Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The "E" Word

We noted below that "modern-day Galileos" -- you know, the ones who draw their support from people who believe the sun rotates around the earth -- believe they're being censored.

However, as we also noted and gave specific examples of below, exactly the opposite is true.

Now we've come across this article in PloS Biology that says the "failure to use the word “evolution” by the scientific community may have a direct impact on the public perception of the importance of evolutionary biology in our everyday lives."

While the authors of the PloS article don't list it as a reason for the failure to use the word "evolution" in medical papers, the fear that articles may be rejected for publication or affect the researcher's access to grant money controlled by Republican political commissars may also be a factor in the failure to use the "E" word.


RSR in the Little Apple

The last time RSR took a biology class was back in the late 60s. Since that time, a whole new branch of the biological sciences, Evolutionary Developmental Biology -- Evo Devo, for short -- has grown up.

That's why RSR will be traveling to Manhattan, Kansas tomorrow to cover two talks by Sean Carroll, the author of Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom.

Carroll, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Wisconsin will be speaking twice (see the Events Calendar in the sidebar) on the KSU campus. His talks are sponsored by the The Center for the Understanding of Origins.



They know their potatoes in Idaho and, apparently, they also know a half-baked idea when they see one, too.

According to The Idaho Statesman, the Idaho Science Teachers Association has adopted an official position on teaching intelligent design in Idaho's public schools. "It's not science," they say, "and it doesn't belong in the classroom."

"It basically would be unethical to teach creation science or intelligent design because it is not science, and it does not belong in a science classroom,'' says Rick Alm, president of the ISTA's board. "We're not taking a position against religion; it's just under the context of the law and the public school setting, religion has its place, and it's not in our science classroom."


Johnson County Community College Trustee's Race

There's good news from the primary election held yesterday in Johnson County. The three Mainstream PAC endorsed candidates led in voting for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees and will advance to the general election.

Incumbents Jon Stewart and Lynn Mitchelson advanced as did Don Weiss. Many RSR readers will remember that Weiss, a moderate, pro-science candidate challenged religious right Kansas school board member John Bacon in the last election.

It's unfortunate that Weiss lost that race, but perhaps the school board's loss will be the JCCC Board of Trustees gain.

Yesterday, Weiss came in second in the voting with 20.97 percent of the vote, just behind Stewart, who got 21.05. Mitchelson came in third with 18.7 percent.

Johnson County Community College has played a key role in the economic development of the area and there had been some fears that the same right-wing forces that brought embarrassment to the state school board might try to engineer a takeover of the JCCC Board of Trustees, as well.

Dwight Sutherland, David Nelson, and Lorianne Fisher also advanced to the general election. Sutherland, a conservative GOP activist, was quoted in Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas? He's been a supporter of the ultra-right policies pursued by the right-wing faction on the state school board.

RSR didn't do as good a job as we should have of covering the primary election, but we'll try to do better in covering the general on April 3.


Modern-Day Galileos

Steve Renner, president of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center, says that "modern-day Galileos" are being persecuted because they question the Darwinian paradigm.

We find it interesting that these "modern-day Galileos" draw their support from the very people who deny that the Earth revolves around the sun.

We know that climate scientists have been prevented from speaking by the Bush administration. We also know that a 24-year-old Bush political commissar at NASA censored climate scientists there. Chris Mooney has documented many more examples of the repression of science and scientists by these "modern-day Galileos" and their sponsors in The Republican War on Science.

But, so far as we know, our "modern-day Galileos" have yet to be placed under house arrest or shown the Inquisition's instruments of torture.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Dembski Plays the Gay Card

William Dembski is complaining that UCLA plans to establish the nation’s first endowed academic chair in sexual orientation law, but they won't do the same for intelligent design.

I guess nobody's told Dembski that gay bashing is no longer the effective instrument it once was. Dembski's friends on the religious right have been pounding the pulpit for years now warning of the coming Armageddon if gays were granted their full rights as citizens. So far though, the worst thing to happen to the institution of marriage is the hookup between Britney Spears and Kevin Federline.

As we watch the lurid spectacle of certified heterosexuals battling for custody over Anna Nicole Smith's money child unfold, the touching desire of gays to marry seems more and more mainstream, if not old fashioned -- even quaint.

We've already got enough do-nothing Republican campaign contributors on the public payroll without adding an endowed chair for an otherwise unemployable intelligent design "theorist" at a public university.


Impress This!

Over at the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog Casey Luskin is quite taken with "some excellent material" MikeGene has put together at TelicThoughts about why "Nick Matzke is wrong to go around using his 'ID=Creationism' talking point."

"It’s a seductive meme for Darwinists," writes Luskin, "but these arguments don’t impress MikeGene, who looks at how ID is formulated and finds that it is not creationism."

Well, facts have never impressed MikeGene or his fellow creationists, but those of us who live in the reality based universe understand that it's not "Darwinists" who've provided the most damning evidence that ID=Creationism, rather it's the Creationists themselves.

"A Note to Teachers" published on the Discovery Institute website by Mark Hartwig and Stephen C. Meyer, director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, in Seattle, claims that the intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People will "helps students understand the positive case for intelligent design. Following a growing number of scientists and philosophers, the authors argue that life not only appears to have been intelligently designed, but that it actually was. Drawing on recent developments in molecular biology, the authors show that even simple organisms bear all the earmarks of designed systems."

Meyer and Hartwig go on to deny that, "intelligent design is simply a sectarian religion."

Despite what they say, the authors of the ID textbook unquestionably believed creationism and intelligent design to be one and the same.

The evidence?

The 1987 edition Of Pandas and People says “Creation means that various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent Creator with their distinctive features already intact—fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.”

The 1993 edition, to which Meyer and Hartwig's "Note to Teachers" was included as a supplement says "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact— fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.”

So, Luskin and MikeGene can employ all the sophistry they want. They can write all they want about ID≠Creationism, but the fact is, the authors of the only ID textbook ever produced define both identically. And "Darwinists" can't be blamed for that.


Clueless in Tennessee

The Tennessee Senate, apparently discouraged by the complexity of the state's tax code and bewildered by the task of funding public education, health care, and highway construction, has decided to take on a simpler question: the existence of God.

According to the Nashville Post, State Sen. Raymond Finney, a Republican from Maryville, "wants to ask the Tennessee Department of Education to address a few basic questions about life, the universe and all that:"

"Is the universe and all that is within it, including human beings, created through purposeful, intelligent design by a Supreme Being, that is a Creator?"

"Since the universe, including human beings, is created by a supreme being (a creator), why is creationism not taught in Tennessee public schools?

"Since it cannot be determined whether the universe, including human beings, is created by a supreme being (a creator), why is creationism not taught as an alternative concept, explanation, or theory, along with the theory of evolution in Tennessee public schools?"

Shouldn't there be some requirement that lawmakers at least be aware of the law as a prerequisite to holding office? Perhaps instead of teaching creationism, the schools should focus more on teaching the legal history of the country. That way state legislators like Finney might at least have a clue.

You can read Finney's bill here.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Corruption's Handmaidens

These are strange times, it's true. But nothing, it seems to us, is stranger than the fact that, under Bush and Cheney, our government is more corrupt than at any time in the nation's history, and yet it receives what little support it has left from the very people who once claimed to be the "moral majority."

We don't say the government is more corrupt than at any time in history lightly. We know quite well that many past administrations have had their share of dirty dealing, but even Teapot Dome pales in comparison to the institutionalized corruption introduced by the current Republican administration.

Everything the administration touches from Iraq to New Orleans has been tainted by corruption.

"The reason our mission in Iraq has proven to be so disastrous and corrupt is very simple -- the advocates and architects of that war are completely corrupt, inept, and deceitful," says Glenn Greenwald's. (See more about this at Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo.)

The religious right wants to stop teaching evolution in public schools because it's destroying the morals of the nation, but have you heard them say anything at all about the corruption in Washington? Have you read any statement by leaders of the religious right condemning the scandalous behavior of Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, or Ralph Reed?

The truth is, the moral decline of the nation has been aided and abetted by those who claim to have a special -- they would say exclusive -- relationship with God. If you listen to the leadership of the religious right, only they know what's right and what's wrong.

