Tuesday, January 31, 2006



Over at William Dembski's Uncommon Descent, apprentice blogger DaveScot thinks it may have been a mistake for the former Dover school board to have referred to the wannabe ID textbook, Of Pandas and People, in their statement dissing evolution:
"Distasteful as it is," he writes, "I have to agree with Harvey and Matzke. The history of Of Pandas and People was the only formidable obstacle in a winning defense."
Skip over, for the moment, the perjured testimony of the defendants. Ignore too, if you can, the woeful testimony of ID "experts" Michael Behe and Scott Minnich. And, pay no heed to the admission that under ID's definition, astrology would qualify as science. Let's focus, for now, on DaveScot's assertion that "it was all about the book."

Saying the Dover board made a mistake by referring students to the book because it later became the only formidable obstacle in a winning defense, strikes RSR very much as saying the only reason the bear got his foot caught in the trap was because he made the mistake of being born with four paws.

Of Pandas and People, and all it's drafts, are merely the hard evidence -- the tracks left behind by ID advocates as they traveled the well-worn path from creationism to intelligent design.

Dembski apparently sees qualities in DaveScot that others of us have missed. In fact, not long ago, Dembski climbed down from the driver's seat at Uncommon Descent and handed the keys to DaveScot and a few of his friends.

Perhaps, Dembski came to appreciate DaveScot's talents after he posted this comment on the blog in November:
Islam is a cancer growing on the planet. It needs to be killed not accommodated. It’s an ugly, dysfunctional belief system even in milder forms, that subjugates the female half of the population. However, since we can’t just kill them all (we can kill the worst offenders though) we have to put a more attractive alternative in place. The more attractive alternative is democracy. Islam can’t survive in democracies for long. It won’t go down without a fight so there must be some bloodshed before it’s a closed chapter in history.

We claim no particular insight into Dembski's inner thoughts; however, if you can infer intelligent design from viewing a bacterial flagellum, if you can assume an intelligence is responsible for the appearance of design in nature, then what exactly is supposed prevent us from assuming that DaveScot was promoted to Uncommon Descent's executive suite because he believes "Islam is a cancer growing on the planet"?

Who was it that said, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck?


The Bible Says...

As RSR was buzzing around town yesterday, we tuned into Terry Gross' "Fresh Air" on KCUR 89.3 the public radio station here in the Kansas City area.

Gross interviewed biblical scholar Marc Zvi Brettler, author of How to Read the Bible and chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University.

Brettler pointed out in the interview that he never uses the phrase, "The Bible says... "

That's because the modern Bible is the product of translations and interpretations that span centuries. As many readers already know, there are two, quite different versions of Genesis, in the Bible. Reconciling these two versions is an insurmountable difficulty for those who advocate a literal reading.

You can listen to the interview and read a short excerpt from Brettler's book, here.


Kansas Science Standards Unconstitutional

In an earlier post, we summarized Jack Krebs line of reasoning on why the new Kansas Science Standards are an unconstitutional violation of church and state separation. Now, Jack's PowerPoint presentation has helpfully been made available online at the Kansas Citizens for Science website. You can read it here.

By the way, if you are not already a member of KCFS, why not join today? Your contribution will help KCFS cover the cost of defending science education in the state. If you're a Kansas taxpayer, the state school board is already using your money to write pseudoscience into the standards.

Jack Krebs, the president of Kansas Citizens for Science, made the case Saturday in Lawrence that using the same criteria laid down in the Dover intelligent design trial, Kansas science standards would be found unconstitutional.

Krebs spoke to an overflow crowd of 200 at the Intelligent Design, Kansas Science Education, and the Law forum at the Dole Center. The event was sponsored by KCFS and the National Center for Science Education.

Noting that school board chair Steve Abrams had worked behind the scenes with young earth creationists to take evolution and the age of the earth out of the standards back in 1999, Krebs pointed to four factors that make the Kansas standards unconstitutional:


Eric Rothschild, the plaintiffs' lead attorney in the Dover intelligent design trial began his presentation in Lawrence Saturday by reading a statement by Fred Callahan, one of the Dover plaintiffs. At the trial, Callahan testified he joined the First Amendment lawsuit mostly at the behest of his wife. When he did, people called him intolerant.

"What am I supposed to tolerate?" Rothschild quoted Callahan as asking. "A small encroachment of my First Amendment rights? Well, I'm not going to."

Rothschild also noted that while opponents of the Dover ruling have taken to calling Judge Jones an activist judge for ruling that ID is not science, both sides asked Jones to rule on that very issue. After listening to the evidence -- which included hearing ID proponents Michael Behe and Scott Minnich make their case -- the judge found that the evidence was overwhelming: ID is not science.

Eugenie Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, presented the NCSE's Clarence Darrow Award to Eric Rothschild, Steve Harvey, and Richard Katskee for the hard work that led up to the Dover ruling that teaching intelligent design is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state. The overflow crowd gave the attorneys a standing ovation.

Sally Cauble, a moderate Republican, is running for state school board against Connie Morris in Western Kansas. A supporter who is organizing a meeting for Cauble in Hays told RSR that she was having a hard time getting friends to commit to the meeting until she mentioned Cauble was running against Connie Morris. From there, the answer was always the same: "I'll be there and I'll bring my check book."


Two real Kansas heroines: Janet Waugh, left, and Sue Gamble both moderate school board members, have been on the front lines this past year fighting the anti-education agenda of the far right majority of the Kansas State School Board. Waugh, who represents the 1st District, is up for re-election this year. Currently, she is running unopposed. Both attended the event in Lawrence this past Saturday sponsored by Kansas Citizens for Science and the National Center for Science Education.

Harry McDonald, left, and Don Weiss, were among the moderate candidates for the Kansas State School Board who attended the Intelligent Design, Kansas Science Education, and the Law forum at the Dole Center in Lawrence Saturday. McDonald, former chairman of Kansas Citizens for Science, a Republican, and Weiss, a Democrat, are both running for the 3rd District seat currently held by right-winger John Bacon.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Can't Stand on the Sidelines Anymore

Last night, we linked to a report by Josh Rosenau about the MAINstream Coalition meeting in Lawrence last Thursday. In the comments, Diane Silver called our attention to a post on her aptly named blog -- In This Moment: An Uncommon Blog of Hope and Politics.

Silver is a former wire service editor and newspaper reporter who once covered the Kansas Statehouse for The Wichita Eagle who describes herself as a mother, a political gadfly -- RSR likes gadflies -- and a frustrated citizen who feels like she can’t stand on the sidelines anymore.

Her post, "January 25, 2006: The birth of the movement to take back Kansas," was just too good to leave buried in the comments section. That's why we're promoting it up here. In her post, Silver asks how you know when you’re present at the birth of a movement. "Is there a particular day, or an instant," Silver wonders, "that you can point to and say 'here is where it started?'"

Silver's writing is exceptional. She is especially good at capturing the dawning recognition among many of us that the pendulum is beginning, finally, to swing the other way. Her experience as a frustrated citizen who feels she can no longer stand on the sidelines anymore is being repeated all across the state of Kansas. More important, those who have resolved to take back Kansas no longer feel isolated and alone. They are part of a movement that is self-confident and growing.

Clearly, those lucky enough to be at the MAINstream event in Lawrence came away with a strong feeling for the activism, good sense, determination, and growing power of those who have resolved that enough is enough. It's time -- past time -- to fight back.

Pay Silver's blog a visit and see if you too don't come away with the feeling that big things are shaking in Kansas.


We are experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by...

We had a problem posting our pictures from the panel discussion sponsored by Kansas Citizens for Science and the National Center for Science Education on Saturday at the Dole Center in Lawrence. Blogger didn't like them and wouldn't let us post. Expect several more posts from that event by tomorrow. Sorry for the delay.


Cornell: Darwin Day

Darwin Day at Cornell planned. Events include panel discussions on the future of Darwinism in America and on the state of evolutionary biology; family activities at the Museum of the Earth; a lecture on teaching evolution and creationism; and films, including a new documentary on the controversy over intelligent design and a showing of the classic “Inherit the Wind,” about the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial.”

What are you doing Feb. 12?

Why not plan to attend an event commemorating Darwin's birth in 1809? If you live too far away to attend one of the many planned events around the country, why not rent "Inherit the Wind" and invite a few friends over to watch it with you.


