Monday, April 30, 2007


It's Only a Theory

Long after the school board settled the case and moved on, the Discovery Institute's boy attorney, Casey Luskin, is still fighting the Cobb County sticker case.

Luskin complains that "the school district entered into a lose-lose-lose settlement" when it agreed to permanently remove the disclaimer stickers it placed on biology textbooks there, promised not to make any disclaimers about evolution in the future, and paid the plaintiff's court costs.

How, asks Luskin, can you be wrong to say evolution is only a theory, when it clearly is a theory?

Luskin cites as evidence that the school board was wrong to settle a law review note by a student published in Temple Journal of Science Technology & Environmental Law.

Perhaps the Cobb County school board went with the advice of their own attorneys on the prospects of winning in the case in court -- they lost in the initial ruling -- rather than take the word, as Luskin does, of a law student.

Since the Discovery Institute bailed on the Dover school board in its moment of need the board may have felt that Luskin's grudging rhetorical support for the disclaimer just wasn't enough to risk a second judgement from the court.

But that's only a theory.


PA School Considers Bible Course

Stefan Wentling, a teacher at North Lebanon High School in Fredricksburg, hopes to teach a course titled "The Bible in History and Literature," there next year.

The school board, voted 9-0 to give the course tentative approval earlier this month. Final approval is expected May 9.

"What we're going to do is study the Bible academically," says Northern Lebanon School District Superintendent Don Bell.

One of the best courses Red State Rabble ever took in graduate school used the Old Testament as one of several texts from ancient Israel, Greece, and Rome. We think there's nothing wrong with studying the Bible as long as that study doesn't slip into -- as it so often does -- the proselytizing of students by members of right-wing Christian sects.

And that's a danger here.

According to The Patriot News, Wentling says his interest in the Bible goes back to his childhood.

"It's part of my beliefs," he says. "That's something I'm going to have to be conscious of when I teach this as an academic subject."

The ACLU is monitoring the class.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Flock to Wichita

Flock of Dodos is coming to Wichita.

More info here.


Kansas Education Commissioner: Back to the Future

Alexa Posny, currently director of the office of special education in Washington, was acting Kansas' Education Commissioner until the old state school board, dominated by Christian fundamentalists, appointed the woeful anti-tax lobbyist Bob Corkins to the job instead.

That appointment drove many of the Education Department's professional staff, including Posny, to resign.

Now, Posny is one of five highly qualified finalists to replace Corkins.

The only question remaining is whether the new moderate school board majority -- and the rebuilding of the state's Education Department -- will survive the next election.

Kansas voters will be faced with a stark choice in 2008. Either move forward with educating kids or fight the battle over creationism in the curriculum a third time.

Which will it be?


Religious Freedom

WorldNetDaily -- you know, the far right religious news source that would like to see a crèche in each town square and the Ten Commandments in every courthouse -- is concerned that the Kansas City Airport is installing foot washing basins in airport restrooms so that Muslim cab drivers can wash their feet before prayer.

WorldNetDaily loves the fact that some Christian fundamentalist pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills out of religious conviction, but they loathe Muslim cab drivers in Minneapolis who refuse passengers who carry alcohol or use seeing eye dogs for the very same reason.

Seems that for fundamentalists of every stripe, one man's religious ritual is another's blasphemy.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Colin McGinn: The Atheism Tapes

Jonathan Miller interviews philosopher Colin McGinn about atheism and anti-Theism. The interview was done for the BBC series "A Brief History of Disbelief."


59th Skeptic's Circle

The 59th Skeptics' Circle is up and running at


SMU: Blatantly and Unequivocally False

The push back from the Discovery Institute's Darwin vs. Design tent revival and patent medicine show at SMU continues. Dr. John Wise and Dr. Pia Vogel write in the SMU Daily Campus:
Jonathon Wells, a Discovery Institute fellow, Philipp Johnson and other ID and creationism proponents have asserted that there is no evidence of transitional intermediates between species in the fossil record and have inferred from this that a creator must have intervened. Their assertion is blatantly and unequivocally false. It's rock for goodness' sake. It's hard to ignore tons of rock with whale-like tetrapods, tetrapod-like whales, reptile-like birds, bird-like reptiles, fish with arm bones, and the many other transitional forms found in them over and over again without losing credibility.

Of course, if you believe, as Wells does, that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon is Christ's heir, and that buying Moonie trinkets can make life easier in the afterlife for those who have already died, ignoring a few tons of rock isn't really that difficult.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


The Consolation of Philosophy

The other day, we reported that the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education has decided to change the prefix of Jim Garretson's creationism course at McCook Community College from science to philosophy "to better reflect the nature of the subject matter."

Naturally, there was some grousing from the philosophers among RSR's readership who don't believe proselytizing is quite the same as philosophizing, but for the most part they kept a stiff upper lip as they took one for the team.

That's why we wanted to link to this story, "Science, a Creation of God," by Gailon Totheroh on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. Togheroh turns the usual Christian right rant against science and scientists as the spawn of Satan on its head by writing about scientists who were devout Christians.

Togheroh cites sociologist Rodney Stark as calculating "about 96 percent of innovators from the mid-1500s to 1700 were Christian believers. And the great majority of those-- 61 percent -- were devout Christians." (To achieve these figures, current fundamentalist opinion about who qualifies, and who does not, as a Christian, had to be broadened to include deists such as Isaac Newton.)

Amusingly, in Togheroh's revisionist view of the Christian origins of science -- the early Greeks and Muslims get short shrift here -- scientists aren't the god haters, it's those damn philosophers:

"The views of leading intellectuals like Hobbes, Voltaire, and Rousseau show that fields like philosophy were often the province of unbelievers ... "

He goes on to quote Henry Schaefer as saying, "You can give basically a library list of all the great contributors to philosophy, and they're all skeptics - skeptics, agnostics or atheists -- so it is clear that science has been a particularly Christian activity."

We don't know if that's a consolation for philosophers, or the consolation of philosophy, but there it is.


Scorecard: 21 distortions, 15 half-truths, and 10 untruths

John Marshall, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia and young earth creationist, made the case for intelligent design at MU Tuesday to a highly skeptical audience, according to The Columbia Tribune.

Frank Schmidt, an MU biochemistry professor, said he counted "21 distortions 15 half-truths and 10 untruths" in Marshall’s 45-minute presentation.

"What you are doing is cloaking a narrow definition of Christianity, which I find personally offensive, as some sort of scientific truth," Schmidt said. "And that is what really hacks me off."

Schmidt questioned Marshall about whether intelligent design proposes a testable prediction, as he said real scientific theory does, or if it simply says that we can’t understand everything. When Marshall would not directly answer the question, Schmidt turned and left the
auditorium, saying Marshall should not "pretend to be objective."