But, in their lust for political power, they've turned a blind eye to the rape of our government and its institutions.


Descent Into Nothingness

Did Dembski take the keys to Uncommon Descent from DaveScot again? The site hasn't produced any new posts since DaveScot took credit for his "now prophetic-appearing conjecture that manmade CFC-caused ozone depletion is a real global warming culprit, unlike the mythical C02 effect… "


Darwinism and Its Discontents

Philosopher Michael Ruse is one of RSR's favorite writers. We haven't read his latest, Darwinism and Its Discontents yet, but after reading Richard Bellon's review in American Scientist, we're going to push it to the top of our reading list. Bellon writes that Ruse has produced a "constant stream of innovative, provocative, informative, witty and entertaining scholarship. No other contemporary writer has Ruse's knack for seamlessly weaving together history, philosophy, theology and science."
In his latest salvo, Darwinism and Its Discontents, Ruse turns his good-natured pugnacity to a robust and comprehensive defense of the theory of evolution by natural selection as elaborated by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species (1859). Ruse's emphasis on Darwinism—which he defines as "natural selection as the chief causal process behind all organisms"—widens the book's scope beyond a conventional critique of creationism. He confronts the full range of people who treat Darwin's theory with suspicion, squeamishness or malign neglect. This includes secular thinkers who would indignantly reject the creationist label but nonetheless, in Ruse's view, "stand virtually back to back with the religious critics" when it comes to natural selection. He also seeks "to defend Darwinism from false (or misguided) friends," those who bastardize or misapply Darwin's ideas to advance their own cultural agendas. This is a book for anyone interested in what Darwinism can tell us—and more important, what it cannot tell us—about such profound and profoundly divisive issues as the literal interpretation of the Bible, the reality of free will, the existence of purpose and direction in the universe, the origin of life, the foundations of human ethical behavior, and the moral and political implications of human



Monkey Girl, Ed Humes book about the Dover intelligent design trial, has come under attack from the Discovery Institute for being "partisan."

However, readers of the book who have no axe to grind tell a different story. Here's Christine Rosen reviewing the book in the Washington Post:
Although his own sympathies clearly are with the defenders of evolutionary theory, Humes makes a strenuous effort to be fair-minded. He offers a sympathetic portrait of Michael Behe, the Lehigh University biochemist well known for his work on ID and the defense's star expert witness. School board member Bill Buckingham, the driving force behind the ID policy, could easily have come across as an ignorant fundamentalist bully. In Humes's hands, he is a more complex and pitiable figure -- a stubborn, intolerant man who was also in chronic pain and struggling to overcome an addiction to OxyContin but who felt that what he was doing was good for the schoolchildren of Dover.


It Could be Worse

In a review of Ed Humes' great new book about the Dover intelligent design trial, Monkey Girl, Steve Giegerich of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, "to those who believe the St. Louis School Board has few peers when it comes to micromanaging educational policy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Humes offers evidence that it could be worse. A lot worse."

That's something those of us who live in Kansas know all too well.


Reasonable People

Reaction to the Kansas school board's decision to remove intelligent design inspired pseudoscience continues to come in from around the U.S. and the world.

Mike Jone, associate editor of the Tulsa World writes that "the reasonable people have taken over the state school board again and intelligence has been restored."



Moderates Wagnon and Rupe Plan to Give Up Seats in 2008

According to the Lawrence Journal World, Kansas school board Chair Bill Wagnon and Vice-Chair Carol Rupe, both moderates, are likely to give up their seats in 2008.

Janet Waugh, who won re-election last year told the LJW she’s worried about the possibility of moderates losing control of the state board again.

“It’s crucial,” she said. “We need to look now.”

The importance of maintaining a moderate board majority was underscored earlier in the month when the board junked intelligent design inspired standards in favor of real science.

In March, the board is expected to vote on sex-education -- returning to an opt-out, rather than an opt-in system.

In April, the board will most likely hire a replacement for Education Commissioner Bob "Heckuva Job" Corkins who resigned when moderates took control.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Willful Myopia

Even among the holocaust deniers, Darwin doubters, global warming conspiracy theorists, quack medicine purveyors, and HIV denialistas who populate the intelligent design movement, Jack Cashill stands out.

Like John Calvert, Cashill is a local product who stars in Randy Olson's film "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus."

Cashill also writes a regular column on World Net Daily, the far-right religious website whose readership is thought to be the natural market for Zion Oil & Gas stock offerings. Zion is a company that "explores deep targets in Israel on the Biblical lands of Asher and Manasseh" based on a reading of Genesis 12:1-3.

In his Feb. 22nd column, Cashill reports that he sat on a post-film panel at the D.C. premiere of Randy Olson's "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus." Cashill's been a regular at these events, RSR last heard him speak on the panel following the world premiere of "Flock of Dodos" here in Kansas.

Now however, Cashill wants us know that he only appeared on the Washington D.C. panel to "defray my expenses for the on-site research I wanted to do."

The Discovery Institute, you see, has now officially labeled Olson's film a hoax, and Cashill is at pains to let us know that -- despite being treated fairly in "Olson's congenial, if partisan, film" -- he only did it for the money.

The Dodos screening Cashill took part in was sponsored, he writes, by the "D.C. branch of an international outfit called the Center For Inquiry... many of those in attendance were CFI members. According to its mission statement, CFI 'advances critical thinking, freedom of inquiry and humanist values.'"

(For the uninitiated, that bit about "international outfit" is right-wing code speak for black helicopters and such.)

Despite all the talk about being for critical thinking and freedom of inquiry, Cashill believes CFI members "tend to reserve that freedom for people who inquire among the same murky chambers they do. In this world of shadows, the very search for clarity is verboten."

So let's see if we have this right:

Here's a modest proposal Jack: next time one of your churches invites somebody to defend evolution in front of the congregation, we'll talk about "willful myopia."

Let us know.


Secondary Virginity

You have to feel sorry for the religious right just now. As The New York Times reports, the Council for National Policy, "a secretive club" of influential Christian conservatives and their allies met at a Florida resort earlier this month.

Prominent among the group were such religious right luminaries as Paul Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, Dr. James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, the Rev. Jerry Falwell of Liberty University, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, and the Rev. Tim LaHaye.

Jack Abramoff couldn't make it this year.

While the faithful shoveled their sidewalks and shivered through the cold wave, they met at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island, Fla., to anoint a presidential candidate. Unfortunately, among the field of right-wing candidates -- John McCain, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Representative Duncan Hunter of California, Kansas' own Sam Brownback --none was found to be pure enough to get the group's backing.

The group found McCain's Johnny-come-lately intolerance for gays less than convincing because he once denounced Christian conservatives as “agents of intolerance. Likewise Mitt Romney's desperate run to the right lacked the necessary verisimilitude.

The group found Rudy Giuliani too liberal, Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, is right on evolution, guns, and gays, but he's not low tax enough for the group. Sam Brownback shares the group's fear and hatred of gay rights, but he's insufficiently harsh on immigration.

And, so it goes.

Still there's hope that one of the group will, like a snake, shed the skin of past errors to make himself righteous enough to win the group's support.

As Grover Norquist put it to the Times, with the right promises, one of these candidates could "redeem themselves in the eyes of the conservative movement despite their past records, just as some high school students take abstinence pledges even after having had sex."

“It’s called secondary virginity,” Mr. Norquist said. “It is a big movement in high school and also available for politicians.”

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Of Rabbits and Cecotrophs: You Call that Intelligent Design?

Haven't been able to catch up with "Flock of Dodos," Randy Olson's film on the battle over evolution and intelligent design? You can watch a clip of one of the funniest sequences, "The Award for Unintelligent Design," on NPR's "Science Friday" website.

You can also listen to a podcast of Science Friday's evolution roundup featuring Ed Humes, Randy Olson, and Nick Matzke here.


Policy Chum

John Hanna of the Associated Press takes a look at how the state school board's back-and-forth over evolution has affected what is actually taught in the state's biology classrooms.


Massachusetts Ruling May Have Implications for Evolution Battle

In a ruling that has implications for the battle over teaching evolution in public schools -- and any potential suit that might be contemplated by creationists here in Kansas -- federal judge Mark L. Wolf has thrown out a lawsuit filed by parents who wanted to keep their young children from learning about same-sex marriage in school.

