Friday, September 29, 2006


Judge Jones on the Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act

On Tuesday, the House passed the Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act. The bill bars judges from awarding legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union and similar groups that sue municipalities for violating the Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion.

Had this law been in effect last year, it would have made it nearly impossible for the group of 11 Dover parents to overturn the school board's mandated teaching of intelligent design there, and that's exactly what right-wing Republicans in the House have in mind.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, told the Washington Post that the measure is "election-year red meat for the Christian right, because they've been complaining they haven't gotten enough from this Congress."

It just so happens that Judge Jones, who presided over the Dover trial, was scheduled to speak at the University of Kansas the day after the House passed the bill. Dr. Leonard Krishtalka, Director, Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, asked about it at a dialogue with Judge Jones on Wednesday.

Red State Rabble covered Jones lecture on Tuesday, but we weren't in attendance Wednesday, we do have this eyewitness report from reader BH:

Judge Jones was appropriately circumspect on the question--the legislature makes the laws and can do what they want. He did note that this is only the latest instance of similar attempts to "rein in" the judicial branch (some of which would have been much more problematic constitutionally) -- none of which have gone anywhere.

He also noted that the House and Senate often play out the roles expected by the writers of the Constitution, in which the House is prone to radical actions that are moderated by the Senate.

The aspect of the story he did focus on--as another example of public ignorance about the role of judges--was the assertion that he "awarded" $1 million in legal fees to the plaintiff's attorneys on his own.

In fact, when the case was initially filed it was done under the provisions of a federal law that stipulates the losing party will be responsible for costs of the litigation. Which is why Congress is free to change the law--though the`reason for the law in the first place was to provide some teeth to discourage violations--after all, if they lost the case, it means they really were doing bad things.

In fact, because the pro-ID school board members were voted out before he issued his ruling in the case, the ACLU and Americans United attorneys agreed to ask for only half their actual fees and expenses.

All he did was approve an agreement between the two sides. Interestingly, Judge Jones had been so angered by the blatant lies told by some of the former board members in sworn depositions that he referred them to the local district attorney for possible prosecution for perjury as well as calling them out in his ruling.

If they had been honest in their depositions, it is possible that the case would never have been brought to trial--it would have been too obviously a loser--and the judge would have issued an injunction against the policy.

The fact that the board didn't have to pay for its defense--thanks to the Thomas More Foundation--probably emboldened them to fight it out. If the current board wanted to do it, the perjury would probably be sufficient basis for them to sue them to recover costs.

It appears they'd rather move their community past this debacle rather than prolong the distraction.

BH adds these observations:

Judge Jones was asked why he decided to rule on the broader question of ID-as-science rather than limiting himself to the narrower grounds of blatant religious motivation by the board majority.

His reply was that the lawyers and expert witnesses on both sides did such a good job of presenting the arguments that he was able to do it -- and his goal was to thereby help spare other communities the waste of money and time the trial represented for Dover.

He also said that he had not deliberately set out to expand the scope of legal argument on creationism. That application came from his evaluation of the evidence, again to the credit of the lawyers and witnesses who provided the material.

Finally, he was asked how the trial had changed him personally. Echoing his comments from the evening talk, he said the attacks on him and his decision have made him aware of how little the public understands what a judge actually does--hence his determination to speak publicly.

Judge Jones' visit did give me some reason to hope, at least with the current state of the federal judiciary, adds BH. Last winter, when the NCSE lawyers came to Lawrence after the Dover decision, I [BH] asked whether he was an exception. In their experience, he's not. But I do think Judge Jones may be among the very best as a writer, a task he takes very seriously. He told us that he tries to very hard to write all his decisions in plain language and to avoid legal jargon as much as possible. He went through many drafts of the final paragraph of his decision to get it just right--probably the reason it's been quoted so often.


Fill in the Blanks...

Fill in the blanks and tell RSR who said the following:

"I want to challenge the news media to reverse course and report on the objective science of _______ ______, stop ignoring legitimate voices in this scientific debate, and stop being used by the hysterical left. Breaking the cycles of media hysteria will not be easy since hysteria sells and it is very profitable, but I really believe the issue is getting worn out."

A. Intelligent Design, Jonathan Wells
B. Creation Science, Ken Ham
C. Climate Change, James Inhofe
D. Male Enhancement, Smiling Bob
E. It's a template any con man can use

Find the answer here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Doomed in the Dome

Florida Citizens for Science has issued a news release calling “Darwin or Design? Resolving the Conflict,” a creationism event to be held at the Sun Dome Sept. 29, "a slick public relations campaign attacking the scientific theory of evolution. It’s also an example of what science very clearly isn’t: narrow, negative ideological thought that doesn’t contribute to our understanding of this world in which we live."

"The featured speakers are Discovery Institute fellows Michael Behe and Jonathan Wells. Here's the rest of the FCFS news release:

"Florida Citizens for Science denounces the intrusion into our state of the anti-science rally put on by Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity. Simply stated: this so-called conflict they want to resolve was manufactured as a deceptive publicity tool. Strong public statements opposing the intelligent design creationism charade by the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers Association and many other scientific and educational organizations make it clear that there is no doubt about the theory of evolution in the scientific community. There is no scientific controversy. Intelligent design creationists are merely baiting real scientists into sham debates.

"We welcome research that pushes through the boundaries of our current understanding. But that research takes years of dedicated effort in the field or in the lab objectively examining evidence. Intelligent design creationists have never done this in support of their intelligent design ideas. Rather than shake the foundations of the scientific community by presenting real results and evidence, they try to shortcut the process by appealing directly to the public.

"Science is about discovery and exploration. The scientific method is the tool that allows us to learn more about black holes, knock out disease and track hurricanes. Science changes as new discoveries are made: consider the new definition of a planet that was prompted by newly found celestial bodies in our solar system. Mistakes are made, but the very nature of science is self-correcting. Science is a positive, driving force of advancement. Intelligent design creationism doesn’t fit anywhere within this framework.

"Florida Citizens for Science is actively working on positive projects with the ultimate goal of improving science education and general science understanding. “Darwin or Design” is in direct conflict with our mission. Florida Citizens for Science members are available to discuss the intelligent design creationism con game and how it is detrimental to Florida’s future in science and education."

You can visit FCFS here.


Minnesota Citizens for Science

Let's all welcome Minnesota Citizens for Science whose aim is to bring together the combined resources of teachers, scientists, and citizens to assure, defend, and promote the teaching and learning of evolutionary biology and other sciences in K-12 public school science classrooms, consistent with current scientific knowledge, theories, and practice.

Visit them here.


Tom Sawyer on YouTube

Pro-science Ohio school board candidate Tom Sawyer is on YouTube. Take a look.


Skeptic's Circle

The 44th Skeptics' Circle is now on-line at Salto sobrius. Good skeptical writing. Take a look.


Sinners Unite

Deborah Owens Fink, a creationist incumbent running for re-election to the Ohio school board appeared on Cleveland Christian Talk station 1220 WHKW Tuesday. She was one of two guests on the What's Right What's Left show in the 9-midnight timeslot.

Apparently, there was a lot of the usual evolution isn't science, there's little evidence to support it, the peppered moth story is a hoax, scientists don't want to analyze things critically. The "inevitable" path from Darwinism to Marxism got some air.

Unfortunately, that sort of thing makes little headway with the typical Christian radio listener. Talk about science inevitably reminds them of their high school science classes and they quickly fall asleep.

Knowing that, Debbie and the other guest got down to what really appeals to the Christian radio audience:

"If you are Christian, vote for Debbie. If you believe in evolution, abortion and sin, vote for Sawyer."

So much for the science.

A spokesperson for the Sawyer campaign tells RSR that the pro-science candidate "favors teaching evolution. He takes no position on abortion. As for sin, he's agin' it."


KU Students for Science Blog

A New Voice for Science Education, the blog of KU Students for Science is up.

Laura Murphy has a post up that illustrates the commitment these young people bring to the defense of science and the technology tools they'll effortlessly pick up to wield in the battle:
So far, it looks like pro-science, pro-evolution wins among the student population (if nothing else, we are way more creative in our facebook group titles than the ID’ers). What this shows, is that students like myself and many others out there care about this issue; an issue that impacts our generation: both in our own education and the education of our children. The Facebook has shown me that I am not alone in my feelings and my activism.
Why not visit A New Voice for Science Education and welcome them to the blogosphere. Red State Rabble will add them to the links in the sidebar as soon as we can find a techno-savvy youngster to show us how to do it.

Note: An error in this post has been corrected.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Then and Now

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix. " (From the 1967 ruling by Judge Leon Brazile in Loving v. Virginia. The Lovings, an inter-racial couple married in 1958 in Washington, D.C., were found guilty of violating Virginia's "Racial Integrity Act of 1924," a state law banning marriage between whites and non-whites.)