Follow the link above to read more about the hilarity that ensued when a man who believes the earth is 6,000 years old tried to make the case that intelligent design is anything more than creationist fine print and legalese.


A Brief History of Disbelief II

The Institute for Humanist Studies is one of several humanist organizations underwriting the broadcast of Jonathan Miller's superb "A Brief History of Disbelief" on public television stations throughout the U.S.

However, the IHS broadcast calendar currently lists just three PBS affiliates that will be airing this important program:

RSR is grateful to have been able to view the program online, but this highly sophisticated look at disbelief, which may now be embraced by 1 in 10 Americans, deserves a far wider showing than can be afforded by the web and three PBS stations.

We encourage readers to take a look at Miller's insightful presentation on the web and then insist that your local PBS affiliate agree to air the program, as well. We'll start the ball rolling by listing the contact information for a number of PBS affiliates in this area:

Please send you local affiliate a pleasant little note letting them know how much you'd appreciate seeing "A History of Disbelief" aired.

Note to skeptical bloggers: Please help spread the word about the program on your blog or discussion board and encourage your readers to contact PBS affiliates in your area to air the program.


Sign of the Times

What's the difference between the old Kansas school board, dominated by Christian fundamentalists, and the new moderate board that puts the interests of student, parents, teachers, and communities ahead of fighting culture war battles?

New board Chair Bill Wagnon says all five candidates for Education Commissioner "have demonstrated experience in education management."

That wasn't the case with the old board, which chose Bob Corkins, an anti-tax lobbyist with no experience or training in the field of education as commissioner.

Before he resigned abruptly after moderates won a majority on the board, Corkins nearly decimated the professional staff at the Dept. of Education.

Let the rebuilding process begin.


OOL Online

In the comments to our post about the RNA and the Origins of Life symposium at K-State April 27-28 (see the Events Calendar in the sidebar for more information) OccamsAfterShave called our attention to the online issue of Chemistry & Biodiversity, which contains 18 articles on the current state of origin of life studies.

We thought it was important enough to pull out of the comments section and post here. Who knows, Connie Morris and Kathy Martin are fascinated by prebiotic soup, maybe they'll actually read something about it.

Here's the link.


Santorum Gets Back to his Roots

Apparently, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum landed on his feet after being defeated by Bob Casey in the last election. According to Fox News, he's landed a job as a lobbyist for Pittsburgh-based law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott.

That brings the right-winger -- he was the chief spokesman for intelligent design in the Senate -- full circle. Santorum originally honed his political skills and plotted strategy as a lobbyist for the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


A Brief History of Disbelief

Update: We've removed the slow-loading embed of Episode 1 of Jonathan Miller's inspiring BBC television program "A Brief History of Disbelief," and replaced it with a shorter, faster loading YouTube of Episode 1 Part 1.

This is the best thing we've seen yet on skepticism and we strongly recommend watching all three hour-long episodes. Here are the links:

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3

In the sidebar, check out the excerpt titled Myth of a Christian Nation from Episode 1.

We were tipped off to "A Brief History of Disbelief," which will air on selected PBS stations in early May, by PZ Myers Pharyngula blog.

RSR also recommends Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Michael Hecht.

"Hecht's poetical prose beautifully dramatizes the struggle between belief and denial, in terms of historical currents and individual wrestlings with the angel," says Publishers Weekly. "Doubt is revealed to be the subtle stirring that has precipitated many of the more widely remembered innovations in politics, religion and science, such as medieval Jewish philosopher Gersonides's doubt of Ptolemaic cosmology 200-300 years before Copernicus, Kepler or Galileo. The breadth of this work is stunning in its coverage of nearly all extant written history."


Bible Display Barred

A federal appeals court has barred a Bible display outside outside the Harris County, Texas Civil Courthouse. More from American's United here.


Creationist Logic 101

Understanding the peculiar logic of the creationist mind is a difficult and often thankless task.

A recent letter to Birmingham Press-Register about a visit to Ken Ham's Flintstone Museum and Gift Shop illustrates the reasons why acceptance of a teleological approach to study of the natural world acts as a set of blinders preventing creationists from seeing the world as it truly is:
"Yes, the museum believes the biblical account of creation ("intelligent design") because God's word says it, but it also gives you the scientific evidence from real scientists, which shows the evidence for design and the scientific facts that do not support 'natural selection.'"
Captured in this one short sentence are all the things about creationism in its various forms that turn logic on its head:

Having embraced a belief system for which there is exactly zero empirical evidence, they cry endlessly about various gaps in the fossil record and demand that scientists supply ever more evidence, which the creationists will never bother to read anyway.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


A Dispassionate Weighing of the Relevant Evidence

John Marshall, a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri -- Columbia, has doubts about Darwinism. Did his new found skepticism emerge following a dispassionate review of the evidence? No, those doubts crept in after his conversion to Christianity.

Suddenly, as Marshall tells it, he found it hard to "reconcile evolutionary theory with Genesis, the biblical account of how God created the earth and everything on it in six days."

Well, duh.

Following his conversion it became apparent to Marshall that there are gaps, holes, missing pieces in -- no, not Genesis -- Darwin's theory of evolution. He became a proponent of intelligent design, the view that there are some natural systems that cannot be adequately explained by natural forces, and therefore must be the result of ID," according to The Columbia Missourian.

And, although the number of intelligent design activists who are not biblical literalists is roughly equivalent to the number of politicians in heaven, Marshall assures us "that belief in intelligent design does not necessarily require adherence to a religious doctrine."


RNA and the Origins of Life

The Kansas State Division of Biology and the Center for Understanding of Origins of Kansas State University have announced a two-day symposium entitled RNA and the Origins of Life. The symposium will be held in the K-State Student Union Forum Hall on Friday, April 27, and Ackert Hall, home of the Division of Biology at Kansas State University on Saturday, April 28.

The list of speakers includes Dr. Harry Noller of UC Santa Cruz who will speak on the "Origin of the Ribosome: The Cell's Protein Factory," Dr. Norman Pace of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who will discuss the "Origin of the Eukaryotic Cell," Dr. Ronald Breaker of Yale University, who will adress "Regulatory RNA: Evolution in Test Tube" Dr. Michael Russell of JPL Caltech, who will speak on "Evolution of First Cell: Biogeochemical conditions on early Earth," and Dr. Katsura Asano, of Kansas State University.

According to the event organizers, studies on the origins of life have recently made three major breakthroughs:

You can register for the symposium here.


Military to Recognize Wiccans

The Bush administration has conceded that Wiccans are entitled to have the pentacle, the symbol of their faith, inscribed on government-issued memorial markers for deceased veterans, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The settlement came as the result of a lawsuit filed by Americans United on behalf of Roberta Stewart, whose husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart, was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2005; Karen DePolito, whose husband, Jerome Birnbaum, is a veteran of the Korean War who died last year; Circle Sanctuary, a prominent Wiccan congregation; Jill Medicine Heart Combs, whose husband is severely ill; and the Isis Invicta Military Mission, a Wiccan and Pagan congregation serving military personnel.

