Thursday, May 31, 2007
Sex and the Single Evangelical
"80 percent of teenagers who identify as 'evangelical' or 'born again' think sex should be saved for marriage. But thinking is not the same as doing," writes Hanna Rosin in Slate. "Evangelical teens are actually more likely to have lost their virginity than either mainline Protestants or Catholics. They tend to lose their virginity at a slightly younger age—16.3, compared with 16.7 for the other two faiths. And they are much more likely to have had three or more sexual partners by age 17: Regnerus reports that 13.7 percent of evangelicals have, compared with 8.9 percent for mainline Protestants."
Rosin reviews Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers by Mark Regnerus, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin in Slate.
In cities, the authorities tend to be advised by savvy attorneys who know that if they do things like that they will be in trouble. So you're more likely to see them in small towns that are, say, 95% Southern Baptist, where the town fathers were unlikely to be thinking about diversity but a small minority was upset by what seems like a civic religious gesture.
We've heard a lot lately about the so-called war on Christians. Are Christians really victims of widespread religious discrimination? Irons says no:
In most cases it is the atheists or non-evangelical Christians whose rights have historically been trampled on , and for the court to restore them is not overshooting the mark at all.
Irons, who teaches Constitutional law at UC-San Diego is interviewed in Time magazine. The whole interview is worth a read.
Sam, You're Not in Kansas Anymore
Stung, perhaps, by widespread perception that he's the sort of idiot who should never be allowed within five miles of the White House, Brownback now believes "it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves."
Certainly Brownback's own fundamentalist supporters can't be blamed for lacking nuance or subtlety.
And we all know what the Scopes trial did for Dayton.
The Holy Grail
Ricky Gervais: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Creation
Reader XO called our attention to this in the comments to a post we published yesterday. We watched it and laughed till we cried.
Matthew Nisbet and Chris Mooney: Speaking Science 2.0
Matt Nisbet and Chris Mooney came to Kansas City, but RSR wasn't here to cover them. I was on a plane home from Detroit that got in late forcing me to miss their appearance here. Fortunately, I got to watch them on YouTube, and you can too.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Reportedly, the deal was to have included an option to buy the rights to the Geiko slogan, "It's so easy a caveman could do it."
Advertising insiders in the Cincinnati area tell RSR they've been hearing rumors for weeks now that the museum's planned ad campaign included a playful adaptation of the popular caveman's slogan: "So simple a creationist could understand it."
The deal was said to be contingent on also securing the services of one of the "suit actors" who played Barney, the lovable purple dinosaur. But PBS executives, still angry that creationist Jerry Falwell outed Tinky Winky, a star of the popular PBS series, "Teletubbies," proved unwilling to grant the museum rights to the popular children's character.
Update: Just after posting this, we learned that Zeno must be talking to the same sources.
"I have a dream that God will be welcomed back in our schools again," Mallory says. "I think we need him."
What the schools don't need, according to Mallory, is witchcraft in the library. That's why she's campaigned since 2005 to have J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books disapparate from school libraries there.
However, for a woman who wants desperately to bring her own fundamentalist Christian God into the public schools, she advances a rather strange argument for banning the Harry Potter books: witchcraft is a religion practiced by some people and, therefore, the books should be banned because reading them in school violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Superior Court Judge Ronnie Batchelor just rejected her latest effort to pull the popular books off the shelves, but Mallory isn't discouraged. She plans an appeal, and who knows, this time she may even hire an attorney. With the new makeup of the Supreme Court she may even get what she wants.
Mallory says she has evidence that children have thought about acting out spells described in the books. (In fact, I'm thinking how neat it would be to have one of Harry's spells at my disposal now.)
"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power," Mallory says ominously. "The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it."
I'd bet they're getting a whole lot that Mallory isn't.
Trouble in Paradise
Inside the Answers In Genesis Creation Museum's dioramas, evolution may be the enemy, but up in the executive suite an instinct for the jugular -- and the bottom line -- is alive and well. Nature's red tooth and claw have been replaced by sharp elbows. Business practices that would make a robber baron blush, it would seem, are now the norm.
Christian Faith and Reason, which calls itself an online magazine for Christian apologists and skeptical seekers of reason, tells the story, and, it isn't a pretty one. Ham, who was lauded at the museum's opening for his "Christian integrity" by AiG Chief Communications Officer Mark Looy, it seems, unscrupulously terminated the American distribution relationship it had with Creation Ministries International to distribute that organization’s Creation Magazine.
Ham and AiG saw there was money to be made. They took Creation Magazine's American subscribers list and made it their own. According to the report, Ham and AiG have been asked by the Australian group that publishes Creation Magazine to "resolve the dispute in a manner consistent with Christian principles."
“We have had a formal enquiry into the matter by a committee of eminent Christians (including several with senior legal experience) in this country," says Carl Wieland, Managing Director of the Australian based Creation Ministries International. "The results may be made public in short order if there is not a settlement soon, which we hope there is at last, despite AiG's rejection of binding Christian arbitration.”
When a Christian Faith and Reason reporter asked Ken Ham about the dispute in a phone interview last Friday, they report he unceremoniously hung up the phone.
There may be good reasons why Ham and other AiG executives don't want to talk about how they pulled the rug out from under their outback young earth creationist brothers, millions of them.
Between 2003 and 2004, according to Jim Lippard, annual revenue at AiG climbed from $9,016,228 to $10,423,222, while compensation for officers and directors tripled during the same period from a modest $313,960 to a princely $926,837.
Ham's 2004 paycheck of $125,000, while living in a state where the median income is $37,270, indicates AiG's CEO is one of those who, having set out to do good, did very, very well indeed.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Gary Coleman Doppelganger Found
The Discovery Institute and other outlets that make up the right-wing echo chamber have relentlessly pumped up the volume over Iowa State University's denial of tenure to ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, but this time no one seems to be listening.
Not long ago, ID was the new kid on the creationist block. The legal strategy to put a scientific gloss on Genesis, which once seemed to have such a bright future, now finds itself yesterday's news. A former child actor, out of the spotlight and -- at least for some of its brighter lights -- out of work.
We were just getting ready to write a post noting that the only place in the universe where the grand opening of the Answers in Genesis' Fred and Wilma Flintstone Theme Park went unremarked was the normally voluble ID blogosphere.
Then Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary came through on William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog with a post on a review of the Creation Museum by Edward Rothstein that appeared in the Arts section of The New York Times.
Denyse was prepared to dislike the article before she even read it-- it was, after all, in the NYT -- but she's a game gal, she gritted her teeth and went on.
Denyse tells us she has little use for creation museums, "but way, way less use for self-regarding, overaged art twerps who pretend superiority to millions of people who do real jobs for a living."
Now of course, Denyse knows as much about Edward Rothstein, the award-winning former music critic for The New Republic and now cultural critic-at-large for the Times, as she knows about science: nothing.
That's not news.
What I find interesting about the alternate universe that the O'Leary inhabits, however, is that it allows her to feel morally superior to Rothstein because he doesn't do a "real job for a living."
Isn't she, like Rothstein, a writer and reporter. Isn't that a real job?
Oh yeah, and he's "overaged," and a "twerp" to boot. God's love for his creation just shines through O'Leary's writing, doesn't it?
Creation Museum Debate
Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss debates creationist Ken Ham on the "O'Reilly Factor."