From Scopes to Dover

From The York Daily Record: "Plaintiffs, science teachers and former school board members all were in the education room at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center for a standing-room-only discussion comparing the Dover Area School District's legal battle to the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial."

A fascinating glimpse into the immediate aftermath of a divisive campaign to inject intelligent design into the public school curriculum. It will be interesting to follow Dover in the coming months as the new, more moderate school board begins to pick up the shattered pieces left littered on the floor by their right-wing predecessors.


New Creationist Code Words: Critical Analysis

"A little more than three years ago, Ohio surfaced at the front lines of an emerging culture war: an attack on the teaching of evolution in public high schools that coincided with the State Board of Education's planned review of the science curriculum," writes Lawrence Krauss, director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University, in The Columbus Dispatch.

Ohio-based religious groups created organizations such as Science Excellence for All Ohioans and joined forces with religious lobbying groups, including the Intelligent Design Network and the Discovery Institute, with the intent of altering the teaching of science to incorporate explicit theistic notions, such as divine creation, under the rubric of what has become known as intelligent design.

A well-organized effort by these groups resulted in a phrase added to the biology standards directing that students learn "how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

Read more, here.


Richard Katskee of Americans United in Kansas

Richard Katskee, left, assistant legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State with Dover plaintiff's attorney Steve Harvey at the Kansas Citizens for Science Intelligent Design, Kansas Science Education, and the Law event at the Dole Center in Lawrence, Saturday.

Richard Katskee of Americans United expects that we'll see a couple more cases like Dover in the near future. "Some people," says Katskee, "will have to put their hand on the stove."

Katskee expects supporters of intelligent design to pursue four parallel strategies in the coming months. As in the El Tejon case, some school districts will attempt to advocate intelligent design in classes other than science.

We might also expect intelligent design proponents to arrange for teachers to teach ID on their own, as in Gull Lake, Mich., and then sue the school board if they are ordered to stop.

Other school boards, notes Katskee, may decide to take a page from the Cobb County school district and place warning labels on biology textbooks.

Finally, supporters of science education and separation of church and state should expect more critical attacks on evolution such as those we are seeing in Kansas, Ohio, and Utah.


Selman Attorney in Kansas

Michael Manley, the plaintiff's attorney who argued Selman vs. Cobb County School Board, attended the Intelligent Design, Kansas Science Education, and the Law event at the Dole Center in Lawrence, Saturday.

Red State Rabble had a chance to discuss the status of the Cobb County School Board's appeal in the Selman case with Michael Manley, the attorney who successfully represented parents opposed to the "evolution is a theory, not a fact" warning labels placed on biology textbooks there.

Readers who have followed the Selman case know that the hearing on the board's appeal of Judge Cooper's decision that the stickers must be removed did not go well for defenders of science education. Although Manley successfully represented the plaintiffs before Judge Cooper, the plaintiffs were represented by Jeffrey O. Bramlett in the appeal.

Greg Land of the Fulton County Daily Report, reported in a Dec. 30 law.com article, that during the arguments, the three-judge panel sounded highly skeptical of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper. They also upbraided Bramlett for making statements about the timeline of the case that 11th Circuit Judge Edward E. Carnes called "just wrong." Carnes demanded a written explanation from Bramlett.

Following the hearing, an article following in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that, "Carnes may have been misinformed by an incomplete trial record.

On Dec. 22, Bramlett filed a 127-page response that said there were two petitions -- the one by Rogers, with more than 2,300 signatures, and delivered to the school board before the books were purchased, and a smaller petition delivered after the sticker plan was implemented.

After receiving Bramlett's response, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Bramlett did not fudge the facts to strengthen his case, according to the Associated Press.

Manley is hopeful that the media attention, combined with the detailed response filed by Bramlett will prompt the appeals court to look more closely at Cooper's decision leading to a favorable ruling. He expects the decision to be handed down sometime in March.


Take Back Kansas

RSR wasn't able to cover it, but Josh Rosenau, the proprietor of the Thoughts from Kansas blog, has a good report on the "Take Back Kansas" event sponsored by the MAINstream Coalition at the Plymouth Congregational Church last Thursday. The event was designed to begin to pull together opposition to the wingnuts who've taken over the the Kansas legislature and state school board.

According to Josh, the event was an enormous success, drawing about 350 participants and a number of moderate candidates from around the state. In our experience, these sort of events are generally sparsely attended, sometimes they attract just the candidates, their staff, and a handful of reporters. We take this well-attended event as further evidence that opposition to the ham-handed policies of the religious right is growing, and will be a key factor in the primary election in August, and the general election come November.

Read Josh's post, here.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Missouri Legislator Rushes In

Our old friend Afarensis has an interesting item on a bill to establish the Missouri Science Education Act. In RSR's opinion, the bill marks a fascinating departure for the Missouri legislature which usually busies itself naming the state bird, having lunch with lobbyists, and other such important business.

Having so successfully cut health-care for the poor last year, the legislature, apparently, has begun to look ahead at what might be accomplished this year. The science education bill, sponsored by Republican Wayne Cooper, is one of those critical analysis bills that has the fingerprints of the Discovery Institute all over it.

Some, more cynical that RSR, might assume Missouri legislators were a bit out of their depth in deciding that, "[i]nformation that represents scientific thought, such as theory, hypothesis, extrapolation, and estimation, among others, must also be distinguished from verified empirical data and may be presented in the light of critical analysis."

The Missouri mules in the legislature may not know a hypothesis from a hole in the ground, but they do know that a "substantive amount of critical analysis is required when teaching a theory of biological origins or current scientific theory that deals with prehistory or the future."


Nebraska Citizens for Science

While stumbling around the Kansas Citizens for Science event at the Dole Center yesterday, RSR ran into Les Lane of Nebraska Citizens for Science. Les is an associate professor in the Plant Pathology Dept. at the University of Nebraska -- Lincoln. He told us he's recently added a page on the ongoing situation in Ohio to the NCFS website. You can view it here.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


ID's Split Personality

In those long-ago days when RSR lived in the Big Apple, we were often accosted on the street by young men who were selling "scense," by which they meant marijuana. As we wove our way down the street between competing sales teams, we were often struck by the paradoxical situation the job of selling drugs placed these guys in. (See correction, below)

On the one hand, they had to be visible enough to move product. On the other, they had to stay hidden in order to avoid arrest and remain on the street.

It strikes us that the theorists charged with pushing intelligent design product on the public find themselves in much the same contradictory situation.

Mind you, we're not saying that what the Dembskis, Behes, and Johnsons of the world do is illegal. Rather, we are saying that they find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They are absolutely required to reassure their creationist public that intelligent design will rout godless evolution from public schools. At the same time, they must publicly deny any religious motivation in order to avoid detection by the church and state separation police.

That's why Steve Abrams' mantra at the Kansas science hearings last May:
"My objective is to get as much empirical science (defined as observable, measurable, testable, repeatable and falsifiable) into the science curriculum standards as possible"
morphed quickly -- in a speech to church-going social conservatives -- as soon as the public hearings were over:
“At some point in time, if you compare evolution and the Bible, you have to decide which one you believe,” Abrams said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Likewise, when William Dembski spoke at the Lied Center at the University of Kansas last Monday, he stressed the scientific nature of intelligent design, but in Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design, a book written for a Christian audience, he writes:

The world is a mirror representing the divine life. The mechanical philosophy was ever blind to this fact. Intelligent design, on the other hand, readily embraces the sacramental nature of physical reality. Indeed, intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.
This contradiction is inherent in intelligent design. ID apologists can spin it, they can deny it, they can try to hide it, but there's nothing they can do to change it. Their supporters will always demand reassurance that ID and God are one, while the legal and political strategy that ID represents demands that they deny it.

Like those long-ago pushers on the streets of New York, ID proponents must keep their motives both hidden and public. They are, and always will be, compelled to lead a double life.

Correction: The original version of this article read, "In those long-ago days when RSR lived in the Big Apple, we were often accosted on the street by young men who were selling 'scents' ... " A number or readers have commented that we got it wrong. The word is "sense" a derivation of "Sensimilla," or "san semilla," meaning without seeds.

Naturally, this error is deeply embarrassing to Red State Rabble, who always considered himself a child of the 60s -- whose very identity, in fact, was shaped by those distant times -- because it calls into question our mastery of the drug lore that was such an important part of the counter-culture back in the day.