From today's LaCross Tribune:

The reason same-sex marriage is wrong, says the Rev. Corey Sateren, a pastor at Bethany Evangelical Free Church in LaCross, Wisconsin, goes back to the book of Genesis.

“It’s a natural institution. It’s not a political one. It’s not a social one.”

While it has become political, he said, it’s about truth first.

“It’s like somebody saying, ‘Let’s create a law to say the sun can’t shine,’” he said. “A law doesn’t negate what God put into nature.”


"It was remarkable odyssey" says John Jones, the federal judge who presided over the six-week Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board trial, the first legal challenge to a school district that mandated the teaching of intelligent design.

Jones spoke on the first anniversary of opening arguments in the Dover trial to a large, friendly audience in KU's Woodruff Auditorium last night as part of a series on knowledge, faith and reason sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities and the Biodiversity Institute.

Despite intense interest in the case, Jones did not say much in his talk about the Dover trial, the details of which, he said, we're rapidly receding from his memory as he hears and rules on new cases.

"There are only so many parking stalls in your head," he joked. "You have to make space for new cars to pull in."

Saying he wanted to talk about broader issues, Jones said the reaction to his ruling indicated to him that people don't understand how the courts work.

"My task was really rather workmanlike," said Jones. "I merely applied the law to the facts as I found them."

After he issued his ruling, Jones noted, he was called a "fascist judge" by television pundit Bill O'Reilly. Evangelist Pat Robertson told the citizens of Dover, who voted out the pro-ID majority on the school board, not to turn to God, "you just rejected him from your city."

Right wing activist Phyllis Schlafly wrote that Jones' ruling "stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance.”

Jones quoted a comment published on William Dembski's pro-ID Uncommon Descent blog as summing up this line of thinking on the role of judges and the courts:

This is all about Judge Jones. If it were about the merits of the case we know
we’d win. It’s about politics… Judge John E. Jones… is a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks… appointed by GW hisself… Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn’t going to rule against the wishes of his political allies.

Following his ruling, Judge Jones and his family were placed under the protection of the Federal Marshall's Service after he received death threats.

Jones noted that all of these comments and the threats of violence reflect a deep misunderstanding of the role of the judiciary.

They "tear at the fabric of justice," he said.

His job, said Jones, was not to please political benefactors, but to apply the rule of law without fear or favor.

Jones said that after the ruling pundits called him an "activist judge, a label now applied to any judge with whose decision we disagree."

Noting an increase in violent attacks and threats against judges, Jones called for a "ratcheting down of inflammatory rhetoric."

If this is not done, Jones fears that the legal system in this country will descend into anarchy and collapse.

"The rule of law," said Jones, "is not a liberal or conservative value. It's not a Republican or Democratic value. It's an American value."

Educating students and the public about the role of the courts is a critical task, says Jones "If I accomplish nothing else in this period of personal notoriety, he said, "I want to restore respect for the rule of law."


KU Student Group to Support Science Education

Laura Murphy, a graduate student in Anthropology at KU is launching a student chapter of Kansas Citizens for Science. Murphy decided to start the organization after attending Ken Miller's Difficult Dialogues at the Commons talk sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities. She's a graduate of The Ohio State University, where she was active in Ohio Citizens for Science as a student recruiter.

A T-shirt and a blog are in the works.


Red Meat for the Christian Right

The House passed the Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act yesterday. The bill bars judges from awarding legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union and similar groups that sue municipalities for violating the Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, told the Washington Post that the measure is "election-year red meat for the Christian right, because they've been complaining they haven't gotten enough from this Congress."

Fredrickson added that it appears unlikely the Senate will pass the bill, according to the Post.

Though the bill would prevent plaintiffs from recovering legal costs in any lawsuit based on the Establishment Clause, House Republicans said during a floor debate that it was particularly aimed at organizations that force the removal of Nativity scenes and Ten Commandments monuments from public property.


Larson to Speak in Topeka

Ed Larson, the recipient of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for “Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion,” will speak at the Washburn University Student Union in Topeka at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 12. Prof. Larson is the Talmadge Chair of Law and Russell Professor of American History at the University ofGeorgia.

Judge John E. Jones III spoke before a large, friendly audience in KU's Woodruff Auditorium last night. RSR will be back later today with a full report, but for now, we'll leave you with this anecdote:

During the question and answer period, some wag asked Judge Jones if the comentary on the Dover trial by Discovery Institute staff member Casey Luskin, a recent law school graduate, had "any basis in law."

When Jones smiled broadly and said, "No," the audience burst into laughter and applause.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Making the Short List

Paul Nurse, president of The Rockefeller University in New York and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, gave the keynote address at Duke Medicine's 75th Anniversary Science Symposium.

In his talk Nurse said the four great ideas in biology are the cell, the gene, evolution through natural selection, and the idea that cells use chemistry to function.

Funny, "God did it" didn't make the list.


The Game of Life

Matthew Miller reports in the Lansing State Journal on a new video game, "Life Preservers," where players have two objectives: Save the planet from invading alien hordes and learn national science standards on evolution and adaptation.

"The game casts its players as the protectors of Earth's ecosystem," says Miller. "As ships filled with alien species descend on the planet, players have to decide which of the invading ships should be cast into the sun."


Introducing Prof. Behe

"Ten years ago our speaker tonight, Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, rocked the academic world and rocked the scientific establishment by publishing Darwin's Black Box. That book became an international bestseller and since its appearance, has been criticized by those who don't want paradigms changed," opened Rev. Ronald Tacelli, S.J., director of the Boston College philosophy department and host of Wednesday's lecture "The Case against Darwin," which took place in Robsham Theater.

"I though that it was appropriate to invite the 'biggest fool and liar' to expose himself for what he is," continued Tacelli, referencing Brown University professor Ken Miller's lecture on evolution from last semester, during which Miller called supporters of intelligent design "fools and liars."

Reported in The Heights (reg. req.) the independent student newspaper of Boston College.

Apparently, it all went downhill from there.


Ohio: ID Held Board Hostage

An editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer observes that intelligent design "has virtually held the state board captive for the last five years... This issue has been not just a political hot potato but an obstacle to educational improvement for the state's 1.85 million students. Time, energy and expertise that could have been spent on issues with far more impact have been consumed by five years of board bickering and maneuvering on evolution/creationism."

There's more. It's well worth reading the whole thing.



Toledo Blade: "Michigan's Republican gubernatorial candidate should have set off alarms among every intelligent voter with his revealing comments about the state's science curriculum. Dick DeVos thinks it should include a discussion about intelligent design, also known as 'a 21st-century version of creationism,' also known as religion masquerading as science."

Proponents cleverly try to bring religion into the science classroom by suggesting students be exposed to multiple theories of creation as if Darwin's theory is merely one hunch among many. They mistake "theory" in the scientific sense to mean "conjecture." In reality, scientists regard it as "a strong, over-arching explanation that ties together many facts and enables us to make testable predictions."

While this editorial is sure to provoke a 20-part series from Discovery's Casey Luskin, it also demonstrates that the ID shell game no longer fools anyone. The game is up.


The ID Slump

In a letter to The Detroit Free Press, Constance S. Kennedy writes that support for teaching intelligent design in public schools from Michigan reps. Jack Hoogendyk and John Moolenaar, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick "expose their ignorance of scientific principles and lack of competence to have any authority over the teaching of science in Michigan schools. To use the terms 'scientific theory' and 'ideology' interchangeably is absurd."

Here's a news flash: There is no scientific controversy over the theory of evolution. The "controversy" exists only in Christian denominations that teach the Biblical story of creation is literal truth.

DeVos' belief that Michigan "students should have the opportunity to analyze competing theories" is proof of his willingness to put his personal, religious bias ahead of the need for our children to be properly educated.

Kennedy's letter, like so many other reactions to the DeVos self-immolation, show that ID's fortunes now bear a remarkable resemblance to the slump in the once red-hot housing market. The market is glutted. Too many sellers chasing an ever diminishing number of buyers.


Truth in Packaging

A group of young earth creationists have set up a web site in the UK called -- wait for it -- "Truth in Science." The site, complete with a photo of a happy, multicultural group of students pushing test tubes around a lab states:

For many years, much of what has been taught in school science lessons about the origin of the living world has been dogmatic and imbalanced. The theory of Darwinian evolution has been presented as scientifically uncontroversial and the only credible explanation of origins.

... We consider that it is time for students to be permitted to adopt a critical approach to Darwinism in science lessons. They should be given fair and accurate presentations of alternative views.

