Wednesday, May 31, 2006


The Lobster Pot

Just how dangerous is the religious right? That's a question that Red State Rabble has been asking himself for a long time now, and one, quite frankly, we haven't yet settled satisfactorily in our own mind one way or the other.

On the one hand, religious zealots, once thought to be on the lunatic fringe, now find themselves in positions of real power at the local, state, and national levels. Many of them are being financed by tax dollars provided under the largess of the president's program for faith based initiatives.

On the other hand, it's difficult to see how the religious right will escape their rural base in the South and West to make inroads into urban areas. We see signs that moderates have already grown tired of the fundamentalists machinations in Kansas and are preparing to throw them off the school board here.

Of course, all that could change if the country were to sustain a severe economic shock, another terrorist attack, or some other, as yet unimagined, calamity.

Michelle Goldberg, the author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism believes that for those of us who value secular society, "apprehending the threat of Christian nationalism is tricky. It's like being a lobster in a pot, with the water heating up so slowly that you don't notice the moment at which it starts to kill you."

Read an excerpt from Goldberg's book here.


Building the Biggest Little Pup Tent on the Plains

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, just picked Mark Parkinson, a former legislator and chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, to run with her on the Democratic ticket for lieutenant governor.

Parkinson is the second prominent Kansas Republican to make the switch in recent years. In 2002, Sebelius chose John Moore, a Cessna executive from Wichita as her running mate

Many moderate Republicans point to the rightward drift of the party as a reason for the defections. Most notable is the ultra-right Republican majority on the Kansas State Board of Education, which last year adopted science standards that criticize evolution and hired Bob Corkins, a man with no education experience as the state's education commissioner.

While Sebelius was reaching out across party lines, State Republican Party Chairman Tim Shallenburger reacted by inviting other Republicans to leave the party too, according to Scott Rothschild of the Lawrence Journal-World.

“If you think taxes should be higher and schools should be run by the government, then become Democrats. Make my life simpler,” Shallenburger said.

This may come as news to Shallenburger, but most Kansans Republicans and Democrats believe the schools should be run by the government.


I Say a Little Prayer for Me

God, apparently, isn't just for the pious anymore. Want examples?

Actually, after each of these events RSR briefly entertained the notion that there really is a god after all.


Echoes of War

Michael Ruse, a professor of philosophy at Florida State University who delivered the 2006 Townsend Lecture at the University of South Carolina says the division between evolution and intelligent design parallels that of the North and South following the Civil War. The North, Ruse argues, became "European, modern" and embraced science while the South turned increasingly to the Bible for comfort.

"Evolution is a litmus test for a much deeper cultural divide that we've got in this country. Very much the cultural divide we saw in the last election," said Ruse.


Origins: Another Tantalizing Clue

A group of researchers at Tokyo Medical University has found a never-before-seen microorganism with an imperfect nuclear membrane that fits neither prokaryotes nor eukaryotes. It could be a vital missing link in the evolutionary process.

Creationism and intelligent design will always be stuck right where they are now -- trying to prove that the processes we find in the natural world are adequately described by the biblical story of Genesis. Science, on the other hand, will continue to investigate the natural world, to make new discoveries, and push the frontiers of human knowledge outward.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Dodos at Discovery

Word is going around that filmmaker Randy Olson, whose new film "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution - Intelligent Design Circus," is getting rave reviews and attracting audiences at the Tribeca Film Festival and college campuses around the country, was treated recently to an angry grilling by the Discovery Institute.

From what RSR has been able to piece together, Olson got the Star Chamber treatment from Bruce Chapman, Jonathan Wells, John West, Casey Luskin and Rob Crowther when he met with them at Discovery to discuss their objections to his film.

"Flock of Dodos" which premiered in the Kansas City area has been universally praised by reviewers at a wide range of publications -- from Variety to National Review -- for its even handed approach to a controversial subject.

Apparently, the boys in Seattle aren't too upset at the film's portrayal of intelligent design, but they hate the way Discovery comes across. We hear they spent some two-and-a-half hours telling Olson what they don't like about his film. A good deal of it at high volume.

They don't like the fact that Olson included the Institute's annual budget and its funding by right-wing groups -- many of which are quite upfront about their religious mission -- in the film.

They're also just a bit sensitive to the film's report of their hiring the Creative Response Concepts public relations firm. Can it be that the Discovery Institute finds the firm's PR work for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth too toxic even for them?

Funny, we thought that's why they hired them.

There's more on this floating around. RSR has his ear to the ground. We'll let you know more when we hear it.


You Can Lead a Horse to Water...

"I don't engage with creationists directly," says evolutionary biologist Steve Jones, wo notes that, when he had, they had frequently quoted him out of context or accused him of lying.

"If somebody has decided to believe something - whatever the evidence - then there is nothing you can do about it."


NPR on Kansas School Board

Listen to the NPR story on the Kansas School Board -- which is described as "arguably the most controversial in the country."

Abrams tells NPR he has no problem reconciling his biblical literalism with science.

RSR knows that's true. All Abrams had to do was re-define science and Voila! They are one in the same.


Bridging the Gaps

Anthropologist Jeffrey H. Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh argues that transitional fossils aren't missing. They were never there in the first place.

Schwartz isn't a creationist. He's convinced by the evidence for common descent, but doesn't believe gradualism and adaptation are the mechanisms that drive evolution.

New species, Schwartz believes, emerged suddenly due to genetic alterations that created sharp differences with their predecessors, according to a report by Mark Roth in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Killing for God: The Game

From Talk to Action: "The Purpose Driven Life Takers."

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

The game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, is based on scenes from the first four novels in the series. The game was developed by a publicly-traded company called Left Behind Games.


The Kansas School of the Future?

"Among the parents... there were tales of curious expulsions and strange practices. One mother said her daughter had been removed from school after being accused of wearing the wrong trousers, another that her son had been permanently expelled for smoking.

"A father claimed his son had been sent home for walking the wrong way down the corridor, another that his 16-year-old daughter was kicked out after getting a kiss from her boyfriend at the school gates. And underlying it all was a feeling that Trinity, the third state funded secondary to be run by an evangelical Christian... was pushing an aggressive religious agenda."

No, it's not Kansas. Not yet, anyway. It's a report by Matthew Taylor in The Guardian about a school in England run by Sir Peter Vardy, an evangelical Christian.

However, if the current ultra-right school board retains its majority following the November election, we may well begin to read stories like this about our own Kansas schools.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Cobb County: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

There is a good deal of worry in the country just now about the growing influence of the religious right. It's important to recognize the disastrous effects that the alliance between big business Republicans and the religious right have had on the country. It is also crucial to understand the potential dangers if the religious right were to gain more influence and power. Some people who've recognized the dangers have done more than worry. They've taken action.

At the same time, its important to keep it all in perspective.

We were reminded of this while reading the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Cobb County textbook sticker case yesterday.

As the ruling notes, it had been the school's policy since 1995 to tear the chapter on evolution out of science textbooks there in order to show "respect for the family teachings of a significant number of Cobb County citizens." Under the policy, the subject of the origin of humans would not be taught in the elementary and middle schools. It was not mandatory in high school either. Elective courses on alternative theories of origin, including creation theory, were offered, as well.

The board chose to adopt Ken Miller and Joseph Levine's Biology, which contains a whole unit on evolution, for use in the classroom -- a giant step forward.

Subsequently, the board also bent to pressure from some fundamentalist parents by attaching a sticker to the textbooks that said,
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.

The ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says the federal district court record does not support the finding that the board's decision to place the sticker on textbooks was influenced by a petition and letters from parents challenging the teaching of evolution.
"We simply choose not to attempt to decide this case based on a less-than-complete record on appeal or fewer than all facts," they wrote.

In sending the decision back, the appeals court left it to the lower court to decide whether to start with a clean state and hold a new trial, or merely "supplement, clarify, and flesh out the evidence."

It is clear, from reporting in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that the letters and petitions did have an impact on the school board's decision. It will now be a matter of carefully reconstructing that history through documentary evidence and witnesses to the events in question.

Whatever the outcome, in Cobb County they are no longer tearing the pages from the textbooks. They are teaching real science -- not myth. That's a big step forward.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Cobb Ruling

Read the decision by the by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on the Cobb County sticker case here.


NCSE on Cobb

The National Center for Science Education has a good piece on the Cobb decision, here.


