Monday, October 30, 2006


The Demise of Intelligent Design

When was it, exactly, that proponents of intelligent design gave up their larger ambitions?

In the early, heady days of the movement, the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture boldly proclaimed that it sought nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.

Neo-Darwinism, by which they meant the theory of evolution, would be stripped from the public school science curriculum to be replaced by intelligent design, a theory built on the proposition that human beings are created in the image of God .

The ID activists would erect a tent big enough to house both young and old earth creationists. There would be room as well for practicing scientists, such as Michael Behe, who embraced some aspects of evolutionary theory but wanted to hold onto Christian-inspired teleological beliefs without totally abandoning "operational science."

Within 20 years, they said, ID would become the dominant perspective in science. And, for a time, it seemed they might just be right.

A number of books -- Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson, Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe, The Design Inference by William Dembski, among a number of others -- were published. Academic Debates with mainstream scientists were organized and attracted an audience. Newspapers and magazines provided coverage, much of it favorable, to intelligent design claims. School districts began to discuss adding ID to the science curriculum. Politicians, including President Bush, took notice and introduced legislation that would have forced a reluctant science and professional education establishment to introduce high school students to intelligent design theory.

Despite that initial burst of enthusiasm, however, it was clear from the beginning that there were problems coded into the DNA of intelligent design theory.

Young and old earth creationists were, in many cases, unwilling to enter ID's big tent. For those literal-minded believers who simply want the Judeo-Christian creation story taught as fact in their children's science classes, the ID activist's jargon -- irreducible complexity and all that talk about information theory, and the bacterial flagellum -- brought back painful memories of the tedious hours they'd spent in high school biology waiting for the bell to ring.

Then too, the biblical literalist foot soldiers in the war on godless Darwinism, were never quite able to shake the suspicion that a too enthusiastic embrace of ID might somehow require a soul-endangering compromise with the bedrock of biblical principles.

Some of these religious fundamentalists were willing to support intelligent design on a tactical basis as a way of attacking evolution, but many were unwilling to leave organizations such as Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, or Reasons to Believe, which were often as critical of ID theory as the dreaded Neo-Darwinists.

Then, there were a series of defeats. Courts in Cobb County, Georgia and Dover, Pennsylvania rejected moves to write ID into the science curriculum. With those defeats, school boards edged away from their initial enthusiasm for ID, and the credulous tenor of much news coverage shifted -- becoming, in some cases, highly critical.

Perhaps the best indicator of that change is indicated by a piece by Cornelia Dean published last week in the New York Times. In an article about the Ohio school board election Dean described intelligent design as "an ideological cousin of creationism." And she went on to say:
Although researchers may argue about its details, the theory of evolution is the foundation for modern biology, and there is no credible scientific challenge to it as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth.

It's impossible say with any accuracy when intelligent design activists retreated from the broad vision they outlined in the beginning. Certainly there has been no Wedge-like strategy announcement. Rather, it's been a process -- a gradual awakening to the limited world they now inhabit.

The movement that once set its sights on becoming the predominant view in science now looks exclusively inward. It no longer seeks to win a broader audience, but to hold on to what it has now.

You can see evidence of the change in the increasingly tendentious writing to be found at Discovery's Evolution News and Views which has turned to an endless stream of complaints, each less convincing than the last, that the media somehow "misrepresents" ID.

William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog has, since the Dover decision, been turned over to a small group of bathrobed basement activists whose writing indicates they are increasingly disassociated from reality. Dembski himself has made a series of bizarre charges against a range of scientists which he has later had to retract, but the lesson, it seems, is never learned.

Like zombies, this small cadre of intelligent design activists will live on, but the opportunity to win others to their ranks has now passed, and nowhere is that fact clearer than in the inward-looking writing of the ID activists themselves.


What a Dust Do I Raise!

"I am Richard Dawkins’ worst nightmare — a former militant atheist and Darwinist, who finally realized that everything he believed about everything that mattered was wrong."

So writes GilDodgen over at William Dembski's adult day care center, otherwise known as Uncommon Descent.

We suppose it's progress of a sort, when those suffering from delusions of grandeur see themselves not as Napoleon or Julius Caesar or Jesus, but as the nemesis of someone, like Dawkins, who has, at least, the virtue of still being with us in the here and now.

We think G.K. Chesterton best described the hermetic world of Uncommon Descent where an anonymous blogger can be the worst nightmare of a world famous scientist and best-selling author:
The lunatic is the man who lives in a small world but thinks it is a large one; he is the man who lives in a tenth of the truth, and thinks it is the whole. The madman cannot conceive any cosmos outside a certain tale or conspiracy or vision.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Ohio: Science Faculty at Case Send Open Letter to the Voters

Over 80 percent of the science faculty at Case Western Reserve have signed a statement urging voters to remove creationist candidate Deborah Owens Fink from the State School Board and to vote for good science on Nov 7th.

Here's their letter:

Current Board Member Deborah Owens Fink has referred to the National Academy of Science, the nation’s most prestigious scientific body, as “a group of so-called scientists”, and more generally to all scientists as a “dogmatic community”. During her tenure on the State School Board she has continued to sideline important issues associated with improving public education in her effort to debase and distort the teaching of science in high schools while attempting to cast controversy on biological evolution in favor of an ill-defined notion called Intelligent Design that courts have ruled is religion, not science.

We represent the bulk of faculty in the science departments of the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, one of the premier research institutions in Ohio, and our views thus reflect the views of the majority of the science community in Northeast Ohio. Science Education is of vital interest to us and to the economic future of the state, and thus we have chosen to come together in this unprecedented way to voice our concerns. Voters in the 7th district have a unique opportunity to send a message to the Board that they are interested in moving forward with quality science education by voting for someone with experience and interest in the real educational issues facing the state.

We urge voters to stand up for quality science education by supporting the candidacy of Tom Sawyer on Nov 7th.


Parsons Sun Endorses Runyan

The editors of the Parsons Sun write that in the "9th District there are two concerned and capable people running but, more fortunately, one of them is exemplary. Kent Runyan is not just an educator with a highly desirable and broad background. As the senior professor at Pittsburg State University's Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Runyan personally teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses."

The Sun also says: "If there were one elected position that should be non-partisan, it would be for those who serve on the Kansas State Board of Education. The need for this was proven by the current board's internationally noted, politically driven antics. Determining how best to educate a child and how that education should be measured has nothing to do with political parties, but everything to do with electing intelligent, thoughtful and dedicated people."

Hat tip to reader TP for calling it to our attention.


Ohio: Miller Endorses Sawyer

Brown University biology professor Ken Miller will give lectures in Kent and Akron today in support of Tom Sawyer's candidacy for State Board of Education. Dr. Miller is the author of Finding Darwin's God, which explores the common ground between faith and science.

In his lecture, entitled "Science, God, and Intelligent Design: Why All These Matter in Ohio's School Board Elections", Dr. Miller will apply the principles of Finding Darwin's God to the upcoming state school board elections.

Former Congressman and Akron Mayor Tom Sawyer is running for the state school board to ensure strong scientific standards, lead the effort to solve the state's school funding crisis, and demand that charter (community) schools be fully accountable. Mr. Sawyer will accompany Dr. Miller tomorrow and is available to the press.


Ohio: Wise Decision

Ohio Republican Martha Wise is backing Democrat John Bender in the race to replace her on the state school board reports Brad Dicken of the Chronicle-Telegram. Wise is running for state senate.

"I’ve spent five years of my life keeping intelligent design, or what you might call teaching religion, out of science classes,” says Wise. “He’s the only one who agrees with me."

Back in February, Wise argued strongly against intelligent design. The state school board voted 11-4 to delete material encouraging students to seek evidence for and against evolution from the state science curriculum.

Thanks to reader BF for calling this one to our attention.


Heckuva Job Corkie

Current Board Chairman Steve Abrams of Arkansas City defends Education Commissioner Bob Corkins. “I will certainly argue that we have been moving forward very, very well under his leadership,” Abrams tells David Klepper of the Kansas City Star.

Kind of reminds you of all that success the president keeps telling us about in Iraq.

Stay the course? That's so last week.


In Denial

David Klepper of the Kansas City Star reports that Kansas Education Commissioners Bob Corkins dismisses as “speculation” the possibility — some would say strong likelihood — that he will lose his job once moderates take control of the state Board of Education in January.

