Friday, March 30, 2007


Difficult Dialogue Series: Videos Online

The Hall Center for the Humanities "Difficult Dialogues at the Commons" series of public lectures exploring knowledge, faith, and reason brought Ken Miller, Judge John Jones, Os Guinness, Richard Dawkins, Genie Scott, and Michael Behe to Kansas to discuss the relationship between science and religion.

Now you can watch video of their presentations online. Here's the link.


2007 Friend of Darwin Award

Liz Craig, right, presents Kansas Citizens for Science President Jack Krebs with the 2007 Friend of Darwin Award from the National Center for Science Education.

The award is given annually to people whose efforts to defend the teaching of evolution in public schools has been truly outstanding. Krebs has been active in KCFS since 1999, supplying leadership to efforts to resist the creationist state science standards of both 1999 and 2005.

Krebs also served as a member of the state science standards writing committee of 2004-2006, and as Pedro Irigonegaray's assistant at the 2005 "Science Hearings."


Talk Radio

Ed Humes, Pullitzer Prize winning journalist and author of Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion and the Battle for America's Soul, spoke at Johnson County Community College last night.

"There are really two theories of evolution," says Ed Humes. "There is the genuine scientific theory, and there is the talk-radio pretend version, designed not to enlighten but to deceive and enrage

If you missed one of Humes' public lectures over the past couple of days, you can still listen to him on KCUR's "Up To Date" with Steve Kraske. Here's the link to the audio.

As with fact and fiction, science and intelligent design, any resemblance between public radio and talk radio is entirely coincidental.


Beautiful Wickedness

Having attended Ed Humes informative public lecture about the Dover intelligent design trial at Johnson County Community College last night, and also having read a reaction to his speech at the Dole Center the previous night on the misnamed Reasonable Kansas blog, we've come to a startling revelation.

To the intelligent design activist, such as "For the Kids," the church lady who publishes Reasonable Kansas, coming into contact with facts is like matter coming into contact with antimatter.

The two annihilate each other.

Or perhaps we should say, since this is Kansas after all, that facts are to the intelligent design activist what water was to to the Wicked Witch of the West.

Humes book, Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion and the Battle for America's Soul, has been universally acclaimed as a balanced, fair-minded treatment of the Dover trial. In person, Humes, a Pullitzer Prize winning journalist and author, is a low-key guy who sticks close to the facts.

Yet, here is "For the Kids" reaction to his talk:

I lost it at Humes lecture...seriously.

I've listened to quite a few lectures surrounding the issues in this debate, but the lecture I sat through tonight was by far the most difficult to stomach. In fact, I had to leave my chair at one point because the guy next to me was about to get slapped.

This has ~NEVER~ happened to me before, and I've always been extremely calm at these lectures regardless of how much I disagree with the speaker.

Who would have thought that a few little facts could destroy ID's beautiful wickedness?

(We'll have more on Humes' appearance latter in the day.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007


No Contradiction

Jonathan Dudley, an evangelical Christian, is a student at the Yale Divinity School and a molecular oncology researcher at Yale School of Medicine.

Dudley believes the "scientific truth of macroevolution can be reconciled with the biblical story of creation" if Genesis isn't read literally.

"Science," Dudley writes, "requires Christians to interpret the creation story differently."

"God still created the universe, including all biological life," he believes. "But God created biological life via the process of evolution."

Another example that for many Christians, even some evangelicals, there's no contradiction between science and faith.


Jason and the 700

Jason Rosenhouse deserves a medal.

Rosenhouse, who has a PhD in mathematics, a Kansas connection, publishes EvolutionBlog, and is currently an assistant professor of Mathematics at James Madison University, took one for the team recently by attending the Discovery Institute's Darwin vs. Design Conference in Knoxville.

(This isn't the first time he's taken a bullet for the rest of us, either.)

You can read the first of his two posts on the conference, which appears to have been light on science, heavy on conversion stories, here.


Creation Science 101 by Roy Zimmerman



Science Daily: "The reason we experience disgust today is that the response protected our ancestors," said Dan Fessler, associate professor of anthropology and director of UCLA's Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture.

"The emotion allowed our ancestors to survive long enough to produce offspring, who in turn passed the same sensitivities on to us."

Maybe that explains why William Dembski feels like the Maytag repairman.


Who Is A Christian?

Red State Rabble, as many of you know, grew up Catholic in the Midwest. Part of that experience, as many other Catholics and former Catholics will tell you, involves being told repeatedly by young Protestants that you're not a Christian.

Quite often, at that early age, we were treated to disquisitions on the Antichrist and the Whore of Babylon, as well.

Having lost our faith many, many years ago, those sorts of statements have lost their punch. Nevertheless, we still take notice when the holier-than-thou tear down the faith or beliefs of others.

And there's a particularly egregious example of this fundamentalist condescension going on right now.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who appears to be supporting the presidential bid of well-known moral exemplar Newt Gingrich, has said he can't support Fred Thompson, another conservative, because he doesn't think he's a Christian.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo responded that the candidate "is indeed a Christian. He was baptized into the Church of Christ."

But that's not good enough for Dobson.

"We use that word—Christian—to refer to people who are evangelical Christians," says Dobson spokesperson Gary Schneeberger.

RSR has no love for Fred Thompson, but we've had it up to here with the sanctimony of the religious right.

We're sick and tired of fundamentalists defining who 's a good Christian, and who's not. We've had our fill of wannabe theocrats -- who dream of writing the Bible into the Constitution and replacing the Bill of Rights with the Ten Commandments -- telling the rest of us we're not loyal Americans. We want to hurl every time we hear those who've helped usher in the most corrupt government in the history of the nation lecture us on moral values.



Plotting a Comeback?

Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks takes a look at the school board races in Olathe, DeSoto, Topeka and Wichita. Voting in those elections will happen Tuesday.

Is the religious right, frustrated by losing its majority on the state board and thwarted in writing their religious views into the science curriculum, plotting to take over local boards?

Hendricks isn't convinced there's a concerted plan, but either way, if social and fiscal conservatives win local board elections, student will suffer.

Red State Rabble will publish a list of pro-science, pro-education candidates in those races Friday.


Munchies, Too?

Yesterday, in a post about Ken Ham's Creation Museum, we joked that Tyrannosaurus Rex subsisted on watercress sandwiches and green tea.

Creationists, like Ham, believe Adam and Eve shared the Garden of Eden with dinosaurs and that Tyrannosaurus Rex -- who we'd been led to believe was an early low carb adopter -- was really a vegetarian.

Turns out we were wrong about the watercress and green tea.

In an article titled, "Creation 'Science' Is the Christian Right's Trojan Horse Against Reason," Chris Hedges writes that according to the Creation Museum, "all of the dinosaurs were peaceable plant-eaters. The evidence is found in Genesis 1:30, where God gives "green herb" to every creature to eat."

Maybe that's why T-Rex was so mellow.


2007 Friend of Darwin Award

The National Center for Science Education has presented Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens For Science with its 2007 Friend of Darwin Award.

The award is given annually to people whose efforts to defend the teaching of evolution in public schools has been truly outstanding. Krebs has been active in KCFS since 1999, supplying leadership to efforts to resist the creationist state science standards of both 1999 and 2005.

He also served as a member of the state science standards writing committee of 2004-2006, and as Pedro Irigonegaray's assistant at the 2005 "Science Hearings."

Krebs has been active on the national level as well, participating in all of NCSE's national summit conferences, offering guidance to other "citizens for science" groups modeled after KCFS, and frequently participating in discussions on various online venues, such as the award-winning group webblog "The Panda's Thumb."

Previous recipients of the Friends of Darwin award include Barbara Forrest, author of "Intelligent Design: Creationism's Trojan Horse," Ken Miller, author of "Finding Darwin's God," and Rob Pennock, author of "Tower of Babel - all expert witnesses at the Dover "Intelligent Design" trial.

