Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Ed Humes Interview

Kristina Kauffman, a writer for The York Dispatch, reports that "several York countians will be reading about themselves in Pulitzer Prize-winner journalist and best-selling author Edward Humes' book about the Dover intelligent design trial, which was released to most major booksellers today."

In a wide-ranging interview, Humes, the author of "Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul tells Kauffman he doesn't want to assign fault for the debate, but he agrees with the judge's decision and that the trial showed the former Dover school board members "lacked any real understanding of what the theory of evolution and intelligent design was about."

Humes also says the problem is that policy makers -- from the Dover school board up to President George W. Bush -- adopt beliefs when they really don't have solid information on which to base those beliefs.

"And I think that is very common. ... People doubt or outright reject the theory of evolution but they don't even know what it is they've rejected," Humes says. "They just know they don't like it."


Darwin Day at the University of Kansas – Monday, February 12

12:00 pm Center for Science Education Brown Bag Seminar
"Forms Most Beautiful: Ideas of Evolution at the Molecular Level" presented by Dr. Richard Schowen. Pine Room of the Kansas Union. An understandable description of concepts developed between 1970 and the present of how proteins evolve to higher levels of functionality, and in particular, how enzymes have become better catalysts. The intention is to make the story accessible to any curious adult.

6:00 pm Museum Activities Exploring Evolution Display in Museum
Explore Evolution will give visitors the opportunity to understand and experience how scientists conduct research on evolution. Docents will lead small groups through the displays. Current scientific research and major discoveries by internationally recognized scientists are featured. Seven areas, from cells to whales, explore and illustrate evolutionary principles and show how knowledge of evolution is fundamental to advances in contemporary science and medicine. Student guides will help answer questions and make interesting points about the displays.

Museum behind the scenes
Docents will lead a few small groups. 1. Herpetology – John Simmons and Linda Trueb 2. Ichthyology – Ed Wiley and Andy Bentley 3. Ornithology – Mark Robbins

Research displays and presentations
Set up at tables around the museum by department researchers illustrating how far we have come since Darwin.
1. Stephen Ilardi - evolutionary psychology
2. John Counts and Steve Hasiotis - Trace Fossils
3. Edith Taylor - Fossil Plants
4. Larry Martin and David Burnham - Vertebrate paleontology
5. Zach Falin - Entomology
6. Daphne Fautin - Anemone and coral evolution
7. Jennifer Weghorst - Primate social evolution
8. Deborah Smith - honey bee evolution
9. Rafe Brown - Evolution of frog courtship
10. Ray Pierotti - Natural hybridization in mammals and birds.

7:30 Darwin/Muffy/Dodos Escorts to Woodruff for Costume Contest
Sponsored by Kansas Citizens for Science $100.00 cash prize for winner of each category. $50.00 cash prize for second Anyone in the contest will get free entrance to the movie.
1. Darwin – can be Darwin at any age in his career – judged by audience.
2. Muffy Moose – (Pictures at Judged by Muffy from Denver science museum, by means of web casting.
3. Dodos (can be authentic or animated) – judged by the museum biologists and staff

Flock of Dodos showing in Woodruff 7:45 pm
The cost of the movie and event is $2.00, tickets will be available through the Gift Shop in the museum

Sponsoring Groups: Center for Science Education, KU Natural History Museum, Biodiversity Institute, Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas Citizens for Science, KU Students for Science, Department of Chemistry, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Geology, Department of Molecular Biosciences, Division of Biological Sciences, Biological Survey, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Department of Anthropology, Department of Psychology


God Inc. (Part 1)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The Evangelical War on Science

An illuminating look behind the "Teach the Controversy" curtain. Hat tip to reader JT.


Exchange Program

The Russian News and Information Agency reports that Maria Shraiber, a high school girl from St. Petersburg, who is suing Russia's education authorities over the compulsory teaching of evolution in schools, has left school and the country.

Left the country?

Is it possible that we've stumbled across a possible solution to vexing problem of creationists mucking around in this country's schools. Could we urge them to set up a compound somewhere... Turkey, maybe, or the Republic of Idaho, Dinosaur Adventure Land, and go there... soon, now?



"Teaching the biblical theory of the world's creation will not harm students. If people choose to believe that they descended from apes, let them, but without imposing their opinions on others," Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia told an educational conference in the Kremlin.

The patriarch believes that only Orthodox opinions should be forced on others. For some reason, members of other religious faiths in Russia disagree.


Darwin as Muse

According to the Oswego Daily News, the Artswego Performing Arts Series at SUNY Oswego has received a $95,000 grant from the New York State Music Fund to support collaboration between composer Richard Einhorn and the college to create a multimedia production based on the life and work of Charles Darwin.

"Of all the masterworks of science, none is more readable than Charles Darwin's 'The Origin of Species,'" says Einhorn. "It is remarkable that no influential composer in the nearly 150 years since its publication has produced a major work based upon it, as it is filled with literary beauties and profound insights."


Darwin Day at KU

On Darwin Day at KU-- February 12, at Noon -- the Center for Science Education will sponsor a Brown Bag Seminar in the Pine Room of the Kansas Union.

"Forms Most Beautiful: Ideas of Evolution at the Molecular Level," will be presented by Dr. Richard Schowen.

His talk is designed to present an understandable description of concepts developed between 1970 and the present of how proteins evolve to higher levels of functionality, and in particular, how enzymes have become better catalysts.

The idea is to make the story accessible to any curious adult. We're thinking that even a muddle-headed humanities type like RSR could grasp it. Maybe you could too.


Penn & Teller Unpimp Creation Science

(And guess what, when they're done, there's nothing left.)

Monday, January 29, 2007



Monkey Girl
By Edward Humes

Ecco, 400 pp., $25.95
Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Powells

Listen to an audio excerpt of Monkey Girl: Evolution, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul: MP3 - Podcast

"When I said I thought it would be kind of good to learn more about evolution, some other kids started calling me Monkey Girl. 'Cause they said God made them, but that I must've come from chimps... " -- 14-year-old from Dover, PA

Two years ago, on Feb. 1, 2005, the committee charged with drafting science standards for Kansas public schools held a hearing at Schlagel High in Kansas City, Kansas. It was the first of four hearings scheduled for different parts of the state. These sort of public policy meetings are an essential part of the democratic process, but they are rarely well attended.

That night, to nearly everyone's astonishment, more than 400 people gave up the warmth of their living rooms and the pleasures of "Will & Grace," "The Gilmore Girls," and one of the hottest shows of the new season, "American Idol," to drive through the winter night in order to attend. More than 60 of them indicated they wanted to speak on the draft science standards, and a two-minute time limit was established to accommodate them all. Even so, the meeting and a spirited debate continued long past the hearing's scheduled end.

This intense concern about the science curriculum, normally of interest only to public school teachers, administrators, and a small handful of parents was sparked by the results of a school board election two months earlier. Social conservatives, led by Steve Abrams, a veterinarian from Arkansas City in south-central Kansas, won a majority on the board.

In 1999, Abrams led an effort by Christian conservatives to remove all references to evolution, the age of the earth, and the Big Bang from the state's science curriculum. That effort was thwarted when pro-science moderates won the next election.

In Kansas, half of the 10-member school board comes up for election every two years. By 2004 the conflict that energized so many voters just a few years earlier seemed to have receded into the past. Few voters were paying attention to the down-ticket school board races. When the results were announced, Abrams found himself back in the majority with six of the board's 10 votes.

Abrams was elected board chair and promised to revise the standards again. This time not with Bible-based creation science as he had in 1999, but with something new.

That something new was called intelligent design theory. It's backers said it had nothing to do with faith or the Biblical creation story told in the book of Genesis. Intelligent design advocates, such as John Calvert, a retired attorney and leader of the ID Network, claimed that a growing number of scientists were embracing this new theory. The plant and animal life we see around us, they said, isn't a product of evolution as the 19th century naturalist Charles Darwin believed, but of design. The identity of the designer could not be determined, these theorists said, but the evidence of the designer's work was all around us.