Cobb County Sticker Case Sent Back, May be Retried

AP: "A federal appeals court on Thursday sent back a lower court's order for a suburban Atlanta school district to remove textbook stickers calling evolution "a theory, not a fact," citing a lack of evidence in the case.

"The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the federal district court must determine whether the government's actions are 'religiously neutral.' The ruling by the three-judge panel means the case could be retried.

"'We simply choose not to attempt to decide this case based on a less-than-complete record on appeal or fewer than all facts,' the panel wrote."

Stay tuned for more...


Awbrey: Not House-trained

Sophia Maines of the Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kansas Department of Education spokesperson David Awbrey, in the job for just a few months, may already be thinking about making a career change... again.

At a Kansas City Press Club panel discussion, Awbrey sparked an outcry from moderate school board member Sue Gamble when he said, "Religion is faith in what is unseen. Anyone see the origin? Anyone see the Big Bang? Anyone see the dinosaurs? These are metaphysical speculations."

Maines reports that the controversy may drive him out of the job.

The mess Awbrey made at the press forum has provoked letters to the editor and a couple of articles about his comments in newspapers around the state.
“I haven’t been house-trained in public relations,” Awbrey told Maines Thursday, adding, “I’m going to have to spend some time during the next week or two thinking about where I’m going to go with my career.”

Moderate board member Janet Waugh has joined Gamble in condemning Awbrey's remarks, as well.
“When he is doing his job as public information officer, he should not have an opinion,” said Waugh, who did not attend the forum. “When he is speaking for the board, he should represent the entire board. I think it was totally inappropriate.”

Awbrey now claims he was speaking as an individual, not the Education Department spokesperson. However, he was introduced at the event in his official capacity. He also says that Education Commissioner Bob Corkins told him to go.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Awbrey Spins Remarks

In yesterday's Hutchinson News, Department of Education spokesman David claims that a "pro-evolution" crowd steered a Kansas City Press Club panel discussion off course by questioning statements he made, including an "attack" against him by moderate school board member Sue Gamble.

In fact, those in the audience, including Gamble were not allowed to speak until after the panel discussion ended. Awbrey and Steve Abrams represented the creationist side, while a number of print, radio, and television reporters spoke for the media. No pro-evolution speakers or moderate members of the board were on the panel.

It was during the early part of the program that Awbrey said, "Religion is faith in what is unseen. Anyone see the origin? Anyone see the Big Bang? Anyone see the dinosaurs? These are metaphysical speculations."

Those remarks prompted responses from members of the audience, including Gamble.

"I was disappointed with the way he conducted himself and felt it was out of bounds of his role as a communication director," Gamble said. "I would think the role of the director of communications for the department of education should reflect the education of the state, it's a pretty broad perspective."

Awbrey has tried to spin his unfortunate remarks in a number of way now, but Kansas Citizens for Science has a recording posted on his website that makes clear just how partisan -- and wrong -- Awbrey's performance at the KC Press Club event really was.

BTW, RSR was there, and the fact is, the audience was divided right down the middle.


No Such Thing as Monkeys

Teachers in the northern Quebec town of Salluit have been told by the Kativik School Board not to teach evolution. Apparently teaching evolution to students, aka telling the truth, is culturally insensitive."

"If the town complains and says no, the committee can ask the principal or the director of teachers to approach the teacher and say, 'Look, this is not the subject to be taught here in this town, or in this place, because we know we have been humans from the beginning,'" said Molly Tayara, a member of the community's school committee.

"I don't personally accept my children being taught that they came from some species from Africa somewhere."

"Here in the North there is no such thing as monkeys."

RSR wonders how the Kansas fundamentalists pushing intelligent design would react to having their children taught the Inuit creation story. After all, its just as scientific as theirs.


Half-formed Ideas

"Millions of people are taught that the fossil record is proof of evolution. But, where are there fossils of half-evolved dinosaurs or any other creatures in the fossil record?" asks Babu G. Ranganathan who claims a B.A. in "Bible/Biology."

Is that a double major or a new office at the Kansas Department of Education?


UK Exam Board Reverses Creationism Decision

In the UK, the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) exam board, which recently opened the door to a creationist interpretation of the fossil record, has agreed to review that decision after the British Humanist Association, teaching unions, scientists, educators, and mainstream Christian theologians expressed concern.

Read more here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Blabber Mouth

God has leaked word to Pat Robertson that a tsunami will hit the Pacific Northwest this year. You can listen to Pat spill the beans -- enabling all the sinners to decamp before God's divine retribution can strike -- here.

Now God's just got to deliver. Otherwise our faith in... in... Pat Robertson's judgement will be shaken.


Out There Somewhere

Answers in Genesis leader Ken Ham hasn't taken kindly to a statement by Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno that creationism is a sort of superstitious paganism, akin to the idea of "nature gods" that pagans believed were responsible for natural phenomena such as thunder and lightning.

Ham says that Consolmagno doesn't understand science. Even worse, science has been hijacked by -- you guessed it -- scientists. A guy just can't use God to explain things anymore, complains Ham.
"And so God is 'out there' somewhere," says Ham, "and at the very best you can be a deist or something like that."
Ham's masterful use of the non-sequitur suggests that he might be an ideal candidate to fill in for Stephen Colbert when he goes on vacation. At the very least he should be considered for a correspondent's position on the Daily Show.


Johnson County: Take Back Kansas

Just a reminder, don't forget about the Take Back Kansas Rally scheduled for Wednesday, May 31, at 7:00 pm at the Shawnee Civic Center, 13817 Johnson Drive (1 block west of Pflumm; 2 miles east of I-435)

Speakers include: Sue Gamble, (R), Kansas State Board of Education, District 2; Lori Messinger, KU professor of Social Welfare; Kathy Cook, Kansas Families United for Public Education; Dick Morrissey, Kansas Alliance for Education; Gary Brunk, Kansas Action for Children; and Boo Tyson, MAINstream Coalition.

For full details click on the link under RSR's Events Calendar in the sidebar.


Megachurches: Tightly organized right-wing political machines

Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, tells Lee Coppola, a book reviewer for the Buffalo News that the president's political base comes from the megachurches that dot the nation's exurbs, many of them, in her opinion, nothing more than "tightly organized right-wing political machines."

"Interestingly, she traces the origins of these churches to the disappearance of traditional urban neighborhoods," adds Coppola. "Their occupants moved from the city to suburbs and exurbs, where they knew no one, and found fraternity in religious gatherings that fulfilled not only their spiritual, but also their social needs."


Kansas Vs. Darwin

Filmmaker Jeff Tamblyn who recently completed "Kansas vs. Darwin," a film about the Kansas State School Board's sham science hearings last summer, will be a guest on KCUR’s popular talk show, "Up To Date" with Steve Kraske at 11:00 am on Friday.

KCUR can be heard in the Kansas City area at 89.3 FM. Catch the webcast here.


Smith Center: East Meets West

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, recently broke ground on $14 million complex to be called the World Capital of Peace in Smith Center, Kansas.

The World Capital of Peace will be situated on 480 acres of land in north-central Kansas, near the Nebraska border, and close to the geographical center of the continental United States.

One rumor circulating in Smith Center, a town of about 1,800 is that the Maharishi's followers are a cult, and they are going to make underground bunkers and build nuclear weapons.

RSR doesn't see much danger of that.

However, we are curious about which brand of intelligent design might be taught in the local schools after the Maharishi's followers arrive. That's assuming, of course, that the current right-wing state school board majority survives the next election, and the new standards actually go into effect.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Da Vinci Christianity

Laurie Goodstein calls the "Da Vinci Code" an "historical marker — encapsulating in one muddled movie an era in which many Christian believers have assimilated a whole lot of new and unorthodox ideas, as well as half-truths and conspiracy thinking, into their faith, while still seeing it as Christianity."

The book and movie, writes Goodstein, "reinforces doubts that some modern Christians already have about the origins of the Bible and the authenticity of the Jesus story."

Maybe that's why the religious right is attacking it so fiercely.


South Carolina: Face-saving Agreement Reached

Members of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, who voted against the state's new biology standards, have now agreed to support them even though they don't call for students to question Darwin's theory as some, including State Senator Mike Fair, had hoped, according to Ron Barnett of The Greenville News.
The change of heart was based on a new proviso in the state budget that says all textbooks used in South Carolina public schools should encourage "critical thinking" skills.
Scientists and teachers who support teaching the science of evolution point out that the standards already call for teaching students critical thinking skills:

"Our textbooks already have a high concentration of material that focuses on critical thinking skills, higher order thinking skills," said Jim Foster, spokesman for the state Department of Education.