A ceremony honoring Krebs will be held tonight, Thursday, March 29, at 7:00 p.m. in the Craig Community Auditorium, GEB 233, at Johnson County Community College just prior to a free public lecture and book signing by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Ed Humes whose new book, “Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion and the Battle for America’s Soul” is getting rave reviews around the country.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Poor Bill

William Dembski believes, apparently, that intelligent design theorists now find themselves shunned as lepers. We don't doubt that many people avoid him like the plague, but we can't quite accept the parallel with leprosy. After all, none of the people who suffer from leprosy were volunteers.

We see intelligent design as more of a social faux pas. Like chewing with your mouth open, picking your nose in public, making fart noises after fourth grade, or poor personal hygiene.

Of course, it's hard to work up much self pity about something you could easily change.


Humans and dinosaurs lived on Earth at the same time according to the new Creation Museum that will open soon near Cincinnati.

Visitors to Ken Ham's new Creation Museum will learn that "Tyrannosaurus Rex was a strict vegetarian and lived with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden," according to Andy Mead of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

You didn't know it, but "there were dinosaurs of every kind aboard Noah's ark."
Not only that, "some dinosaurs managed to hang around until just a few hundred years ago. The legend of St . George slaying the dragon? That probably was a dinosaur."

It's our understanding that the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex subsisted solely on watercress sandwiches and green tea. When Cain and Abel were little boys, they taught the family dinosaur to fetch a Frisbee.

Of course that was before their famous falling out.


The ABCs of Design Detection

Bill Dembski is miffed because the disingenuous birthday greeting he sent Richard Dawkins on his 66th birthday wasn't included with thousands of others published on Dawkins website.

However, it seems odd to us that, as Richard Hughes observes, the Isaac Newton of information theory can't even pick out his own name from an alphabetical list.

Certainly the list was specified. Was it the complexity that made the task so daunting?


It Ain't Brain Surgery

You know Michael Egnor, the new kid on the block at the Discovery Institute? The one who is proving that brain surgery is nothing like rocket science? Maybe more like meat cutting than any of us would like to think?

He's got a new post up today proving that Darwin's theory of evolution isn't necessary to the practice of modern medicine or comparative biology.

Why should we need evolution today, asks Egnor, after all Aristotle, Galen, Vesalius, Harvey, and Linnaeus did just fine without it.

Of course, they got along just fine without antibiotics or the germ theory of disease, too. Hell, do we really need electricity? They got along just fine without it. It's just a theory, after all.

Apparently, Egnor took his head out of his Bible long enough to learn that Darwinists offer three reasons that evolution is essential for modern medicine: comparative medicine, molecular genetics, and bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Red State Rabble doesn't claim to be either a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, but we'll offer a fourth reason Egnor hasn't thought of: The testing of new drugs for safety and efficacy in laboratory animals.

If as intelligent design activists like Egnor insist "life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact - fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc." there would be no sound medical or scientific reason for testing experimental drugs in any organism other than humans.

The reason drugs are tested in rats and other lab animals is because we share a common ancestor -- a common genetic heritage -- with these other species, and that tells us a lot about how drugs will work in humans.

Hey, common ancestry, isn't that something Darwin observed?


Self Pity II: Give Me a Heaping Helping

Concerned about the persecuted church? That 90 percent of the population that controls the party that holds the White House. Then WorldNetDaily has just the thing for you. The "Voice of the Martyrs" free newsletter.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism

The National Center for Science Education has the skinny on an anthology edited by Andrew J. Petto and Laurie R. Godfrey, Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism (W. W. Norton, 2007).

Publishers Weekly says it's "[a] serious, comprehensive collection of new and revised essays from some of the biggest names in the anti-creationism field."

We haven't read it for ourselves yet and, we must admit, our backlog of unread books has grown alarmingly lately, but this sounds too good to pass up.

Read more at the NCSE.


Annals of Design

Over at Uncommon Descent, DaveScot has looked carefully at the evidence and come to the conclusion that experimental germ free laboratory animals "could not have evolved in the natural world without exposure to bacteria but they could have been designed for GF [germ free, RSR] life."

If we read him correctly, and in truth we can hardly believe what we're reading, DaveScot is saying that because germ free animals live on a average twice as long in highly specialized laboratory environments as their germ infested relatives, all animals must have been designed that way. He leaves unexplained why the designer would have designed animals for a world that doesn't exist.

It seems to us a bit like creating birds to live on a planet with no atmosphere or fish for a waterless planet. Did DaveScot's creator design germs first and then animals optimized for a germ-free enviornment, or did he create the animals first and then introduce germs as an afterthought?

Before you laugh, you should be aware that the man who's been given the keys to William Dembski's blog bases his conclusion on a wealth of "experience with rabbits."

You know, the animal that has to eat its own feces because of the bassackwards "design" of it gut.




Hands Across the Water

Reuters reports that "Bible-based criticism of evolution, once limited to Protestant fundamentalists in the United States, has become an issue in France."


$27 Million Creation Museum to Open

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Ken Ham's Creation Museum will open soon. RSR got this advanced look at one of the displays -- incontrovertable evidence that humans and dinosaurs once inhabited the earth at the same time.


Hurricane Cheri

What with tornadoes, hurricanes, and Jeb Bush you'd think God would ease up a little on Florida. Apparently, as Florida Citizens for Science documents, that's not His plan. Long suffering Floridians are about to be tested again.

Hurricane Cheri is about to work her strange magic on the state.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Cursed Genes

The Bend Bulletin has published an in-depth article on Kris Helphinstine, the high school Biology teacher who was fired for linking Darwin to Hitler and passing out material from Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis to his class.

The Ham material contains fascinating facts about evolution such as this:
... poodles are the result of a downward process. They did not just develop from dog genes, but from cursed copies of dog genes.

"Dogs like poodles are the result of the Curse!" Ham wrote in his essay. "Each time I arrive home and our pet Bichon races to the door to meet me, I am reminded of my sin, that I, in Adam, sinned and ushered in the Fall."


Eldredge to Start New Evolution Journal

The National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions has announced that Niles Eldredge is starting a journal he hopes will act as a counterweight to the intelligent-design and creationist movements. Called "Outreach and Education in Evolution," the journal will be edited by Eldredge, who is known for his work with Stephen Jay Gould, and his son Greg Eldredge, a high school science teacher.

Reportedly, the journal will publish accessible articles about advances in evolutionary science, papers on curricula for the classroom, and news about the political struggles over evolutionary education. The debut issue is scheduled for September.

Here's the NASSMC website.


Says It All

The headline from the Knoxville News Sentinel on the Discovery Institute's Darwin vs. Design Conference says it all: "Creation questions at heart of conference."


People In Your Community

Donald J. Eckard, a Dentist in Rogers Arkansas, is the community representative on the science textbook adoption committee there. Dr. Eckard is concerned that the Biology textbooks provided by the district don't contain enough evidence to support the theory of evolution.

"The four biology textbooks I reviewed, including the one adopted for grades nine through 12, 'Biology' by Glencoe, present Darwinian evolution with very little critical analysis," Eckard said in a memo to the board.

That's why he wants to supplement the textbooks with an accompanying manuscript, a DVD to critically evaluate the evidence supporting evolution, and a DVD of a debate between creationists and those who support evolution.

"In each case, the district need not worry about the costs associated with the production of these materials. People in your community want this," says Mark Moore, another advocate of critical thinking in the district.

"They feel so strongly about it that they are willing to put up the money for production costs. What would be needed is a commitment that the materials will actually reach the students," Moore adds.

Red State Rabble tends to agree that high school science textbooks do a bad job of presenting evolution. That's because critical thinkers like Eckard and Moore have demanded that it be stripped from the books and publishers have complied.

What Eckard and Moore have in mind has nothing to do with critical thinking and everything to do with religious indoctrination. And, as always with these types, they refuse to be honest about their intentions.


Evolution Videos

Red State Rabble has been anxiously awaiting the video of Sean Carroll's talk at K-State: "The Making of the Fittest." We were checking to see if it had been posted on the The Center For the Understanding of Origins website when we came across a treasure trove of online videos.

Sean Carroll isn't there yet, but Michael Ruse, Robert Pennock, John Haught, Massimo Pigliucci, and a number of other are.

We haven't watched them all yet, but Michael Ruse, a favorite of ours, is brilliant.