... There is a modern controversy over Darwin's theory of evolution and the neo-Darwinian synthesis, and this has considerable social, spiritual, moral and ethical mplications. Truth in Science promotes the critical examination of Darwinism in schools, as an important component of science education.

Ekklesia, a not-for-profit think tank which promotes progressive theological ideas in public life, reports that "[t]he move is the latest attempt by opponents of Darwinian theory to ‘teach the controversy’ by claiming equivalence for non-scientific theories of origins often derived from fundamentalist interpretations of Christian scripture."

Geologist and Anglican vicar Michael Roberts, an evangelical and a long-term opponent of creationism [see his own article] told Ekklesia: “The material on the website is carefully packaged, and its YEC roots, and thus its scientific worthlessness, may not be immediately apparent to the undiscerning.”

Monday, September 25, 2006


Subtle Distinctions

Red State Rabble loves Richard Dawkins. There is no better popularizer of science and evolution alive just now. He brings great understanding and a real talent at explaining the subtle complexities of evolutionary theory to bear in his writing on science.

Unfortunately, it's a love hate relationship.

The rich texture and subtle coloring of Dawkins' writing on evolution in The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Unweaving the Rainbow, A Devil's Chaplain, and his most recent book is The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, are sadly absent from his writing on religion.

Dawkins, it seems, is the sort of man who can see quite clearly how the multitude of species we see around us today descended from a common ancestor -- something that requires both sound judgement and the ability to make fine distinctions -- but he can't tell the difference between a holy roller and a Unitarian.

Andrew Brown, the much respected author of The Darwin Wars, has written a review of Dawkins' latest book, The God Delusion, for The Prospect, that characterizes the book as "incurious and rambling" and a "diatribe against religion doesn't come close to explaining how faith has survived the assault of Darwinism."

For RSR, Brown captures what is wrong with what is coming to be called evangelical or fundamentalist (Brown calls it 19th centry) atheism:
Dawkins is inexhaustibly outraged by the fact that religious opinions lead people to terrible crimes. But what, if there is no God, is so peculiarly shocking about these opinions being specifically religious? The answer he supplies is simple: that when religious people do evil things, they are acting on the promptings of their faith but when atheists do so, it's nothing to do with their atheism. He devotes pages to a discussion of whether Hitler was a Catholic, concluding that "Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn't, but even if he was… the bottom line is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of atheism."

While RSR shares Dawkins' skepticism about religion -- especially organized religion -- we have become increasingly bored with the simple-minded and increasingly sterile bashing of religion by a handful of our atheist brothers and sisters.

It's better we think to try to understand the beast. To look at the various species of belief as Margaret Mead once looked at the taboos of Polynesia -- by trying to understand what they mean.

Scientists could make no headway in understanding the human genome until they'd learned to distinguish the role of individual genes hidden among the long chains of nearly identical base pairs making up the DNA in the nucleus of our cells.

Likewise, secular types -- like RSR and his friends -- will be unable to defeat fundamentalists on the cultural and political front, or make converts on the philosophical front until we are able to make the same fine distinctions between those who read the Bible literally and those who read it as metaphor.


The Dark Corners

The other day, RSR felt compelled to write a post on a Washington Post essay, "Torture's Long Shadow," by Vladimir Bukovsky outlining the very real consequences of our nation's torture policy.

In the essay, Bukovsky, who spent nearly 12 years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for nonviolent human rights activities drew a sobering parallel between the torture our government now carries out in the name of fighting terrorism with the torture of dissidents under Stalin and his heirs in the Soviet Union.

We don't intend to turn Red State Rabble into a blog about torture, but neither can we remain silent on moral issues just because they are outside its scope.

Today, we read a chilling interview in Harper's Magazine with Kate Brown is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland. Her book, A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland won the American Historical Association’s George Louis Beer Prize. As a historian of Soviet history, she has sifted through an array of declassified NKVD and KGB documents about the abuse of prisoners in the Gulag.

Here's a bit of what Brown has to say:
American law enforcement agencies can now wiretap American civilians and detain citizens and permanent residents without charges, and consequently without evidence. Last week the House passed legislation to build a 700-mile Israeli-style fence on the U.S.–Mexico border and to deploy there many of the surveillance technologies tested in Iraq. Perhaps the domestic installation of wartime technologies and military surveillance in civilian settings has become acceptable to us because we have become accustomed, as Soviet citizens did during the endless Stalinist purges, to open-ended wars—wars with no opening salvo and no concluding treaty. Whether or not one agrees that American detention centers and secret prisons are the “Gulag of our time,” the comparison deserves serious consideration. It might help us shine a torch into the dark corners of repression, where the totalitarian qualities of our own society lurk, before the scale of violence ascends to Gulag dimensions.

If you care at all about what is happening to this country, read this interview.


Dover Comes to Kansas

Judge John E. Jones III will speak tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 26 on “Judicial Independence and Kitzmiller v. Dover et al” at the University of Kansas in Lawrence at 7:30 pm in Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union.

Judge Jones presided over the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District et al, the first direct challenge in federal court to a school district mandating the teaching of intelligent design.

After hearing testimony from expert witnesses on both sides, he ruled that the Dover Area School District’s ID mandate was unconstitutional in that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution as well as the Pennsylvania State Constitution.

Judge Jones’ 139-page decision, which holds that ID is not science and cannot be separated from creationism, has been called a watershed in the ongoing public debate over evolution, intelligent design, and the separation of church and state.

Judge Jones talk is part of the Difficult Dialogues at the Commons series sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities and the Biodiversity Institute.

More information here.


Michael Shermer in DC

The National Capital Area Skeptics public lecture series will present a talk by Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author, most recently, of Why Darwin Matters, on Thursday, Oct. 12 at Oakton High School Vienna, Virginia at 7:00 pm. He will speak on "Why Darwin Matters: the Case Against Intelligent Design." More info here.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


A Connection to the Past

Gary Stern of the Westchester Journal News takes a look at how the Jewish faith looks at the Torah and the age of the earth:

We are at the threshold of the Jewish year 5767.

That's 5,767 years since the creation of the world. Or so tradition says.

But at a time when growing numbers of evangelical Christians are thumbing their noses at science — insisting that the Bible says the earth is really 6,000 years old — what do modern-day Jews think their calendar year means?

For some time, most Conservative, Reform and other non-Orthodox Jews have looked at the Jewish calendar year as a metaphor for the Jewish journey and as a connection to the past.

For Orthodox Jews, who generally believe the Torah was given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago, the meaning of 5767 is more complicated.


So, What Else is New?

AP: "A scorching internal review of the Bush administration's billion-dollar-a-year reading program says the Education Department ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted.

"The government audit is unsparing in its view that the Reading First program has been beset by conflicts of interest and willful mismanagement. It suggests the department broke the law by trying to dictate which curriculum schools must use.

"It also depicts a program in which review panels were stacked with people who shared the director's views, and in which only favored publishers [read Republican campaign donors, RSR] of reading curricula could get money.

"In one e-mail, the director told a staff member to come down hard on a company he didn't support, according to the report released Friday by the department's inspector general.

"'They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the (expletive deleted) out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags,' the program director wrote, the report says."


Closing Antics

From the Lawrence Journal World: "Connie Morris received approval for two state-funded trips, including a visit to Washington, D.C., from Dec. 16-23, less that two weeks before she is scheduled to leave office. ...

"What Morris plans to do with whatever information she gleans from these meetings is a mystery. The St. Francis Republican was defeated in her party’s primary for her school board seat and has said she doesn’t plan a write-in campaign, so her trip clearly isn’t intended to benefit the state. That leaves only a couple of possibilities, both of which are unfair to Kansas taxpayers. ...

"The closing antics of Morris should be a reminder of the need to elect state board members who will put personal agendas aside and work in a professional manner on behalf of Kansas youngsters."

Friday, September 22, 2006


Caught Up on the Conveyor

Red State Rabble is first and foremost a blog about the battle over teaching evolution in public schools. Occasionally we also comment on school censorship and the foibles of the religious right. We rarely stray from these subjects.

Today, we're making an exception.

The Washington Post has published an essay, "Torture's Long Shadow," by Vladimir Bukovsky about the consequences of the nation's torture policy.

Bukovsky spent nearly 12 years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for nonviolent human rights activities. He is the author of several books, including "To Build a Castle" and "Judgment in Moscow."

Torture, now euphemized and made respectable as coercive interrogation, was implemented by the Bush administration after 9/11. Even as it has been revealed that the innocent have been indiscriminately swept up by the torture machine, it has now, apparently, been acquiesced to by Senators McCain, Lindsay Graham, and John Warner, and a cowering congress. It is abetted by the silence of the American people who, seemingly, will accept anything as long as they can still go to the mall on the weekend.

