Sunday, July 30, 2006


God is a Scientist

Moderate school board member Sue Gamble sends this note from a mother in Great Bend, Kansas:

Like Pres. Bush and Sen. McCain I essentially would agree with the concept of Intelligent Design. So would many scientists. But do you believe that there were once kangaroos in the Middle East? This is the question asked his audience of an Australian “expert” on a Christian channel I was listening to. He declared he was going to “prove” there were despite the lack of fossil evidence. I listened intently expecting an interesting study or argument. Instead he asked if his audience believed that Noah landed the Ark on Mt. Ararat and if they believed that-then they believed that kangaroos dispersed from the Middle East to Australia.

Anyone with everyday logic can spot that circular argument let alone needing the logic of syllogisms and proofs that is required of science.

After much research, as a Mom of 2 young kids, I have come to the conclusion that the Intelligent Design arguments are a red herring to forward a literal interpretation of the Bible that requires that the earth be only 6k years old. To pit Faith against science is not comparing apples and oranges-but rather apples and bicycles. One is life-giving and sustaining. The other is a means of getting from one place to another.

For Faith the answer to all Truth must be God. For a scientist everything is a theory- there is no Truth. There is only a valid conclusion (one that can be proven logically) and an invalid one.

That is why the changed science standards are so damaging. Science is nothing but a methodology which requires everything be theory. To a scientist it is theoretical that the sun will rise tomorrow. There is no true or false. Only valid and invalid. It is only accepted on empirical evidence that the sun will be there tomorrow. It cannot be “proven”. That is the standard set for science and I learned this in my first college science course.

What person of Faith would advocate his belief in a personal savior and creator be based on that kind of standard? Paradoxically those who require that the Earth be 6k years old because they believe that is what it indicates in the Bible are doing just that. That is why it is so important to them to spend millions to change the standards and discredit evolution.

You don’t eat a bike or ride an orange. I do not require a literal interpretation of time set down in the Bible by 19th century clergymen to buttress my belief lest it crumble. And more and more I see this need to push this conclusion on science represents a lack of trust in a Creator. The bike may take you to places where you hunger and are unsatisfied. But that is not the bikes fault. Science answers question about how the universe works, the mechanics. Religion answers the why, the reason, the purpose.

At the time of the Crusades the Islamic culture was the most advanced scientifically the world had yet seen. Surpassing even the Greeks. But then certain Mullahs declared nothing in science could contradict the teachings of the Koran and that early technology and scientific discovery withered. When every question in science must have a foregone conclusion-then it is no longer science. That is why it is important we know exactly what we are deciding.

As a parent I thoroughly investigated the questions raised scientifically that purported to disprove evolution. Not one wasn’t answered by other scientists and none of the anti-evolution experts countered those answers. Yet statements to the contrary still are presented as truth and as “proven” to a scientific standard. I find this very disturbing. Because the Truth that is God should never need deception or lies to hide behind. Tho I don’t doubt that those who are promoting Intelligent Design are well-meaning and have good motives. My experience has always been only the Truth shall set you free.

So when my 6 yr old son asked me what I believed about evolution. I paused and prayed that my answer be from God. And this is what came out of my mouth.

“I believe God is a scientist. As he created all things - the knowledge of how the universe works can only reveal him. Nothing we discover can shock or offend him since he created it. It is people who need material things to help their belief. But I believe we are meant to question, search, discover.

“Galileo, said his scientific experiments proved to him the Earth circled the sun not vice versa. And this created a great debate and crisis in Faith for many. But as science continued its’ discoveries we found more evidence of how special and perfect this Earth is for life. How everything is calibrated just so in an incredible balance. Evidence that to me points to an Intelligent Designer. But one who is a scientist not a magician. We do not need fear science can possibly disprove God, anymore then we can eat a bicycle.”

It is up to each parents’ conscience to decide whether they believe there were kangaroos in the Middle East and whether the answer should matter in a science class. But do not be misled into thinking that this is about whether or not God was the Intelligent Designer of the universe. And for a full understanding before you vote look up the Discovery Institute on Wikipedia.



Red State Rabble here. RSR is currently sitting in a recliner looking at a lake in northern Minnesota. So far, we've been canoeing, swimming, teaching the girls how to handle an outboard motor, bike riding, and eating.

We contemplate engaging in many other such recreational activities over the next week.

Which is to say, we won't be doing much blogging until Aug. 8.

There's one exception. We will cover the primary results. Check back on Aug. 3rd for our coverage.


Got You

Donna Viola, the moderate Republican school board candidate running in the 7th District sends along this note from a candidate forum in McPherson last Thursday:

After the forum writes Viola, a woman "approached me and said that she was sure glad she had come to this and now new she was not going to vote for me.

"She proceeded to inform me that I was very narrow minded and that I should not dictate any one specific theory. At the same time though she would on occasion say that evolution was being taught as a fact. Each time she said that I corrected her and said that it was being taught as a theory.

"Our discussion was and went towards religion. My stands on this is that it is the parents and churches responsibility to teach religion, not the school districts.

"Get this response:

"'But, the kids are not going to church and they need to get it somewhere.'

"I said 'got you.'

"Her husband intervened at that time and said she had said to much and it was time to go. He was very polite and thanked me for my comments.

"So you see this is what the ultra-conservative want. If we leave the door open on the Science Standards, boy are we in for it."

Friday, July 28, 2006


Connie Morris: A Controversial Woman

In recent weeks, right-wing school board members who are running for re-election have toned down their rhetoric considerably in an effort to make themselves more acceptable to Kansas voters.

These days we hear less about having to decide between the Bible and evolution, and much more about critical thinking, teaching the controversy -- all of the code words that the religious right translates effortlessly into "We're going to teach Genesis in science classes."

That was, until Connie Morris' campaign manager, Harold Orosco, sent this letter to The Garden City Telegram.

Connie is Harold's heroine because, she defended "what you and I and what our children believe about God" from wait for it... a drawing of the Flying Spaghetti Monster pinned to a classroom door.

"What the Darwinists have done is to substitute a joke [the FSM] for God," writes Orosco. "It portrays Him as nothing more credible than Santa Claus or the tooth fairy."

Connie, he says, "could have walked away and said nothing. This courageous, brave woman stood alone and then was persecuted in a streamline of fire in every possible way you can think of and then labeled as a controversial woman because of her belief."

Orosco's letter is funny enough, but it also reveals -- in its "what you and I and what our children believe about God" statement -- the intolerance of the radical religious right.

In Connie and Harold's insular little world there are no different beliefs -- beliefs that have rights, beliefs that must be accommodated -- there is only "what you and I and what our children believe about God."


Lowered Expectations

Right-wing school board candidate Brad Patzer, vying for the seat Iris Van Meter, his mother-in-law currently holds, just loves the new science standards.

His Republican opponent in the primary, Jana Shaver, understands why they're a disaster for Kansas school kids:"
Establishing high quality standards is one of the most important roles of the State Board of Education. If our students are to be prepared to work and compete in the 21st century, the local curriculum must be based on the best standards possible. The Fordham Foundation rates the standards in all 50 states. In Kansas, all areas except science have received an A or B. Our current science standards received an F-. The Kansas Science Assessment, which will come on line in 2007, will be based on these standards. Kansas students must receive the best science instruction possible to prepare them, not only for the Kansas Assessment, but for national exams such as the ACT or SAT. I believe the science standards should be reviewed."
What does it say to students when board members -- and wannabes like Patzer -- say they're okay with an F-?


No Sale

Sally Cauble's campaign finance disclosure report to the Kansas Ethics Commission lists 220 donors who are residents of District 5.

Connie Morris' report lists just 21.

Even so, Connie raised $19,440 to Cauble's $16,636.

The question is, can Connie's out-of-state, out-of-district friends on the religious right buy the District 5 election.

We'll know Tuesday.


Hall Unmasked

"Jesse Hall is a stealth candidate," says Channette Kirby, Baldwin City Democratic precinct chairwoman. "He's not representative of any Democratic values. This is a very important election. In fact, I'm doing a calling tree to let people know how important it is."



The $25 million Answers in Genesis Creation Museam may finally open next spring. Suppose Ken Ham's drawn any lessons from the federal tax fraud charges that led to the arrest of Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind and closed Dinosaur Adventure Land?


Collins: Biblical Literalism, ID Undermine Faith

Francis S. Collins, who led the international Human Genome Project before converting to evangelical Christianity, "tells fellow evangelicals that opposition to evolution -- whether the biblical literalism of creationists or 'intelligent design' arguments -- undermines the credibility of faith. He finds the first "fundamentally flawed" and warns that the second builds upon gaps in evidence that scientists are very likely to fill in the future, among other objections."

Thursday, July 27, 2006


A Ringling Endorsement

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council, and the National Science Teachers Association call them "contrary to modern science."

The nonpartisan Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave them an "F" saying they make a "mockery of the very definition of science."

The Kansas Association of Teachers of Science say they violate the separation of church and state by teaching intelligent design in public school science classes.