Surely this victory for religious freedom will be welcomed by the Christian right. Right?


Yabba Dabba Doo

At Ken Ham's Flintstones Museum "all permanent employees must sign a statement saying they believe the teachings of the ministry. They must write out their beliefs and turn that in with their resume and references."

"The 217 staff members in the Answers in Genesis ministry believe that God created the world in six 24-hour days on a planet just 6,000 years old," According to Ryan Clark of the Louisville Courier-Journal. "They believe the Grand Canyon was formed not by erosion over millions of years, but by floodwaters from the biblical Great Flood in a matter of days or weeks. "


Janet Browne at Harvard

The Boston Globe has published a fascinating profile of Darwin biographer Janet Browne. Harvard biologist Ernst Mayr called the first volume of her biography, Charles Darwin: Voyaging, definitive. The second volume, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography.


Red State Rabble readers might want to head over to a new satirical website, In an ID World. It's the first, as far as we know, to show The Designer at work.


What Would Be Wrong With Teaching 2+2=5?

Jerry Knopf, a member of the Southeast of Saline School Board in central Kansas, wonders what would be wrong with exposing students to ideas other than evolution, especially intelligent design according to the Salina Journal.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Egnorance Exposed (Yet Again)

Michael Egnor, an intelligent design activist who's been writing on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog that modern medicine can learn nothing from evolution must have missed this one: Cancer is a natural consequence of human evolution.


True Colors: Discovery and the Far Right

Lately, we've been treated to a lot of self-righteous chest beating out of the Discovery Institute about the supposed links between Darwinism, the Nazis, and eugenics.

But the truth is that Discovery, while condemning repression in the past, has joined with anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-immigrant extremist groups in the present whose intolerance and xenophobia are reminiscent of the Nazis before they came to power. In the latest example, Discovery, along with James Dobson's Focus on the Family, is sponsoring the World Congress of Families next month in Warsaw.

According to The Baltimore Sun, members of the European Parliamentary Working Group on Separation of Religion and Politics say that several people scheduled to speak at the three-day conference have taken positions that clash with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

One scheduled conference speaker for example, Steven W. Mosher, of the Population Research Institute, is notorious for asserting that Muslims and other immigrants are contributing to the "demographic destruction" of Europe. A claim that echoes soberingly with Nazi propaganda against Jews and Gypsies during the Holocaust. The victims may have changed, but the message remains the same.

The opening address is to be given by Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who has called homosexuals "perverts" and who has been accused by Human Rights Watch of sanctioning "official homophobia."

Yet another speaker, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, has publicly accused Jews of controlling the abortion-rights movement and calling sniper attacks on doctors who perform abortions “a superb tactic,” according to Catholics for Free Choice.

Fr. Peter Skarga, of Poland, will represent the Association for Christian Culture, whose chairman gave a speech in October 2004 during which he vehemently opposed the European Constitution's Charter of Fundamental Rights claiming that “the equality of sexes in all areas shall lead to the obliteration of traditional and natural social roles of men and women.”

Austin Ruse, another conference speaker who is president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute has said when he was at the United Nations for a speech by Hilliary Clinton, a priest from the Holy See "offered me guaranteed absolution if I just took her out—and not on a date.”

Intelligent design, far from being scientific as its proponents claim, is really part of a far-right movement whose ultimate aim is the overthrow of a free, democratic, open society. Like Big Brother they're adept at manipulating democratic ideals, such as freedom of speech, while they work tirelessly behind the scenes to undermine the institutions that support our Constitutional rights. They must be opposed.


Arkansas: Science Textbooks Approved

The Rogers school board in Northwest Arkansas has adopted new science textbooks over the objections of Don Eckard, a local dentist, who'd asked the board to delay adopting the books until they'd reviewed supplemental materials he submitted on teaching evolution, according to The Morning News.

Most of the supplementary materials were from the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based intelligent design advocacy group.


Mission From God

According to the Benton County, Arkansas Daily Record, "Earl Adams believes he’s on a mission from God 'to preserve a sense of decency in our public libraries.'"

That's why he's considering filing a $20,000 suit against the Bentonville Library for putting for The Whole Lesbian Sex Book by Felice Newman back on the shelves.

"For some reason, God placed this burden on me, and I will follow God’s plan to preserve a sense of decency in our public libraries," Adams wrote in an e-mail to a Daily Record reporter Friday afternoon. "The responsible adults in our community need to ban together and protect our children from the self destructive paths that have been paved by the immoral counterculture that dominates our legal and educational institutions."

Adams must not have cable. What will he do when he finds "The L Word" is on television?


Dr. Dino Denied

The Pensacola News Journal reports the appeal by creationist Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo Hovind, asking for an acquittal on tax-fraud charges has been denied.

In January, Hovind was found guilty on 58 federal counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Jo Hovind was convicted of 44 counts of evading bank-reporting requirements. She will face sentencing soon.

Hovind thought the evidence against him was as thin as the evidence for evolution, but he's still going to do 10 years hard time.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Nebraska Creationism Class Removed From Science Dept.

Longtime reader, DR, sends along the information, that the planned "Physics 2990: Creation Science" course to be taught by Jim Garretson at McCook Community College in Nebraska will be relabeled.

The Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education has decided to "change the prefix of the course to philosophy to better reflect the nature of the subject matter," according to academic programs officer Dr. Kathleen L. Fimple.

According to the McCook Daily Gazette, the course was to have included:

What is taught without factual supportive evidence? All of the above.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Mousetrap for the New Millenia

The Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog reports on the astonishingly detailed and astoundingly technical science presentations from Jay Richards, Steve Meyer and Michael Behe at the recent Darwin vs. Design revival meeting at SMU.

The post even features a photo of Michael Behe presenting a PowerPoint slide of a "A Natural Molecular Motor."

RSR doesn't like to nitpick, but we much would have preferred to see the slide Behe presented of a radio falling from the upper floors of an apartment building to embed itself in the dashboard of a car below which, we are told, is a model -- a mousetrap for the new millenia, if you will -- for how God put ribosomes with a similar molecular makeup into both bacteria and humans.


What Does William Dembski Really Believe About Common Descent?

At the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog, we are often treated to long, multipart disquisitions on what intelligent design "theorists" believe and don't believe, and how "Darwinists" and assorted media types perpetually distort those views.

Casey Luskin, in particular, likes to point out that not every Discovery fellow believes the earth is just 6,000 years old. Few Discovery fellows, if Luskin is to be believed, spend their Sundays speaking in tongues, their holy spirit antennae raised to the sky. There are some, if not many, who believe in certain limited aspects of evolution. There are even a few daring enough to believe in common descent.