In his ruling, Judge Wolf said the courts had decided in other cases that parents’ rights to exercise their religious beliefs were not violated when their children were exposed to contrary ideas in school, according to the Associated Press.

"Under the Constitution public schools are entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy," the judge wrote. "Diversity is a hallmark of our nation. It is increasingly evident that our diversity includes differences in sexual orientation."

According to AP, the parents who filed the lawsuit, Tonia and David Parker of Lexington, sued after their 5-year-old son brought home a book from kindergarten that depicted a gay family. Another Lexington couple joined the lawsuit after a second-grade teacher read a class a fairy tale about two princes falling in love.

If parents disagree with the policy, "the Parkers and Wirthlins may send their children to a private school …[or] educate their children at home," the judge said.

Which is precisely what thousands of Southern white Christians did following the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that outlawed racial segregation in public education.

Jeffrey Denner, the parent's attorney, said they would file a federal appeal and refile state-court claims.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Science Friday: Evolution, Creationism, Education

Don't miss NPR's "Science Friday" today. In the second hour (Airs 2-3:00 p.m. Central) Ira Flatow will be talking with a fabulous lineup of guests about Dover and the impact of the elections on the nationwide battle over teaching creationism in public schools. Here's the list of guests:

Ed Humes, Pulitzer Prize winning writer and author of Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul .

Randy Olson, director of "Flock of Dodos".

Nick Matzke, Public Information Project Director of the National Center for Science Education

Here's a link to the "Science Friday" website for more information.


Didn't Get the Memo

Apparently, Thelma Slaven isn't on the Discovery Institute's distribution list.

She seems to know about Discovery's 700 Club (so-called scientists who doubt Darwin) but she doesn't really get the whole thing about the old standards being ninety-nine and nine tenths pure science -- no born-again filler, no old-time religion additives, just the real deal.

In a letter to the Hutchinson News, down in South Central Kansas, she lets the cat out of the bag about the Bible and religion:

Many scientists have come to the conclusion after years of study that evolution is not an established fact. It is only a hypothesis. Because of this vote, thousands of children will be taught to not believe the Bible. some people say you can believe in evolution and still believe the Bible. Impossible.

The Bible says God created man in his own image. God is not a monkey.

But he makes a monkey of so many creationists


Lying for Jesus

Running a blog like Red State Rabble gives you a front row seat for watching the lunacy, paranoia, and incredible dishonesty that characterize the religious right. Here's an example from the comments to a post we did about about Ed Humes Op-Ed in the LA Times.
The lawsuit coming, and I know becaue I clerked for the troll who serves as Calverts front man at meetings and on the net. The approach will be from the point of view of defending religion agaisnt unconstitutional attack, not from the point of view of promoting ID or attacking evolution Some of the sites like KCFS will find members remarkds used as ammo,if the are not in fact named. I know because I clerked for this fool Don't worry, he has high turnover and pays low so he won't know who this is coming from. Gotta hurry. Do as you will with this info. Whistle Blower 02.20.07 - 1:23 pm
WhistleBlower also posted this comment to another piece we wrote about the possibility of a creationist suit over the standards:
Yep. The suit is coming. I know because I clerked in the office of the
troll who is Calverts front man.He is often seen at meetings that have anything to do with the "controvery". I won't name names, but he is a tall guy with glassed, 40's. long hair (almost like an ex hippie) and average looking. Looks normal, so wouldn't know from looking what a fanatic he is. Never voices fanatical opinions in public; sometimes even denies them. ALWAYS carries a recording device. They have a high turnover of clerks, so no way he can know its me spilling the beans. The suit will not approach the case from the point of challenging evolution OR promoting ID, but from the point of view of defending religion against unconstitutional attack. KCFS will figure in this, as a source of ammo for the allegation of atheists attacks. One of their board members especially who is a rabid atheist and of course the media rep. I pass this info on because they are real assholes in that office. Do with it as you will. Whistle Blower 02.20.07 - 1:07 pm
KCFS President Jack Krebs wrote a response to the first comment asking for more information. In response, this comment, from someone using the pseudonym Knauer, was posted:
I see that Mr Jack Krebs has solicited "Whistle Blower" to obtain information he got illegally from his employers office.This is, shall we say, improper, and will lead to the proper notifications.It is not suprising, however. Knauer 2.22.07 - 11:55 am.
All three comments originate from the same IP address: Paranoid? Delusional? You bet. Suppose the description in the second comment -- always carries a recording device -- is really a description of WhistleBlower/Knauer himself? We'd bet on it.


What Passeth for Reason

At the last board meeting, Ken Willard stopped the proceedings and took the board into executive session to consider the legal implications of teaching science instead of religion in the state's science classes.

The board, now under new, more moderate management, apparently decided there's nothing illegal about teaching science in science classes, so they went ahead and junked the old intelligent design influenced standards in favor of, well, actual science.

Why would anyone think it's against the law to teach real science -- you know, the kind of thing scientists come up with -- in science classes? Well, take a gander at an excerpt from a letter to the editor written by one of Willard's constitutents:
... the word science comes from the Latin, "scientia," which literally means... "to know." Now, I ask all legislators, teachers and parents alike, how can you "know" something that is a theory?

Brilliant, as they say in the Guinness commercials.

Hat tip to D.W. who writes the Real Kansas blog.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Russian Evolution Suit Thrown Out

A Russian court on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit brought by a 16-year-old student who said that being taught the theory of evolution in school violated her rights and insulted her religious beliefs according to a report by the Associated Press.

The legal victories for intelligent design continue apace.


The Buck Stops There

According to The Austin Chronicle, Rep. Warren Chisum has apologized to Jewish groups for circulating a memo calling evolution a kabbalah conspiracy. Evidence for the conspiracy came from an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory Web site

Chisum, who sent the memo to other legislators with a cover letter saying he thanked Georgia Rep. Ben Bridges for sending "information on this important topic," now says he was just being a "Good Samaritan" by circulating a memo sent to him by Bridges

Chisum says he hadn't looked at the Web site. Bridges denies writing the memo.

Bridges says Marshall Hall, the husband of Bridges campaign manager, Bonnie Hall, wrote the memo and sent it out without asking him.

Hall says that just because he calls evolution a Jewish conspiracy doesn't mean he's anti-Semitic.

Heck no.


The Making of the Fittest

Sean Carroll, Professor of Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Medical Genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the author of Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, will give two seminars at Kansas State University on March 1.

Both events are sponsored by KSU's Center for the Understanding of Origins.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The Unvarnished Truth

An editorial in The Philadelphia Inquirer minces no words in discussing the Kansas science standards battle:

The old, junked standards were a pack of misleading falsehoods. They portrayed Darwinian evolution as a "controversy" threatened by imaginary "new research." And that's just wrong. Evolution is the bedrock of biology, richly witnessed by fossil records and experiment, accepted by almost all scientists.

In a widely ridiculed move, Kansas' now-repealed standards redefined science to include non-natural explanations.

Oh, they're not going to like that in Seattle.


More Important that Iraq?

One of the best things about intelligent design activists is their proclivity for giving us unintended insights into the neurological disorder called creationism. Here's an example of the self-induced blindness which is one symptom of the disease.

"This issue [science standards] won't go away because it's about fundamental freedoms," John Calvert, a leader of the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network, has told The Australian. "Can you think of an issue more important to the American people? This has got to be more important than the Iraq war."


Missing Molly

With Texas Rep. Warren Chisum distributing ads for a Web site that promotes a book on the "Fixed Earth" RSR is feeling the loss of Molly Ivins. We can't help but think she'd have had something to say about these latest shenanigans. Now that she's gone this may be the best we're going to get:

A 78-year-old author in Georgia sells books teaching that the Earth is the center of the galaxy, that modern science is all a Satanic lie and that evolution is a Jewish belief that promotes one-world government.

He wrote some Texans and found a gullible buyer.

Where else?

Of course: the Texas House.

Upholding the usual Capitol standards of intelligence, a Panhandle lawmaker mindlessly circulated ads for a Web site that promotes a book on the "Fixed Earth."