Thirty-eight Nobel laureates lead by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel reject them as an attempt to "politicize scientific inquiry."

The president of the National Academy of Science says "Kansas students will be both confused and ill-served by an explanation of science that allows for supernatural explanations of the natural world."

But, pay no attention to all that...

The Discovery Institute thinks "that the Kansas science standards are the best in the nation and we're committed to preserving them."


Godless Creationists

Keith B. Miller, an evangelical Christian, who is a founding member of Kansas Citizens for Science writes, in a letter published today in The Kansas City Star that those who rewrote and support the new science standards "want my child told in science class that evolution is a meaningless and purposeless process that God has nothing to do with."

"In their misguided attempt to make God a part of science, they have instead instructed teachers to teach evolution as a Godless process. How very sad."


Discovery Moons Kansas

The Discovery Institute, apparently, has decided to moon Kansas.

The Discovery Institute, that overcaffienated intelligent design think tank located in Seattle, has announced plans to run two new radio commercials promoting their misnamed Stand Up for Science website and the online petition to “Stand up for Science, Stand up for Kansas.”

The ads will air this weekend across Kansas just in time to drive right-wing religious voters to the polls for the primary election here.

According to Discovery, one ad features Discovery fellow Jonathan Wells -- they don't mention that Wells is a follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a man who has proclaimed himself God, and the Unification Church.
"Father's [Moon's] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism," writes Wells. "When Father chose me to enter a PhD program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle."

Wells, who calls himself a scientist even though he'd made up his mind about evolution long before he got his PhD, and actually was exposed to the evidence, is nothing more than a right-wing religious zealot who has donned a lab coat.

Here's what he says in the commercials to be aired in Kansas:
“... it is imperative to understand both the evidence for and against a scientific theory… as a scientist, I am standing up for science education policies that require students to learn both the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence that supports Darwin’s theory, as well as the scientific evidence that challenges it.”

Stealth candidates. Stealth scientists. A stealth campaign to introduce creationism and ultra-right politics into science classes. The contempt of the Discovery Institute and its backers for the people of Kansas knows no bounds.



An article by Dave Ranney in the Lawrence Journal World makes the case that "Conservatives may be tough to shake off" in the upcoming school board election.


In Wichita, Cindy Duckett is campaigning for the five conservatives on the Aug. 1 ballot.

“I don’t think we’re going to lose any seats,” she said. “As we’ve seen before, I think conservative voters are motivated; moderates aren’t.”

And why is that?

“Where do conservatives gather?” Duckett said. “They gather in church. They meet, they talk, they get motivated. Now, where do moderates meet?”

She paused.

“That’s just it,” Duckett said. “They don’t. They may go to church, but they’re not motivated by church.”

Are moderates motivated enough to take this election? That remains to be seen.

The election is now less than a week away. If the radical right's demonstrated advantage in fund raising for the board positions is reflected in a greater number of motivated voters showing up at the polls, we will have lost a great opportunity to Take Back Kansas.

It's not too late to make a contribution.

Don't stand on the sidelines wringing your hands. Follow one of the links in the sidebar under the "Donate" header to lend a hand. Janet Waugh particularly needs your help right now.



Running under the radar and out of the public eye, unmasked stealth candidate Jesse Hall has raised nearly three times as much money, as incumbent State Board of Education member Janet Waugh.

Both are running in the Democratic Party. The winner of the primary election will automatically be elected to the board. There is no Republican candidate in the race.

There isn't much time left, but moderate supporters of public education can help redress the imbalance by sending a check to Janet Waugh, 916 So. 57th Terr., Kansas City, Kansas, 66106.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Employed by God

From the 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers, starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi:

Jake: First you traded the Cadillac in for a microphone. Then you lied to me about the band. And now you're gonna put me right back in the joint!

Elwood: They're not gonna catch us. We're on a mission from God.

From the 2006 tax fraud trial of creationist Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind (via WorldNetDaily):

"Creationist 'employed by God.'"

Both Jake and Dr. Dino, we suspect, share the same fate -- they'll see the joint long before they see God.


Hall Toes Party Line

Jesse Hall, running for the 1st District Kansas Board of Education seat against moderate Janet Waugh, says he's been quietly going door to door with his campaign, suggesting he's not connected with other right-wing fundamentalist candidates who want to reshape public education in the state along the lines of Christian academies.

Yesterday, we pointed out that for a man quietly going about the business of seeking his neighbor's votes, he seems to have had little success in winning campaign contributions from them -- only four of his contributors live within his district -- but he's been very successful at tapping into that deep well of financial support available to candidates certified in good standing with the radical right.

A profile of the 1st District race in today's Kansas City Star shows that Hall is also highly attuned to the nuance of this week's particular intelligent design party line:
Science standards approved in November encourage students to look at both the theory of evolution and criticism of it. Hall supports the standards, saying that they don’t specifically advocate teaching creationism or intelligent design.

Yes, it's true. The folks who in 1999 proposed writing crude young earth creationism into the science standards have become so sophisticated, they aren't even for intelligent design -- that's sooo last week, now.

Their motives are pure. They want only to teach the "scientific criticisms" of evolution. The only problem is, the so-called scientific criticisms of evolution they wrote into the standards can't be found in the writings of any legitimate scientist, in any of the published, peer-reviewed science literature, or any legitimate science textbook.

You'll find it only in the tracts churned out by creationist groups such as Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and intelligent design groups such as John Calvert's Intelligent Design Network and the Discovery Institute.


The Whole Story

Intelligent design activists William Harris, Angus Menuge, and John Calvert are barnstorming Kansas right now to drum up votes for the creationists on the state school board who voted to redefine science in Kansas.

"The scientists and educators who crafted the changes were eight members of a state board appointed science writing committee, three of which hold doctoral degrees in the life sciences" Harris told The Emporia Gazzette (no link available). "Our work was extensively vetted by the public and scientists on both sides of the issue."

Like so much else that intelligent design activists like Harris have to say, this statement doesn't exactly tell the whole story.

The eight hand-picked intelligent design activists who were appointed to the writing committee by right-wing board members -- being neither scientists or educators -- stuck out like a sore thumb on the 23-member committee. They were a distinct minority.

In the end, an unqualified board rejected the recommendations of the majority of the writing committee in order to implement its plan to weaken the standards.

Harris is right when he says their work has been extensively vetted by the public and scientists. Members of the public who want to teach the Bible in science classes love it. Scientists -- real scientists -- see the new standards as a joke.

In fact, the peer reviews of the science standards were so embarrassing that the KSDE website has now removed them from their website.

Fortunately, Red State Rabble made copies. Here are some of the comments:

Peer reviewer Karen E. Bartelt, Ph.D., a Professor of Chemistry at Eureka College tells ID proponents that they need to roll up their sleeves and do some real work:

"No one is suggesting that the Proponents not go out and test their hypotheses. In fact, this has been recommended numerous times. When this has been done and there is actually some evidential support, then it is time to have the discussion about whether or where to include it."
Peer reviewer Scott Brande, Ph.D. , Associate Professor of Natural Science & Mathematics at the University of Alabama-Birmingham debunks the notion that because evolution looks at the past, it isn't science:

"(The Intelligent Design Network proposal) suggests that a distinction be made between scientific investigations of contemporary phenomena and that of historical phenomena. As a paleontologist, I investigate the past, but not by criteria different from that needed to explore the present. The primary criterion for assessing the strength of hypotheses is the conformity of the hypothesis with the evidence, regardless of whether the evidence is 10 minutes or 10 million years old. "
The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers Association wrote:

With misinformation about evolution and the nature of science at issue in proposed Kansas science education standards, AAAS strongly supports two national science organizations that announced today they are unable to allow use of their copyrighted material in the standards.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute's "The State of State Science Standards" gave Kansas an "F" because:

Kansas has adopted standards whose treatment of evolutionary material has been radically compromised. The effect transcends evolution, however. It now makes a mockery of the very definition of science. The grade for Kansas is accordingly reduced to "F."


Jack Krebs on the Science Standards

You can now listen to Jack Krebs talk, "What's the Matter With Kansas Science Standards," and view his PowerPoint presentation at the KCFS News and Resources blog. Jack does a great job of pointing out exactly what's the matter with the empty assertions by John Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network and John West of the Discovery Institute that intelligent design isn't in the standards.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Mr. Hall's Neighborhood

Jesse Hall, a Democrat running for the Kansas state school board against moderate Janet Waugh in District 1, denies that he's a fundamentalist stealth candidate.

Until recently, Hall hadn't attended a candidate forum. Hadn't issued a news release or put up a website for his campaign. He hadn't even returned reporter's phone calls inquiring about where he stood on the issues in the board race.

Then, Red State Rabble broke a story about a surreptitious e-mail fundraising appeal for Hall circulated by creationist Celtie Johnson.

Suddenly, Hall surfaced to tell the Bonner Springs Chieftain that he wasn't a fundamentalist, and he certainly wasn't a stealth candidate, either. He was just a candidate, like any other candidate.