You can find them here.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


The War on Science

Here's the BBC documentary, "The War on Science," which sparked the attacks on Ken Miller at Evolution News and Views and Uncommon Descent.


Does Intelligent Design Lead to Moral Degeneration?

A couple of days ago, William Dembski, an intelligent design theorist who teaches theology at Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, sparked a controversy that's still generating comments across a number of blogs that follow the intelligent design, creationism, and evolution beat.

Writing on his Uncommon Descent blog, Dembski posted a quote from The Descent of Man that was designed to make Darwin appear to be a racist. Dembski then drove home the point with ironic language: "What a great mind, indeed. What a wonderful human being. What a marvelous vision of the human family."

As we've pointed out, the quote that Dembski used in his post, although accurately taken from The Descent of Man, does not reflect Darwin's views. It consists of a sentence summarizing the views of Galton and Greg, and a long quote from Greg. As we and others have pointed out, Darwin quotes Galton and Greg, not because he agrees with them, but in order to refute what they said.

When we wrote our initial response to Dembski, we wondered if he'd simply been careless or merely cynical. (All of the citation supplied by Dembski, with the exception of the first sentence, was contained between quotation marks in the original, after all.)

And cynicism, we remarked then, is a bad thing in a theologian.

Well, Dembski has now supplied us with an answer to that riddle. In a comment to a later post on the controversy stirred up by his accusation that Darwin is a racist, he writes:

I was well aware of the context. But if I make the context clear, PvM and his fellows will find something else to attack. Better to give them what appears a minor slip-up, let them attack that, and then show how they’re acting in bad faith because they have ignored the gist.

Believe it or not, it really helps that the other side thinks we’re such morons.

Calling Darwin a racist, if we are to believe Dembski now, was nothing more than a cynical stratagem -- but a stratagem that comes with a context of its own.

Currently, there's been a flurry of posts on Dembski's Uncommon Descent and at the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog complaining that Brown University professor Ken Miller has misrepresented Dembski.

Casey Luskin, for example, writes that "Miller egregiously twists the basic arguments of leading ID theorist, mathematician William Dembski." However, when you read the quote supplied by Luskin to prove that Miller twists Dembski's words you find no mention of Dembski at all.

In "The Collapse of Ken Miller," Dembski reproduces Luskin's Evolution News and Views post, and after admitting that he only watched three minutes of the BBC documentary that prompted the claim that Miller twists his words, concludes that "if there is any collapsing going on, it is in Miller’s psyche and in his increasing inability to prosecute a reasoned argument when it comes to ID."

(Update: Ken Miller responds here.)

I find it remarkable that Dembski, so sensitive to any personal slight himself, should be so careless with the reputation of others. Here, he calls Darwin a racist by employing a quote that shows, really, just the opposite, and claims that Ken Miller twists his words without even bothering to look at the supposed evidence.

The backdrop to this discussion is morals. In The Descent of Man, Darwin attempts, successfully we think, to show that empathy among human beings and the moral foundation of society is a product not of God-given law but the evolutionary forces of variation and natural selection.

The intelligent design proponents fear this possibility because they believe it eliminates free will and moral responsibility.

Red State Rabble doesn't believe that evolution rules out free will. On the contrary, we believe human beings are free to make moral choices. We also recognize that those choices may be constrained by factors of family, culture, education, health, economic standing, and the mental apparatus bequeathed to us by evolution.

After taking those constraints into account, we also believe that people should be held accountable for their choices.

Embracing intelligent design or creationism is a moral choice. Increasingly the evidence suggests that people who freely choose to ignore evidence are choosing badly. As Dembski's actions in this current controversy clearly demonstrate, the embrace of intelligent design, or one of its variants, is the first step on the road to abdicating personal moral responsibility.

The hypersensitivity of Dembski and his fellows to legitimate criticism combined with the hypercynicism of their misleading attacks on Darwin and Miller constitute clear evidence, we believe, of immoral behavior.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Dembski's Diagnosis, Or, The Seventh Most Popular Man in Kazakhstan

William Dembski, the intelligent design sound effects specialist, believes he's observing the collapse of Ken Miller.

Dr. Miller is a professor of Biology at Brown University and author of Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution and, with Joseph Levine, of one of the most widely used high school Biology textbooks in the country.

An ardent opponent of creationism and intelligent design, Miller served as an expert witness in Selman v. Cobb County and Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, two court cases that ended in decisive defeats for Dembski's intelligent design movement.

Miller's scientific research looks at the structure and function of biological membranes. Last year his work was recognized with a public service award from the American Society for Cell Biology.

Despite Miller's popularity -- his introductory Biology class at Brown is one of the most popular on campus -- Dembski abandoned the comfortable surroundings of his sound booth the other day to put Miller on the couch.

In his new and somewhat unfamiliar role as psychoanalyst Herr Doktor Dembski detects in Miller's psyche an "increasing inability to prosecute a reasoned argument when it comes to ID."

(I know, you're thinking that Dembski -- on the losing side in two recent ID court cases -- made a poor choice of words when he settled on "prosecute" here.)

GilDogden, the pseudonymous Uncommon Descent blogger and man of enormous accomplishments -- if only we knew what they were -- piles on saying Miller is living a "wasted life."

Over at the Discovery Institute blog, Evolution News and Views, Casey Luskin stamps his little feet at Miller, writing: "Ken Miller has put forth a patently false straw-man characterization of intelligent design arguments in order to falsely allege refutations to the public."

(Although we were unaware previously of any connection between Luskin and Kazakhstan, "falsely allege refutations to the public" does have a nice Boratian ring to it. For all we know, Luskin may be the seventh most famous man in Kazakhstan.)

What provoked this little fit of pique among the adepts of intelligent design? Apparently they watched Miller's lecture at Case Western Reserve, "The Collapse of Intelligent Design." You can watch it and judge Miller's collapse for yourself. His lecture can be seen in the sidebar under "Today's YouTube Video."


Our Looming Theocracy

Those readers who are concerned about the looming threat posed to our democratic form of government by those who would replace it with a theocratic form of government will be ecstatic to learn that we have a new ally in TV preacher Pat Robertson.

I know, some of you think that Robertson is part of the problem, but the man who once demanded that all school children be forced to pray to his god is now alive to the danger that they might be forced to pray to another.

The other night on his "700 Club" program, Robertson took a break from calling for the assassination of foreign leaders to warn: "... there’s no doctrine of faith that I know in any Protestant denomination that calls for the takeover of the government and making other people second-class citizens. I don’t know of one denomination, Protestant or Catholic, that has that agenda. But yet, Islam has just that agenda, that they want to take over the government and that everybody else is a second-class citizen. That is the primary doctrine of Islam.”

Some of you will undoubtedly remain unconvinced of Robertson's conversion to constitutional secularism. Perhaps you remember his 1997 speech to the Christian Coalition, where he outlined a secret plan to take control of Congress and put a “born-again” president in the White House in 2000.

You are so cynical.

Read more at Americans United.

(Thanks Marie)


The Secular Trend Line

Red State Rabble has been studying an important survey just released by the Pew Research Center: "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007."

There's a lot of good news in the Pew survey, but one of the findings that caught our eye was that Americans who say they are atheist or agnostic has "increased modestly in past decades."

Of course, large majorities say they still belong to a religious tradition, that prayer is an important part of their daily lives, that they believe they'll be called before God on judgement day. Eighty-one percent say they never doubt the existence of God.

Even so, 12 percent now say they are secular in outlook. That's up from just 8 percent in 1987. Moreover, Pew says this change appears to be generational. Only 5 percent of those born before 1946 identify themselves as secular, but that number more than doubled among Baby Boomers to 11 percent, and rises to 19 percent among those born after 1976 -- nearly doubling again.

That's a promising trend line. If it continues at that rate, secular types will soon outnumber believers.

And, despite what you hear from professional pulpit pounders, deathbed conversions are a rarity.

Or, as Pew puts it, "the size of the secular group has remained constant over time within each age cohort. In other words, the number of seculars within each generational group is about the same in 2007 as it was 10 or 20 years before. Thus it appears that people have not become less secular as they have aged."

