Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Smithsonian Protest Letters: Don't Sell Intergrity

Reader Joe D. of Pennsylvania sent this letter to the Smithsonian:

Dear Mr. Kremer,

Please don't sell out the scientific integrity of the Smithsonian by accepting the payment from the Discovery Institute and endorsing their film. Surely you are aware of their completely unscientific agenda. I understand that the film in question, "The Privileged Planet", does not directly expound Intelligent Design, but that is not how they will spin a showing at the Smithsonian. Their record of intellectual dishonesty is well documented; they are very likely to claim nothing less than total endorsement of ID by the Smithsonian; your clarifications after the fact will be ineffective.

Even if the Smithsonian has a precedent of permitting NON-scientific organizations to use it's facilities, I think it's your responsibility to avoid dealings with actively ANTI-scientific groups. The Discovery Institute is not your friend; their agenda is not in your best interests. It is not dismaying that they could buy their way into the Smithsonian so cheaply; it is dismaying that they could buy their way in at all.

Please do right by science and sever your relationship with the Discovery Institute.


Smithsonian Protest Letters: Restore Credibility

Reader Davin F. shares this letter to the Smithsonian:

I was shocked and outraged to read in the New York Times today of the Smithsonian's sponsorship and screening of the Discovery Institute's film "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe."

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History represents the highest standard of scientific research about the history of our planet and the Universe. To host a screening of this film, whether it is a paid rental or not, is completely against the mission of the Smithsonian. I am sure you have refused to screen other films and host other events due to their nature - this film should have certainly set off alarm bells at the highest levels of the administration there.

I've worked my entire life in museums spanning the entire country, and I can tell you that none of them would ever consider hosting an event, rental or otherwise, that went against our mission of presenting science to the public. Intelligent design is not a scientific theory, and given that its proponents are currently trying to replace science with this religious-based dogma in the nation's classrooms, the Smithsonian's responsibility seems very clear.

You still have plenty of time to come out on the correct side of this issue, and restore your institution's sterling credibility. Cancel the event. To let the screening continue with a carefully worded press release is show that the Smithsonian's scientific principles can be set aside for a sum as low as $16,000. From a public relations point of view, it will be a disaster. This issue will snowball in the media, not to mention with your supporters and colleagues in political and scientific circles. It won't be long until irreversible damage to the Smithsonian has occurred.

I hope you take the immediate action of cancelling the event. I look forward to seeing the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History make the course correction that is consistent with its noble mission.


Smithsonian Protest Letters: DI's Track Record

Some readers are sharing the protest letters they've sent to the Smithsonian with Red State Rabble, and we're sharing them with you...

I am writing to protest your co-hosting this event. The Discovery Institute, the home of so-called "intelligent design"creationism, is behind this movie, "The Privileged Planet." Your PR staff may not have detected a religious theme to it; however, it is based on the idea that the earth was created in just such a way that human beings could live here. That is decidedly a religious idea, namely, the anthropic principle.

I don't believe your staff knew what it was okaying. The Discovery Institute is now crowing about the SI "coming around" to intelligent design, implying not only co-sponsorship due to their $16,000 donation, but also acceptance of the ideas in that film.

A few years ago, the Yale Campus Crusade, under the name of the Rivendell Institute, sponsored a visit by the "godfather of ID," Phillip Johnson. The Discovery Institute trumpeted their "Yale Conference" far and wide, implying Yale had sponsored the event, when the university had decidedly not.

The "Wedge Strategy" of the Discovery Institute (Google it and read) is to garner credibility for intelligent design creationism by drawing reputable scientists and institutions into involvements with the Discovery Institute. They have no science, no research, no nothing without the cooperation of unwitting participants and sponsors of their supposedly non-religious events.

I will lose a great deal of respect for the Smithsonian, one of our country's greatest and most reputable institutions, if it does not return the $16,000 to the Discovery Institute and cancel this religious sneak invasion. It is being used as PR which can only hurt the SI, and it should be stopped ... NOW.

Sincerely,Liz Craig
Kansas Citizens For Science


Did We Sell Them the Rope to Hang Us With?

Welcome back. Most of you -- the sane ones at any rate -- took the Memorial Day weekend off. You went to the lake. You went for long bike rides. You read a book. You broke the routine. While you were gone, the ever vigilant Red State Rabble, Thoughts from Kansas, Pharyngula, Panda's Thumb, and James Randi were on the job. That probably makes us a little batty, but, there you are.

What you need to know is this: intelligent designers at the Discovery Institute have made a $16,000 donation to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural Science to have the premier showing of their ID film "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe" held there on June 23rd. The invitation-only event is being billed as "co-sponsored" by the Smithsonian. (You can see a copy of the invitation here)

While the saying attributed to the Russian Communist leader Lenin that,"[t]he capitalists are so hungry for profits that they will sell us the rope to hang them," is apparently apocryphal, it may be that for a pitiful 16 grand we have now sold the imprimatur of science to the antiscience mob.

Doubt that it will be used against defenders of science? Here's the headline on a post by Denyse O'Leary on the ID friendly Post-Darwinist blog: "News Alert: Smithsonian Museum Warming to Intelligent Design." Get the picture?

All along, we've been hearing from ID "theorists" that there is a legitimate controversy among scientists over evolution. The only reason they're willing to pay $16,000 to rent a room to show their movie in, is because that room is located inside one of the premier science institutions in the world. It drives that ol' wedge in just a little deeper.

A response is being organized -- and we need your help. Pro-science websites and bloggers are asking readers to make protest calls and send protest e-mails to Randall Kremer, National Museum of Natural History Director of Public Affairs 202-633-2950 giving@si.edu or nhevents@si.edu.

Red State Rabble is asking you to do more. Please send a personal e-mail note to five reality-based friends, relatives, or colleagues asking them to take action, as well. If you run a list-serve, website, or blog and you're just getting back, please let people know about this issue.

The James Randi Education Fund has gone one step further. They've offered the Smithsonian a no-strings attached donation of $20,000 if they cancel the antiscience Discovery Institute film showing.

Here are some resources for following the story. Be sure to read the May 28 New York Times article by John Schwartz, "Smithsonian to Screen a Movie That Makes a Case Against Evolution." Panda's Thumb has posted a series of links on the film. Scroll down for Red State Rabble's coverage from over the weekend.

Now get busy and send those e-mails.

Monday, May 30, 2005


Smithsonian Protest Building Steam

Via Pharyngula: In response to the Discovery Institute's games with the Smithsonian, James Randi has made an interesting offer:

On the James Randi Educational Foundation site:

We need to be alarmed and militant about this situation. The "Discovery Institute" is the center of the Intelligent Design movement, which is only a semantically-disguised support group for creationism. By donating a mere $16,000, it has purchased the use of the Smithsonian facilities along with their implied co-sponsorship of the film, "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe."

Readers, do something about this. Please send an e-mail to giving@si.edu addressed to Mr. Randall Kremer, Public Affairs. Tell him of your concern over this situation. And, you might add that the JREF is willing to donate $20,000 to the Smithsonian Institution if they agree to give back the "Discovery Institute" $16,000 and decline to sponsor the showing of the film. And the JREF will not require the Smithsonian to run any films or propaganda that favor our point of view...

This news has broken around the web over the Memorial Day weekend when many are on vacation and away from their computers. Red State Rabble is asking members of list-serves, bloggers, and web site administrators to redouble their efforts to build a strong protest beginning tomorrow when many people will become aware of the issue for the first time. Readers can help by calling or e-mailing the Smithsonian, and by sending personal e-mail notes to at least five of their friends, relatives, or colleagues asking them to do the same.

We often observe how the right uses the power of the internet to further their own aims. This is an opportunity for science and reason to flex its very powerful, if perhaps not quite ripped, muscles to deliver a powerful blow to the ambitions of the Discovery Institute and their antiscience followers.


Does Scientific Legitimacy Come With a Price Tag?

The Discovery Institute's "Wedge Strategy" to attack science -- which they see as the source of all that's wrong in Western Civilization -- is to claim that there is a genuine controversy between scientists over the theory of evolution. Key to this strategy is the false claim that intelligent design is real science and that mainstream scientists are dogmatists.

The intelligent design "theorists" are now trying to purchase scientific legitimacy from the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. They've paid $16,000 dollars for the privilege of screening The Privileged Planet at the museum, and they're already crowing about the supposed "co-sponsorship" of the event.

The money is no big deal for the Discovery Institute. They've got piles of it. They're financed, in part, by Howard Ahmanson, a savings and loan heir who has maintained a long-time relationship with Christian Reconstructionism, an extreme faction of the Religious Right that seeks to replace American democracy with a harsh fundamentalist theocracy.

"Reconstructionists believe conservative Christians should take "dominion" over American society," says Steve Benen of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "Under their version of "biblical law," the death penalty would be required for over a dozen categories of offenders, including adulterers, homosexuals, witches, incorrigible children and those who spread 'false' religions. They regard the teaching of evolution as part of a 'war against Genesis.'"