He'd been quietly going about the business, he said, of door-to-door campaigning in his Kansas City, Kansas neighborhood to learn "what is currently lacking" on the Kansas Board of Education.

One of the things the good folks in Hall's neighborhood told him, he says, is that Janet Waugh, the current board member representing District 1, is fighting way too hard against intelligent design inspired changes to the state's science curriculum.

Funny thing, RSR has been studying campaign finance reports just released by the Kansas Ethics Commission and we've discovered that Hall's concept of door-to-door campaigning – like his definition of science – may be somewhat broader than your's and mine.

The District 1 seat Hall is running for includes Jefferson, Leavenworth, and parts of Douglas and Wyandot counties on the Kansas side of the metropolitan area, but according to his campaign finance disclosure report, only four of his 37 listed contributors live within the district.

Oddly, for a man running such a low-profile door-to-door campaign, sipping coffee with the neighbors, quietly calling on the good folks up the street, twice as many of his contributors – eight in all – are from out of state.

Three of Hall's contributions were handed across the kitchen table from Booker, Texas. A few more come in from Colorado and Minnesota. Three contributions are from Missouri.

Kansans are used to getting generous contributions from Missouri. The Creation Science Association of Mid-America, located in Missouri, wrote the science standards Steve Abrams presented to the board for adoption in 1999.

Some of the usual suspects – John Calvert, Celtie Johnson, Nancy and Lloyd Hanahan, Robert and Mary Jane Hogdon – somehow learned of Hall's sympathy for the intelligent design cause despite the dearth of public campaigning and resultant lack of news coverage about Hall's candidacy.

That's certainly lucky for Hall, because, despite his focus on meeting with the neighbors, nearly 90 percent of the contributions to his campaign come from outside his district.

Our old friend Josh Rosenau, the proprietor of the Thoughts from Kansas blog also has good coverage on the Kansas Ethics filings.


Steve Abrams: Then and Now

RSR has noted that a number of board conservatives have changed their tune as the elections draw near. Right now, Steve Abrams is saying the battle over science standards "is not about Scripture. And it's not about intelligent design. It is about the idea that evolution should not be taught dogmatically."

Last fall, however, Abrams was singing out of a different hymn book:

“At some point in time, if you compare evolution and the Bible, you have to decide which one you believe,” Abrams told a conservative religious audience in Independence. “That’s the bottom line.”

What does Steve Abrams really believe in? Taking into account past statements one can only conclude that political expediency is the one true god in Abrams personal pantheon.


Absence of Evidence

"Whatever one's personal views about religion, it is undeniable that scientific understanding alone does not encompass the range of the human intellectual experience," writes Lawrence Krauss, director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve, in New Scientist (sub. req.).
Scientists who fail to appreciate this, and who attack religious beliefs for being unscientific, do their discipline a disservice, not least because such attacks are themselves unscientific. This is why, while I am sympathetic with many of the points he raises, I disagree with Richard Dawkins's unfettered attack on God. Not only is it inappropriate to try to convince people of the validity of scientific theories by first arguing that their deeply held beliefs are silly, it is also clear that the existence of God is a metaphysical question which is, for the most part, outside the domain of science. Now more than ever it is important to understand the limits of science. The phrase often used to defend aspects of evolution has particular significance here: the absence of evidence is not evidence for absence.


Evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins will speak Oct. 16 at the University of Kansas Lied Center. Dawkins' talk is part of the 2006-07 Humanities Lecture Series sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities.

Dawkins is author of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil's Chaplaplain. His most recent book is The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution. A new book, The God Delusion, will be released later this year.


Dover Attorneys Honored by Bar Association

Erich Rothschild and Stephen G. Harvey of the Pepper Hamilton law firm in Philadelphia, received Pro Bono Awards from the Pennsylvania Bar Association for their work on behalf of families who challenged the inclusion of "intelligent design" in the high school science curriculum in Dover, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.


The list of speaking engagements for Jack Krebs, the president of Kansas Citizens for Science, keeps growing. Here's the complete list -- as it stands now -- for his "What's the Matter With Kansas Science Standards" presentation:

Monday, July 24, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Room 211, Carlsen Center
Johnson County Community College
12345 College Blvd.
Overland Park

Thursday, July 27, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Shears Technology Center
Hutchinson Community College & Area Vocational School
1300 N. Plum,

Friday, July 28, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
710 N. Main Street,
Garden City

Saturday, July 29, 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Tomanek Hall, Room 106
Fort Hays State University

Monday, July 31, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Performing Arts Center,
Kansas City Kansas Community College
7250 State Avenue
Kansas City, Kansas

Monday, July 24, 2006


Fundamentalism Incompatible

“The real underlying issue is that fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education,’’ says David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory. “In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re searching for truths.’’

From a must read article in the New York Times about Baptist Colleges cutting their church ties by Alan Finder.


How Times Change

Last February, before the elections were really on the horizon, Connie Morris mailed out a newsletter to constituents -- at taxpayer expense of course -- in which she described evolution as an "age-old fairy tale."

Connie had some nasty things to say about moderate board members in her little missive, as well, but we'll leave that for another day.

Today, with a tough primary election just around the corner, Connie has changed her tune, if not her mind "Evolution needs to be taught. It's an important theory, and there are aspects of it that are credible, but it is a theory in crisis, and it needs to stand up to criticism."

Personally, we liked Connie better back in the days when she was, "a little confused by the prebiotic soup."

The Kansas Citizens for Science website has a post up just now that presents slides and text from a speech that intelligent design activist John Calvert is giving around the state. Here's an excerpt:

If they’re given complete information, they may choose to go this way [pointing to the left-hand sign which says “Designs”] They may conclude that life is a product of an intelligent cause rather than a material cause, and that’s going to lead them to a whole series of exits relating to Christianity, Judaism, Islam. And there will be subsidiary exits for ethics, morals, and even notions of government.

In this direction [pointing to the right], if you just believe you’re a product of material cause, you’ll have a whole different set of exits: exits for secular humanism, atheism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions, with different views of morals.

In other words, all that stuff you've heard about intelligent design not being in the standards is a lot of hooey.

And, all that nonsense about the science standards contoversy being about some scientific difference of opinion over the evidence supporting the theory of evolution? That's strictly for suckers.

The whole purpose of the board's new "science" standards is not to teach science but to lead students to Christianity -- Judaism and Islam are strictly window dressing --and tell them what ethics, morals, and notions of government are acceptable.

The standards supported by teachers and the science community, by the way, say nothing about origins. Students learn facts, not opinion. They are not indoctrinated as they are under the board's standards. Instead, their views are respected. They may believe what they want about the origin of life.


Radical, Dude

Ann Coulter, The Discovery Institute, and William Dembski all say the theory of evolution is godless liberalism -- a false religion if ever there was one.

Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, wants to convince fellow conservatives that the "Darwinian science of human nature supports their realist view of human imperfectability, and it refutes the utopian view of the Left that human nature is so completely malleable that it can be shaped to conform to any program of social engineering."

RSR isn't really in a position to help the right sort this mess out, but we will suggest that the science of evolution (if not some dubious interpretations of it) lies outside the sphere of both politics and religion.


The Whispering Game

Have you ever played that game where a message is passed from person to person by whispering in their ear. It's truly amazing how garbled the original message gets as it's transmitted from person to person.

As a matter of fact, we're playing that game in the run-up to the primary election here in Kansas right now.

Here's the message that the Discovery Institute says it's whispering into the ears of various fundamentalist congregations around the state:
"Students need to have an accurate assessment of the state of the facts in regard to Darwin's theory," says John West, a vice president for the Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based, anti-evolution Discovery Institute.
Here's the message the good biblical literalists who attend those churches are hearing:
"Personally, I don't think we ought to teach evolution at all," says Chuck Warner, a 53-year-old from Smith County. "But if that's the way it has to be, then I think we ought to be able to teach Christianity and the Bible, too."
Funny how that happens. Isn't it?


Connie Morris: The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind

"I may not win the election, but at least I spoke for the people," Morris told the Associated Press recently as she prepared a booth at the Ellis County Fair in Hays.

Connie has never been RSR's go-to board member when logic was required -- comic relief is more in her stock in trade -- but even for dear sweet logic-challenged Connie, this statement hangs together like a pile of straw in a Kansas windstorm. Which is to say, not at all.

By the way, if Connie is saying she may not win, does that mean she knows something we don't?


Take a Seat

A couple of weeks ago when the Discovery Institute, the intelligent design think tank located in Seattle, launched its long-distance "Stand Up for Science" campaign here, they said they were doing it at the "behest of Kansas teachers and parents."

Should we tell them that the Kansas National Education Association -- they actually represent teachers in this state -- has endorsed moderate candidates opposed to teaching intelligent design such as Sally Cauble, a Republican from Liberal, and Tim Cruz, a Democrat from Garden City, Donna Viola, a McPherson Republican, and Jack Wempe, a Lyons Democrat for the state school board?

Do you think they know, the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science -- another group that actually represents teachers here -- says that replacing scientific explanations with intelligent design inspired pseudoscience inappropriately imposes on Kansas religious, cultural, moral, and political life.

