and against it."

Ouachita Parish School Board member Red Sims doesn't really know what the new policy means but he hopes students there won't be taught the Darwin theory that "people came from monkeys."

Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute has this take on the now policy: “There is a disturbing trend of teachers, students and scientists coming under attack for questioning evolution,” said Luskin. “Free speech and academic freedom are cherished principles in America and too important to be sacrificed to the intolerant demands of extremists on any issue.”

In plain language what all this means is that the policy is designed to give teachers so inclined the right to teach one or another pseudo-scientific variant of creationism in public schools. The so-called "scientific evidence" put forward by Discovery and others has been utterly discredited.

The fact is, of course, that previous attempts, in Dover for example, to indoctrinate students with creation science and intelligent design were opposed by teachers who resisted a mandate from the school board to read an ID inspired statement designed to create doubt about evolution in biology classes there.

We didn't see Discovery rush to the defense of "cherished principles" in Dover. Quite the opposite.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Louisianna School District: The Next Dover?

The Shreveport Times reports that the Ouachita Parish School Board passed a resolution Wednesday that states, in part, "Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."

Highlight of the board's discussion: School Board member Red Sims said, "I'd like to know what the teachers are going to be teaching." Sims commented that his early recollections of the Darwin theory were that people came from monkeys. "I hope they won't be teaching that."

The resolution is supported by the Louisiana Family Forum, associated with James Dobson's Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, which notes on its website that "the Ouachita Parish School Board was the first parish to implement the Bible as History and Literature course in Louisiana." The LFF commends the board for voting unanimously to become the first Louisiana school system to adopt a Science Curriculum Policy Resolution.

LFF's mission is to present biblical principles in the centers of influence, including foundational values derived from transcendent scriptural truth.

"It seems that there is a sense of parental interest here regarding the welfare of their children," says retired Judge Darrell White, an LFF spokesman, adding that this interest along with Bible classes already being taught in the district suggested that the parish might be receptive to passing such a policy.


Corkins Greatest Contribution

When the editorial board of the Topeka Capitol Journal says Bob Corkins "deserves credit for his graceful exit" it's hard to disagree with them. That last act may well prove to be Corkins' greatest contribution to education in the state.

But when the Capitol Journal says they have serious questions about the "surge of money now swamping public education" and suggests "that the new board not discard the Abrams-Corkins approach totally, but that it extract the good, and perhaps provide taxpayers with an improved investment on return in the end," we think they go badly wrong.

Districts that are struggling to educate an influx of immigrants attracted to low-paying jobs in Kansas' meatpacking industry will be surprised to learn they've been swamped with money. Other districts, even in affluent communities, have had to make painful cuts in education in recent years, and parents have had to shoulder more and more of the burden of a free public education to make up the difference between what the legislature would approve and what education really costs.

The cavalier use of taxpayer money for questionable travel -- by Connie Morris and John Bacon -- shows that right wing board members see themselves not so much as stewards of the public's money, but as recipients of a personal slush fund.

More important, the Abrams-Corkins approach was not really designed to provide taxpayers with an improved investment. It was ideologically designed to privatize public education in Kansas by taking control of the approval process for charter schools from local school boards. The radical right also wanted, but could not get, approval to use vouchers as a method of defunding public schools and handing taxpayer money over to dubious private sector providers.

It's the same sort of improved return on investment that we got when publicly owned utilities were privatized and turned over to Enron. When duties normally performed by the military were turned over to Halliburton through no-bid contracts in Iraq. And when many of the same war profiteers who made money "rebuilding" Iraq were set loose on our own Gulf Coast to rebuild after Katrina.

The Abrams-Corkins plan was the beginnings of a little K Street connection in Kansas. A source of public money for private business that would pay off in political contributions to ultra-right politicians. Ultimately, it was a plan to keep the right in power in Kansas forever.

And, if the voters had not stepped in, this plan would have had the same disastrous results for education in Kansas as it had for the utility rate-payers in California and the victims of Katrina many of whom are still living in trailers more than a year after the storm flooded New Orleans.


How Will Turmoil on the Board Affect Search for New Commissioner?

A number of names have surfaced of possible candidates for the position left open by Bob Corkins' resignation. Here's a question for readers: Will the board be able to hire the best candidate available given that control of the school board could shift again two years from now?

Will a top flight candidate for the commissioner's job want to take on all the headaches of dealing with a conservative faction that's spoiling for a fight after its candidate was forced to resign and is already positioning itself for the next election?

Abrams, Willard, Bacon, and Martin will undoubtedly oppose whoever moderates choose to fill the commissioner's job, and may find themselves in a position to do something about it if moderates lose control in a future election.

Your thoughts?


Corkins Replacement Watch

Who will replace Bob Corkins as Kansas Education Commissioner? Chris Moon of the Topeka Capitol Journal says a number of names have begun to surface:
• Alexa Posny, director of the Office for Special Education Programs for the U.S. Department of Education (Posny had served as deputy education commissioner in Kansas.)
• Kurt Steinhaus, deputy education secretary for the New Mexico Public Education Department
• John Morton, superintendent of the Newton school district
• Gary Price, superintendent of the Pittsburg school district
• John Heim, superintendent of the Emporia school district
• Brenda Dietrich, superintendent of the Auburn-Washburn school district


Heavy Weather

First came the ice. Then the snow. RSR is shoveling the driveway this morning -- for the third day in a row -- which is covered with about nine inches of light, powdery snow. The wicked winter weather with its ice, snow, bitter cold temperatures, and blowing wind hit just a day after the temperature had pushed up near 70F.

Some of the trolls who inhabit here see the cancellation of intelligent design guru Michael Behe's talk -- he was to have been at KU in Lawrence last night as the concluding speaker in the Hall Center for the Humanities "Difficult Dialogues" series -- as evidence of a vast conspiracy.

We wonder why those who see God's hand in evolution, who believe not a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowing, see conspiracy and not God's grand plan -- his design, perhaps -- in the weather that caused the cancellation of Behe's talk.

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