Money is no problem, but can we allow them to use it to buy scientific legitimacy without a fight? If, like Red State Rabble, your answer is a resounding no, then make a call or send an e-mail to:

Randall Kremer, Director of Public Affairs 202-633-2950,
Events Staff nhevents@si.edu

Don't know what the film is all about? Here's an excerpt from The Privileged Planet:
"Is it possible that this immense, symphonic system of atoms, fields, forces, stars, galaxies, and people is the result of a choice, a purpose or intention, rather than simply some inscrutable outworking of blind necessity or an inexplicable accident? If so, then it's surely possible that there could be evidence to suggest such a possibility...

"Perhaps we have also been staring past . . . a signal revealing a universe so skillfully crafted for life and discovery that it seems to whisper of an extra-terrestrial intelligence immeasurably more vast, more ancient, and more magnificent than anything we've been willing to expect or imagine."


God Qua Science

Jim Remsen of the The Philidelphi Inquirer recently ran an exchange between evolutionary biologist Stacey Ake and biblical creationist Paul G. Humber over teaching the concept in science classes. Here's a sample:
Inquirer(to Humber): Critics say that where the evolutionary approach is always adjusting and is open to the results as they appear, your side knows its conclusion already and isn't open to evidence that's contrary to the biblical account.

Humber: One of the things I have found interesting is how very faithful the Bible is to anticipating modern science. George Washington, the science of his day said if you had bad blood, you have to drain the blood. And in Leviticus, it says the life of the flesh is in the blood. Now, how does man know that? Well, it's revealed. In Psalm 74, it talks about God stretching out the sky, the heavens, and that is very consistent with the idea of an expanding space.

Ake: What I have a problem with is saying it's OK that we have an expanding universe because the Bible says it's so, and science agrees with us. Good science. But when it disagrees, bad science. This is something that scientists from experience have a negative gut reaction to, because they're right back into the Soviets trying to control genetics, the Nazis trying to do the same thing... . Science can say nothing about God qua science. That's why science cannot say that there isn't a God, either. And people who say that evolution thus proposes atheism are also wrong.

RSR wants to thank reader T. Flatley for bringing it to our attention.


Stem Cell Research: Bush on the Losing Side

David Ewing Duncan, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, says that a new method for cloning human embryos developed in South Korea and a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to lift restrictions on using federal funds for stem cell research imposed by Bush in 2001 mean that "there is nothing anyone can do to stop their progress. To insist otherwise is like trying to unsplit the atom, or to insist that the world is flat, although this does not seem to be stopping the White House and conservatives from trying."

"The question now is: who will do this research -- Americans or others? And will the research be done in a country where research is subject to regulation for safety and transparency such as the United States and South Korea, or in societies where such safeguards are not part of the system?"


Resources: Exploration Place and Stars Over Kansas

The antics of the Kansas board of education have given the state an anti-science reputation. This is highly ironic given that Kansas is home to a number of world-class science education resources. The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson and the Sternberg Museum in Hays are but two examples.

Exploration Place in Wichita is another. Exploration Place features a state of the art digital planetarium called the CyberDome Theater. It's one of the world's best astronomy theaters, and the largest domed theater in Kansas.

Now, they've started Stars Over Kansas, a new blog devoted to promoting astronomy news and information, and getting people involved in science through participation.

The antiscience crowd grouped around the Discovery Institute is opening a new front to challenge Physics and Astronomy with the screening of "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe."

First class science resources -- such as Exploration Place -- that talk to people about subjects like the age of the Universe, the vast distances involved in space, other planets and their evolution over billions of years, will help people understand the huge amount of scientific evidence supporting evolution and the natural history of the Earth.

Take a look at the Stars over Kansas blog, and next time you're in Wichita, visit Exploration Place -- it's an especially good place to take the kids.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


The Other Shoe Drops

Until now, the intelliegent design controversy has focused primarily on evolution. Scientists in other fields have been relatively unaffected. Today, on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog there is a post on the controversy over the screening of the intelligent design film "The Privileged Plant: The Search for Purpose in the Universe" which takes issue with an article by John Schwartz published in the New York Times.

Here's an excerpt from that post:

Although much of the public controversy over intelligent design has focused on the application of design to biology, it's important to remember that design theory itself reaches well beyond biology, and that some of the strongest evidence for design comes from such fields as physics, astronomy, and cosmology.


What Price Scientific Legitimacy?

The Dutch purchased Manhattan from the Indians for 60 guilders. With condos in the Big Apple currently going for a median price of $878 per square foot, that has to go down as one of the astute real estate deals in history.

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory, about 800,000 square miles of land extending from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, from France for 60 million francs, or about $15 million dollars. A dollar was worth more then, but still, this was a great, great deal.

History's verdict on Napoleon's fire sale of the Louisiana Territory and the Native Americans who traded the world's hottest real estate market for a handful of gold or beads hasn't been kind. They'd been had.

What, then, are we to make of the sale of scientific legitimacy to the pseudoscience (Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy blog calls it antiscience, and RSR thinks that may be more accurate) of intelligent design and the Discovery Institute by one of the premier science institutions in the world -- the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History -- for $16,000 dollars?

On June 23, the National Museum of Natural History will co-sponsor the premier of the intelligent design film "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe." They are doing it because the Discovery Institute paid them $16,000 dollars.

As reported in the New York Times, Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute says, the museum staff itself asked to see the film. "They said they liked it very much -- and not only would they have the event at the museum, but they said they would co-sponsor it. That was their suggestion. Of course we're delighted."

This is another in a long series of attempts by the proponents of intelligent design to gain the imprimatur of science without actually having to do any. As statements by Chapman, and blogger Denise O'Leary, already indicate, the antiscience crowd will use this event to prove to the unwitting that there is a legitimate "controversy" over evolution between scientists and science organizations.

In RSR's humble opinion, this constitutes a blatant violation of the museum's policy which states that "events of a religious or partisan political nature" are not permitted.

If we allow the Smithsonian to sell the realm of science -- vaster and ultimately more valuable than Manhattan or the Louisiana Territory put together -- for a paltry $16,000 dollars without a fight, we should expect to go down in history as the sort who are easily taken advantage of.

Fortunately, there is still time to fight back. According to the New York Times, when museum spokesman Randall Kremer was informed about the language of the Discovery institute announcement, he said, "We'll have to look into that."

Let's help him understand the issues.

You can call Randall Kremer at 202-633-0817. You can send an e-mail to the Special Event staff at nhevents@si.edu. Snail mail can be sent to National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20560-0135.


Peer Pressure

Kansas Education Commissioner Andy Tomkins is leaving his post to take a job at the University of Kansas, where he will work with graduate students in school leadership.

According to a report by John Milburn of the Associated Press, "Tompkins acknowledges the (science curriculum) issues have been a distraction and he often gets teased by peers from other states."

Always a good soldier and consistent advocate for Kansas school children Tomkins "takes exception with those who say downplaying evolution will hurt the quality of students Kansas produces and that they won't be able to do science or get into college."

Even so, supporters of education in Kansas should ask why he chose to announce his resignation in the middle of the battle over science curriculum -- and school finance -- and what sort of person the current board will be able to attract under the circumstances.


Money, Fast Cars, But No Women

Tom Heneghan of Independent Media TV, an independent media outlet for views and artistic expression which are currently not being represented by the corporate media, reports that Patriarch Emmanuel Delly, the of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Iraq's largest Christian community has denounced American evangelical missionaries.

Delly says American evangelical missionaries attempt to convert poor Muslims by flashing money and smart cars. Many Protestant activists came to Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and set up what he called "boutiques" to attract converts.

According to Heneghan's report, Delly said the evangelicals were not real missionaries. They attracted poor youths with displays of money and taking them "out riding in cars to have fun."


NPR Commentary on Evolution

If you missed the origninal broadcast, make sure you catch NPR Commentator Ruth Levy Guyer, an immunologist and bioethicist, as she explains the difference between theory and hypothesis in science, and muses on why the theory of evolution, and Darwin himself, have engendered so much resistance over the ages.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Red State Rabble Reader Alert: Does Smithsonian Showing of Discovery Institution Film Violate Policy?

The events calendar at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture proudly proclaims that,"The Director of the National Museum of Natural History and Discovery Institute are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception for The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe" on June 23. Attendance at the event is by written invitation only.

What, the premiere science institution in the U.S. is sponsoring an intelligent design film?

Denise O'Leary, who writes the ID Post-Darwinist blog, has been crowing now for several days about the Smithsonian Institution sponsorship of the screening of the intelligent design film.

They believe the sponsorship implies a new acceptance of the "science" of intelligent design, or, in O'Leary's case, that sufficient political pressure has been brought to bear.

John Schwartz of the New York Times reports that it may have little more to do with a $16,000 contribution made by Discovery Institute to the Smithsonian. Panda's Thumb also has a post up about the controversy that is developing.