The list of names invoked by Luskin of those who hold these enlightened views -- views marginally at odds with orthodox young or old earth creationism -- is invariably limited. The usual suspects almost never extending much past Michael Behe, David Berlinski, Anthony Flew, or William Dembski.

That's why RSR perked up when we read this post by Dembski on his Uncommon Descent blog about a poster held up by student protesters at the recent Discovery Darwin vs. Design road show at SMU:

The poster read “Why do the ribosomes (protein synthesizing machinery) in our mitochondria match those of bacteria?” The intent behind this question was to suggest that we evolved from bacterial ancestors, [emphasis added, RSR] whose remnants in us are the mitochondria and, presumably, their ribosomes, which the poster asserts “match” those of bacteria.

Since I’m happy for the sake of argument to allow common descent... [empasis added]

So, here's the question: Does Dembski really accept the evidence for common descent, or does he merely "allow" it as a rhetorical device? Is the notion that there's any fundamental difference between biblical literalism and intelligent design merely an illusionist's slight of hand? Did Dembski forget, for a moment, to pull his ID tuxedo over his creationist bib overalls?

Luskin will surely tell us. The only question is how many installments it will take him to convey the message.

Added Bonus: For a man who frowns at moral laxity, the title of Brother Bill's post, "Mitochondrial ribosomes — Define 'match'” provides an amusing echo of Bill Clinton's famous "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

PS: You can read Dembski's assertion -- modeled after Alberto Gonzales' various denials that politics had anything to do with the U.S. Attorney firings -- that ID is perfectly compatible with common descent, here.


All That Glitters is not Gold

Quick question: Without exception what follows an assertion by biblical literalists that there's massive evidence for intelligent design in the natural world?

Answer: Anything but evidence.

Statements like this, from Roger Parks, a Spanish lecturer at SMU, "mainstream science has chosen, a priori, to ignore massive evidence... of a designer, or creator... " tease the reader with the promise that some small portion of that massive evidence will be enumerated in the following sentences and paragraphs.

But, that promise, like the proverbial check that's in the mail, is never, ever forthcoming.

If you take a biology class, read a scientific book about evolution, or attend a public lecture by a working scientist, you will be treated to cross section views of geological strata and the characteristic fossil flora and fauna associated with each. You will be shown fossils. You may be shown slides showing the evolutionary history of genes that document common ancestry in widely separated species of animals.

In short, as thunder follows lightning, you will be provided with evidence that you can hold in your hand and see with your own eyes.

You will get none of that at a Discovery Institute event such as the Darwin vs. Design prayer session at SMU.

Test it for yourself. Next time you hear a supporter of intelligent design tell you about all the "massive evidence" look closely at what follows immediately after. You will get one of five things:
To the credulous, it all looks very shiny, very much like science but, like those Nigerian e-mails, male enhancement pills, and all-natural cures for cancer, it's all promise and no delivery.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Darwin vs. Design: The Evidence is (Th)In

More and more, we're coming to think of the Discovery Institute as a sort of cat box around which a dozen or more very industrious tabbies are pawing kitty litter into piles.

While it's almost surely true that given enough time monkeys pounding randomly on keyboards might one day produce a Shakespeare play, all the Casey Luskins, Anika Smiths, Michael Egnors, Bruce Chapmans, John Wests, and a thousand more just like them, will never be able to cover all the crap emanating from the Discovery Institute.

Despite all their apparent industry, they've been unable to prevent the stink of these these little absurdities from reaching the public nose over their Darwin vs. Design road show and gospel hour at SMU:

And now there's more coming out. Blogger Zach Moore, who has a PhD in Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine, attended the conference. And, he's written a couple of long, lovingly detailed posts on the conference here.

Here's what Moore has to say:

Stephen Meyer, writes Moore, is a likable, charismatic guy who exudes an air of intelligence. Although he's a philosopher, not a scientist, Meyer did a better job with the science than other speakers, but still appeared out of his element. In essence, Meyer made a philosophical appeal couched in scientific language.

On the evening that Lee Strobel, author of The Case for a Creator, made his presentation, Moore, detected "a slight air of a revival." He even caught a few "Amens" echoing through the audience when speakers made a point about science proving God's existence.

Jay Richards, who has a doctoral degree in philosophy and theology though not astronomy, did "nothing but speak authoritatively about astronomy." Richards spent most of his time making a fine tuning argument whose "major premise seems to be an obvious non sequitur leading into a tautology -- discovery isn't possible without the existence of sentient organisms to do the discovering, which would require the existence of habitable locations in the Universe."

By the way, if you're still interested in those student protesters, Moore reports them to be "about as tranquil and unassuming as protesters can be."

Like WMD in Iraq, astonishing scientific evidence, with or without astounding implications, was hard to come by at the Darwin vs. Design conference. On the other hand, there was a super abundance of evidence that intelligent design, even with the slickest of spinning, is nothing more than a right-wing religious movement that seeks to replace science with fundamentalist Christianity.

Many of the SMU presentations were identical to those presented at the Louisville Darwin vs. Design conference. Moore refers to Jason Rosenhouse's reports on that conference, which can be read here.


Sophistry: Piling It Higer

Rogers, Arkansas school board President Joye Kelley wants a district committee to review a set of supplemental materials that attack evolutionary theory, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Don Eckard, a Rogers dentist, wants the materials, most supplied by the Discovery Institute, included in the curriculum there in order to present "a balanced view of evolution."

Eckard, who describes himself as a Christian, doesn't want to teach creationism or intelligent design, oh no, he says, all he wants is for students to be exposed to "the scientific evidence that both supports and refutes evolution."


Goin' Global

A wide-ranging special report in The Economist says that "the debate over creation, evolution and religion is rapidly going global."

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Discovery's SMU Debate Dodge Exposed

For weeks we've been reading on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog that "Darwinists" are cowards because they refused to debate the ID brain trust gathered at SMU for the Darwin vs. Design tent revival:

Despite all the public posturing about a debate, we've now learned that "Darwinist" students at SMU offered to debate the ID brain trust at the conference, but were turned down.

And the proof, like evidence in the Justice Dept. scandal over the firing of U.S. Attorneys who weren't loyal Bushies, is contained in e-mails that are now available online.

The first is from Ken Ueda, sophomore math, physics and philosophy major at SMU, to Sarah Levy of the Christian Legal Society, the group that sponsored the Discovery event at SMU:

I have heard that the Discovery Institute has supposedly invited some of the faculty of SMU to debate against intelligent design. I have also heard from members of the SMU faculty that none of them plan on attending so I was wondering if I may speak on their behalf. All I ask is for really a small amount of time on stage so I may refute their claims and I think that isn't too much to ask since the conference is 2 days and I'm sure they will have plenty of time to argue against me.