Some will find Corkins optimism strange given that members of the new moderate majority, which will be seated in January, have promised the voters that removing Corkins will be their second order of business -- right after fixing the science curriculum mess left by the former fanatical fundamentalist majority.

RSR, however, doesn't find Corkins' sense of denial about his future prospects at the Department of Education particularly surprising. A firm grasp of reality has never been his strong suit.


Sign of the Times?

DefCon, the campaign to defend the constitution, reports that Focus on the Family has cancelled two of their “Stand for the Family Events” scheduled to be held in giant auditoriums in cities across the country — moving them instead to much smaller venues and in one case to a local church where the admission will be free of charge...

Could it be the moral majority is neither moral nor a majority?

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Michelle Goldberg to Speak in Overland Park

Mainstream Voices of Faith will co-sponsor a talk by Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism on Sunday, November 12 . There will be a brunch at 9:30 am, the program begins at 10:30.

To attend, make reservations by November 3rd by calling or stopping by the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th St., Overland Park, KS. 913-327-8000.

Cost is $12 per person.

Goldberg’s lecture will introduce you to the leaders behind the rise of Christian extremism in America, and give a how-to guide for preserving religious and civil liberties against the religious right. Goldberg will be available after the presentation to sign copies of herbook.


Ohio: Pro-science Candidate Tom Sawyer on NPR Affiliate

WCPN, the Cleveland NPR station, is dedicating their 9 a.m. public affairs show to the State Board of Education race. Pro-science candidate Tom Sawyer will be a guest on the show. For those outside the area, the show is streamed live and podcasts are posted soon after it ends. You can find them


End the Embarrassment

"Frankly it has become somewhat of an embarrassment as I travel across the country. People often know about the work of our school board - and they don't think very highly about it. It is not very good economic development," says Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. "I'd like to see a school board that works more closely with the Legislature."


Early Voting in Douglas, Wyandotte, and Johnson Counties

Here are some of the early voting locations in Johnson and Douglas counties. For voters in District 3, Don Weiss, the moderate candidate for school board will be on the ballot. Electing Weiss will help ensure that the actions of the right-wing majority faction on the board will no longer embarrass Kansas or hurt education in the state.

Voters in Wyandotte County shouldn't forget to pull the lever for Janet Waugh, a moderate who is running unopposed.

Douglas County
Douglas County Election Office
1100 Massachusetts
Lawrence, KS 66044
Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wyandotte County
Wyandotte County Election Office
850 State Ave
Kansas City, KS 66101
Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,

Johnson County
Johnson County Election Office
2101 E Kansas City Road,
October 24 - November 4
Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Johnson County Northeast Offices
6000 Lamar,
October 24 - November 4
Monday - Friday 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Metcalf South Shopping Center
Northwest Mall entrance
9531 Metcalf,
Overland Park
October 24 - November 4
Monday - Friday 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Thanks to reader LC for putting together the list.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Early Voting

Early voting starts in Kansas today. It's a good way to avoid standing in line on election day. Voters who want to vote early can call their County Clerk's Office to find voting locations and hours. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

In District 3, where moderate candidate Don Weiss is running to "Take Back Kansas" from the radicals who've derailed our schools, voters in Anderson, Franklin, Johnson, Linn and Miami counties can get early voter information here:


Restoring Credibility

“Anyone who has observed the state board over the last four years can see that they are not functioning very well,” says moderate school board candidate Jack Wempe. “I visited 48 school districts and 150 buildings during my campaign, and I can assure you the board has a large amount of credibility issues out there. You can’t lead with no credibility, and that is the No. 1 issue. The greater issue is the inability of this board to lead public education. Public education is the heart of democracy.”

Wempe told the Newton Kansan (reg. req.) the board needs to do complete review of policies, not only to try and reduce the amount of conflict and to try and add to the board credibility, but also to help school districts.


A Latter Day Joshua

Noting that Charles Darwin "matriculated at Cambridge University in theology, and throughout his five-year voyage around the world he was a creationist who regularly attended church services," skeptic Michael Shermer reviews six recently published books on the uneasy relationship between science and religion.

Shermer constructs a three-tiered model to examine that relationship:

Among the books reviewed are The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Blind Faith by Richard P. Sloan, God's Universe by Owen Gingerich, The Language of God by Francis Collins, The Creation by E.O. Wilson, and The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan.

Shermer has some sympathy for the conflict model espoused by Dawkins and Sloan but doesn't endorse it explicitly in his review. He finds a number of flaws with the same worlds model that appeals to Gingerich and Collins. In the end, Shermer finds the separate worlds model of Wilson and Sagan most satisfactory.

He quotes Sagan's longtime collaborator and wife Ann Druyan: "Carl Sagan was a scientist, but he had some qualities that I associate with the Old Testament. When he came up against a wall — the wall of jargon that mystifies science and withholds its treasures from the rest of us, for example, or the wall around our souls that keeps us from taking the revelations of science to heart — when he came up against one of those topless, old walls, he would, like some latter day Joshua, use all of his many strengths to bring it down."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Johnson County Sun Endorses Weiss

The Johnson County Sun, not noted for its support of Democratic candidates, has endorsed school board candidate Don Weiss. This has to be seen as a blow to John Bacon, the incumbent Republican. Here's how the normally conservative Sun sees the race:

One of the most important state races in our area is in the 3rd District of the Kansas Board of Education. Don Weiss, a Democrat who lives in Olathe, is challenging the incumbent Republican, John W. Bacon, Olathe.

Weiss is, by far, the more qualified candidate.

Bacon is part of the notorious 6-4 Christian conservative majority that has enmeshed the board in distracting controversies such as evolution instruction, sex education and hiring Bob Corkins as education commissioner.

Corkins had no experience as a professional educator and, worse, as a paid lobbyist in the Kansas Legislature he opposed adequate funding for K-12 public education.

Bacon and his lot have continually imposed their personal values on education policies. Their antics on evolution instruction have been an embarrassment for Kansas around the world.

That is not the worst part. They have undermined Kansas' efforts to attract top scientists to its developing bioscience and biomedical initiatives. That adversely affects the economic health of Kansas and threatens job opportunities in the state.

Among other destructive changes, Bacon and his cohorts made it more difficult for students to receive a balanced course on sex education.

Not only would Weiss be a vast improvement over Bacon. He would be a notable addition to the board.

As a professional educator, Weiss knows, in depth, how education works, its needs and what the board should be doing to help students meet achievement standards required by the state and the federal No Child Left Behind program.

Weiss has held positions in the information services management field. He has been involved in overseeing computer systems and training professionals in technology programs. His knowledge would be invaluable as the board copes with ongoing advances in science and technology.


Students Join the Battle

Kansas University students are joining the battle to defend evolution. The Lawrence Journal World reports that alhough the KU Students for Science hasn’t had its first meeting, 31 students already have joined.

You can visit the KU Students for Science blog here.


They Like to Watch

When Europeans watch from afar America's Christian right try to end abortion, roll back gay rights, and teach creationism to gullible children in public schools, they can't help feeling a bit smug writes Nick Cohen in The Guardian.
These primitive beliefs put Republicans outside the bounds of civilised discourse to everyone who matters except Tony Blair and he'll be gone soon. The rest of us can savour the antics of Baptist churches and Deep South demagogues as one of our greatest voyeuristic pleasures - the pornography of the politically literate. Every time a film crew comes back with footage of tele-evangelists milking their flocks, the seductive thought that there is no moral difference between Christian fundamentalism and Islamism becomes a little more appealing.


Ohio: The Choice is Clear

Incompetence, equivocation, dissembling, cover-up or straight talk... take your choice:

Deborah Owens Fink: Those opposed to this template have likely not read it. It was developed to provide teachers and students with tools to improve classroom instruction, prepare them for the global economy. It could be used to discuss Darwinian thought... or any area such as social studies to discuss immigration policies or Iraq.

Tom Sawyer: I support teaching evolution. It is grounded in numerous basic sciences and is itself a foundational life science. By contrast, creationism in its many forms is not science but theology. And while faith is important to most Americans, its interpretation is best left to our many diverse faith communities.

From the Akron Beacon Journal.


The Periodic Table

Primo Levi's haunting memoir of life as a Jew in Mussolini's Italy, The Periodic Table, told through the unlikely metaphor of chemistry has been named the best science book ever written, according to James Randerson of The Guardian.

RSR hasn't read every science book ever written, but we can say we were enthralled when we read Levi's book many years ago.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Stay the Course?