Red State Rabble likes the idea that $16,000 samoleans have been taken out of the coffers at Discovery to be put to good use by science, however, we also think the showing may violate the museums sponsorship policy, which states that, "events of a religious or partisan political nature" are not permitted.

Because -- as the posts at Discovery Institute and Post-Darwinist already demonstrate -- this supposed "sponsorship" will be used in the political battle to incorporate intelligent design into public school curriculums by falsely insisting there's a genuine scientific controversy over evolution, it is RSR's opinion that defenders of science education should contact museum officials to complain that the museum's "sponsorship" is being misrepresented and constitutes a violation of museum policy.

Here is who to contact:

National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20560-0135

Phone: 202-633-2950
Fax: 202-786-2982

Randall Kremer, 202-633-0817
Michele Urie 202-633-0820

Special Events e-mail address: nhevents@si.edu


Our Secret History

If you are of a certain age, Red State Rabble's age, for example -- statistically, of course, there's an excellent chance that you're younger, much younger -- you will have learned the reason our country hasn't had to fight an endless series of bloody, senseless religious wars is because our founding fathers, sickened by the religious bloodshed of the 18th century -- based our constitution on laws, not God.

That Americans have been denied the pleasures of killing their neighbors simply because they worship at a different church was thought, in those innocent times, to be a good thing. We used to feel smugly superior to the benighted people of countries such as Iraq, where Sunnis drive car bombs into Shiite mosques by day, and Shiites dump the bound bodies of executed Sunnis into the Euphrates at night.

In those days, we puzzled over the reason religious fanaticism would drive countries such as Pakistan and India to the brink of nuclear war. We just couldn't fathom why the people of a country such as Lebanon -- once known as the Switzerland of the Middle East -- would destroy everything they had built in order to engage a senseless and seemingly endless cycle of revenge. We thanked our lucky stars we weren't stuck in a country divided by religious strife such as Northern Ireland.

Lately, we have become aware that some on the religious right are unhappy with this state of affairs. They say this is not a nation of laws, after all, but of God. America, they say is a Christian nation. Our country has a hidden history that they have uncovered and now want to teach our children.

Red State Rabble first heard this revisionist history preached in the Rotunda of the state capitol in Topeka on National Prayer Day. Here's a recent example of this hidden history from Linda Kimball writing in the Sierra Times:

"Once upon a time, not too awfully long ago, America was known as the ‘shining city on the hill.’ America, the most radical experiment in the history of the world, was the only nation to which people oppressed and repressed by old world systems of social classes and castes could be free of the stifling bindings engendered by those man created constraints. She was a Judao-Christian (sic) nation where God of the bible, and not an elite ruling class, was sovereign over all. America was the land of hope, promise and opportunity, where not only all men were equal before God’s eyes, but where all human life from conception to natural death, was gifted by God with intrinsic worth. Because our Founders believed in the existence of a transcendent sovereign Creator, they declared that belief in the Declaration of Independence where it is written that our rights are endowed to us from our Creator and thus are inalienable, which means not from man...

"Alas, America is no longer a shining city on the hill because under the influence of militant atheism and transnational socialism fueled by Darwin’s theory of evolution, she has been turning her back on God and the Judao-Christian (sic) moral principles upon which she was founded. As a result, our once decent, orderly civilization has regressed to a state of ‘almost anything goes’ permissiveness and outright barbarianism where the common good has been displaced by the demands and desires of the few. Human life is no longer sacred and is now liberally aborted away even as militant atheist bio-ethicists are busily seducing Americans, to accept the idea of euthanasia, under the guise of quality of life. Where before, our Creator had endowed all human beings with a natural right to life, secular militant atheists have taken away that right and very predictably, replaced it with the 'right to die.'"

The more astute among you -- and Red State Rabble readers are nothing if not astute -- will recognize that the writer of this revisionist history ignores certain facts about our history, such as slavery.

It also ignores the fact that it is the Constitution that is the founding document of our nation and its laws -- not the Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers are the founding fathers because they are the authors of the Constitution, and the Constitution derives it’s powers not from God, but from…

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

You see, if you are a defender of the rule of law, of the Constitution, of science and reason, you have by definition become a militant atheist and a transnational socialist. You have been dehumanized. You have had a target painted on your back.

You have become a citizen of a country you weren't born in and didn't choose. A country where Birmingham has morphed into Baghdad. Burlington to Beirut. Buffalo to Bangalore. Bangor to Belfast. A country where chaos, religious warfare, even nuclear Armageddon are no longer things to be dreaded, but hopeful signs of the second coming.


School Board Journal Survey

A survey conducted by the American School Board Journal finds that 59 percent of respondents agree with the statement "Don't mix science and religion." Of those, 45 percent say teach evolution only, and 55 percent say "teach about intelligent design, but include it as part of a class in something like religion or philosophy, not science."

Friday, May 27, 2005


Dover CARES Fights Back Against Rumor

Supporters of intelligent design in Dover, Pennsylvania are floating a rumor that Dover CARES -- the group that defends science education there -- stands for Citizens Against Religious Education in Schools.

This dishonest rumor is typical of those who want to take over school districts around the country in order to force their narrow religious and ideological beliefs on our children.

The fact is, Dover CARES stands for Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies.

Here's how Dover CARES responds to the rumor on their website:
"Dover CARES candidates are all willing to support adding an elective of comparative religions or world religions, which will serve our students well into the future. This rumor is just another example of the misinformation and miscommunication of the current school board members. Although they all value their own personal and ministerial belief systems, the Dover CARES candidates realize that Dover, being a public school system, must abide by the law. Faith plays a vital role in many students' lives; however, the public school system may not legally endorse any particular denomination. The students are best able to make those decisions in the home and in the church of their choice. Because religion does play an important role in our society and our history, the Dover CARES. candidates encourage open discussion and critical thinking about religious beliefs and concepts in classes such as comparative religions, world theology, creation mythology, philosophy, world cultures, world literature, and humanities. In the right classroom context, intelligent design could promote research, spark spirited discussion, and deepen cultural understanding."


Religious Intolerance at the Air Force Academy

Air Force Captain MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran minister and executive officer of the chaplain unit at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, has been relieved of her position and transferred to Okinawa.

Captain Morton has said she was fired for exposing the pervasive influence of evangelical Christians at the academy, systematic proselytizing, and harassment of cadets of other faiths by evangelical Protestants.

Reported incidents include:

Last year, football coach Fisher DeBerry hung a banner in the team locker room that read, "I am a Christian first and last. I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has produced a report on "Religious Coercion and Endorsement of Religion at the United States Air Force Academy."

The Air Force announced May 3 that it would create a "cross-functional task force on the religious climate at the United States Air Force Academy" in response to the complaint from Americans United.

However, Jennifer Stephens, the Air Force spokeswoman on the task force, said the task force did not meet with Capt. Melinda Morton, the Air Force chaplain who first called attention to the problem.

Red State Rabble is curious. Where do the real loyalties of these officers -- and future officers -- lie? With the country, or with their religion?

Here in Kansas, we thought we were ahead of the curve, but it seems we're only experiencing the tip of the wedge. The Air Force Academy is where they've shoved it in a little deeper. When our country resembles Iran, we'll know it's all the way in.


Locution Evolution

Following the election last November, President Bush began to push for Social Security privatization. When people learned the facts about his proposal, they opposed it in large numbers. What did President Bush do? He stopped calling it privatization and began to say he was for personal accounts. His apologists then accused anyone who said the president was calling for privatization of slandering him.

Sen. Frist planned to push the president's unpopular, right-wing court appointees through the Senate over Democratic objections by employing what he called the "nuclear option." That is, he would use Senate rules to do away the filibuster. When polling showed that the nuclear option was unpopular with voters, he changed it to the "constitutional option." Republicans then accused reporters who attributed the nuclear option to Republicans of shilling for the Democrats.

Creationists have wanted to teach the biblical story of Genesis in science classes for years. Knowing that idea is unpopular -- and illegal -- they've changed their name, too. They now insist we call them intelligent designers. What does the Discovery Institute think of people who call them creationists -- well, we think you see the pattern.

They may not believe in biological evolution, but they are masters of locution evolution.


Passing Resemblance

Sam Kornell writes in the Santa Barbara Independent:

"ID'ers cannot mask the fact that theirs is unquestionably a religious movement, with Christian leaders and an overwhelmingly Christian constituency.

"This might not be such a problem if ID bore even a passing resemblance to research-based science, but it does not. It is a sophisticated, technically intimidating burst of hot air that, by its very nature, violates a fundamental tenet of science: It can neither be tested nor proven wrong."

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Middle East -- Middle West, What's the Difference?