The auditorium at Schlagel High that night was about equally divided between defenders of evolution and supporters of revising the curriculum to include the new theory of intelligent design and its criticisms of evolution.

The speakers who took the mike to defend the standards developed by the majority of the curriculum committee were mostly high school science teachers, biology professors from nearby colleges, and members of Kansas Citizen's for Science, a group that had come together in 1999 to oppose Abrams' insertion of creationism into the standards. They spoke passionately about the embarrassment Kansas was suffering at the hands of late-night talk show hosts, the likely damage to the Kansas economy, and the setback delivered to science education in the state.

Those who spoke in favor of the ID-inspired revisions supported by the school board's conservative majority had little to say about intelligent design. Instead, they spoke of their heartfelt desire to teach Christian values to their children. Others spoke about their distress at what they took to be attacks on their religious faith. Still others admitted they didn't know much about intelligent design, but if it meant that their children would learn the creation story told in Genesis, they would support it.

"If we come from monkeys, how come there's still monkeys around?" one speaker who identified himself as a minister demanded to know.

The minister delivered his line about monkeys with the considerable satisfaction of a man who has decisively settled an argument by stating a previously unacknowledged obvious.

He clutched a Bible in his hand as he paced back and forth before the curriculum committee, disdaining the microphone, his voice projected into the farthest reaches of the auditorium without the slightest need for amplification. He spoke in the familiar call and response cadences of a revival meeting, and many in the audience punctuated his rhetorical pauses with a percussive "Amen!"

John Calvert was sitting in the audience that night, but he didn't speak and, despite the strong showing by the anti-evolution side, he didn't seem very happy with what he saw. Later, Calvert would report on the hearing on a Discovery Institute discussion board, and his reservations about the public hearings would become clear:

One thing is obvious. This is not the proper process for deciding this issue. Focused hearings from experts are desperately needed to cut through the misinformation, ridicule and half truths.

It would have helped to have more scientists on our side. If that had been the case we would have won the debate hands down. As it was, the objective observer would leave scratching his head.

Calvert knew the public hearings posed a problem for intelligent design advocates.

Creationists had lost a series of court rulings over the years:

With intelligent design, opponents of evolution like Calvert, thought they'd found a plausibly secular alternative to evolution that could survive a court challenge, but unsophisticated supporters who linked ID with creationism at the public hearings were giving the game away.

A "proper process" as Calvert delicately put it, had to be found to keep unwitting ID supporters from supplying ammunition for a court challenge to the science standards the conservative school board majority planned to adopt.

A few weeks after Calvert aired his proposal on the Discovery Institute discussion forum, the six conservative members of the state school board voted to short circuit the curriculum development process by creating a sub-committee of the board to hold hearings on the science curriculum.

The sub-committee, made up of Abrams, Kathy Martin, and Connie Morris, planned to spend a couple of weeks in May questioning a panel of experts, half supplied by the Discovery Institute to represent intelligent design, and half from the scientific community to speak for mainstream science. The two sides would square off against each other in a modern re-creation of the Scopes Monkey Trial.

There was just one problem. The judges, composed exclusively of conservative school board members, would not be impartial.

Kansas Citizen's for Science called it a kangaroo court. Harry McDonald, who was then president of KCFS, called on scientists to boycott the hearings. Not one mainstream scientist participated in what ID activists, on and off the board, hoped would be a national showcase for intelligent design.

As a result, public attendance at the hearings was sparse -- much smaller than at the four public hearings conducted by curriculum committee back in January and February -- and the national media, after an initial appearance, went home early.

The refusal of scientists to participate in the Kansas hearings left many ID activists with a bitter taste in their mouths. William Dembski, a prominent ID theorist who publishes the Uncommon Descent blog, posted a response to the scientist's refusal titled, The Vise Strategy: Squeezing the Truth out of Darwinists.

Dembski's sense of outrage at the events in Kansas was revealed by a number of photos that accompanied his post. They showed a Darwin doll with its head locked in a vise.

"The recent hearings conducted by the school board in Kansas," wrote Dembski, "made it clear that what needs to happen is not for our side to be interrogated by Clarence Darrow manqués (like Pedro Irigonegaray, the attorney for the other side in Kansas) but for our side to get to interrogate the Darwinists."

When Dembski wrote those words, he and others in the ID camp, believed they might get the chance to do just that. A school board in Dover, PA had mandated that a statement critical of evolution be read to students in the district. The statement mentioned intelligent design as an alternative theory and it directed students to copies of Pandas and People, an ID textbook edited by Dembski, that had been anonymously donated to the school library.

A group of 11 parents represented by the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against the board's statement contending it violated the First Amendment to the Constitution. The school board was to be represented by the Thomas More Law Center, which describes itself as "the sword and shield for people of faith, providing legal representation without charge to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square." The case would be heard by a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush who had a reputation as a conservative Republican.

The opportunity to make their case in a public hearing before an international audience, to present their own experts -- Dembski and other fellows of the Discovery Institute were signed on as expert witnesses by the defense -- and to interrogate "Darwinists" under oath which was denied them in Kansas would, in just a few short months, offer itself again, this time in Pennsylvania.

The stage had been set for the greatest confrontation between opponents of evolution and the scientific establishment since the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925.

Monkey Girl: Evolution, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul by Ed Humes tells the fascinating story of the Dover trial. His highly readable account of the trial and the events leading up to it will be released on January 30.

Humes is the author of eight critically acclaimed nonfiction books including Over Here, School Of Dreams, Baby E.R., Mean Justice, No Matter How Loud I Shout, and the bestseller Mississippi Mud. He's received the Pulitzer Prize for his journalism and awards from PEN and Investigative Reporters and Editors for his books.

Red State Rabble received an advance copy of Humes' book, we've read it cover to cover, and we can recommend it unreservedly. Even those who have followed the battle over evolution obsessively will find much that is new in this book.

Part of the power of Humes' book come from the scrupulous fairness with which he treats all participants in the story. Even so, he goes beyond the "he said, she said" sort of writing that passes itself off as journalism these days.

For example, Humes paints a sensitive, balanced portrait of William Buckingham, the Oxycontin-addicted Dover board member who drove hardest for the adoption of the anti-evolution policy. But in doing so, Humes doesn't allow Buckingham to escape responsibility for his actions. Actions which ultimately cost the taxpayers of Dover $1 million in court costs and lawyer's fees.

Monkey Girl, we think, will prove to be the book on the culture war fought out over evolution in Kansas and Pennsylvania. We'll be writing much more about it in coming days. We haven't felt this strongly about a book since Dava Sobel's masterful Galileo's Daughter.

Correction: In our original post, we said that Jack Krebs was president of KCFS during the May 2005 Kansas science hearings when in fact Harry McDonald was president. Jack Krebs, the current president of KCFS was vice-president then.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Why Intelligent Design is Wrong

Great visual of how variation, random mutation, and natural selection drive evolution and why intelligent design is embraced by by people who are, well, not very intelligent.


Strange Bedfellows

Neal McClusky, writing on the Cato Institute blog takes exception to RSR's post criticizing the institute's recent report on public education: Why We Fight: How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict. In the report, the libertarian think tank proposes solving the battle over teaching evolution by "letting parents choose schools that comport with their values."

According to Cato's report:
If public education were driven by free parental choice, it could escape the Balkanizing battles that plague our current system, because individual parents could choose schools that comport with their values, and there would be no need to fight over public schools for which all must pay, but only the most politically powerful can control.
What Cato and McClusky propose for public education is the same thing they propose for Social Security -- privatize it.

