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
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?
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
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
Environmentalism and Faith
“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.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
All the News That Fits
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
The Cost of Being Wrong
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
ADL Supports Cobb County Settlement
More on the ADL's reaction to the Cobb County settlement here.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Hold Your Nose
What Is It?
The Cost of Being Wrong
Sleepless in Seattle
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.
Update: Reaction from Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State can be found here.
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."
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.
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
The Rebel Scientist
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
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
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
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
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
Saturday, December 16, 2006
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?
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.
Update: Readers who don't want to register can get a summary here.
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
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
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
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
Briefing in January, says Wagnon, action in February.
Efficient and Well-Versed
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'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.
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.
Looking for God in a Test Tube
No Offense Intended
Kills Buggs Dead
Anybody got a can of Raid?
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
They've Been Framed
"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
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
Note: RSR is eagerly looking forward to the day when the Fraud Discovery Institute casts its eye on the Discovery Institute.
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.
Cruel and Unusual
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
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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
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
"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"
"Yes, it's coming, but it's not coming this year ... something that will address this opinion about Darwinism, that defines how life started,"
ID: What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothin'. Say it Again
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
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.
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.
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.
The Know-nothings and the Know-everythings
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.
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.
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
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
If so, you could cast your vote here.
Flocking to Darwin Day
Look here to find a screening near you.
UK Plays Whack-a-Mole
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
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.
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
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?
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The Atheist's Delusion
The Fix is In
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
Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
Conference participants discussed the
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Will Miracles Never Cease
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
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
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
Chesterton published it in 1920.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Ouachita Parish: First in Freedom
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!
RSR knows Leonard Krishtalka possesses enormous powers, but even we were unaware of his control over the weather.
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
"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
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?
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 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?
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
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?
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.
Corkins Replacement Watch
• 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
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.