Joe Isaacs, chairman of the state Board of Education, also doesn't believe the proviso changes anything about the way biology is taught in South Carolina schools.

"I think that's basically what we're doing," he said. "I don't think that's going to create a problem at all."


Progress Report

For those of you who've noticed that we've been posting a little less during the past week, RSR should let you know that we've been on the road lately.

The downside for many of you, though perhaps not all, is fewer posts. The upside is that we interviewed Dr. Robert Pennock at a little Japanese restaurant in E. Lansing yesterday.

Pennock is a philosophy professor at Michigan State University, the author of Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism, and an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Dover intelligent design trial.

Dr. Pennock ate his eel with relish. RSR, perhaps having lived too long in the barbecue capital of the world, picked at his vegetarian sushi roll.

It was great conversation. Wonderful raw material for a profile of Pennock and the state of the intelligent design movement. Look for it next week.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Dembski's Filter Failure

Intelligent design "theorist" William Dembski believes says he can detect the evidence for design -- aka, the hand of God -- in certain natural phenomena.

Dembski is famous for making abstruse mathematical arguments asserting that patterns, such as those found in the genetic code, exhibit what he calls specified complexity. He claims that specified complexity is a reliable indicator of design by an intelligent agent.

(Up at the Discovery Institute in Seattle they refer to this intelligent agent as "He who must not be named.")

Now you know an egghead like Dembski, a mathematical genius who employs rigorous methods to test his belief that design can be inferred from nature, could never fall for anything so simple as an Internet hoax. Especially not an internet chain letter, right?

And yet, unaccoutably, it's happened.

DaveScot, now part of the ID braintrust over at Dembski's blog, Uncommon Descent, has published a picture of Marines said to be bowing their heads in prayer and reports an unnamed ACLU spokesman as saying:

“These are federal employees, on federal property and on federal time. For them to pray is clearly an establishment of religion, and we must nip this in the bud immediately.”
In a comment appended to the post -- better view it quickly before it disappears -- Dembski adds his own pithy endorsement: "Right On!"

It's already been debunked by Hoax Slayer, here, and the ACLU, here. In fact, it was already old when we saw it over a year ago. It's been circulating since at least 2003. Urban Legends exposed it as a fraud in Nov. 2005.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars is, as usual, all over it. We hear Andrea Bottaro is writing something for Pandas Thumb, as well.

A few years back, Dembski -- and Phillip Johnson -- fell for the Bible Code Hoax. Now, he's been taken in by a hoary, old internet chain letter hoax, as well.

Funny, we thought Dembski's explanatory filter could chew through false positives like a chain saw. What do you suppose happened?

Hat tip to Richard Hughes for calling it to our attention.


Not Gulled

Ed Brayton over at the Dispatches From the Culture Wars blog doubts that the legal eagles at the Thomas More Law Center really plan to follow through on their threat to file suit on behalf of two Gull Lake, Mich. teachers who were prohibited from teaching intelligent design -- and using Of Pandas and People as a textbook -- by the local school board.

Richard Thompson, the brains behind the defense team in the Dover intelligent design trial, says he'll claim the prohibition violates the teacher's academic freedom.

Just one problem: Academic freedom applies only at the college level, not to public school teachers who must follow a school board's dictates, according to attorney Steve Harvey.

You remember Harvey. He was on the winning side in Dover.

Certainly, if a suit were to be filed, Richard Thompson and the Thomas More Law Center would be RSR's first choice... to represent the other side.


Ordinary, Everyday People

"I used to think the US Constitution was fixed, an absolute guarantee of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press in this country," said Patricia Princehouse as she accepted a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award from the Playboy Foundation for her efforts to preserve science education in Ohio public schools.

"The past five years have shown me that the Constitution is valuable only insofar as people are willing to stand up for the rights it protects. Our freedoms are guaranteed only as long as ordinary, everyday people are willing to claim them--indeed, to insist on them."

Read the rest of her powerful speech at The Nation's "Moral Compass," an occasional series highlighting the spoken word



"Are they going to show the flaws in English and let children decide if they should learn the language?" asked a spectator at "Vigil After Dover" panel discussion at Florida State University last week.

Gerald Ensley has published a great commentary on the event in The Tallahassee Democrat.


Thousands... Not Billions

Is the earth really only 6,000 years old? Absolutely, say a group of "scientists" from the Institute for Creation Research.

"It's not really that hard to believe," says Becca Hubbard. "As long as you have faith."


True Religion

"The founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry," U.S. District Judge John E. Jones told the graduating class at Dickinson College yesterday.

"This core set of beliefs led the founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state."

Last December, Judge Jones ruled the teaching of intelligent design in the Dover school district an unconstitutional violation of church state separation.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Shaken Not Stirred

According to the CBC, Darwin has been put on ice in a northern Quebec community: Teachers in some northern Quebec communities are being told not to talk about the evolution of humans because Darwin's theory offends some Inuit people.


Anything Goes

ID activist Dr. Michael Behe, now famous for testifying that astrology qualifies as science under the defininition proposed by intelligent design "theorists" will address the question, "What is science and what are its boundaries?" He'll be ably assisted by a couple of theologians.

Behe will be thinking outside the box on Wed. May 31 at Union Theological Seminary in New York.


Teach the Controversy

Discovery Institute flogs homeschooling, here.
Homeschooling allows you to teach your child how to get along with a variety of people of diverse backgrounds in diverse situations. The artificial, age-segregated government school classroom does not afford any such opportunity."
Yes, we suppose the wide diversity found in the homeschooling environment is much superior to the stultifying sameness of the classroom. How do you suppose they teach the controversy to homeschooled children -- do they bother?

Intelligent design: just another right-wing attack on public education.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Once Burned Twice Shy

The strongly worded decision from U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones in the Dover case hasn't driven evolution's opponents toward extinction, but it does make future legal challenges to evolution a "hot stove" no one wants to touch, says Steve Harvey, one of the plaintiffs attorneys in the Dover intelligent design trial.

It could keep evolution from facing a court challenge for a long time.

"They saw somebody else touch the stove and get burned. I think that's the lesson learned in Ohio," he said.

Harvey spoke at the annual meeting of the Northwest Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Read the full article by Jenni Laidman of The Toledo Blade, here.


Evolution in a Flask

Rice University biologists, using an ingenious experiment that forced bacteria to compete in a head-to-head contest for evolutionary dominance, offer the first glimpse of how individual genetic-level adaptations play out as Darwinian natural selection in large populations. The results appear in the May 19 issue of Molecular Cell.

And they said it couldn't be done...

Read the rest of the Rice University news release here.


Golden Oldies

For the second day in a row, the posts aren't getting written and the e-mail is piling up.

Red State Rabble was busy last night recounting our salad days as an anti-war activist and active-duty sailor during the years of the Vietnam war for an oral history of the anti-war movement being produced by a promising young documentary filmmaker.

We did our stint in front of the camera talking about dimly remembered subjects such as Students for a Democratic Society, leading big demonstrations, giving fiery speeches, and getting kicked out of the Navy for our opposition to the war.

We recalled the climate of fear left over from the McCarthy witch hunt of the 40s and 50s, and the feelings of hope that were stirred by the Civil Rights and Women's Liberation movements.

After, we had a late dinner with a very old and dear friend who knew us when. It was two gray-haired old men trading anti-war stories in a Mexican restaurant.

It was golden.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Awbrey's Misperceptions

In a letter to the Topeka Capitol-Journal, David Awbrey, communications director of the Kansas State Department of Education, attempts to "clear up misperceptions of my comments about evolution made at a journalists' forum in Johnson County on May 3."

Awbrey's letter, far from clearing up "misperceptions" instead reveals how little he understands about the Kansas Science Standards.

"My main argument," writes Awbrey, "was that many participants in the evolution debate are engaged in metaphysical speculation, which is a kissing cousin to religion.

"The late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, for example, calls human origins a 'glorious accident.' He saw no order or logic in the universe and certainly no supernatural forces at work in the unfolding of the Earth's natural history."

Awbrey's paraphrase of Gould's thinking on the subject may or may not be accurate. But, that's not the issue. The standards committee did not propose teaching Gould's metaphysical speculations about purpose, order, or supernatural forces.

The standards proposed by the committee's majority are utterly silent on those issues.

Not so, the standards proposed by the intelligent design minority led by John Calvert and William Harris, or the revisions to the standards passed by the right-wing majority that currently controls the state board of education.