Once you get the God monkey off your back, it stays off.

Maybe this is why the voices at the Discovery Institute and Uncommon Descent are getting more and more shrill. (More from the survey on the waning influence of fundamentists later.)

Friday, March 23, 2007


Cognitive Dissonance

It must be difficult to be an ID theorist these days. Driving the horse-drawn buggy of intelligent design against the flow of traffic on the six-lane superhighway of scientific research has to be a harrowing experience.

A particular example of the cognitive dissonance required of the ID theorist today is Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary. Yesterday, O'Leary wrote, "Materialist neuroscience argues that the mind does not really exist. The mind is merely the functions of the brain or a simulacrum thereof. So you do not really have a mind, let alone a soul or free will."

O'Leary, you see, is an advocate of "non-materialist" neuroscience.

O'Leary cites as evidence that the mind exists independently of the brain an article by Mario Beauregard’s in Progress in Neuroscience, which she claims identifies "areas of progress in non-materialist neuroscience."

In fact, the article does nothing of the sort.

Beauregard writes that results of studies involving neuroimaging "indicate that the mental functions and processes involved in diverse forms of psychotherapy exert a significant influence on brain activity."

In other words, "beliefs and expectations can markedly modulate neurophysiological and neurochemical activity in brain."

This, of course, is not evidence for mind, a term O'Leary uses interchangeably with soul. This after all is what she's after, something of consciousness that lives on after the body dies to sit at the right hand of God.

Years ago, a New York neuroscientist old me, "Going to the symphony will change your brain chemistry."

Materialists have no problem at all -- in fact, it's exactly what one would expect -- with the idea that our memories, emotional states, and beliefs are a both product of, and reflected in, changes in neurophysiological and neurochemical activity in brain.

How else would it be done?

Here's the difficulty for O'Leary, who is flogging her soon to be released book on "non-materialist neuroscience."

An article by Benedict Carey in yesterday's New York Times reports that "damage to an area of the brain behind the forehead, inches behind the eyes, transforms the way people make moral judgments in life-or-death situations."

An injury to the brain, in other words, affects the moral choices a person makes. This, as the article reports, has a tremendous impact on legal cases. "Jurors have reduced sentences based on brain-imaging results showing damage," Carey reports.

So, while O'Leary and her friends in the intelligent design movement continue the search for the soul, neuroscientists are demonstrating that all of our memories, feelings, and beliefs are rooted in the brain. Physical changes in the brain are reflected in what we perceive as mind.

Intelligent design theorists are the Amish -- without the charm, of course -- of modern science. While everyone else is busy doing research that will pave the way to deeper understanding of the human race and the universe we live in, the ID theorists look back with longing at the 10th century.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Flood Geology


Dembski Channeling Colbert?

Yesterday, William Dembski, the ID theorist, theologian, philosopher, mathematician, and sound effects man, who publishes the Uncommon Descent blog decided to add another area of expertise to his already formidable repertoire.

He decided to out-Colbert, Stephen Colbert.

Dembski wrote that "when I want to feel good about our shared humanity, I curl up with Darwin’s DESCENT OF MAN and read passages like the following:
The reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: “The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a thousand Celts—and in a dozen generations five-sixths of the population would be Celts, but five-sixths of the property, of the power, of the intellect, would belong to the one-sixth of Saxons that remained. In the eternal ’struggle for existence,’ it would be the inferior and less favoured race that had prevailed—and prevailed by virtue not of its good qualities but of its faults.”

Pretty damning, isn't?

And Dembski, of course, drives home the point that these sorts of views, while once popular, are now beyond the pale by adding: "What a great mind, indeed. What a wonderful human being. What a marvelous vision of the human family."

Is this what Darwin really believed? Is it true that Darwin's theory of evolution, as the comments to Dembski's post attest, is the basis for racism, eugenics, and the Nazi's?

If it were true, it would be terrible indeed.

Before we decide, let's do what Dembski and his readers didn't. Let's read the passage in context. Here's a link to the Project Gutenburg online text of Descent of Man.

As you can see, the first sentence cited by Dembski (The reckless, degraded...) is Darwin summarizing the views of Greg and Galton. The rest of the paragraph is Darwin quoting Greg.

Does Darwin do this because he agrees with Greg and Galton? No. He cites their arguments in order to refute them. They argue that if evolution were true, the Irish would "multiply like rabbits" and the good frugal Scots would, by their habit of marrying late, become extinct. In effect, Greg and Galton are making a powerful argument against evolution in man.

Darwin goes on in succeeding paragraphs to offer a number of arguments against this line of thinking -- which after all, challenges the validity of his theory of evolution.

Nothing in the paragraph, not one word, reflects what Darwin believed.

While Red State Rabble profoundly admires Dembski's skills as a sound man, we don't believe he's mastered Colbert's humor. Colbert is funny because we know he's playing O'Reilly. O'Reilly himself just isn't funny because he really believes the idiotic things that come out of his mouth and, for the same reason, Dembski isn't funny, either.

In fact, there's good evidence that Dembski himself harbors the sort of views expressed in the citation by Greg and Galton. Here are two examples from his blog:

So, here's our advice to Dembski. To be funny like Colbert, we have to know you're not serious. In this case, your history of quote mining works against the notion that you expected us to get the joke. We're left believing that you're just cynical, and that's a bad thing in a theologian.

Stick to the fart noises, it's what you know.


Another Martyr for Critical Thinking

More than anything else, Kris Helphinstine says he wanted to teach his students critical thinking. The part-time biology teacher at Sisters High School out in Oregon wanted, with all his heart and soul, to give his students accurate information and to get them thinking.

"Critical thinking is vital to scientific inquiry," says Helphinstine, who has a master's degree in science from Oregon State.

That's when he showed his class a PowerPoint presentation linking evolution, Nazi Germany, and Planned Parenthood.

Mr. Helphinstine found the Biology textbook provided by the district to be just a bit too dogmatic. It was lacking in accurate information. So he supplemented it with more objective material that just happened to be chock full of biblical references.

Parents in the district, not having benefited from the critical thinking skills taught by Mr. Helphinstine, mistakenly thought he was teaching creationism.

"He took passages that had all kinds of Biblical references," says parent John Rahm whose daughter is in the class. "It prevented her from learning what she needed to learn."

If only Rahm and other parents had been steeped in critical thinking skills they would have known better.

"I never taught creationism," insists Helphinstine. "I know what it is, and I went out of my way not to teach it."

He was fired Monday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Bong Hits 4 Jesus

Red State Rabble is deeply embarrassed to admit we have no idea at all what "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" means. We once considered ourselves experts on the counterculture. Hell, we were card-carrying members of the counterculture when it was first invented back in the 60s.

But all that was long ago, before our perpetually open, sunny expression came to be universally interpreted by young people as a stern look of disapproval.

We know, of course that "bong hits" is a drug reference. Having children who spend all their time texting, IMing, and facebooking, we even know that "4" is a youthful shorthand for "for."

But, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus?" We haven't a clue.

That's why it came as a relief to us to learn that Joseph Frederick, the Alaska high school student who unfurled a banner bearing that legend has no idea what it means either.

Apparently, he saw it stenciled on a snowboard and thought it both meaningless and funny.

His principal, Deborah Morse, didn't quite see it that way. Sensing, perhaps correctly, a diabolical plot against order in her school, she tore up his banner and suspended him for 10 days.

Of course, the controversy found it's way not only into court, but all the way to the Supreme Court.

The legal question "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" centers around is how far schools can go in censoring the speech of students and teachers.

Back in the day, students protesting the Vietnam War won the right to wear black armbands in school. In a 1969 case, Tinker v. Des Moines, the court ruled "It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech... at the schoolhouse gates."

However, in 1986 and 1988 the court muddied the water by ruling that sexually suggestive speech -- that old bugaboo -- and school newspapers can be censored by school officials.

This latest case has, surprisingly, united both civil libertarians and the religious right in support of young Frederick's right to raise high the banner of the meaningless and funny.