Other than writing their personal religious beliefs into the science curriculum and appointing Bob "Heckuva Job" Corkins as Education Commissioner, the Kansas school board has little to point to in terms of accomplishments under the leadership of Steve Abrams, John Bacon, Ken Willard, Connie Morris, Iris Van Meter, and Kathy Martin.

We've covered the science curriculum issue consistently here at RSR, so what about the Corkins appointment?

Here's how Kansas educators see him:

Of course nothing will ever beat this:

John Vratil, R-Leawood, vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said Corkins' appointment seemed "sort of like making Saddam Hussein president of the United States."

Since Corkins was appointed, the professional staff at the Kansas Department of Education, like good soldiers have remained silent, but they've voted with their feet and the department has been decimated by retirements and resignations.

Even so, Corkins, like Bush, won't cut and run. He pledges to stay the course:

"I don't know any other way to proceed other than to continue on the course we believe is sound for this department and schools across Kansas," says Corkins.

We're sure Corkins doesn't know any other way -- it would take having gained some professional experience in the field of education for that to happen.

Kansas voters, however, may may feel they have other options.

Electing Don Weiss and Jack Wempe on Nov. 7 will help insure that Corkins isn't in charge of our children's education in the future.


Kansas Entropy

It's an oldie, but still a goodie. With the Kansas school board election coming up we thought we go back in time with The Onion as it points out in its own inimitable way just how silly the whole battle over evolution is. From Sept. 2000.


Ohio: Tom Sawyer, "It's Time to Act!"

Tom Sawyer a pro-science candidate for the Ohio Board of Education has a new website.

Like many Ohioans, the former teacher, State Representative, Mayor of Akron, and Congressman believes the some members of the current board have sidetracked important issues such as governance, curriculum and school funding to focus on intelligent design -- an attempt by religious fundamentalists to inject their religious beliefs into the state's science curriculum.

Why not pay Sawyer's website a visit, and while you're there, make a donation to his campaign.


Ohio: Ken Miller to Tour State

As the Ohio school board election enters its final, critical days Ken Miller, biologist at Brown University, expert witness at the Dover, PA "Panda Trial," and author of the book Finding Darwin's God , will be speaking across the state.

Here's the schedule:

Thursday Oct 26:
Friday Oct 27:

Saturday Oct 28:

Miller's talk at Case Western, "Trick My Vote: Science, Intellectual Courage & the Battle for America's Soul" will be webcast. More information on all events can be found here.


Apology Due

In a letter to the Topeka Capital Journal, state school board chair Steve Abrams writes that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius owes the board an apology.

Abrams is mad because the governor recently noted that the school board's antics make bringing new business into Kansas more difficult. When people in the rest of the country think of Kansas, she said, they think of two things: Fred Phelps and the evolution issue.

Abrams may not like it, but what Sebelius says is true.

The radical majority of the school board not only tried to write their sectarian religious views into the science curriculum, they appointed Bob Corkins, a woefully unqualified anti-tax activist, as Education Commissioner. They've decimated the professional staff at the Kansas Department of Education, and they've allowed test scores in some districts to drop precipitously.

Perhaps it's Abrams and his fanatical followers on the board who owe the governor -- and the rest of us -- an apology.


New Look

If Red State Rabble looks a little different to you this morning that's because we've decided, with just a little more than two weeks to go until the election, that we wanted to move the "Take Back Kansas" and the "Donate" sections of our sidebar up to get more attention.

That means we had to put RSR's picture out to pasture. No doubt, many of you will be grateful to have our ugly mug removed from the top of the sidebar. Now you won't have to look at it when you read our posts first thing in the morning.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Know Your Audience

Denyse O'Leary, posting at Uncommon Descent has announced that Penguin is coming out with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Intelligent Design . The author, Christopher Carlisle is the Episcopal Chaplain at the University of Massachusetts.

The chaplain, it seems, has a keen sense of just who his potential audience will be.


Jack Wempe Endorsed

Sue Greenleaf, a counselor in the Greensburg schools and a Republican, writes to the Hutchinson News that she's supporting Democrat Jack Wempe for the District 7 school board seat:
As an active Republican, I am choosing to support a conservative Democrat in an attempt to broaden our base to its former foundation. That is probably a personal reason to support a Democrat, but more generally I am comfortable supporting Jack Wempe because I do not believe it is in the best interest of the students and children of our state to consider public education a political issue. Considering the educational needs of the children of Kansas, we need a general, bipartisan effort.

Jack Wempe would bring hands-on experience to the board and allow for a perspective from the trenches. It is past time the board has more representation from the field of education.

As a counselor of a small school in rural Kansas, I urge you to join me in support of Jack Wempe for the State Board of Education to maximize the educational opportunities for all our Kansas schoolchildren


Viola Endorses Wempe

Donna Viola, the moderate Republican who ran against Ken Willard in the primary election, has endorsed Democrat Jack Wempe for the District 7 school board position.

Jack Wempe is running a bipartisan campaign, and I cannot and will not support the incumbent in this upcoming election. What the current majority of our State BOE has done and is continuing to do has undermined the intelligence of our kids in this state!

I know that Wempe is the person we need in Topeka to help direct the education of our children in this state. I have gotten to know him. He has been involved in education all of his adult life and truly cares about educating our kids in this state.


At Odds With Common Sense: That's Our School Board

Rhonda Holman of the Wichita Eagle editorial board asks, what, if anything, the state school board is going to do about two state-funded trips Connie Morris is taking during her lame-duck months.

The question, writes Holman, came up during a debate this week in the District 7 race between incumbent Ken Willard of Hutchinson and challenger Jack Wempe of Lyons.

“I don’t see it as improper," said Willard. "As a board member, you’re elected for four years. It doesn’t end after a primary election.”

But something can be proper and utterly at odds with common sense and fiscal responsibility, notes Holman.

"So Wempe is right to support reassessing the policy: 'This travel policy lumps all reimbursements made into one pot.'”

Friday, October 20, 2006


On Notice

Watch Stephen Colbert's interview with Richard Dawkins here.


Sow the Wind...

"Moderates in Kansas Decide They're Not in GOP Anymore," is must read in The Washington Post indicating that fundamentalists are about to reap the whirlwind. Not surprising considering the seeds they've sown


Discovery's Revisionist History

The Discovery Institute has been caught with its hand in the Wikipedia cookie jar. Apparently, they've been editing their own Wiki entry prompting this response from one of the page editors:

Truthologist added an excessive number of links to DI material... He then restored it when Jimsch62 rejected it as link spam... [his] IP just happens to be that of the Discovery Institute. Having the DI restore Truthologist's questionable edits calls into question whether there are editors here working on the Discovery Institute's
behalf or that its PR firm, Creative Response Concepts.

WP:AUTO provides for preventing editors from editing articles in which they are directly involved, particularly when done in a biased manner, as have been seen here. To avoid future conflict and disputes, anyone editing here who is an involved party with the DI should limit themselves to participating on this article's talk page and refrain from editing the article directly.


Incompetent Design

Via YouTube...


Darwin Archive Now Online

The complete works of Charles Darwin are now on line here. Although RSR hasn't read them all yet, we're told the site contains more than 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images of both publications and handwritten manuscripts. There is also the most comprehensive Darwin bibliography ever published and the largest manuscript catalogue ever assembled. More than 150 ancillary texts are also included, ranging from secondary reference works to contemporary reviews, obituaries, published descriptions of Darwin's Beagle specimens and important related works for understanding Darwin's context.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Phill Kline Hits the Jackpot

When RSR pictures Jesus, we see a very mild mannered sort of guy -- a-turn-the-other-cheek, let-those-among-you-without-sin-cast-the-first-stone, the-meek-shall-inherit-the-earth type who abhorred violence.

In fact the only time we can recall that the Son of God got really riled up (naturally, we claim no special expertise here) was when he encountered money changers in the Temple. Matthew (21:12-13) tells us that when Jesus came into Jerusalem, he

entered into the temple of God, and drove out all of those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the money changers' tables and the seats of those who sold the doves.

He said to them, "It is written,'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers!"

Now, here in Kansas our Attorney General, Phill Kline, is one of those born-again, holier-than-thou politicians who, in the immortal words of Outkast, likes to think his shit don't stank.

Our top law enforcement official wants to follow Biblical law on gays and abortion -- going so far as to subpoena the medical records of teens who have had abortions in the state -- but when it comes to the temple of God, our boy Kline sees not a house of prayer, but a slot machine primed for the big payoff.