Here, in a poorly disguised attempt to bolster the biblical literalist views on origins held by the religious right, pseudoscience is injected into the standards.

Where the science grounded standards rejected by the board say nothing at all about the origin of life because there is no well grounded theory -- just a number of intriguing hypotheses -- the right-wing majority rushed to fill the void with Genesis-friendly code words based solely on the metaphysical musings of the fundamentalist right.

Awbrey concludes by quoting the great philosopher William James to the effect that, "we should be humble and avoid claiming absolute knowledge of things that could well be beyond our intellectual or moral abilities to comprehend."

In Kansas, it is the scientists and educators who have exhibited humility, and the board, working hand in glove with their creationist and intelligent design allies, who claim absolute knowledge. It's clear that this knowledge is well beyond their intellectual or moral abilities to comprehend.

Awbrey makes much of his journalistic background. Perhaps he would have done well to learn a bit more about the history of this battle before lecturing those of us who were here in Kansas, attending the board meetings, the hearings, and public meetings.

Do you suppose Awbrey's read the standards, yet?


Creationism: The Argument From Ignorance

"I don't believe in evolution. Like most people I was taught it at school, but realised as an adult that I knew little to nothing about it, which is the case with most people. I therefore decided to reassess it," says the Rev James Alexander, vicar at St Andrew's in the UK.

When the realization strikes that we know little to nothing about something, we can react in a couple of ways. The first is to knuckle down and learn. Alternatively, we might decide that those who do know are simply mistaken.

The second option is comforting and requires that we do nothing but revel in our own ignorance. The first, on the other hand, requires a certain amount of humility and a taste for hard work.

I'll leave it to you to decide which option the Rev. James Alexander took.


Playing Catch Up

Instead of writing posts last night, as we normally do, Red State Rabble was watching the live webcast of "The Vigil After Dover," a panel discussion from Florida State University. We'll be writing more about that later, but things may be a little slow around here until we catch up.

While you're waiting, you can still watch the panel discussion here. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The ID Jingle

The Discovery Institute has hired a public relations firm, but it doesn't have a catchy jingle yet. May we suggest this one by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. It's a bit out of date, but oh so apt:

I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know, if you know what I mean,
Choke me in the shallow waters
Before I get too deep


The Da Vinci Code and Discovery's War on Fact and Fiction

It's no secret that erudite intelligent design "theorists" and their less sophisticated country cousins, creation "scientists," are troubled by facts.

The Discovery Institute's effort to create a "broadly theistic understanding of nature" has been stymied again and again by small but stubborn facts. Perhaps, that's why they find gaps – such as the fossil gap AKA the missing link -- so congenial.

Their preferred terrain, though foggy and somewhat insubstantial, has the virtue of having been cleared of all the pesky facts over which those great thinkers might stumble.

Until recently, however, we were unaware that those engaged in rearguard action against the "materialist worldview" were at war with fiction, as well.

These days, when the Discovery Institute isn't railing against malefactors such as "activist judges" and Darwinists, its fellows are strapping on rusty swords and aiming their broken lances at Dan Brown's best selling novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Back in April, Discovery sponsored a lecture by Mark Shea, co-author with Ted Sri of The Da Vinci Deception, at windmill central in Seattle.

Now, Discovery fellow David Klinghoffer has published an article, "The Da Vinci Protocols," explaining why Jews should worry about Dan Brown’s book and the soon to be released film adaptation starring Tom Hanks.

According to Klinghoffer, the conspiracy that drives the plot in The Da Vinci Code "bears a remarkable resemblance to another phony conspiracy, the famous hoax called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

Not only that, the Priory of Sion is one of the secret societies that figures in the plot of Brown's novel. Zion and Sion. Get it? Get it? Wink wink, nudge nudge.

Why should the Discovery Institute, a think tank devoted solely, they tell us, to the disinterested pursuit of scientific knowledge be concerned about a popular entertainment such as Dan Brown's novel and spinoff film?

Although Klinghoffer absolves Brown of conscious anti-Semitism, he clearly wants to use the novel to bring Jews into the coalition of right-wing Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims who are calling for a boycott of the film.

Could it be that the real agenda is a little broader than the modern day men of La Mancha – now relocated to Seattle – let on?

Here's another question. If the "teach the controversy" crowd were to somehow find itself in a position to decide for the rest of us, would we still be allowed to read and watch blasphemous books and films such as The Da Vinci Code?


Judge Jones Wins WIRED Magazine Rave Award

WIRED Magazine announced the winners of its seventh annual Rave Awards, yesterday. The Rave Awards recognize leading innovators in 16 categories. Mark Cuban, Jeff Skoll, Steven Soderbergh, and George Clooney all won awards. So did Judge John E. Jones III for his ruling on intelligent design.


Robert Crowther: Master Logician

Robert Crowther writing on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog gives us a lovely little example of the incisive logic that has become the hallmark of intelligent design theory:

Statement No. 1: "... there is extreme pressure brought against scientists and scholars on college campuses who are proponents of intelligent design."

Statement No. 2 (four paragraphs later): "Does anyone really think that university faculty are among the leading Darwin doubters? Do we need statements to let us in on their secret support of evolution?"

In the bizarro world that is intelligent design, scientists and academics are both trembling with fear at the pressure brought to bear on them by the big, bad Darwinian establishment and marching in lockstep with that same establishment.

ID is the intellectual fantasy island -- with Crowther standing in as the island's Tattoo -- where no matter how many times its proponents are wrong, they are always right.

Da plane. Da plane


You Devil, You

"The very beginning of the Bible says in the beginning God created," said Paul Miller, youth pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church. "Throughout history, the devil has had a well-thought-out strategy to attack the word of God. Through what I call modern and postmodern times, the devil has orchestrated this thing such that people think we evolved."


Minnesota: Accept No Substitutes

According to the AP, the Minnesota Senate is considering a comprehensive eductaion bill that, among other things, would prohibit "teaching intelligent design as an alternative or substitute to the scientific theory of evolution."


Explanatory Filter 2.0

If, like RSR, you're a big fan of visual information, don't miss this.


NOVA Plans 2-Hour Dover Program

For some time we've been hearing that Hollywood is planning a movie about the Dover intelligent design trial. RSR is looking forward to that, but now we learn that before it comes to the big screen, you may be able to see a great courtroom drama and take an advanced class in evolution -- all from the comfort of your own living room.

NOVA, the popular PBS science series is planning a two-hour show about Dover, according to The York Dispatch.

"People said (the trial) was like the biology class you wish you would have taken," said Barbara Moran, senior researcher for "NOVA." "(A Documentary) seems like a good way to get at the tough scientific issues."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Cobb County -- No Ruling Yet

Way back on December 15, we reported that a hearing on the Cobb County school district's appeal of U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper order to remove intelligent design inspired stickers from Biology textbooks there had not gone at all well for supporters of science education.

At the time, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that:
During oral arguments Thursday in Atlanta, all members of the federal appeals court panel noted U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper made errors in determining the stickers violated the First Amendment by endorsing a religious viewpoint.

There was also some confusion, by the judges hearing the appeal, on the timing of petitions signed by supporters of the religious right who opposed the district's new science textbooks, which, despite the presence of the stickers, did a much better job of teaching evolution than the previous ones.

This confusion was cleared up in a subsequent filing by attorneys for the parents who objected to the stickers.

Just a few days after the Cobb County appeal was heard, Judge John Jones issued his now famous ruling that teaching intelligent design was unconstitutional in Pennsylvania public schools.

When Red State Rabble spoke to a source close to the Cobb County case earlier this year, we were told that a ruling might be expected on the case as early as March.

That obviously hasn't happened.

We don't know when a ruling might now be expected, and we have absolutely no idea what that ruling will turn out to be. However, the length of time that's passed since the hearing back in December may be an indication that the issues aren't as clear cut as the three judge panel assumed when they first heard the appeal.

And that might, just might, be a good thing for science and public education.


OU on Board

The University of Oklahoma Department of Zoology is unanimous. “Evolution is a fact. Evolutionary theory is a cornerstone of biology,” say faculty members in a statement released April 19.

The Zoology Department's statement supporting evolution has been placed on the agenda of next meeting of the OU Faculty Senate..

More here.


You Missed a Spot!

Intelligent design activists Paul Nelson and Ralph Seelke presented the evidence for ID at “A Colloquium on Origins: Evolution and Intelligent Design” at the University of California -- Irvine on May 7.