"We all fear that this movement toward a biblical interpretation of scientific facts will eventually make us look like some of the countries in the Middle East."
-- Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy
of Sciences in the May 20 issue of Science


Nothing But a Theory

Red State Rabble readers who like their science leavened with a bit of wit will be rewarded by taking a look at the Borowitz Report post "Group Seeks Ban of Twentieth Century From Kansas School Textbooks." Here's a little appetizer before you go to the Borowitz Report for the full banquet:

"A political action group in the state of Kansas is applying pressure on the Kansas State Board of Education to ban any and all references to the twentieth century from school textbooks, a spokesman for the group confirmed today.

"The move to ban the twentieth century came up in a series of contentious school board hearings this week as the group loudly complained that the state’s current textbooks are rife with references to the controversial century, which they say may or may not have happened.

“'These textbooks state unequivocally that the twentieth century occurred, as if that were a proven historic fact,' said Gordon Lavalier, the group’s leader and spokesman. 'The simple truth is, the twentieth century is and has always been nothing but a theory.'”


George Will: The Threat to Civilization

We must admit at the outset that Red State Rabble rarely agrees with conservative columnist George Will. However, in his May 23rd Last Word column for Newsweek titled, "The Oddness of Everything" Will comments favorably on Bill Bryson's book, "A Short History of Nearly Everything."

After recounting Bryson's description of DNA, plate techtonics, the immensity of the universe, matter, energy, and indeterminancy, Will writes:

"... the greatest threat to civility -- and unltimately to civilization -- is an excess of certitude. The world is much menaced just now by people who think that the world and their duties in it are clear and simple. They are certain that they know what -- who -- created the universe and what this creator wants them to do to make our little speck in the universe perfect, even if extreme measure -- even violence -- are required."

This is well said.


Evolution Ale

The Freestate Brewry in Lawrence, Kansas is a popular hangout there. They've added a new beer to the menu -- Evolution Ale.

Enjoy the flavors of this well developed beer. Occasionally we are inspired to move one of our beers in a different direction. This evolution takes place through careful adjustment s to the conditions and the materials used in the brewing process. Our Evolution Ale has its roots in our ever popular Ad Astra Ale. The aroma hops have been changed to Styrian Goldings and we've added a bit of biscuit malt for a little toastier malt flavor.


Charles Darwin and Joseph Smith?

"Charles Darwin is often known as a man eager to destroy faith and tear down religion,” Michael Whiting, an associate professor in integrative biology at Brigham Young University told a student forum at the largely Mormon university in Utah, Tuesday. “Often these are the same detractors who paint Joseph Smith and the history of the church with a similar paintbrush. But this caricature is not true to the record. Certainly the ideas that have come from Darwin have had a profound influence on religion and continue to do so.”

Whiting continues:

“I know who’s responsible for the creation, but my research focuses on learning something about how it was done,” Whiting said. “I seek to learn something about the creator by studying creation.”

Apparently, this Mormon professor has no problem integrating evolution with his faith.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Split on the Right?

The right wing social agenda being pursued by Republicans in congress may be creating a rift between economic conservatives and social conservatives according to Washington Post staff writers Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum.

From Wall Street to Main Street, the small-government, pro-business mainstay of the Republican Party appears to be growing disaffected with a party it sees as focused on social issues at its expense.

"I'm inclined to support the Republican Party, but the question becomes, how much other stuff do I have to put up with to maintain that identification?" asked Andrew A. Samwick, a Dartmouth College economics professor who until recently was chief economist of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.

"I don't know a single business group involved in the judicial nominees," said R. Bruce Josten, an executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Nada, none, zip."

One the other hand, the focus on Schiavo, judicial nominees, and stem cells may be a positive thing if only because it keeps Republicans from destroying Social Security and Medicare.


Disorder in the Ranks

Intelligent design proponents never tire of telling the rest of us that their "theory" has nothing to do with religion -- it's science, pure and simple.

The problem for the intelligent design general staff at the Discovery Institute in Seattle is not so much with scientists and educators, but with its own foot soldiers. It seems they don't quite understand the strategy, and they're not very good at taking orders.

A case in point is Republican Daniel Hooker, a state assemblyman from Saugerties in New York. Hooker has introduced two bills in the New York assembly.

Hooker's first bill would require public schools to teach intelligent design. Remember now, the Discovery Institute's legal strategy is to "teach the controversy" not intelligent design -- they're waiting for the courts to move further to the right before they shove the wedge in a little deeper.

The second bill introduced by Hooker kind of gives the game away. It would allow display of the Ten Commandments in public places.


Of Pandas and People Publisher Wants to Intervene in Dover

The publisher of the pseudoscientific intelligent design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," the Foundation for Thought and Ethics' wants to intervene in the Pennsylvania suit brought by parents against the Dover school district that requires ninth-grade students to learn about alternatives to the theory of evolution.

According to a motion filed Monday in Harrisburg federal court the Foundation for Thought and Ethics "will focus on plaintiffs' purpose to destroy both intelligent design theory as a viable scientific explanation to the origins of life and FTE's ability to market textbooks."



H. Allen Orr writes a must read article titled, "Devolution: Why Intelligent Design Isn't" in the latest issue of the New Yorker:

If you are in ninth grade and live in Dover, Pennsylvania, you are learning things in your biology class that differ considerably from what your peers just a few miles away are learning. In particular, you are learning that Darwin’s theory of evolution provides just one possible explanation of life, and that another is provided by something called intelligent design. You are being taught this not because of a recent breakthrough in some scientist’s laboratory but because the Dover Area School District’s board mandates it. In October, 2004, the board decreed that “students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.”


Anniversary of Scopes indictment

From the New York Times, May 25, 1925:
Scopes Is Indicted in Tennessee for Teaching Evolution Grand Jury Acts After Judge Reads Genesis on the Creation of Man
Nashville, Tenn., May 25 -- John T. Scopes, young Dayton (Tenn.) high school teacher, tonight stands indicted for having taught the theory of evolution to students attending his science classes in violation of a law passed by the Tennessee Legislature and signed by the Governor on March 21, 1925. The date for this trial has been fixed for July 10 at Dayton. The hearing of the case will bring many notables to the little mountain town, including William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution and Clarence Darrow of Chicago and Dudley Field Malone of New York for the defense.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Is Religious Tolerance Anti-Christian?

Are supporters of religious tolerance -- those who defend the right of people of all faiths to practice their religion -- anti-Christian?

Richard Thompson, the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, thinks they are.

The website of the Thomas More Law Center says it "is dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life."

Thompson is the lead attorney representing the Dover school board in a lawsuit brought by parents who oppose a statement they ordered read to ninth-grade biology students that casts doubt on the theory of evolution and promotes intelligent design.

Let's leave aside for a moment the question of why an attorney from an out-of-state legal advocacy group such as the Thomas More Center is representing a taxpayer funded school district in court.

Thompson took on the case, he says, because Christians support intelligent design, “and because Christians support it, the ACLU wants it out of the classroom,” according to Joseph Moldonado of the York Daily Record.

Thomas More, says Thompson "is like the anti-ACLU.”

Vic Walczak, the ACLU attorney for parents who are suing the district counters that the ACLU defends the constitutional freedoms for people of all religions, including Christians. He cites a number of cases from the past year that make that case.

The truth is, the religious right preaches -- and practices -- religious intolerance. A victory for Christian fundamentalists in the battle to inject creationism and intelligent design would, in effect, make that peculiar brand of belief a state sponsored religion and limit the religious freedom of Catholics, Jews, Bhuddists, Muslims, skeptics, and mainstream Protestants.

Born again Evangelical Christians make up only about 25 percent of the population in this country. They should not be allowed to ride rough shod over the rights and freedoms of the majority.

Practicing religious tolerance is not anti-Christian, it's as American as motherhood and apple pie.


Cobb County Evolution Disclaimer Stickers Come Off

The Associated Press is reporting a significant victory for supporters of science education in Cobb County:

Complying with a judge's order, workers in Cobb County have begun removing controversial evolution disclaimer stickers from science textbooks.

By the end of the day Monday, several thousand stickers, which said evolution was a theory and not a fact, had been scraped off. The school district had placed 34,452 stickers on textbooks across the county.

The evolution disclaimers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."


Low-Budget Remake

“Evolution is a ‘theory’ like gravity is a ‘theory,’” says Associate Professor of Biology Colin Purrington. “The low-budget remake of the Scopes trial in Kansas will make educated Kansans want to flee the state so that their children will not be subjected to quack scientific ideas such as intelligent design.”

To combat what he sees as religious fundamentalism harming science education, Purrington has made available on the Web a series of resources for public school science teachers and their supporters. Included are news items on evolution cases around the country, a list of gifts for “brave science teachers,” editorial cartoons, and t-shirts and stickers of Charles Darwin. He also plans to have his students design exhibits on evolution for children.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Physicians Polled on Evolution and Intelligent Design

A national survey of 1,472 physicians conducted by the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Social and Religious Research at The Jewish Theological Seminary and HCD Research reveals that more than half of physicians (63%) agree that the theory of evolution is more correct than intelligent design.

An overwhelming majority of Jewish doctors -- 88 percent -- and more than half of Catholic doctors -- 60 percent -- said they agree more with evolution than intelligent design, while slightly more than half of Protestants -- 54 percent -- agree more with intelligent design.