Bukovsky writes:
As someone who has been on the receiving end of the "treatment" under discussion, let me tell you that trying to make a distinction between torture and CID [cruel, inhuman, degrading, RSR] techniques is ridiculous. Long gone are the days when a torturer needed the nasty-looking tools displayed in the Tower of London. A simple prison bed is deadly if you remove the mattress and force a prisoner to sleep on the iron frame night after night after night. ...

Now it appears that sleep deprivation is "only" CID and used on Guantanamo Bay captives. Well, congratulations, comrades! It was exactly this method that the NKVD used to produce those spectacular confessions in Stalin's "show trials" of the 1930s. The henchmen called it "conveyer," when a prisoner was interrogated nonstop for a week or 10 days without a wink of sleep. At the end, the victim would sign any confession without even understanding what he had signed.

Normally, if RSR comments on something elsewhere on the web, we encourage you to go and read it for yourself. In this case we make the recommendation with reservations.

Reading Bukovsky's essay may make you think about what this nation is in the process of becoming, and that sort of thinking is dangerous. It may even be subversive.


O Ye of Little Faith

Poor Ken Miller can't seem to catch a break.

First, Miller, a cell biologist, Brown University professor, best-selling author, and staunch defender of evolution, came under attack following a recent speech at the University of Kansas from atheists who don't understand how he can believe in both god and evolution.

Now, intelligent design "theorists" at the Discovery Institute have targeted Miller for the very same speech:
In the last 20 minutes, Miller finally confronted the difficult question. How does one accept Darwinism and hold to a particular religious faith? He gave Dawkins rave reviews and declared his science to be impeccable and his books outstanding.

But.... Miller tells us.... the difference between he and Dawkins is that Dawkins believes the universe is a singularly random and meaningless place which arose without the aid of a designer, and Miller holds the opposing view. That was pretty much it. No explanation whatsoever as to why he believes a designer exists, especially in light of the fact that he does not acknowledge that we can observe design in nature.

So essentially, both Dawkins and Miller see no evidence of design, and their philosophy as to how evolution works is the same, yet Dawkins follows that evidence and declares the world is without a designer and Miller claims to believe there is a designer. Bizarre. So Miller apparently, like most TE’s [theistic evolutionists, RSR], holds to his religious beliefs on faith ~alone~. That’s the problems with TE’s - they can give you no reason whatsoever as to why they believe what they do in regard to their religious beliefs other than they take it all on faith.

Amazing, Miller's religious views are based on faith. What's next, a science based on observable evidence and experimentation?


Travel Tips

In today's Lawrence Journal World, Barb and Dave Downing have sent along some useful travel tips for right-wing Kansas school board member Connie Morris. Having lost her primary election bid, Connie plans to spend part of her remaining time traveling at taxpayer expense. She will leave the board in December after first making trips to Washington D.C. and Minnesota.

As Kansas taxpayers who will be footing the bills for Connie Morris’ trips, we would like to pass along to her some travel tips.

Bloomington, Minn., is where the Mall of America is located. This is a must see. What an array of shops! Nordstrom’s Rack has really great prices on clothes. Camp Snoopy has great gifts for the kids plus the indoor amusement park. Eat at Tony Roma's. The ribs are terrific.

Oh! To be in Washington, D.C., at Christmas time. Stay at the Hay-Adams Hotel. It’s a bit pricey, but well worth the extra expense. You will feel right at home among the power brokers making history over dinner by a cozy fire. The national Christmas tree all lighted up is beautiful. The Lincoln Memorial is another must see. Standing before Honest Abe is a reminder that honesty, integrity and service to one’s fellow men and women are really what is important in a public servant.

Well Connie, enjoy your trips. It would be thoughtful of you to issue a general thank-you to the taxpayers of Kansas on the Capitol steps or next to the large Snoopy at the Mall of America for enabling you to travel to these interesting places.


DeVos Devolves

On Wednesday, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos told an AP reporter that he'd like to see students exposed to intelligent design.

Today, the DeVos campaign is in full damage control mode.

DeVos, confined, apparently, until he announced his candidacy to the hermetically sealed world of right-wing politics, seems surprised that his remarks caused such a stir. In that respect, he reminds us of Virginia Senator George Allen, who can't understand why anyone one would take offense at his calling a person of color "macaca."

I mean, who knew?

The sadder but sadly no wiser DeVos now wants to put out the fire he lit by calling on local school boards to settle the issue, that is to say, he's now a local control man.
"I'm on record as saying that I encourage our students to be exposed to a variety of alternative theories, and as many as we can offer that are appropriate," DeVos said. "Our students live in a complex world and need to understand the alternatives and discern between the alternatives. That's quite different than what the governor is proposing, which is to mandate from the state that certain ideas be included or excluded."
DeVos, an evangelical Christian, apparently received a midnight call from Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute to counsel him on the issue. He now says he doesn't believe intelligent design should be included in the state-mandated curriculum. Can the critical analysis phase of the DeVos campaign be far off?

According to the Muskegon Chronicle, DeVos now refuses to say whether he believes intelligent design or evolution is true.

Is there anyway at all to ascertain what DeVos does believe?

Brian Dickerson reports in the Detroit Free Press that from 2000 on, "the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation gave at least $5,000 to the Thomas More Law Center, which unsuccessfully defended the Dover, Pa., school board in last year's federal court showdown and has threatened to sue on behalf of two Michigan science teachers who want to teach intelligent design."

In Kansas, we call that a clue.


Willard Backs Morris Boondoggle

According to the Hutchison Daily News, state school board member Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson, supports a board policy that allows fellow member Connie Morris to take an eight-day trip to Washington, D.C., just as she is about to leave office in December.

"I don't think it needs to be changed," Willard said Wednesday. "I think the policy is sound."

"She was elected for four years. We wouldn't question any other board member. I don't know why we'd give her any different treatment. We don't have any reason to not trust her."

"It would seem the policy needs to be adjusted," says Jack Wempe, Willard's opponent in the upcoming general election.

Maybe another good reason to show Willard the door come November.


Devos Backpedals on Teaching ID

Dick DeVos, the Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, is already back pedaling in his support for teaching intelligent design.

In an interview with an AP reporter Wednesday, DeVos said: "I would like to see the ideas of intelligent design, that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory, that that theory and others that would be considered credible would expose our students to more ideas, not less."

The Detroit Free Press posted the AP story on its web site. They report that "within a few hours, about 200 readers emailed their comments, an unusually large response. Wednesday, DeVos, campaign spokesman, John Truscott said DeVos views the issue as a matter for local school districts to decide.

"Lots of intelligent people can disagree about the origins of life. In the end, I believe in our system of local control," DeVos said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Local school boards should have the opportunity to offer evolution and intelligent design in their curriculums."

The Free Press reports that the "DeVos statement injected the first hot button social issue in a gubernatorial campaign that has focused almost exclusively on Michigan's sagging economy. Until Wednesday, he had avoided broaching potentially volatile issues, including some causes he has been associated with, such as school vouchers."

Gov. Granholm has said she supports teaching evolution as established scientific theory in science classes, and that intelligent design could be taught in comparative religion or current events classes.

Another case of a right-wing candidate being burned by his own hot-button issue.


An Embarrassment to All

According to The Advance Titan, the student newspaper of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh a former UW-Oshkosh physics professor is trying to introduce intelligent design into biology classes in the Oshkosh Area School District.

Sandra Gade submitted three papers to the teachers of the two high schools demanding a change in biology the curriculum. All three were rejected by the teachers.

“Until these teachers who are the curriculum experts tell us the curriculum should be taught another way, we will keep doing things the way we are now,” said Karen Bowen, OASD Board of Education clerk and student academic affairs officer for the College of Letters and Science at UW-Oshkosh. “A school board should be looking at the big picture.”

According to The Advance Titan, Gade said the board’s response to her paper was that it was “a paper on intelligent design. They have been so effectively brainwashed by their college experience that they are unaware of the existence of contrary evidence.”

In response, Gade circulated a petition calling for a referendum on November’s ballot. The referendum reads, “Be it resolved that when evolution is taught in the Oshkosh public schools, it shall not be taught as fact but rather with pro and con evidence and with an analysis of its testability.”

“There is no evidence against evolution. What there is, is we haven’t filled in all the blanks yet,” said biology professor Tom Lammers.

“Fossilization is a billion to one chance, it happens only in limited areas of the earth’s strata under very unusual circumstances. Only a fool would expect the fossil record to give us all the pieces.”

Lammers said Gade “has demonstrated that she doesn’t understand what science is and how it operates, and that is very, very embarrassing for someone that is a retired professor from this institution. It’s an embarrassment to all of us.”