And, as always seems the case nowadays, it places RSR, once an black armband wearing rebel against war, and authority in all it's stiff-necked disapproving forms, in an uncomfortable position.

As strong civil libertarians, we support the right of free speech. We are amused when impudent young people tweak the upraised noses of those in authority. But how, as a blogger whose raison d’être is to prevent creationists from turning biology classrooms into pulpits, do we reconcile that freedom with the responsibility to teach objectively?

The answer is neither easy nor obvious.

To get an idea of just how difficult it is to separate rights and obligations that exist in tension with each other -- like the oppositely charged poles of a magnet -- readers may also want to read "Religion Clause Divided Against Itself," a Think Again post by New York Times blogger Stanley Fish.

In his piece, Fish examines the opposition of principle and history in establishment clause jurisprudence, which he describes as "so fissured that one might even call it schizophrenic."

Fish cautions against "blaming either evangelical ideologues or the [Bush] administration" for any deterioration in the wall of separation between church and state.

"The fault," he concludes "lies not in the players – on or off the Court – but in the enterprise, an enterprise so fundamentally divided against itself, that it will continually reproduce its built-in ambiguities and contradictions... "

The same is true in freedom of speech cases such as the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" contretemps currently before the court.

What this legal history tells us is that no court ruling will ever settle these sorts of issues for good and all. The pendulum will always be pushed in one direction or another. Circumstances will change, but those of us who believe in an open society, in tolerance, in reason will have to be ready in every generation to defend our views.

We will always be searching for the golden mean.


The Wellspring of Morality

"By undermining the idea of absolute standards for behaviour," and by this the young earth creationists at Answers in Genesis mean the Ten Commandments, "evolutionary thinking has already had a devastating impact on our culture."

Fundamentalist Christians, young earth, old earth, and intelligent design theorist alike, place blame for the evils of modern society, from Hitler to the Columbine shootings, on Darwin and the theory of evolution.

A look at "The Wedge Strategy," the founding document of the intelligent design movement, clearly illustrates this common view of the basis of moral behavior and the evils of Darwinism. The ID movement claims to be based on science not God. And while they strongly reject any notion that their movement is religious in nature, their "Wedge Strategy" uses almost identical language to describe what they see as the destructive consequences of evolutionary theory:

The cultural consequences of this triumph of materialism were devastating. Materialists denied the existence of objective moral standards, claiming that environment dictates our behavior and beliefs.
Of course, these arguments have never been particularly convincing. There has never been a time in history, before Darwin or since, when human beings can be shown to have followed the dictates of objective moral standards. The Bible, on which Christian fundamentalists base their belief in absolute standards of behavior, is a virtual catalogue of the very human failure to live up to any standard of behavior, absolute, objective, or otherwise.

In elaborating the theory of evolution, Darwin recognized that he would have to explain the origin of moral behavior in human beings. "Every one who admits the principle of evolution," wrote Darwin, in The Descent of Man, "must see that the mental powers of the higher animals, which are the same in kind with those of man, though so different in degree, are capable of advancement... "

Darwin even saw belief in God -- if not his actual existence -- as playing a role. "... the conviction of the existence of an all-seeing Deity has had a potent influence on the advance of morality," he wrote.

"Nevertheless the first foundation or origin of the moral sense," continued Darwin, "lies in the social instincts, including sympathy; and these instincts no doubt were primarily gained, as in the case of the lower animals, through natural selection."

Writing in The New York Times, Nicholas Wade reports on the current state of scientific research into primate behavior and its implications for the origins of human morality.

According to Wade, Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center at Emory University, "argues that all social animals have had to constrain or alter their behavior in various ways for group living to be worthwhile. These constraints, evident in monkeys and even more so in chimpanzees, are part of human inheritance, too, and in his view form the set of behaviors from which human morality has been shaped."

This fascinating research, with its many surprising examples of empathy among our primate relatives, makes a very strong case for the natural selection of moral behavior in our hominid ancestors.

The combination of this research with the unraveling of the human genome confirms that we get our genetic inheritance from common ancestors including not only other primates, but fruit flies, and even bacteria. Add to this the growing understanding of brain function and human consciousness, a range of new and important fossil discoveries, and you have powerful new evidence for evolution by means of natural selection which, once again, confirms Darwin's view of the origin of moral behavior in human beings.

The creationists -- young earth, old earth, and intelligent design alike -- now face battle on many fronts. The notion of human morality as absolute and God-given will have to give way to a new, deeper understanding of the evolutionary basis of morality.

And while we don't see human behavior as perfecting itself any time soon, this new understanding may help pave the way for more humane treatment of gays or other oppressed minorities by society as a whole.


Writing Religious Discrimination Into the Law

Discrimination on the basis of religious belief? Rep. Luis G. Fortuño (R-PR) thinks that's the American way. His amendment to Head Start legislation would have allowed religious organizations running Head Start centers to use federal dollars to discriminate against job applicants on the basis of their religion.

Fortunately, the amendment was defeated and funding of the religious right with taxpayer dollars was dealt a setback by the newly elected Democratic majority in the House.

"We are not going to permit Republican leaders to write discrimination into the Head Start law," said Rep. George Miller (D-CA) Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor. "Federal dollars should never be used to promote discrimination against workers simply because of their religious beliefs."

Read more at the Secular Coalition for America website.


Skeptic's Circle

Here's another one that got past us: The 56th Skeptic's Circle is now up at Scientianatura. If you find doubt reassuring. If you believe critical thinking is more than a spectator sport, this one's for you.


Four Stone Hearth

RSR is still catching up. It's been out for a few days already, but we still wanted to call your attention to a new blog carnival on anthropology and archaeology: Four Stone Hearth.

You can find the latest installment at Aardvacheology.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


So, A Woodpecker Goes Into a Bar...

John Brownlee at the Wired Magazine "Table of Malcontents" blog has it right, the most disturbing thing about GodTube is that it's "an observable microcosm of the way that fundamentalist Christians have shut themselves off from any outside perspective. The result is mental and creative poverty."


Suspicious Minds

When we're told that intelligent design has nothing, nothing at all, to do with creationism, we should believe what we're told, right?

Why should we doubt that a bill to teach the controversy over evolution, or grant academic freedom to high school biology teachers, or present evidence critical of Darwinism, is as completely divorced from any sectarian religion concerns as its supporters tell us it is?

Really, it's all about good science. There are no ulterior motives. After all, those godly souls who tell us these things would never lie, would they?

No, they wouldn't lie, but they might write a loophole in the law big enough to fly an Airbus 380 through.

Take for example this little piece of legislation sponsored by our old friend Utah State Sen. Chris "Divine Design" Buttars.

Buttars insists his latest legislation is designed only to bring uniformity to the rules governing school clubs. To prevent things from getting out of hand at chess club meetings. That kind of thing.

There are, of course, other views.

“This is all about gay-straight alliance clubs, and anybody who tells you different is lying,” said State Senator Scott D. McCoy, Democrat from Salt Lake City, who voted against the law.

Well, on second thought, maybe they would lie.


Road Trip

The Pitch, that's the alternative news weekly here in the Kansas City area, has published a chronicle of Connie Morris' taxpayer funded trip to our nation's capital.

Connie's excellent adventure is not exactly On The Road, or even "Thelma and Louise." She lacks the grand vision of Ken Kesey and the merry pranksters.

So, The Pitch story may not exactly rise to the level of literature, but it is a must read.


The Only Way a Christian Can Look At It

"I realize this sounds very offensive to homosexuals, but it's the only way a Christian can look at it," says the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., a leading evangelical. "We should have no more problem with that than treating any medical problem."

Mohler created a furor recently by writing that although homosexuality is biologically based, it is still a sin in the eyes of God. Prenatal treatment to reverse gay orientation would be biblically justified, he says.

Of course, a lot of things can be -- and are -- justified biblically, but that doesn't make them right.


Theology of Theistic Evolution 101

Red State Rabble has never found theology to be particularly rewarding field of inquiry. It's one of those subjects, intensely interesting to some, that we just don't get, and at this late stage of life probably never will.

Even so, we're willing to entertain the notion that the deficiency is in us.