One of the great slights-of-hand in Cato's report -- and McClusky's response to our post -- is that when they talk about parental choice they can never quite bring themselves to say what they really mean: They support vouchers and charter schools.

As things stand now, parents have complete freedom of choice to send the children to any school they want. Although most choose public schools, some families send their kids to upscale prep schools. Some choose day schools while others elect boarding schools. For some, all-girl or all-boy schools are the key to good education. Yet others decide on Catholic schools, Christian academies, yeshivas, madrassas, or home school.

There's no law that prevents these parents from choosing from a wide menu of private school choices.

What's left unsaid, what Cato and other privatizers really want, is for the rest of us to pay for that choice.

McClusky writes that RSR's response to the report employs the "bogeyman gambit" -- the laughable notion that school choice will lead some parents to choose fringe schools. "Were such fringe groups truly the great threat Red State Rabble makes them out to be," writes McClusky, "then their schools would already swamp the nation."

That ludicrous leap in logic inadvertently reveals the quality of thinking that lies behind the entire report.

Unlike McClusky, RSR writes, not from some airy-fairy Washington think tank, but from Kansas. The threat isn't some distant event we read about now and then in the newspapers. We have some real life experience with fringe groups taking over the school board and other public institutions here. The threat from radical right fringe groups is no mere abstraction in Kansas.

These fringe groups agree completely with McClusky and Cato about the desirability of privatizing public education and, until last November, they had a majority on the state school board.

The former right-wing fundamentalist majority on the Kansas school board not only introduced creationist and intelligent design pseudoscience to the science curriculum, it aggressively pursued vouchers and charter schools.

Why? Because they want private schools that teach fringe science, but they don't want to pay tuition to send their kids to them. Make no mistake, once these "private" schools are eligible for public financing, they will spring up like mushrooms after a summer shower.

Cato and McClusky want to have it both ways. On the one hand they write that school choice is the solution to the culture war that's raging over the teaching of evolution. On the other they argue that using public money to let parents send their kids to private Christian academies that teach creation science will have no real impact on the schools.
Yet with very few exceptions, we hear little or nothing about a threat from private education. Which leaves two possibilities: either the malevolent hordes that Red State Rabble envisions going wild with school choice don’t actually exist, or they’re not so zealous that they’d be willing to part with private school tuition to indoctrinate their kids. Sure, we’re supposed to believe, they’re single-minded fanatics about their causes, but not so much that they’d sacrifice money for them!

Well, what Cato proposes is not that the parents who want to send their kids to private schools sacrifice money for them, but that the rest of us pay for those choices with our tax dollars.

And if McClusky hasn't heard about the problems of some private schools, he just hasn't been paying attention.

The University of California system, for example, is so concerned about substandard science education at some Christian fundamentalist schools that it rejects high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community."

Other private schools -- even good ones -- reject special needs students because of the higher costs associated with educating these children.

Others have exclusive racial or religious admittance policies.

Many have uncertified teachers in the classroom.

And there's one thing you can be sure of. If tax dollars become available to private schools, they will spring up in rec rooms and storefronts all across the country.

If the Cato privatization proposal were to be adopted, the Iraq and New Orleans contracting scandals would pale in comparison. There would be a mad scramble for those tax dollars by unqualified and unscrupulous -- but politically connected suppliers. And campaign contributions by those same suppliers would ensure that there would be little or no government oversight.

Like the neocon's fantasy of liberating Iraq, the libertarian's dream of privatizing public education is another example of ideological blindness to reality.

Want proof?

Freedom loving libertarians, like McClusky, have a reputation as defenders of absolute personal freedom. Who are the strongest supporters of their "freedom of choice?" Why it's none other than the authoritarian fundamentalist right -- the very ones who think the country would be better run as an absolutist Christian theocracy.

Friday, January 26, 2007


String Theory

Creationists of the intelligent design variant sometimes take comfort from the fact that their theory isn't the only one that's untestable. Increasingly, they point out that string theory hasn't been tested either.

Red State Rabble and a group of friends heard the Columbia physicist Brian Greene speak to a large audience in Kansas City last night about string theory. Greene's provocative lecture provided a brilliant tour de force of thinking from Newton's discovery of the laws of gravity to the puzzling world of quantum theory. It was well received by the audience in -- almost all of whom raised their hands when asked if they were aware of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

(Before we go on, imagine the results of a similar poll conducted at an intelligent design sermon.)

We have no idea if string theory will ever be proven, however we can be certain that intelligent design "theorists" are making a mistake if they take comfort from the notion there's any similarity between their old-as-the-hills Bible-based nostrums and the new interest in string theory.

Here are some basic differences:

Intelligent design does none of that.


The Two Rs

RR: Does it stand for religious right or reasonable religion? Sociologist Sally Gallagher, professor of sociology at Oregon State University, discusses the continuing attractions of faith.


American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

"Religious utopians," says Chris Hedges, "are slowly dismantling democratic institutions to establish a religious tyranny."

Hedges, the son of a Presbyterian minister, speaking on NPR's Talk of the Nation, warns about the danger of a radical minority within the Christian right. You can listen to Hedges talk about why he believes the religious right is eroding democracy in his new book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, here.

Thanks to Evolving In Kansas for the link.


Playing Offense

Science has been forced into a defensive position says Dr. George Kampis. "What we need in science now is an offensive that is not offensive," he said during a lecture given Monday East Tennessee State University.


Not a Science Textbook, But...

Ken Ham, of the Answers in Genesis ministry says that his new "Creation Museum" is part of "a long overdue offensive against the scientific establishment."

"This is a cultural war," says Ham. "They need to know we’re coming. We’re not doing this to say, 'Here’s the evidence for and against, now you decide.' We admit our 'bias' right from the start. The Bible is not a science textbook. But where it touches on science, we can trust it. This is the truth."


The New Campus Activism?

Max Weiss, a student at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas, writes in The Rebel Yell about an encounter with a religious zealot. After passing over evolution and creationism, the conversation finally got around to morality.

The proselytizer's take on morality, as you might imagine, was that without God, you're no better than a murderer.

"Right at this very moment people are fighting and dying for their beliefs," observes Weiss, "beliefs that none of them can prove...

"[I]n an age where nuclear weapons and instructions to build them are available to any interested party," he concludes, "we cannot afford to have people who believe in martyrdom and in their (self-proclaimed) inerrant books. Atheists, secular humanists, and, though I have intellectual disagreements with them, religious moderates need to step up to the plate and start demanding that people justify their beliefs before the human animal annihilates itself."

That's the sort of thing that makes an old activist like RSR proud.

Update: The article in the Rebel Yell that RSR linked to originally carried the byline of another student author. We have edited our post to reflect the author currently listed on the Rebel Yell online edition.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Science Stopper

Over at the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog, Robert Crowther argues that intelligent design isn't a science stopper. Dogmatic Darwinists, asserts Crowther, are the ones putting the brakes on.

"No serious ID scientist or scholar has ever thrown up her hands and said, “Well, this is unexplained by natural causes, so let’s stop researching it.”


At the Dover intelligent design trial, while under cross-examination by plaintiff attorney Eric Rothschild, biochemist Michael Behe claimed ID was testable in the laboratory.

Here's the exchange:
Rothschild: And I'm correct when I asked you, you would need to see a step-by-step description of how the immune system, vertebrate immune system developed?

Behe: Not only would I need a step-by-step, mutation by mutation analysis, I would also want to see relevant information such as what is the population size of the organism in which these mutations are occurring, what is the selective value for the mutation, are there any detrimental effects of the mutation, and many other such questions.

Rothschild: And you haven't undertaken to try and figure out those?

Behe: I am not confident that the immune system arose through Darwinian processes, and so I do not think that such a study would be fruitful.

Rothschild: It would be a waste of time?

Behe: It would not be fruitful.
Sounds to us as though Michael Behe has thrown up his hands and given up before he even got started.