Gade earned her doctorate in physics from the University of Pittsburgh. She taught physics at UW-Oshkosh from 1996-1999.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Flock to the Kansas International Film Festival

Dodos, rabbit poop, Mt. Rushmore, and poker, what more could you ask for to make sense of the controversy over the teaching of intelligent design versus evolution. In the words of one Kansas School Board member, "It's really quite boring, isn't it?" Filmmaker and evolutionary ecologist Dr. Randy Olson tries to figure out exactly who is the flock of dodos.

The Kansas International Film Festival will screen "Dodos" tonight at 7:15 pm at the Glenwood Arts located on the east side of the Metcalf South Shopping Center at 95th and Metcalf (913-642-4404

Ticket information can be found here.

One of the interesting things about Olson's film is that each of the screenings have been followed by a panel discussion featuring both proponents and opponents of intelligent design, and a question and answer session with the audience.

Tonight, the panel will feature high school students who have reviewed the film:

Ben Tannenwald, a student at Blue Valley North High School, says, “'Flock of Dodos' is genuinely surprising. Nearly everything you see, hear, or read about the evolution vs. ID debate is so heavily polarized and biased that you become disgusted after the first few minutes. Not only does “Flock of Dodos” present both sides, it doesn’t vilify either side, and the narrator keeps an open mindset and treats his guests and subject matter with admirable candor. For such a controversial issue, this was no doubt a major challenge."

Alexandra Espinosa, also at Blue Valley North High School, writes that “'Flock Of Dodos' is unlike any documentary you will ever see. In this comedic documentary, Randy Olson explains the controversy of whether to teach Evolution or Intelligent Design in public schools. Intelligent Design is the belief that an intelligent designer created the Earth and all of the organisms living in it because of their complexity. The Film takes what is usually a serious and confusing topic and makes it easily understood and extremely interesting. There is no need for viewers to be familiar with the concept of Intelligent Design or have a science degree to enjoy this amusing film."

Patrick Kelly, a student at Blue Valley Northwest High School, adds, “'Flock of Dodos' is a captivating satirical piece that puts the Kansas evolution controversy under the microscope. Though currently limited mostly to Kansas, the issue is highly relevant to the rest of the country, as it draws a distinction between science and religion, and stresses the concept of “separation of church and state”. Though of a fundamentally scientific nature, this film is able to hold the interest of even individuals who are indifferent to the epic moral battle, and is able to well inform those unaware of the issue. On top of this, the interest in the movie is amplified by the inclusion of cartoons."

Why not see the film and listen to what these kids have to say during the panel discussion afterwards?


Easterbrook Inducted into reDiscovery Hall of Fame

The reDiscovery Institute has inducted science writer Gregg Easterbrook into its prestigious Intelligent Design Hall of Fame. Easterbrook has been a contributing editor at Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. A senior editor of The New Republic and a contributing editor for Atlantic Monthly and Washington Monthly. His entry into reDiscovery's ID Hall of Fame was based on Easterbrook's keen grasp of the nature of science, such as this from the Aug. 8 Wall Street Journal:
"Intelligent design is a sophisticated theory now being argued out in the nation's top universities... The intelligent design theory may or may not be correct, but it's a rich, absorbing hypothesis--the sort of thing that is fascinating to debate, and might get students excited about biology class to boot."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Connie Morris: More of the Same

"Connie Morris, a Republican from St. Francis who losther bid for re-election in her party's primary, wants the board — and by extension, taxpayers — to pick up much of the tab for a couple of junkets she plans in her last couple of months on the board," says an editorial in The Manhattan Mercury (sub. req.)
This isn't the first time Mrs. Morris has abused her authority on the Board of Education. Last year she tried to stick taxpayers with the tab — including six nights at $339 per night in a resort hotel — for a conference in Miami on magnet schools. She repaid most of that after citizens complained.

The scheduled trips are more of the same. They have little, if anything, to do with the purpose for which she was elected — to help set education policy for Kansas public schools. In fact, her trips mock that purpose.


Connie Morris: Ground Her and Cut Off Her Allowance

Usually, you have to win something before you get to shout "I'm going to Disney World." Well, Connie Morris lost and she's not going to Disney World, but that doesn't mean she isn't cashing in on a couple of taxpayer funded trips before she leaves office.

An editorial in the Hays Daily News (sorry, no link, we only got a scan of it) out in western Kansas quotes Connie Morris as saying, “I’ve been elected by the people to do a job and I’ll work diligently at that job until the last hour while remaining within my allowance. That is integrity and leadership.”

“No, Mrs. Morris,” replies the editorial, “that is not integrity and leadership. It’s a sham. The Washington trip takes place two weeks before you leave office. There will be no time to enlighten the state’s education community about anything you might learn.”

The Hays editorial goes on to question the propriety of Morris’ other going away present to herself trip, and it provides the e-mail addresses of board members so that constituents can protest the board’s approval of these boondoggles educational trips.

If you’d like to add your name to the protest, here are the board’s e-mail addresses:

Janet Waugh:
Sue Gamble:
John Bacon:
Bill Wagnon:
Connie Morris:
Kathy Martin:
Ken Willard:
Carol Rupe:
Iris Van Meter:
Steve Abrams:


Mainstream Voices of Faith: Statement on Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's "Memo"

We, the undersigned clergy persons and religious leaders, are incensed by the recent memorandum that was leaked from Attorney General Phill Kline's office, the authenticity of which has been confirmed by his staff. It is evident that in his quest to garner contributions and votes from conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist congregations, Kline has asked churches to walk dangerously close to the line drawn by the Internal Revenue Service that prohibits nonprofit organizations from supporting political candidates. In fact, Kline has asked them to cross that line.

Yes, Kline certainly has the right to speak at select houses of worship, but, as his memo indicates, he has another agenda. Does not asking pastors to identify the five members of their congregations with the deepest pockets and assembling groups of lay people to be campaign workers constitute a blatant violation of IRS Code Section 501(c)3? The Attorney General of the State of Kansas, of all people, should know better.

In certain religious circles in this nation, there is a burgeoning tendency to eradicate the demarcation that separates church and state. The assumption, for many Christians, is that our faith will somehow become more legitimate if it is legislated. Ignoring the first ten words of the First Amendment, candidates on the far right are exploiting this mindset for political means. This is not only unconstitutional, but it is an utter offense to those of us who are being asked to give to Caesar that which belongs to God.

Shame on Phill Kline for exploiting communities of faith for political gains. His modus operandi is apparent when one compares the image of the incumbent who altruistically seeks to convey his faith story (albeit with congregations comprised of parishioners more likely to agree with his political stances) with the image of the candidate who cautions his staff that, once he shares the Good News, to "Get me out . . .I am spending too long at these events."

Regardless of which side of the aisle one worships God from, dressing a political campaign in the wool of Christian witness makes a mockery of our churches and a charade of our political system. It may mask the identity of the wolf beneath, but its howl is quite distinguishable.

An earnest plea to all of us, to all our sisters and brothers of faith, many of whom subscribe to more conservative forms of Christianity: we may disagree on social, political, and doctrinal issues. That's fine. The Christian Church is by no means a monolith. However, when the Gospel is co-opted for political means, it subverts the grace it bequeaths. Do not be deceived by those who seek your endorsement under the guise of spiritual righteousness, but lull you into idolatry. Their hands may be on The Bible when they stand in your pulpits, but their eyes are focused solely on the polls.

The separation of church and state, or religion and government, not only protects democracy; it protects the sacred worship spaces that are so integral to our lives.

Rev. John Tamilio, III, Co-Chair, Mainstream Voices of Faith

Rev. Don Anderson, Rev. Vern Barnett, Rev. Thom Belote, Rev. Dr. William R. Clark, Rev. JoAnn DeFrain, Rev. Frank L. Dorsey, Rev. Arthur L. Foster, Rev. Kenneth K. Grenz, Rev. Larry Keller, Rev. Dr. Peter A. Luckey, Dr. George A. McCall, Rev. Dr. Robert Meneilly, Rev. Holly McKissick, Rev. Jennifer Parker Cantor, Paul C. Silbersher, Rev. Phyllis C. Southard, Rev. Susanna W. Southard, Rev. George Tormohlen

Visit the Mainstream Voices of Faith website. Read Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's memo.


More Grist for the Discovery Wheel

"A panel of Emory scholars agreed on Thursday that the theory of intelligent design is not a science but disagreed on how creationism should be handled in science classes," reports The Emory Wheel.
The discussion, titled "The Evolution of Creationism," brought together experts from the fields of biology, law, history, theology and political science to discuss the creationism-evolutionism debate.

Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law Michael J. Perry said teaching creationism violates even a "moderate" interpretation of the First Amendment's establishment clause, which prohibits the government from promoting any religion over others.