This is not the same as the flat-Earth theory. But it's close.


Evolution Sunday

Evolution Sunday is still getting press. This is the best article analyzing the event we've seen on the event yet.


Jefferson's Gate of Separation

When Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist's in 1802 he said, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

But, he didn't really mean it.

According to World Net Daily, what Jefferson really meant to say was he was in favor of building a gate of separation between church and state.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007


A Tale of Two Theories

"There are really two theories of evolution," writes Ed Humes in a special to the LA Times reprinted in the Lawrence Journal World. "There is the genuine scientific theory, and there is the talk-radio pretend version, designed not to enlighten but to deceive and enrage."

Thanks, Mousie Cat.


ID: The Grassy Knoll of Science Theories?

Commenting on the Kansas school board's recent decision to rid the science standards of pseudo-science, an editorial in The Daily Orange says that "to be truly informed, students need to know before they begin their studies that there are different viewpoints."

Quite sensibly, The Daily Orange says students should be informed "that scientific evidence points toward evolution and leaves no room for "intelligent design" as an answer to where life comes from, as well as what intelligent design is, why people believe in it, and why it fails to pass scientific muster."

The editorial goes on to draw a parallel between science and history:
To give a parallel example, history classes should teach the commonly held belief that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, but they should also acknowledge that there is ongoing debate in small circles about far less likely alternative theories. Conspiracies about who was really on the grassy knoll are important tangents to American history, even if only to dismiss them and move on.
Does that mean that intelligent design is the "grassy knoll" of conspiracy sceince theories?


Knocking 'Em Dead in Knoxville

A news release from the Discovery Institute informs us that "intelligent design scientists will showcase evidence challenging evolution" at a Knoxville conference March 24.

Nothing yet about any evidence for intelligent design, apparently.

The "scientists" who will do the showcasing are: Lee Strobel, a journalist and bestselling author; Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute (he's a philosopher); Jay Richards, a theologian and co-author of "The Privileged Planet;" and Michael Behe, bio-chemist and science poster boy for the intelligent design movement.

Where's the rest of the 700 Club?


Evolution: A Study in Bad Taste?

Love the taste of Brussels sprouts? No, me either, but the ability to taste or not taste bitter foods may have played a role in human evolution and that might account for why some of us (Mrs. RSR) love those bitter little cabbages and others of us loathe them.

Science Daily has a report on Dr. Stephen Wooding, a population geneticist, who studies how variations in our genes give rise to variations in traits among a given human population. Some traits, such as bitter-taste receptors on the tongue, help us to tell the difference between such awful fare as Brussels sprouts and all wonderful stuff like chocolate cake.

Update: Doc Bill teaches the controversy at 12 Tu Tu Fondue, but I'm not sure he's made a believer out of me yet.

Monday, February 19, 2007


You Can Take the Creationist Out of Dogpatch, But You Can't Take the Dogpatch Out of Creationists

"At this point," wrote the Discovery Institute's Seth Cooper in 2005, "the only thing clear about this is that it is very unclear where Rep. Bridges is coming from on this."

Where Rep. Ben "The Georgia Peach" Bridges is coming from is now considerably clearer.

Bridges made national news the other day when he sent a memo to like-minded legislators in several states -- including Texas Rep. Warren Chisum -- saying that the theory of evolution, which some stuffy intellectuals attribute to Charles Darwin, is really the product of millennia old "rabbinic writings" and other ancient Jewish texts.

The planet where Rep. Bridges is coming from is not like the good Earth you and I inhabit. His planet is fixed and stationary. It doesn't move. Is it flat, too? That's an open question.

The Bridges' memo refers readers to The Fair Education Foundation website which is in possession of “indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone" that the earth is fixed and unmoving in the heavens, just as the Bible says.

"The Earth is not rotating," insists the Fixed Earth site, "nor is it going around the sun." People have been fooled into thinking otherwise by an insidious anti-Bible religious plot disguised as science by Jewish thinkers like the “Kabbalist physicist Albert Einstein.”

Cooper's Evolution News and Views piece calls attention to Bridges' sponsorship of HB 179 which, according to Cooper's reading, wouldn't ban evolution from Georgia schools. (You can read HB 179 for yourself on the Fixed Earth website.)

You see, Cooper and other intelligent design theorists such as Stephen Meyer and John Angus Campbell don't want to ban evolution, they just want teachers to teach about the scientific controversy that now exists. They want to provide more information, not less. Teachers, they say, should describe competing views to students and explain the arguments for and against these views as made by their chief proponents. When experts disagree about a controversial subject, students should learn about the competing perspectives.

Wonder how they feel about Bridges now that we really know where he's coming from? Well, you can read all you want at Evolution News and Views about Randy Olson's film "Flock of Dodos" being a hoax, or Ed Humes being a "partisan," but you'll find nothing about Bridges. Remember, Bridges has a home under ID's big tent.


The Once and Future McCain

Many unaffiliated voters once looked to John McCain for his independence and moderation on social issues. Now, with his embrace of the religious right and the president's double down policy in Iraq, those same voters are deserting him in droves.

"McCain’s support has declined among unaffiliated voters," according to the Rasmussen Reports. Where McCain once ran ahead of every Democratic challenger in every Rasmussen Reports poll, he now runs behind both Obama and Edwards.

As The Nation's Max Blumenthal notes in an opinion piece posted on the CBS News website: "McCain and his handlers were working to burnish his conservative credentials to win over wary Republican primary voters."
The effort began with McCain's May 2006 graduation speech at Liberty University, a school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom McCain had dubbed an "agent of intolerance" during his rancorous 2000 run for the presidency. His makeover continues on February 23, when he is scheduled to speak before the Discovery Institute, the right-wing think tank that has attempted to introduce into public school biology classes the teaching of Intelligent Design.
After the Republican debacle in the last election when the GOP lost control of both the Senate and the House, we were assured that the party would re-examine its unholy reliance on the religious right. We were even told that fundamentalists, disillusioned by the Republicans failure to deliver on guns, gays, and abortion, might withdraw from politics altogether.

Despite those reassurances, the nation has been treated to the guilty pleasure of McCain's soap opera conversion from straight-talking independent to Bush Mini-Me and social moderate to Old Testament prophet in order to win the Republican nomination for president.

Karl Marx famously wrote that "religion is the opium of the people." However, like Kevin Federline, that statement seems hopelessly outdated now. Maybe we should re-write it for the Karl Rove generation: "the religious right is the hillbilly heroin of the Republican party."

Perhaps, as some claimed not so long ago, Republicans really wish they knew how to quit the religious right, but to do that they would have to sacrifice their grand ambitions for political power, and that's something -- as the sad, sorry spectacle of McCain, Giuliani, and Romney wooing the fundamentalists clearly demonstrates -- they'll never do.

Unless the voters stage an intervention with Republicans like McCain, Giuliani, and Romney, they will never go cold turkey on their own.


Model Schools

If creationists were to have their way, what would American schools look like?

We can get a hint, perhaps, by looking at schools in Dubai, the second largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates.

Evolution, currently included in Dubai's curriculum for Grade 12 pupils in public schools, will be removed for the next academic year, says Abdul Qader Eisa, the senior supervisor of Biology in the Curriculum Development Centre of the Ministry of Education.

"We belong to an Islamic country, and we believe that scientific evidence proves the existence of God and that he is the creator of everything," he says.


Ed Humes on NPR's "Science Friday" Feb. 23

Feb. 23: Ed Humes, author of the wonderful Monkey Girl Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul will be interviewed on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday, with Ira Flatow. The program airs from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Central Time Zone. You can find a time and station to listen to the broadcast here.

March 28: Ed Humes will speak at the Dole Institute in Lawrence. Details TBA.

March 29: Ed Humes will speak at Johnson County Community College at 7 p.m., then will answer questions and sign books. The talk is in the Craig Community Auditorium.

Learn more about Monkey Girl here. Hat Tip to Mousie Cat.


When More is Less

Randolph E. Schmid, a science writer for the Associated Press, examines an American paradox: We know more about basic science today than we did two decades ago, but more of us also believe in pseudosciences such as astrology, visits from space aliens, and creationism.