Do you suppose if we tell them where Kansas teachers really stand on this issue they'll pack their bags and go home?


Flock to the Theaters

Randy Olson's documentary, "Flock of Dodos" will be released in theaters this fall." The DVD, reportedly, will follow soon after.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


The Stepford Board

Kathy Martin, the Claire Wellington of the Stepford faction on the state board of education, believes that moderate Sue Gamble is "a very negative component of the board" because she won't go along with right-wing attempts to perfect education in Kansas.

Even worse is Gamble's refusal to be submissive. That's reflected in her efforts to "demean the direction the Department of Education is advancing under the leadership of the new Commissioner" Bob "Heckuva Job" Corkins.

Kathy isn't angry though. She's got Sue in her prayers, and, if you're reading this, she's probably praying for you too.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Common Sense Kansans

"Forget the headlines around the country from wacko Fred Phelps and his funeral-protesting church group, and the headlines made when the Global Flyer garnered worldwide attention from its base in Salina," writes Ann Charles, editor and publisher of The Parsons Sun, in southeast Kansas. "Kansas made more ears perk up on the world stage during the past couple of years because of the policy fiascoes from its Board of Education."
Think creationism, intelligent design or anti-evolution. Toss in a hefty dose of the board's opposition to sex education and no other headlines concerning Kansas brought about a bigger flood of criticism, ridicule and commentary.

Kansans are tired of it, too. With five of the board's 10 seats up for election, this once little-known position in politics is a hot seat in the Aug. 1 primary. And because four of the five positions are held by social conservatives, voter interest can effect a much-needed change.

Brad Patzer is the social conservative vying for the Southeast Kansas seat. He is also the son-in-law of Iris Van Meter, our board member who rubber-stamped everything that spewed from the mouth of board radical Connie Morris. The fact that Patzer moved to Kansas just a year ago, and his mother-in-law decided to not run for reelection shortly after, is surely more than just coincidence.

So where does he stand on the issues? A written statement on science reads, "Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs ..."

The phrases "against common sense" and "patent absurdity" are why there are so many people willing to put their names on the ballot in this race. The majority of Kansans do not agree and are up in arms.

Patzer also totally ignores the dramatic progress in bringing down teen pregnancy rates, which are the lowest since records were first kept in the 1940s. Instead of further building on that he wants to take sex education out of the classroom so parents can deal with it. The problem is thattoo many parents weren't dealing with it. And as for teaching abstinence, already 75 percent of Kansas school districts do that.

The Kansas BOE has made enough negative news around the world. The members' focus should be on education, not religion. It is up to "common sense" Kansans to make sure that happens.


No One Understands Kathy Martin

Right-wing board member Kathy Martin thinks an editorial in The Johnson County Sun noting that turnover in the Education Department doubled this year under Bob "Heckuva Job" Corkins, "reads like the liberal propaganda most newspapers print."

Why is it everyone is wrong but them?

(For you out-of-state readers, Johnson County does not have much of a reputation as a "liberal" hotbed. Why do you suppose The Sun would alienate readers and advertisers by printing liberal propaganda?)


Dazzle Them With Science

The new standards are all about science, right? There's no mention of intelligent design, creationism, religion -- nothing like that. They are, we are told, utterly objective...

So, why are all Discovery Institute symposiums scheduled only at churches and other religious institutions?

Could it be Discovery wants to mobilize the true believers for the Aug. 1 primary election?


Sebelius Interview

DoubleSpeak with Matthew and Peter Slutsky, an online political radio show based in Washington D.C., is featuring an interview with Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Listen here.


Keith Miller Responds to Calvert Smear Campaign

Keith Miller, an evangelical Christian, a research assistant professor in the Geology Dept. at Kansas State University, and a board member of Kansas Citizens for Science, has written a response to John Calvert's misrepresentation of KCFS. Here's an excerpt:

John Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network charges that during the science hearings in May 2005, “KCFS was the primary tool of the opposition and has been used and supported by national organizations to promote a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation. This effectively promotes non-theistic religions and worldviews over traditional theistic views and causes governmental institutions that employ the strategy to engage in religious discrimination.”

Such a portrayal of KCFS is both false and a personal insult. I am a current and founding Board member of KCFS. I am also an evangelical Christian, a fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation (an association of Christians in the sciences) and an officer in the Affiliation of Christian Geologists. I believe that God is always creatively active in the natural world and that the very existence of physical reality is dependent on God's continual creative action.

There are also several other Christians on the Board, as well as members with other religious views. Calvert knows this and yet persists in portraying KCFS as advocating a materialist worldview and denigrating faith.

The efforts of KCFS have been to oppose the false portrayal of science and evolutionary theory as atheistic, and to combat the utterly false popular “warfare” view of science and faith.

It is Calvert and the Intelligent Design (ID) proponents, not KCFS or the Kansas scientific or educational communities, that are responsible for promoting and legitimizing an atheistic view of science.


Florida: Critical of Thinking

From Common Dreams: "One way to measure the fears of people in power is by the intensity of their quest for certainty and control over knowledge.

"By that standard, the members of the Florida Legislature marked themselves as the folks most terrified of history in the United States when last month they took bold action to become the first state to outlaw historical interpretation in public schools. In other words, Florida has officially replaced the study of history with the imposition of dogma and effectively outlawed critical thinking."

Common Dreams reports that "an education bill signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida has declared that 'American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed.' That factual history, the law states, shall be viewed as 'knowable, teachable, and testable.'"

Thanks to reader FM for calling this particular historical construct to our attention.


Ominous News

Right-wing school board member Ken Willard's wants "to get science standards behind us and move ahead with redesigning education for the 21st century," according to the Pratt Tribune.

By that we assume the proponent of charter schools and vouchers mean's privatizing Kansas public schools along the lines of the Christian acadamies the religous right finds so attractive.


Krebs to Debate Calvert

Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, will take on John Calvert, managing director of the Kansas Intelligent Design Network, this Friday on public television.

They will debate the state's science standards, a topic that has fueled political debate for the past several years.

The program airs at 8 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday on KPTS/Wichita and at noon Sunday on Smoky Hills Public Television.


ID: Fast and Loose

Long time readers may remember that following the pseudoscience hearings in Topeka in May of 2005 it turned out that John Calvert, the attorney who represented the intelligent design side at the hearings, wasn't even licenced to practice law in Kansas.

Now we find that Calvert's Intelligent Design Network Inc.-- that's the group that's touting the new standards as being good science because they're ID free -- organized as Kansas "Not for Profit" (its business entity ID Number 2785558), "does not currently qualify for a letter or certificate of good standing" according to the Kansas Secretary of State.

It's currently listed as delinquent.

They've never followed the rules the rest of us have to live by, why should they start now?

Scott Beach has appended "Bamboozled By Delinquent Propagandists" to Wikipedia's "Intelligent Design" page. Beware, the ID rap sheet is longer than many career criminals and you may have to wade through a lot to find the "Bamboozled" header.


Sen. Sam: Kansas' Ambassador to the World

Well, RSR thought Kansas hit the big time when our looney toons school board was ridiculed by Jay Leno for wanting to teach Genesis in science classes back in 1999. Turns out, that was nothing.

Now Sen. Sam Brownback has hit the big time -- on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show," no less.

You can laugh, or weep. We chose to laugh.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Harris's the Name, Misrepresentation's the Game

Liz Craig, a longtime member of Kansas Citizens for Science, who lately has been on the receiving end of a disingenuous smear campaign by intelligent design crank John Calvert, has a letter in today's Kansas City Star that makes an important point.

Craig's writes in response to July 15 letter written by William Harris -- who until he moved to South Dakota played Sgt. Shultz to Calvert's Col. Klink -- complaining that The Star’s editorial July 9 "misrepresented the actions” of the current Kansas Board of Education.

Craig writes:
Harris also falsely asserts that The Star endorsed “five liberal candidates,” but four are moderate Republicans and one a moderate Democrat. From Harris’ skewed viewpoint, anyone who’s not far right of center is apparently a “liberal.”

Harris' should know a misrepresentation when he sees one. After all, he's been the author of many.

Intelligent design crackpots like Harris maintain that science is religion and religion is science. They say, ignoring all the evidence to the contrary, that anyone who opposes teaching ID in public schools is an atheist. They form a group called the Intelligent Design network to write pseudoscience into the curriculum and then claim there's nothing in the standards about ID.

Why sould anyone believe anything they have to say anymore?


Autocratic, Arbitrary Conduct

"The autocratic, arbitrary conduct of the 6-4 ultraconservative majority on the Kansas Board of Education rolls on, leaving astounded Kansans wondering what is next on the Christian coalition agenda," writes Bob Sigman, Opinion Page Editor, of the Johnson County Sun.

Sigman notes that turnover in the Education Department doubled this year, from about 10 to 20 percent. Of the 53 who left the department, 47 resigned and only six retired, an indication that most of the employees who departed did not want to stay there, preferring to seek work in other places. That means employees with expertise and understanding are leaving and the ones who follow are stepping into a muddled work place.