Thanks to long-time reader BF for calling this one to our attention.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Alice in Wonderland

Want to see a world where discrimination is a thing of the past? If so, you are a supremacist.


Religion and Science

The Yale Daily News has a report on the first of this year's Terry Foundation Lectures, "Religion and Science: Why Does the Debate Continue?"

The series featured biologist Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University as well as five other speakers representing a wide spectrum of scientists and philosophers.

"Supernatural explanations in science bother me as a natural scientist," Miller said.

But Miller went on to say that as a Catholic he sees no conflict between the empirical truth of evolution and the belief in a higher power that may have set the evolutionary process in motion. The two are separate, he said: One is a scientific idea, and the other is philosophical.


The Case for Conservatives Embracing Evolution

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic and the author of Why Darwin Matters offers six compelling reasons why Christians and conservatives should accept evolution. Among them:
Evolution accounts for specific Christian moral precepts. Much of Christian morality has to do with human relationships, most notably truth telling and marital fidelity, because the violation of these principles causes a severe breakdown in trust, which is the foundation of family and community. Evolution describes how we developed into pair-bonded primates and how adultery violates trust. Likewise, truth telling is vital for trust in our society, so lying is a sin.


The Evolution Dialogues

Science writer Kenneth Silber has a review of The Evolution Dialogues: Science, Christianity, and the Quest for Understanding in TCS Daily.

The book, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), writes Silber, "is an unusual offering for a scientific society in its focus on religious issues. Targeted especially at Christian adult-education classes, The Evolution Dialogues contributes a thoughtful discussion to the highly charged debate about evolution and its implications. Written by Catherine Baker and edited by James B. Miller, the work was developed with input from scientists and theologians."


Up North!

RSR hates to steal PZ Myers thunder, but we've noticed that there's more than one strong supporter of evolution in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Marshall Helmberger, writing in the Timberjay Newspaper out of Ely -- launch site for many of RSR's paddling expeditions into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a rugged wilderness containing more than one million acres of forest and waterways in the Superior National Forest -- writes:
Despite all the evidence, it is a disturbing fact that the percentage of Americans who believe in evolution has fallen in recent decades. And that is certainly not the result of any lack of evidence for evolution. Sad to say, organized religion— especially the growing number of fundamentalist sects— must share a good bit of the blame for this trend. These groups are actively engaged in the diseducation of America and it’s frightening to think of the long term implications of this organized effort. This is a nation where science and sound education have played key roles in our success. To abandon science, and remove critical information from our student’s classrooms is flirting with disaster.

At the RSR household we're all big fans of NPR's "Prairie Home Companion." We think we know where Garrison Keillor, another Minnesotan, comes down on evolution wars. too.

What is it about Minnesota -- the cold winter weather, perhaps -- that seemingly helps our northern neighbors see this issue more clearly than others?


Noticing the Little Things

Mike Lafferty has written a fascinating account of Charles Darwin's "nearly four decades observing earthworms, recording their behavior, measuring the amount of soil they move, evaluating their influence on soil fertility" for The Columbus Dispatch.

Darwin’s theory of evolution came about in part, writes Lafferty, "because he noticed the little things," such as the action of earthworms and the size and shape of finches' beaks.

RSR would like to add our own little addendum to Lafferty's astute observation.

Intelligent Design "theory" came about in part because its proponents missed all the big things.


Online Toolkit Helps Students and Parents Defend Science

People for the American Way has developed an online toolkit for students and parents whose public school science curriculum is under attack. The toolkit is designed to help fight off efforts to introduce creationism or sideline evolution in the science classroom.

PFAW notes that activists are increasingly targeting science education with attempts to ban the teaching of the theory of evolution, or undermine that curricula by advancing religion in its place -- either explicitly or cloaked in the language of science.

Students and parents have a right to expect that religious activists will not be able to use public school curricula to promote the beliefs of particular religious traditions in ways that are unconstitutional and that undermine scientific education.

Here are some handy links to PFAW's Online Toolkit:

How to Respond to Religiously-Based Curricula
Students: Points to Raise with Parents and School Personnel
Parents: Points to Raise with Other Parents, School Personnel and Elected Officials
Evolution FAQs
Contact Us

It's also available in pdf: Student version Parent version

And, while your there, take a look at PFAW's timeline describing how creationism has "evolved."


Ohio: Teachers Endorse Sawyer

Tom Sawyer, the Ohio pro-science candidate for school board who is running against creationist Deborah Owens Fink, has picked up the support of the Stow Teachers Association, which is affiliated with the Ohio Education Association and represents nearly 400 teachers, counselors and other education professionals in the Stow-Munroe Falls School district.

"I'm grateful to have this endorsement so early in the campaign," say Sawyer. "Teachers understand what is at stake in this election. They understand the value of having members of the State Board of Education who will show leadership and creativity instead of resorting to distraction and division."

"Wherever I speak about this campaign the response is electrifying. Clearly people are no longer content to allow those in power to continue to neglect public education in this state," said Sawyer. "People want real discussions about the funding, curriculum and governance issues facing our schools."

You can learn more about the Sawyer campaign

Monday, September 18, 2006


Scalded Dogs

Red State Rabble sent the following e-mail to Krauze at the Tellic Thoughts blog:

Dear Krauze,

Although I don’t really know who I’m addressing – the identity of the person hiding behind your pseudonym – I wanted to write anyway to tell you how charmed I was by the sublime irony of your Telic Thoughts post, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

Your post was written in response to a piece I posted on my own Red State Rabble blog commenting on the intellectual dishonesty of Richard Weikart, a historian who falsely asserts that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution "played a key role in the rise of eugenics, euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis."

What caught your attention, you write, was my observation that the Discovery Institute “howled” in dismay when the Smithsonian publicly disassociated itself from a screening the ID film “The Privileged Planet.”

“Funny,” you go on to say, “I was blogging the event at the time, and I don't recall any howling from our Seattly-based (sic) friends at the Discovery Institute.”

Memory often plays tricks on us. Quite often we remember things the way we wanted them to be, rather than the way they were.

Perhaps it would have been wiser, in writing a piece provocatively titled, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it,” to have first spent a moment searching Discovery’s Evolution News and Views blog, before rushing to publication a post based only on a search of your own memory.

May I suggest in a friendly way that Google (available on the Internet) might have been a useful search tool for this purpose?

Had you done this, you might have found these examples –from but a few of the many we might have chosen -- on Discovery’s Evolution News and Views:

“It will be interesting to see how the story [the film’s screening, RSR] is covered given the hysterical tone in evidence on certain ultra-Darwinian blogs in recent days.”

“Would it be unfair to suggest that perhaps the Smithsonian caved in to organized pressure from Darwinists who cannot imagine any ideas coming from the Discovery Institute… “

“… the event comes burdened with this peculiar statement of disassociation that critics are sure to use against us. It would seem a wholly bizarre turnabout if we had not heard about the way the Darwinian lobby attacked the Museum in recent days and agitated the staff members there.”

“Here we have the spectacle of dozens, maybe hundreds, of fulminating “scientists” and Darwinist groupies who have protested the showing of a film none of them has seen.”

Or this from Agape Press:

"The reality is that attempts at censorship and suppressing ideas that people are interested in -- it never works in the long run," the Discovery Institute [Jay Richards, RSR] spokesman notes.

Or this from Denyse O’Leary:

“ I call the outraged Darwinists “Darwinbots” because I’ll bet that most of them have never seen The Privileged Planet or considered grappling with the questions it raises about design and purpose in the universe.”

You might even have found this by someone named Krauze:

“ …after experiencing a barrage of letters from ID critics and an attempt from James Randi to make them look like prostitutes, the Smithsonian has suddenly discovered that "the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research.”

I don’t know how you would characterize these statements, but here in Kansas, we’d say you’re howling like a scalded dog.

Please feel free to use this in any way you’d like, including posting it to the comments of your post. I’ll be posting it myself on Red State Rabble.

Pat Hayes

Note: bold = emphasis added.


Coyne on Sabbatical

According to The News Observer: The Rev. George Coyne, who stepped down as director of the Vatican Observatory last month, will spend a sabbatical on the staff of St. Raphael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in North Raleigh. He will stay for a year before returning to the observatory in the Arizona desert, where he will continue to lead the Vatican Observatory Foundation.
... Coyne said that when he retired as the observatory director, the Vatican offered him a year's sabbatical before returning as a researcher. A native of Baltimore, he asked his superiors for a posting closer to home. The Jesuit provincial leaders sent him to Raleigh.

"Being involved in scientific research and administration for 30 years, I just wanted to be a priest," Coyne said, adding, "They have a great need of priests."


Planet ID

On Planet ID nothing has consequences. Ignore evidence, no problem. Bend process, why not? Lose focus on priorities. You got a problem with that?