You'll find more survey results here.


Getting Government Off Our Backs

This "Short and Sweet" commentary from the Oregonian just came to our attention, and it's too good not to pass along:

"Other than telling us how to live, think, marry, pray, vote, invest, educate our children and, now, die, I think the Republicans have done a fine job of getting government out of our personal lives."


Teach This Controversy

Right-wingers on the Kansas State Board of Education haven't quite finished wrecking science education in the state's public schools, but that may not stop them from taking on a new and equally divisive project -- abstinence only sex education.

Scott Rothschild, of the Lawrence Journal World reports that the board planned to look at draft standards for the sex education curriculum at its May 11 meeting, but held off because some board members wanted to attend arguments on the new school finance law being heard by Kansas Supreme Court that day.

Moderate board member Carol Rupe thinks there may be another reason, as well. She thinks board conservatives may want to change the sex education curriculum from abstinence based to abstinence only.

The current abstinence-based sex education curriculum teaches students that the best way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease is to abstain from having sex, but it also lets them know the facts about condoms and birth control. An abstinence only curriculum would not give any information to students who may be sexually active about how to protect themselves.

During the board's intelligent design circus we heard a lot about teaching the (non-existent) controversy between scientists over evolution. Board members -- when they weren't actively cheerleading for the intelligent design witnesses -- asked, "Why not just put all the evidence in front of the kids, and let them decide for themselves?"

Seems like the board may adopt a let it all hang out "teach the controversy" strategy for science classes, and a different -- sweep the evidence under the rug -- approach to sex education. Is it too much to ask that they be consistent in the policies they impose?


Chicago Tribune Poll

A Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll of 1,200 Illinois registered voters, conducted May 5-10, found that 58 percent favor teaching Darwin's theory. At the same time, 57 percent are open to teaching views opposed to it, reports Lisa Anderson.


Surrealistic Parallel World

The Mail & Guardian Online out of South Africa has this about the latest tourist attraction in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

"Nestling deep in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas, in the heart of the United States's Bible Belt, this is the first dinosaur museum to take a creationist perspective. Already thousands of people have flocked to its top-quality exhibits, which mix high science with fundamentalist theology that few serious scientists accept...

"That well-spring of popular belief, and the political clout that comes with it, is the inspiration behind the museum. It is not interested in debating with mainstream science. It simply wants to represent the view of a significant slice of the US...

"The museum forms part of a Bible-based theme park in Eureka Springs; the car park is full of cars and coaches from all over the country. To enter the museum is to explore a surrealistic parallel world. Biblical quotes appear on displays. The first has dinosaurs, alongside Adam and Eve, living in harmony. The ferociously fanged T rex is likely to be a vegetarian... "

Sunday, May 22, 2005


The Flat Earth Canard

Over at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, they're up in arms about a May 19 letter written to Nature by University of Houston evolutionary biologist Dan Graur titled,"Who has designs on your students' minds?"

"'Intelligent designers' are not the only minority bullied into submission by the scientific establishment," wrote Graur. "The vast majority of flat-Earthers … cannot publish their studies in respectable journals" either.

At Discovery, them's fightin' words.

Addressing this canard was seen as so important, the Jonathan Wells, was pulled in from the field where he was examining fossils from the Cambrian Explosion to pen this answer:

Like many of his colleagues, Graur delights in comparing critics of Darwinism to believers in a flat Earth. According to the standard story, Christians used to believe for biblical reasons that the Earth is flat. When modern science demonstrated that the Earth is actually a sphere, that belief became a legitimate target for ridicule. Now, since modern science has likewise demonstrated the truth of Darwin's theory (so the story goes), critics of Darwinism are just as silly as flat- Earthers.

But the story is totally false. It was pure fiction until it was turned into a phony historical claim by late-19th century Darwinists who used it to slander Christians.

The spherical shape of the Earth was known to the ancient Greeks, who even made some pretty good estimates of its circumference. Christian theologians likewise knew that the Earth was a sphere.

True enough. The spherical shape of the earth was known to the ancient Greeks and to Christian theologians.

But, we're not being asked to go back to the Greeks, are we? We're being asked to go back to the Bible, and there is ample evidence that the Biblical world view was that the world was flat. Hardly a day goes by in Kansas that we don't hear about the "science" of the Bible.

Now, Wells will argue that he doesn't want to teach the Bible in science classes. He will even argue that he doesn't want to teach intelligent design, either. All he wants to do is teach the "controversy over evolution" -- of course he wouldn't use the word evolution, he'd say "Darwinism" or "Neo-Darwinism."

There are two fundamental problems with that argument.

First, we know that the "teach the controversy" ploy is merely the tip of the Discovery Institute's Wedge Strategy to "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

Once they get the tip in... well you know what happens next.

Here's how Philip Johnson, the father of intelligent design put it in an interview published in 2000: "So the question is: "How to win?" That's when I began to develop what you now see full-fledged in the "wedge" strategy: "Stick with the most important thing", the mechanism and the building up of information. Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters."

The second problem with the "teach the controversy" argument is that most of its proponents want to teach the Bible in biology classes. At four public hearings held around the state of Kansas in February, virtually no one spoke for intelligent design. Nearly everyone who opposed the pro-science draft written by the majority of the standards committee said quite directly -- and at least they were refreshingly honest about their beliefs -- that they were Christians, and they wanted their children to be taught the biblical story of Genesis.

They don't want to know about Zeus and his thunderbolts, Dr. Wells. They don't care about the science of ancient Greece. They want that old time religion. They want the "science" of the Bible. All of it: The young earth. The flood. Adam and Eve riding dinosaurs through the Garden of Eden.

It's not just the flat earth. It's not just the sun revolving around the earth. It's the whole package. The wisdom of the ancient Greeks goes way back in human history, but those who demand that we teach a literal interpretation of the Bible want to go back in time much further than that.

Some of them are honest about what they believe. Some conceal their beliefs in public and hammer on a wedge.


Heresy Makes A Comeback

Let's say for a moment that the biblical literalists, aided of course by their intelligent design general staff, succeed in breaking down the wall between science and religion, and the separation between church and state.

What will our public schools look like afterward?

We don't need a crystal ball to find the answer to that question. We don't even have to guess. All we have to do is look at what happens to teachers who don't toe a strict biblical literalist line at religious colleges and universities. At those institutions, there's no such thing as academic freedom.

The Huntington College Board of Trustees, for example, recently fired John Sanders, a popular religion and philosophy professor for teaching "Open Theism." Huntington College, which is affiliated with the United Brethren in Christ, rejects "Open Theism" -- the notion that human beings have freewill and that God knows what has happened in the past, but does not know what will happen in the future.

Likewise Richard Colling, the chairman of the biology department at Olivet Nazarene University, is under attack for writing The Random Designer, a book in which he says evolution has stood the test of time and considerable scrutiny.

Anthony J. Diekema, the former president of Calvin College, has no problem with that. If you hire someone to promote Coca Cola, says Diekema, and they plug Pepsi, they won't be drawing a paycheck from Coke for very long.

In their own schools, fundamentalists dispense with all the "teach the controversy" nonsense they preach to the rest of us, and they will do the same thing in public schools if we are foolish enough to allow them to.


They Get it in West Virginia

A Charleston Gazette editorial says don't muddle science.

Here's an obvious fact: If America’s school biology courses were designed by top scientists, all classes would teach that complex life forms — including humans — evolved from simpler forms. The scientific world agrees that Darwin’s theory of evolution is supported by overwhelming evidence.

However, some Americans try to prevent clear science from being taught. Theology intrudes upon biology classes.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Intelligent Design: Can it Pass the Daubert (No, Not Dilbert) Test?

An editorial in the Columbus Dispatch (registration required) from yesterday makes a common sense proposal for testing whether intelligent design is science or not. They propose to use the guidelines adopted 1993 by the U.S. Supreme Court to measure the reliability of expert scientific testimony -- the Daubert Test of Reliability.

Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence states, in part:

A. Witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if:
1. the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data,
2. the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and
3.the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

The factors the court considers when applying this test are whether the theory or technique has been tested or can be tested; whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication; whether there is a known or potential rate of error, and; whether the theory or methodology has been generally accepted within the scientific community.

Clearly, intelligent design can't meet any part of this test, and so can't be considered science.


National Geographic's Atlas of the Human Journey

Check out the National Geographic interactive "Atlas of the Human Journey." By mapping the appearance and frequency of genetic markers in modern peoples, National Geographic has created a picture of where and when ancient humans moved around the world.

Beautiful visuals and all the dazzling photography you'd expect from National Geographic. Oh yeah, the genetic evidence demonstrates that our journey out of Africa started more than 6,000 years ago -- try ten times that.

A lovely site to spend some time with.