Making a Statement
Not to mention what theistic evolutionists will teach.
Standing in the Wings
Bill Moyers interviews Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale, for his series on Faith and Reason.
The Big Valley
Best of all, a set of English scrolls traces the family of King Henry VI back to the Garden of Eden. Naturally, there's an interactive bacterial flagellum, too.
Maybe, Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary will cover the grand opening for us.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Never Never Land
“I envisioned when I was here (a year ago) that every Christian school – probably in the country – is going to have a field trip to the Creation Museum.” Ward said, “And we’re really happy to have those visitors.”
Ward's Faustian bargain -- Kentucky will officially sanction lying to children in exchange for tourist dollars -- may be in keeping with the times. These days, it seems, people will do anything for money, from deciding the paternity of their children before Judge Judy's national television audience to eating blenderized rats on "Fear Factor."
Despite all the tourist dollars that will no doubt pour into Kentucky coffers, Ken Ham's Creation Museum will not complement Big Bone Lick State Park unless, of course, you believe matter and anti-matter somehow complete each other.
The fossil site at what is now Big Bone Lick State Park, discovered in 1739, preserves the fossilized remains of mastodons, wooly mammoths and ground sloths attracted to the warm salt springs at the park. Some 15,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, many of these animals got stuck in the soft, jelly-like ground around the spring. The park has been called the birthplace of American Vertebrate Paleontology.
Answers in Genesis, the young earth creationist outfit, that built the Creation Museum believes mastadons, wooly mamoths, and ground sloths were all with Noah on the ark. They migrated to North America through Asia and across the Bering Strait and reached Kentucky some 700 years after the flood. The bones at Big Bone Lick, they believe, were fossilized "by catastrophes towards the end of the Ice Age, which was an aftermath of the Flood."
At the Creation Museum, compensation for the utter absence of evidence supporting this Bronze Age worldview is provided by all the Space Age techno glitz money can buy. In this over-produced animatronic fantasy land, a Disney World where the religious right can hide from the real world, AIG's Never Never Land is a place where the world never grows old and fundamentalists never grow up.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
The Controversy That Wasn't
Despite a frenzy of posts on Gonzalez at Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog and other ID outlets, almost no one has picked up the story.
Not long ago, school boards here in Kansas and across the country seriously considered "teaching the controversy." The notion that ID might actually be a scientific alternative to evolution received widespread -- sometimes sympathetic -- news coverage in the major media. President Bush even went on record as saying that ID should be taught in the nation's public schools.
All that changed after Judge John Jones ruled in 2005 that ID is religion not science. ID supporters were voted off school boards in Dover, Ohio, and Kansas, and ID-inspired criticism of evolution was subsequently removed from their science curriculums. Politicians read the tea leaves and moved on. Editors and reporters studied Jones' decision and came to the conclusion that ID's 15 minutes were up.
This morning Red State Rabble did a Google search on the terms "Guillermo Gonzalez" and "tenure." The search returned a paltry 65 results. Of those, 21 are from the Discovery Institute. Seven right-wing or religious websites such as Town Hall and Baptist Press also picked up the Discovery news release. Science blogs and the Chronicle of Higher Education published six, mostly skeptical, reports. The news of Gonzalez' tenure denial was picked up by just three local television stations: two in Iowa and one in Illinois. Six other reports -- five of them in the Des Moines Register -- round out the coverage.
To put news coverage of Gonzalez' tenure denial in perspective, the 64 hits returned by Google were nearly matched by 62 hits for a story about an elderly Chinese woman who says her cat "grew wings" after being sexually harrassed.
As the widespread coverage of the opening of Answers in Genesis' young earth Creationism Museum clearly demonstrates, the manufactured controversy over intelligent design is clearly last week's news.
Hat tip to Doc Bill for the tip. Enjoy the barbeque!
Back to the Future
"Americans," writes Blogs 4 Brownback, "have foolishly conceded to the secular among us: the issue of Heliocentrism, or the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun."
Blogs 4 Brownback concedes "there may be some mathematical evidence going either way" but "Right-thinking people know the correct doctrine... "
For both moral and theological reasons, says Blogs 4 Brownback, "we should always bear in mind that the Earth does not move. If it moved, we would feel it moving. That’s called empiricism, the experience of the senses. Don’t take my word for it, or the evidence of your own senses, Copernicans. There’s also the Word of the Lord."
Heliocentrism, you see, is a slippery slope. Believe in it, even for just a moment, and the whole Fundamentalist moral universe collapses around your feet. Next thing you know, you'll find yourself believing in evolution. You may even find yourself doubting that George Bush is America's greatest president. Finally, as the horror closes in, the realization that the Iraq war isn't the brilliant master stroke you once thought will creep into your consciousness. At that point, you're doomed to spend eternity in a lake of fire.
Don't go there.
"The Living Word Outdoor Drama promises plays from biblical times, staged for religious education and information. It has live animals in its shows, invites concert performers to sing, and causes no ire in the scientific community.
"Because it's honest. It aims to renew or inspire your faith, but it doesn't try to deliberately mislead people using scientific terms that many people find confusing even while they're in school and have the job of learning those terms."
Tellingly, Heil notes that Answers in Genesis barred scientists from the Creation Museum's grand opening.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Williard: It's About More Than Just Evolution
Scientists in particular have been prominent advocates of a campaign to write-in the name of Sam Schloemer of Cincinnati, Ohio.
But Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, says NASBE members should be made aware of Willard's anti-education history in Kansas, as well.
"They should know that he was a vocal leader and really stood for some anti-education initiatives," Krebs told The Parsons Sun. "He and the board both didn't follow policies and supported creationism in science standards and didn't listen to the experts and I think that shows a disregard for working within normal channels. That's not a good thing for someone heading a national education organization."
Beyond the science issues, Krebs says NASBE's president would have the status to lobby Congress on certain issues such as the No Child Left Behind act.
"I do believe he could keep that organization from going in the direction that a majority of school boards would like it to go," says Krebs.
Willard voted to take the right to approve new charter schools from local districts and give it to the state board. He's also a strong supporter of vouchers.
In 2005, the NASBE took the highly unusual step of withdrawing from its role as adviser to the Kansas school board on the search for a new education commissioner citing "irregularities" in the process followed by Willard and other conservatives on the board.
A letter written by Brenda Lilienthal Welburn, chief executive officer of NASBE to the Kansas board expresses disappointment at not being "treated with the mutual respect I extended to the Board."
The process followed by conservatives shunted aside qualified candidates for commissioner leading to the ill-fated appointment of Bob Corkins.
The sad fact is, Ken Willard is a far-right opponent of public education who will use his post as president of NASBE to undermine public schools. If he's elected, the disaster that's been visited on Kansas will infect the nation as a whole.
Meet the Flintstones
At Answers in Genesis' new Creation Museum, which opens this weekend, there will be family friendly entertainment in addition to the dioramas of Adam and Eve and vegan dinosaurs living together -- Flintstone style -- in the Garden of Eden. Yabba Dabba Doo!
Friday, May 25, 2007
Chickens Come Home to Roost
And Mr. Hood thinks he knows why Falwell was hated.
"Evolution is the prime suspect in the investigation of a nation gone astray. Moral relativism can be blamed for the idea of evolution. Racism and especially Nazism can be blamed for evolution."