Correction: Of course it's Eric Rothschild, not Scott as we originally had it.


Book Review

In celebrating its 150th anniversary, The Atlantic, is placing articles from its archive online. One of those is an 1860 review of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species by the 19th century botanist Asa Gray. You can read it here.


A Meeting of the Minds

According to WorldNetDaily, the libertarian Cato Institute has a solution to the seemingly endless culture war over teaching creationism and intelligent design in public schools.

The solution is to give up and let them do it.

"Different cultural, ethnic, and religious groups have no choice but to enter the political melee if they want to see their values taught and desires met by the public schools," says a study by Neal McCluskey, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom.

The study, titled, "Why We Fight: How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict," also offered a solution: "So is American education doomed to eternal acrimony? Thankfully, it doesn't have to be. If public education were driven by free parental choice, it could escape the Balkanizing battles that plague our current system, because individual parents could choose schools that comport with their values, and there would be no need to fight over public schools for which all must pay, but only the most politically powerful can control."

Cato's solution to Balkanization? Balkanize the schools. A Christian fundamentalist school here, a Muslim Madrassa there. Hey, there might even be enough money left for a school with a science department somewhere.

Why not? After all, it worked so well in Yugoslavia. Looks like that's where we're going in Iraq.

Red State Rabble always wondered how the libertarians could coexist so comfortably with the authoritarian social conservatives in the Republican Party. This explains it.


Comments Closed

DaveScot: The cat in William Dembski's Uncommon Descent litter box.


Ken Miller: "We Live in Interesting Times"

Cell biologist and Dover expert witness Ken Miller discusses the collapse of intelligent design following the Dover decision in a public lecture at Case Western Reserve.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Mississippi: Equal Time for ID and Creationism Bill

Proposed Mississippi House Bill 625 would allow a school district to teach creationism or intelligent design in the schools within the district.

Apparently, Mississippi lawmakers are unfamiliar with federal court rulings. HB 625 would require that "if the theory of evolution is required to be taught as part of the school district's science curriculum, in order to provide students with a comprehensive education in science, the school board also must include the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in the science curriculum."

Thanks to reader SRA for calling this to our attention.



Former Attorney General Phill Kline subpoened about 90 private patient records during his witch-hunt against abortion. Where are they now?


Phill's Cronyism

Why did Phill Kline fire eight professionals in the prosecutor's office just hours after he took office? A suit filed against Kline over the firings, which may be moving to federal court, says the staffers were fired because they have no personal or political affiliations with Kline.

Apparently, their only crime was that they weren't FOPs.


You Want Fries With That?

They're utterly ignorant of evolution. Surpisingly, they don't even know what's in the Bible. They need to be offered simple choices.



Scientists make new discoveries every day, when was the last time intelligent design "theorists" discovered anything?


Religous Education in UK Evolves

New guidelines for religious education classes in the UK call for students to explore Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. The course will also consider the perspective of those who do not believe there is a god, according to The Guardian.

Students will grapple with the idea of "creation, God as creator of the universe, intelligent design, the Big Bang theory, the sacred story and purposeful design, as well as words that are specific to a religion, such as Bible, Rig Veda, and Qur'an."

They will role-play disputes between religion and science, such as Galileo, Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins in the course, as well.

Somehow we don't think this is the dispute the intelligent design theorists at the Discovery Institute or the UK's Truth in Science had in mind when they called for teaching the controversy.


Hovind on the Damascus Road

Before Kent Hovind was sentenced to 10 years for tax fraud, jail officials recorded a phone conversation in which the creationist claimed the Internal Revenue Service, presiding judge Casey Rodgers, and the prosecutor broke the law by going after him.

Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, hinted darkly there were things he could do "to make their lives miserable."

The Pensacola News Journal reports that Hovind compared himself to a buffalo in a lion fight. His voice was heard in the recording saying "As long as I have some horns, I'm going to swing. As long as I have some hoofs, I'm going to kick. As long as I have some teeth, I'm going to fight. The lion's going to know he's been in a fight."

After the sentencing, Hovind underwent a conversion experience saying, "I feel like the mouse. I stand here in great fear of the power of this court. Your decision can destroy my life, my ministry and my grandchildren."


Thanks to BF for sending us the link to this video. RSR readers, know of a good YouTube video on evolution? Send us a link and we'll post it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Fertile Soil

No surprise that creationism and intelligent design have found such fertile soil in this country. Hat tip to petekassius.


Far-flung Phill

Former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline has a new job as Johnson County prosecuting attorney. Now, you might think that Kline, like many people who are new on the job, would be burning the midnight oil to get on top of his new responsibilities.

You would be wrong.

After firing eight staff members in the busy prosecutor's office, Kline was off to rally anti-abortion activists in Wichita.

"There is a cry in Wichita and it's been multiplied 1,000 times over," Kline said. "And not just by the lives taken, but by the women and girls who have been deceived."

Some Johnson Countians may feel they were deceived when Paul Morrison, a full-time, professional prosecutor was replaced by Kline, a man who allowed his law license to be suspended three times, and who now shows every sign that he will simply use the office as a source of income while he's staging his next run at public office.

Given his track record, RSR can't make up his mind whether it's better for Johnson County if the ham-handed Kline ignores his job or actually tries to do it.


Dawkins: Required Reading in Religious Education Classes

The Guardian reports that teenagers in the UK "will be asked to debate intelligent design (ID) in their religious education classes and read texts by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins under new government guidelines."

"In a move that is likely to spark controversy," says the Guardian, "the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has for the first time recommended that pupils be taught about atheism and creationism in RE classes."

One thing we can guarantee you, putting creationism and atheism on an equal footing in classrooms in the U.S. will instantly put an end to the teach the controversy nonsense. One thing the creationists will never allow is a fair hearing for all beliefs.

Note too, that these texts will, quite appropriately in our opinion, be read not in science classrooms, but in religion classes where they belong.


Wishing and Hoping

Benedict Carey reports in today's New York Times that "psychologists and anthropologists have typically turned to faith healers, tribal cultures or New Age spiritualists to study the underpinnings of belief in superstition or magical powers. Yet they could just as well have examined their own neighbors, lab assistants or even some fellow scientists."

New research, according to Carey, demonstrates that magical thinking — the belief, for instance, that wishing harm on a loathed colleague or relative might make him sick — are far more common than people acknowledge.

"These habits, he writes, "have little to do with religious faith, which is much more complex because it involves large questions of morality, community and history."

RSR is willing to grant that religious faith is in some ways more complex than magical thinking, but we also believe the two have more in common than some people would like to believe.

At bottom, we think, is a desire to control events that are, in the end, beyond our control. For those who are able to suspend disbelief, that can be a comfort, and it may also explain the sometimes furious reaction to those who can't quite bring themselves to believe.

This view is reinforced in Carey's article by Jacqueline Woolley, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas. She says that youngsters begin learning about faith around the time they begin to give up on wishing:

“The point at which the culture withdraws support for belief in Santa and the Tooth Fairy is about the same time it introduces children to prayer,” says Woolley. “The mechanism is already there, kids have already spent time believing that wishing can make things come true, and they’re just losing faith in the efficacy of that.”

All and all, a fascinating article on how the brain may be wired for belief.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Earth to 'Dr. Dino'

Recently sentenced to 10 years for tax fraud, Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, has offered the government a deal it can't refuse: Let him go and he'll drop his suit against the goverment.

Mark O'Brien of the Pensacola News Journal offers some sage advice for the reality challenged creationist here.


The Darwin Awards: RSR's Nominations for 2007

As you may imagine, RSR is a big fan of the Darwin Awards, that wonderful chronicle of enterprising self-destruction that salutes the improvement of the species by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it, thereby ensuring that the next generation is one idiot smarter.