"With their policies on issues such as evolution instruction and sex education, the right-wing-dominated board is inflicting its narrow, religious-based notions on the education of Kansas children," writes Sigman.

Johnson County voters can help turn out the destructive conservative board members. John W. Bacon, Olathe, is a member of the 6-4 conservative majority who should be denied a new term. He is opposed in the 3rd District Republican primary by Harry E. McDonald, Olathe.

A vote for McDonald is a step toward a more rational, well-motivated Board of Education.


Moral Decline

As we all know, the real knock against evolution is that it destroys morals.

That's why it was such a shock to learn that Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and candidate for Lt. Gov. in Georgia, must have been a closet Darwinist.

How else are we to explain the fact that the baby-faced Reed was taking millions from convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- after it was suitably laundered by passing it through Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, of course -- to mobilize Christian conservatives to protest proposed tribal casinos so that Abramoff could milk the tribes for higher fees.

Reed lost his bid for Lt. Gov. in the Georgia primary election yesterday in a humiliating 55-45 defeat.

Here in Kansas, there's a primary election coming up in less than two weeks.

Connie Morris, one of the conservative family values candidates running for re-election in order to rid the state of godless Darwinism -- and the moral decline that inevitably follows the teaching of that dread theory -- doesn't quite have Reed's golden touch, but she's demonstrated that one of her family values includes billing the taxpayers for a lavish junket to Miami -- which just happens to be close to where her daughter lives.

Although there are no magnet schools in her district, Morris felt compelled to attend the Magnet Schools of America conference in Miami and to stay in a $339 a night beachfront room at the Fountainebleau Hilton Resort.

Of course, after news of Morris' expense report hit the papers, which she claims don't tell the truth about her, Morris sulked a bit before agreeing to repay the money.

Do you suppose she's a closet Darwinists, too?


What’s the Matter With Kansas’ Science Standards

In addition to speaking engagements announced earlier (see our Events Calendar in the sidebar) Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science and a member of the Science Standards Writing Committee will be speaking in Hutchinson on July 27 on “What’s the Matter With Kansas’ Science Standards." Here's the complete schedule:

Monday, July 24: 7-9 PM, at Johnson County Community Center, Carlsen Center, Room 211, College Blvd. & Quivira, Overland Park.

Thursday, July 27: 7-9 PM,, at Hutchinson Community College & Area Vocational School, Shears Technology Center, 1300 N. Plum, Hutchinson.

Monday, July 31: 7-9 PM at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Performing Arts Center, 7250 State Avenue, Kansas City.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Spiralling Into Chaos

Moderate School Board member Bill Wagnon says, "beginning in 2001, with a eight-vote moderate majority, the board adopted numerous reforms that consolidated school improvement, whereas beginning in 2005, the board with a six-vote radical majority has spiralled into chaos."

That could all change in just 12 days if Kansans vote moderates in and radicals out in the Aug. 1 primary election. You can make a difference by making a contribution to a moderate candidate or one of the political action committees that's supporting them (see the sidebar for contact information). You can also volunteer to help get out the vote. Don't forget to vote yourself on Aug. 1.

If you live outside Kansas, you can help too. Remember this is an issue of national importance. If the radical right is set back in Kansas, it will be a victory for science education everywhere.

Right-wing candidates see that this election has national significance. They aren't a bit shy about raising money all across the country. The Discovery Institute has pushed itself into this election and you can bet your bottom dollar they're working behind the scenes to re-elect the creationists who voted to re-define science in Kansas.

Elections, like battles, are won by those who show up -- so show up. The time for talk is over, the time for action is here.


Right-wing Board Candidates Running for Re-election of the Taxpayers Dime

Via KCFS: Last Wednesday at the state BOE meeting, Board president Steve Abrams surprised the Board with a hot-off-the-press glossary pamphlet entitled "Kansas Science Standards Summary of Changes."

As he handed them out, Abrams said, "As you will see most of the discussion is quotes from the science standards themselves. There is not a lot of editorial comment."

But there is significant editorial comment. On the first page, the pamphlet misleadingly presents the Board's Rationale statement from the standards. The pamphlet

But the Rationale statement taken as a whole does say that students should learn about Intelligent Design and that information about Intelligent Design should be in the standards. The Board, by highlighting this one sentence and separating it from the rest of the Rationale statement deceptively misleads the public about the inclusion of Intelligent Design in the standards.

Kansas Citizens for science strongly objects to the KBOE's expenditure of time and money to print this pamphlet. Considering the timing, the content, and particularly the editorializing about Intelligent Design, this pamphlet inappropriately aligns the KBOE with the Discovery Institute and IDnet's disinformation campaign about the intent and effect of the science standards.

"The new board information contains significant misstatements about the material in the Kansas Science Education Standards," says Dr. Steve Case, chair of the standards writing committee.

"This is clearly an effort to mislead the public, yet again. Last May, the State Board of Education Chairman Dr. Steve Abrams claimed that a primary purpose of the three days of "Scientific Hearings" was for "public education" about the Kansas Science Education Standards. The Board spent $30,000 of taxpayer money on these hearings in an outrageous display of pseudoscience and misinformation. The public has seen through the phony information of the hearings so the State Board of Education is producing more marketing material at taxpayer expense. This is wrong."

It is inappropriate for the state Board to get involved in editorializing about this issue, spending money to produce these pamphlets that will likely be used by the Discovery Institute, the Intelligent Design network, and incumbent Board members to justify their claim that the standards don't include ID.

We are concerned that these pamphlets, being paid for with tax-payer funds, will be used inappropriately as a campaign tool. As Board member Connie Morris said at the Board meeting, "When it comes from the Department of Education it validates the truthfulness of it." For the Board to be editorializing about their interpretation of the standards and providing people with ready-made campaign materials at no cost seems quite wrong.

KCFS protests these pamphlets. At the very least, the Rationale statement should be printed exactly as it is written in the standards: let the reader decide for him or herself what the Rationale statement says rather than than leading the reader to the conclusion the Board wants the reader to reach.


Radio Spots

The Kansas Alliance for Education has produced four radio spots. Two each for moderate school board candidates Sally Cauble and Jana Shaver. You can listen to them online here.

While you're visiting the KAE website, please, please make a donation to help defeat right-wing candidates John Bacon, Connie Morris, and Ken Willard who are running for re-election and their wannabe partners in crime Brad Patzer and Jesse Hall.

If we want to stop attacks on science education, preserve the separation of church and state, and defend an independent judiciary -- one of the cornerstones of our constitutional democracy -- we absolutely must open our wallets and make a contribution, no matter how small.

The radical right has no qualms about raising money. They're raising lots of it. The ID Network is running radio ads, promoting its website, and distributing an expensively printed four-color brochure around the state.

If we're really serious about what we say, then we won't let the radical right take over our schools, our government, or our courts. Even contributions of just $5, $10, or $25 will be welcomed and -- better yet -- put to use.


It's The Media's Fault

Poor, poor Connie Morris. She's sooo misunderstood.

"I always thought that politicians were the problem," Morris said. "The media was the problem. There have been so many bad reports go out that it's just mind-boggling. You don't know where to begin to correct the falsehoods."

Recently, Connie told Earl Watt of the Southwest Daily Times that when she was asked if she had read the new standards at the science hearing in May 2005, "I told the reporter that I had read the standards but I have not finished researching them."

"But his report said that I admitted to only having scanned the standards," Connie continued. "It's frustrating when words are manipulated, when your actions are not reported correctly."

Red State Rabble was at the hearings when witness after witness provided by the intelligent design think tank, the Discovery Institute, was forced to admit under a whithering cross-examination by pro-science attorney Pedro Irigonegaray that they'd come to Kansas at taxpayer expense to testify without ever having read the proposed standards.

At the time, we reported, along with a number of other reporters working for a wide range of local and national media the startling admission -- heard by everyone who attended the hearing -- made by fellow right-wing board member Kathy Martin:

"I've not read it word for word myself."

John Hanna of the Associated Press also reported that Morris acknowledged she had merely scanned proposed standards. That apparently is what has her fuming.

Interestingly, Connie doesn't dispute media coverage of the expense report she submitted for a junket to Miami which included a stay at a luxury beachfront hotel. After media coverage of that story she decided to return the money.


Makin' Bacon

John Bacon is for local control of the schools. Except, of course, when he isn't.

“Some of our public schools have lost touch with what the public is, as far as values,” Bacon told The Kansas City Star's Melodee Hall Blobaum. “It’s important that parents and communities be heard. There are things that the state board can do to help plug in the community and parents.”

Well yes, of course, local school boards, elected by the local community are not as in touch with the public as Bacon and the other right-wing lunatics -- some of whom have run stealth campaigns to conceal from the public who and what they are -- who have captured control of the state school board.

One of the ways Bacon and his fellow theocrats on the state board tried to help "plug in the community and parents," was to take the final decision about charter school approval away from them and give it to the state board instead.

Another way Bacon plugged in the local community and parents was by having the state board in Topeka tell them how to administer sex education programs at the local level.