Schmid also reports one finding that may, at least partially, reassure some of us who this strange phenomenon troubling:

Nick Allum of the University of Surry in England suggested belief in astrology might be a simple misunderstanding of the question, with people confusing astrology with astronomy.

In one European study about 25 percent of people said they thought astrology was very scientific. But when the question was rephrased to horoscopes that fell to about 7 percent.


Is That a Grill?

Our dear old friend, Afarensis, who blogs on anthropology, evolution, and science from across the state line in Missouri, kindly linked to a series of RSR posts on the possibility that disgruntled creationists might sue the Kansas school board over its recent decision to limit the state's science curriculum to real science.

Naturally, we popped over to his blog to see for ourselves what was provoking all the traffic. When we arrived our attention was riveted to a photo of an Afarensis fossil skull for which the blog is named. The skull is from a 3.5-2.8 million year old hominin from the Hadar formation in the Middle Awash of Ethiopia.

It was then we noticed that some of the missing teeth in the broadly smiling Afarensis have been replaced by what looks to our aging eyes like a modern dental appliance. Is that a grill?


A Tale of Two Museums

Sean O’Driscoll of the Associated Press looks at the oh-so-subtle differences between the Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Ken Ham's Creation Museum near Cincinnati:

Hall of Human Origins: Displays show how genetic variation occurred over billions of years of random mutation, and the emerging traits were naturally selected for the environment in which the animal lived.

Creation Museum: Exhibits present genetic variation as occurring rapidly in the past 6,000 years. Various types of dinosaurs were saved by Noah’s ark and larger ones mutated from those. Dinosaurs died out in the last few thousand years, but some might still be around. Polar bears mutated from bears saved by Noah’s ark.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Gotta Serve Somebody

If one chooses to visit the radical left wing atheists’ Web sites that spend all their time ranting and raving about the ignorance of anyone who opposes their incredibly inept presentations in an utterly vain attempt to justify the unsupportable theory of evolution, a theory that is filled with presuppositions and innuendoes (sic) used to explain the existence of mankind under the pretense of being scientific, that is their right. As a citizen of this great country, and as one of God’s creatures, we all have the right to choose whom we will serve.

Oh, oh, I think Dave Purkey, a Sydney, Montana teacher, is on to us.

Mr. Purkey goes on to say, "I don’t hesitate to confirm that I am a born-again, Bible toting, sold out follower of Jesus, in the classroom, I am a public school teacher. As an educator I spend many hours each month listening to and reading materials from both evolutionists and creationists. I’m not promoting Kent Hovind. I am promoting his presentation of the opposition to evolution scientists."

Mr. Pukey's evaluation of the evidence against evolution may be as flawed as his evaluation of what the Supreme Court says about teaching evolution and creationism in public schools: "If one really does his homework he will discover the latest Supreme Court decision simply states that no state or local board can mandate the teaching of either evolution or creation theories. Teachers can, however, teach both side by side and allow students to decide which they believe is more credible. That’s exactly what I am doing."


Evidence, At Last

Red State Rabble likes to think of himself as open to following the evidence no matter where it leads. That's why we're willing to confess that we may have been wrong to say that intelligent design isn't science because hard evidence of the supernatural world -- the who, what, when, where, why and how -- was impossible to come by.

We must confess, too, that we may have been wrong to exclude intelligent design from the classroom for this supposed failing.

There is new evidence, now. Let's see where it leads us.

Jim Bramlett, a retired Air Force officer who lives in Lake Mary, Fla., has posted an online collection of recordings that capture, he says, the voices and music of God's angels in heaven.

Bramlett, 76, collected the tapes from various sources in recent years, and has now put them on his ChoicesForLiving website. Even an ultra-skeptical Neo-Darwinists (like you) can click on one of these links and listen to three recordings made in the U.S., as well as one from China, according to World Net Daily.

This is just the second piece of evidence posted on the Internet in a matter of days that's shaking Darwinian establishment to its very core. The first, of course, is the paradigm-shattering revelation that Darwinism is just a false as Copernicanism:
The Earth is not rotating...nor is it going around the sun. The universe is not one ten trillionth the size we are told. Today’s cosmology fulfills an anti-Bible religious plan disguised as "science". The whole scheme from Copernicanism to Big Bangism is a factless lie.

Only the most dogmatic of Darwinists could ignore such evidence.

Hey, was that Miles and Gabriel playing backup?

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Crowson's Evolution Blues

The cartoon history of Kansas' Evolution Wars set to music by Richard Crowson, the Wichita Eagle editorial cartoonist. Crowson's work has been reprinted in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. His Evolution Blues is sublime. Who says Kansans have no sense of humor?

Friday, February 16, 2007


Intellectual Incuriosity

We don't know about rocket science, but being a brain surgeon, apparently, ain't all it's cracked up to be.

A few days ago, Eye On Science, the Time Online blog of senior science writer Michael D. Lemonick took a look at the Discovery Institute's 700 Club -- that's the exhaustive list of 700 "Scientists Who Doubt Darwin."

Just to put that number in perspective, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research there were 29,951 science and engineering PhDs granted in 2000. The University of California, Berkeley, University of Illinois at Urban, University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, MIT, and Stanford each produce 400-500 science and engineering graduates a year.

The National Center for Science Education's "Project Steve," a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" now stands at 789.

The Steves -- and some Stephanies -- have signed a statement saying, "evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry."

"Project Steve" mocks the creationist list practice with a bit of humor. Because "Steves" constitute only about 1 percent of all scientists, it makes the point that tens of thousands of scientists support evolution.

The "Project Steve" list by the way contains the names of a number of Nobel Prize winners and members of the National Academy of Sciences.

All right, back to brain surgery.

Lemonick's Eye On Science blog took particular aim at Dr. Michael Egnor, a professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a signer of the Discovery list who was quoted as saying, "Darwinism is a trivial idea that has been elevated to the status of the scientific theory that governs modern biology."

But, it doesn't take a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to figure out what's wrong with Dr. Egnor's statement.

"Yes, he actually is a brain surgeon, and yes, SUNY is a reputable place," writes Lemonick. "Which is very important if you need your brain operated on, but which says nothing whatever about your sophistication about biological theory or about evolution. Discovery counts on your awe of brain surgery and your awe of magazine 'best' lists to keep you from thinking about the fact that there's nothing here establishing Dr. Egnor's expertise on the topic at hand."

In response, Dr. Egnor posted a comment on Lemonick's blog, "asking a simple question: show me the evidence (journal, date, page) that new information, measured in bits or any appropriate units, can emerge from random variation and natural selection, without intelligent agency."

(Bits? Bits -- binary digits -- are the stuff of Boolean Algebra and computer science. The basic unit of heredity, and hence evolution, is the gene.)

Do we have to lead this eminent brain surgeon by the hand? Is he incapable of doing a PubMed search? Do we have to stack the evidence up before him like the evidence for evolution of the immune system was stacked up before Michael Behe at the Dover trial?

Finding the evidence for evolution is really quite simple. It isn't rocket science, it isn't even brain surgery. All it requires is simple intellectual curiosity. You will find it in your local library. Bookstores will have a section on evolution. Since you are on a SUNY campus, there will be a biology department with scientists who will be able to steer you in the right direction.

Dr. Egnor, I'm not a brain surgeon, just a poor writer, but here's a suggestion. There's a thing on the Internet called Google. It helps you search for information you want to find. Google even has a specialized search function called Google Scholar, which searches scholarly papers. My Google Scholar search of the terms "gene," "mutation," and "evolution" returned 256,000 hits in 0.14 seconds.

It's quick. It's easy. It's free.

You might start here, here, here, here, or here.

See that wasn't so hard, was it.


Ga. State Rep. Ben Bridges: Evolution and the "Pharisee Religion"

Georgia State House Rep. Ben Bridges, a Republican natch, has sent a letter to like-thinking to state legislators in Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio saying “Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion... This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.”

Does this indicate Bridges ludicrous anti-eveolutionism has at last evolved into anti-Semitism? Well, as the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, the Anti-Defamation League " is calling on state Rep. Ben Bridges to apologize for a memo distributed under his name that says the teaching of evolution should be banned in public schools because it is a religious deception stemming from an ancient Jewish sect."