A memo leaked from the Kline campaign demonstrates how he mixes religion and money as part what the Lawrence Journal World calls "an aggressive strategy to raise campaign funds and win re-election."

Get the pastor to invite 5 ‘money people,’ whom he knows can help,” Kline told his campaign staff in a detailed, four-page memo titled “church efforts.”

Former Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan, who recently resigned as Kline's special assistant, is talking about the issue:

“When you use your faith to shuttle money into your for-profit corporation, that bothers me. Especially when you are there, certainly giving voice to your faith, but with the credential of being the attorney general,” Stephan said in an interview with the LJW.

And he’s particularly upset about an instance where a church made donations to a business owned by Kline’s wife, Deborah, reports the LJW.

Stephan said he was told by someone that after Kline spoke this summer at Light of the World Christian Center in Topeka, the minister asked congregants to write checks to the church, and then the church would write a check to SWT communications, which produces radio spots about historical events that are sold across the state.

Kline, whose memo says he can preach at several churches each Sunday if their services are scheduled at different times, never goes to Las Vegas. Too much sin there.

But then he can pull the levers at Kansas churches anytime he wants.

The only thing that might ruin that sweet setup is the second coming of Christ (or, perhaps, a sufficiently wised up majority of Kansas voters.


Two More Fossil Gaps Discovered

It's well known in creationist circles that each discovery of a new intermediate fossil doesn't so much fill an existing gap in the fossil record as open two new ones, and even an old skeptic like RSR can't deny that the god who fills these gaps has been gaining real estate at an alarming rate recently.

Just the other day, in fact, Dr. John Long of Museum Victoria announced the discovery of two new gaps in the fossil record with the discovery of an intact 380 million-year-old fish fossil (above) found in Western Australia.

"The specimen is the most perfect complete three-dimensional fish of its kind ever discovered in the whole world," says Long. "It looks like it died yesterday. You can still open and close the mouth."

"It's definitely a fish. It's got gills, it swims in water, it's got fins," Dr Long said. "But it's a fish that is showing the beginnings of the tetrapod's advanced body plan that would eventually carry on to all living land animals."

This discovery, coming close on the heels of Tiktaalik roseae, means scientists have been confronted with four new and wholly unexpected gaps in the space of less than a year.

Thus confirming for the creationist that the more we learn, the less we know.


Eugenie Scott at Johnson County Community College

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education will speak on "Politics, Education, and Evolution" on Saturday, November 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Johnson County Community College in the Carlsen Center, Room 211.

Here's the abstract for her talk: Many topics in the curriculum of American schools are controversial, but perhaps the one with the longest tenure is evolution. Politics plays a role in this controversy in a number of ways.

Politicians have keen antennae for cultural values, and the "fairness" argument (i.e., it is only "fair" to "balance" evolution with creationism) regularly is exploited, regardless of the appropriateness of its application to science education.

Variants of the fairness argument such as balancing evolution with "scientific alternatives to evolution" or balancing evolution with "arguments against evolution" have in fact become the current predominant anti-evolutionist strategy.

In addition, legislators and school board members may take advantage of public interest in the creationism/evolution controversy to pander to voting blocks -- whether or not the legislation or policy is ever passed, or even is intended to be seriously considered.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


One God Further

Richard Dawkins' ferocious defense of evolution has earned him the appellation "Darwin's rottweiler." Stephen Jay Gould famously called Dawkins a Darwinian fundamentalist. Michael Ruse has accused him of double dealing. Andrew Brown calls him a dogmatist.

Even so, here in Kansas, where not long ago it was said evolution was outlawed and the monkeys were in charge, a crowd of nearly 2,000 at the Lied Center in Lawrence (more than twice as many as attended intelligent design activist William Dembski's talk a few months ago) gave him a warm welcome and rewarded his lecture, "The God Delusion," with two standing ovations.

Early on in his talk, Dawkins cited British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle as saying that the probability of producing life from evolutionary processes was about same as finding that a fully operational Boeing 747 jumbo jet had been assembled by a tornado passing through a junkyard.

Turning that argument back on itself, Dawkins observed that any designer must be at least as complex as the objects designed.

"God," Dawkins said to loud applause, "is the ultimate 747."

He then proceeded to dismantle the probability arguments creationists use to convince the credulous that evolution is impossible.

Dawkins pointed to a number of gods -- Zeus, Thor, Ra -- who people once worshiped, sacrificed for, and prayed to. These gods are no longer in fashion. No one believes in them anymore.

The only difference between atheists and believers in the Abrahamic religions -- who are skeptics when it comes to these discarded gods -- says Dawkins, is that "Some of us just go one god further."

Dawkins urged what he called "the enormous numbers of atheists and humanists to stand up and be counted." The resulting critical mass, he asserted, would develop into a flood.

Dawkins sees a shifting of the tectonic plates when it comes to the public acceptance of non-belief. And Monday night, at the Lied Center, you could almost believe it was happening around you.


Lessons Learned

Neither meat-and-potato creationist types nor their Brie-loving city cousins, the intelligent design theorists, it seems, can manage to push away from the table when the Piltdown fraud is on the menu.

Homo Britannicus, a book about the ancient human occupation of Britain by Chris Stringer, a researcher in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum in London, tells the story of how that hoax derailed the search for human origins for nearly 40 years. Stringer also tells how scientists exposed the hoax and, perhaps most important, explains the lessons they learned and the steps taken to prevent such frauds in the future.

It's an old-fashioned detective story that shows how scientific skepticism and the self-correcting nature of science asserted themselves to set the record straight.

The creationists and intelligent design activists who have filled their bellies on the Piltdown hoax ever since the fraud was discovered will continue to dine out on the story, but they have neither contributed anything to the advance of human knowledge nor learned any lessons from it.

Even as they let out their belts, they remain frozen in time and science marches on.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Lightning Strikes

The Free Thinkers of Colorado Springs has announced it will become one of a number of extracurricular faith-based programs at the nation's Air Force Academy.

Last year, Americans United for Separation of Church and State charged the academy with religious intolerance. Academy graduate Mikey Weinstein is suing the Air Force for religious discrimination. He accuses it of using the religion program to indoctrinate cadets by giving evangelical Christians special status at the school.

Allowing free thinkers onto the Air Force Academy campus has the deep thinkers at World Net Daily worried. They want to know, "whether the Freethinkers would be meeting in the academy's famous chapel."

Could the chapel, described as a collection of aluminum, glass and steel spires soaring 150 feet in the air, be the victim of a wrathful god if a humanist should step to the pulpit?


Democrats and Republicans

Item: Dr Oliver Curry, a research associate in the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science of the London School of Economics, speculates that human beings may one day evolve into two sub-species: one would be tall, thin, symmetrical, intelligent and creative. The other shorter and stockier, with asymmetric features and lower intelligence.

Could we be witnessing the beginnings of this process now?


Covet Not

Iowa is number one in the nation when it comes to corn, soybeans, and hogs. It holds the first presidential caucus in the nation. John Wayne was born there. But that's not enough for some Hawkeyes. They covet Kansas' cachet.


It Can't Happen Here

Or, perhaps it already has...


What Would Jesus Do...

...about climate change? The Weather Channel may have the answer here.


Renowned evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins spoke to a packed house at the Lied Center in Lawrence last night. A crowd of some 2000 gave the author of The God Delusion standing ovations both at the close of his remarks and the end of the question and answer period.

RSR will be back with a fuller report of Dawkins' talk later today.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Ending the Embarrassment

An editorial in the Topeka Capital Journal points to past problems with the Kansas school board and the difficulty of doing anything about it. As the editorial notes:
Since 1966 at least 32 proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced in the Legislature to alter the powers of the board or eliminate it. Only three were put on a ballot. All three failed.

The editorial argues that despite the long history failure to change the board's powers, "placing education policy under the direction of the governor -- whoever that may be in the future -- wouldn't guarantee the elimination of those problems but it would provide greater stability in education policy."

The Capital Journal editorial board puts its finger on a number of problems -- all provoked by the current right-wing majority -- that have Kansans thinking about change once again:

The governor, the legislature, or the voters may, or may not, succeed where they have failed in the past in limiting the damage the board can do to the state's educational system. Whether or not that happens, there is one sensible step that can be taken to solve the problems of the past two years and ensure continuity for some time to come: vote radicals John Bacon and Ken Willard out of office and put moderates Don Weiss and Jack Wempe on the board.