First the state board re-defined science to make it synonymous with religion. Now they want to re-define local control to mean centralized control.

Move over George Orwell.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Dr. Dino Pleads

Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, wanted to plead, now get this, "subornation of false muster" to a 58-count federal tax fraud indictment. The Dino man argues that the United States, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office don't "have jurisdiction in this matter."

Hmmm... taxes, isn't that kind of like the IRS's thing?

Reportedly, when pressed, Hovind said he was entering a not guilty plea "under duress."

Hovind stands accused of failing to pay $473,818 in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes for employees of his Creation Science Ministry. Mrs. Dino has been charged, as well.

The way RSR sees it, the family that cheats on its taxes together, stays together. Its a values thing.

That's assuming, of course, they don't end up in jail.

Dr. Dino's chances of winning this case? About as good as proving that Adam -- like Fred Flintstone -- rode around on a dinosaur.


Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Former Los Angeles Times science writer, K.C. Cole, writing in The Columbia Journalism Review about the difficulty science writers have explaining science to their readers -- and their editors, for that matter -- says there is one place in which the intelligent-design people have a point.
It is unfathomable, Cole writes, that complex life forms evolved in tiny increments over time through random mutation and natural selection — that our ancestors are bacteria and our siblings are fish.

We know it happened nonetheless," Cole continues, "because we have multiple lines of evidence: the fossil record, DNA, morphology, embryology and so on. (We even see evolution in action right in front of our noses. If we couldn’t, we wouldn’t be worrying about bird flu.) But to pretend evolution “makes sense” in some ordinary way does our readers a disservice (and too often leads journalists to neglect to mention the evidence at all).

Cole raises an interesting point. Science often challenges our assumptions -- sometimes our most cherished assumptions. Science discoveries sometimes make us very uncomfortable, especially when they demonstrate that our senses have deceived us. When they show that what seems so utterly obvious is also quite certainly wrong.

The planet we live on isn't flat. It's a globe whirling through the darkness of space. It's not the center of the universe, either, just a small planet in a nondescript solar system at the edge of an unremarkable galaxy.

Why do most people accept the findings of science even though it contradicts what our senses tell us must be true? Because it comes with evidence. With proof.

To deny evolution, to cling to a comforting myth of origins, is to ignore or deny the evidence. That is why the writings of intelligent design "theorists" such as Michael Behe are full of things like this: "life overwhelms us with the appearance of design." (Emphasis added here and in the following citations)

And this...
... it's important to keep in mind that it is the profound appearance of design in life that everyone is laboring to explain, not the appearance of natural selection or the appearance of self-organization.

"Design should not be overlooked simply because it's so obvious."

Most people have no trouble reconciling religious beliefs with science. They can believe -- like Ken Miller -- that god may have chosen to work through the natural process of evolution. For biblical literalists -- and the crypto literalists who call themselves intelligent designers -- that is not good enough.

The science of evolution is too much of a challenge for their puny belief system. It makes them uneasy. The thought that there no one -- no sky daddy -- watching over them. That their eyes and ears may deceiving them. It's just too hard. Too crushing. They don't want to, they can't accept it.

And, that's why they've launched a furious, if ultimately futile, assault the evidence



John Bacon, the right-wing incumbent running for re-election to the Kansas State School Board, tells The Kansas City Star he's "running for a third term because he still has much he wants to accomplish."

Bacon's accomplishments so far?

He voted for science standards that made Kansas a laughing stock around the world. He voted to appoint Bob Corkins Education Commissioner -- something Republican Sen. John Vratil, who serves on the Education Committee, compared to making Saddam Hussein president of the United States. He also voted in favor of opt-in sex education over the opposition of local school boards, teachers, and administrators from around the state. He's been pushing -- so far unsuccessfully -- for charter schools and vouchers, as well.

The question is, can Kansas schools survive another four years of Bacon's so-called accomplishments?

Harry McDonald, who is running against Bacon in the 3rd District primary election is a better choice for Kansas kids.


Turning the Tide: Is it time for an Evolution P.A.C.? Ask the oceans folks.

Here's a guest post by Harvard-trained evolutionary ecologist Randy Olson, the filmmaker whose documentary film "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus," was an official selection at New York's Tribeca Film Festival and the Maui Film Festival earlier this year:

What do the worlds of ocean conservation and "evolution teaching" have in common? They are both run by highly educated people. And over the past ten years, they have both experienced plenty of failure.

The "failure" on the evolution front is represented by current attacks underway in a couple dozen states, the looming storm in Texas, and the fact that Kansas is dealing with a set of science standards that are universally disdained in the world of science. Granted, evolution is not a total failure, but its definitely embattled and clearly at risk of possible major failure.

The "failure" of ocean conservation is represented by the ravaged coral reefs of the Florida Keys, the over-fished kelp forests of the California coast, the anoxic waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the growing "Dead Zones" of the Gulf of Mexico. All of these ecological calamities occurred despite the activities of ocean conservation groups to prevent them.

The failure of ocean conservation was the subject of a report commissioned by the Packard Foundation in 2003 titled, "Turning the Tides." The study was put together by two veteran ocean conservationists, a lawyer, Jack Sterne, and an ocean policy analyst, Dave Wilmott. They researched the question of why ocean conservation is failing and came up with a simple conclusion -- that ocean conservationists are "more comfortable with policy than politics." Ocean conservationists would rather stay in their offices and work on more policy to protect the resources than get out on the street and do the politics necessary to bring about the changes needed.

Since 2002 I've been running the Shifting Baselines Ocean Media Project, a communications collaboration between Hollywood and ocean conservation. I found the Turning the Tides report inspiring when it came out. It verbalized every major frustration I had been experiencing in trying to convince foundations and N.G.O.'s to direct more funding towards mass communications. The answers I was receiving were very similar -- that the foundations don't like to fund mass media (they see it as too ephemeral and fleeting) and prefer to put their money into more nuts and bolts things like ... creating policy.

But the great thing about the authors, Stern and Wilmott, is that they went on to put their efforts where there mouths were by following the recommendations of their own report. In 2004 they founded Ocean Champions, the first Political Action Committee (P.A.C.) for the oceans. Rather than producing educational materials and sending them to congressmen, they decided to enter the real world of politics by pinpointing a dozen or so politicians who are supportive of ocean conservation (regardless of party affiliation), raise money, then donate the money to their election campaigns.

Does it work? Well, I'll tell you what I got to see. A couple years ago Jack and Dave were in L.A. (where I live) and invited me to a fund-raiser for Senator Barbara Boxer's re-election campaign. There were a couple of hundred people in the back yard of a Brentwood house, but when we arrived Jack and Dave were brought into the living room where they sat and discussed specific aspects of ocean politics with Senator Boxer, filling her in on the current status of various projects in her home state and what she might do to help them along. Through their support of her campaign they had developed contacts with her staff. This was their payoff. Its called politics. Plain and simple. And effective.

For this year's elections they recently announced the group of ten or so candidates they will be supporting. They are slowly but surely building a very solid and realistic support base within congress for ocean conservation.

And its what has entered my mind over the past couple weeks as I've caught up with some of the folks in Kansas who appeared in my documentary feature film, "Flock of Dodos: the evolution-intelligent design circus." What I've been hearing in both Texas and Kansas is a frustration that the national pro-evolution organizations who say they are unable to provide funds to assist with the current political activities, such as the school board races. They say they are all non-profits, and so must stay clear of such activities. All they can do is produce more editorials, brochures, petitions, web sites and make statements that they hope will help. All of which is of course very valuable, but what's most needed right now in Kansas is hard cold cash.

But in the meanwhile, the Kansas folks are hearing of major funding coming into the state on the anti-evolution side. Is it possible those folks know something more about the political process?

So it makes me wonder if the time hasn't come to consider the idea of an evolution P.A.C. -- a national organization that can use the real political tactics of political action committees to take on the opposition directly, rather than through the tradition more indirect methods.

When Jack and Dave first introduced the idea of an ocean P.A.C. to the ocean conservation community four years ago there was considerable push back, and even still there are plenty of folks who don't get it. But I do. And I think you will, too, if you look at their website. And I know a lot of people will say that the teaching of evolution shouldn't be politicized. But I'm afraid they're a little late, if they say that.

Olson tells RSR that "Flock of Dodos" will be screened in Lawrence at the University of Kansas sometime in September.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Kansas Dept. of Education: The Brain Drain

As The Topeka Capital-Journal editorial board observes, "when 20 percent of an organization's employees quit in one year -- double the rate of the previous year -- one has to wonder why."

And that is exactly what's happened at the Kansas Dept. of Education under the leadership of Commissioner Bob "Heckuva Job" Corkins and the fanatical right-wing majority of the state board of education.

When Corkins was first appointed, RSR predicted that we would soon see professional staff resign or be forced out at the Kansas Department of Education.

That prediction was quickly confirmed -- and we certainly take no joy in it -- by the resignations of Communications Director Kathy Toelkes and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Alexa Posny.