The iron logic of Mr. Hood's reasoning has but one flaw. Falwell was a devout creationist, a strict biblical literalist, and a staunch segregationist. When civil rights activists marched for voting rights in Mr. Falwell's South, he opposed them. When blacks in South Africa demanded the end of apartheid, Falwell stood on the other side.
If belief in evolution is the cause of racism, as Mr. Hood asserts, how then to explain that the creationist movement has its roots in the bible believing Jim Crow South?
How does Mr. Hood explain the fact that slavery, and the ideology of racism that justified it, predates Darwin's birth and the publication of Origin of Species by centuries?
Well, like all else, he doesn't.
Perhaps the anger at Falwell, and the religious right, is a natural consequence of his own hatred of blacks, women, gays, the foreign born, members of other religious faiths, seculars, and the Constitution and laws of the United States.
And just maybe the anger isn't hatred. It's just telling it like it is about a man who used hatred and fear as a weapon all his life.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
"Outside the museum scientists may assert that the universe is billions of years old, that fossils are the remains of animals living hundreds of millions of years ago, and that life’s diversity is the result of evolution by natural selection," writes Rothstein. "But inside the museum the Earth is barely 6,000 years old, dinosaurs were created on the sixth day, and Jesus is the savior who will one day repair the trauma of man’s fall... "
"For the skeptic the wonder is at a strange universe shaped by elaborate arguments, strong convictions and intermittent invocations of scientific principle. For the believer, it seems, this museum provides a kind of relief: Finally the world is being shown as it really is, without the distortions of secularism and natural selection."
Beyond Belief: Neil deGrasse Tyson on ID and the History of Science
Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks about the role of intelligent design in the history of science.
The Company We Keep
At first glance, it seems like a clear-cut case of discrimination.And turn it into a headline like this:
The Chronicle says of Gonzalez “a clear case of discrimination”
This sort of crude, one might even say transparent quote mining is emblematic of the intelligent design movement of which DaveScot and Guillermo Gonzalez are a part.
Red State Rabble knows nothing more about the facts of Gonzalez' tenure review than what we've read in the papers. We don't know what factors were considered by Gonzalez' tenure committee, but we'd be surprised if integrity wasn't an issue.
In a very real sense we're all known by the company we keep. Gonzalez has consciously allied himself with people such as DaveScot for whom intellectual dishonesty and laziness are de rigeur.
Intellectual honesty is the foundation stone of scholarly debate. The intelligent design movement, in which Gonzalez and DaveScot are allied, has rudely shoved the stone that supports the whole structure aside imperiling the whole structure. Perhaps that's reason enough to deny the man tenure.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Back, But Just
Monday, May 21, 2007
Doctors and Evolution: Alliance for Science Essay Contest Winners
Simonian's essay on won the Alliance for Science 2007 National High School Essay Contest. The subject of this year's essay was "Why would I want my doctor to have studied evolution?" You can read his essay, and other contest winners, here.
Ohio Citizens for Science Calls on State School Boards to Block Election of Creationist Candidate for President of National School Board Association
The following news release was issued by Ohio Citizens for Science:
Teachers, scientists and organizations this week called on state school boards in all 50 states to oppose the nomination of Kansas creationist Kenneth Willard as president of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), and instead support the pro-science write-in candidate Republican GR Sam Schloemer of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Willard, a Republican from Hutchinson, KS, was a leader in bringing international ridicule to the Kansas Board of Education in 2005 by backing statewide science standards that included creationist arguments about the validity of evolution and advanced a narrow sectarian religious viewpoint masquerading as science.
Patricia Princehouse, director of Ohio Citizens for Science, expressed dismay over NASBE's nomination of Willard: "The standards he promoted misrepresented, distorted and contradicted mainstream science. Boards of Education have no right to endorse using the science classroom to try to convert other people's children to their religion."
"Mr. Willard and his creationist colleagues were willing to disregard proper procedures and the advice of educational experts in advancing their radical right-wing conservative views about science and other topics important to education. I believe he would be a poor choice to lead a national organization of school boards," said Jack Krebs, a public school teacher and president of Kansas Citizens for Science.
"The last thing this country needs is to export Kansas' blunders to the other 50 states," said Steve Rissing of The Ohio State University. "We don’t need a repeat of the Dover trial."
Kansas' anti-evolution standards were repealed in February, 2007 after voters ousted two KBE creationists, but Willard squeaked through to win re-election by a narrow margin.
The Kansas debacle is chronicled in the movie "A Flock of Dodos: the Evolution Intelligent Design Circus" airing Thursday through Monday, May 17-21 on Showtime.
Life and Liberty for All Who Believe
Burt Lancaster narrates this early 80s documentary, produced by People for the American Way, that chronicles the the rise of Jerry Falwell and the formation of the Moral Majority.
"But maybe those 'scientists' would be better off teaching religion," writes Basu.
RSR doesn't know anything about the Gonzalez case other than what we've read in the papers: that a recommendation to deny tenure was made at every level where it was considered. That in the past 10 years, a third of the 12 tenure applicants in the physics and astronomy department have been denied.
Gonzalez' views on intelligent design were considered in the tenure review, according to his department head, Eli Rosenberg, "Only to the extent that they impact his scientific credentials."
"Intelligent Design proponents are wrong to equate the exclusion of their theory from the classroom with academic bias," concludes Basu. "Professors are entitled to their own beliefs, but not to teach as science something that is not."
Gap Conservationists Take Another Hit
The research offers a new window on the evolutionary history of metabolism says Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, a principal researcher on the study.
Even worse for the bible college biologists who labor tirelessly to conserve the world's precious heritage of ignorance and safeguard the planet's dwindling gap reserve for future generations:
The new, global family tree of protein architecture also revealed that many metabolic protein folds are quite ancient [i.e. more than 6,000 years old, RSR]: These architectures were found to be quite common in all the species of bacteria, animals, plants, fungi, protists and archaea the researchers analyzed.
Of 776 metabolic protein folds surveyed, 16 were found to be omnipresent, and nine of those occurred in the earliest branches of the newly constructed tree.
“These nine ancient folds represent architectures of fundamental importance undisputedly encoded in a genetic core that can be traced back to the universal ancestor of the three superkingdoms of life,” the authors wrote.
Are Atheists the New Fundamentalists?
Ham says the museum will draw an estimated 250,000 visitors in its first year, and TV and newspaper advertising will begin soon in six major metro areas.
Signs of the Apocalypse
What You See Is What You Get
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Breaking: Willard in Line for Schools Post
The e-mails were confidential, so we kept quiet. Now, the New York Times has broken the story and it's time to raise the alarm.
The Times reports that Willard’s only opponent in the race withdrew for personal reasons after the period for nominations had closed.
Willard is a member of the radical right school board majority that tried to write intelligent design into the Kansas science curriculum in 2005. Although he's an elected member of the state school board, Willard is a hardened political opponent of public schools and an ardent supporter of private religious education, charter schools, and vouchers. He opposes increased funding of public education and voted to appoint the woeful Bob Corkins as state Education Commissioner.
Some scientists hope that when states submit their votes, they will write in someone else, according to the Times. "One possible candidate is Sam Schloemer, a retired businessman from Cincinnati who won a seat on the Ohio board last November with the help of scientists who organized to defeat creationist candidates."