Here's the eventual reply from Discovery's Anika Smith (we have shortened her response for reasons of space without changing the meaning, but you can read the whole e-mail exchange here and decide for yourself):

It is true that we invited representatives from the anthropology, biology, and geology departments at SMU to debate our speakers as fellow scientists and peers... While I understand your desire to present your view for 15 minutes, the format does not allow the time or the patience for the audience to do so. I suggest that you attend the conference with your questions and really stick it to the speakers during the Q & A... hopefully the Q & A will be engaging and provocative."

Ueda replies:

Well that is strange because I believe the reporter from the Dallas Morning News revealed that the Q&A session will be pre-screened. If this is true, I wonder how is it even possible to "really stick it to the speakers" if they are able to dodge the more important questions.

Ueda reports that Smith did not respond to this last e-mail and he poses the following question: "So who's doing the censoring?"

Denied the opportunity to debate the ID theorists, the students printed up leaflets and posters and went to the conference anyway. Apparently the questions posed on those leaflets and posters were so provocative that Discovery tried to rip them from the student's hands, eventually calling SMU's finest to escort some from the conference hall.


Board Narrows Field of Commissioner Candidates

The Kansas school board -- now under moderate leadership -- has chosen five finalists in their search for a new Education Commissioner. It will take years of diligent work to rebuild the department after Bob "Heckuva Job" Corkins decimated the staff during his brief tenure, but this brings us closer to a much needed turnaround.


Book Ban Supporters Go Down to Defeat

The Chicago Sun Times reports this morning that "one of the state's most expensive school district board races, fueled by a proposed book ban in the district last May, ended Tuesday with apparent victory for three incumbents who opposed the ban."

Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut's great book about the Dresden fire bombing was among the nine books a board member proposed dropping from classroom use last year.

"Somewhere, Kurt Vonnegut is smiling," write the Chicago Sun Times staff writers who covered the story.

In fact, all opponents of censorship are smiling over this victory.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Discovery Calls Police on Student Protesters at SMU

A group of SMU students conducted a silent protest at the Discovery Institute's Darwin vs. Design conference last week. They put together a flier made up of quotes from the Wedge Document, made posters, and went to the conference.

Now here's the best part: Remember all the crying from Discovery about censorship when faculty members protested having the conference on campus, and all the chest thumping about how "Darwinists" were afraid to debate the ID geniuses?

Here's what happened when the students showed up with their posters and fliers for the silent protest:

We began handing out fliers and were receiving mixed reviews - until a tall, lanky, and toothy man jittered his way over to us and demanded to know who was handing out these fliers. We all took responsibility, and he began ripping the flyers out of our hands, saying that we could not distribute anything of the sort. I told him we paid to go to school here and that we were students who could walk anywhere on our campus, and that it just so happened that we walked into McFarlin, and it also just so happened that we had fliers to distribute.

He didn't take too kindly to that, and in two minutes' time, we had two police officers who all of a sudden had a real job to do watching us instead of sleeping the night away in the back. I'm sure if we had been distributing thank-you notes expressing our gratitude for the institute coming to our campus, he would've given us a warmer reception

The students, who call the Discovery event more of an "indoctrination seminar" than a conference, report that Lee Strobel, the first speaker said "he believed the world's creator and designer was the 'God of the Bible.'"

"That's interesting," say the students, "seeing as how he said nothing of the God of the Jews, Muslims and other religions; apparently Christianity's God is the only one we have to believe in. And his entire speech dealt with differentiating atheists from Christians, where he seemed to use the word atheist as a synonym for 'Darwinist' or 'evolutionist.'"

Disappointed at not having heard any of the much promised evidence that supports ID theory, the students held up the signs:

According to the student's report in the SMU Daily Campus News Michael Behe attempted to answer the question on ribosomes. Here's what he is reported to have said:

His answer was that ID theory does not allow for explanations regarding interspecies commonalities such as those implied in the question.

"In short," say the students, "his answer was that he couldn't explain it with ID theory."

Well, what can you explain with ID theory?

Here's Behe's description of how it might have happened according to the students:

... the Creator may have given humans similar ribosomes for no good reason. His logic was that when one sees a car with a radio, one can ask how that radio got there and there are many explanations. One such explanation was provided by Behe, and it was so very realistic: He said the radio could've fallen from an apartment and landed in the car, suggesting that a Creator could have simply thrown ribosomes all over the place, and they just landed in humans by chance.
Behe, who said in his testimony at the Dover trial that redefining science to let intelligent design in would also open the door to occult sciences such as astrology, now apparently believes that design should be defined to allow for chance.

I wonder how that will sit with his fellow design theorists who seem above all to fear random and unguided processes.

When some members of the group attempted to move closer to the front, they were escorted from the hall by SMU's finest.

There's more, much more. The story is long, detailed, and highly satisfying. Don't fail to follow the link and read it for yourself.

Francis Goldshmid, Junior, Biology B.S., Chemistry B.A.; Nicolas Sanchez: Junior, Biology B.S., Italian minor; Jani Brackett, Junior, Biology B.S., German B.A.; Desiree Brooks, Sophomore, Biology B.S., Chemistry B.A.; Ati Nayeb, Junior, Phsycology major, Biology and Chemistry minors; Mahmud Shurafa, Biology and Spanish double major, Red State Rabble salutes you. Well done!


NYT: "Almost Human, and Sometimes Smarter."

Science Times writer John Noble Wilford reports that:
Chimps display a remarkable range of behavior and talent. They make and use simple tools, hunt in groups and engage in aggressive, violent acts. They are social creatures that appear to be capable of empathy, altruism, self-awareness, cooperation in problem solving and learning through example and experience. Chimps even outperform humans in some memory tasks.


Robin Ince on Creationism

UK Comedian Robin Ince talks about Creationism and Intelligent Design. From the show "Comedy Cuts."


Another sign of the Apocalypse?

Has this site gone extinct?


No Sense of Decency

Red State Rabble has been following the horrific events at Virginia Tech, but hasn't commented on them until now in the belief that making sense of events should precede comment on them.

Not so for Answers in Genesis' Ken Ham. Less than 24 hours after the killings he said:
“We live in an era when public high schools and colleges have all but banned God from science classes. In these classrooms, students are taught that the whole universe, including plants and animals — and humans — arose by natural processes. Naturalism (in essence, atheism) has become the religion of the day and has become the foundation of the education system (and Western culture as a whole). The more such a philosophy permeates the culture, the more we would expect to see a sense of purposelessness and hopelessness that pervades people’s thinking. In fact, the more a culture allows the killing of the unborn, the more we will see people treating life in general as ‘cheap.’