Down here on the ground, things are different, though.

In Michigan, some in the legislature have been trying to figure out how to slip intelligent design into the curriculum.

What's wrong with that? Take a look at this from the South Bend Tribune:
According to William Miller, superintendent of Centreville Public Schools, revising the contents and coverage of a school subject is a serious process that takes time.

"For controversial issues, the process can take up to a year," Miller said. "A tight timetable squeezes us as we try to do what is required by the state and balance that with the values of our community.

"One possible source of controversy is whether evolution, intelligent design and creationism all fall within the ambit of the science curriculum, said Shelli Weisberg, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan."

At every juncture that this Legislature has looked at science education, they've attempted to put in language that will accommodate the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in science classes," Weisberg said.

Why worry if it takes time to work these things out?
The longer the delay, the more difficult for us to implement the changes in curriculum," said Rusty Stitt, principal of Sturgis High School.

Stitt said that any delay makes it harder for his school to prepare students for the new Michigan Merit Examination, a standardized aptitude test based on recently adopted statewide educational standards.

Yeah, but that's just kid's education, right? Who cares about so much collateral damage when you've got a culture war to fight?


"Look what you've done! I'm melting, melting."

What water was to the Wicked Witch of the West, it appears, evidence is to the creationist.

As has been widely reported, evangelicals in Kenya are protesting a world-class display of fossils tracing the origins of man at Nairobi's National Museum.


Follow, if you can, the curious logic of Bishop Boniface Adoyo, chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, which claims to represent churches of 35 denominations with 9 million members.
"We are objecting to the message that the fossil exhibits represent the scientific evidence of human evolution. They do not. Human evolution is still a theory and this cannot be called as evidence.”

That's right. You may not display the evidence that proves your theory, because, after all, it's just a theory.

There's one refreshing thing about the Bishop's opposition to the evolution display:
"When you use evolution as God's tool in creating man in his image, you have to reckon with the fact at what stage in the evolution process does man attain to that image?" he said. "The conclusion is either God's image is evolving or God Himself is evolving or every creature has God's image. God could be anything and I'm afraid I cannot put my faith in a 'changing God' or an 'anything God'.”

He's wrong, very wrong. But at least he's honest. In his refreshingly heartfelt statement there's none of the tedious double talk that you get from highbrow ID theorists in this country.


The Luskin Chronicles: No Rest for the Wicked

Things must be slow around the offices of the Discovery Institute just now.

Casey Luskin, an industrious lad who wants to get ahead in the world of intelligent design, is using the down time to write a projected 10-part response to an article on the Dover ID trial by Barbara Forrest that appeared on CSICOP's Creation & Intelligent Design Watch web page.

Reportedly, on the seventh day God rested. But rest is for mere supernaturals, the ambitious Luskin disdains leisure. He will have none of it. Part VI was posted yesterday.

Already, the word count in Luskin's series rivals that of War and Peace. If things remain slow up in Seattle, who knows how far our boy can go?

RSR admires Luskin's industry, but as someone who also puts words on paper we have a bit of free advice for our young colleague: It is easier to crank out volume if you make it up as you go, but quality in the non-fiction racket requires a certain fidelity to facts -- especially easily confirmed facts.

Here's what we're talking about:

In writing about the hearings held by creationists on the Kansas school board, Luskin writes that pro-science attorney Pedro Irigonegaray's "primary tactic was to interrogate the scientists testifying at the Kansas hearings about their religious beliefs."

Now RSR attended the hearings in person, and we can tell you that what Luskin says is absolutely false. But, you don't have to take our word for it. You can read the transcripts online and see for yourself.

Here are the questions that Irigonegaray asked almost every witness:

For Irigonegaray, getting straight answers to these simple science questions from the ID mandarins who testified must have seemed a bit like landing a world record marlin. It required all of his considerable legal skill, a certain amount of guile, and, above all, world-class endurance.

Now, it goes without saying that those who inhabit the alternate universe of intelligent design will never bother themselves to look at the actual transcripts -- perhaps because they fear that contact with the reality based world will have the same annihilatory effect as a collision between particles of matter and anti-matter.

However, anyone who does read the transcripts will find ID Network activist attorney John Calvert asking John Sanford, a retired professor of plant breeding and ID proponent, this question:

MR. CALVERT: Doctor Sanford, when did you switch from atheism to a Christian world view?

DOCTOR JOHN SANFORD: About 20 years ago.


MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Excuse me, I'm going to-- this is irrelevant to the standards. And I-- I don't think it does any good to get involved in this.

MR. CALVERT: The rules do not permit this type of interruption.

MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Well, there's got to be some relevancy.

MR. CALVERT: Would you please answer?

There is one exception. Irigonegary did ask one witness, Jonathan Wells about his religious motivations for attacking evolution. In 1976, when Jonathan Wells was a student at Rev. Sun Myung Moon Unification Church seminary, he wrote:

"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."

Is it relevant? You be the judge.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Richard Weikart's Intellectual Dishonesty

You've just got to love Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary. She's the intelligent design movement's overeager cub reporter who has established quite a record of spilling the beans on subjects her ID elders wisely prefer to keep quiet.

Famously, O'Leary let the cat out of the bag about the Discovery Institute's plan to hold a screening of "The Privileged Planet" at the Smithsonian. Discovery hoped the implied endorsement of that institution would make up for in appearance what the film so badly lacked in substance: the imprimatur of science.

O'Leary's incautious post on the subject on her Post-Darwinist blog gave science supporters the advance notice they needed to alert leaders at the Smithsonian. Wisely, the Smithsonian allowed the screening to go forward, but issued a statement withdrawing the institution's endorsement from the event.

Oh, did they howl in Seattle.

Not having learned the lesson that loose lips sink ships, Denyse is at it again.

Today, she's calling attention to an egregious violation of intellectual integrity by Richard Weikart -- a Discovery Institute fellow who seemingly has never met a quote he couldn't distort.

Prof. Weikart's claim to fame, he's now been embraced for his so-called scholarship by Ann Coulter, is writing books and giving speeches that claim Charles Darwin's theory of evolution "played a key role in the rise of eugenics, euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis."

In her post, Denyse is amazed that "it should matter so much to some people whether Hitler was a Darwinist, a creationist, or something else."

RSR supposes that to people who make a living distorting the words of others for propaganda purposes, it would come as a bit of a surprise that others take history, facts, and intellectual honesty seriously. Those people -- fools that they are -- actually think you can learn from history. but that in order to learn, you must first try to understand.

Denyse might have left the damning evidence of Weikart's methods buried in the comments where few would have seen it, but in true Denyse fashion, she's pulled it out where everyone can see.

The comment Denyse, in her wisdom, decides to call everyone's attention to is by Mitchell Coffey, who provides evidence of a "straight-out lie" by Weikart in distorting a quote from an H. G. Wells novel to assert that Wells "believed in killing off 'inferior' races. The lines quoted by Weikart are spoken by a character in the novel and meant to be ironic. In other words, Weikart has turned them on their head.

But in true Coulter fashion, Weikart must obscure the real source of the quote.

Here's Weikart's huffy defense of being caught with his hand in the cookie jar:
I did cite my source for the quote by Wells. The superscript number 5 appears immediately after the quotation. The note states: “Quoted in Diane B. Paul, _Controlling Human Heredity_ (Atlantic Highlands, NJ, 1995), 75.” If one looks at p. 75 of Diane Paul’s book, one will readily see that I did not misconstrue her position.

In other words, Weikart tried to throw his readers off the scent by citing a secondary source rather than Well's novel, the original source. He did that because providing the original source would have provided the context that could expose his distortion.

Now, my MLA Handbook advises students, whenever possible, to use an original source, not a secondhand one.

Why? Well, isn't the answer obvious?

Friday, September 15, 2006


Conserve This!

A campaign ad by Kansas Rep. Jim Ryun -- an extreme right-wing Republican -- asserts that "liberals in Washington have been blocking meaningful energy legislation for 30 years."

You can watch the ad online here.

Yep, Ryun fighting for commonsense energy solutions including conservation, research and development, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

We know Ryun is sincere, because he tells us all this while he gasses up his SUV.


Connie Morris: Going Out in Style

According to The Wichita Eagle, Connie Morris plans to go out in style:
Taxpayers will pay for outgoing State Board of Education member Connie Morris to take two trips weeks before she leaves office.

Morris, a Republican from St. Francis, plans to travel to Bloomington, Minn., in October and Washington, D.C., Dec. 16-23, two weeks before her term expires.

According to the Eagle, Morris' trip to Minnesota is to attend a conference for a group called EdWatch, Education for a FREE nation.