Schloemer, a Republican, told the Times in a telephone interview that he had learned of Mr. Willard’s unopposed candidacy a few days before. He said he had no particular desire for the office, but added, “I would rather serve than see someone of his persuasion represent school boards across the country.”
Friday, May 18, 2007
Life's Persistent Questions
So it was nice sitting there with her and laughing about the zany antics of the creationists. She thought it was totally cool that I know Randy, Steve Case, Bill Wagnon, and Sue Gamble.
In recent years, her youthful admiration for my many talents seems to have waned in inverse proportion to her age. Knowing people who are on television, even if the show wasn't American Idol, brought me back up just a notch or two in her estimation.
Short lived as that no doubt will prove to be, it was still a good feeling.
I saw "Flock of Dodos" when it first premiered here in Overland Park. A panel discussion followed the screening which included many of those who were featured in the film: John Calvert, Jack Cashill, Kathy Martin, Steve Case, Sue Gamble, and Bill Wagnon.
In those days, the ID crowd hadn't yet decided that they came across as fools, and many science types weren't so sure they liked the film. Now, Discovery, which refused to participate in the film or even return Olson's phone calls -- they were too busy -- has set up a website that calls the film, rather unconvincingly, a hoax. Scientists have warmed to its charms albeit reluctantly in some cases.
Muffy Moose, Olson's mother, was also at the premiere. She has a role in the film, as well. While Muffy, a neighbor of John Calvert in Lake Quivira, finds intelligent design unattractive, she remains a searcher. She's tried out a number of what might be called alternative religions or belief systems. Near the end of the film, in one of its most touching moments, she says that she's become interested in Buddhism and the idea that in death, life might somehow be reborn.
The best thing about Olson's film is that it confounds everyone's expectations. No one quite knows what to make of it. Like life, it's complicated. One of the film's lessons for those of us who defend evolution is that, by its very nature, science doesn't have all the answers to life's persistent questions.
Each of us is searching in our own way for meaning in life. Some of us, like Muffy, find reasons to go on living as we approach the end. Others, like me, want to connect with a child before she goes off, all too quickly, into the world.
In a funny way, the film helped me do just that.
Rally for Reason
The Right and Social Darwinism
"These days, no one on the right uses the terms "survival of the fittest" or "social Darwinism" when they discuss social issues," writes Agin, "but if you listen carefully to both text and subtext, you will bet your money that the American right is as socially Darwinist now as it was 80 years ago."
The Golden Fleece
But, despite the attraction of creationism for some of our state residents we don't yet have a creation museum.
Others, haven't been so slow. It's a growth industry with plenty of profit potential. In a country of more than 300 million people where some 29 percent still believe George Bush is a good president the opportunities must seem endless for those whose business model is based on fleecing the credulous.
Ken Ham is about to open his creation museum featuring a medieval-themed Dragon Hall bookstore and gift shop for those who believe that dragons, aka dinosaurs, became extinct just a few hundred years ago.
And Kent Hovind, better known as Dr. Dino, had a good thing going in Florida until his greed got the better of him and he stopped paying his taxes.
That void is about to be filled, report Florida Citizens for Science, by “Noah’s Park” at the Middle Florida Baptist Assembly grounds near Branford at Pickett Lake in Lafayette County.
FCFS describes it as a "gospel fossil park." We don't know if that means the plaster dinosaur fossils sing or not, we do know that they'll soon be rolling in the money of those poor
In April, when district residents Don Eckard and Mark Moore proposed the board supplement its new biology text with material from the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based intelligent design belief tank, the board took no action.
Eckard and Moore were back in May. The board listened to the two but made no motion and took no action on their request to supplement high school biology textbooks there with additional critical analysis of evolution.
The board heard a report from a committee of science teachers who reviewed the supplemental materials, according to the Rogers Morning News. The committee unanimously recommended the supplemental DVD not be approved, Jim Johnson, assistant superintendent for secondary education, told the board.
Here's how the Morning News reported what happened next:
Eckard stood up to ask why.
Joye Kelley, school board president, told Eckard his time to speak had expired and the school board was not there to debate with him.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
("How to Teach the Controversy over Darwin Legally" is a kind of "High Times" for the fundamentalist set.)
Unsurprisingly, Steve Long, a Rogers High School science teacher, doesn't see the need for any supplemental materials.
Read more on the Rogers controversy in The Morning News.
Darwin Letters Online
Letters were absolutely essential to what Darwin was doing," says Dr Alison Pearn, co-director of the Darwin Correspondence project. "This is how he gathered data, how he gathered ideas, how he discussed ideas."
DefCon Petition Against Creation Museum
The DefCon petition expresses "opposition to the Creation Museum, an institution built by Answers in Genesis (AiG) and designed to promote the falsehood that science supports the notion of a 6,000 year old Earth.
"This institution is only the most recent example of the religious right's war on science education - whether in the form of anti-evolution stickers in textbooks or the promotion of intelligent design in the classroom.
"As Americans, we support our fellow citizens' freedoms of religion and speech, and as a private institution, AiG is free to deny the overwhelming evidence resulting from hundreds of years of scientific work.
"We, however, oppose this nefarious campaign to institutionalize a lie."
Go here to add your name to the petition.
Freemasons, Illuminati, and Global Conspiracy, Oh My!
The cover story of the October 2001 issue of Scientific American was an article by Professor Gonzalez. I found a copy of the article in teaching resources at the University of Arizona.
Interestingly, the cover story isn't mentioned on the Scientific American contents web page for this past issue. Cover stories are certainly mentioned the month before and the month after. Indeed I'd wager that no mention of the cover story in any past issues web page is a very rare thing.
It's not like this article was panned by peers. Indeed it's part of the syllabus in astrobiology courses like this one at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Turns out the conspiracy isn't nearly as complicated as a Dan Brown novel and the explanation a hell of a lot more plausible. DaveScot can go back to his minute examination of the Zapruder film.
Hat Tip to reader BF.
700 Club Accu-Wrath Weather Report
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
How Creationists View Nazi Treatment of Gays
Here, the creationists at the Family Research Institute use Nazi experimental data to prove for Dobson's group that homosexuals can be "cured."
Here's the takeaway lesson for Dobson's group:
"We can certainly feel sorry for those who are so trapped by their vice that they cannot get free. On the other hand, if society were forced to accommodate the behavior of hard-core homosexuals, how many other lives would be damaged, perhaps irreparably? True compassion dictates that we not only attempt to keep those who are bent on self-destruction from reaching their demise, but more importantly, that we protect others who might get caught in the same wake of misfortune."
Thanks to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars for calling this to my attention.
Creationism and Eugenics: A History
Discovery fellows, like John West, while drawing their pay from Christian Reconstructionist Howard Ahmanson, want you to believe that Darwin and the theory of evolution are responsible for the crimes of the eugenics movement.
Unfortunately, there's a wealth of information to the contrary.
Over at Panda's Thumb, Andrea Bottaro recounts the strange history of William J. Tinkle, a geneticist and prominent creationist:
"Tinkle opposed evolution and Darwinian theory, but was an enthusiastic proponent of eugenics, and published several articles on the subject," writes Bottaro:
In his 1939 textbook “Fundamentals of Zoology” he devotes a section to “The Need of Human Betterment”, where he laments the existence of “defective families” who “give birth to offspring like themselves” , producing “persons of low mentality, paupers and criminals in much greater ratio than the general population” [8, p. 130]. Negative eugenics via institutionalization seems to have been his preferred eugenic solution:
It is an excellent plan to keep defective people in institutions for here they are not permitted to marry and bear children.[8, p. 131]
In the end, I find that evil as the man was in life, I can take no pleasure in his death.