An 8-2 moderate majority will put a stop to the lunacy of the past two years and begin to implement rational policies that support the state's schools rather than turn them into weapons in the culture wars. A moderate super-majority will make it nearly impossible for the radical right to take back the board in 2008, and that will ensure continuity for some time to come.


Richard Dawkins' War

Richard Dawkins, holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, will speak on the on the relationship between science and religion at the Lied Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

Dawkins’ talk, "The God Delusion" is part of the “Difficult Dialogues at the Commons” series sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities and the Biodiversity Institute.

Thirty years ago, the publication of The Selfish Gene, a finely crafted best seller arguing for, of all things, a gene-centric view of evolution, made its author, animal behaviorist Richard Dawkins one of the world’s best known evolutionary theorists.

His latest book, The God Delusion, coming on the heels of a highly-rated BBC television documentary, “The Root of All Evil,” and a series of controversial essays and public comments arguing that religion is evil and parents who indoctrinate their children in the family faith are guilty of child abuse, now makes him the most famous – some would say infamous – atheist now tramping this mortal coil.

Last Friday, Salon published a provocative interview Dawkins granted to Steve Paulson, the executive producer and interviewer for “To the Best of Our Knowledge,” an audio magazine of ideas, broadcast by Wisconsin Public Radio.

There’s a big battle over teaching evolution in public schools in America, notes Dawkins. “And evolution is in the front line trench of that battle.”

However, as Dawkins sees it, the battle over evolution is but one skirmish in a larger and far more important war between science and religion.

Those scientists and skeptics who see no conflict between faith and science are, in Dawkins’ view, “prepared to compromise the war for the sake of the battle.”

“I think the war is more important,” says Dawkins unequivocally. “I actually do care about the existence of a supreme being. And therefore, I don’t think I should say something which I believe to be false… so we can all get along cozily and keep out those lunatic creationists.”

Dawkins’ apparent willingness to sacrifice the teaching of evolution in America’s public schools in order to fight a what can only be called a quixotic war against religious belief will not sit well with many in the audience at the Lied Center tonight who might otherwise agree with much that he has to say.

Here in Kansas, a group of citizens, scientists, and educators – who Dawkins somewhat dismissively describes as an “evolution defense lobby” – have forged a broad coalition to fight persistent attacks by religious fundamentalists on science education in the public schools.

Kansas Citizens for Science includes in its ranks both believers – including born-again evangelicals – and non-believers alike. Moderate Democrats and Republicans on the state school board, all of whom describe themselves as practicing Christians, have also played a key leadership role, as have a number of groups such as the Mainstream Coalition, Kansas Families United for Public Education, and the Kansas Alliance for Education – none of whom are particularly noted for their militant atheism.

For more than seven years now, this coalition has fought to defend science education from attack by a well-funded cabal of fundamentalists who have twice succeeded in winning a majority on the state school board and writing their religious beliefs into the state’s science curriculum.

Dawkins’ insistence on fighting a lonely and somewhat ill-defined war against religion is interesting, coming as it does from someone who claims to be speaking in the name of science, because the notion of a war between two clearly defined worldviews has long been discredited by professional historians.

The popular conviction that religion and science are locked in mortal combat got its start in the last half of the 19th century with the publication of Andrew Dickson White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom and John William Draper’s 1874 best seller History of the Conflict between Religion and Science.

“The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries,” wrote Draper, “it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.”

The story of Galileo being forced by the inquisition in 1633 to recant his belief that the earth orbits the sun rather than the other way around is one of the more enduring elements in the cultural mythology that’s grown up around Draper and White’s warfare model.

However, as Dava Sobel notes in her heartbreakingly beautiful book, Galileo's Daughter, the great astronomer didn’t quite see it that way. Galileo, a convinced Catholic, felt honored by God to have been allowed to be the first to uncover the mysteries of His universe.

“The conception of law which is unmistakably conveyed by Kepler's discoveries,” wrote Draper, “and the evidence they gave in support of the heliocentric as against the geocentric theory, could not fail to incur the reprehension of the Roman authorities.”

Yet, Kepler too was influenced by a spiritual concept then current among mathematicians, the harmony of the celestial spheres, first advanced by Pythagoras, in his formulation of the Laws of Planetary Motion.

In Mysterium Cosmographicum, or The Sacred Mystery of the Cosmos, he wrote, “Before the universe was created, there were no numbers except the Trinity, which is God himself… For, the line and the plane imply no numbers: here infinitude itself reigns.”

Even Darwin’s theory of evolution, we know, was formulated with an eye to the natural theology of William Paley.

“Throughout most of modern history science and religion have not been in a state of conflict,” says Ronald Numbers, a historian of science and medicine at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and co-editor of God and Nature, a collection of essays on the historical relationship between science and religion. “The perception of a conflict has emerged roughly within the last 130 years or so. Certainly, this didn't occur during the so-called scientific revolution of the 17th Century, when by and large science and religion were fused in a common enterprise called natural philosophy.”

As the historical record indicates, the relationship between science and religion is far richer, more complex, and above all human than the warfare model proposed by Draper and White – now adopted by their latter day apostle, Richard Dawkins – can accommodate.

While the war between science and religion has proven to be a myth, science is under attack from fundamentalist Christians, a minority among believers, who interpret the Bible literally and place a higher value on the revealed word of scripture than they do on evidence from the natural world.

And, as both Americans and the British should perhaps have learned by now, it is better to fight those who attack you than to wage war on those who have not.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


The Perfect Storm

What a shame. We really feel for the poor Republicans. They not only have to deal with Foleygate, and the conviction of Bob Ney, Jack Abramoff, Randy "Duke" Cunningham and others. There's the continuing mess in Iraq, as well. Let's not forget Katrina. And now, to top it all off, they also have to face up to the fact that their scapegoating of gays as an electoral strategy just isn't working like it used to.

Even RSR wonders what's happening to moral values these days.

Today, the New York Times reports that "Gay Marriage Losing Punch as Ballot Issue."

The debate over same-sex marriage was a black-or-white proposition two years ago when voters in 11 states barred gay couples from marrying.

But this year shades of gray are everywhere, as eight more states consider similar ballot measures. Some of the proposed bans are struggling in the polls, and the issue of same-sex marriage itself has largely failed to rouse conservative voters.

When the ruling party can no longer keep itself in power by whipping up the mob to scapegoat the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society it's a definite sign that the nation's morals have gone to hell in a handbasket.

Can it be long before some cut-and-run liberal suggests passing a law preventing gays from being beaten in the streets by good, patriotic, red-blooded Americans? What's the nation coming to?

Friday, October 13, 2006


Will the Real Idiots Please Stand Up?

When Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City who is the leader of the wingnut majority on the Kansas school board heard that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wanted to limit the board's powers to wreak havoc with the state's education system, he responded, "The governor must think the citizens of the state of Kansas are idiots."

As usual, Abrams got it wrong.

It's certainly not the citizens -- who are expected to vote overwhelming to give the popular governor a second term -- she thinks are idiots. It's the six missing links who've been running the state school board and Kansas schools into the ground these past two years.

Who really thinks the citizens of this state are idiots? Anyone who thinks they can get away with writing religion into the curriculum by calling it science.


Connie Condemned

"In August, western Kansas voters booted Connie Morris out of office after only one term on the state Board of Education," writes Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, Morris still has a couple of months left on the payroll.

That’s plenty of time for her to squander your money and mine on wasteful junkets.

Today the St. Francis Republican arrives in Minneapolis-St. Paul for the EdWatch conference, where she’ll hear such wing nuts as Michael Chapman decry “Global Classrooms: The U.N. Curriculum in America’s Schools,” and Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America discuss “How Mental-Health Screening Affects Gun Ownership Rights.”

Then in December she jets off to Washington for eight days, all expenses paid...

Read the rest here.


At Last, A Plausible Explanation

If, like RSR, you've been puzzled why some people continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, they should vote for the party in power -- you know, the ones that ignored warnings of the impending 9/11 attacks and let Osama bin Laden slip through their fingers -- because they're more likely to protect them from terrorist attack, you might want to read this post over at Daily Kos.

It's based on an article in the Wall Street Journal -- this one's available without a subscription.

It's all based on "how people manage the fear of engendered by intimations of mortality. Reminded of the inevitability of their own death (which happens to a lesser degree by merely walking past a funeral parlor), people try to quench or at least manage the resulting "existential terror" in several ways. They become more certain of their worldview or faith. They conform more closely to the norms of their society. They show greater reverence for symbols of their society, such as flags and crucifixes."