Students of history will recall that there never was a murder, torture, or war in the world until 1859 when Darwin published The Origin of Species. That's when all the violence started. Until then, the world was just brimming with purpose. Filled with hope.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007



A Page Right Out of History

A display at Ken Ham's Kentucky Creation Museum.

We knew the lion laid down with the lamb, and all that. But we didn't know about the mastadon. If only the American Museum of Natural History had known about all this before they opened the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins.


Maher Than One Way to Skin a Cat

Apparently comedian Bill Maher slipped past security and got into Ken Ham's top secret Kentucky creation museum with an HBO film crew.

It won't happen again though.

"It was a good wake-up call for us," says Ham, "Our security crew is already taking measures – ahead of the museum's opening on May 28 – to prevent a reoccurrence."


Unique Doesn't Begin to Describe It

There must be money to be made in the creation museum racket. Ken Ham's Kentucky creation museum hasn't even opened yet, and already it's got competition from the Discovery Express History and Science Museum in Ligonier, Indiana.

"The second floor of Discovery Express will house a unique history and science museum," say the PR materials from the museum.

And unique doesn't begin to describe it

" It will feature interactive exhibits designed for all ages. Guests will explore the days of creation, the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, and the Tower of Babel. There will be opportunities to learn how science and history confirm that the Bible is trustworthy and accurate in all that it teaches."

Hey kids, don't climb too high in that Tower of Babel.

Hat Tip to reader RF for calling the story to our attention.


Right On, Sisters!

The Nugget, the local paper in Sisters, Oregon, says the school board was right to fire Kris Helphinstine, the creationist who thought being assinged to teach biology classes there gave him a licence to prosyletize school kids.
Helphinstine, a brand-new teacher, introduced materials from a highly dubious source that proclaims its creationist agenda proudly. Those materials strayed from science into discussions of the eugenics movement and Nazi Germany.

Such topics would be wonderful grist for a sociology or history class, but they are not appropriate for a biology class. Oregon law is clear: public schools in Oregon must teach evolution. Helphinstine was not doing that.

The school board had to fire Helphinstine because he deviated far from the curriculum he was contracted to teach. He did so in a most sensitive area subject and without bothering to mention the deviation to his supervisor, Principal Bob Macauley.


Seeing and Believing

"The empiricism to which liberal education is devoted – let’s assemble the evidence and figure out where it leads us – is well encapsulated in the familiar saying 'Seeing is believing,'" writes Stanley Fish a professor of law at Florida International University and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago in his New York Times column, "Think Again."

"The model of religious knowledge inverts that proverb and declares instead “Believing is seeing.” And that is why, as I have already acknowledged, teaching religion in the strong sense – the sense that would internalize its truths rather than study them – does not belong in the public schools."

I highly recommend Fish's columns in general and his recent writing about religion in particular. He brings to the subject what few other observers are able to -- finely honed reasoning skills.

Reader Warning: Don't look to Fish for easy answers. You won't find them there.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Join the Conversation on Science Education

Join scientists, science educators, and other citizens at the Johnson County Library on On April 19, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. for a moderated discussion exploring science education today.

Forum participants will discuss where Americans get their science information, the state of science literacy, what science education looks like today, and what it will look like in the future.

Special guests include Julie Holland, science education researcher with the Kauffman Foundation; Sue Gamble, Kansas State Board of Education; Sharon Spence, science curriculum coordinator for the Shawnee Mission School District; and Liz Craig, citizen science activist.

The discussion will be moderated by David Smith from KCConsensus.

April 19, 2007 from 7:00-8:30 PM Carmack Community Room of the Central Resource Library, 9875 W 87th Street, Overland Park, KS

Register by phone at 913-495-2497 or online.


BBC on Truth in Science, the British ID Group

The BBC asks, "Are zealots trying to infiltrate... "


He Can See Clearly

"The Discovery Institute is one of the nations leading political action groups," writes Ben Wells is a junior anthropology major at Southern Methodist University. "It fights to create a theistic world view that corrupts science to fit the doctrines of evangelical and literal Christians who are unable to reconcile their religious beliefs with the material world."

Looks like the old Discovery shell game isn't going over too well at SMU.


Kansas: Campaign Finance Disclosure Weakened

Kansas' already pathetically weak campaign finance disclosure laws have been weakened further according to Dion Lefler of the Wichita Eagle:
At the end of the regular session earlier this month, lawmakers had passed five provisions on campaign disclosure and government ethics -- one benefiting voters and four relaxing restrictions on politicians and state employees.
The state received a grade of F from the Campaign Disclosure Project, a collaboration of the UCLA School of Law, the Center for Governmental Studies, and the California Voter Foundation, supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Their study reported:
Access to campaign finance data in Kansas is still well below average, and there is much room for improvement in this area. Because the Governmental Ethics Commission currently data-enters filings, it takes up to two months for that information to be made available on the Internet, though the agency reports it plans to scan and post filings within two days in 2006. Itemized expenditure data is currently not available on the web site at all. While several other states actually decreased the cost of paper copies of campaign finance
reports this year, the Secretary of State’s office continues to charge a relatively high 50 cents per page for such copies.

And, as Red State Rabble has reported, the failure to make disclosure reporting available to the public has real world consequences. Right-wing political action committees such as the Kansas Republican Assembly, Free Academic Inquiry and Research, and the Kansas Republican Victory Fund have thumbed their noses at contribution limits by setting up a network of interlocking state and federal PACs -- a slush fund, in effect -- to get around contribution limits in the law.


Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

How did Kangaroos get to Australia after Noah dropped them off on the top of Mount Ararat? Well, "the flood waters lubricated a process called runaway subduction in which the continents subsequently drifted apart at a sprint." At least that's what BBC correspondent Martin Redfern was told when he visited Ken Ham's new Kentucky creation museum with Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education in tow.

Redfern and Scott weren't able to look at the Flood and Grand Canyon exhibits -- they're still under construction. At the rate they're going it'll take longer to build the museum displays than creationists claim to took to carve the canyon out of solid rock or move Australia to the antipodes.

Check out the article for a photo of Prof. Steve Steve, who Eugenie slipped into the museum.


"Inherit the Wind" Back on Broadway

"Inherit the Wind," a fictional account of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial is back on Broadway after 50 years. The revival stars Christopher Plummer and Brian Brian Dennehy as Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, the two great protagonists who came to Dayton, Tenn. to debate evolution and religion.

Tony Award-winning director, Doug Hughes, says efforts to weaken the teaching of evolution in public schools in Kansas, Pennsylvania and Georgia, make the work more relevant today than when it first opened in 1955.


Enter the Microverse

Proboscis of common housefly.

Head on over to Scientific American to view a photo gallery of 16 fabulous microphotographs like the one above. All are winners of the 2006 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


You Too Can be an Intelligent Designer!