Since we are in the middle of a campaign by the Discovery Institute to label supporters of evolution as Nazis, I will point out that Falwell, an opponent of the American civil rights movement and supporter of South African apartheid, was a card-carrying creationist.
Although he muted his criticism of what he called "The Civil Wrongs Movement" when open racism became socially unacceptable after the victory of the civil rights movement, in the days when voting rights activists were being hunted down and killed in the South, Falwell knew just where he -- and God -- stood:
“If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision [Brown v. Board of Education] would never have been made…. " said Falwell in 1958. "The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The best thing about "Flock of Dodos" is that it took quite a while for the uncommonly dense ID movement to understand that Olson's film wasn't a ringing endorsement of their cause.
See the sidebar for schedule information.
Lyons, who reported the 1981 Arkansas “Creation-Science” trial, also provides an interesting perspective on the trial, including the "parade of creationist quacks and crackpots who testified."
Putting it all in Perspective
No Child Left Unrecruited
"No Child Left Unrecruited," explores how a little-known provision in the No Child Left Behind Act requires all public schools to provide the military with personal student information or risk the loss of all federal funds.
Additionally, the film examines how being included in the Lawrence High School school directory and/or opting in or opting out of being contacted by the military (and other third parties) has diverse consequences, many of which are unclear under current Lawrence school district policy.
The students have interviewed Lawrence High School principal Steve Nilhas, teachers, students, parents, the school district superintendent Randy Weseman, Kansas Congressman Dennis Moore, and a local military recruiter. It truly is a remarkable film, examining issues that impact us all.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Dembski Draws Back
Naturally, Dembski passed along this rather counter-intuitive finding without actually checking for himself.
Now he's had to take it back, admitting that "another acquaintance just emailed me that he did a search on ISI and came up with 104 publications for Dawkins cited 2174 times."
"However much I may despise what Dawkins stands for,"writes Dembski now, "my initial impulse to believe the worst about the man with regard to his publication record was wrong."
Perhaps Dembski might now re-examine his initial impulse about evolution by taking a look at the evidence. Perhaps a simple lesson in the mysterious ways of search engines might be an excellent way to start. Once that daunting task has been mastered, Dembski might go on to take the step of relying less on friends, acquaintances, and pastors, and more on the evidence before his eyes.
Doubt: A History
I love it so much that several years ago I gave copies to my friends during that over-commercialized gift giving binge that falls just after the winter solstice.
Hecht is a poet and professor of history at Nassau Community College in New York. Those of you are unfamiliar with Doubt, poor you, might want to think of it as a companion piece to Jonathan Miller's equally wonderful "Brief History of Disbelief." (see the sidebar for links to the video.)
But, until this weekend when I was tipped by reader JK of Austin, who in turn was tipped by his daughter, I didn't know that American Public Media's "Speaking of Faith" has a podcast of an interview with Hecht about the book and some "outtakes" of her reading from some of her poetry.
Here's a link to the web page where the podcast resides which features an engraving by William Blake titled "Job Rebuked by his Friends" from Illustrations of the Book of Job published in 1825.
Both Hecht and Miller point out that much of what we know about early nonbelievers comes down to us only through the writings of the faithful who argued against them. Why? Because the writings of skeptics were ruthlessly suppressed by pious censors who thought their texts made excellent fuel for their bonfires of ignorance.
One of the things I particularly like about Blake's engraving is that, as Hecht points out in her book, two of the greatest works of doubt -- The Book of Job and Ecclesiastes -- can be found hiding in the Bible, albeit saddled with pious emendations that attempt to conceal the deep skepticism expressed by their authors.
I'm adding the link under Multimedia in the sidebar, as well, so that you can find your way back to it in the future if you like.
The Ecumenical Right
Romney's Mormon Church, says Keller, is a "cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago. The teachings of the Mormon cult are doctrinally and theologically in complete opposition to the Absolute Truth of God's Word. There is no common ground. If Mormonism is true, then the Christian faith is a complete lie. There has never been any question from the moment Smith's cult began that it was a work of Satan and those who follow their false teachings will die and spend eternity in hell."
Much as RSR would have liked, we couldn't title this post "Vote for Satan." For once there a better choices.
Feeble, Pathetic Morons
After the debate? Well, let's just say these particular Christians were a bit over exposed.
"Too many times atheists are made to look like giant intellectuals while Theists are made to look like feeble, pathetic morons," wrote Bill Latronica, a Christian blogger from California, in a prescient pre-debate post. "We need people who are educated in philosophy and science as well as theology to be able to represent Theists in a powerful manner."
Comfort and Cameron, "the Killer Cs," may have been on the side of the angels, but Marty Duren, pastor of New Bethany Baptist Church of Buford, Ga., says, "they got completely shellacked in this one.”
Here's a link to the ABC News video of the Nightline Faceoff "Does God Exist."
Guess Cameron's banana bit just didn't go over with the ABC News audience the way it did on YouTube.
Progress or Providence
It's important for those of us who defend science education and a democratic, secular America to understand, as well as we can, the nature of the religious right.
For my money, Michael Ruse, in over 30 books now, including The Evolution-Creation Struggle, is quite simply the best at puting the current battles into historical context.
Sewing Up the Dogpatch Vote
"Our public schools should present both evolution and creationism. I would not support public schools teaching only creationism," the former Arkansas governor said in a statement following the Republican candidates debate. "Evolution is a theory based on a lot of science, so it must be part of the curriculum."
Nice to know he's up on all the relevant Supreme Court rulings.
Bring Home the Bacon
Now we'll have to wait four years before his district has somebody working for kids and schools instead of against them on the board.
Romney More Evolved Than Other Republicans?
Red State Rabble doesn't know the answer, but we do have another question:
Is heliocentrism good for conservatives? Plate tectonics? Einstein's Theory of Relativity?
One thing that probably isn't good for conservatives is reality. Reality and conservatism, at least in its present form, tend to annihilate each other like matter and antimatter.
The neo-conservative Weekly Standard, for example, is probably the only place in the universe that still clings to the quaint, faith-based notion the war in Iraq was a brilliant idea.
And that's why Discovery spends Howard Ahmanson's millions arguing against natural selection, common descent, and the fossil record, in short, the natural history of the planet.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Faith-based Loyalty: Earmarks for the Religious Groups Soar
Diana Henriques and and Andrew Lehran of The New York Times report from "1989 to January 2007, Congress approved almost 900 earmarks for religious groups, totaling more than $318 million, with more than half of them granted in the Congressional session that included the 2004 presidential election. By contrast, the same analysis showed fewer than 60 earmarks for faith-based groups in the Congressional session that covered 1997 and 1998."
Listen to Jack Cashill say Haeckel's embryos are being reproduced "in every single significant textbook in America" in this video. Then watch the hilarity that ensues when John Calvert tries to find even a single example in his library of biology textbooks when "Flock of Dodos" airs on Showtime.
"Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus" airing on Showtime in May. Check here for listings.