According to Sahar Shakir, who covered the event for the New University Paper, "the bulk of their presentations were dedicated to addressing problems with the theory of Darwinian evolution."

Why is it that the evidence for intelligent design always, always proves to be nothing more than another tired assertion about the gaps in our knowledge about evolution?

The ID theorists aren't really scientists -- in fact, they're not really theorists, either. They're more like the busybody Gladys Kravitzes of the neighborhood who rush outside every time you climb a ladder to paint the house and shout, "You missed a spot!"


Evolving Coverage

Check out the New York Times evolution page. It features a video of The Times's Jim Gorman discussing evolution with Niles Eldredge, the curator of the Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.


Analyze This

A South Carolina House committee will consider an amendment that establishes how textbooks, software and other instructional materials are selected to require they "critically analyze" the subject matter today, according to John C. Drake of the Times and Democrat.

"It is the latest tactic by conservative lawmakers who want students to learn about problems in the theory of evolution," writes Drake.


Intense Interest in Kansas School Board Elections

The political season is underway in earnest here in Kansas as candidates gird their loins for the August primary election. Both the Hutchinson News and the Lawrence Journal-World published articles analysing the races yesterday.

Scott Rothschild of the Lawrence Journal-World sees the school board races as a hard to predict wild card in the bigger election:

At stake is the 6-4 majority on the board that has voted for science standards that criticize evolution, made moves to require abstinence-only sex education and hired Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, who had no background in education administration and has pushed for vouchers.

“The issues there are on the cutting edge of the cultural conservative movement,” Aistrup said.

Four seats of the six-member majority are in play. Incumbents John Bacon of Olathe, Connie Morris of St. Francis and Ken Willard of Hutchinson all face Republican Party challenges, and there is a GOP primary battle for the southeast Kansas seat being vacated by Iris Van Meter.

Kansas Republican Party Chairman Tim Shallenburger said he didn’t know how those races would finish.

“You’re going to see which team has the most players,” Shallenburger said.

There are several ways to read Shallenburger's statement, but a confident prediction of victory, it is not.

Tim Vandenack of the Hutchinson News predicts an intense race for school board:
In light of many contentious moves by the conservative majority on the Kansas Board of Education, including the decision allowing for increased classroom criticism of evolution, critics promise a tough fight this electoral season.

Three conservative incumbents are up for election, including Ken Willard of Hutchinson and Connie Morris of St. Francis, and their foes, including the Alliance, are pushing hard to oust them.

A fourth conservative, Iris Van Meter of Thayer, is not seeking re-election, though her son-in-law, Brad Patzer of Neodesha, is vying for the post.

"I think it's maybe as intense as we've seen it, because 2000 was pretty intense," said Joe Aistrup, a Kansas State University political scientist.

Vandenack's article also takes a close look at a number of groups and individuals who are working to elect moderates to the school board this time around:
[Betsy] Hineman and others, however, suggest the passion this go-around might exceed that of 2000. Aside from last summer's evolution decision, recent contested actions include the selection of Bob Corkins as education commissioner even though he lacked education experience and moves to clamp down on what's taught in sex education classes.

Monday, May 15, 2006



Some readers are telling me they're having trouble posting comments today. Rest assured, RSR hasn't changed anything. We're looking into the problem and hope to have it resolved soon.


Bosnia's Answer to the Intelligent Design Movement

Craig Smith published a fascinating story in today's New York Times about a Bosnian Indiana Jones who believes he's discovered a 25,000 year old pyramid -- the world's oldest and largest -- buried under a hill not far from Sarajevo.

Although construction of the pyramid would have to have taken place before the last Ice Age, Semir Osmanagic, an amateur archaeologist, is so utterly convinced he's right that he's been able to talk villagers from nearby Visoko into trudging up the hill with picks and shovels to help him dig it out.

Archaeologists, geologists, and historians have told Osmanagic and his helpers that their hill was "formed when an ancient lake bed buckled from tectonic movement of the earth's crust millions of years ago," according to Smith, but the digging goes on.

You might think of the project as Bosnia's answer to the intelligent design movement because, in their own way, the parallels are stunning.

Interest in the discovery comes not from science, but from a deep need to recover the nation's pride following the ethnic cleansing of the civil war. Visoko is the stronghold of the Bosnian national party.

Although 21 experts published an open letter in Bosnian newspapers in April describing Mr. Osmanagic's project as bad science and manipulative sociology, "largely uncritical television and newspaper reports have made the photogenic Mr. Osmanagic a national celebrity" and volunteers have flocked to his side, reports Smith.

Although Osmanagic studied economics and politics in Sarajevo, his true interest, is "the real history of civilization."

Osmanagic's curiously symmetrical Bosnian hill exhibits all the characteristics of intelligent design, as well:

"Nature could not have created three identical hills in this pattern," Osmanagic tells Smith with matter-of-fact confidence."

"Every flat surface, every straight line only confirms his hypothesis," writes Smith. "He sees four clearly delineated sides to the Visoko hill, corresponding to the cardinal points. 'That was enough to convince me that we are talking about pyramids here," he said, standing on the gentler slope of the hill's west side, the 'ceremonial causeway.'"

Many people see what they want to see. Osmanagic and his followers desperately want to see a glorious Bosnian past. Behe, Dembski, Johnson and the rest want more than anything else to see the hand of God -- their God -- in the creation.

No evidence will ever convince them otherwise.


Is a Right-wing Takeover of Johnson County Community College in the Offing?

Via The Kansas City Business Journal: The departure of Johnson County Community College President Charles Carlsen could leave the college leadership ripe for takeover by religious conservatives, political observers said.

"I think the religious right wing in this county may very well target Johnson County Community College as its next victim," said Steve Cloud, Republican National Committeeman for Kansas.

Cloud, CEO of IBT Inc., a Merriam-based distributor of industrial supplies, said Carlsen has been a key fixture in the county's pro-business, politically moderate power structure since being named as JCCC president 25 years ago. If the process of naming a successor goes beyond April's JCCC board of trustees election, he said, Carlsen's successor could be picked by a board controlled by "right-wing zealots."

Such a swing could curtail the college's emphasis on business partnerships, end its support for the Kansas City area's life sciences initiative, dial back spending on its growth, weaken its role in local economic development efforts and turn JCCC into an academic laughingstock, he said.


What a Fool Believes

After watching last night's episode of "The Simpsons," Red State Rabble is giving serious consideration to moving to Homer Simpson's Springfield.

At Springfield's Museum of Natural History, the Creation display attached to the Evolution Exhibit is accompanied by a theme song: "What a Fool Believes."

The episode presents a creationist's "balanced comparison" between the Bible and Evolution titled, "So You're Calling God a Liar," which features Charles Darwin getting it on with the devil, and a creationist presentation by a spokesperson with a PhD in "truthology" from Christian Tech.

We missed it, but apparently, "The Family Guy" presented the Kansas version of evolution last night, as well.


The Vigil After Dover

Listen live online Wednesday, May 17 at 8:00 pm Eastern 7:00 pm Central as Pulitzer-prize winning science writer Deborah Blum moderates a panel discussion on the meaning of the Dover decision for the teaching of biology in public school classrooms around the country:
More info here.


Back Door

Tim Townsend of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a follow up on an lecture by creationist Mark Riddle, a representative of Answers in Genesis, to students in the Potosi school district in southeast Missouri last week:

Because of the constitutional issues involved, creationists have begun seeking entry through schools' back doors, via the students themselves. In conferences and workshop across the country, typically held in church halls, Answers in Genesis holds training sessions for 7th to 12th graders. Many of the students who participate come from Christian schools or are home-schooled. But some parents pull their children out of public schools to attend the afternoon-long sessions, according to Mark Looy, a vice president and co-founder of Answers in Genesis.


Glenn Branch, deputy director for the National Center of Science Education, sees it differently. "They prepare students to ask questions to embarrass teachers when talking about evolution," he said.


Flowering Plants: Darwin's Abominable Mystery

Penn State News Release: Researchers from the Floral Genome Project at Penn State University, with an international team of collaborators, have proposed an answer to Charles Darwin's "abominable mystery:" the inexplicably rapid evolution of flowering plants immediately after their first appearance some 140 million years ago. By developing new statistical methods to analyze incomplete DNA sequences from thirteen strategically selected plant species, the researchers uncovered a previously hidden "paleopolyploidy" event, an ancient whole-genome duplication that preceded the appearance of the ancestral flowering plant.