There's a competition to see who can design the next generation Darwin fish. Yes, it's true, like Mt. Rushmore, the Darwin fish is a product of intelligent design, not variation and natural selection.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The March of Egnorance: Which is it?

Consistency is not, and has never been, ID's long suit. Here's but the latest example, an excerpt from a post published Wednesday on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog by Michael Egnor:
Darwin asserted that all natural integrated biological complexity arose by random variation and natural selection. Cancer does seem to grow in accordance with Darwin’s mechanism. The “variation” of cancer cells seems random, and cancer cells are certainly “naturally selected,” in the tautological sense that replicating cells eventually outnumber non-replicating cells. Darwin’s theory can be applied to cancer, trivially.

And here's Michael Egnor yesterday:
Cancer is real biological evolution by random mutation and natural selection, writ fast. There’s no reason to invoke encyclopedia typos or tractor engines in order to understand what "chance and necessity" can do to a living system. Brain tumors are perfect little Novellian "two-cycle engines" nestled inside the skull, "random mutations" coming out the ears, and "natural selection" like there’s no tomorrow (excuse the metaphors). Brain tumors are constantly generating new biological variation, and they are avatars of natural selection... Cancer wards are full of patients brimming with "two-stroke engines" of evolutionary change.

From "trivial" to "engine of evolutionary change" in just two days.

Michael Egnor, proving once again that brain surgery -- at least the ID inspired kind -- ain't rocket science.

On the bright side, Egnor's post will give Casey Luskin the opportunity to condemn any Darwinist who writes that IDers believe cancer is not an example of evolution or, conversely, that IDers believe cancer is an example of evolution.

Those Darwinists, they won't debate, and they misrepresent what we believe. They are baaaad people.


Loyal? To What?

"The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda — which is very different from simply being people of faith — is one of the most important stories of the last six years," writes New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. "It’s also a story that tends to go under reported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists."

We all know that Monica Goodling, a former aide to embattled Attorney General Roberto Gonzales, who resigned after advising Congress she would invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, is a graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University.

We also know from Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone that many of the incompetents sent by Bush to staff the Coalition Provisional Authority were from the far-right religious fringe.

A not inconsiderable number of those who got us where we are in Iraq today shared a similar trajectory: home schooling followed by Christian University -- usually Regent or Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. -- and on to government employment.

And, as we've reported in the past, the nation's military institutions, such as the Air Force Academy, also harbor a disproportionate number of evangelical Christians in relation to the population as a whole. While a 2001 American Religious Identification Study reported that 76.7 percent of the adult population in the U.S. identify themselves as Christian, more than 90 percent of Air Force Academy's students say they are Christians.

Jews, who comprise 1.4 percent of the population, but only 1 percent of cadets, are underrepresented at the academy as are Seculars, the 14.2 percent who responded to the ARIS study that they had no religion or did not declare a religion. While Seculars constitute the second largest group in the survey they are virtually unrepresented at the academy.

Perhaps that explains why nearly 50 percent of non-Christian cadets said in 2004 that their classmates have "a low tolerance for those who do not 'follow a religion' or 'believe in a divine being.'"

Despite all that, we didn't know until we read it in Krugman's column that Kay Cole James, a former dean in Regent’s government school, was the federal government’s chief personnel officer from 2001 to 2005.

Regent's law school, which inherited its library from Oral Roberts, was ranked in the bottom tier by U.S. News and World Report, coming in tied for 136th place out of 170 schools surveyed. Just 61 percent of Regent students pass the bar exam on their first try. The state average in Virginia is 74 percent.

Despite its dismal reputation Regent grads have found a warm welcome in the Bush administration.

"We've had great placement," Jay Sekulow, who heads a non profit law firm based at Regent that files lawsuits aimed at lowering barriers between church and state, has told The Boston Globe. "We've had a lot of people in key positions."

Goodling and at least 150 other Regent graduates are known to be working for the Bush administration in some capacity. Are they following a 1981 injunction from Christian Reconstuctionist Gary North "to infiltrate the existing institutional order”?

Perhaps it's time that we found out where other Regent graduates are working in government and just what they're doing.

Goodling is gone, but Red State Rabble readers can help us ferret out other Regent grads who are funneling public money to the religious right organizations, rewriting the laws, weakening government regulations, silencing scientists, firing capable government workers to make room for politically connected incompetents, and otherwise breaking down the barriers between church and state.

Know of any other Regent or Liberty grads in government? Got a brilliant insight on how to search for them on the Internet? Let Red State Rabble know. We'll compile a list of our readers findings and publish them on the web for all to see.

Perhaps that can be the beginning of a process of finding out how far the infiltration of our government by the theocratic right has gone and what its effects have been.

Friday, April 13, 2007


58th Skeptic's Circle

The 58th Skeptic's Circle is up at Geek Counterpoint.


Best American Ringing Defeat of Religion Masquerading as Science

You remember all the crying at the Discovery Institute over Judge Jone's decision in the Dover case? And the subsequent effort to attack the decision by claiming, hilariously, that it was plagarized?

Well, get this:

According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Judge Jones' landmark decision ruling against the Dover School District's efforts to promote the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution has made its way into the latest edition of "The Best American Nonrequired Reading.''

The anthology is edited by Dave Eggers and compiled by a committee of readers, mostly California high-school and college students. It includes their choices for the year's best magazine articles, short stories, speeches, cartoons and more.

An excerpt from Jones's U.S. District Court decision is included under the title "Best American Ringing Defeat of Religion Masquerading as Science."


Morals, What Morals?

Burlingame, Cal. schools Superintendent Sonny Da Marto has stopped eighth-graders there from reading Kaffir Boy, an award-winning memoir of growing up in a South African ghetto during apartheid, because of his concern for "the morals of our society," according to Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Apparently, teaching about the immorality of racism is less important than preventing children from learning that human beings sometimes engage in an activity called sex.


New Baptist Covenant

In further evidence that at least some evangelicals want to break with the right-wing politics that have seemed to define them for so long, a group calling itself the New Baptist Covenant, led by former President Jimmy Carter and Mercer University President Bill Underwood, have issued a document called A North American Baptist Covenant.

In their statement they committed themselves to "promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, welcome the strangers among us, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity."

While some of us will be unable to share their religious motivations, we should all welcome the effort to break with ultra-right wing causes that so many evangelicals have for too long uncritically embraced.

Hat tip to TB.


Dinosaur Protein Recovered

"In a retrieval once thought unattainable, scientists have recovered and identified proteins in a bone of a well-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex that lived and died and was fossilized 68 million years ago," reports John Noble Wilford in the science section of this morning's New York Times.