It's kind of like being a basketball fan and not knowing who Larry Bird or Michael Jordan are. We are contemplating a long period of introspection...


The Best-known Misdemeanor Trial in American History

Holley Horrell has an interesting report in The Chronicle Online, the independent daily at Duke University, on a lecture by Edward Larson, author of Summer for the Gods, a history of the Scopes Monkey Trial.

The article -- and Larson's lecture, “From Dayton to Dover: A Brief History of the Controversy over Teaching Evolution” -- detail three distinct phases in the history of opposition to evolution. The Scopes Trial (that's the best-known misdemeanor trial) was the central event of the first phase when the creationist strategy was focused on barring the teaching of evolution in public schools.

During the second phase, marked by the publication Henry Morris' 1961 book The Genesis Flood, says Larsen, "the focus of anti-evolution proponents shifted from trying to ban the teaching of the subject toward demanding balanced treatment of both sides."

In the third phase:
... anti-evolution groups adopted a new argument—that Darwinism is just one theory among many. Leading players Philip Johnson and Michael Behe argued for the legitimacy of intelligent design. Larson stressed that when questioned, Behe conceded that there is virtually no scientific content in their theories.

According to Horrell, "[a]udience members of the packed lecture hall responded to Larson’s even-handed treatment of the topic."

Friday, January 27, 2006


Discovery's Propaganda Would Have Made Stalin Blush

Our dear, old, batty friend Casey Luskin, a staff member at the intelligent design-addled Discovery Institute has a post up on the Evolution News and Views blog hailing an article by Richard Cleary in Viewpoint which purports to expose the logical fallacies in Judge John Jones Dover ruling;

He [Judge Jones] tries to show that ID is creationism by showing that it grew out of earlier creationist thinking and that since creationism is religious so, too, must ID be. He also argues at length that most of the proponents of ID are Christians and that they have a religiously inspired agenda and that therefore ID is a violation of the establishment clause of the First amendment to the constitution.

Let's unpack this. The first claim, that ID must be religious, even though it doesn't appear to be, because it evolved from (forgive me) creationism, is silly. Because one theory emerges from the embers of another doesn't entail that it necessarily bears all or even many of the traits of the other. Modern theories of the atom are all descendents (sic)of Democritus' belief that such entities exist, but the belief that there are atoms pretty much exhausts the similarities between the modern and the ancient views. Modern chemistry is directly descended from alchemy but chemistry is not alchemy. It is logically illicit to infer that because ID is a descendent (sic) of creationism it is therefore creationism in disguise.

We'll skip over the fact that modern theories of the atom are based -- not on Democritus, but -- on evidence gathered from observations of the natural world. We won't even bother with the fact that alchemy has been rejected -- for the same reason scientists reject intelligent design -- because the beliefs of the alchemists were found to have no correspondence with the real world.

The reason Judge Jones ruled that intelligent design is nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo is that irrefutable evidence was presented in court proving it was so.

One of those pieces of evidence, among the many presented, was the fact that the authors of the creationist/intelligent design textbook, Of Pandas and People, performed a crude cut an paste where they razor-bladed the word creation out of the text and pasted the word intelligent design over it -- all without bothering to change the definition of the word.

It's not Judge Jones saying creationism is the same thing as intelligent design. It is the writers, editors, and publishers who put together Of Pandas and People. They said it -- and more damning -- wrote it, and the evidence that they did is inescapable.

Of course, both Luskin and Cleary know this. It is only the willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the followers of intelligent design that allows them to get away with producing the sort of crude propaganda that would have made Stalin blush.

Go ahead, unpack that.

Red State Rabble is one year old today. Sometime in the next few hours, RSR will record its 210,000th hit. We know some of the big blogs would look at this number with deep concern if they didn't beat it by noon most days of the week. We, on the other hand, see ourselves as a boutique sort of operation, and we're absolutely amazed.

In Kansas, 2005 was the wingnut's year. They rammed antiscience standards through the state school board, appointed the woeful Bob Corkins as Education Commissioner, and developed an inordinate fondness for vouchers and charter schools at the expense of educating the state's school children.

2006 is shaping up -- from what we can observe, so far -- as the year sensible people woke up and took back the state school board. The general election is just 10 months away and all the early indicators look good.

Stick with us as moderate Kansans take back their state.


Intelligent Design, Kansas Science Education, and the Law

A reminder: Eric Rothschild, lead plaintiff attorney in the Dover intelligent design case, and Steve Harvey, an attorney on the plaintiff's team, will speak on the Dover case tomorrow, Saturday, January 28, from 1-5 pm at the Dole Center for Politics in Lawrence, Kansas. Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, will speak on how the Dover case may impact Kansas.


The Biggest Pup Tent on the Plains

Republican activists plan to meet Saturday to draft their state party platform, according to the Associated Press. "The document opposes abortion, gay marriage and state-operated casinos. It also advocates school choice and alternatives to evolution in science classes. Some say the document is exclusionary and will be used to purge moderate and liberal Republicans from the party."


Sympathy for the Devil

"[Jack] Abramoff says he committed serious breaches, so I assume he did. But, really, what moral purpose does his continuing public degradation serve? How about a bit of sympathy?"

-- David Klinghoffer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author, most recently, of "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History"
The late embrace of moral relativism by the right-wing is truly a marvel to behold. Now if they would just offer a bit of sympathy to gays and the other victims of their intolerance, as well.


Closely Reasoned

"In a nutshell, the secularist religion [evolution] says, 'Everything originated by accident from nothing (the Big Bang). Biological entities were not created by an intelligent designer, they simply all grew out of the same tub of primordial pond scum conveniently left behind following the Big Bang (evolution). Thus, there is no God (atheism), so now we're in charge (power). Give us the money.'"

-- WorldNetDaily commentator Craige McMillan.

Is it just us, or have you noticed it, too? They just don't seem to be trying very hard anymore, do they?


Bill Comes Due

The York Daily Record: Judge sets deadlines for Dover to pay up.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


ID in the UK

James Randerson, the science correspondent for the The Guardian reports that four out of 10 people in the UK think that religious alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution should be taught as science in schools, according to a BBC poll.


Teaching Evolution and Avoiding the Minefields

Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education will speak at the Univeristy of Kansas in the Panorama Gallery at the Natural History Museum (Dyche Hall) on Tuesday, January 31st at 5:30 pm.

The Explore Evolution exhibition will be open to visit before and after the talk.


We've updated our world-famous Intelligent Design Stump to reflect the Dover decision, which we believe will come to be known, in time, as the Pennsylvania Chainsaw Massacre.


Hallelujah, Our Very Own Prairie Populist

Here's a brief excerpt from a Rolling Stone article on Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback -- who is gearing up to run for president -- by Jeff Sharlet titled, "God's Senator: Who would Jesus vote for? Meet Sam Brownback:"

"He wants to be president," Bredesen tells the congregation. "He is marvelously qualified to be president." But, he adds, there is something Brownback wants even more: "And that is, on the last day of your earthly life, to be able to say, 'Father, the work you gave me to do, I have accomplished!'"

Bredesen, shrunken with age, leans forward and glares at Brownback. "Is that true?" he demands.

"Yes," Brownback says softly.

"Friends!" The old man's voice is suddenly a trumpet. "Sam . . . says . . . yes!"

The crowd roars. Those occupying the front rows lay hands on the contender. Brownback takes the stage. He begins to pace. In front of secular audiences he's a politician, stiff and wonky. Here, he's a preacher, not sweaty but smooth, working a call-and-response with the back rows. "I used to run on Sam power," he says.

"Uh-uh," someone shouts.

To quiet his ambition, Brownback continues, he used to take sleeping pills.

"Oh, Lord!"

Now he runs on God power.



Evolution and Intelligent Design: Schools, Politics, and Participation

Red State Rabble has received the following report from kdn in Western Kansas:

Evolution and Intelligent Design: Schools, Politics, and Participation, a panel discussion hosted by The American Democracy Project at Fort Hays State University proved an interesting counter-point to all the hoopla Monday in Manhattan and Lawrence.

Moderator Paul Faber promised to shed "more light than heat" on the subject, and that is precisely what happened, as a packed audience in the FHSU Student Union listened, and asked questions.