Claude dePamphilis, associate professor of biology at Penn State, is the principal investigator of the Floral Genome Project and the senior author of the paper. "We found a concentration of duplicated genes that suggests a whole-genome duplication event in the earliest flowering plants," he says. "A polyploidy event early in the history of flowering plants could explain their sudden evolution." The results appear in a June issue of Genome Research.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Monkey Suit

Lisa is arrested for defying the new law in Springfield against teaching evolution after Reverend Lovejoy is appointed by Mayor Quimby (at Ned Flanders's request) to be the town's new "morality czar" in charge of promoting creationism; can a comment made in the show's first season come back to save her? Guest stars Larry Hagman and Melanie Griffith.

Tonight at 7:00 pm on WDAF Fox4 in the Kansas City Metro.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Paving the way for intelligent design

Intelligent design activists say the new Mississippi law law prohibiting school boards, superintendents, or principals from placing restrictions on discussions about the origins of life has nothing to do with religion, creation science, or intelligent design. It's all about critical analysis, and nothing else.

Rob Hood writing in The American Daily -- which features anti-immigration ads such as "Mex America" -- thinks otherwise:
Liberals often tout Southern conservatives more because of our longstanding and unwavering faith in Jesus Christ and the word of God, the Holy Bible. Conservative Mississippians share this faith and often show it in our political decisions which liberals hate even more...

Just recently Mississippi made a bold move that may change the course of everything on this issue. Mississippi has now paved the way for Intelligent Design to be taught in schools along side of evolution. Conservative Republican Governor Haley Barbour signed a new state law that basically says that no restrictions can be placed on teachers or students when discussing the origins of life in the classroom. This law basically allows a student to question evolution and to discuss Creation if that student or teacher chooses to do so.


Evo Devo

Steven Rose reviews Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom by Sean Carroll in The Guardian.


Teaching Tolerance

The Modesto, Cal. public schools require ninth graders to take a nine-week course on world religions, beginning with two weeks of study of First Amendment rights and the U.S. history of religious liberty, according to Patricia Zapor of the Catholic News Service.

Researchers from Stanford University in California and the College of William and Mary in Virginia tracked students' attitudes and their understanding of different religions and of constitutional rights governing the free exercise of religion.

They report that students grew to understand and respect others' religious views and they were much more likely to accept that different religions share core moral values. Students' scores on tests of basic knowledge on religion nearly doubled.

More important, the student's tolerance for what the researchers termed "least-liked" groups in society and for the rights of people to express religious views and to display faith symbols increased markedly.


Thermodynamics and the Origin of Life

Two laboratories at Penn State have discovered a previously unknown biochemical process that became the inspiration for a fundamental new theory of the origin of life on Earth, reconciling a long-contentious pair of prevailing theories. This new, "thermodynamic" theory of evolution improves upon both previous theories by proposing a central role for energy conservation during early evolution, based on a simple three-step biochemical mechanism, according to a news release from Penn State.

James G. Ferry, Stanley Person Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Christopher House, Assistant Professor of Geosciences, at Penn State will announce their new theory in the June issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution. William Martin, editor-in-chief of that journal, says "The paper is a very significant contribution, and a wonderful example of interdisiplinary work as well."

"We've taken a new approach to thinking about the evolution of life from a thermodynamic perspective," Ferry says. "It reshapes the two previous theories of life's origin, it shows how they overlap, and it extends both of them significantly." The apparently irreconcilable "heterotrophic" and "chemoautotrophic" theories of the origin of life both focus on the processes by which chemical building blocks first appeared for primitive life to assemble into complex molecules. "But that's not really what the driving force was in early evolution," Ferry asserts. "Nobody had properly considered thermodynamics."

According to the heterotrophic theory, a primordial soup of simple molecules arose first, driven by nonbiological energy sources like lightning, and led eventually to primitive life forms. One difficulty with this theory is due to the huge variety and complexity of organic molecules that would have had to arise spontaneously. In contrast, the chemoautotrophic theory rests on the idea that primitive life forms themselves, perhaps associated with catalytic iron and sulfur minerals, gave rise to the first simple biological molecules. The obstacles to this theory are the large number of steps in the biochemical cycles that have been suggested, and the staggering structural complexity of the only known enzyme complexes that drive those reactions. Debate between the two camps has raged for two decades.

By studying a microbe that Ferry discovered thriving in the oxygen-free, carbon-monoxide-rich sediment beneath kelp beds, he and his group have helped to break this impasse. Life may have emerged in just such an environment, and this microbe's unique biochemistry may harbor the molecular fossil of the first metabolism on Earth.

Creationists and Intelligent design "theorists" often argue that the study of evolution leads to no practical results, but get this:

Their results also provide insights into the evolution of the microbial production of methane, the primary component of natural gas. A detailed understanding of methane biosynthesis could lay the foundation for a new alternative energy source, by raising the possibility of cost-efficient conversion of renewable biomass into clean fuel.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Pagan Elements

The expected dismissal of two popular teachers in Norwood, Col. prompted dozens of students to leave classes and appeal to school authorities Wednesday, according to the Montrose Daily Press.

Students and supporters of the teachers believe the impending firings stem from a controversy that erupted last year, after Doyle assigned Rudolfo Anaya's award-winning novel, "Bless Me, Ultima," to her English classes.

School officials pulled the book, according to the Montrose Daily Press, after a single parent complained about its language and "pagan" elements. The complaining party reportedly received all copies of "Bless Me, Ultima," and was said to have disposed of them.

The incident prompted a student sit-in protest at the school and put Norwood under national media scrutiny, according to the report. The students were later honored by the Colorado Association of Libraries.

"I think it's because what happened last year upset the administration and brought a lot of negative media to them, and so they were angry," sophomore Sarah Setzer told the Daily Press. "They really don't have any reason. These are good teachers."


And How Could It Be Otherwise?

So far, Randy Olson's film, "Flock of Dodos" hasn't raised hackles on the religous right in quite the same the way Ron Howard's "The DaVinci Code" has.

Even so, BeliefNet's "Faith at Tribeca" didn't like the film. The film, says BeliefNet's reviewer, "digs its claws deep into the assumingly weak skin of the intelligent design platform. That's not to say that the pro-ID contingent are subject to mockery, but they are unflinchingly and openly contradicted at each and every opportunity."


Pumping Them Out

From Agape Press: "A well-known creationist group is now offering an online master's program for science teachers. Through the Internet-based curriculum, the California-based Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is hoping to reach out to more educators and create a network of science teachers."

The course outline offers: three hours of Advanced Studies in Creationism and three hours of Physics and Geology of Natural Disasters along with what we are sure are a number of other rigourous offerings.

This degree, and $3.75 will get you an iced latte.


Deciding to Fail

"Where science gets done is where wealth gets created, so places that decide to put stickers on their textbooks or change the definition of science have decided, perhaps unknowingly, not to go to the innovation party of the future. Maybe that's fine for the grownups who'd rather stay home, but it seems like a raw deal for the 14-year-old girl in Topeka who might have gone on to find a cure for resistant infections if only she had been taught evolution in high school, writes Holden Thorp, chairman of the chemistry department at the University of North Carolina, in a New York Times Op-Ed.


Christian Nationalism

Michelle Goldberg, a senior writer for the online magazine Salon, covers the Christian Right. She was on NPR's "Fresh Air," yesterday.

Her new book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, reports on the plan by Christian nationalists -- who believe the Bible is literally true -- to run the nation.

Listen here.


Rove's Summer Offensive

Things are getting so bad for President Bush that even conservatives are abandoning him now.

His old allies, the folks who put him in office, are "demoralized and defecting in worrisome numbers," according to the Washington Post.

Political scandals, runaway government spending, the mess in Iraq, and immigration are all factors in the defections from the conservative coalition.

So, what can we expect as we move closer to the primary elections in August?
Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, and GOP leaders are well aware of the problem and are planning a summer offensive to win back conservatives with a mix of policy fights and warnings of how a Democratic Congress would govern. The plan includes votes on tax cuts, a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex
marriage, new abortion restrictions, and measures to restrain government spending.

None of the elements in Rove's summer offensive are designed to solve any of the real problems the country faces but, in the heat of a good battle for a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, how many conservatives will notice that more tax cuts will not do anything to restrain government spending and, in fact, will only make matters worse? How many will notice there's no plan for Iraq?

We think Rove, having gone down this road in the last election, will have a harder sell this time. But this is the environment that moderates will face this summer as we fight to Take Back Kansas from the extremists who currently own it.