The 2006 winners were announced recently. They include a minister who believed his faith would allow him to walk on water. The Rev., a non-swimmer, failed but went to his final reward: everlasting fame as a 2006 Darwin Awards finalist.

As with the good Rev., the award is, of necessity, generally bestowed posthumously.

RSR has been so taken by the awards, that we fully intended to make our own nominations for this year’s contest. Our own candidates would have included nearly the entire cast of the hit television series, “24.”

Well, time got away from us and we didn’t submit the “24” cast as candidates for the 2006 awards, but we want to get a jump on next year by making our 2007 nominations now.

RSR nominates those who not only want to take themselves out, they want to talk all the rest of us with them. Of course I’m talking about all the creation “scientists” and intelligent design “theorists” who doubt HIV as the cause of AIDS, doubt the reality of global warming, and doubt the theory of evolution – on which the testing of drugs in animals is based.


Blast Zone

According to our old friend DaveScot over at the intelligent design blog Uncommon Descent, scientific literacy exploded starting in 1995.

DaveScot is one of those who believes he can detect the effects of design (aka the hand of God) in the natural world. So naturally, he sees a cause and effect relationship here as well.

The effect, the explosive growth of scientific literacy -- defined here as the level of skill required to read most of the articles in the science section of the New York Times and understand most episodes of "Nova" -- points directly at a cause.

And that cause, the prime mover if you will, in DaveScot's considered opinion, is that "in January 1995 Republicans took over congress and entered into the Contract With America."

Clearly, this was a seminal event in DaveScot's life, even if some of the rest of us have come to the conclusion that the Republican's "Contract With America" was misnamed.

It really should have been called the "Contract On America."

Whatever we may think of the Republican's COA, DaveScot's explosion has to be considered something of a dud. The chart that accompanies his post shows that the scientific literacy went from an absurdly low 10 percent to a dismal 17 percent.

Next thing you know, we'll be catching up with Turkey.

Hat Tip to Ron in San Antonio for pointing us in the right direction.


Stand Up and Salute!

Red State Rabble readers have been hearing a lot lately about the shock and outrage experienced by Johnson Countians when they learned that right-wing Republican activists chose former Attorney General Phill Kline to finish out Paul Morrison's term as prosecuting attorney.

Morrison beat Kline all across Kansas in the attorney general's race last November, but he beat him especially badly in Johnson County where 65 percent of the electorate voted to send Kline packing.

It's just that they never expected that he'd be moving in here.

It may be difficult for readers outside Kansas to fully grasp the kind of buffoon Kline is and why Kansans have grown to dislike him so.

Perhaps this story, told by Steve Rose, chairman of the Johnson County Sun papers, offers some insight:

Phill Kline arrived on his first day of work and made his first announcement to his staff. He instructed them to call him “general.” That is the salutation given to the attorney general.

After Kline got that all important item out of way, he fired eight staffers.


Lead a Horse to Water

Alvin Saperstein, a professor of physics and editor of Physics and Society, a newsletter of the American Physical Society, has an article in the January-February AAUP Academe Online on the problems of teaching science to biblical literalists.

Saperstein suggests, that "a fundamental difficulty is that many of the students apparently don’t have a sophisticated knowledge of their own religious heritage."
They seem unaware of the great body of religious writing by scholars and clergy of all faiths that manages to keep religion in the Bible and the world while not abandoning science. An appropriate response to the biblical literalist problem might be to point out students’ gap in understanding to them—not to try to teach them their own religious traditions but indicating, with appropriate citations, that most religious traditions are much more complex than biblical literalism suggests.


Bora Zivkovic has been blogging about the Science Blogging Conference held over the weekend in North Carolina. You can also get information about the anthology he edited, The Open Laboratory: The Best Science Blogging in 2006 here.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Mr. Diety

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Cruel and Unusual

There's been some talk that Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, the creationist who refused to pay his taxes while lecturing the rest of us about our moral failings, plans to set up a prison ministry while he's serving the 10 years for tax fraud he was sentenced to yesterday.

This seems unnecessarily harsh on the other prisoners. Isn't there something in the Bill of Rights about cruel and unusual punishment?


Birthday Bash

The Lawrence Journal World has picked up the story on next month's Darwin Day celebration at KU which will include a showing of the movie “Flock of Dodos” and a Darwin look-alike contest.

Dodos will be shown at 7:45 p.m. at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union. Tickets will be $2.

Fittingly, the State Board of Education will be voting on new science standards that tell the truth about evolution at just about the same time. Now that's a great birthday present.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Hovind: Hard Time

According to the Pensacola News Journal evangelist Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, the notorious creationist who ran Dinosaur Adventure Land was sentenced earlier today to 10 years in prison following his conviction on charges of tax fraud.

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers also ordered Hovind to:

At the sentencing, Hovind seemed reluctant to accept personal responsibility for his crimes saying, “If it’s just money the IRS wants, there are thousands of people out there who will help pay the money they want so I can go back out there and preach,” Hovind said.

RSR, believing the holier-than-thou who preach endlessly about personal responsibility should also practice it, is not among them.

Sentencing of Hovind’s wife, Jo Hovind, was scheduled postponed until March.


Action Alert: Kansas School Board Vote

At the last Kansas school board meeting, moderates made it clear that they intend to throw out the intelligent design inspired standards approved last year and replace them with real science.

Moderates have a 6-4 majority on the board now, but creationists haven't given up the fight. As the moderates were announcing their decision to bring the standards to a vote in February, at least 10 creationist and intelligent design activists took the mike during the public comments period. They argued against changing the standards and delivered a petition with hundreds of signatures opposing the return of real science standards to the state's public schools.

We have no doubt that moderates will stick to their guns, but we think they could also use our support. I urge supporters of real science education to send an e-mail to moderate members of the board offering your support for their courageous stand in defense of science.

Here's a list of board members who have said they will vote to dump the Abrams' standards supported by the Discovery Insitute and the ID Network and for the science standards developed by the majority of the curriculum committee:

Sally Cauble:
Jana Shaver:
Janet Waugh:
Sue Gamble:
Carol Rupe"
Dr. Bill Wagnon:

Here are the creationists who may need some polite -- and please keep it polite -- urging to do the right thing:

Dr. Steve Abrams:
John Bacon:
Kenneth Willard:
Kathy Martin:


Low Impact

Barbara Hollingsworth of The Topeka Capitol Journal reports that the intelligent design inspired science standards approved by right wingers on the Kansas school board had little effect. School districts around the state didn't adopt the standards because they expected the new board to overturn them.

"My sense is the current state standards have had little impact because no one is using them," said Steve Case, chairman of the group originally tasked with writing the standards and a critic of changes later made.

However, Sue Gamble, a critic of the 2005 standards, says the changes may have "emboldened some teachers to challenge their local curriculum and school boards."


Fast and Lose Phill

During the last election, according to The Kansas City Star, Phill Kline, who was then attorney general and is now Johnson County district attorney, had his campaign staff "copy a list of e-mail addresses from a state computer to a portable data storage device. A campaign e-mail was then sent to the addresses.
Many of the addresses were collected from citizens who had requested information from the attorney general’s office."

Yesterday, the Kansas Ethics Commission gave Kline a pass on this violation. No wonder he thinks he can get away with anything.


A Real Turkey

American's awareness of "scientific reality has actually gone down over the past 20 years, no doubt as a result of the so-called "intelligent design" movement and other Christian fundamentalist campaigns," writes R. J. Eskow in the Huffington Post.

Eskow cites a survey showing that 2005 survey conducted by Jon Miller of Michigan State University showing that the U.S. and Turkey rank last in belief in evolution among industrialized nations.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


A Modest Proposal

Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks has a modest proposal: Perhaps Kansas' state slogan, “Kansas: As Big As You Think,” should be revised in light of the last election. He offers this suggestion: “Kansas: Not Nearly As Crazy As You Might Think.”