"More light than heat" meant that the forum was long on definitions, clarifications, and case law, and remarkably short on posturing. The panelists found themselves in agreement on many points; evolutionists saw a need for philosophy in at least some areas of school study, while advocates of Intelligent Design admitted that absent some dramatic discovery, ID is open to criticism sufficient to keep it out of science classrooms.

Panelists were well-versed in their fields, but were not the kind of highly-paid consultants we've grown weary seeing. Moderator Paul Faber, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is a Philosophy professor. Greg Farley, Associate Professor of Biology, represented evolutionary biology. Fr. Craig Brown, of St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Hays, took the ID side, while Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, Science instructor at Hays High School, discussed the changes to Kansas Science Standards.

Two professors of Political Science, Shala Mills, and department Chair Richard Heil, provided insight into case law and the mechanics of voting in the upcoming KSBE elections.

The time allotted for discussion ran out after four questions from the audience, but Moderator Faber continued the discussion, fielding seventeen more questions from those in attendance.

If anything, the audience took with them a new view of the KSBE and their role in the science standards controversy, as a number of their more injudicious public comments were revealed, along with dates and places.

A case was made that the recent Kitzmiller v. Dover decision has applicability in Kansas.

Finally, this correspondent came away from the discussion with the new confidence that compromise is achievable. Science need not be completely divorced from philosophy, but rather, the two need better safeguards and compartmentalization.

It was truly amazing to see what can happen when there is "more light than heat."

RSR is amazed by the committment, activism, and consistent good sense of the community of science supporters located in Western Kansas. We think Connie Morris is in for the fight of her life.


Florida Science Curriculum

UPI: "Florida's public school science curriculum won't be updated until 2008, reportedly to avoid an evolution fight until Gov. Jeb Bush leaves office...

"The two leading Democratic candidates to replace Bush -- U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and state Sen. Rod Smith -- have opposed the teaching of intelligent design in public school science classes... "


Dover: Little White Lies

Christina Kauffman has written a fascinating profile on Tammy Kitzmiller -- the named plaintiff in the Dover intelligent design trial -- for The York Dispatch.

It won't surprise many who've followed the Dover trial to learn that "[d]ishonesty lights a fire in this otherwise shy and reserved woman."

In fact, writes Kauffman, around the Kitzmiller house, "you'd be better off getting a "D" on a report card than letting a little white lie roll off your lips."

It's almost -- but not quite -- enough to make RSR take pity on Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham, the truth challenged intelligent design advocates on the Dover school board, who obviously had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they dissembled their way into court.


Study Break

A research paper assigned in a 10th-grade biology class at Franklin High School in Macon County, North Carolina has sparked a local controversy, according to the Smoky Mountain News.
“The student is to present SPECIFIC SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCES for BOTH SIDES of the debate,” according to the teacher’s instructions. Students were given specific
topics to expound on: the age of the earth, radiometric dating, dinosaurs, Darwin’s theory, and the fossil record, among others.

“Make your argument using SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCES to support your stance,” the
teacher’s instructions stated.

That's the kind of assignment RSR used to love. Listing the scientific evidences for creationism or intelligent design wouldn't take any time at all. With an assignment like this, you're half done before you even start.


What Science Is

"Science is based on things you can observe with any of your five senses," says Gloria Schuman, an Ohio biology teacher of ten years, "and intelligent design does not fit in."

Feeling it with your holy spirit antenna doesn't count.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Audio of Dembski's KU Speech Available Online

Kansas Citizens for Science has posted the audio of William Dembski's "Case for Intelligent Design" speech at the University of Kansas Lied Center on its website. Listen, here.

It's been broken into sections so that those who've heard the evidence for intelligent design criticisms of evolution before can go directly to the Q&A. Makes good listening.


Darwin's Foes: Their Own Worst Enemy?

Writing a post mortem on the El Tejon "Philosophy of Design" fiasco, Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, observes that Darwin's foes may have become their own worst enemy.

The month-long "Philosophy of Design," course, writes Haynes, is nothing but a "thinly disguised attempt to challenge evolution by promoting intelligent design and creationism."

A wide variety of philosophical and religious views are currently discussed in social studies classes nationwide, and Haynes observes that "some public schools have offered electives in world religions and philosophy for years without controversy."

To pass constitutional muster in a public school, a philosophy or religion course must be done right, notes Haynes, unfortunately, El Tejon got it wrong.

Haynes lists a number of indicators that set off alarms that the class was not intended to be objective:

"Since the teacher has no academic preparation in the topics covered, students wouldn't get any critical analysis of these presentations," writes Haynes, viewing one-sided videos in an intellectual vacuum is propaganda, not education.


Darwin Day in Western PA

Duquesne University is hosting its 4th Annual Darwin Day, featuring Derek Briggs, one of the world's experts on the fossils of the Cambrian period and president-elect of the Paleontological Society. Learn about all of Duqesne's Darwin Day events, here.


Blue Valley Victory: Novels Stay on Reading List

"The Blue Valley school board on Monday said that parents who challenged Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon and The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy had failed to prove that the books violated the district’s policy for choosing learning resources," according to Melodee Hall Blobaum of The Kansas City Star.

"The Conroy and Morrison books were affirmed in 5-1 votes, with board member Dan French casting the dissenting vote. Boy’s Life was approved 5-0. French disqualified himself because he had not read the book."

One thing we're learning about these wingnuts, they aren't readers.


Utah Senate Votes to "Teach the Controversy"

The Utah Senate voted 16-12 Monday for legislation sponsored by Sen. Chris Buttars forcing teachers who teach human origins to to tell their students evolution is a controversial theory.


God, Science, Politics and Your School

You can now watch "God, Science, Politics and Your School" with Linda Ellerbee online at TurboNick. Ken Miller explains evolution. Michael Behe makes the case for ID. Eugenie Scott explains why ID is creationism in disguise. Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science makes an appearance, as does ID advocate John Calvert.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


If Vatican Gets It. Why not the Ohio School Board?

An editorial in the Akron Beacon-Journal notes that the Vatican embraces Darwin. They ask, if
the Catholic Church gets it. Why not the Ohio school board?


Dembski Flops In Oz

William Dembski answers audience questions in an appearance at the University of Kansas Lied Center last night.

William Dembski, the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Science and Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and author of The Design Inference : Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities, came to Kansas -- the promised land for activists who oppose evolution -- to make his case for intelligent design at an event sponsored by the Campus Crusade for Christ, last night.

Darwin was undoubtedly a great man, with a great idea, Dembski told the audience of roughly 1,200 people at the Lied Center on the University of Kansas in Lawrence, but evolution is not the whole story. In the 150 years since Darwin, he asserted, evolution has proven itself "global disciplinary failure" unable to integrate evidence from the ongoing revolution in molecular biology.

While evolution is able to explain "small scale changes" within species, said Dembski, it has failed to explain the sudden explosion of life forms during the Cambrian period, how a complex structure such as a cell -- which he described as displaying the complex engineering of an automated city -- or biological structures like the bacterial flagellum.

The audience was polite, applauding at both the introduction and conclusion of Dembski's hour-long talk, although the applause that greeted Dembski grew more tepid as the evening wore on.

Catherine Odson, a reporter for The University Daily Kansan described the evening this way:

Insistent, assertive questions nagged Monday night’s speaker, who felt his explanation of the scientific evidence of intelligent design fell upon “deaf ears.”

Audience members awarded both applause and laughter to the questioners who stepped publicly into the controversy over intelligent design in Kansas.

Dembski, who may have been led to expect a warmer reception for his ideas -- he was in Kansas, after all -- seemed to grow testy as questioner after questioner expressed doubt about his assertion that evolution is a failed theory and that patterns in nature are best explained as a result of intelligence.

Dembski, who was both expansive and patient early in the question and answer period -- even allowing follow up questions -- became more combative, frequently interrupting questioners to ask them to get more quickly to the point, as it became clear that many in the audience, perhaps a majority, remained unconvinced.

One young woman, apparently frustrated by the apparent sophistry of Dembski's demand that evolution explain every single step in the evolution of bacterial flagella, while refusing to provide a similar step by step explanation of how intelligent design might have acted to create biological structures, repeatedly asked Dembski to cite physical data or observations that support intelligent design.

Dembski responded by saying that she was asking him to give a different talk. After further prodding, he urged her to read one of his papers.