This goes a long way to explaining the stifling conformism we see around us now, the clamor in certain circles for teaching intelligent design, school prayer, and posting the Ten Commandments. The willingness to trample the Constitution on issues like flag burning.

The WSJ article reports that "[a]lthough some voters would feel betrayed by incumbents who failed to protect them, researchers say, these days that trend would more likely be swamped by a surge toward candidates perceived as hawks on national security.

It's an updated version of putting a bone through your nose to ward off evil spirits. It is, to Americans of a certain type, what garlic, mirrors, crosses, and stakes were to vampire hunters. It is at once reassuring and useless.


These Grapes Taste Sour

Intelligent design activist and Discovery Institute fellow John West on this week's 14-3 Ohio school board vote to keep ID out of science classrooms there:

"We've come a long way from John Scopes, baby."


God Knows

If the polls are to be believed, God has turned his back on the Republican party. With just 26 days to go until the election, even the Presidential Prayer Team seems unable to turn things around...

Could it be that He has figured out what clueless evangelicals seem unable to grasp?


Easy on the Pasta

Richard Dawkins comes out against the Flying Spaghetti Monster in this Salon interview.


Barnett Stops Short

At a debate sponsored by Kansas City-area chambers of commerce Jim Barnett, the conservative Republican running a no hope campaign against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, "stopped short of endorsing the conservative-led board’s science standards but said they allowed for open classroom discussions about evolution," according to the Lawrence Journal World.

When a politician with right-wing credentials like Barnett refuses to support the intelligent design inspired science standards, you begin to understand just how unpopular the whole ID mess has become with voters in Kansas.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Event Reminder

Don't forget, tonight Ed Larson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of "Summer for the Gods" speaks at Washburn University in Topeka and Monday, Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion" speaks at the Lied Center in Lawrence. See the "Events Calendar" in the sidebar for details.


Tempting Faith

David Kuo is a a self-professed conservative Christian. He spent five years as the second in command of President Bush's Office of Faith Based Initiatives. Now he's written a book about his experiences there titled, “Tempting Faith.”

In his book, Kuo writes that political strategist Karl Rove received conservative Christian leaders warmly, with hugs and smiles in person, but called them "the nuts" behind their backs.

It seems the words "ridiculous," "out of control," and just plain "goofy" were thrown about, as well.

Red State Rabble readers will be shocked to learn that Ken Mehlman, who at the time was White House political affairs director, knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to organize “nonpartisan” events designed to mobilize religious voters.

Jonathan Larsen, producer of "Countdown" with Keith Olberman has more here. Many of these revelations and others will be the topic of discussion on tonight’s program.

You can watch it tonight at 8 p.m. ET

Update: You can watch the video now at Crooks and Liars.


Useful Idiots

Conservative pundit Tucker Calson spills the beans about Republican politicians' contempt for the evangelicals:
TUCKER CARLSON: It goes deeper than that though. The deep truth is that the elites in the Republican Party have pure contempt for the evangelicals who put their party in power. Everybody in...

CHRIS MATTHEWS: How do you know that? How do you know that?

CARLSON: Because I know them. Because I grew up with them. Because I live with them. They live on my street. Because I live in Washington, and I know that everybody in our world has contempt for the evangelicals. And the evangelicals know that, and they're beginning to learn that their own leaders sort of look askance at them and don't share their values.

MATTHEWS: So this gay marriage issue and other issues related to the gay lifestyle are simply tools to get elected?

CARLSON: That's exactly right. It's pandering to the base in the most cynical way, and the base is beginning to figure it out.

You can listen for yourself here.


Talks to God

Zig Ziglar, the born-again pitchman who talks to God has had a new revelation. The Oregonian reports that Zig is getting out the crystal ball, now, in his popular motivational seminars:
“’I'm not a scientist or a prophet, but I'm going to predict that in 10 years' time, the theory of evolution will be just a bad joke that hung around too long,’ Ziglar said.”

Far be it from RSR to question Ziglar. After all, he gets his information straight from the source, so it can't be wrong. God also tells Zig that man is the head of the household, homosexuality destroyed the Greek and Roman civilizations, and horoscopes are “Satan’s daily bulletin, published in Hell.”

Evolutionary Times has a complete rundown on Zig's inspired insights on the future of evolution here.


Don Weiss: Board Will Fix Standards

Don Weiss, the Democratic Candidate for Kansas State Board of Education from District 3, had this response to Gov. Sebelius' suggestion that she would consider an ammendment to the Kansas Constitution strip the state school board of its powers:

In an article in the Topeka Capital-Journal on October 11, 2006, the Governor called for a constitutional amendment stripping the State Board of Education of most of its powers, making it an advisory board.

Let’s consider all that has happened in the last year before we start changing the Kansas constitution.

A year ago, the conservatives were in firm control of the Board. By the time the candidate filing deadline passed, an unprecedented 16 candidates filed for 5 Board positions. All four conservative seats up for election in this cycle had strong moderate challengers on both the republican and democratic sides of the ballot. Last August, when the primary election was over, Connie Morris lost, the son-in-law of retiring member Iris Van Meter lost, Bacon barely survived with less than a majority, and only Willard received a comfortable majority.

The Governor is correct that taxpayers, business owners, and parents must hold their Board accountable. They have. In the upcoming general election, the Board is guaranteed at least a 6 – 4 majority of moderates. Jack Wempe and I are running very strong campaigns against the remaining two conservatives so that we can achieve a strong 8 – 2 moderate majority that is flip-flop proof, and will allow at least four years of stability and real progress for public education in Kansas no matter what happens in the 2008 election.

I believe the new Board will quickly fix the science standards, find an experienced Commissioner of Education, and will be anxious to start working on the real problems of making sure that public education in Kansas allows our kids to complete successfully in a global economy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The Patient Will Survive

Not long ago it seemed the intelligent design pandemic was on the march everywhere.

In Dover, Pa. the local school board mandated a statement be read to students from the ID playbook calling into question evolution. Cheered on by the Discovery Institute, the Cobb County, Ga. school board pasted stickers on biology textbooks that none too subtly encouraged students to ignore what they learned about evolution in their biology classes.

The Kansas school board had approved an ID-inspired science curriculum that dredged up criticisms of evolution from creationism's antediluvian past. There was a template in place for teaching ID in Ohio schools. Teachers in Michigan, it was found, were indoctrinating school kids in the fine points of ID apologetics.

Local school boards in California, New Mexico, and elsewhere welcomed the ID Trojan Horse into their classrooms. Right-wing legislators rushed to microphones from Utah to North Carolina to demand the door be opened intelligent design, divine design, and, most ludicrously, critical thinking in public school curriculums.

Today, we learn that the ID infestation in Ohio and Michigan has now been officially declared over. In Kansas, the formal certification of the pandemic's end will be issued in January when newly elected moderates on the school board are sworn in. Court rulings in Dover and Cobb County inoculated public schools there and helped prevent ID's spread elsewhere. School boards across the country now look upon ID with the same horror as they do a plate of spinach. Legislators, sensing the shift in wind direction, are increasing showing voters their proof of inoculation against the ID bug in order to win their support.

This is not to say that creationism, in one or another of its strains, will not be around like some hard to treat viral infection for some time to come, but the crisis, for now, has been averted. The patient will survive.


Willard Not Embarrassed

When Gov. Kathleen Sebelius tries to lure new businesses to Kansas that might help grow the state's economy, time and again she finds that, "Fred Phelps and the school board are all they know about. No amount of economic development dollars can cancel that out."

That doesn't bother right-wing school board member Ken Willard. He tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that, to the contrary, the science standards aren't an embarrassment.

If given the chance, Willard would do it all over again.

Willard might, but will Kansas voters give him the chance to waste time and taxpayer money to fight the culture wars with school children as conscripts again? Voters in Western Kansas declined to give Willard's fellow culture warrior, Connie Morris, another term. Iris Van Meter's successor and son-in-law, Brad Patzer, was likewise rejected.

Willard, and fellow radical John Bacon, are up for re-election this November. Electing moderates Jack Wempe and Don Weiss in their place would give moderates an 8-2 majority and set the school board on a sensible course for a number of years to come.

Kansans have always placed a high premium on education. It's time to restore the state's good name.