It's Getting Hotter

The National Association of Evangelicals has announced a joint effort with scientific groups to urge stronger efforts by the government to protect the global environment.


Inconvenient Truths

There's been a lot of back and forth in the blogosphere over whether Al Gore's film is an appropriate teaching aid for use in public schools. Some of the opposition to showing the film in the classroom comes not from the usual suspects, but from thoughtful observers such as Mathew Nisbet who publishes the excellent Framing Science blog.

Nisbet writes:
The film is by no means a stand-alone product, instead serving as the spearhead for a growing social movement of science and environmental advocates, and a major platform for Gore's much-talked-about presidential aspirations. As much as I might think a Gore presidency could put this country on the right track domestically and internationally, the fact that the film remains deeply embedded within a larger activist movement makes it inappropriate for science class.

The last thing we want to do is give students the impression that global warming is a partisan issue. Among adults, given that citizens often use their partisanship as an information short-cut, polls unsurprisingly show that Democrats are significantly more worried about global warming than their Republican counterparts. With Gore as the narrator and presenter, and the comments of angry Republican parents inevitable, partisan perception is exactly what is likely to happen if you screen the film in science class.

RSR thinks Nisbet has a point. Still, we can't get over the fact that people who want to use the Bible to proselytize in public schools seem to have a veto over what books can be in the school library and what subjects can be discussed in the classroom.


God is not a Moderate: A Debate

Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, debates blogger Andrew Sullivan, author of Conservative Soul, in a no-holds-barred "blogalogue" over at BeliefNet. Both discuss the problem of fundamentalism in their first posts.

This could get good.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Banner Day at RSR

Okay, all you Firefox and Safari people who had trouble with the Evolution Sunday and Clergy Letter Project banners, we've pulled them off the site. You can still get to the same place with the Evolution Sunday link at the top of the sidebar. RSR will get a link up for the Clergy Letter Project tomorrow.


Wanted: A Good Christian Woman

Looking for a family values man? Look no further than Sean Hannity's Hannidate. Relocation to God's country required.


One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Carroll school board in Iowa has overturned a superintendent's decison to ban "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," written by Des Moines native Peter Hedges. Unfortunately, students will need a written note from their parents to check out the book about a young man's experiences with his troubled family in the fictional town of Endora, Iowa.


Required Reading

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools, edited by Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education has received a pair of favorable reviews recently.

Not in Our Classrooms includes essays by Scott and Branch as well as Nicholas J. Matzke, Paul R. Gross, Martinez Hewlett and Ted Peters, Jay D. Wexler, and Brian Alters. The foreword was contributed by the Reverend Barry W. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy praises the book saying, "If you're concerned about scientific literacy, read this book. The authors of Not in Our Classrooms are authorities on the various battles fought over the teaching of evolution -- biology's fundamental discovery."

Find out how to get a 10 percent discount on Not in Our Classrooms here.


The Atheist's Nightmare

Why is it that those who deny common descent are so good at making monkeys of themselves? (It gets good about 3:30 in.)


Four Stone Hearth

The seventh edition of Four Stone Hearth is a new blog carnival about anthropology and archaeology is now online here. Why not wander over and take a look?


Evolution Sunday Banners

We know that many Red State Rabble readers have their own blogs or websites. Now you can add a Clergy Letter Project or Evolution Sunday banner like those you see in the sidebar to your site quickly and easily.

Just follow this link, scroll down to the banners, copy the Java script for the banner style you like best, and paste it into your site.

It was so easy, even an old fogey like RSR could do it!

For more information on the Clergy Letter Project or Evolution Sunday, click the banners in RSR's sidebar.


Fanatical Phill

Just hours after he was sworn in a prosecuting attorney in Johnson County, Phill Kline fired seven prosecutors and a chief investigator. Now those employees have filed suit.

As attorney general, fanatical Phill flouted the law. He used his office to pursue a personal crusade against abortion providers in Kansas, and he met behind closed doors -- in violation of state sunshine laws -- with creationists on the state school board to advise them on their plan to salt the science curriculum with far-right religious objections to evolution.

As a result, the voters of Kansas threw him out of office after just one term.

After his defeat in the November election, a small group of far-right Republican activists voted to appoint Kline, to the horror of voters in Johnson County, to serve out the term of Paul Morrison, the man who defeated him for attorney general.

Within hours of his appointment, Kline's pattern of contempt for the law, rules of procedure, and fair play was demonstrated yet again. When the fired employees filed grievances, Kline told county commissioners he wouldn't participate in hearings on those grievances.

In a letter sent to commissioners Friday, Kline said he's not bound by a county’s personnel policies or rules.

Fanatical Phill seems determined that his career in Johnson County will be even shorter than his one term as attorney general. How long it will take Johnson Countians to repair the damage is another question.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Onward and Upward: The March of Ignorance

Intelligent design is the only science where the more you learn, the less you know. RSR has often joked that intelligent design "theorists" greet every new fossil discovery with the ecstatic cry "Eureka! Two new gaps!"

Now we have confirmation.

In flogging Billions of Missing Links a new ID tract by Geoffrey Simmons, the Intelligent Design the Future blog informs the credulous that "every 'link' discovered brings many more questions (missing links) than answers."


Rip Van Martin

Kathy Martin, a conservative Republican board member from Clay Center, says she wants the next education commissioner to work on expanding charter schools and pushing for school vouchers, two agendas that former commissioner Bob "Heckuva Job" Corkins fought for, according to the Lawrence Journal World.

Apparently, Martin slept through the last election.


Hard to Believe, But

Kansas' long running battle over evolution has “tainted” the state’s reputation, making the search for a new education commmissioner more difficult says Brenda Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, the group leading the search.


An Epiphany of Sorts

At last, an explanation for Uncommon Descent blogger DaveScot...


When Good Science and Theology Meet

The Rev. Pat Conover, a philosopher of science and professional member of the History and Philosophy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will deliver a sermon, "When Good Science and Good Theology Meet." at 9:30 a.m. on February 11, Evolution Sunday, at Seekers Church, 276 Carroll St., NW in Washington, D.C.

You can learn more about activities planned across the country on Evolution Sunday, and read more than 50 sermons delivered on that occasion last year at the Clergy Letter Project website.

Monday, January 15, 2007


King of Hearts

The appropriately named Frosty Hardison doesn't believe in global warming. Frosty, a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education in Federal Way (Washington) schools, knows the truth about climate change.

"The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up," says Frosty, "but that perspective isn't in" the Al Gore film "An Inconvenient Truth."

And that's why students in Federal Way won't be viewing any inconvenient truths anytime soon. An e-mail from Frosty to the school board prompted a moratorium on showing the film there.

"Somebody could say you're killing free speech, and my retort to them would be we're encouraging free speech," says David Larson, a lawyer and school board member who proposed the moratorium. "The beauty of our society is we allow debate."

Larson, obviously, is up on his Orwell.

The whole thing reminds RSR of the lyrical 1966 Philippe de Broca film, "King of Hearts," staring Alan Bates. In the film, the retreating German army booby traps a small French town near the end of WWI . The residents flee to safety leaving behind the inmates of the local insane asylum. The lunatics escape and take over the town confusing a Scottish soldier played by Bates who has been sent to defuse the bomb.

De Broca's film asks who's crazier, the lunatics or the soldiers on the battlefield. RSR would like to know, who's crazier, Frosty or the school board? Religious fanatics or the country that allows them to make decisions like this for the rest of us?


The March of Science

The Human Genone Project has arrived at a surprising conclusion according to Bishop Boniface Adoyo of the Nairobi Pentecostal Church and Chairman of Evangelical Alliance of Kenya:

"The advent of DNA testing has helped us to trace the origin of man to Adam and Eve," he says. "Palaeontologists do not want to admit this because it will crumble their scientific edifice," he says.