"There are many notable biologists, biochemists, physicists, and astronomers who support intelligent design, and their work continues to develop the young scientific theory," asserts Smith.
However, like the vast ocean of evidence for intelligent design, where much is promised but nothing enumerated, Smith's list is both short and suspect.
Smith names three of the usual suspects: Michael Behe and Scott Minich -- the dynamic duo at the Dover trial -- and Guillermo Gonzalez, late of Iowa State University.
A fourth name is relatively new, Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, a German geneticist who is reportedly a Jehovah's Witness and garden variety creationist.
Guillermo Gonzalez Denied Tenure at ISU
In August 2005, more than 120 faculty members signed a petition rejecting "all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor." Similar petitions at the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa were also circulated.
Claims for intelligent design, said the ISU faculty statement "are premised on (1) the arbitrary selection of features claimed to be engineered by a designer; (2) unverifiable conclusions about the wishes and desires of that designer; and (3) an abandonment by science of methodological naturalism.
"Whether one believes in a creator or not, views regarding a supernatural creator are, by their very nature, claims of religious faith, and so not within the scope or abilities of science. We, therefore, urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of "science and technology," convey to students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science."
Republicans and Evolution: The Sink of Ignorance
Huckabee joined Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Tom Tancredo in declaring his doubts about Darwin and evolution at the Republican presidential candidate debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley last week.
Here's an excerpt from a transcript of the debate published by the New York Times where the topic of evolution comes up:
MR. VANDEHEI: Senator McCain, this comes from a Politico.com reader and was among the top vote-getters in our early rounds. They want a yes or on. Do you believe in evolution?
SEN. MCCAIN: Yes.
MR. VANDEHEI: I’m curious, is there anybody on the stage that does not agree -- believe in evolution? (Senator Brownback, Mr. Huckabee, Representative Tancredo raise their hands.)
SEN. MCCAIN: May I -- may I just add to that?
MR. VANDEHEI: Sure.
SEN. MCCAIN: I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.
The sad picture of McCain's obsequious pandering for the votes of the loony-toons religious right reflects the dilemma now faced by Republican presidential candidates.
McCain, who once called Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell agents of intolerance, is now learning that Karl Rove's successful electoral strategy in the last two elections has driven moderates out of the party and positions of power inside. The Christian fundamentalist tail now wags the Republican dog and there's nothing McCain -- or any other Republican -- can do but go along.
McCain is on record, by the way, as supporting the teaching of intelligent design in science classes -- and not just when he's hiking in the Grand Canyon, either. You can watch a video of McCain telling the editorial board of The Arizona Daily Star he thinks "all points of view should be presented."
"Should it be taught in science classes?" McCain is asked.
"There's enough scientists that believe that it does," answers McCain, "I think all points of view should be presented."
Friday, May 11, 2007
"In recent years," according the union, "scientists who work for and advise the federal government have seen their work manipulated, suppressed, distorted, while agencies have systematically limited public and policy maker access to critical scientific information."
Learn more here. Hat tip to GO.
Flock will also be available on demand from Showtime May 18-June 14.
Randy's been on a whirlwind tour of college campuses and science centers, screening the film for audiences across the country and participating in panel discussions for a number of months now. You can listen to his reflections on this unique experience, and get valuable insights into just where things now stand in the evolution-intelligent design battle, by listening to a podcast he put together here.
The Big Picture
The new board policy, described as "abstinence plus" stresses abstinence before marriage, but advises schools to teach students about birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
Predictably, Kathy Martin, one of the surviving right wingers on the board, didn't like the vote. She says the old standards "emphasized self-control over birth control." The new standards "fail to give a true picture."
Yes, refusing to provide students with factual information about birth control and prevention STDs really gives them the "true picture."
Court Ruling on Free Speech for Teachers
When the newly elected, moderate Kansas school board voted creationism out of the science curriculum earlier this year, for example, John Calvert hinted that a suit based on academic freedom or freedom of speech might be forthcoming.
However, a unanimous ruling in Lee v. York County School Division by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that public school officials have wide latitude to control what teachers do in the classroom.
The court noted that "the right to free speech in the public school setting it not unfettered and pointed out that school officials may curb speech that conflicts with the school’s educational mission," according to the Americans United for Separation of Church and State Wall of Separation blog.
The case involved William Lee, a Spanish teacher at Tabb High School in Yorktown, not far from Dover, who posted a newsletter from a Christian missionary group, a poster depicting George Washington praying at Valley Forge and articles from local newspapers about religious activities by government officials on the bulletin board in his classroom.
Hat tip to Marie.
Give the Devil His Due
The resolution to fight Satan in the in the air, land and sea, and if necessary in the streets, was introduced at last month’s Utah Republican Convention by Legislative District 65 Chairman Don Larsen.
“Whereas,” Larsen's resolution reads, “in order for Satan to establish his ‘New World Order’ and destroy the freedom of all people as predicted in the Scriptures, he must first destroy the U.S.”
Unfortunately, when it came time for a vote to protect our shores from Satan, the Republicans couldn't find enough delegates for a quorum, either.
It must have been happy hour.
Read more at the Americans United for Separation of Church and State Wall of Separation blog.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Speaking Science 2.0
Posny Is In
The board, now under sane management, finally picked Posny from a field of highly qualified candidates to be Kansas Education Commissioner. The rebuilding of education in Kansas can now begin, although no one should be under any illusion that this process will be quick, cheap, or easy.
Getting the Department of Education back in shape will take time and patience. Let's hope voters keep the process moving forward in 2008, rather than plunge us back into the mess brought about when right-wing fundamentalists seized the board last time.
The Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin has now tried his hand at producing graphical information. Like Manhattan in that New Yorker cartoon, intelligent design occupies a lot of real estate. The lad's navel gazing has produced an unintentional graphical parody of intelligent design's place in the universe.
While Luskin, and Discovery, nearly gained entry to the Karl Rove Hall of Fame by ham-handedly spinning the results of a poll of MDs to make it look like a majority oppose evolution when in fact 63 percent say they agree more with the evolution than with intelligent design, Luskin now complains that Wikipedia is reporting inaccurate information in its entry on intelligent design.
According to Luskin, one inaccuracy in the Wiki entry includes a paragraph on a 2005 Harris survey that reported 10 percent of the population say they believe in intelligent design.
Now the results, as you can see for yourself, if you wish, of that Harris poll did indeed find that 22 percent of respondents believe in evolution, 64 percent in creationism, and 10 percent in intelligent design.
The Harris findings and the accurate Wiki reporting of them, like so many of the other pesky facts buzzing about Luskin's face, don't fit into Luskin's Fantasy Island vision of intelligent design. So he just swats those facts away so he can keep focused on his vision of ID which includes:
a broad spectrum of beliefs. It includes those who accept common descent and support a form of intelligently guided evolution. It also includes those who believe that an intelligent agent designed life-forms separate from other species in something close to their present form. ID doesn’t require special creation by any means, but special creationists do share with other intelligent design proponents the view that the complexity of life arose via intelligence, and not an unguided / random process like natural selection acting upon mutation.
If you've ever attended a school board meeting or other public event where creationists defend their views, you will rarely, if ever, hear anyone advocate intelligent design.