Florida ACLU Launches Religious Freedom Project

The Florida ACLU has named an advisory board of religious leaders to advise it on civil liberties issues. RSR believes it is crucial to mobilize mainstream religious believers, pastors, priests, rabbis, churches, and synagogues to defend religious freedom in this country -- freedoms that are now endangered by those on the Christian right who want to tear down the wall of separation between church and state. Here is the ACLU statement announcing the formation of the Religious Freedom Project.

In response to recent and bold assaults on First Amendment freedoms, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today launched the Florida Religious Freedom Project. The project will focus on principal Florida issues involving religious freedom and separation of church and state. The project -- formally known as the Martin and Nancy Engels Florida Religious Freedom Project -- was made possible by a generous gift from Martin and Nancy Engels of Miami Beach. The Engels are longtime members of the ACLU.

"People are forgetting that one of the most important pillars on which this country rests is the separation of church and state," said Martin Engels, an attorney practicing law in Miami. "The ACLU has always been wonderfully vigilant in protecting this concept. Nancy and I are proud to facilitate this endeavor." ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon noted that the new project is being created because of the likelihood that there will be a dramatic increase in the next few years in controversies such as those confronted by the Terri Schiavo case and the L.G. lawsuit involving a teen's right to make private reproductive healthcare decisions.
"In both cases, state officials used their own religious and moral views to override the privacy rights of people in Florida and dictate public policies," said Simon.

He also added that Florida will likely be in the forefront of new public debates over efforts to provide direct or indirect government funding for religious institutions in the coming years.
"The threat of even more religious-based public policies in Florida has motivated us to make church-state work an even greater priority within the ACLU," said the Director of the West Central ACLU Florida Office, Rebecca Harrison Steele, who will lead the project from the ACLU's Tampa-based office. Before joining the staff of the ACLU in 2004, Steele was an attorney in private practice with the Trenam, Kemker and Holland & Knight law firms.
Project staff will work to ensure that religious liberty is protected by keeping the Florida Legislature and administrative agencies out of the religion business, and by monitoring policies adopted by county school boards and municipalities to ensure they do not violate church-state principles.

The project will concentrate on several issues including efforts to weaken or repeal Florida’s explicit prohibition on the direct or indirect use of state funds to aid sectarian institutions and the spread of vouchers to support church-run schools, while also closely monitoring state "faith-based" legislation and executive branch policies that involve government-funded religion and government-funded discrimination.

Defending religious freedom in the public schools will also be a particular focus of the new ACLU project. ACLU of Florida is part of the legal team challenging the voucher program (referred to in the statute as "Opportunity Scholarships") -- the only statewide voucher program in the nation.

"The Florida Supreme Court hearing in the challenge to the constitutionality of the Governor’s voucher program may be the most important case affecting church-state relations in the history of our state," said Simon.

The case, Holmes v. Bush, is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 7th.

During this past session of the Florida Legislature, the ACLU urged lawmakers to enact regulations to ensure that public funds for the Universal Pre-K program were not used to fund religious instruction or to fund programs that discriminate based upon the religion of a child's parents or a child's disability.

The work of the Religious Freedom Project staff will also address the rights of members of minority religions by challenging school-sponsored religious programs. Non-school related, church-state issues also will be on the staff’s agenda, such as the exemption from state licensing requirements for religious-based social service agencies and the impact on children of the state statute, unique in the nation, that authorizes a court to order prayers for minors with health problems and whose parents reject medical care.

The ACLU's Religious Freedom Project will be aided by a diverse Advisory Committee of religious leaders that is in formation, but at present consists of Dr. Mary Carter Waren of St. Thomas University, the Rev. Marta Burke of the Fulford United Methodist Church in North Miami, Rev. Priscilla Whitehead of the Church of the Sea in Bal Harbour, Dr. Lesley Northup, Associate Dean of Florida International University, Rabbi Mitchell Chefitz of Temple Israel in Miami, Pastor James R. Summers of Northwest Baptist Church in Miami, Attorney Sidney Goetz of St. Petersburg, and Martin and Nancy Engels.

The Advisory Committee will help the ACLU increase its understanding of the important role that religion plays in American society as it fulfills its mission of defending religious freedom and addressing the constitutionally-required relationship between religious institutions and government.

Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has had an unflagging commitment to the fight for religious freedom. This project is a timely response to protect one of America's most basic freedoms, the First Amendment's guarantee of separation of church and state.
The ACLU is currently involved in litigation in Georgia and Pennsylvania challenging the actions of school boards to order the placement of stickers in textbooks warning students that evolution is merely a theory and to require the teaching of “Intelligent Design” in public school science classes.


Physics Teachers: No Evidence Against Evolution and Cosmology

The Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers is dismayed at organized actions to weaken and even to eliminate significant portions of evolution and cosmology from the educational objectives of states and school districts.

Evolution and cosmology represent two of the unifying concepts of modern science. There are few scientific theories more firmly supported by observations than these: Biological evolution has occurred and new species have arisen over time, life on Earth originated more than a billion years ago, and most stars are at least several billion years old. Overwhelming evidence comes from diverse sources - the structure and function of DNA, geological analysis of rocks, paleontological studies of fossils, telescopic observations of distant stars and galaxies - and no serious scientist questions these claims. We do our children a grave disservice if we remove from their education an exposure to firm scientific evidence supporting principles that significantly shape our understanding of the world in which we live.

No scientific theory, no matter how strongly supported by available evidence, is final and unchallengeable; any good theory is always exposed to the possibility of being modified or even overthrown by new evidence. That is at the very heart of the process of science. However, biological and cosmological evolution are theories as strongly supported and interwoven into the fabric of science as any other essential underpinnings of modern science and technology. To deny children exposure to the evidence in support of biological and cosmological evolution is akin to allowing them to believe that atoms do not exist or that the Sun goes around the Earth.

We believe in teaching that science is a process that examines all of the evidence relevant to an issue and tests alternative hypotheses. For this reason, we do not endorse teaching the “evidence against evolution,” because currently no such scientific evidence exists. Nor can we condone teaching “scientific creationism,” “intelligent design,” or other non-scientific viewpoints as valid scientific theories. These beliefs ignore the important connections among empirical data and fail to provide testable hypotheses. They should not be a part of the science curriculum.

School boards, teachers, parents, and lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure that all children receive a good education in science. The American Association of Physics Teachers opposes all efforts to require or promote teaching creationism or any other non-scientific viewpoints in a science course. AAPT supports the National Science Education Standards, which incorporate the process of science and well-established scientific theories including cosmological and biological evolution.

This statement was adopted by the Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers on April 24, 2005.


Oklahoma City Gay Book Ban Creates Tensions

A report in Yahoo News follows the developing situtation over banning gay-themed books for the library system:

The Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System Board met to consider whether the book "King and King," which features a story about a prince marrying another prince, should be placed in the children's section or in another part of Oklahoma City's downtown library. Board members allowed hundreds of community members -- including public officials and activists -- to speak at the meeting but limited them to 30 seconds each because of the number of people in attendance.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Click to enlarge. A group of 14-year-old hackers -- each sporting numerous tattoos and body piercings -- at a Red State Rabble safe house extracted this document from a secret online archive at the Discovery Institute's "Evolution News and Views" blog. Posted by Hello


Monkey Trial or Kangaroo Court?

From "Monkey Trial or Kangaroo Court?" by Stan Cox on AlterNet:

Warren Nord enthusiastically recommended that schools should wrap every subject, including biology, in its religious and philosophical context. An incredulous Irigonegaray asked him, "Is it important to have religion taught in economics class?"

Nord: "Yes."

Irigonegaray: "What about math class?"

Nord: "I can make a case for that."


Deadly Earnest

Andrew Gumbel, writing in the Los Angeles City Beat says "We're Not in Kansas Anymore":

It’s easy, from the comparative safety of the West Coast, to make light of the recent evolution hearings before the Kansas State Board of Education. Easy to laugh off their attempts to introduce God into the high school biology curriculum as the latest eccentric ravings of a bunch of anti-modern heartland
hicks. But here are a few reasons to take their initiative in deadly earnest


Dover CARES "Pleasantly Surprised"

The Dover CARES pro-science school board slate won ballot slots in the Democratic primary last Tuesday. In Novemeber, they will face incumbent school board members -- all Republicans -- who support injecting intelligent design creationism into science classes. The district is roughly 60 percent Republican.

Associated Press reporter Martha Raffaele reports:

The Rev. Warren Eshbach, a spokesman for Dover CARES, said he was pleasantly surprised by the results, but acknowledged that the candidates must work hard to bolster their support between now and the general election.

"We have to build our base and try to work at building coalitions between Democrats, independent voters and probably some moderate Republicans," Eshbach said.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Johnson County Library Restores Bill of Rights

Last night, the Johnson County Library Board reversed itself and restored the American Library Association's Bill of Rights. The board was widely criticized after it voted 4-3 last month to revoke the collections policy. Many in Johnson County saw the vote as a move by right-wingers to censor library material.