And, these foolish decisions do have a cost. We're finding there is a price to pay.

Toelkes was replaced by David Awbrey, who quickly embarrassed the department with ill-considered public statements and resigned after just a few months on the job.

Now we learn that The U.S. Department of Education has decided the department could lose $80,000 because it hasn't met Federal No Child Left Behind requirements.

Posny's area of expertise? No Child Left Behind.

Once qualified leaders at the department such as Toelkes and Posny left, it didn't take Corkins long to run the ship aground.

This pattern will keep repeating itself over and over until right-wingers on the state school board, who time and again put their bizarre ideology ahead of our kids education, are replaced. John Bacon, Connie Morris, and Ken Willard all voted to appoint Corkins.

It's time to "Take Back Kansas" by voting them out.


Carl Zimmer who publishes The Loom, Darksyde, who posts the popular science blog at Daily Kos, and Nick Matzke over at The Panda's Thumb are following the Kansas School Board election. RSR is getting a lot of hits from those links right now, so we thought we'd pull this one -- slightly updated -- from the archive to show our out-of-state visitors just how the game is played in Oz.

Campaign finance reports on file with the Federal Elections Commission, and reports from the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, show that on Dec. 29, 2005, just before the end-of-year campaign finance reporting deadline, Merilee K. Martin, a right-wing Republican, reached into her desk drawer and took out four checkbooks.

Martin wrote a total of 15 checks that day which, when all was said and done, ended up putting a cool $6 grand -- $2,000 each -- into the campaign coffers of three creationist school board candidates: Connie Morris, John Bacon, and Ken Willard.

Kansas election laws limit contributions made to state school board candidates from political action committees (PACs), such as those for which Martin serves as treasurer, to a total of $500 in period leading up to the primary election, and $500 prior to the general election -- $1,000 in total.

Despite those limits, Morris, Bacon, and Willard ended up pocketing contributions of $2,000 each from the checks written by Martin that day – twice what the law allows for the entire election and four times what's allowed during the primary election cycle.

Martin is listed on documents filed with the FEC and the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission as treasurer of four PACs: the Free Academic Inquiry and Research (FAIR) Federal PAC, the Free Academic Inquiry and Research (FAIR) State PAC, the Kansas Republican Victory Fund (KRVF) Federal PAC, and the Kansas Republican Victory Fund (KRVF) State PAC.

In addition to listing Martin as treasurer, all four PACs share the same post office box – P.O. Box 626 in Topeka – with the ultra-right Kansas Republican Assembly. Martin is also listed as treasurer of the KRA. All five PACs solicit contributions on a single website maintained by the KRA.

The quadrupling of the allowable limits on campaign contributions to the three right-wing school board members, all of whom are up for election this year, is accomplished by funneling the money through this network of PACs.

On Dec. 29, when Martin wrote out those 15 checks, the KRVF Federal PAC, had an embarrassingly small amount of money remaining in its campaign war chest. The PAC reported just $638.60 in cash at the beginning of the reporting period, and it raised only two contributions totaling $130 during that six-month period.

That was no problem for Martin, who needed to max out Morris, Bacon and Willard – who also had trouble raising money during the period – in order to get their re-election campaigns rolling with a quick infusion of cash.

Martin simply wrote a check for $1,500 from the FAIR Federal PAC to cover the contributions she planned to make on behalf of KRVF Federal PAC.

In similar fashion, Martin wrote checks out of the FAIR Federal PAC fund to cover shortfalls in the other PACs. One check for $1,500 went to the KRVF State PAC, another $500 went to the FAIR State PAC.

The three checks Martin wrote that day to the other PACs under her control were turned immediately into contributions to Morris, Bacon, and Willard.

In effect the PACs run out of the Kansas Republican Assembly by Martin are slush funds designed to evade the Kansas election law limitations on campaign contributions to state school board candidates.

Right-wing activists may feel they can thumb their noses at the state's election laws because, in the past, reporting of contributions has been difficult to obtain in the state.

Although the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission recently took steps to improve it's campaign finance disclosure reporting, the state was ranked 39th out of the 50 states, and received a grade of F, in a 2003 study of candidate campaign finance disclosure laws conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Moderate candidates for school board, who have pledged to reverse the theocratic decisions of the current fundamentalist majority, don't have a shadowy network of PACs backing them. They rely on small contributions from individuals like you to get their message out.

In RSR's sidebar, under the heading "Donate" you'll find the addresses and websites of moderate Democrats and Republicans who are fighting to "Take Kansas Back" from the religious right. Please make a contribution to their efforts.

Even small contributions of $5, $10, or $20 will make a big difference.

See Red State Rabble's previous reports on right's campaign finance shenanigans here, and here.


Ohio: Telling It Like It Is

The fight over creationism, or creation science, or intelligent design, or teach the controversy, or critical analysis, or whatever they're calling it this week, "should have been dead and buried in February," says an editorial in The Columbus Dispatch.

That's when the Ohio Board of Education voted 11-4 to drop a science standard and lesson plan that called for "critical analysis" of evolution.
But a few dogged members still insist on "teaching the controversy" about evolution, even though the controversy has been manufactured by disingenuous people who wish to introduce the supernatural into science classrooms."
"Intelligent design" notes The Columbus Dispatch, "is code for the Christian version of creationism.

The creationists on the board also want to teach the controversy over stem cell research, but, as The Columbus Dispatch editorial board notes, there is no debate about the science involved in stem-cell research and cloning. "The only debate would be over the morality of these practices, a worthy discussion, but not one appropriate for a class devoted to teaching the scientific method."


Blinded by Belief

Lisa Sexton, 42, a Bible school volunteer at Fairfield Christian Church -- a 4,000 member megachurch in Lancaster, Ohio -- "believes every word in the Bible, rejects evolution theory, and supports the Iraq war, the Republican Party and Bush -- in part because he is a born-again Christian," reports Andrea Hopkins in The Washington Post.

"I trust his opinion because of his beliefs," she says.

Fairfield Christian's senior pastor Russell Johnson, you'll be shocked to learn, "is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for possible violations of a law that prohibits churches and charities from participating in political campaigns."

Johnson says he didn't do anything wrong, but then Bush says, "We do not torture.''

Suppose we should believe them?


We Believe

Moderate Christians have had it up to here with the way their religion has alternately been sneered at, and misrepresented by fundamentalists. Now they're organizing a response called "We Believe."

Andrea Hopkins of Reuters tells the story in The Washington Post.

"We Believe Ohio," reports Hopkins is "a group of about 300 religious leaders who believe people of faith should focus on issues like poverty rather than sexual politics."

Sunday, July 16, 2006


MAIN*PAC Endorses Donna Viola

MAIN*PAC, a non-partisan, non-sectarian coalition fighting to promote and preserve Constitutional freedoms threatened by political extremists, has now endorsed Donna Viola, who is running for the Kansas Board of Education in District 7.

Viola, currently a member of the McPherson School Board, is a moderate Republican running against right-wing incumbent Ken Willard, who voted with the rest of the theocratic board majority for the intelligent design inspired re-definition of science, the appointment of Bob "Heck of a Job" Corkins, and the know-nothing sex education opt-in policy.

Jack Wempe, a Democrat, is also running in District 7 to unseat Willard.


Honesty is the Best Policy

"You can be a scientist and a creationist," writes Wayne Adkins in The American Chronicle. "You can be a theorist and a creationist. But apparently you can't be honest and be a creationist."

No truer words were ever spoken.


Rethinking the Conservative Christian School Model

Hard to believe, but the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education reported Friday that conservative Christian schools performed worst in reading and math when compared to both public and private religious schools run by mainstream religious denominations.

According to a report by Diana Jean Schemo in the Saturday New York Times, "conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind public schools when it came to eighth-grade math."

For Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins and his enablers on the board -- Steve Abrams, John Bacon, Ken Willard, Connie Morris, Kathy Martin, and Iris Van Meter -- conservative Christian schools have long been the model for their vision of what public education in Kansas should look like.

What do you suppose the chances are they'll rethink things now that this study shows, in general, that public schools do a better job than private -- and a much better job than conservative Christian schools.


I'm With Stupid

Reportedly, with our intelligent design president, George W. Bush, now in his second term and unable to run again, Karl Rove is urging that the declining numbers of Republican candidates who still support the president's policies not hand out the ubiquitous "W" bumper stickers to campaign supporters in the upcoming election.

Our sources tell us Rove is pushing a plan to distribute "I'm With Stupid" t-shirts this time around. Halliburton, having lost a few of its no-bid contracts in Iraq, has reportedly won the contract to produce the new line of campaign gear.

Rove argues that the "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt is the perfect clothing accessory for people who are excited by the prospect of a gay rights constitutional amendment, know that the world was created in six day less than 10,000 years ago, doubt global warming, oppose stem cell research, believe we will (or already have) found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or just want to build a great wall bigger than China's along our Mexican border.

A polo shirt with the "I'm With Stupid" logo will be available soon for well-heeled supporters --that upper 1 percent bracket who benefited from his tax breaks.