Perhaps it's a failure of imagination on our part. Perhaps we were born without the God gene. Perhaps it's just a failure to apply ourselves properly.


On the other hand, we work in the movement to defend science with a number of perfectly intelligent and highly dedicated people who are intensely interested in the subject. People who give lie to the charge that you can't be religious and accept the findings of modern science at the same time.

To us, these activists -- they form the backbone to the opposition to teaching creationism and intelligent design in public schools here in Kansas -- seem utterly at home in their faith and their understanding of science.

For those readers able to accomodate both faith and science we offer this review of Francis Collins' book The Language of God by Catherine H. Crouch, an assistant professor of physics at Swarthmore College.

Crouch has a more subtle understanding of the nuances of theology than is usually found at either pole in the political and cultural debate over evolution. And, while RSR doesn't subscribe to the notion that all who embrace evolution must abandon their faith, she has a keener grasp of what it means theologically to be a theistic evolutionist than we.

We're not saying we agree with her. Just that readers who are convinced that knowing James Dobson, Ted Haggard, or Pat Robertson -- not in the biblical sense, of course -- is to know all there is to know about religious faith, may find this review to be an eye opener.


Hansen Says Bush Administration Uses "Nazi" Tactics to Silence Government Scientists

James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the country's leading climate scientists told the House Government Reform Committee yesterday that that the Bush administration's heavy-handed attempts to control what government scientists say publicly about climate change smack of Nazi Germany.

"It's not the American way," Hansen said, "And it's not constitutional."

The Bush administration sends a minder -- in Soviet Russia they called them political commissars -- along with Hansen when he gives interviews. White House officials also refused to allow him to be interviewed by NPR.

As Hansen testified, one of those minders, Philip Cooney, chief of staff to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, sat next to him. Cooney edited Hansen's testimony before the committee changing "will" to "may" in describing the impact of human activity on climate change.

Some of the changes Cooney made, he admitted to the committee, were "to align these communications with the administration's stated policy" on climate change.

Monday, March 19, 2007


The New, New Evidence

The Discovery Institute has been busily flogging its Darwin vs. Design Conferences where ID theorists will present the latest evidence for intelligent design.

What will this new evidence consist of?

Well, if you read this story previewing the upcoming Tennessee conference in the Knoxville Times religion section you'll find Michael Behe reporting on the astonishing discovery that Mount Rushmore is not a result of plate tectonics, as Darwinists are supposed to have imagined, rather, it's a product of design.

The pace of scientific discovery by the ID theorists is simply staggering. One can only wonder what earth shaking discovery they will make next.


Discovery Institute: If Their Lips Are Moving...

Red State Rabble has been reporting for more almost two years now that the Discovery Institute has distorted the results of a survey of doctors to make it seem that a majority of MDs support intelligent design when, in fact, more than 63 percent respond that they agree more with the evolution than with intelligent design.

Now, thanks to Dr. Michael Egnor, the man who gave brain surgery a bad name, the story is finally getting some traction.

Steve Rueland, writing on the Panda's Thumb blog notes that "the simplest way of figuring out whether the DI’s claims are accurate is with the high tech scientific technique of reading the survey results."

And, Ed Brayton, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars weighs in here, noting that "the intellectual dishonesty doesn't stop there. In fact, the doctors surveyed were asked quite specifically whether they supported evolution or ID. Needless to say, the DI never mentions the results for that question."

This is the sort of distortion that's become the stock in trade of the intelligent design movement. If they so blatantly distort the results of a survey, how could they be trusted in any thing else they say.


Sheep Shape

According to the BBC News, a 20-year study of Scottish sheep has found that weather patterns are driving changes in body shape and population size.


Can't Blame Darwin for This

As we all know, Darwin's discovery of the forces that drive evolution is at the root of all evil. Teaching school children about this discovery leads to all sorts of bad things. Fundamentalist Christianity, so we've been told, is the only thing that can save us from this despicable plot.

How then, to explain this?

(We particularly like the detail about the $9,000 hidden in the bible. Having used it to fleece their humble parishioners, putting some of the money there must have seemed the most natural thing in the world to the Hernandes', the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of Brazil.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007


We're Baaack!

Allright, after an epic 14-hour drive RSR is back home and ready, once we catch our breath, to start blogging on a regular basis again. That will be good news to some and bad news to others. (You know who you are.)

See you soon.

Friday, March 16, 2007


The Pigeons Come Home to Roost

Could you blame moral values cop Rev. Jerry Johnston for feeling a bit like Alberto Gonzales just now? When things go bad, it seems, they really go bad.

According to the Kansas City Star:

Obviously, Dr. Jerry has found a way to embrace materialism without adopting evolution.


Calling Dr. Dino

According to the Kansas City Star, anti-evolution fundamentalist "Rev. Jerry Johnston and his ministries have a history of being slow to pay their taxes." Should we schedule a counseling session with Dr. Dino for the good Rev. Johnston?


Fleecin' the Flock

Our old pal, the Rev. Jerry Johnston, a pulpit-pounder of the first order when it comes to the immorality of evolution, has a good thing goin' on...


Where will it all end?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Evangelicals Condemn Torture

RSR has been pretty hard on the born-again and we don't expect that will stop. Even so, we want to give credit to the National Association of Evangelicals for condemning the acts of torture carried out by the U.S. military.

In a country that keeps itself willfully ignorant of government sponsored torture, while obsessing over the death of Anna Nicole Smith, the NAE statement stands out as a signal act of courage.

"United States law and military doctrine has banned the resort to torture or cruel and degrading treatment. Tragically, documented cases of torture and inhumane and cruel behavior have occurred at various sites in the war on terror, and current law opens procedural loopholes for more to continue,"the NAE says in its statement.

"As American Christians, we are above all motivated by a desire that our nation's actions would be consistent with foundational Christian moral norms," the document says. "We believe that a scrupulous commitment to human rights, among which is the right not to be tortured, is one of these Christian moral convictions."

RSR can't agree with the NAE that America should be guided by "foundational Christian moral norms," (we believe it must be guided by human-made laws) but we are in strong agreement that it is far past time that all Americans step forward to say an emphatic "No!" to the torture carried out in our name.


A New Eugenics Movement Is Born

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says scientific research "points to some level of biological causation" for homosexuality.

The good Rev. also says homosexuality remains a sin, even if it is biologically based. He advocates medical treatment to switch unborn gay babys sexual orientation to heterosexual.

On March 2, he posted a piece on his personal Web site with the title: "Is Your Baby Gay? What If You Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?"

In advocating medical treatment, Mohler presumably believes that some sort of gay gene might be detected in the unborn that would guide his proposed "treatment."

So, God made you that way. It's in your DNA. But, according to the holier-than-thou, it's still a sin. God made you gay and you're going to hell for it. For all eternity.

That's a funny kind of love if you ask me. (Maybe funny isn't the right word.)

But, never fear, the wing-nut movement that opposes stem cell research, death with dignity, and HPV vaccination has a plan to step in and fix God's mistakes.

God's design, it would seem, isn't intelligent enough for at least one of our good Southern Baptists.

The religious right -- which never tires of falsely linking Darwin with eugenics -- now has a program of its very own.


F. Clark Howell

F. Clark Howell, a man who is probably responsible for more gaps in the fossil record than almost anyone else -- the UC Berkeley anthropologist led fossil hunting expeditions on three continents and pioneered modern research into human evolution -- has died at 81.

Read more here.


The Devil's Workshop

Suddenly, Tennessee State Sen. Raymond Finney isn't sure he even wants to ask the question, but if he decides to go ahead anyway, state Attorney General Bob Cooper, says it's okay by him.

The AG says there are no constitutional problems with Finney's resolution to ask Tennessee's top education official whether a supreme being created the universe according to the Associated Press.

"While the resolution clearly appears to constitute a rhetorical device designed to advocate the teaching of creationism as an alternative to the theory of evolution, there is no indication that the resolution is intended to attack (Education Commissioner Lana Seivers) qualifications for her position," Cooper wrote.

And, the bill calls for no penalties if she should refuse to answer.