Following the appointment of two new members -- Pamela Crandall and Charley Vogt -- the board voted 4-2 to reinstate the policy. Board member, James Berger left the meeting early after indicating he would have voted with the minority.


Disingenuous Approach

"The greatest arguments against the theory of intelligent design have little to do with science. They have more to do with the disingenuous approach of the theory's supporters," writes Conrad Easterday in the Pratt Tribune.


Dover CARES Issues Statement

The Dover CARES slate -- Bernadette "Bernie" Reinking, Terry Emig, Bryan Rehm, Herbert "Rob" McIlvaine, Judy McIlvaine, Larry Gurreri, Patricia Dapp -- has issued the following statement:

"Dover CARES is thankful for and overwhelmed by the voter turnout and support we have received from our community. It has gone beyond our expectations. All of our candidates have made it on the ballot for the November election. The numbers are still being officially counted, but please check back for detailed statistics and comment. We wish to extend a heartfelt thanks to all our volunteers and supporters...we could not have done this without you and are sincerely grateful. We are looking forward to the November election."

The Dover CARES slate needs your help. Dover CARES is a registered political action committee. All donations go directly to the campaign fund which supports pro-science candidates. Monetary contributions in the form of checks or money orders can be mailed to:

Dover C.A.R.E.S.
2045 Andover Drive
Dover, PA 17315


Pennsylvania Primary: "A Good Start"

The Rev. Warren Eshbach, a spokesman for Dover Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies -- Dover CARES -- calls the results of Tuesday's primary election a "good start."

Democrats chose the Dover CARES slate of seven candidates that oppose mentioning intelligent design in science classes to face seven incumbent Republican school board members who voted last October to require ninth-grade students to be lectured about intelligent design in biology classes.

"Our candidates believe intelligent design can be taught, but not in science," Eshbach said. "The school board's decision is against the law as it now stands."


Biblical Literalism: A Persistant Viral Infection

Leo Sandon, the distinguished teaching professor of religion and American studies at Florida State University, writes in a Knight Ridder commentary:

Biological evolution per se has never been a great issue for Catholics because they are not into such scriptural literalism. And most U.S. Jewish leaders gradually accepted evolution theory after initial reservations. There is no inevitable warfare between Darwinian theory and religion unless the religion is uncritically literalist in its interpretation of Scripture.

In a famous 1896 editorial in the Emporia (Kan.) Gazette, William Allen White asked the question now being echoed by educators and journalists around the country:
"What's the matter with Kansas?" The answer in 2005 is that Kansas is suffering
from a persistent viral infection that has afflicted many other states since the
1870s: biblical literalism.


Fantasy Confronts Reality

"(O)ur legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said following the Schiavo case. "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

"The gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," says Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and head of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"The actions on the part of the Florida court and the U.S. Supreme U.S. Supreme Court are unconscionable," says Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

"Fostering disrespect for judges can only encourage those that are on the edge, or on the fringe, to exact revenge," Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, a federal judge whose husband and mother were slain by a disgruntled litigant, told lawmakers yesterday. One way congress could protect judges, Judge Lefkow said, would be to condemn judge-bashing remarks by commentators and colleagues.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Pro-Science Dover Cares School Board Slate Advances to General Election

The pro-science Dover Cares slate won all the four-year school board seats in the Democratic primary election there. The winners are Bernadette Reinking, Rob McIlvaine, Bryan Rehm and Terry Emig. The slate also carried the two-year seats, with Patricia Dapp, Judy McIlvaine and Larry Gurreri all moving on to the general election in November.

They will face seven incumbent Republicans who support intelligent design in the November election.

With 6 out of 6 precincts reporting, these are the unofficial results of the Dover School Board race. Dover Cares candidates are in bold. Note: some candidates ran in both Democratic and Republican primaries.

B Rehm Dem 810
H Mc Ilvaine, Jr. Dem 825
S Leber Dem 433
B Reinking Dem 828
T Emig Dem 800
M Arnold Dem 172
A Bonsell Dem 412
J Cashman Dem 412
E Rowand Dem 361
S Leber Rep 1242
H Mc Ilvaine, Jr. Rep 953
A Kline Rep 454
B Reinking Rep 1010
J Cashman Rep 1366
M Arnold Rep 300
E Rowand Rep 1181
A Bonsell Rep 1375
B Rehm Rep 911
T Emig Rep 965
2-Year Term
P Dapp Dem 740
S Harkins Dem 368
R Short Dem 369
L Gurreri Dem 648
E Riddle Dem 338
A Yingling Dem 194
J Brown Dem 196
J Mc Ilvaine Dem 719
A Yingling Rep 241
S Harkins Rep 1230
L Gurreri Rep 998
E Riddle Rep 1249
R Short Rep 1245
J Brown Rep 247
J Mc Ilvaine Rep 896
P Dapp Rep 925


Rape Fantasies

Charley Morasch, who was defeated in his bid for a seat on the Blue Valley School District in Johnson County Kansas (suburban Kansas City) has now filed a complaint against Margaret Atwood's short story "Rape Fantasies."

Morasch campaigned as a supporter of intelligent design and for censorship of 14 award-winning books included on the Blue Valley high schools reading list.

Atwood's story is included in an anthology -- among dozens of other short stories -- used in senior Advanced Placement classes, which demand college-level course work from students.

Morasch, apparently, has persuaded Roger Kemp, the father of Ali Kemp who was murdered in an attempted rape at a community swimming pool where she worked as a lifeguard to sign a formal challenge demanding that Blue Valley North High School remove the short story from its reading list.

Red State Rabble feels a good deal of sympathy with Roger Kemp and his family. Our youngest daughter --then just nine years old -- was at the Leawood pool with a friend on the afternoon Ali Kemp was murdered. Kemp's body lay hidden in the pool house while my daughter and her friend swam and played for several hours that day. They still remember her cell phone, left on a pool chair, ringing over and over again as her family tried to make contact. The murder was a senseless tragedy.

Benjamin Appleby has been charged with strangling 19-year-old Ali Kemp. He was arrested in Connecticut last year, where he was living under an assumed name.

As a father, our hearts go out to Roger Kemp and his family. We can't help but think how lucky we are that the killer was gone when our daughter and her friend arrived at the pool. We can't help thinking what might have happened if the timing were just a little different.

Having said that, we still oppose pulling Atwood's short story from the reading list. Censoring the story will not prevent a single rape. It will deprive seniors in Advanced Placement classes from reading a first-rate piece of literature.

There may be something more sinister to this story, as well.

The Kansas City Star is reporting that Kemp now says "he did not realize that by signing he was participating in a formal challenge."

Red State Rabble has not been in contact with Roger Kemp. We have no knowledge of what Charley Morasch may have told him, but we sincerly hope that this grieving father was not manipulated by cynical right-wing operatives in order to add the spice of sensationalism to their censorship campaign.


PA School District Calls Suit Baseless

The following letter was sent to parents, students, and residents of the Marple Newton School District (Pennsylvania) by Superintendent of Schools Robert A. Mesaros. The district is being sued by parent Donna Bush, who was denied permission to read Bible passages to her son's elementary school class.

You may be aware that the Marple Newtown School District has been sued for protecting the rights of the students in a Culbertson elementary class. Each day, we, as a school district are entrusted with a tremendous responsibility to help prepare our students to be productive citizens. We take that responsibility very seriously. Our children’s education and the protection of their rights and the rights of their families are paramount to the District. We respect the practice of religion and the important place it holds in our community. However, the law says that place is not in the classroom of a taxpayer-funded public school.

We recently requested that a parent not read a passage from a religious text to a kindergarten class during a classroom activity. Our request upheld the law and did not discriminate against anyone or any religion. The law applies uniformly to everyone in our school environment. Because a public school teacher cannot read aloud from a religious text in a classroom setting, a parent can’t do it in that setting either.

We have an obligation to protect the rights of all our students and their families. We take that responsibility very seriously and will continue to do all that we can to protect the rights of our students and their families.

This suit is baseless and is nothing more than an attempt to make headlines. In an ongoing effort to protect the rights of our students and their families, we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit. Sadly, the defense of this suit will ultimately take away valuable financial resources that would normally be used to buy computers, musical equipment and books.


Newtonian Fundamentalists

A news release following the Kansas science hearings from the Seattle-based Discovery Institute complains that.
"Darwinists are trying to dumb down the teaching of evolution in Kansas by only allowing schools to present students with part of the scientific evidence relating to evolution," said Seth Cooper, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Institute's Center for Science and Culture. "Students will be the ones who suffer if Darwinian fundamentalists are allowed to censor the scientific information students hear in the classroom."

Next, Cooper and DI will be crying about Newtonian Fundamentalists who prevent school children from learning about the scientific controversy over the theory of gravity.

By the way, they've got great titles over at Discovery Institute, don't they? Senior Policy Analyst, not bad, eh, for a 27-year-old attorney? Seth Cooper is a member of the Federalist Society, and one who was angered by the treatment Robert Bork got at the hands of Arlen Specter in his 1987 confirmation hearings. He operates a blog called "Sharks with Lasers" (!?) which he modestly describes as "A CUTTING EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY." And, yeah, he's one of those ALL CAPS kind of guys.