Dan Brown, author of the best-selling Da Vinci Code, has reportedly obtained evidence that the sample of Adam and Eve's DNA used by the Human Genome Project was discovered by operatives working for Opus Dei in a secret Illuminati chamber hidden for centuries under the Vatican.



"... [T]here is nothing concrete about the evolution theory," says Bishop Boniface Adoyo of the Nairobi Pentecostal Church and Chairman of Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, "and that is why we as Christians are uncomfortable with the museum's plans to display the hominids and narrate the story of evolution as if it is the truth."

In other words, we don't believe the theory of evolution is supported by facts, and we demand those facts be hidden in the back room of the museum where we don't have to look at them.

It's like a child's game of Peek-a-boo. If you hide the evidence, it doesn't exist.


Teach the Controversy

Eric Wamanji of the East African Standard in Nairobi reports that Bishop Boniface Adoyo of the Nairobi Pentecostal Church and Chairman of Evangelical Alliance of Kenya "has enlisted a number of Western institutions to raise funds for anti-hominid campaigns in the media and through religious sermons."

Adoyo is leading a campaign to keep a world-class collection of fossils documenting human evolution at the National Museums of Kenya from public view.

"The church," reports Wamanji, "plans to hold major demonstrations [at] the museum to press for the removal of the bones."

Hmmm... wonder who those Western institutions might be.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Defective Design

The case for intelligent design -- that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause -- took a hit this morning with an announcement on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog that, "This blog post was mistakenly listed as the last in a four part series, when in fact it is the third. The fourth and final installment will be published in the near future."

On the basis of that clarification we can only conclude that:
a: The post in question was the product of random, purposeless, impersonal forces

b: The post in question was not the product of intelligence

Take your choice.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog has been redesigned. Gone are the photos of Dembski and Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary. In their place is an illustration of one of the icons of intelligent design: the flagellum, that whip-like appendage that propels bacteria through their microverse.

Red State Rabble, while certainly impressed by the new design, would have made another, more appropriate, choice. It's the device that propels intelligent design theorists through their alternate universe.


Virtual Flea Powder

Feel like a dog with fleas? Live in a school district that's infected with creationists of various stripes who want to throw out the science curriculum so they can "teach the controversy?"

Now you can do something about it. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology sponsors a website that offers advice and resources for scientists who want to defend evolution.

The FASEB website provides downloadable documents with helpful pointers on meeting with public officials, testifying at school board hearings, and related topics. Much of the advice is common sense, but some of it may be counter intuitive for people who are new to political activism.

The FASEB site also furnishes PowerPoint files on topics such as the importance of learning about evolution.

Think of it as virtual flea powder.


The Bright Side

Here in Johnson County Kansas, there's been a lot of hand wringing over Phill Kline's firing of seven assistant district attorneys and a senior investigator when he took charge of the prosecutor's office.

Kline's election as prosecutor by Johnson County Republican precinct captains has proved highly unpopular here. The man he's replacing, Paul Morrison, was seen by voters as professional, competent, and highly effective. Kline is seen as a man lacking the credentials to be either Attorney General or county prosecutor and a political opportunist. In the race for Kansas Attorney General, Morrison beat Kline in Johnson County by 65 to 35 percent.

Since Kline was chosen to replace Morrison, the papers have been filled with letters of protest from moderate Republicans and there have been widespread reports of many Republicans registering as independents in protest.

Red State Rabble sees things differently. We don't think everyone is looking at the big picture. In their concern over crime fighting, some of my fellow Johnson Countians forget that many conservative Republicans are without a job right now.

Think about it. What are all the Republican activists who were part of the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority doing now? Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown is out of work, as is his Kansas doppelganger Bob Corkins. Don McKinney, part-time abortion clinic protester, part-time abortion clinic prosecutor, is also looking for work.

They've all got to go somewhere.

True, the appointment of Kline cronies to replace competent professionals may mean that crime fighting in Johnson County takes a hit, but that was going to happen anyway as Kline found a way to use his new appointment to pursue his crusade against abortion.

This way, at least seven of the unemployable nephews and son-in-laws that would otherwise have been a drain on their parents can be put on the public payroll.

Friday, January 12, 2007


A Wrathful God Strikes Back

The Kansas City Metro is currently experiencing a winter storm. We've been fighting our way through freezing rain, sleet, and snow since early this morning. The streets, as you can imagine, are totally hosed up, and some schools are sending the kids home early.

RSR placed a call to televangelist Pat Robertson a little while ago to find out who God is mad at this time -- is it gays again, or was it the announcement that the Kansas school board would revisit the science curriculum with a view toward removing intelligent design inspired pseudoscience from biology classrooms?

So far no reply.

We don't know if God isn't speaking to Pat anymore, or Pat isn't speaking to RSR. Whatever the outcome, we'll keep you posted.



Has anyone noticed that the Discovery Institute -- once thought of as fiendishly clever for spinning the poor straw that is intelligent design into a kind of fools gold -- seems to be losing its grip?

The latest of many examples is Casey Luskin absolutely losing it over a light-hearted book parody by Bobby Henderson, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Henderson's gospel, which cleverly turns the arguments of intelligent design back on its advocates, is guilty of mocking world religions, huffs Luskin.

Moreover, when Luskin hints darkly that Henderson's "attempts at humor may have gone too far" he not only reminds us of the furious reaction in some Muslim quarters to cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, he also lets the cat out of the bag about the religious nature of intelligent design.

After all, why does a purely scientific organization such as the Discovery Institute give a damn what anybody says or writes about religion?



Wisconsin Public Radio has produced a five-part series "Electrons to Enligtenment" on science and religion.

You can also listen to excerpts of interviews conducted by Steve Paulson, a Templeton/Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science & Religion, with
E.O. Wilson, Francis Collins, Richard Dawkins, Karen Armstrong, Michael Ruse, Ursula Goodenough, and Sam Harris.


Full Steam Ahead

Search for new commissioner. Check. Dump anti-science curriculum. Check. Reverse opt-in sex education policy. Check.


Why William Dembski Will Never be a University President

Intelligent design guru William Dembski, who until now has had trouble just holding onto a job, is dreaming of what he'd do if he were a university president. Self-aggrandizement, it seems, comes with the ID territory.

In a post published yesterday on his Uncommon Descent blog Dembski informs that his first act would be to "dissolve the biology department and divide the faculty with tenure that I couldn’t get rid of into two new departments: those who know engineering and how it applies to biological systems would be assigned to the new “Department of Biological Engineering”; the rest, and that includes the evolutionists, would be consigned to the new “Department of Nature Appreciation... ”

And that is precisely why Dembski, the perpetual adolescent, will never be appointed to any position of responsibility anywhere.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Special Persecutor Fired

In a victory for abortion rights and the rule of law, Paul Morrison, the newly elected Kansas attorney general has fired Don McKinney, a special prosecutor hired by his predecessor, Phill Kline, to prosecute George Tiller, the state's most visible abortion provider.

McKinney has often been seen in protests outside Tiller's clinic.


Let's Tango

A book about gay penguins may get to stay in Charlotte-Mecklenburg school libraries after all.

That's good, because the book, And Tango Makes Three, is about the value of family -- and that's a real family value.


Arm the Mechanism

"Symbiogenesis as a major mechanism for speciation is not widely supported within the scientific community, but its supporters receive much greater respect than do supporters of intelligent design."

Kenneth Pidcock, an associate professor of biology at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, explains why here.


ID: More Like Marilyn Monroe or St. Augustine?

As we all know, intelligent design is all about the science.

Mat Staver, a creationist who heads the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel and a leading proponent of teaching intelligent design in public schools, tells The Orlando Weekly that he doesn't advocate "that any particular religious doctrine be taught." All he wants is for Darwinian evolution, critiques to Darwinian evolution, intelligent design and other aspects of intelligent design theories to be taught in public schools.

What does he believe himself?