Here in Kansas, right-wingers will not want to talk about Bob Corkins, science standards, or sex education. They will cynically mobilize what is left of their base with a phony "defense of marriage" campaign and more anti-abortion rhetoric.

The only question left is how many times they can get away with it before the people wake up.


The Literary Genius of Steve Abrams

Kansas State School Board Chair Steve Abrams calls it pornography. A couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors call it "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years."

What is it? You can find out here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Patzer Invites (More) Ridicule

From an editorial in the Iola Register (apparently not available online):

Citizens received a letter or letters from M. Brad Patzer of Neodesha asking for money and votes. Patzer is running for the State Board of Education seat that his mother-in-law, Iris VanMeter of Thayer, now holds.

The two-page letter makes it clear that Patzer would vote as she did. He supports the anti-Darwin science standards the board adopted against the advice of its own science advisory group. The action again subjected Kansas to criticism and ridicule from mainstream scientists and scientific organizations worldwide. A vote for Patzer would be a vote to continue this destructive and embarrassing policy, which uses religious criteria to determine standards for the state's public schools.

Patzer's letter also panders to conservatives opposed to spending more on schools by assuring recipients that he opposes higher taxes. The State Board of Education has no power to levy taxes. That's the Legislature's job. The board can't raise or lower the amount of money the state spends on the public schools. To suggest otherwise, as his letter does, misinforms the public and implies a promise that cannot be kept.

Fortunately, Jana Shaver of Independence will be on the primary ballot as well. The current president of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees, Shaver has broad experience in the public schools as a teacher and a curriculum developer. She pledges to "demand excellence from the professionals charged with developing curriculum standards," which means she would respect the advice of scientists in writing standards for teaching science in Kansas classrooms.


34th Skeptic's Circle

The latest edition of the Skeptic's Circle has been posted at the Second Sight.


Adequate Explanations

"Scientists" at Reasons to Believe, a Christian group that believes God has miraculously intervened throughout the history of the universe , say they are not in favor of teaching intelligent design that “certain religious groups have tried to force upon a number of state and local school boards,” according to The Christian Post.

“These groups never identify the designer and consequently cannot produce an adequate explanation for the record of nature,” contends Ross.


The New, Improved, PC, William Dembski

Yesterday, William Dembski accused biologist Kevin Padian of racial stereotyping.

My how times have changed.

Only last November, Dembski approvingly published a statement titled, The Bells of Ys, by the pseudononymous Wretchard, originally posted on the The Belmont Club blog, attacking multiculturalism as an article of leftist faith. The wretched Wretchard wrote with all the charming unselfconsciousness of the ultra-right:

Policies which deprecated European culture, frowned on a national identity, lowered the birthrate, created a welfare state, imported ‘guest workers’, promoted mindless multiculturalism and relied on ‘international’ treaties for protection — all articles of Leftist faith — are now facing the judgment of history; and worse, the verdict of Islam. It would be supremely ironical if the European Left, the ‘vanguard of history’, required for its future survival the very things it had set out to destroy.
This post inspired DaveScot, Dembski's demented water boy, to write the following comment:
Islam is a cancer growing on the planet. It needs to be killed not accomodated (sic). 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)...
Thinking, perhaps, that he'd not made himself sufficiently clear in his first comment, DaveScot returned later to say, "Islam is a disease that has no place in the civilized world."

Knowing as you now do, that Dembski is a a bitter foe of racial and religious stereotyping, a champion of the oppressed the world over, you might have expected he would have called DaveScot to heel for those intemperate comments.

He did not.

Instead, Dembski made DaveScot a full partner on his Uncommon Descent blog not much more than a month after those comments were written.

And, just as you would expect, Dembski has exercised his usual care with facts in making his accusation of racial stereotyping against the blameless Padian.

In an earlier post, "Kevin Padian — The Archie Bunker of ID critics" Dembski wrote, "In two recent 'defend science' talks, one at Cal Berkeley and the other at Kansas University, Padian singled out an Asian-American church that supports ID."

Here in Kansas, Bill, we call it the University of Kansas.

Dembski, as is his way, isn't just wrong about the little things. He utterly botches the big things, as well.

Recent talks? As Nick Matske points out in a post on Pandas Thumb, "Padian hasn’t even been in Kansas for years."

Moreover, Padian's sin, according to Dembski, was describing "the members of the church that attended my lectures as 'young,' 'Asian,' and 'fundamentalist.'"

And, how do the members of the Berkland Baptist Church describe themsleves: "Most of our congregation is in their 20s and 30s. We are mostly Asian American, but growing increasingly multi-ethnic."

Are they fundamentalists? Is the Pope Catholic?

Dembski, almost alone among ID and creationist activists, was once thought to be less inclined to quote out of context or otherwise distort the words of scientists and educators whose defense of evolution he disagreed with.

The publication of Dembski's factually inaccurate and consciously distorted accusations against Padian constitute and unmistakable sign that Dembski's years of intellectual isolation on the religious right are leading to a pathology marked by increasingly bizarre and erratic behavior.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Critical Thinking Skills

In a story about two "critical analysis" bills now before the South Carolina Legislature, UPI reports:

"They'll tell you this only deals with science and intelligent design, and this is not true," Rep. Bob Walker, R-Spartanburg, told the newspaper. "What this is doing is asking that when we look at textbooks, we look at the process a textbook uses in teaching when it comes to critical thinking and analysis."

Last fall, Walker tried unsuccessfully to revise state biology standards to allow the teaching of alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Where did these ultra-right ID advocates and legislators learn their contempt for the people of this country.


Putting ID in its Place

"If any ideas evolved at a forum on intelligent design at Palisades High School on Tuesday, it was that public schools should offer philosophy classes where questions about human origins could be discussed," reports Pamela Batzel of The Philladelphia Intelligencer.

"Sharon Mendelson, one of about 80 people who attended the panel discussion, said the science classroom is the wrong place to discuss whether a higher intelligence has had a role in life. A philosophy class is the better venue, she said, winning applause from audience members at the forum sponsored by the high school's Students for Social Change club."

More evidence that people can make sensible decisions about science and intelligent design when its discussed outside the controlled environments preferred by the religious right.


Take Back Kansas - Hutchinson Rally

7:00 pm Thursday, May 18 at the Hutchinson Junior College1300 N. Plum in Hutchinson


Take Back Kansas - Johnson County Rally

Tired of extremists laying the ground rules for sex education, school finance, and the science curriculum in our public schools?

Join other like-minded citizens at a rally to Take Back Kansas on Wednesday, May 31, at 7:00 pm at the Shawnee Civic Center, 13817 Johnson Drive (1 block west of Pflumm; 2 miles east of I-435) in Shawnee, Kansas.

Speakers include: Sue Gamble, (R), Kansas State Board of Education, District 2, Lori Messinger, KU professor of Social Welfare, Kathy Cook, Kansas Families United for Public Education, Dick Morrissey, Kansas Alliance for Education, Gary Brunk, Kansas Action for Children, and Boo Tyson, MAINstream Coalition.

At the rally, you can:


Bacon Files

According to the Kansas Secretary of State's Office, incumbent State School Board member John Bacon filed to run for re-election yesterday. Bacon is part of the right-wing majority that pushed through creationist and intelligent design inspired revisions to the state's science standards, appointed Bob Corkins Education Commissioner, and voted for opt-in sex education classes -- a logistical nightmare for already underfunded school districts around the state.

He will be opposed in the August primary by moderate Republican Harry McDonald, a retired teacher and former president of Kansas Citizens for Science, and David Oliphant, a Republican.

Democrat Don Weiss will face the winner in the November general election.


Potosi School District Goes Ahead With Creationist Lectures

Mike Riddle, president of Christian Training and Development Services for the young earth creationist group, Answers in Genesis, met with high school science classes for 50-minute assemblies first, second and third hours in the Potosi High School library, yesterday. He also visited science classes at John A. Evans Middle School in southeast Missouri, according to Paula Barr of The Daily Journal.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which sent the district a letter Friday demanding it cancel the events, has now requested all communication and planning records from the district relating to Riddle's appearances after the district refused to cancel the events.

“This is not about science versus religion, it's about parents making the decision about their children's religious education, not the government,” said Richard B. Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United. “We have seen over and over that the courts have said this is illegal.”

“I'm familiar with Mr. Riddle's presentations, and he tries to create doubt in students' minds in what they've learned, so the only answer they can turn to is the Biblical explanation,” Katskee said. “In the Dover (Pennsylvania) case, there was no mention of God or the Bible in anything that was said to the students there, either.”