The conference will feature speakers on subjects such as how international baccalaureate undermines U.S. citizenship; how mental health screening affects gun ownership rights [just because you're nuts doesn't mean you shouldn't have a gun -- preferably an automatic].

The Edwatch website says:

Connie's last road trip created quite a stir with the lavish accomodations -- some $339 a night -- she booked for herself in Miami


Ohio: Get Me Re-write

From the Akron Beacon Journal: "A State Board of Education proposal that critics say could bring creationist teaching into science classrooms appears to be stalled. Meanwhile, evolution backers raised questions Tuesday about the board altering records to remove traces of its involvement in the potentially explosive issue."

On Monday, a board subcommittee did not vote as scheduled on the "Controversial Issues Template'' as the proposal is known, although the issue could come up for a vote at next month's regularly scheduled board meeting.


Patricia Princehouse, evolution advocate and professor at Case Western Reserve University, said the achievement committee didn't run behind schedule by accident.

Princehouse said the committee ate up the two hours by rewriting minutes from July to remove from the public record any direct mention of intelligent design.

Steve Rissing, an Ohio State University professor and evolution backer, said the changes in the minutes are significant.

"The corrected minutes bear no resemblance to what I saw and what I heard,'' Rissing said.

The template's author, Colleen Grady, a board member from Strongsville, pushed during Monday's meeting to remove language referring to evolution, global warming, stem-cell research and cloning technologies that were in the original standards introduced in July.


Ohio: Sawyer Statement on Controversial Issues Template

Tom Sawyer, a pro-science candidate running against creationist Deborah Owens Fink issued the following statement about the so-called "Controversial Issues Template," an effort by fundamentalists to sow doubt about evolution, global warming, and stem cell research.
For too long my opponent has devoted her time and energy to divisive, disruptive and distracting issues instead of concentrating on the core mission of the State Board of Education – educating. This past week's events again show the price we pay for her misplaced priorities. The Board spent part of its monthly meeting hearing comments on a "Controversial Issues Template" which is a direct outgrowth of my opponent's past crusades.

I am pleased that the Board dispensed with this unfortunate business fairly quickly. Regrettably, the matter remains in the Achievement Committee where it may again be used to sidetrack the Board.

The scientific community has voiced its dissatisfaction with reportedly thousands of phone calls plus a number of people who testified against the proposal. Clearly, some members of the Committee tried to strike a more neutral tone in revising the document, but serious flaws remain in the document and my opponent's past actions have generated the atmosphere of distrust that now pervades this debate.

As a member of the State Board of Education, I would seek the counsel of academic scientists for guidance about how to craft science teaching standards. Science and technology are the engines of Ohio's economic future. We need to respect the opinions of those most experienced in teaching the next generation of scientists.

In this race, I intend to engage the voters in a wide-ranging conversation about how best to secure stable funding for our schools, how to move toward a more rigorous curriculum and how to reform the governing structure for our school system. I believe the State Board of Education has untapped potential for leadership and advocacy as we work to create a public education system for the next century.

I challenge my opponent to join in that discussion. But I fear that she is too devoted to her narrow agenda to discuss what truly matters in this race.


Hike to the Burgess Shale

Our old friend Bill Farrell, who claims he is younger than trilobites, though we doubt it, has set up a website to display photos of his hike to see the Burgess Shale in Yoho National Park near Field, British Columbia. It's one of the few places in the world you can find fossils from the Middle Cambrian period -- about 540 million years ago.

Go there to see pictures of fossils from a fascinating period in our evolutionary history. Go there to see pictures of old men hiking. Go there.


All Hell Broke Loose...

From God is for Suckers: ALL Hell broke loose when the Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ sparked a row between a deeply religious couple, a court was told yesterday.
Magistrates heard how Michael Watson almost throttled wife Patricia after watching the controversial DVD on his birthday.

But she stopped him in his tracks by reminding him they were both Christians, gasping: “I’m anointed by God - you know that, Michael. Do not touch God’s anointed.”

The court heard that at one point Watson had accused his wife of being evil - while she thought the Devil was going to make him kill her.

Read the rest of this gripping testimony here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Ohio: "Framework" Discussion Put Off

Tom Sawyer, a pro-science advocate running for the Ohio board of Education sends along this news:

The news from Monday's Ohio Board of Education meeting was swamped by stories of the many 9/11 memorial ceremonies. Though the papers from Columbus and Cleveland reportedly had reporters there, the Canton Repository ran the only story we've seen. Since the Repository requires (free) registration, here's the main thrust:
The Achievement Committee of the Ohio Board of Education ran out of time Monday before it could discuss a "framework" for how teachers should deal with controversial issues. The committee, which started its meeting more than 15 minutes late, originally was scheduled to meet for three hours but cut it down to two. The discussion of the "framework," which was drafted by staff of the Department of Education at the request of some board members, was the only thing the committee didn't get done.

People who were there report that the Committee appeared to be deliberately running out the clock and adjorned on a motion with no vote. Meanwhile, pro-ID member Colleen Brady handed out "corrected" versions of the template, claiming that the version handed out at the July meeting -- the one that specifically applied the template to the "controversial" issues of evolution, global warming and stem cell research -- had been distributed by mistake.


Florida Citizens for Science Has New Website

Florida Citizens for Science has moved to a new website.


Skeptic's Circle

The 43rd meeting of the Skeptics' Circle is now up at Adventures in Ethics and Science.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Uniting Against the Common Enemy

For a couple of days now, RSR has been digesting the reaction -- some would say the over-reaction -- to Ken Miller's speech at KU last Thursday. We've exchanged a couple of e-mails with Miller, which we'll get to in a moment, but first there's something I want to get off my chest:

Having read the comments to a number of posts here, at Panda's Thumb, Pharyngula, and the KCFS public discussion forum I've been playing and replaying a scene from Monty Python's "Life of Brian" in my head.

In the film, Brian drifts into a plot to sneak into the palace in Caesar's Square through the underground sewer and kidnap Pontius Pilate's wife so the Judean People's Front can issue its demands:

COMMANDO XERXES: What exactly are the demands?

REG: We're giving Pilate two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Roman Imperialist State, and if he doesn't agree immediately, we execute her.

Once inside the palace they run into a second commando group made up of officials of the People's Front of Judea who also plan to kidnap Pilate's wife and issue demands.

When a fight breaks out between the two groups, the Christ-like Brian chides them all, "Brothers! Brothers! We should be struggling together! ... We mustn't fight each other! Surely we should be united against the common enemy!"

But, no one listens and they are all thrown into the Roman dungeons.


Well, as Reg told Brian back at the Coliseum when he joined the PFJ, "The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front." And, of course, the splitters in the Judean Popular People's Front.

As an active participant in the antiwar movement of the 60s and 70s, Red State Rabble can assure you that Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, and the other members of Monty Python's Flying Circus have created, in the "Life of Brian" a dead-on satire of one of the worst features of an otherwise noble movement to end the war in Vietnam.

In any political movement, such as the movement to defend science education and the separation of church and state, it's absolutely critical to be able to tell your friends from your enemies. If you can't do that, you may as well quit fighting, because you can't do anything.

And, you have to know what you're fighting for.

RSR is fighting against those authoritarians who would impose their religious views on the rest of us. We don't believe giving church-goers two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of their religious belief -- or else -- constitutes a workable strategy.

We're not interested in philosophical purity, either.

We want to work closely with activists like Ken Miller to defend science education in public schools. Moreover, we respect him for his many contributions to that struggle. In fact, it's hard to think of many people who've done more. We frankly don't care what his religious views are. It's his actions that count in our book.

In an e-mail he has given RSR permission to quote from Miller writes:

It is a self-evident fact that some of the most ardent and scientifically eminent defenders of evolution have been people of faith, including the likes of Francisco Ayala and Theodosius Dobzhansky. All of these people would take issue, as do I, with any thesis that evolution, as a matter of science, rules out God. Does that make us all "creationists" who would throw our colleagues to the wolves? Of course not.

I will continue in the future to make the same points as I did in my Kansas lecture last week, namely, that evolution can be understood in a way that is compatible with religious faith.

For our part, RSR is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with people of faith who want to defend America's secular institutions from attacks by the radical right.

As a person with a secular outlook, RSR believes Charles Darwin got it exactly right when he wrote:
"I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science."

Those non-believers who don't learn this lesson, I believe, run the danger of ceding more political power to the religious right. Although I'm optimistic about our ultimate chances for success, in the end, it all comes down to the strategy we adopt.

If we adopt a strategy that unites us with those who are willing to defend the nation's secular heritage -- whatever their religious or philosophical beliefs -- we can create a powerful movement to defeat those who demand an authoritarian form of government.

Those who seek some unattainable purity, who would divide believers from non-believers in this movement, may someday find themselves, like Brian, in a dungeon of their own making.

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