A number of other questioners pointedly remarked that Dembski's case for intelligent design was more a critique of evolution than a recitation of evidence supporting ID.

Surprisingly, there were almost no questions from the large contingent of Campus Crusade for Christ members in the audience.

It may be that biblical literalists, who make up the largest potential constituency for Dembski's ideas, found that the first swallow of intelligent design theory went down smoothly enough, but the more they heard from Dembski as the evening wore on, the more conscious they became of an unpleasant aftertaste the theory tends to leave in the mouths of those who are motivated primarily by biblical literalism.

Those doubts about the utility of ID theory for those motivated primarily by a belief in young earth creationism might have been reinforced by Dembski's admission that he accepts scientific evidence indicating the earth is 4.5 billion years old and existed long before the advent of human beings.

Dembski's chilly intellectualism, with its focus on information theory, bacterial flagella, and the mathematics of design detection, must seem somewhat remote and unappealing to evangelicals who seek a warmer, more emotional connection to God.


Sue Gamble Urges Support for Kansas Alliance for Education

Moderate Kansas State School Board member Sue Gamble has written constituents asking them to support and contribute to the goals of the Kansas Alliance for Education. Gamble has been a strong defender of common sense and moderation on the board. Here's what she has to say:

I have received many e-mails over the last year about a wide range of subjects, from science, sex education standards, school finance, and selection of the Kansas Commissioner of Education, to the Commissioner’s attempt to introduce legislation to provide vouchers and charter schools outside the supervision of local boards of education.

All of your messages had one thing in common - you strongly disagreed with the actions of the six-member ultra-conservative majority on the Kansas State Board of Education and the new Commissioner of Education.

The Kansas Alliance for Education is non-partisan and is committed to supporting the right candidates in the Kansas State Board of Education races in 2006. The Kansas Alliance for Education has adopted the following principles:

The Kansas Alliance for Education has formed a Political Action Committee that is raising money to inform the public about issues pertinent to the State Board of Education. This money is needed to pay for television ads, newspaper ads, and direct mailings to educate about the issues.

All this will be expensive but necessary to ensure a large voter turnout for these important races. The Kansas Alliance for Education will also stress the urgency of voting in the 2006 Primary and General Elections and provide information about their endorsed candidates.

Please help this brave group of citizens make a difference in Kansas public education. Your contribution will help retain Janet Waugh, the moderate past president of the board, and help defeat the four ultra-conservative members up for election in 2006: John Bacon, Iris Van Meter, Ken Willard, and Connie Morris. Please contribute today.

The Kansas Alliance for Education intends to use electronic communication for fund raising as much as possible because it is so cost effective and easy to use. And here's another benefit – electronic communication gives supporters like you more opportunities to get involved.

This is going to be true grass roots politics but it won’t happen without your help. Please visit www.ksalliance.org today and make a contribution.

Sincerest regards, Sue Gamble

PS: I know we have just finished the holidays and everyone feels really broke; however, returning Kansas education to a common sense moderate base is imperative. Currently KAE estimates that they will need over $500,000 to accomplish the goal of defeating the four ultra-conservatives and retaining Janet Waugh. So, please dig deep and ask others to do the same.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Honesty Is the Best Policy

"Allow me to comment on the controversy over intelligent design. Yes, it is creationism, and I'm not ashamed to say that I support it. I am a creationist, dismissing the theories of Darwin. I say this despite having been a public school student in high school and having my time monopolized by outlandish theories that smack the faces of every God-believing citizen."

Sometimes, when RSR's head is reeling from watching the dervish-like spinning of Casey Luskin and the rest of the truthiness squad at the Discovery Institute, it's like a breath of fresh air to read a letter by an honest-to-god, old-school creationist like Mr. Mellon of Valley Station, Ky.

Thanks to sharp-eyed reader BF for calling this bit of counter-spin to our attention.


Corkins' Extreme Team: Sometimes a Great Notion

In the early, heady days after he was appointed Kansas Education Commissioner, Bob Corkins, his transition team, and fellow wingnuts on the state school board -- aka the Extreme Team --had a truly brilliant idea.

They would sell scholarships vouchers to the people of Kansas. There was just one problem. They forgot to ask whether anybody actually wanted them.

Turns out nobody did, and now the voucher proposal is on hold.

It's no surprise that Corkins and the Extreme Team didn't bother to ask the state's moderate majority what they thought about vouchers. A bit more puzzling is the fact that they didn't bother to ask the administrators of private, religious schools -- the ostensible beneficiaries -- either.

“I was a little surprised to read in the paper that they were considering it,” Jack Herbert, principal of the Abilene Baptist Academy told Michael Strand of The Salina Journal. “I wondered who they asked.”

“My question is, if this is being proposed, I’m sure the impetus is from parents — but the people it would ultimately affect the most is the private education community — they ought to sit down and ask us,” adds Herbert.

David Awbrey, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Education, confirmed private schools were not involved in drafting the voucher plan, according to Strand.

“Certainly there was not a broad vetting process, a broad consultation process,” Awbrey said. He said he thinks it’s unlikely vouchers will be proposed again any time soon.
Don't worry about the wasted time, money, and education department resources, though. “It was a good learning experience for Bob that you just can’t do it alone,” Awbrey says.

Funny thing is, not only were the intended recipients of the taxpayer's largess not consulted, they don't even want to have anything to do with it.
“I’ve never seen government money that didn’t have strings attached,” said Janice Krause, principal at Salina Christian Academy.

“Our goal is to share Christ from a Biblical perspective through spiritual, academic and social experiences. We can do without government money — we are now,” she said. She said that the more state rules parochial schools must follow, the less difference there would be between them and the public schools.
Corkins and the Extreme Team tried to sell vouchers to the public by claiming that special education and at-risk students would have been eligible for tax-funded scholarships to private religious schools, but that's not a service they plan to provide:
For a student whose disability is severe enough to require one-on-one attention for the entire day, “We look to the public schools,” Krause said.

She readily admits that’s one reason — along with teachers willing to work for lower pay and a heavy reliance on volunteers — that her per-student costs are less than half the typical public school.
Like the group-think-intoxicated corporate team that decided to market Scrambled Eggs on a Stick, Corkins and his Extreme Team locked themselves in a hermetically sealed chamber designed to protect them from the dangerous influences of the reality-based world outside when they conceived the voucher and charter school sales campaign.

And, at least in this case, they've found themselves just as isolated from their base as they are from the rest of us.


Stay Tuned

Check back tomorrow for RSR's report on William Dembski's appearance at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Dembski will address the faithful in a meeting at the Lied Center sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.



Utah State Sen. Chris "Divine Design" Buttars has Phil Plait, over at the Bad Astronomy blog playing whack-a-mole. You know where the little mole pops up out of a hole, you whack it down, and it pops up in another hole?

Wander over and see what Phil has to say.


Steve Abrams Work Is Never Done

Steve Abrams, the chairman of the Kansas Board of Education wants to know if he can use state obscenity laws to force schools to remove controversial literature, according to David Klepper, the Kansas City Star Topeka correspondent.
“Some of the things passing for literature in our schools … I wouldn’t want my kids reading it,” he said. “I want to hear what state statute is.”
For more than a year now, students, teachers, parents, and administrators in the Blue Valley School District in suburban Kansas City area have successfully rebuffed the efforts of a small group of right-wing religious fundamentalists to ban from reading lists Pulitzer, PEN, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle award winning literature such as:

Of course, PEN, the National Book Critics Circle, The National Book Award committee, and the Pulitzer Prize committee don't have anything like the qualifications for judging what is literature and what is not that a vet from Arkansas City has.


Corkins Disses Wichita

Controversial Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins will speak to the Wichita school board today, but he'll spend his day touring schools in Maize.

That has some Wichita board members questioning his motives according to Icess Fernandez of The Wichita Eagle.

"With us being the largest district you would wonder what his agenda is," said board member Shirley Jefferson. "I think actions speak louder than words."


Eugenie Scott: Defending Science With Rationality and Resolve

Wherever evolution education is under attack by creationist thinking, Eugenie Scott will be there to defend science -- with rationality and resolve -- says Steve Mirsky in a profile in the February edition of Scientific American.