For those who still wish to purchase the "W" bumper sticker, The George Bush Online Store, advises that one of the major selling points is that they are "easy to remove."

The "W" bumper stickers are still available and can be purchased for $1.95 each. Discounts are available for those who purchase in quantity. No word yet on what the t-shirts will cost us.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


The Religion that Dare Not Speak its Name

Rev. Timothy Ahrens is fed up with the religious right and, according to Andrea Hopkins of Reuters, he's not going to take it anymore.

Ahrens is calling on moderate church leaders to counter the conservative presence in American politics -- and convince mainstream voters that Christians care about more than banning gay marriage and abortion and restoring school prayer, reports Hopkins.

"People are fed up with having religion represented in such a skewed way," says Ahrens, senior minister at The First Congregational Church in downtown Columbus.

"At our opening meeting, pastor after pastor said they have members ... who won't even tell people they are Christian any more, because Christian is such a dirty word," Ahrens said.

Friday, July 14, 2006


ID's Big Strategic Blunder

According to a report by Paul E. Kostyu of The Canton Repository, one section of a draft proposal circulating among intelligent design supporters on the Ohio state school board "suggests students discuss 'the value of rival theories' as they apply to global warming, evolutionary theory, cloning and stem-cell research. There’s no mention of controversial issues in other subjects."

Red State Rabble believes that the growing tendency to link support for creationism and intelligent design with opposition to global warming and stem cell research -- a trend that's become increasingly noticeable at venues such as Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views and William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blogs -- constitutes a major strategic blunder by the opponents of evolution.

The linkage of creationism in all its various forms to doubts about global warming and resistance to stem cell research mirrors the movement's increasingly explicit connection to right-wing politics -- most apparent just now in all the hype for Ann Coulter's book Godless: The Church of Liberalism -- which we believe will have the effect of making the always implausible argument that there's a scientific controversy over evolution even harder to swallow.

Creationists like to say public opinion surveys demonstrate they are in the majority on evolution, but an ABCNEWS/Beliefnet poll conducted June 20-24 found that Americans support stem cell research by a 2-1 margin. Moreover, they say it should be funded by the federal government, despite controversy over its use of human embryos.

This means that the ID movement's decision to link these issues may have the effect of splitting off potential supporters for "critical analysis" and "teach the controversy" who also want a cure for their parents Parkinson's.

The new linkage may also encourage those who understand the danger of global warming -- some 58 percent of Americans now say global warming is already happening -- to become more skeptical about the so-called "controversy" over evolution.

In this sense, creationists and intelligent design activists have handed us a tremendous opportunity.

State Citizens for Science organizations and other supporters of strong science education should waste no time reaching out to environmental and stem cell research support groups to initiate common action.


Sad News: Kent Hovind Arrested

According to the Pensacola News Journal, Kent Hovind was arrested Thursday and indicted in federal court on 58 charges that include income tax evasion, making threats against investigators and filing false complaints against Internal Revenue Service agents.

Apparently, tax evasion is a family affair in the Hovind clan -- some kind of a values thing we suspect -- his wife, Jo Hovind, was also indicted on 44 of the counts and appeared in court alongside her husband.

You can read more here about how evolution erodes the moral fiber of the nation. Hat tip to Pi Guy.


What's the Matter with Kansas' Science Standards, and Why Should You Care?

Jack Krebs, President of Kansas Citizens For Science and a member of the Science Standards Writing Committee will speak:

Both presentations are sponsored by Kansas Citizens for Science and are free and open to the public.


Americans United Files Records Request in Ohio

Now that some members of the Ohio Board of Education appear to be preparing for another round of assaults on the teaching of evolution there, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed filed a public records request in order to get a copy of a draft of proposed changes to the state science standards circulating among supporters of intelligent design on the board.

Read more here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Calvert's Smear Campaign: How Should We Respond?

Red State Rabble has a bone to pick with PZ Myers, publisher of the very popular and deservedly influential Pharyngula blog.

Before picking it, however, we want to note that this is a discussion among friends. Dr. Myers has been very kind to RSR -- generously linking to us, for example, when this blog was just getting started, and many times since.

Myers is also a forceful defender of science and reason, a clear-headed explainer of difficult ideas, and a wonderfully inventive and prolific writer -- and that's the highest compliment RSR knows how to pay.

All that being said, RSR wants to open a discussion amoung nonbelievers like ourselves who are active in the movement to stop right-wing religious fundamentalists from taking control of our laws and public institutions on how to defend ourselves -- and our allies -- from attacks by right-wing religious bigots like John Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network.

In linking to RSR's post, "Jack Krebs Responds to ID Smear Campaign," Myers indicates that he had "mixed feelings" about Kreb's statement that many tens of thousands of religious Kansans are being painted as "tools of atheism" by intelligent design activists like John Calvert, "and they have a right to be insulted."

Why, asks Myers, should anyone be insulted at being called an atheist?
If Calvert had declared that everyone at Kansas Citizens for Science was an Episcopalian, it would be just as ludicrous a lie, but would they then go on to deplore the terrible, horrible, insulting thing he had just called them?
Naturally, RSR understands the point Myers is making: being an atheist -- agnostic, secular humanist, skeptic, or free thinker -- is an honorable thing. We should not allow the dark forces of ultra-right extremism to turn our good name into an epithet in the way they have poisoned the word liberal. We need to be proud of who we are and what we stand for.

On that point, RSR is in full agreement with Myers.

And, for that very reason, it is RSR who would be insulted if Calvert charged that everyone at Kansas Citizens for Science was an Episcopalian, because it would misrepresent who we are.

Calvert's smear campaign has two objectives: first, it is designed to make the broad-based movement to defend science education in Kansas look narrower than it is. Second, taking a cue from the red-baiting attacks on liberals and progressives in the 40s and 50s, it is designed to insinuate that atheists are secretly manipulating the "good" Christians who oppose writing pseudoscience into the curriculum standards.

That sort of misrepresentation can have real-world consequences. In 2002, Iris Van Meter, a right-wing opponent of sound science education, won election to the board without ever leaving her kitchen. She never campaigned and never spoke to the media.

On the eve of the primary election, a shadowy group calling itself the "Truth in Politics PAC" sent out a mailing to voters in the 9th District charging that incumbent school board member Val DeFever "was supported by American Atheists Inc."
"Why does Val DeFever have their support?" the mailing asked. "Because she voted to force our children to be taught a one-sided unproven theory (monkey-to-man evolution) rather than allowing them to hear both sides of that issue along with the evidence for each and to choose for themselves what is right."
As Krebs' statement to the board makes clear, the defense of evolution is not an issue that pits the religious against the irreligious. In fact, the opposition to religious zealots on the state school board is both broad and deep. It is made up of ordinary Kansans of many faiths -- Evangelicals, Mainstream Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and non-believers -- and a broad spectrum of political views, from conservatives, to moderates, and liberals.

Calvert's smear has long been a staple of the creationist and intelligent design movements. On the day the new Kansas anti-science standards were approved, for example, right-wing board member John Bacon repeated the canard, saying:

“It’s a sad day for atheists.”

Carol Rupe, one of the moderates on the school board had a somewhat different take. “A sad day for education in Kansas,” she said after voting against the standards.

Rupe, a lifelong Episcopalian, former middle and junior high school teacher, and mother of three has been tagged with the atheist label and knows just how corrosive it can be:

“It bothers me that people think I’m an atheist,” says Rupe. At a school board meeting a while ago, she found herself publicly professing her belief in God as the Creator of the universe. “I said I don’t know how you can look at a newborn baby or a sunset on an ocean and not believe God did it. But that doesn’t mean you don’t teach students good science.”
Reactionaries, such as Calvert, attach the label of atheist to mainstream religious moderates in a conscious attempt to intimidate them, and as a warning to others of the cost they will pay if they dare to speak out.

Sue Gamble, another moderate school board member, who once described herself to RSR as a "Nancy Kassebaum Republican" knows just how dangerous the scapegoating of the religious right can be.

“I get death threats,” Gamble told David Wilson of the United Church Obsever. “I’ve been told I don’t deserve to live.”

In 2000, as her mother campaigned for state school board, Sue Gamble’s daughter was driving on a Kansas City-area highway when another motorist tried to run her off the road. Her car was plastered with anti-creationist bumper-stickers. Says Gamble: “The man told her, ‘If I ever see you again, you’re dead’.”
Fortunately, neither Rupe nor Gamble has been intimidated by these threats. In fact, although Gamble is not up for election this year, she has been organizing tirelessly to take back Kansas, courageously traveling all over the state to speak and raise money for moderate candidates.

Although RSR does not share -- or even particularly understand -- the religious faith of Rupe, Gamble and the many others like them who are active defenders of good science education in Kansas, we do admire their courage and commitment.

For these reasons, RSR stands shoulder to shoulder with our religious allies in the movement to defend science education and separation of church and state. We demand that they be treated with dignity. Surely that begins with resisting efforts to distort their beliefs.

Tomorrow, we want to talk about what we think the priorities of nonbelievers who are actively fighting the religious right should be.

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