Fred Phelps and the School Board

That's what people outside Kansas think of when they think of Kansas at all.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who calls the Kansas State Board of Education an embarrassment, wants to change all that. Sebelius told the Topeka Capital-Journal she will push in her second term for a constitutional amendment to shift the board's powers to the governor's office.

"I think we have a real institutional, structural problem in the state," Sebelius told The Topeka Capital-Journal editorial board. "The elected school board that we have in place doesn't function in this day and age. There's very little accountability."


All That Crazy Stuff

Michael A. Fletcher reports in the Washington Post that the "culture wars are being eclipsed as a voting issue by economic worries" in Ohio. Efforts by evangelical leaders to frame the election around "values," says Fletcher, are being overshadowed by the state's recent record of job losses and the resultant economic concern.

The abysmal record of corruption amassed by politicians put into office by the so-called "values" voters -- Gov. Taft and Congressman Bob Ney's connections to Jack Abramoff come to mind -- may also be having an effect.

On the other hand, Ronald Brownstein reports in the LA Times that Missouri "values" voters haven't yet seen the light:
"I mostly vote Republican because of the Christian values side of it," said Jim Holt, a foreman at a trailer manufacturing company, as he leaned against his pickup truck.

Holt said economic issues — what he called "the money side of it" — took a backseat to his other concerns. "I worry more about abortion and gay marriage and all that crazy stuff."


Michigan Victory for Science Education

The Detroit News reports that the Michigan State Board of Education unanimously adopted a new statewide science curriculum in which evolution is the only accepted explanation for the human existence, yesterday.

"We want to make sure we're not teaching intelligent design in science classes, because it's not science," Kathleen Strauss, board president told the News.

According to the News, the board deleted the word "may" in at least two sections on evolution that require students be able to explain how:

"The word 'may' clouds the science of evolution after decades of scientific evidence, and is inconsistent with what we know about evolution today," state board member Reginald Turner said in a statement.


Debbie Does Education

Is Ohio charter school entrepreneur David Brennan bankrolling the campaign of creationist Deborah Owens Fink -- who just happens to be a reliable vote for charter school expansion on the Ohio school board?

You may find the answer here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The Forces of Darkness

"The forces of darkness … should never silence people of faith," Russell Johnson, senior pastor of the Fairfield Christian Church tells the Columbus Dispatch. "We don’t want to be muzzled behind stained-glass windows. We want to make a difference."

Where RSR has failed, and failed miserably, former Florida Republican Mark Foley has succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.


That Run-down Feeling

Bob Burney, who hosts a Christian radio call-in program on WRFD (880 AM) in Columbus, tells the Columbus Dispatch that voter enthusiasm among conservative Christians seems less intense this year.

"I don’t see the energy I saw in the last presidential election," he said.


Give Unto Caesar

In the Gospel of Matthew, 22:21, Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s."

We can't argue with that, but this is ridiculous.


The Once and Future Intelligent Design

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education will give a free public lecture, "The Once and Future Intelligent Design" on Thursday, November 2, at 7:00 pm at Kansas State Univerity in Manhattan in the Alumni Center Ballroom. The event is sponsored by the KSU Center for the Understanding of Origins.

Scott will also speak at the following events while she is in Kansas:

Friday, November 3: "Genie's Top 10 Ways to Teach Evolution Better" at 4:00 pm in room 101 Thompson Hall, Kansas State University Cosponsored by KSU Center for the Understanding of Origins and the Geology Department.

Saturday, November 4: "Politics, Education, and Evolution" at 7:30 PM at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park.

Thursday, November 16: "Faith, Reason, and Assumption in Understanding the Natural World" at 7:30-9:00 pm at the University of Kansas in Lawrence in the Kansas Union Ballroom. Part of the Hall Center for the Humanities Difficult Dialogues at the Commons series.


"If you've ever been to Kansas, you know the Earth is flat," wrote flat-earther Robert N. Bostom in a letter to the Kentucky Herald Leader. Bostrom's plea that, "If nothing else, we want views about a round Earth treated as the theories that they really are and not established fact," now finds its echo in attacks on the theory of evolution from Kansas to Ohio -- all orchestrated by the intelligent design "think tank," the Discovery Institute.

In 1885, William Carpenter published 100 Proofs the Earth is not a Globe. Reading Carpenter's proofs today, one finds all the wacky characteristics -- including the hoary "It's just a theory" meme -- of creationism and intelligent design already in place more than 120 years ago.

Here's reason No. 93:

We have seen that astronomers - to give us a level surface on which to live - have cut off one-half of the "globe" in a certain picture in their books. [See page 6.] Now, astronomers having done this, one-half of the substance of their "spherical theory" is given up! Since, then, the theory must stand or fall in its entirety, it has really fallen when the half is gone. Nothing remains, then, but a plane Earth, which is, of course, a proof that the Earth is not a globe.

Now RSR is not claiming that either rustic creationists or their super-sophisticated intelligent design theorist cousins believe the earth is flat -- only that they've appropriated the methodology of their flat earth predecessors.

You can read all of Carpenter's 100 proofs -- something well worth the investment of your time -- at Les Lane's website.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Mea Culpa

The other day, RSR observed that the Amazon of prose gushing from Casey Luskin at the Discovery Institute Evolution News and Views blog seemed to have dried up after part seven of his projected 10-part magnum opus appeared Sept. 24.

Luskin's flood of words -- truly biblical in proportion -- were written, or rather are being written, in response to an article by Barbara Forrest on the Dover intelligent design trial published in CSICOP's "Creation & Intelligent Design Watch." Were Forrest's article -- like Noah's Ark -- not so well constructed (it's built out of facts, a material far sturdier, and more economical than the conjecture, supposition, and falsehood Luskin has chosen to employ) it might well have foundered in the raging waters emanating from Seattle.

Well, Part VIII appeared today and, just as the man who washed his car must accept responsibility for the inevitable rain that follows, RSR feels some responsibility for the prodigal's return.

We tempted the fates by wondering if the "loquacious Luskin simply ran out of things to say, or that some kindly figure working behind the scenes at Discovery pulled the lad aside and offered him some fatherly words of advice."

Obviously, no one in Seattle cares enough about the young Luskin to set him straight.


They're So Special

Religious fundamentalists oppose what they call special rights and privileges for gays. It seems not to bother those who claim a special relationship with god that the rights they would deny our fellow citizens sound suspiciously like those of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Their storyline frames -- to use a word of the moment -- the conflict as between greedy gays who want something the rest of us are denied. At it's foundation, it's a cynical appeal to egalitarianism.

Now, a series of articles published in the New York Times, demonstrates who it is, in our society, that really benefits from special privileges... and it isn't gays.


The Zeitgeist

Where is the land of the free and the home of the brave headed? Many people are gravely worried -- if certain trends continue -- about the danger of this country becoming a totalitarian police state.

Are these fears justified?

In today's New York Times, Edward Rothstein, paints a fascinating portrait of the lessons intellectuals are drawing from the work of Hannah Arendt, the philosopher who tried to come to grips with the factors that allowed both the Nazis and Stalin to come to power.

Arendt most famously wrote “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “Eichmann in Jerusalem” in which she explored the deadly relationship between ideology and the concentration camps.

Scholars, who are observing the centennial of Arendt's birth, have made comparisons between what is happening in America now and what happened in Nazi Germany then. Rothstein observes that "something strange can happen in the midst of these comparisons. The exceptional provides the analogy for the present. The extreme becomes a model for understanding what is less extreme. The unprecedented remains ever-present, serving as a recurring admonition and an insistent demonstration, a guidepost for understanding politics itself." Rothstein cites the following examples:
“I feel the American Republic is in the deepest crisis of my lifetime,” said the writer Jonathan Schell, fearing that though Arendt’s “checklist” for totalitarianism is only partly satisfied by current conditions in the United States, “we are on the edge of that abyss.” The philosopher Susan Neiman, the author of a subtle book, “Evil in Modern Thought,” interpolated her discussion of the crimes of Hitler and Stalin with wonder about whether more guilt should be ascribed to Dick Cheney or Paul Wolfowitz for the war in Iraq. The political scientist George Kateb, after giving a supple discussion of Arendt’s views of morality, turned angry when applying her ideas to the current scene, seeing “the rudiments of a police state” here, and finding evidence of the worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War.

Rothstein is not convinced that we are on the edge of the abyss. "[W]hen the extreme becomes the frame of reference, as it often does in our post-Arendtian world," he writes, "any resemblance to it — however intermittent and fragmentary — is seen in its harsh light. Democracy’s failings warn of totalitarianism. Why, though, even if the critics’ diagnoses are correct, do failings indicate an incipient apocalypse any more than virtues herald a utopian paradise?"