The Constitution and Religious Freedom

“The Constitution was written by people who had a sense of coming here for religious freedom, and (because of that) they tried to keep a lot of religion out of the Constitution,” says Ben Scheyer.

Scheyer took part in a class at Nebraska Wesleyan University last week that offered a wide-ranging discussion of creationism and evolution taught by Jim Hewitt, an adjunct history professor.

The goal of the class, Hewitt says, wasn’t to convince the students of any particular viewpoint, but to help them evaluate arguments on all sides.

Bob Reeves of the Lincoln Journal-Star has a report on the way right way to teach this issue.


The Evolution of Divine Design

"In the wake of the Dover decision, Buttars has been careful to point out that his bill makes no mention of ID. However, stripped to its essentials, SB96 is simply the Dover policy with ID removed. Both single out the science of origins for special treatment in public policy and take the 'evolution is just a theory' approach to defining curriculum," writes Chris Rohrer, an environmental scientist for the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, in a commentary published in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Utah Sen. Chris Buttars has introduced legislation to "teach the controversy."

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Pennsylvania: Darwin Day Teach-In

The University Of Pennsylvania Museum will hold a free Darwin Day And Evolution Teach-In Sunday, February 12, 1:00 To 5:00 P.M. More information, here.


Mormons Debate Intelligent Design

In response to what he calls a fatwa issued by LDS theologian Joe Maynard decreeing that membership in the Church of Latter Day Saints requires a literal interpretation of the Creation as well as support for intelligent design, Thomas Reed Grover of Logan, Utah has this to say:
I am LDS - born in the covenant, got my Eagle Scout award, served a mission, love funeral potatoes, was married in the temple and I think green Jell-O with carrot shavings is fetch’n tasty. And I know that the earth is older than 6,000 years and that evolution offers irrefutable facts (a semantic argument about the word “theory” is hardly sufficient refutation).

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Ohio: Fordham Science Curriculum Evaluator Angry

From the The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio board member Michael Cochran used the "B" the Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave Ohio during a board meeting on Jan. 10 to justify approving the lesson.

"When evidently somebody on that board said our B grade shows that we thought the lesson is OK, that really (upset me). This is a very bad lesson," said Paul Gross, who wrote the Fordham Institute report.

"The whole thing is dishonest. The whole thing is a Trojan horse."

... Washington University biologist Ursula Goodenough said she and the four other members of the Fordham Institute committee supported Gross’ evaluation.

RSR is curious, when people in Ohio buy a dozen eggs, do they shop for Grade B eggs?


Ohio: Sweetness and Light

As a fan of college basketball, and in particular, the Kansas Jayhawks, Red State Rabble has always found it highly amusing when fans sitting in the student section open newspapers and pretend to read during introductions for the visiting team.

We find it less amusing, however, when it's done by elected public officials, as was the case last week with intelligent design advocates who are members of the Ohio School Board:

At one point, Cochran opened a newspaper, joining Baker who had been reading since the board first began debating the issue hours earlier.

The display prompted Brian McEnnis, an Ohio State math professor, to ask, "I would appreciate, sirs, Mr. Cochran and Mr. Baker, if you would refrain from public displays of rude behavior by reading the newspaper when I’m . . ."

Cochran interrupted: "I’m going to do what I want to do when I’m sitting at this table without any type of . . . "

"Mr. Cochran," interrupted board President Sue Westendorf , an appointed member from Bowling Green, banging her gavel. " . . . interruption by you," Cochran continued. "If you say something appropriate, I’ll listen to it."

Yesterday, Cochran and Fink said they may have gone too far in some of their remarks to witnesses but stopped short of apologizing.


How Fundamentalism Makes Atheists of Believers

"I thought I heard in (Buttars') statement that if one doesn't vote for this, then one could be considered an atheist," said Utah Senate Majority Leader Pete Knudsen, R-Brigham City during the debate over Sen. Chris Buttar's bill that would make schools teach that evolution is not the only scientific theory about the origins of humans. "If that was the implication, that concerns me greatly. That is not the spirit in which we should discuss this legislation,'' Knudsen said. "There is a place for evolution in life, it's a part of life. It saddens me that one's faith would be challenged on a vote of this bill. I vote no.''

According to religious extremists like Buttars, anyone who isn't a biblical literalist is, by definition, an atheist. Although public opinion polls consistently show that non-believers are a tiny minority of the population in this country, the fundamentalist re-definition of atheism has turned us, overnight, into an overwhelming majority.


Utah Sen. Chris Buttars: Then and Now

Then: "The campaign to eliminate God from the public forum has been going on for decades, having accelerated greatly since the Supreme Court's ill-advised decision in 1963 to eliminate prayer from public schools. And I believe those fighting against the teaching of intelligent design in schools have an ulterior motive to eliminate references to God from the entire public forum.

"The argument over classroom discussion of evolution vs. divine design is just the latest attack on everything that would mention a belief in God."
-- Utah Sen. Chris Buttars in an August 8, 2005 USAToday Op-Ed

Now: "I've never advocated for, never included anything about intelligent design, creationism or any faith-based philosophy.. (Opponents) say what you're trying to do is sneak the camel's nose inside the tent. By inserting these two words, it becomes 100 percent clear that we're talking about various scientific views.''
-- Utah Sen. Chris Buttars Yesterday


Utah: Buttars Dazzles Them With Science

KUTV in Salt Lake City reports that the "Utah Senate gave its first blessing Friday to a bill that would make schools teach that evolution is not the only scientific theory about the origins of humans.

"Sponsored by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, the bill was passed by a 17-12 vote after nearly an hour of debate. The bill needs one more affirmative Senate vote before moving on to the House for consideration.

"Buttars amended his own bill, inserting the word 'scientific' in several places to clear up what he said were misperceptions that he was trying to push religion into public schools."

Friday, January 20, 2006


South Carolina "Experts" Named

Wednesday, South Carolina State Sen. Mike Fair refused to name the "experts" he has asked to advise the state's Education Oversight Commission on teaching alternatives to evolution, according to Bill Robinson of The State.

Thursday, the EOC let the cat out of the bag by announcing their names.

They are -- you're just going to love this -- Richard von Sternberg, a researcher at the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Washington, D.C., and Rebecca Keller, president of an educational science product company and a former chemistry research professor in Albuquerque, N.M.

In 2004, von Sternberg published a review article by the Discovery Institute's Stephen C. Meyer in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington titled "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories"

In Meyer's Hopeless Monster Wes Elsberry concluded that the paper is "a rhetorical edifice [constructed] out of omission of relevant facts, selective quoting, bad analogies, knocking down strawmen, and tendentious interpretations."

Predictably, the publication ignited a storm of controversy among members of the Biological Society, and it was withdrawn in the next issue, accompanied by this statement:
The paper by Stephen C. Meyer in the Proceedings... represents a significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124-year history. It was published without the prior knowledge of the Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, or the associate editors. We have met and determined that all of us would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings.

After completing his term as editor of the proceedings, von Sternberg claimed he was a victim of discrimination by others in the science community who objected to publication of the article.

Rebecca Keller is a signer of "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" that states:

Public TV programs, educational policy statements, and science textbooks have asserted that Darwin’s theory of evolution fully explains the complexity of living things. The public has been assured, most recently by spokespersons for PBS’s Evolution series, that “all known scientific evidence supports [Darwinian] evolution” as does “virtually every reputable scientist in the world.”

The following scientists dispute the first claim and stand as living testimony in contradiction to the second. There is scientific dissent to Darwinism. It deserves to be heard.

Keller also defended Rio Rancho Science Policy 401, that encouraged science teachers to discuss explanations for the origin of life other than evolution. Keller in her commentary Albuquerque Journal commentary, Keller asked ,"what is really happening in Rio Rancho and across the country? Is it a sneaky effort by creationists to get a Trojan horse into the classroom? Is it a conspiracy by the fundamentalist right to take over the country?"

"No," says Keller, "What's really happening in Rio Rancho is that because the theory of evolution is being taught without the possibility of criticism or objective dialog, people recognize that it amounts to "religion" being passed off as science."

However, an editorial in the Albuquerque Tribune titled "Shame on the Rio Rancho Board of Education" concluded that "that board majority last month imposed its cloaked religious views on students in the Rio Rancho district - in possible violation of state education policy, the New Mexico Constitution and the revered First amendment of the U.S. Constitution."