Most of those who oppose evolution at these events do so from an unashamedly young earth creationist point of view. They want the Bible taught. They want Adam and Eve. They want the flood. They want prayer to start the day. They want the Ten Commandments posted in the classroom and books out of the library. They don't want talk about condoms in sex education classes -- as a matter of fact, they don't want to talk about sex education in sex education classes. They're very clear about all of this.
Some will support, tepidly, efforts to write ID into the curriculum because even they understand that ID is nothing more than a ruse to get religion back into the schools.
When Discovery brought the barnstorming brotherhood of bible college biologists to Kansas for the science hearings in 2005, I listened as proscience attorney Pedro Irigonegaray asked each one in turn if they believed in common descent. Prying any answer at all from them was like pulling teeth. In the end, only Michael Behe, alone among the best Discovery has to offer, would admit to even entertaining the notion of common descent.
Bush Dishes Out Hugs in Kansas
Hugs are about all the president could offer them. National Guard soldiers, trucks, and other equipment that might have helped in rescue efforts, security, and rebuilding, are all in Iraq.
Unfortunately, they can do nothing about security or rebuilding there, either.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Statues to Tyranny
How do they react when minority religions ask that monuments to their faith be placed in the public square?
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that those who defend placing the Ten Commandments on public property are not so willing to defend the rights of others to do the same thing.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has ruled that Pleasant Grove and Duchesne parks are public forums and that followers of the Summum faith have a right to display their Seven Aphorisms next to the Ten Commandments.
City attorneys will go to court to argue that "in the 121 years since the French gave the United States the Statue of Liberty, nobody has demanded a competing statue supporting tyranny. So nobody should be able to demand that competing structures be erected next to monuments of the Ten Commandments."
Those city attorneys may have missed the point. All those Ten Commandment monuments are the competing statues supporting tyranny. And they're all over the place.
Soldier's Blogs Banned
Well, the Bush administration has placed tighter restrictions on the blogs of soldiers who are stationed in Iraq, according to The Guardian.
Soldiers have reacted angrily, according to the report. The soldiers say "the real reason for the curbs were their negative comments about the war, including scepticism about George Bush's claims about progress."
Dr. Dino in Solitary
Dr. Dino's continuing adventures in the reality-based world now include a Damascus Road conversion experience before he was transferred to the hole.
No, Dr. Dino has not come around on evolution.
The Darwin Doubtin' Dr. Dino reports that one of the inmates told him at lunch that if he could, he'd "bomb the Christian Coalition. They are the reason we are here.”
And although Dr. Dino loves the Christian Coalition he understands the man's point. "For years," he writes, "Christians have pushed judges and legislators to be 'tough on crime.'”
Suddenly, miraculously, Dr. Dino sees the injustice of it all.
"Having been here for nearly six months," writes Dr. Dino, "I will forever be an advocate of closing most jails and prisons. What this type of punishment does to families and society is terrible. I believe that we as Christians are unwittingly funding and encouraging the very prisons that will house the Christians as the New World Order approaches!"
Funny, I thought all the real Christians would just fly right up to heaven in the Rapture as the New World Order approached, but it's possible my theology is a little rusty in this area.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Discovery: In Holocaust Denial?
In speeches delivered in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, West spoke of "the extermination of hundreds of thousands of supposed social undesirables by the Nazis in Germany" according to Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum notes that although the Jews were the Nazis primary targets, they also persecuted other groups for racial or ideological reasons. Among them political opponents such as Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, and trade union leaders. Also targeted were Gypsies, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, anti-Nazi Christian church leaders, homosexuals, and individuals with mental or physical disabilities.
"Nazi ideology identified a multitude of enemies and led to the systematic persecution and murder of many millions of people," notes the Holocaust Museum, "both Jews and non-Jews."
Estimates vary widely, some going as high as 17 million, but most observers put the total number of Holocaust victims at between nine and 11 million.
So why does West place the number only in the hundreds of thousands and what, exactly does he mean by social undesirables?
Of course it's possible that there's an entirely innocent explanation for West's exclusion of millions of Holocaust victims from his count. Perhaps he only holds Darwin and evolution accountable only for some small subset of the total number of victims.
But, if he meant only to include those victims with mental or physical disabilities, why does he use the term "social undesirables?" Surely the Nazis would have included both Gypsies and homosexuals among that class. And, wouldn't Jews and members of other "inferior races" have also met the Nazi definition of social undesirable?
Could West have a more sinister motive to keep the numbers low? Perhaps.
Rousas Rushdoony, the Christian Reconstructionist theologian who was a mentor and father figure to Discovery's Daddy Big Bucks, Howard Ahmanson, is on record as saying the estimates of Holocaust victims is "exagerated."
In fact, Rushdoony, whose reading of the Bible led him to call for the stoning of gays and disobedient children, viewed the "exaggeration" of the number of Holocaust victims "as a violation of the Ninth Commandment that forbid bearing false witness."
Could it be that around Discovery counting up all the victims of the Nazis -- like the age of the earth -- is a subject best avoided?
For Gilder, it seems, the real danger to our Constitutional freedoms comes not from CIA secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, suspension of habeas corpus, torture, government wiretapping, secrecy, politicization of the Justice department, manipulation of the media, bogus voter fraud prosecutions and voter intimidation, or extra-Constitutional signing statements.
No, the real danger comes from "anti-religious, sexual liberationist, anti-natalist [read family planning advocates] and feminist" activists. Oh yeah, and Darwinist Storm Troopers. The enemy at home. They're the real problem.
Arnhart, according to the New York Times, noted that many conservatives had been so badly burned by social Darwinism, that many conservatives today did not want “to get involved in these moral and political debates, and I think that’s evasive.”
The fact is, no matter how Discovery covers it up, that social Darwinism has much more to do with capitalism and its conservative apologists than with science and scientists.
The few remaining supporters of social Darwinism today are social and libertarian conservatives who oppose government social programs like Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance -- though not welfare for the rich -- because it violates their notion of the "rugged individual."
Monday, May 07, 2007
The New Iconoclasts
In one respect this is quite true. The earth orbited the sun before Copernicus, and species evolved from a common ancestor long before Darwin and Wallace uncovered the workings of natural selection. Descent with modification would still operate in the natural world even if no big-brained ape ever evolved to unlock its mysteries. It will still be a fact long after the human race has vanished from the face of the earth.
The problem with this particular response to fundamentalist attacks on evolution is that it fails to grasp the fact that creationism is just one facet of a larger movement. The Discovery Institute, which presents itself to the public as an intelligent design advocacy group, is just one of the black pieces on the fundamentalist chess board -- science and scientists but opposing pawns.
The broad fundamentalist movement of which Discovery is a part is financed by Christian Reconstructionist Howard Ahmanson. The network of far right politicians, think tanks, and advocacy groups Ahmanson finances, work actively, if mostly under the radar, to replace America’s secular democracy with a Christian theocracy. It’s a movement former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges calls American fascism.
In many respects, Ahmanson’s Christian fundamentalism is a mirror image of the Islamic fundamentalism we saw at work in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Islamic fundamentalists fight to impose Sharia law. Their Christian fundamentalist counterparts demand imposition of Mosaic Law. Both dream of exacting the cruel justice of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
The horror of this barbarism was on full display under the Taliban. Women and gays were stoned. Thieves had their hands cut off in soccer stadiums. Blasphemers were beheaded in the public square.