Isn't there anything Tennesseans could do to make Finney more productive -- like urge him to find employment elsewhere?


Red Flags

Tennessee State Sen. Raymond Finney isn't so sure he really wants to push legislation that would have required the state's education commissioner to answer questions about whether the universe "has been created or has merely happened by random, unplanned, and purposeless occurrences."

"I probably made a mistake in approaching it from a creation aspect, which raises red flags," Finney says now. "People get so sensitive about whether children might be exposed to any sort of religious thing."

Oh, really?


Missouri: The Door Slams Shut

The Missouri House briefly adopted an amendment to a bill on education matters that would have made it impossible for school districts to stop teachers from presenting their own opinions on issues in their classrooms.

According to The Columbia Tribune, the amendment was adopted with minimal debate, but later stripped from the bill after legislators realized that it could open the door to a variety of controversial subjects, ranging from contraception to intelligent design theories about the origin of life.


It's Getting Hot in Here

Did self-proclaimed family values man James Dobson step in it when he sent a letter to the board of the National Association of Evangelicals telling them to stop Richard Cizik, NAE's vice president of government affairs, from speaking out about global climate change?

Are family values really at odds with exercising good stewardship over the planet's resources? Only if, like Dobson, political ambitions are inextricably tied to the morally bankrupt Republican party.


The Creation/Evolution Debate in the Muslim World

In what looks to be a fascinating presentation, Taner Edis an associate professor of physics at Truman State University and the author An Illusion of Harmony: Science And Religion in Islam will speak on "The Creation/Evolution Debate in the Muslim World" in Alderson Auditorium at the Kansas Memorial Union in Lawrence at 7:00 p.m., on April 3rd.

Edis was born and raised in Turkey. He is the author of The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science and Science and Nonbelief among other publications.

"In a cultural arena dominated by polemics," writes Ronald Numbers, author of The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, "Taner Edis, a historically sensitive Turkish-American physicist, stands out as a voice of reason. I don't know of a better introduction to science and religion in Islam than An Illusion of Harmony."

Red State Rabble is eagerly awaiting his talk at KU.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007



During the course of his life, Charles Darwin evolved from a devout Christian -- the sort of young believer who was teased for his expressions of piety by his shipmates on the H.M.S. Beagle -- to a self-described agnostic.

Near the end of his life, Darwin wrote in his autobiography:
....Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine...."

Despite his doubt, Darwin lived quite contentedly with his wife, Emma, a devout Christian. Although quite distressed by her husband's disbelief, which she feared would separate them in the afterlife, she remained his devoted partner in life as they raised their 10 children together.

Interestingly, the current issue of Newsweek whose lead article, the "Evolution Revolution," is on the cover, is taking a non-scientific poll of readers on whether the theory of evolution can coexist with religion.

When we voted yes, they can coexist, a little while ago, 85,226 readers had responded. Of those, 55 percent responded that they can, 39 percent say they can't, and 6 percent aren't sure.

Whatever the results of the poll, the simple fact of the matter is that evolution and religion quite often do coexist. Sometimes it's within a marriage, as with the Darwin's, many times the two are captured within a single individual, as with scientists such as Ken Miller and Francis Collins.

Those who place themselves at opposite poles in this debate deny that coexistence is possible. The evidence, on the other hand, demonstrates that many people live quite comfortably in the joint embrace of science and religion.

Isn't it funny how life seems always to overflow the neat categories of ideology.


The Road to Hell

RSR's mother is fond of saying the road to hell is paved with good intentions. RSR, who may have disappointed her in other ways, has always understood the truth of that particular statement.

We try to stay current with the large volume of e-mail that Red State Rabble generates and to respond as often as we can. (Although, we must admit, even in the best of times, not everyone who deserves a reply gets one.)

While we've been on the road this week, and rarely able to access the wired world, things have simply gotten more out of hand than usual. If you've sent us an e-mail and not been given the courtesy of a reply it's because good intentions aren't always enough.

We hope to get back on top of things next week when we return to regular blogging. Until then, all we can say is that we're well down the road to e-mail hell. We'll try to do better, but even our best may still not be good enough.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Give Discredit Where Discredit is Due

In today's issue of USAToday Michael Medved, writing in "The Forum" believes he's uncovered a dark plot by Hollywood executives to discredit religion. In Medved's Inspector Clouseau-like dissection of the plot against religion, the recent Lost Tomb documentary produced by Titanic director James Cameron plays the role of smoking gun.

Forget, for now, the fact that the Cameron documentary, which purported to have discovered the bones of Jesus, made absolutely no impression on anyone outside the fundamentalist movement.

A nation preoccupied with a losing war in Iraq, we suspect, has more important things to think about than whether or not a set of bones proves or disproves an ancient myth, even if a large section of the population professes to believe it. Although, in all honesty, we can't deny that a large section of the populace seems equally absorbed in the details of Anna Nicole Smith's death and Brittany Spears latest haircut, and that may caution us against imputing any particularly noble intent on the part of the people who inhabit the home of the free and the land of the brave.

In any case, the evidence was deemed by experts to be less than persuasive. It wouldn't have made any difference to those doubters, like RSR, who find the story to be nothing more than an interesting cultural artifact and, as we know, no evidence of any kind will ever persuade any of those biblical literalists who tread the other side of the path that their savior's bones are anywhere but tucked safely inside His body somewhere up there in heaven.

In any case, we don't think there is any plot in Hollywood to discredit religion. Rather, there's a political and cultural battle in the country over fundamentalist religion. And that is something different altogether.

With the exception of James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and the like on the religious right, and Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and a handful of like-minded "New Atheists," on the other side, everyone else seems perfectly happy to be tolerant of a range of religious belief that extends from traditional Catholics, Jews, and Protestants to a growing acceptance of Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans and even, in many cases now, skeptics like RSR and friends.

Most of us grew up believing that religious belief belongs in the private sphere of church and family. We're as reluctant to push our own beliefs on others as we are to criticize theirs. That's broken down recently because the religious right insists on pushing their rather peculiar beliefs on the rest of us.

They've made religion into a political issue by demanding that we teach the supposed controversy over evolution while suppressing information about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. They say that developing cures for devastating diseases such as Parkinson's is less important than keeping frozen embryos frozen. Inoculating girls against a virus that causes 70 percent of cervical cancer cases -- which kills about 290,000 deaths a year world-wide -- would be immoral, they say.

Moreover, rather than just practicing what they preach and be done with it, they demand that all the rest of us follow the strange dictates of their religious faith rather than our own.

These fundamentalists also have the rather distressing trait of thundering moral condemnation on the beliefs held dear by the rest of us while demanding scrupulous respect for themselves. They can say anything they want about us, but criticism of them is blasphemy.

This is why, people like RSR, who were once comfortable in their own beliefs and would never have thought of criticising the beliefs of others are now speaking up. And, for the most part, were not trying, as Medved would have it, to discredit religion as a whole, but to protect ourselves against an aggressive, self-righteous, fundamentalism.


Slippery Slope

Is the Constitutional injunction that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” in the process of being eroded? Did the 1947 Supreme Court decision in Everson v. Board of Education which allowed public money to be used to bus students to parochial schools set us hurtling down a slippery slope from rigid separation of church and state to intimate embrace?

New York Times columnist Stanley Fish, the prominent American literary theorist and legal scholar, makes a persuasive case in today's "Think Again" column that it has.

In his careful, thoughtful way, Fish takes us on a journey from Everson back in time to Madison's 1785 “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” and then right up to the present with a decision last week by the California Supreme Court approving the use of tax-free bonds to finance construction of buildings at Christian schools there.

In both cases, Fish argues, the reasoning that allowed the wall of separation between church and state to be breached is the judicial equivalent of money laundering.

"The establishment clause may still be on the books," he writes, "but it is honored more in the breach than in the observance."

Friday, March 09, 2007


Here's to PZ

One more thing. Before RSR hits the road, we want to wish PZ Myers, blogger extraordinaire, scourge to creationists, and friend to cephalopods everywhere a happy 50th birthday.