Josh Marsall, who is also reporting the story on his Talking Points Memo blog, adds these details:

Warren Chisum (R), House Appropriations Committee Chairman in the Texas state House, took the memo from his friend Bridges and used the House operations system to distribute the memo throughout the legislature. (Here's Chisum's cover letter and the Bridges' memo.)

The ADL caught wind of the Bridges memo and now Chisum says he's "willing to apologize if I've offended anyone" if anyone got their big nose bent out of shape.

Chisum's non-apology apology reflects the sophistry of his creationist views. Here's what he told the Dallas Morning News:

"No, absolutely, although I'm a Christian, and I believe in creation," he said. Creation science is the idea that the Earth was created in six days some 6,000 years ago.

"You ought to teach creation as well as the fact of evolution," Mr. Chisum said, though he said "all of those kinds of sciences have holes in them. ... But I'm not about teaching religion in schools."

Aside from the casual anti-Semitism that goes hand in hand with this sort of thinking, the most interesting part of this story is what these people take to be a legitimate source of evidence for the case they make: The Fixed Earth Web site.

The Fixed Earth source that Bridges and Chisum find so convincing opposes Darwinian and Copernican myths. "The Earth," they say, "is not rotating...nor is it going around the sun... The whole scheme from Copernicanism to Big Bangism is a factless lie."

Well, why would you believe scientists or historians when you have experts like these at your disposal?


Sue Me

Just before the Kansas school board voted 6-4 Tuesday to restore science to the state's science curriculum -- something that had been missing since right-wingers voted to salt the standards with ID-inspired pseudoscience in 2005 -- Ken Willard called for the board to go into executive session.

The executive session was not on the board's published agenda, and we wondered at the time if this was some last minute behind-the-scenes attempt by the creationist faction on the board to delay or confuse the vote on the standards.

Yesterday, an article by Barbara Hollingsworth in the Topeka Capitol Journal confirmed our suspicions:
Before voting, the state board briefly met with its attorney to discuss legal questions raised by Willard. He asked whether the state can endorse an idea that nature can be solely explained by material causes and whether the state can suppress information critical of evolution — two problems conservatives say the new standards would create, though opponents argue otherwise.
In other words, the right-wingers threatened a lawsuit if board moderates voted to removed long-discredited creationist claptrap from the standards.

This view is given added weight by comments made by ID Network leader -- and former shadow board member -- John Calvert. "I think the public has to be concerned enough," he told Hollingsworth, "to go to a lawyer and say, 'I want something done about this.'"

We can only speculate on whether a suit is anything more than bluster or, if filed, what sort of challenge to the standards such a suit might raise. However, a number of recent statements by Calvert give a hint at the likely legal arguments ID advocates will raise.

"Today you decide what to tell students about an ultimate question: Where does life come from?" Calvert said during the school board's public comments period before the vote. "The answer will shape their views about religion, ethics, morals and even government."

This claim, as Calvert knows, is factually incorrect. It will not hold up in court because the standards say nothing -- nothing at all -- about the origin of life. The reason for this is that scientists don't know how it happened. The standards stick to what we do know: the well-established evolutionary mechanisms of common descent: variation and natural selection.

We suspect the origins of life argument raised by Calvert is strictly for public consumption. A salve to creationists who -- much as Napoleon's army must have staggered out of Moscow -- are in full retreat following series of major defeats in Dover, Cobb County, Ohio, and now Kansas.

A recent news release from Calvert's ID Network hints at a more likely legal argument:

Many Kansans are concerned that proposed changes to Kansas Science Standards will cause Kansas Public Education to indoctrinate young children in Materialism, the philosophy that dominates Russian culture. This teaching model permits only material or natural causes to explain where we come from. It systematically excludes legitimate scientific controversies about materialistic theories of the origin of life (chemical evolution) and the origin of large scale changes in bio-diversity (macro-evolution)

Basing litigation on the charge that teaching evolution "excludes legitimate scientific controversies" would seem to be a non-starter. The Dover court heard these arguments and ruled that intelligent design is not science. The controversies it turns out -- including even Behe's famous bacterial flagellum -- are nothing more than recycled creationism. They are neither scientific or legitimate.

As we learned in Dover from Barbara Forrest's testimony on the intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People, intelligent design itself is nothing more than recycled creationism.

That leaves one other option for any contemplated legal action. Evolution is religion. This view gains support from Calvert's news release which goes on to say:

Kansans are concerned because Materialism is the origins story that is the foundation for a variety of non-theistic religions and religious beliefs. Atheism and Humanism depend on a purposeless self-existing universe with life being the product of unguided evolutionary change.

If Kansans are truly concerned that Materialism is the origins story, as Cavlert asserts, then they are syntactically challenged. And, we can't help them in their battle with the English language anymore than we can straighten out their confusion about science. Perhaps Calvert meant to say that evolution serves as an alternative story of origins for some of us secular types.

As we've already noted, origins is not in the standards, so that leaves a possible challenge based on the evolution is religion argument. Unfortunately for Calvert, Willard, and their creationist supporters, this argument has already been litigated and found wanting.

In 1983, John E. Peloza, a high school biology teacher brought action against the Capistrano Unified School District challenging the district's requirement that he teach "evolutionism," which his complaint charged is a religious belief, as well as school district order barring him from discussing his religious beliefs with students.

The Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals summarized the allegations in Peloza's complaint this way:
Peloza is a biology teacher in a public high school, and is employed by the Capistrano Unified School District. He is being forced by the defendants (the school district, its trustees and individual teachers and others) to proselytize his students to a belief in "evolutionism" "under the guise of [its being] a valid scientific theory." Evolutionism is an historical, philosophical and religious belief system, but not a valid scientific theory. Evolutionism is one of "two world views on the subject of the origins of life and of the universe." The other is creationism" which also is a "religious belief system." "The belief system of evolutionism is based on the assumption that life and the universe evolved randomly and by chance and with no Creator involved in the process. The world view and belief system of creationism is based on the assumption that a Creator created all life and the entire universe." Peloza does not wish "to promote either philosophy or belief system in teaching his biology class." "The general acceptance of ... evolutionism in academic circles does not qualify it or validate it as a scientific theory." Peloza believes that the defendants seek to dismiss him due to his refusal to teach evolutionism. His first amendment rights have been abridged by interference with his right "to teach his students to differentiate between a philosophical, religious belief system on the one hand and a true scientific theory on the other."
Ever hear any of these arguments before?

The district court dismissed Peloza's claim stating:
Since the evolutionist theory is not a religion, to require an instructor to teach this theory is not a violation of the Establishment Clause.... Evolution is a scientific theory based on the gathering and studying of data, and modification of new data. It is an established scientific theory which is used as the basis for many areas of science. As scientific methods advance and become more accurate, the scientific community will revise the accepted theory to a more accurate explanation of life's origins. Plaintiffs assertions that the teaching of evolution would be a violation of the Establishment Clause is unfounded.
The Appeals Court agreed with the District Court and dismissed the complaint.

Edwards vs. Aguillard also takes up this complaint and rules on it, but this post is already too long so we'll save that for another day.

A suit over the teaching of origins will fail because there is nothing in the standards about the origin of life. The "scientific" criticisms of evolution that Abrams and Calvert wrote into the standards have been in the creationist brief since Scopes. They've been litigated repeatedly, most recently in Dover, and found wanting every time. Likewise, the charge that evolution is religion, the subject, of Calvert's most recent diatribes is a legal non-starter. They may sue anyway but, as always, they have no case.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Flock On!

February 16, at 7:00 p.m.: "Flock of Dodos" shown at the Kansas City Science City on Union Station's Extreme Screen. Tickets available at Union Station before show.

February 17, at 7:30 p.m.: Flock of Dodos shown at Kansas City Science City in Union Station.


ID Lawsuit?

Word is going around in Topeka that Kansas ID activist John Calvert, a retired attorney, is talking about filing a lawsuit over the school board's decision to throw out the ID-inspired standards he had a hand in writing in 2005.