While the aims of Christian Reconstructionists may seem fantastic, they are nevertheless firmly held by adherents who work diligently to achieve them. Ahmanson has invested many millions from his large personal fortune to put these ideas into action.
One of those aims is the destruction of the religious neutrality required by diverse, secular, democratic societies like those found in the United States and Western Europe. Scientists, whether or not they’re conscious of it, are utterly dependent on this framework of religious neutrality to do their work. Serious science is inconceivable under fundamentalism in either of its Islamic or Christian incarnations.
There is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government, says Gary North the son-in-law of Ahmanson’s friend and mentor the Dominionist theologian Rousas Rushdoony.
Once a cadre of Christian Reconstructionists has been trained and put into positions of authority says North, “they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."
And, as Discovery and its Wedge Document have made clear again and again, Western science and scientists are among the chief enemies of God.
It’s difficult to gage Christian Reconstructionism’s prospects for success. Most of us, no doubt, would like to believe it can’t happen here, even so we must confess that it’s already achieved more success than any of us might have dreamed.
According to Hedges:
Christian fundamentalists now hold a majority of seats in 36 percent of all Republican Party state committees, or 18 of 50 states, along with large minorities in 81 percent of the rest of the states. Forty-five Senators and 186 members of the House of Representatives earned between an 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian Right advocacy groups - The Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource Council. Tom Coburn, the new senator from Oklahoma, has included in his campaign to end abortion: a call to impose the death penalty on doctors that carry out abortions once the ban goes into place. Another new senator, John Thune, believes in Creationism. Jim DeMint, the new senator elected from South Carolina, wants to ban single mothers from teaching in schools.Not yet having achieved their goal of overthrowing the Constitution and imposing a theocracy on the rest of us, creationists and intelligent design activists must pretend that the mountain of evidence that supports evolutionary theory do not exist. They do this by placing their children in Christian academies, or home schooling them, before sending them off to bible colleges were they will never be confronted with the troubling evidence for common descent.
They also lock themselves away in their own churches; listen only to Christian radio and television, although many now make an exception for Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News Network. A whole publishing industry has sprung up to enforce their isolation. Even on the web, they find Wikipedia too biased, i.e. too reality based, and so have created Conservapedia. YouTube, where anyone can post a video, apparently, is way, way too reality based. QubeTV, “designed to showcase the entire American conservative movement,” has been created to fill the void.
In such cases where absolute hermetic isolation can’t be maintained, as in their criticisms of Darwin and evolution, a creationist cottage industry has sprung up to distort and misrepresent the arguments and evidence for common descent. Entire websites are now devoted to exposing the quote mines where creationists toil night and day.
When America was first settled by the colonists it was said that a tree squirrel could travel from the Atlantic shore to the Mississippi River without once dropping to the ground. Today it is possible for a Christian fundamentalist to live his entire life without ever confronting an idea that hasn’t first passed through the explanatory filter of his church.
Coming out of this splendid isolation to enforce biblical law on a restive population familiar with other cultures and ideas, unwilling to play follow the leader, and used to the rough and tumble of free and open debate will be a challenge.
How will they do it?
Making predictions about the future is a risky proposition. Events rarely play out in the real world as they do in our minds. Even so, by consulting past history, we can get a rough idea of what may lie in store if Christian fundamentalists have their way.
Bishop Boniface Adoyo, the head of Kenya's 35 evangelical denominations, which claims 10 million followers, is demanding that Nairobi's National Museum of Kenya hide the world's most important collection of human fossils from public view. The fossils include Turkana Boy, the nearly complete skeleton of a young hominid who died 1.5 million years ago,
Why? Because the National Museum’s fossils, “are killing our faith” says the good bishop.
Unfortunately, in the long run, merely hiding the evidence, especially widely known evidence, may not be good enough.
Not long ago, when the Taliban was faced with the inconvenient history of a Buddhist past in their Muslim country they used rockets to obliterate that evidence: two monumental Buddhas carved into a cliff in central Afghanistan during the 6th century.
In the 5th century when the Parthenon was converted to a Christian church, much of the pagan cultural heritage of classical Greece was destroyed by zealous churchmen who smashed the metopes on the exterior of the building and the statuary within.
Just as the Italian Renaissance blossomed in the 15th century the Dominican friar, Girolamo Savonarola was dispatched to Florence. Like today’s Christian fundamentalists, Savonarola was obsessed with apocalyptic visions.
In 1497, in an orgy of destruction that somehow manages to presage the present day concerns of both Christian and Islamic fundamentalists, he and his followers went door to door seizing articles,
… associated with moral laxity: mirrors, cosmetics, lewd pictures, pagan books, sculptures, gaming tables, chess pieces, lutes and other musical instruments, fine dresses, women's hats, and the works of immoral poets, and burnt them all in a large pile in the Piazza della Signoria of Florence.Likewise, during the Reformation, when the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell came to power, iconoclasts took hammers to the stained glass, frescoes, and statuary throughout England. The same annihilation of culture took place all over Europe, as well.
As I write this, I have open beside me an album of photos I took ten years ago of the appalling destruction done by the iconoclasts in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral, north of London. Once you’ve seen it, you never forget.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they had their own bonfires of the vanities. Lots of them. Ominously, books by and about Darwin and evolution were fuel for their fires.
Of course, in all this, I’ve focused almost exclusively on the destruction of art, science, culture, and history. It goes without saying that in every age the cost in human lives was always much higher.
While I’ve been writing this post, from time to time I’ve taken occasional breaks to refresh my mind by re-reading the Dover testimony of paleontologist Kevin Padian. The National Center for Science Education recently updated the transcript of his testimony with the slides he presented there.
The damning point by point refutation of creationist claims – on the Cambrian explosion, on supposed gaps in the fossil record – contained in Padian’s expert testimony and now reinforced by the photographic documentation contained in the slides, I fear, will prove just too subversive for fundamentalists with power to bear.
And just as the iconoclasts and their ilk tried to obliterate history, today's fundamentalists, the new iconoclasts, if given the chance, will be compelled to obliterate the evidence for evolution.
I am aware that many of those who read these words will doubt that our good, old garden-variety American fundamentalists have the political will to follow the logic of their theology through to the end. I urge those who harbor such doubts to read Max Blumenthal’s Salon piece, “Avenging Angel of the Religious Right.”
Blumenthal reports that Bruce Chapman, the president of the Discovery Institute, and his financial benefactor Howard Ahmanson “cranked up a smear campaign” against the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Robinson, “falsely accusing him of sexual harassment and administering a bisexual pornography Web site.”
Their cynical use of character assassination to achieve political and religious goals shows clearly, I think, that these men will stop at nothing.
Even more chilling is the case of Kansas University social scientist Dennis Dailey. Many of the same Christian fundamentalist forces that fought to write creationism into the curriculum, including state Sen. Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, falsely accused Dailey of showing child pornography in his KU human sexuality course.
These sensational charges were aired nationally on the FOX News Network’s "O’Reilly Factor" creating an uproar that might have destroyed Dailey’s reputation, career, and family. The accusations were quickly followed by right-wing efforts in the state legislature to cut KU’s budget.
A subsequent investigation by KU's chancellor found the charges utterly without merit.
These are the methods now employed by Christian supremacists in and around the Discovery Institute. How far they will go in the future is any body's guess, but the chilling history of religious fanaticism suggests it would be prudent never to give them the chance.