"I believe," says Staver, "that God is the designer and the creator of the world and the creator of life and that he did it, according to the Scriptures, in the six days of creation."

You'd be crazy to think that anything but a dispassionate view of the fossil record has influenced his thinking. Without question, his motives for supporting intelligent design are pure. Absolutely pure.

Just as a cynical liberal media has derailed President Bush's brilliant Iraq strategy, The Orlando Weekly has called into question the disinterested science that is intelligent design by including Michael Ruse, a Florida State University philosopher of biology and the author of The Evolution-Creation Struggle, in the same interview.

Ruse, being the down and dirty Darwinist, hard-hearted materialist that he is, immediately casts doubt on the careful intelligent design case Staver has laid out for us:
I think it's religion, period. I mean, if you would judge it as science it wouldn't be very good, but [that's] like saying Marilyn Monroe is not a very good man. As far as I'm concerned, Marilyn Monroe isn't a man, period. And I would want to say the same of intelligent design. … I don't think intelligent design is the best form of Christianity. And I think that, say, somebody like St. Augustine would feel very much the same way, because St. Augustine was simply arguing that the early chapters of Genesis need to be interpreted metaphorically or allegorically rather than literally.


Loving the Enemy

Love is a complicated thing that tends to wreak havoc with the neat, orderly categories we create in our minds. Kristine has linked to an improbable jungle fever crush between a young creationist man and a liberal Quaker woman.

It's a story Shakespeare might have written.

And just to prove that love conquers all, DaveScot has linked to Kristine -- starting the clock on her 15 minutes of fame. Of course, DaveScot being DaveScot, he's accompanied his post with an illustration of a creationist IED going off.


Just Do It!

Yesterday, at its first meeting of 2007, the Kansas school board, now under new (moderate) management, voted to revisit the science standards issue.

At their next meeting, in February, the board is expected to rescind the intelligent design inspired standards voted in by Christian fundamentalists who formerly held a majority on the board. Standards developed by professional scientists and educators and approved by the majority of the science standards committee are expected to be adopted in their stead.

Former board chair Steve Abrams, who spearheaded efforts to include creationism and intelligent design in 1999 and 2005 offered this advice to the newly elected moderate majority:

"You got the votes, so do it."

We couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Kansas Board to Move Quickly on Science Standards

The Kansas Board of Education is moving quickly to rid the state of the embarrassment that is intelligent design. Observers expect that the board may adopt the set of standards next month that were originally proposed by the majority of the curriculum committee but bypassed in favor of intelligent design influenced standards in 2005.

Kathy Martin, one of the Christian fundamentalists on the board who pushed for the anti-science standards, apparently doesn't watch the Daily Show.

"I really question whether we need to look at the science standards again," says Kathy Martin.

On the other hand, Sue Gamble a leader of the new moderate majority on the board says,"We can take action next month. Local districts deserve to have high-quality education standards from which to build their local curriculums."

And Kansans deserve to watch Leno, Letterman, Stewart and the rest without being the butt of their jokes.


Transcortical Revelation Aphasia

As some of you already know, Red State Rabble is a big fan of Joe McFaul, the attorney who publishes the Law, Evolution, and Junk Science blog. Joe posts sparingly, but when he does, it's always worth reading.

Although many of you probably aren't aware of it, RSR is also wild about Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and author of Awakenings, Uncle Tungsten, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

Sacks often writes case histories of patients who suffer from neurological disorders that leave them with aphasias -- the inability to speak or comprehend language -- who are able, nevertheless, to compensate for their neurological deficits in unusual and sometimes wonderful ways.

We were reading Joe McFaul's latest exposure of quote mining by John West of the Discovery Institute when we thought of Sacks work on aphasisa.

West's quote mining of scientists is most often seen as a moral failing. As dishonesty. Empty cynicism.

Explaining West's tortured cut and paste with other people's words as simple dishonesty, however, doesn't provide a wholly satisfying explanation because he and his intelligent design compatriots are so often caught in the act. If it were mere cynicism or garden variety dishonesty -- that is if they were concious of it or could control the behavior in some way -- wouldn't they do more to cover their tracks after being caught in the act so many times?

Then it came to us. We channeled Sacks. Perhaps West's way with words is really symptomatic of an underlying neurological disorder, a new as yet undiscovered aphasia that effects not those who suffer trauma or stroke, but who take their Bible way too literally.

Let's call it Transcortical Revelation Aphasia. It makes a jumble of the words of scientists in the minds of its sufferers.

Unfortunately, we're unlikely to get a case history from Dr. Sacks. His writing looks at the wonderful ways patients compensate for their deficits. And, Let's face it, there's nothing that wonderful about ID.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Divided Loyalties?

In 2005, it was reported that Air Force Academy cadets had complained evangelical Christians were proselytizing Jews and other Christians. The Washington Post reported that,
... the Air Force's "Chaplain of the Year" urged cadets to proselytize among their classmates or "burn in the fires of hell"; that mandatory cadet meetings often began with explicitly Christian prayers; and that numerous faculty members introduced themselves to their classes as born-again Christians and encouraged students to become born again during the term.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has issued a very disturbing report on the dominance of Evangelicals -- and their bullying of those faculty and cadets who don't share their born-again faith -- here.

That, of course, is old news. Now, however, Jeff Sharlett has a report "Inside Christian Embassy" that tells the story of a behind-the-scenes ministry for government and military elites that operates among top generals at the Pentagon in "apparent violation of military regulations."

Sharlett's article also called RSR's attention to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation which is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

You can learn more about the foundation -- which was started by Mikey Weinstein, an Air Force Academy alumni, whose sons faced religious persecution by Christian fundamentalists when they attended the academy -- here.

Weinstein's son, Curtis, was repeatedly called a [expletive] Jew and accused of killing Jesus by a number of fundamentalist cadets.

RSR's question is where the ultimate loyalties of these fundamentalist military officers lie: is it with the Constitution, or is it with their own peculiar religious institutions?


AAAS Statement on Nationwide Curriculum Standards

Noting that in some regions of the country the integrity of science education has been eroded by efforts to insert non-scientific concepts such as "intelligent design" into the science curriculum, the American Association for the Advancement of Science issued a statement yesterday applauding a proposal for voluntary nationwide standards to ensure that all American children receive a high-quality education in mathematics and science.


Kentucky: ID Not a Factor

The Kentucky Board of Education is looking for a new education commissioner to replace Gene Wilhoit who left to become executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C.

According to The Cincinnati Post, when the board discusses the search it "won't be discussing the issue of intelligent design, which offers a religious-based explanation for creation rather than evolution."

ID is "a non-issue" in the search for a new commissioner says Judy Gibbons a new board member from Northern Kentucky. "Intelligent design isn't something that's come up before the board since I came on," she said. "That's the way most of the board feels. We have too many other things to do."

Sounds like Kentucky and Kansas have more in common that the first letter of their names.


A Theory of Everything

The Yale, Princeton and Harvard/Radcliffe Alumni associations of Kansas City and the Linda Hall Library are sponsoring a public lecture: "The Theory of Everything" by Dr. Brian Greene of Columbia University. Green is the author of author of the bestselling book about string theory, The Elegant Universe. His lecture is scheduled for Thursday, January 25. There will be a reception from 5:30- 7:00 p.m. at Linda Hall Library (for reservations call 816-92-8772) The lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Unity Temple on the Plaza.



If felons and people in mental institutions are prevented from voting, why do we give fundamentalists a pass?

Over at the Huffington Post, David Horton writes, perhaps a bit facetiously , that the country might be better off if we disenfranchised people whose mental processes are so flawed they can be whipped into a frenzy by demagogues who merely utter the words "gay marriage" or "evolution."

RSR, a small "d" democrat, believes that even people we disagree with should have the right to vote, but we can sure understand where Horton's coming from.

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