There's some talk -- RSR hasn't been able to confirm it yet -- that the executive session called just before the standards vote was to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit -- in other words to put additional pressure on board members just before the vote.

If that's true, they certainly didn't crack.

Guess that means all that ID trash talk about how wrong it was for parents to use the courts to rid the Dover schools of the ID statement is now inoperative.


Solutions to the Abuse of Science

No. 8 in the Abuse of Science Series

Wednesday, February 14, 2007



Paleontologist Leonard Kristalka famously called intelligent design nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo. Philosopher Barbara Forrest has likened it to a Trojan Horse. Both allusions suggest an attempt by creationists of the intelligent design flavor to disguise the real nature of their beliefs.

Lately, we've come to think of ID as something of a shell game. In certain settings, in a church for example, the pea can be produced under the walnut shell labeled "Old Testament God." In other settings -- a debate on a college campus, say -- the pea turns up under the shell marked "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause." In certain rare circumstances, the pea can even show up under the shell marked "space alien."

Depending on what day you read the posts on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views or William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blogs you may find the pea under any of those shells.

The beauty of the ID shell game is that it keeps defenders of science off balance. Guess that the pea is under the "God" shell and someone like Casey Luskin will say you're wrong, "Look here, it's under the 'intellitgent cause' shell."


AP: Kansas Rewrites Science Standards Again

Here's a link to John Hanna's AP story "Kansas Rewrites Science Standards Again."


Sue Gamble on the Science Standards Vote

Prior to the Kansas Board of Education vote yesterday, moderate pro-science school board member Sue Gamble sent this message:

I expect there will be six votes (the minimum number needed) to pass the Recommended Science Standard on Tuesday, February 13 around 4 pm.

Ironically on February 14, 2001 a previous state board also passed science standards to replace the flawed science standards that had been adopted in August 1999.

I made that motion and hope to make the motion on Tuesday.

There are two sets of people who have made the Tuesday vote possible. They are the voters of Kansas especially those in District 5 and District 9, who put new board members in place and District 1 where the incumbent Janet Waugh was returned to her seat.

The other group is the Science Writing Committee who continued to work as a private citizens even after the group was disbanded following the vote to approve the flawed science standards in November 2005. This group has continued to work and develop the standards so that they reflect the changes requested by teachers in Kansas as well as the External Review Committee.

The parents and students as well of all citizens owe this group a huge debt of gratitude. Their names are listed in the standards; let them know how you feel.


Jack Krebs on Kansas Science Standards

Here are KCFS President Jack Krebs remarks to the Kansas school board before it voted on the standards yesterday:

Good morning. I’m Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science. I’m also a member of the writing committee that wrote the standards that you are going to consider for adoption this afternoon.

There are two main reasons why you should accept those standards. First, those standards represent the mainstream scientific consensus about what science is and about what evolution is, and the current standards do not.

Second, the committee's standards have been developed according to the proper process, and the current standards were not.

Adopting the committee's standards now is simply finishing that proper process – one that was short-circuited well over a year ago. Those standards represent mainstream science, and that is what our children should be being taught.

Now on a little bit more personal note …Mr. Calvert, in a press release, has written that the committee’s standards "will cause Kansas Public Education to indoctrinate young children in Materialism, the philosophy that dominates Russian culture."

Now as a member of that committee of 25 people, I can say frankly that this is insulting. I can assure you that the committee members wholeheartedly support American values, and support a wide range of religious beliefs. I am sure that the majority of the committee members are Christians.

For us to be being told that the science standards that are being brought to you actually teach children materialism, atheism, and a purposeless life is really an insult to those committee members.

We know the difference between science and religious belief. It doesn’t appear that Mr. Calvert does.


The Abuse of Science and Democracy

No. 5 in the "Listen to the Scientists" series.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Reason Prevails in Kansas

The Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 this afternoon to restore evolution to the state's science curriculum. In doing so, the board removed pseudo-scientific criticisms long pushed by anti-science creationists from the curriculum.

Voting for the new standards were Board Chair Bill Wagnon, Janet Waugh, Sue Gamble, Carol Rupe, Sally Cauble, and Jana Shaver. Voting against: Steve Abrams, Kathy Martin, Ken Willard, and John Bacon.

Today's victory was won because a diverse group of Kansans -- deeply embarrassed by the damage done to the state's reputation and outraged at the harm to our public schools, once thought to be among the best in the nation -- have worked tirelessly over the past two years.

In particular, Harry McDonald, former president of Kansas Citizens for Science and a candidate for the state school board, and Jack Krebs, the current president of KCFS and a member of the science standards committee, worked non-stop to bring Kansas back into the 21st century.

Dr. Steve Case and Carol Williamson the co-chairs of the curriculum committee have worked for years now to keep the committee focused on the standards -- not the politics -- and despite the impediments put in their way by the board to develop a set of standards Kansas can be proud of.

Science faculty from the state's secondary schools and universities mobilized to testify at hearings on the science curriculum held in February 2005. Many made themselves available to the media to counter claims by intelligent design "experts" during the board's sham science hearings in May 2005.

Pedro Irigonegaray volunteered to defend science at those hearings, and did so ably. While Kansas taxpayers footed the bill for "experts" supplied by the Discovery Institute, Irigonegary, one of Kansas' highest profile attorneys, worked for free.

During the election, though she was not up for election herself, moderate board member Sue Gamble seemed to be everywhere at once working to elect pro-science candidates in every contested district in the state. Janet Waugh, Sally Cauble, and Jana Shaver won hard fought election victories. Bill Wagnon and Carol Rupe and the other members of the moderate minority never flinched from fighting the good fight to defend science even though they were outnumbered and lost every vote.

Don Weiss ran a campaign that was both aggressive and wise for the seat held by right-winger John Bacon. He didn't win, but it was not for lack of trying. Weiss is now running for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees. He deserves the support of all those who want to see the wonderful work of JCCC go forward.

A number of organizations -- MAINStream Coalition, the Kansas Alliance for Education, Kansans for Lifesaving Cures, Kansas Action for Children, and Kansas Families United for Public Education -- mobilized to build a nonpartisan, collaborative campaign called "Take Back Kansas" to restore evolution to the state's science curriculum and defend public schools against attempts by the religious right to privatize them.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others donated their time, wrote letters to the editor, contributed money, and attended meetings and rallies. In the end, Kansas voters decided they'd had enough and elected a moderate pro-science majority to the board.

It was citizen action at its best.

In less than two years there will be another school board election. In 2008, three of the six moderates on the board will be up for election. The religious right will be ready for that election. You can be sure they are making preparations for it now.

We should expect they'll use well-honed tactics such as running stealth candidates and setting up shell political action committees to skirt campaign finance laws just as they have in past elections. We can also expect a barrage of misinformation from the right-wing outfits such as the Kansas Republican Assembly, the ID Network, and the Discovery Institute.

In 2004 pro-science moderates went to sleep and right-wing candidates re-took the majority they lost in the 2000 election. Many of us thought the issue of creationism had been put to rest.

We know now -- as Abrams, Willard, Bacon, and Martin demonstrated at the board meeting today -- it will never be put to rest. We will have to be ready with money and candidates.

I spoke with Jack Krebs after the board took its vote today and he's already making plans for the future. He knows better than anyone that evolution is just one part of the right's larger agenda.

"We know it will be back," he says. "Science is not, as John Calvert claims, atheistic. Today's vote gives us two years to educate the public about evolution and the nature of science."

Stay tuned.


Victory in Kansas: New Standards Adopted!

New Standards Adopted 6-4. Kansas rejoins the 21st century!

Board adjorns until tomorrow.



Sally Cauble calls the question. Passes 6-4.



Abrams detects a pattern that anything that questions evolution is deleted. Abrams has been reading! Lists evidence he claims cast doubt on "Neo-Darwinian" evolution.

"I understand that this is probably a done deal, Abrams says."

Willard has another concern on page 12 of the revised standards "science resticted to natural causes." Does that mean nature causes itself? he asks. Wants to remove two sentences. Too dificult to accept.

Willard moves for removal of sentences on the nature of science.

Amendment defeated 6-4.



4:44 p.m.: Willard moves to amend by reinserting creationist language. Amendment defeated 6-4.