Ohio School Board: Living the Controversy

"State Board of Education members lashed back at audience members who criticized the state's lesson plan for questioning evolution, reading a personal e-mail from one speaker and reading newspapers as another person spoke, a newspaper reported Friday," according to the Associated Press.

The confrontations during the public comment section of last week's meeting happened after journalists left, said The Columbus Dispatch, which obtained a tape of the meeting.

Gov. Bob Taft's office has received some angry letters, and Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said the governor expects board members to act professionally toward each other and the public. Some board members are appointed by the governor, but the harshest comments came from elected members.


Killing the Messenger

If a teacher gave every student in her class an "F" for the semester, and those students had good grades in all their other classes, who would we blame, the students or the teacher?

As the Seattle-based intelligent design think tank, Discovery Institute, noted yesterday (again), on its Evolution News and Views blog, their "science education policy stance is often misconstrued, or just outright made up out of whole cloth in various articles, news reports and opinion pieces."

"The misreporting of the evolution issue," which Discovery characterizes as, "sloppy, inaccurate, and in some cases, overtly biased" is a key reason they publish their News and Views blog.

If professional journalists of many ages, races, and sexes, working in a number of mediums, from many news outlets, in many parts of the world, consistently misconstrue intelligent design, whose fault is that?

And, if college-educated adults can't make heads or tails of intelligent design, what can we expect from 10th-grade biology students?


Sinners Repent! Creationism Seminar Slated for Dover High

Repent America, an evangelical organization based in Philadelphia, has announced plans to hold a Creation seminar in the Dover Area High School Auditorium on March 17 and 18.

Repent America describes itself as "devoted to reaching the lost." They know, for example, that "there is a literal hell and a lake of fire where the unsaved will burn for all eternity." Repent America boldly goes where the sinners are in order to reach atheists, the self-righteous, the God-haters, and win their souls to Christ.

Dover, then, is a logical destination, although the good folks of Repent America might be well advised to check first with Pat Robertson to learn whether or not God has scheduled his planned retribution for that secular Sodom sometime around the middle of March.

In a somewhat selective recounting of the Dover ruling, Repent America's website alerts its followers to what they consider the salient point of Judge John Jones 139-page decision: He "was unable to explain how Congress was able to pull off the signing of the Declaration of Independence with references to 'Nature's God' and affirmations that 'all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.'"

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was a deist who had more complicated ideas about God and Christianity than Repent America is likely to be comfortable with.

For example, Jefferson also authored the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom. In his autobiography, he writes:
Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.

While Repent America's simple minded conception of heaven and hell is consistent with it's less than subtle understanding of the Declaration of Independence, they seem, in our estimation, somewhat out of their depth with the more sophisticated thought of a man like Jefferson -- don't take our word for, though, RSR is likely to be spending eternity learning to do the backstroke in a lake of fire.

Thanks to reader JT, a USDA soil scientist, for calling this to our attention.


Intelligent Design: The Movie

Andrew Varnon of the Valley Advocate thinks the just concluded Dover intelligent design trial might have the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster:
... what with the court deciding against Intelligent Design, the film would be more of a George Clooney/Good Night, and Good Luck -type project than a Mel Gibson/Passion of the Christ one. But Inherit the Wind still pisses off the fundamentalists, so maybe the film could score some free publicity å la Passion of the Christ . Think of the marketing possibilities: a campaign with catch phrases like "watch the controversy" could subtly piggyback on the pro-Intelligent Design Discovery Institute's "teach the " language to put butts in the seats.


Gift From God

Ministers are attending a class this week at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg on Dover's intelligent-design battle, according to Lauri Lebo of The York Daily Record.

"The faith I have is a gift from God," says the Rev. Jackie Ahern, a pastor from Somerset County, reports Lebo. She also said that she has great respect for the U.S. Constitution and doesn't think religion should be taught in public school science class.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Jewish Community Reacts to ID

"Jewish educators, parents and attorneys have been deeply involved in the debate, and national organizations have taken public positions on the subject. All are gearing up for the battles to come," according to E.B. Solomont writing in The Forward, a Jewish newsweekly published in New York.

"For large parts of the Jewish community, the notion that the Bible is a source of scientific authority is objectionable. But beyond that, it's probably the most prominent effort today to put religion into public schools, and therefore that causes it to be an important subject for us," said Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress.



In an article published today, Mary O'Keefe, a reporter for the La Cañada Valley Sun, asks how insulated California is from challenges to the theory of evolution with schools boards in other states like Pennsylvania and Kansas challenging Darwin's theory.

Scott Tracy, president of La Cañada Unified School District's Governing Board, and Jim Stratton, superintendent, have said that no one has approached them requesting Intelligent Design be introduced into the LCUSD curriculum.

Stratton added that if someone did request the change it would be a state matter. Unlike in Pennsylvania, a California school governing board cannot make arbitrary changes in curriculum."We have pledged to teach to the California standards. Intelligent Design is not a standard," Stratton said.


ID's Desperate Cry for Help

Robert Crowther, a staff member at the Discovery Institutes's Center for Science and Culture, has posted back-to-back entries on the Evolution News and Views blog so contradictory in nature they can only be interpreted as a desperate cry for help.

The first, posted Jan. 17 at 1:29 pm is titled, "Then Americans United Okay With Intelligent Design in Philosophy, Now Americans United Seeking To Stamp It Out Across The Board."

Here, Crowther claims that a negotiated settlement to withdraw an elective course titled “Philosophy of Design,” reached by a group of 11 parents, represented by Americans United, and the El Tejon Unified School District, in California, reflects a change of position by AU.

During the Dover trial, writes Crowther, the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said he believed matters of religion and philosophy including, presumably, intelligent design, could be discussed objectively in public schools, but not in biology class.

Now, according to Crowther, with a highly favorable Dover ruling safely tucked in AU's coat pocket, the crafty devils, want to ban the teaching of intelligent design not just in biology class, but in every venue -- even philosophy classes, as the El Tejon suit clearly demonstrates.

Roughly five hours later, at 6:35 pm, Crowther published a second post titled, "Discovery Institute Praises School District for Withdrawing Class Misrepresenting Intelligent Design."

We'll set aside for now whether or not the El Tejon settlement violates Lynn's stipulation that AU doesn't oppose objective discussion of religious concepts, such as ID, in public schools as long as it happens in venues other than biology classes.

We'll refrain from posing this question: Can a class that, according to Crowther, misrepresents ID be considered objective?

We won't even quote Casey Luskin, who was parachuted in by Discovery to tell the El Tejon school board to cancel the class, because, "From what I can tell, this course was originally formulated as if it would promote young earth or Biblical creationism as scientific fact."

What really interests us about these two posts -- and here, we feel compelled to admit to something of a morbid fascination -- is how two wildly contradictory points of view can co-exist inside one person without doing lasting psychological damage.

We have never looked on Crowther or the Discovery Institute as models of consistency, but even for them, the juxtaposition of Crowther's posts must be seen as reflection of extreme duress. A desperate cry for help.

Perhaps an intervention is in order.


Vatican: ID Isn't How Science is Done

The Vatican newspaper has published an article saying "intelligent design" is not science and that teaching it alongside evolutionary theory in school classrooms only creates confusion, according to an Associated Press report.
The article in Tuesday's editions of L'Osservatore Romano was the latest in a series of interventions by Vatican officials — including the pope — on the issue.

The author, Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, laid out the scientific rationale for Darwin's theory of evolution, lamenting that certain American "creationists" had brought the debate back to the "dogmatic" 1800s and said their arguments weren't science but ideology.

"This isn't how science is done," he wrote.

Intelligent design "doesn't belong to science and the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside Darwin's explanation is unjustified," he wrote. "It only creates confusion between the scientific and philosophical and religious planes."


Mormons and Evolution

"The controversy over Darwin's work has come to a head in Utah this week as the Legislature debates a bill by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. SB96, expected to come up before the entire Senate today or Friday, requires that public school science classes teach that not all scientists agree about the origins of life," reports Elaine Jarvik of the Deseret Morning News.

That's the backdrop for a slim little book, hot off the presses, written by Utah Valley State College physics professor William E. Evenson and Brigham Young University biology professor Duane E. Jeffery. Titled "Mormonism and Evolution: the authoritative LDS Statements," the book is a compilation of statements made by or sanctioned by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from 1909 to 2004.