Just in case the whole Bork thing is getting fuzzy, back in 1971, our Judge Bork wrote, "Constitutional protection should be accorded only to speech that is explicitly political. There is no basis for judicial intervention to protect any other form of expression, be it scientific, literary, or that variety of expression we call obscene or pornographic." (emphasis added; "Neutral Principles and Some First Amendment Problems," Indiana Law Journal, vol. 47, 1971, p 20.)

Maybe that's why Cooper likes him -- he feels there should be no constitutional protection for Darwinian, Newtonian, or Einsteinian fundamentalists.

Cutting edge for the 13th Century is more like it.


Before the Flood

Before Noah's flood, the Earth’s atmosphere was so different that animals, plants and humans were able to grow much larger and live much longer than today, says William Sanderson, a former middle school science teacher who plans to open what he calls the Akron (Ohio) Fossils & Science Center May 26.

Sanderson believes that dinosaurs and man inhabited earth at the same time. They were killed off in the ice age that followed the flood.

“There’s a lot of science that supports that," says Sanderson, "and that’s what we’re trying to make the case for."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

When U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon struck down Nebraska's ban on gay marriage, he said the measure interferes not only with the rights of gay couples but also with those of foster parents, adopted children and people in a host of other living arrangements.

The Kansas Constitutional Ammendment is similar to the Nebraska law -- it takes away rights now enjoyed by unwed couples, including inheritance, insurance benefits, child custody and the power to make medical decisions for each other -- and, for that reason, it may be vulnerable to a court challenge, as well.


Sins of Scripture

Nicholas Kristoff has a commentary in the New York Times about a biblical point of view that's as rare as Republicans in heaven.

John Shelby Spong, the former bishop, tosses a hand grenade into the cultural wars with "The Sins of Scripture," which examines why the Bible - for all its message of love and charity - has often been used through history to oppose democracy and women's rights, to justify slavery and even mass murder.


Where is Silence Dogood When We Need Her?

Recently, Red State Rabble stood under the dome of the Capitol in Topeka and listened to a minister tell a group of born-again Christians about the secret history of the United States. She said the the founding fathers, despite all evidence to the contrary, intended this country to be a Christian nation. Our most pious state board member, Kathy Martin, is a big booster of the Christian nation notion, as well. RSR, idealistic fool that we are, always thought is was a nation of laws.

Here's a citation the good minister neglected to quote in her sermon from founding father Benjamin Franklin -- writing as Silence Dogood to the New England Courant (No. 9).

" the most dangerous Hypocrite in a Common-Wealth, is one who leaves the Gospel for the sake of the Law: A Man compounded of Law and Gospel, is able to cheat a whole Country with his Religion, and then destroy them under Colour of Law: And
here the Clergy are in great Danger of being deceiv'd, and the People of being deceiv'd by the Clergy, until the Monster arrives to such Power and Wealth, that he is out of the reach of both, and can oppress the People without their own blind Assistance. "

Franklin saw the future, and it was Kansas.


Attacks on Science Come From Many Quarters

We are most familiar with irrational attacks on science from right-wing Christians, but we should not forget they sometimes come from other quarters, as well. Robbie McKie writes in the Guardian (UK) about the perverse reaction to Parkinson's sufferer Mike Robins.

At a recent public meeting to discuss a proposed animal research centre in Oxford, 63-year-old Robins was jeered and ridiculed when he tried to show how surgery, perfected through animal experiments, had transformed his life.

'I was bayed at,' said Robins, a retired naval engineer from Southampton. 'Several hundred people were shouting. Some called out "Nazi!", "bastard!" and "Why don't you roll over and die!" I tried to speak, but was shouted down. It was utterly terrifying.'

The attack has shocked even hardened observers of vivisection debates. 'I have seen many unpleasant things at these debates, but to scream at a middle-aged man with Parkinson's disease and then tell him he deserved to die is the worst I have observed,' said Simon Festing, director of the Research Defence Society, which defends the scientific use of animals for experimentation...

'I wanted people to see how a person can benefit from animal experiments,' said the Oxford surgeon Tipu Aziz who operated on Robins and spoke at the debate. 'That is why I asked Mike to appear at the debate. I am now very sorry I put him through that horrible ordeal. To these people, Mike's existence is a refutation of their core beliefs. They say animal experiments do no good. Then Mike stands up, switches his tremors on and off, and their arguments are blown away. That's why they shouted him down.'


Connecting the Dots, A Resource Guide

A number of readers have asked for more links to information cited in our post "Connecting the Dots" (see below) about the many fronts the right has opened in the Culture Wars here in Kansas.

The reading list censorship group has a website here. The Blue Valley students who opposed the book banners have their own site here.

The latest on the Johnson County Library Board, including the courageous stand by County Commissioner David Lindstrom, who appointed Pamela Crandall in the face of stiff opposition from the right-wing book banners can be found in this commentary by Mike Hendricks in the Kansas City Star. By the way, Hendricks has shown a good deal of courage -- and insight -- of his own in a number of pieces he wrote in opposition to inroads intelligent design is making in the state science standards.

Finally, from the Johnson County Sun newspaper here is a recent article on the attempt to ban books the Christian right doesn't like from the Blue Valley reading list.

Check back later this morning for a new development concerning a challenge to Margaret Atwood's short story "Rape Fantasies" in the Blue Valley reading list controversy.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Connecting the Dots

Red State Rabble has focused, for the most part, on the developing battle in Kansas over the teaching of evolution in public schools. We suspect that for many of our readers this is a central concern, as well.

However, for the right-wing zealots who are pushing intelligent design in the schools, it is but one front in the culture war.

This was brought home to us, the other night, by Mrs. Red State Rabble, who is a PTA president at a middle school in the Blue Valley School District here in Johnson County.

Recently, she attended a school board meeting where a group demanded that a number of books -- award winning books by authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Rudolfo Anaya, J.D. Salinger, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tobias Wolff-- be removed from the district's reading list because some have bad words in them.

This group, organized by Janet Harmon, has been rebuffed by parents, teachers, students, and the board itself many times, but like the energizer bunny, they just keep going, and going, and...

The district has an opt out choice for students or parents who are troubled by one book or another, but that is not good enough for these right-wing censors. They demand that these books be removed so that no child can read them. They claim that their children are stigmatized by requesting an optional reading choice -- that their proposals to force prayer into the schools might stigmatize some children is not, for them, a problem.

One of the books they want banned is the "Hot Zone" by Richard Preston. Red State Rabble finds their reasoning telling.

They have several objections to Preston's book. First, the don't like his his environmentalist philosophy. On their web site, they say Preston believes, "(t)he emergence of AIDS, Ebola, and any number of other rainforest agents appears to be a natural consequence of the ruin of the tropical biosphere." says "the earth is mounting an immune response against the human species" and, "the earth is attempting to rid itself of an infection by the human parasite."

Second, they are queasy about his clinical description of the symptoms of the Ebola infection, especially as it affects the human sexual organs, and yes, there are a handful of bad, bad words.

But, parents who have followed this controversy for some time report that the group also objects strongly to the "Hot Zone" because it presents a mainstream view of the age of the earth, evolution, and refers to Africa as the cradle of modern humans.

One of the activists who has spoken on behalf of this mothers for morality censorship group is Nancy Hanahan, president of the Sunflower Republican Women's Club of Johnson County and a major financial backer of the creationists on the Kansas State Board of Education and their right-wing state and federal PACs -- the Free Academic Inquiry and Research committee.

Here's another front in the war:

On April 20, the Johnson County Library board voted 4-3 to remove from its collections development policy the American Library Association's "Bill of Rights."

"Parents see libraries as a safe haven where their children can go and have a good experience," said James Berger, an estate planning attorney from Leawood, who voted for the proposal. Berger believes the library association guidelines strip the library board of the ability to safeguard children from objectionable material, such as pornography.

Now Red State Rabble is a library patron -- we think we may have some overdue books right now in fact -- but we have never seen porn on the shelves. Maybe, they're worried about enviornmentalist porn, such as the "Hot Zone," with its prurient description of Ebola symptoms.

Last week, two vacancies on the board were filled, opening the way for the board to revisit the collections development policy -- and bring it back in line with American Library Association policies and the First Amendment to the Constitution.

One of the appointments was Pamela Crandall, a volunteer in the Blue Valley School District. Crandall's appointment was opposed by right-wingers -- who pay very close attention to these appointments -- because she opposed the proposal to remove 14 books (the list is up to 29 now) from the Blue Valley schools reading list.

The right is organized, well-financed, and it is fighting in a disciplined way on many fronts. Those of us who see the value of church state separation must awaken to the very real, and growing danger posed by these right-wing zealots -- and we must fight them on every front they've opened in the war.

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