4:39 p.m.: Kathy Martin speaks in favor of old standards. Claims standards don't teach creationism or intelligent design.


Standards Update

Abram's amendment fails 6-4.


Kansas School Board Science Standards

4:35 p.m.: The Kansas School Board, meeting now in Topeka, has begun the science standards debate. Stay tuned to RSR for up to the minute updates as the debate unfolds.

Sue Gamble moves standards be adopted. Seconded by Waugh. Abams moves to amend.


NYT Blog on Kansas Science Battle

The LEDE, the New York Times blog by Tom Zeller Jr., takes a look at today's school board vote on science standards. If you have any doubt about how badly this controversy has hurt Kansas' reputation, you need only read through the comments to Zeller's post.

In fact, the comments suggest that the damage to the Discovery Institute's reputation, such as it was, may actually be worse.


Beam Me Up Scotty

"You have a board in Kansas that is so extreme," John West, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute has told Reuters.

West's statement indicates, as nothing else could, that the market for the Discovery message is now officially confined exclusively to the lunatic fringe.

That bright shining moment when intelligent design activists tried to broaden their message to appeal to those outside the fundamentalist bunker is now officially over. They aren't even trying anymore.


Wichita Eagle: BOE Back on Solid Ground

Writing for the Wichita Eagle editorial board, Randy Scholfield says:

Today, one day after the 198th birthday of Charles Darwin, the newly moderate Kansas State Board of Education is expected to once again change the science standards to remove conservative members' attempt to recreate science in their own image.

The vote won't end the board debate, such as it is, on evolution -- which doesn't so much evolve as swing back and forth between fixed positions.

But at least the move will put the Kansas school board -- and Kansas -- back on solid ground as supporting the integrity of science standards and educational excellence.


Annals of (Pseudo) Science

Forget all that stuff the Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin has been telling you about the impossibility of intelligent design identifying the "Designer" (aka God).

Despite all Howard Ahmanson's money, all the top secret research, and all the efforts of the 700 Club -- Discovery's list of 700 scientists who doubt Darwin, that is -- they've been beaten to the punch by a Kentucky college student, according to WorldNetDaily:

A science student in Kentucky says when the Bible records God spoke, and things were created, that's just what happened, and he can support that with scientific experiments.

"If God spoke everything into existence as the Genesis record proposes, then we should be able to scientifically prove that the construction of everything in the universe begins with a) the Holy Spirit (magnetic field); b) Light (an electric field); and c) that Light can be created by a sonic influence or sound," Samuel J. Hunt writes on his website.

Now, RSR is just a poor humanities type. A writer for god's sake, but to make a sound, doesn't there have to be something that vibrates. If no matter had yet been created, how could a sound have been made? We seem to remember something about this from high school, but it was so long, long ago.

Let's just hope Hunt wasn't coming home from a kegger when he dreamed this up.


Mr. Natural

Lately we've observed an interesting, if so far unremarked, word substitution in publicity coming out of John Calvert's Intelligent Design Network. Where once Calvert railed against teaching evolution in public schools because of its methodological "naturalism" he now opposes it for its heartless "materialism."

Teaching real science in science classes, according to Calvert, will "indoctrinate young children in Materialism, the philosophy that dominates Russian culture."

Suddenly the deadly theat posed by "naturalism" has disappeared from the ID Network's lexicon in the same way that last week's explanation for the invasion of Iraq has gone missing from Tony Snow's White House briefings.

Do you suppose Calvert's ID Network and the Discovery Institute have been doing some focus groups? Perhaps they found that what they saw as the dire threat of "naturalism" didn't resonate well with people outside the fundamentalist bunker.

Or maybe they drove past a "natural" foods store, or bought a bottle of "all natural" vitamins. Perhaps they even took their nose out of the Genesis long enough to go out and wander around in the "natural" world.

We're unsure what this latest conversion entails. We don't really mind if Calvert goes camouflage, but we hope he doesn't go natural -- that would be too much.


An Orwellian Riddle

If, as intelligent design activists assert, ID is science and evolution is dogma, how are we to explain that intelligent design is taught in the churches and evolution in science classrooms?


The History of Evolution vs. Creationism

No. 10 in this wonderful "Listen to the Scientists" series.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Discovery Institute: A New Low

Just when you thought the Discovery Institute, the creationist belief tank on the shores of Puget Sound, had hit rock bottom, they find a way to go even lower. Here's the latest news release out of DI about the Kansas school board's impending vote to restore evolution to the science standards:
Kansas Board of Education Urged to Reject "Shameful" Proposal to Delete Tuskegee Experiment and Other Science Abuses from State Curriculum

TOPEKA--A national group is urging the Kansas State Board of education to reject on Tuesday a plan to delete coverage of the historical misuses of science from state curriculum standards, including a reference to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment targeting African-Americans.

The only thing shameful going on here is the Discovery Institute's determination to smear science and science teachers in order to conceal the their own real agenda: to teach creationism in public schools.

What everyone should keep in mind is that, despite an intense media blitz from Discovery and the ID Network last summer, Kansas voters made the decision to get rid of the intelligent design inspired standards when they cast their ballots for seats on the state board of education.

Do we really want people as deeply dishonest -- as creepy when you get right down to it -- as the Discovery Institute and the ID Network to have anything, anything at all, to do with our children's education?


KU Darwin Day Activities

6:00 pm Natural History Museum (Dyche Hall) activities
KU scientists will have displays and presentations set up around the museum highlighting their current research in evolutionary biology.

Highlights of KU research: Display tables in the museum

The Explore Evolution Exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to see the breadth of evolutionary biology and how scientists conduct research into some of these critical scientific ideas. The exhibit is organized into seven areas exploring how evolution works from the very small to the very big - viruses to whales. Members of KU Students for Science will be on hand to help answer questions about the displays.

7:30 pm Costume Contest

Cash prizes of $100.00 for best costume and $50.00 for runner up in three categories. A research scientist will select the winner and runner up for best Darwin.Muffy Moose herself — via Web video hook-up will judge the Muffys.The Dodo from the film will select the winning dodos!

7:45 pm Flock of Dodos -- Woodruff Auditorium $2.00


"Flock of Dodos," reports the Boston Globe, "is a very funny and extremely engaging profile of one of the core battles in the US culture war."

Nice interview with filmmaker Randy Olson, too.

You can watch "Flock of Dodos" in Lawrence, Kan. tonight at 7:45 p.m. in Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union. More info on Darwin Day at KU here.

If you're not lucky enough to live in Kansas you'll find a full list of Dodos screenings -- it's being shown today in 31 science centers across the country -- here.


Evolution Sunday

"The Rev. Jeffrey Spencer believes in God. He also believes in the Big Bang and evolution," according to The San Jose Mercury News.

"In fact, I would say with evolution that it's as certain as science can ever be,'' says Spencer, a minister at Niles Congregational United Church of Christ in Fremont, Cal.

One thing RSR has never understood: there are plenty of people running around saying you can't believe in God and in evolution, and yet it seems millions and millions quite happily do.

Yesterday, churches across the country observed Evolution Sunday.


Kansas Science Standards: Little Doubt

The Kansas school board will vote tomorrow on science standards and, according to the Associated Press, '[t]here’s little doubt how a vote will come out, given how elections overturned a conservative Republican majority. Language echoing intelligent design advocates’ criticisms of evolution — questioning whether all life had a common origin or whether changes over time in one species can create a new one — should disappear.

"Board Chairman Bill Wagnon, a Topeka Democrat who wants to rewrite the standards, expects a short discussion because, 'Everybody knows where they stand.'”

You can listen in on the public discussion over the standards, scheduled to begin at 10:30 am and to the board's vote, which will probably come late in the day, here.


Red Kansas

"Many Kansans are concerned," according to a news release issued by John Calvert of the ID Network, "that proposed changes to Kansas Science Standards will cause Kansas Public Education to indoctrinate young children in Materialism, the philosophy that dominates Russian culture."

RSR is well aware that our home state of Kansas is one of those red states, but we never imagined this is what they meant...


Darwin Day 2007

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." -- the final sentence of the first edition of Origin of the Species, published in 1859 by Charles Darwin.

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