PZ has been a great friend to Red State Rabble over the past two plus years. Although we've had our spats over the proper care and feeding of our theistic evolutionist brethren (at 50 you're just a pup anyway PZ, I figure you'll come around eventually). Even so there's no blog out there that does a better job of popularizing science and putting the anti-science theocrats in their place than Pharyngula.

When Spring comes to Minnesota, in about six months, PZ, we're thinking of heading up that way to buy you a beer.


Road Trip

All right, here's the deal. RSR is on the road the next week, so posts are going to be catch as catch can. Talk among yourselves until RSR can find a wireless connection somewhere along the way.


Bad News Happens

When bad news happens, as it so often does for our reality challenged friends in the intelligent design movement, the usual response is to simply ignore it. Certainly, there's been a lot of bad news for them lately, especially on the legal and electoral fronts.

These little setbacks have even been picked up on by journalists who now write more skeptically than ever about the never quite identified mountain of evidence that supports the "theory" of intelligent design.

A new and more threatening development has been taking shape over the last week, however, and both William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog and the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog were quick to realize the danger and respond (ENV, UD).

Of course the IDiots, as always, brought this latest damaging revelation down about their own heads. Not long ago, The Templeton Foundation, a non-profit that publishes scholarly books on science and religion, spirituality and healing , reported that it had offered grants for scientific research that would support intelligent design theory, but no one in the ID movement had applied.

This embarrassing revelation resulted in some angry back and forth between spokespeople for the ID movement and officials at the Templeton Foundation. Ed Brayton, who writes the Dispatches From the Culture Wars blog, has done the best job of keeping up with the ins and outs of the debate.

Now, William Grassie of the Metanexus Institute, a group that advances research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion, has written on the issue, and what he has to say is devastating to the already shaky case for intelligent design:

What we're seeing here is the beginnings of a split between those who are open to a religious explanation for some natural phenomena -- but unwilling to throw science overboard -- and the intelligent design movement. We're also seeing the fruits of Dembski's journey from being someone with legitimate academic credentials to passport carrying member of the Crankosphere.

The statements by the Templeton Foundation and William Grassie mark the beginning of the end of serious consideration of intelligent design theory by mainstream religious thinkers. When added to the rejection of ID by the courts, voters, and news media, this development could well have devastating consequences for the ID movement.

More and more, I think, ID will be relegated to the same narrow niche occupied by fringe figures such as Ken Ham and Henry Morris. Their early hopes of breaking out of the creationist enclave to attract those outside the insular world of bible college and Christian academy, I think, are now past.


Einstein's Biggest Blunder?

Lawrence M. Krauss will present "Einstein's Biggest Blunder?: A Cosmic Mystery Story" at 7 p.m. Monday, March 12, in the K-State Alumni Center ballroom in Manhattan, Kansas. The lecture is the inaugural event in the recently established Peterson Public Lecture Series in Physics. It is co-sponsored by K-State's department of physics and K-State's Center for the Understanding of Origins, the K-State honors program and Phi Beta Kappa. The lecture is free and the public is welcome.


Chewing on a Piece of Grass

"Worms don't evolve into dogs," observes Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy.

Of course, others in the recently rekindled debate over evolution and intelligent design in Ventura County have a more nuanced view.

The Thousand Oaks Acorn (great name for a newspaper) has more.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Killing the Messenger

The creationists are angry with Charles Darwin for having observed one of the underlying mechanisms of biology, namely evolution.

The same sort of anger was once expressed against those who came to understand the workings of the cosmos, not as heralds of an unseen god, but as stars, planets, moons, comets, and asteroids that move about their physical universe in accordance with natural laws.

Even today, some in the creationist camp believe the weather is directed by the hand of God. Katrina wasn't sent to New Orleans by the complex interaction of atmospheric pressure, temperature, and geography. No, it was sent by a God angry at the hedonism of a sinful city.

That God's punishment was also meted out on God-fearing (and Republican) Mississippi goes, for some reason, unremarked by those in close communication with God.

A continuing discussion in The Wichita Eagle following the state school board's decision to teach real science in science classrooms addresses this point, we think, quite well. Here's what Rick Nunnelly has to say:
I grow increasingly irritated each time I read someone referring to evolution as a religion ("It's faith, not theory," March 2 Reader Views). All religions started with humans' fear of the unknown and the worshipping of what they did not understand or what affected their lives the most -- the sun, stars, rain, food and planet. Evolution does not stand on ignorance. Evolution stands on the study and understanding of what we are, where we are and how we came to be what we are.

Would gravity be any less operative in the world if Galileo and Newton had not described it? Would the Earth not revolve about the Sun if Copernicus had not reported his observations? Why then, demonize Charles Darwin?

If he hadn't published Origin of the Species, then Wallace would be credited with the discovery. If not Wallace, then someone else. If no one ever described it, it would still be responsible for incredible variety of plant and animal life we see around us.


The Fear of Thinking

An article in the Case Western Reserve Observer by guest columnist Batool Akhtar-Zaidi reports on a recent talk there by intelligent design activist Michael Behe.

After reporting on Behe's talk and responses from the audience, the reporter gets right to the heart of the matter:
The posters advertising Behe's presentation asked us to think. But the content of Behe's defense of ID suggests that it is not about thinking at all. It's about a fear of thinking, about a desperate desire for gaps in knowledge as a place for God. Behe's approach betrays a desire for ignorance. The scientific approach involves work, experimenting, surviving peer review, and cumulative intellectual progress.


Astounding, Astonishing, or Simply Unbelievable?

A news release from the Discovery Institute breathlessly announces that "intelligent design scientists and experts whose discoveries in cosmology, biology, physics, and DNA" will "present astonishing scientific evidence that is overturning the evolutionary thinking of the past" at a two-day conference called Darwin vs. Design to be held in Dallas April next month.

"Conference goers will hear firsthand," they say, "the astounding implications these discoveries are having on our society, our politics and our culture."

Since carping about gaps in the fossil record and the dirty dealings of those dastardly Darwinists falls short of constituting actual evidence for intelligent design, we would be truly astonished if evidence of any kind at all were to be presented.


Their Morals and Ours

In a commentary published in the Kansas City Star, Bob Kieth Bonebrake writes that "by pushing high-profile hypocrites like Haggard into the forefront of their movement, they [American Christians] give critics an easy shot."

Even so, Bonebrake writes, these Christians "are the moral nags whose 'still small voice' helps the system remember its better nature. They provide society a conscience."

Bonebrake, of course, makes the mistake of conflating the religious right with all of Christianity. This insistence by evangelicals, almost a reflex on their part, that they are the only authentic Christians is one of the chief things that maddens critics of the religious right.

It is but one symptom of their willingness to throw the first stone. Their holier-than-thou attitude and lack of tolerance is what makes the rest of us see them as hypocrites, especially when we see one of theirs -- like Haggard -- fall.

Haggard in our opinion is not the greatest hypocrite among the religious right. We see him, in many was, as another victim. A man unable to come to grips with his sexuality because it conflicts with his rather strange religious beliefs.

More hypocritical in our view are the religious right leaders who campaign endlessly against gay rights, abortion, and teaching evolution -- which they claim erodes the morals of the nation.

All the while, these men say nothing, nothing at all, about people like Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham,Tom Delay, Scooter Libby, and Bob Ney.

What kind of conscience do these religious right leaders offer our society? Whatever it is, it's not one that we want to adopt.


Sullivan on Coulter

We have always wondered why people who are oppressed by the teaching of a particular religion continue to be members of that church. Why, we ask ourselves would women, to take but one example, want to be members of a religious faith that denies them equal rights with the men.

As hard as that phenomenon is to understand, we find it even more difficult to imagine why a person would remain a member of a political party that whips up hatred against their kind. Here we are thinking of gay Republicans. (Although black and Hispanic Republicans come to mind as well.)

Apparently, Andrew Sullivan, who is both gay and conservative, was sitting in the audience when Ann Coulter delivered her infamous anti-gay slur against John Edwards the other day.

We can't imagine why Sullivan aligns himself politically with these Neanderthals, but he has. Even so, we were struck by his eloquent and deeply felt condemnation of Coulter.

It's a must read.

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