RSR doesn't know if we are on the edge of the abyss or not. The picture Rothstein paints suggests that possibility is a serious concern for thoughtful people. The most important lesson to be drawn from the Zeitgeist is that our fate will not be determined by the gods. It is not predestined. It will be decided by the hard work of those who seek to defeat the totalitarians among us. The current tensions will be resolved by the number of Americans who decide the Constitution is worth fighting for and that the battlefield is not in Iraq, but right here at home.


Moderate School Board Candidate on Fiscal Conservatism

The so-called fiscal conservatives on the Kansas school board seem to be operating under a double standard. When schools need money for education, the board piously tells them to look for cost savings in their districts, but when the board wants to do something, no dollar figure is too high -- just ask Connie Morris' travel agent.

Now, moderate candidate Don Weiss, who is running against right-wing hypocrite John Bacon in the 3rd District, is asking tough questions about more board spending on one of its pet projects -- charter schools. Bacon, you will remember, likes to talk up fiscal conservatism while using taxpayer money to get away from it all in a fundamentalist setting.

"The board recently gave away almost $40,000 in a series of checks for $1,995 to virtually anyone who lined up and said they wanted to start a charter school," says Weiss. "What controls were on this money? Did it matter if two of the checks went to Alpharetta, GA? What is Kansas going to get for their money? I'd like to know."

Voter disgust with the right-wingers on the school board cost Connie Morris her job in the primary. Voters in the 9th District who were burned once by Iris Van Meter refused to put their hands on the stove again and declined to elect her son-in-law, Brad Patzer, the drive-by candidate from the Republic of Idaho to replace her.

Moderates will have a majority on the board come January. The election of two more moderates, Don Weiss and Jack Wempe, will ensure that the board stays on track and gets some work done -- such as dealing with declining test scores in some districts -- over the long haul.

To do sustained work on the state's schools, the board has to stay focused. It can't keep popping through the rabbit hole into Wonderland every couple of years with the election of nutty right-wingers. Electing Weiss and Wempe will ensure the board keeps its feet planted firmly on the ground for years to come.


Traditional Values

The holier-than-thou-crowd likes to suggest that their homophobia is really a traditional value. The laws against gays are natural laws, they suggest, going all the way back into the dim recesses of human history. It's not so much that they're anti-gay, as that they're defending traditional values -- the wisdom of the ages against the onslaught of sissified post-modernists who want to throw out our hard-won understanding of human nature for some brave new world that will lead us who knows where.

It's in that light, that RSR offers the following anecdote from H.L. Menken's Newspaper Days. Mencken, of course, is probably best remembered for his reporting on the Scopes "Monkey Trial" but he was once America's best known reporter -- the Bob Woodward of his day.

Here he is in "Drill for a Rookie:"
At a somewhat later time, after I had forsaken police reporting, the moral inadequacy of the ancient Maryland statutes was revealed again. This time the culprit was a Methodist clergyman who operated one of the vice crusades that then afflicted all the big cities of the East. The cops, of course, were violently against him, for they could see nothing wrong about honest women making honest livings according to their talents. When the pastor charged that they pooh-poohed him because they were taking bribes from the girls they determined to get him, and to that end sneaked a spy into the Y.M.C. A. One night soon afterward the pastor visited the place with a Christian young man, and the spy, concealed in a cupboard, caught the two in levantine deviltries. The former was collared at once, and the State's attorney sent for. Unhappily, he had to advise the poor cops that the acts they laid to their prisoner were not forbidden by Maryland law, which was singularly tolerant in sexual matters. The maximum penalty it then provided for adultery, however brutal and deliberate, was $10 fine, with no alternative imprisonment, and there was no punishment at all for fornication, or for any of its non-Euclidian variations. The cops were thus stumped, but they quickly resolved their dilemma by concealing it from the scared pastor, and giving him two hours to get out of town. He departed leaving a wife and five children behind him, and has never been heard from since. The Legislature being in session, the cops then went to Annapolis and begged it to sharpen the laws. It responded by forbidding, under heavy penalties, a list of offenses so long and so bizarre that some of them are not even recorded in Krafft-Ebing.

Krafft-Ebing being the Austro-German psychiatrist who in 1886 wrote Psychopathia Sexualis, at the time a well-known study of "sexual perversity." He coined the term sadism.

As Mencken's anecdote illustrates, the one thing you can be sure of when some chest-thumper assures you he's for traditional values is that the novel social experiment he wants written into our laws or constitution will be neither traditional or of value.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Harry Potter on Most Challenged List

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series was named to the list of "most challenged" books of the 21st century by the American Library Association in conjunction with Banned Books Week.

Not surprisingly, Of Pandas and People, the so-called intelligent design textbook didn't make the list. Discovery Institute claims to contrary, no one has filed a formal, written complaint with a library or school requesting that Pandas be removed because of content or appropriateness, and as far as anyone can tell, it hasn't been removed from a single library shelf.

Far right fundamentalist, anti-evolution activists in Kansas have been busy on the censorship front, however. Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools has developed a long list of books they want to ban from the Blue Valley School District in Johnson County.


Sebelius Backs Weiss

Don Weiss, the candidate for State Board of Education from District 3 is having a reception October 19, from 4:30 – 7:00 pm at the home of Karl and Julie Anderson,
15927 W 161 Terr in Olathe.

Special Guest Governor Kathleen Sebelius, will speak at approximately 5:30 pm.

A $15 contribution will be accepted at the door. For directions, please call 913-782-1424.

Friday, October 06, 2006


ID's Moral Compass

Any doubts that RSR might have harbored that ID is morally superior to evolution were dispelled when convicted Watergate felon Chuck Colson paid tribute to Phillip Johnson this week.

For the younger set whose memories don't go back quite as far as RSR's, Colson once proposed firebombing the Brookings Institution and stealing politically damaging documents while firefighters put the fire out -- among other crimes and misdemeanors -- and served seven months in Maxwell Correctional Facility in Alabama.

Like so many others before him, Colson experienced a prison conversion. (Why, we wonder, do these conversions always happen after the perpetrator is caught, and not before?) He now believes this experience uniquely qualifies him to lecture to the rest of us on morals -- especially our failings.

Interestingly, Colson calls Johnson "the unlikely spearhead of the intelligent design movement." Johnson's life shows, says Colson, "how one informed and dedicated individual can literally shape the course of history."

This last part makes RSR a bit nervous.

Does it mean we can expect another 10-part rebuttal from the Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin, who recently dethroned the father of intelligent design theory on Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog?

"Johnson's work inspired many people to investigate scientific deficiencies of Neo-Darwinism,” writes Luskin, but “Johnson is not a scientist and has done not been one (sic) who has formulated the actual theory of intelligent design.”

By the way, we've noticed that Luskin's 10-part series went dry back on Sept. 24 at "Part VII". Does this mean the loquacious Luskin simply ran out of things to say, or that some kindly figure working behind the scenes at Discovery pulled the lad aside and offered him some fatherly words of advice.

Your thoughts?



The University of California Riverside has announced that an interdisciplinary team of researchers led by David Reznick, an evolutionary biologist at UC Riverside, has been awarded $5 million over five years by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct an experimental study on how ecology – a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of an organism and its environment – and evolution interact.

What do you want to bet this research will be public, peer-reviewed, and productive -- unlike the $4 million the Discovery Institute has thrown down the rat hole on ID spin "research" over the past 10 years.

Currently, the only secret more closely held than the particulars of Discovery's supersecret ID research is what Denny Hastert knew about Rep. Mark Foley's harassment of House pages, and when he knew it.


The Four Percent Solution

In today's New York Times, Laurie Goodstein writes that more than 6,000 evangelical preachers will meet in 44 cities this fall to hear some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement tell them that "only 4 percent of teenagers will be 'Bible-believing' by the time they reach adulthood.
“I’m looking at the data,” Ron Luce, the founder of Teen Mania, a 20-year-old youth ministry, tells Goodstein, “and we’ve become post-Christian America, like post-Christian Europe. We’ve been working as hard as we know how to work — everyone in youth ministry is working hard — but we’re losing.”

The board of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing 60 denominations and dozens of ministries, passed a resolution this year deploring “the epidemic of young people leaving the evangelical church.”

Unfortunately, like so much else they're wrong about, they may be wrong about this, too.

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