Media Shows Interest in "Kansas vs. Darwin"

Jeff Tamblyn, the filmmaker behind "Kansas vs. Darwin," says that interest in the new film is picking up, even though "we haven’t done a thing except put up our website." He cites a surprising number of media inquiries, noting, "the film already has a life of its own."

Reportedly, a film distributor is already making inquiries, as well.

You can learn more about "Kansas vs. Darwin" by visiting the website.


Living the Moral Life

Not long ago, we linked to a letter published in the Manhattan Mercury by the Rev. Richard Smith which said that teaching of evolution -- that human beings are a part of the natural world -- was the cause of school violence.

Now, there's been an eloquent reply to that ludicrous argument from Dick Beeman:
I'm very sorry to learn that the only thing keeping Mr. Smith from an orgy of thievery and murder is his fear of God's punishment. I'm disappointed to learn that Mr. Smith's good behavior is motivated only by the expectation of an eternal reward. My atheist friends have no such fear and no such expectation. Their reward is the knowledge that they have lived good and useful lives and that their good examples will live on in their friends and loved ones, and that is reward enough. Atheists believe that the power for good comes from within each person, whereas Mr. Smith seems to believe that human beings are by nature depraved and selfish. Mr. Smith's anti-science and anti-intellectual outlook is misguided. He does not understand that scientific truths and moral codes of behavior are not linked.


Thermodynamics: So Much Heat, So Little Light

Red State Rabble set a new record yesterday with two separate posts on the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

First, we noted that Mike Riddle, a representative of the young earth creationist group Answers in Genesis, would focus on such things as "the laws of thermodynamics," in a series of lectures, "Fascinating Facts About Origins," to students at Potosi High School and John A. Evans Middle School in southeast Missouri.

Later in the day, we came back to the subject again in a post about Eric Hovind, of Creation Science Evangelism -- a regular chip off the old Hovind block -- who asserts that simple one-cell organisms could not have evolved over time into more complex organisms because the Second Law of Thermodynamics says that all things in the universe tend toward disorder as time goes by.

As Answers in Genesis so cogently explains:
Just standing out in the sun won’t make you more complex—the human body lacks the mechanisms to harness raw solar energy.
Oh, by the way, according to our friends at Answers in Genesis, entropy, the second law, did not come into effect until after the fall -- no, not autumn, silly, the fall of man:
God withdrew some of His sustaining power at the Fall. He still sustains the universe Col. 1:17) otherwise it would cease to exist. But most of the time He doesn’t sustain it in the way that He prevented the Israelites’ shoes and clothes from wearing out during the 40 years in the wilderness (Dt. 29:5). But this special case may have been the rule rather than the exception before the Fall.
RSR, being a bit contrarian by nature, would like to pose this question:

If the Second Law of Thermodynamics means that all things tend toward disorder. That things fall apart. That single cell creatures could not have evolved into complex multi-cell organisms like oak tress, salamanders, pilot fish, king snakes, ostriches, and giraffes. How is it that a single fertilized egg is able to develop into a human being with multiple organ systems made up of an estimated 100 trillion cells?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Bend it 'till it breaks

Young Eric Hovind, that's Dr. Dino's boy, explained to the good people of Union Center, South Dakota this weekend that the Second Law of Thermodynamics says all things in the universe tend toward disorder as time goes by.

According to Bob Ellis of the Dakota Voice, Hovind said that evolutionists believe that by adding energy (which assumes the universe is an open system into which energy can be added), the Second Law of Thermodynamics can be overcome. However, Hovind pointed out, the universe is a “closed system,” and further, adding energy is always destructive without a complex mechanism to harness the energy. He cited examples of the sun’s destructive effects on your house, you car’s paint, and other materials. According to Hovind, chlorophyll is the only exception, using light to synthesize carbohydrates.

The boy's a genius.


Bob Corkins Take Note

"The upcoming school year might be the last for Dover Area School District's top two administrators," according to Heidi Bernhard-Bubb of The York Dispatch.

Apparently, the newly elected board doesn't plan to renew contracts for Superintendent Richard Nilsen and Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa.

"I was surprised. I felt that the staff and I have had a good working relationship over the past four years," Baska says. "I was never given any indication by either the prior board or this board of any areas where I need improvement."

During the Dover intelligent design trial, Nilsen testified for the defense that he could not remember any discussion of creationism at board meetings. Baksa was recently charged with driving under the influence last month in relation to a Jan. 31 car crash in Lancaster County.


What ID and Freddy Krueger Have in Common

Via The Columbia Missourian: A little-publicized bill that would allow the teaching of intelligent design in Missouri classrooms is expected to be back before lawmakers in 2007. Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, chairwoman of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, said the bill’s sponsors used this year’s hearings to generate momentum for the measure. Her committee approved the bill by a 7-6 vote in March, but it never reached the floor of the Missouri Legislature.

"The Missouri Science Education Act would require sixth- through 12th-grade science teachers to engage in 'critical analysis' of evolution as a theory rather than teaching it as an accepted fact," reports Amanda Jacobs.


Now You See It, No You Don't

Forget the Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus, the Scholastic book series by Joanna Cole that teaches elementary school students about science.

Now, you can ride the Creation Bus, if you live in Australia, that is.

Peter and Cathy Sparrow want to tell you why "thousands of scientists across the world choose to believe in creation."

Peter, you see, was an atheist. He believed that life had no meaning and purpose, until he was shown the scientific evidence for creation, that is.

Over the years, we've learned that the one thing you absolutely will not hear after a creationist or intelligent design activist utters the incantation "scientific evidence," is any scientific evidence.

For us, the experience of being shown the scientific evidence for creation is remarkably similar to being told, "there's nothing up my sleeve."


Dodo Chat

You can chat with filmmaker Randy Olson today beginning at 3:00pm Eastern (2:00 pm Central) about his flim, "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution -- Intelligent Design Circus," on the Court TV News website.


Cast of Characters

The Lawrence Journal-World did a story on the new film, "Kansas vs. Darwin," about the science hearings in Topeka last May.

“It was the perfect setup for a documentary,” said Jeff Tamblyn, owner of Origin Films of Merriam. “It’s an extremely controversial subject. It has a beginning, middle and an ending, and it has a cast of characters.”

Oh yeah, we've got characters here in Kansas, alright.


The Remains of the Day

"After having to endure personal attacks and in some case threats since his ruling in the Dover Area School District intelligent design case, it was nice to see federal Judge John E. Jones III receive the prestigious accolade of being named among Time magazine's "100 World's Most Influential People," says an editorial in The Patriot News.

"... Jones says he's flattered at the honor, but showing the same sense of humor he's known for in the courtroom, noted he's likely in 'minute 14 1/2' of Andy Warhol's proverbial 15 minutes of fame. 'This will pass and I will be back to more mundane things,' Jones said."

"But a ruling many experts consider legally brilliant and masterful will remain."

We agree.


Fascinating Facts

Answers in Genesis representative Mike Riddle, no relation to Tom Riddle, said in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his presentation at Potosi High School and John A. Evans Middle School in southeast Missouri, entitled "Fascinating Facts About Origins," will focus on such things as "the laws of thermodynamics," and ask such questions as, "How could a protein originate by itself? Is that possible?"

When, do you suppose, the creationist fascination with facts, such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, will extend to a desire to learn the basics -- like the difference between open and closed systems?


Dembski Divines

William Dembski doesn't think Cornell President Hunter Rawlings, who has a PhD in classics from Princeton, has the scholarly credentials to debunk ID. Do you suppose if Rawlings had signed the Darwin Doubters statement, the Discovery Institute would have rejected him as unqualified?

Remind us again, what scientific credentials Dembski's possesses for debunking evolution. Oh yeah, he's the Isaac Newton of information theory. How silly of me.

Dembski does provide a service by publishing Rawlings' April 26 lecture at the Woodrow Wilson Center. (RSR has not checked to see if Dembski has edited Rawlings remarks in any way.)

In a thoughtful reflection on the role of religion in America's political and cultural life, Rawlings remarks:
Science keeps hypothesizing and testing results. Its theories succeed or fail with the discovery of new evidence. Religion emanates from authority and can thus appear arbitrary and ill-informed in the realm of policy making.

For this reason, religion linked directly with state power tends to be repressive and exclusionist.
Most sensible thing we've ever read on Uncommon Descent.

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