"There has been a belief, for years and years and years, that Mormonism and evolution are diametrically opposed," Jeffery said in a recent phone call. He hopes the book will illuminate the grayer areas of the church's position. Jeffery calls himself a "theistic evolutionist."

Included in the book are four official First Presidency statements released in 1992 by Brigham Young University in a special "evolution packet" for students. In 1999 the packet was distributed to all teachers in the Church Education System.

According to Evenson, "the LDS Church has really been careful over the years not to get into a box where they are taking a position that later gets undermined by science and other developments of human knowledge. I don't think that's well understood by people who would like to have this be a settled issue."


Hays: Evolution and Intelligent Design: Schools, Politics and Participation

A panel discussion, "Evolution and Intelligent Design: Schools, Politics and Participation," is set for 7:00 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, in the Black and Gold Room of the Memorial Union at Fort Hays State University. The public is welcome to attend and participate in the forum. Members of the audience will be invited to make comments and ask questions following a 30-minute opening session in which panelists will lay the groundwork by discussing the controversy from a variety of perspectives.

Dr. Paul Faber, dean of FHSU's College of Arts and Sciences, will serve as moderator. Panelists include Dr. Greg Farley, associate professor of biological sciences at FHSU; Father Craig Brown, pastor of St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Hays; Dr. Shala Mills, associate professor of political science at FHSU; Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, a science teacher for Hays USD 489; and Dr. Dick Heil, chair of FHSU's Department of Political Science and Justice Studies.

A webcast of the forum will be available at www.fhsu.edu following the event

The forum is co-sponsored by The Hays Daily News and FHSU's American Democracy Project.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Authoritarianism, Secrecy, and Incompetence: The New, New Thing

South Carolina State Sen. Mike Fair is pushing to give teachers alternatives to evolution but he won’t identify the people he has asked to advise a state panel, according to Bill Robinson of The State.

Reportedly, Fair invited two "experts" to advise the school reform oversight agency, which is evaluating the standards for teaching the origins of life. He promised the two advisers he would protect their identities to minimize scrutiny of their views and credentials prior to their appearance before an EOC subcommittee next week.

Only in the reality-based world are experts required to have credentials.

Authoritarianism, secrecy, and incompetence is now the new, new thing.


Divine Design Move Ahead

From a report by Douglas C. Pizac published in Deseret News in Utah: "Following testimony on the merits of Darwin's theory of evolution, a bill the sponsor hopes will prevent talk that humans evolved from apes cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday.

"The Senate Education Standing Committee voted 4-2 to send SB96, sponsored by Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, to the full Senate for debate."

In defending his bill, Buttars demonstrated that he's picked up his game based on coaching points from the Seattle-based Discovery Institute:

The bill makes no mention of intelligent design or evolution, according to Pizac. "Rather, it focuses on avoiding "the perception that all scientists agree on any one theory, or that the state endorses one theory over another" regarding life's origin, "in order to encourage students to critically analyze theories regarding the origins of life . . . or present state of the human race."

"There is no faith-based in here. They're all inferring that. I don't know why they're doing that," Buttars said. "All the bill says is, don't overstate what you don't know."


Kansas: The Next Battlefield

Philip M. Boffey, a New York Times editorial board member who writes about science issues, has a long "Talking Points" piece on intelligent design in the Op-Ed section of today's Times. He points out that critics of evolution have been "coming up with new strategies that are far more subtle than past attempts to either ban the teaching of evolution outright or inject the teaching of creationism alongside it."

Boffey examines the legal history of the evolution wars, beginning with the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" trial, with a particular focus on the impact of the Dover ruling last December, and Judge Clarence Cooper's District Court ruling in the Cobb County sticker case.

"It is always risky to guess how judges will rule on a case before them," notes Boffey, "but the federal appeals court panel that heard the [Cobb County] appeal may be inclined to reverse the lower court's decision that the sticker is unconstitutional. Journalists covering the oral arguments in December described the three judges on the panel as skeptical, critical and hostile in their questioning of the decision."

"The next major battlefield," writes Boffey, "may turn out to be Kansas."

Lots of background in this piece that makes it worth spending some time with.


The American Eugenics Movement -- Learning from History

We hear quite often from old school proponents of creationism and their more cutting-edge cousins, the intelligent design "theorists," that Neo-Darwinism, by which they mean the scientific understanding of the common ancestry of all living species, is single-handedly responsible for the ills of Western Civilization.

Dr. Richard Weikart, a fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, and the author of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, for example, argues that the theory of evolution has played a key role not only in the rise of eugenics, but also in euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis.

In an exchange of views published on Red State Rabble, Weikart furthermore maintains that a direct link between Charles Darwin, the theory of evolution, and social Darwinism has been conclusively proven.

"It is dismaying to see such opinions being passed off as results of scholarly research," says Sander Gliboff, of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University, in a review of Weikart's book.

"The book's few merits only deepen the dismay because they suggest that Weikart knows better," continues Gliboff. "His book is rich in primary material, thoroughly documented, and clearly and concisely written... Unfortunately, Weikart only repeats their most outrageous stances on ethics and human evolution and omits their criticisms of the still-Christian (despite Darwin) societies in which they lived. In short, he does not strive for a contextual understanding of the selected writers any more than for an explanation of Hitler. They are only characters in a contrived, cautionary tale against religious apostasy, Darwinism, and free inquiry into the foundations of ethics."

Fortunately, contextual understanding is provided by the Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement, an enormously informative interactive website hosted by the Dolan DNA Learning Center at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The site has recently added upgraded search features, enhanced cross referencing, and interactive images, including 2,500 photographs, letters, articles, and scientific reports related to the eugenics movement.

RSR spent a good part of last night exploring the site, and we strongly recommend it to those who want to learn more about the sad history of eugenics in this country.

We find highly ironic that opponents of evolution on the religious right continue to condemn science for its supposed connection with the eugenics movement in the early part of the last century, even as many of those same high-minded critics of science remain locked in an ugly embrace with latter day social Darwinism, now re-branded as self-reliance, rugged individualism, and the ownership society.

The anti-gay frenzy so much in vogue on the religious right today, held up as a defense of marriage, is but another holdover from the eugenics movement of the early part of the last century.

Real opposition to eugenics these days comes not from creationists or intelligent design proponents on the religious right, but from scientists at places such as the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and from organizations such as the American Medical Association, which, in association with the U.S. Holocaust Museum sponsored a lecture series, and a special exhibition, "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race," at the museum in 2005.

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement reflects an attempt to come to grips with the legacy of the eugenics movement in a serious way. Truly understanding our past, rather than some tendentious charicature offered by those, such as Weikart, who are in thrall to a right-wing religious ideolgy, is an important step in the right direction.

It is no accident that Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is taking a hard look at the past, now. Today, the laboratory is playing an important role in the Human Genome Project. It once served as the Eugenics Record Office during the early part of the last century. As we gain a deeper understanding of the human genome, difficult ethical issues are sure to present themselves. It is crucial that we avoid the mistakes of the past. The Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement is one such effort to do just that.

Readers may also want to take a look at, "The Eugenics Movement, and its Relevance Today," by Jim Regan, in The Christian Science Monitor.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Seeing Through the Eyes of God

Dan Glaister writing in The Guardian (UK) reports from the new front line in creationists' battle to usurp evolutionists in US schools -- El Tejon School District in California where a class, "The Philosophy of Design" is now being taught.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State is in court today representing a group of 11 parents who oppose the class -- a thinly disguised attempt at creationist indoctrination.

Many around the blogosphere have been highly amused over the grotesque gyrations the class has forced on Casey Luskin over at the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog. Luskin, while indignant that Americans United would file suit against the class, has nevertheless found himself in the undignified position of advising the school board there to "avoid creating a dangerous legal precedent" and to "simply cancel the course."

Discovery, it seems, has had enough precedent set over the last couple of months.

Glaister has an interesting insight as to why intelligent design activists are so conflicted:
Smarting from their defeat last month at the hands of a Pennsylvania judge who dismissed the theory as "an interesting theological argument but ... not science", supporters of intelligent design have argued that the course is misleading because it suggests a philosophical rather than a scientific debate. Their intention to present intelligent design within the mainstream of scientific debate is being stymied by the creationists' insistence on seeing everything through the eyes of God.

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