According to the report, analysis of the protein confirms a link between dinosaurs and birds. Several of the protein sequences are closely related to chickens.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Out of Gas

"Something both subtle and potentially dramatic has happened to Kansas social conservatives," writes Martin Hawver, publisher of Topeka-based Hawver's Capitol Report, in an opinion piece published in the Wichita Eagle. "On issues ranging from immigration to domestic partnerships to the fringes of abortion policy, socially conservative legislators have lost horsepower."

"They've lost on immigration issues ranging from requiring photo ID to vote to requiring birth certificates to prove that potential voters are U.S. citizens," writes Hawver. "They've lost on the effort to prevent Lawrence from registering domestic partners. And they've lost embryonic stem-cell research bans and even an effort to force Attorney General Paul Morrison to prosecute Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller."


Like Mushrooms

The San Francisco Examiner reports that the Burlingame, Cal. school distrit has banned Kaffir Boy, a book about about South African apartheid. The book, deemed too graphic for students there, describes the oppressive hardship and violence of apartheid.

Reality, it seems, is just to difficult for students to grapple with. First we prevent high school students from learning anything about the world. Then, soon as they graduate, we ship them off to Iraq.

Quite a plan.


Pope Benedict: God Created Life through Evolution, Religion and Science need not Clash

For nearly two years now, intelligent design theorists grouped around the Seattle-based Discovery Institute have been dangling the tantalizing prospect in front of their supporters that Pope Benedict would soon reverse the position of the Catholic Church that "there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith" and embrace ID.

Initial optimism among ID activists was sparked by a July 2005 New York Times OpEd, "Finding Design in Nature," by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Vienna.

"The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth," wrote Schönborn, "proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things."

The April 2005 election of Pope Benedict XVI, widely viewed as a defender of traditional Catholic doctrine and values, also seemed to give added weight to the notion that the church might soon reverse course and reject evolution.

It was widely known that Cardinal Schönborn and Pope Benedict were closely allied. Schönborn was once a student of the future pope, and the two co-authored an Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

According to Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman, Schönborn had complained that "neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our Pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist." And Chapman further reported on Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog, that the Cardinal said he'd been encouraged by the Pope personally.

ID activists looked forward with high anticipation to an informal gathering at Pope Benedict's summer palace outside Rome this past summer, where it was said evolution and intelligent design would be discussed, in the hope the church might abandon "Neo-Darwinism" for intelligent design.

Despite all the favorable signs, from time to time a discordant note was sounded both in Vienna and Rome.

First Cardinal Schönborn clarified his NYT OpEd in a sermon saying, "I see no difficulty in joining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution, but under the prerequisite that the borders of scientific theory are maintained."

And following the Dover ruling against intelligent design, the New York Times reported that L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, had published an article calling Judge Jones decision -- that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution -- "correct."

And now, all those high hopes have been dashed.

Yesterday, Reuters reported that the Pope says "science has narrowed the way life's origins are understood and Christians should take a broader approach to the question." According to the report, the Pope "praised scientific progress and did not endorse creationist or 'intelligent design' views about life's origins."

"Benedict defended what is known as 'theistic evolution,' the view held by Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches that God created life through evolution and religion and science need not clash over this," according to the Reuters report.

As always, Discovery can be expected to put the best face on this disappointing news, but however they spin it, the fact is, as their repeated attacks on biologist Ken Miller -- a practicing Catholic who is an articulate defender of evolution -- demonstrate, they are die-hard opponents of theistic evolution.

In an Evolution News and Views post on Ken Miller's lecture at the University of Kansas last September it was reported that Miller, "like most TE’s, [theistic evolutionists, RSR] holds to his religious beliefs on faith ~alone~. That’s the problems with TE’s - they can give you no reason whatsoever as to why they believe what they do in regard to their religious beliefs other than they take it all on faith."

That remarkably faithless statement is mirrored by Phillip Johnson, the founding father of the intelligent design movement:

"... Darwinism and theism are fundamentally incompatible ... To infer that mutation and selection did the creating because nothing else was available, and then to bring God back into the picture as the omnipotent being who chose to create by mutation and selection, is to indulge in self-contradiction."

With the Pope's latest statement, another door has closed on the intelligent design experiment. It's becoming clearer and clearer that the ID movement has shut itself in a windowless room. There's no way out.


40 Days and 40 Nights

Matthew Chapman, a descendent of Charles Darwin, has written a book on the Dover intelligent design trial: 40 Days and 40 Nights.

The Philiadelpia City Paper has reviewed the book, noting that "Most of the angry parents [who filed suit against the district mandated intelligent design statement, RSR] are faithful Christians and some are Republicans, which challenges the red state/blue state stereotype. The trial ends with Judge John Jones, a Bush appointee, declaring the school board's actions unconstitutional. Chapman celebrates this but warns of the rise of fundamentalism in America."


Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is dead, but he left us a rich treasure in his books. If you haven't read Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle or God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater -- or haven't read them for awhile -- perhaps now would be a good time.

Vonnegut, along with Joseph Heller, was one of the great moral voices for RSR's generation. I don't think we could of made sense of those times without the benefit of the dark, but very human, comedy he gave us through his writing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


No Safe Haven

Discovery's Bruce Chapman and John West are crowing that the "Darwinists" at Southern Methodist University are afraid to debate them.

Those who follow the intelligent design pseudo-controversy know, of course, that Darwinist is right-wing code-speak for atheist. So, it must be a bit worrying to Chapman and West that their appearance at SMU has raised the ire of the faculty there.

Even a private school, founded by Methodists, -- although it now describes itself as nonsectarian in its teaching and committed to freedom of inquiry -- in the heart of Bush country is no longer a safe haven for intelligent design.

You could believe, as Chapman and West profess to believe, that SMU is run by atheists. That there's a Darwinist laying in wait for them under every bed, behind every bush, or you could conclude that ID's 15 minutes is simply over. We have their number. The sophistry of their arguments has been sufficiently exposed. Everyone -- even in Texas -- knows their game.


ID Meets the Grassy Knoll

The notion that Faux News "is a conservative Republican mouthpiece is completely absurd," writes Cliff Kincaid of the Accuracy in Media. AIM, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is an organization that critiques creeping liberalism in the media -- it's kind of like the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views media complaints division writ large.

Mr. Kincaid's angry at the fact that the media covers gay rights, going so far as to publish gay marriage announcements, but won't give Aids deniers the sort of coverage he thinks they deserve.

Global warming? Despite the fact that DaveScot says coverage dropped off after cold weather hit the nation last weekend, Kincaid sees deeper, darker forces working tirelessly to pull the wool over the nation's eyes.

Concerns about black helicopters, the United Nations, and one world government have given way, in Kincaid's loony toons world to worries about a shadowy North American Union run by the Canadians or Mexicans. There are hidden documents and secret working groups -- but the media just won't cover the issue.

Oh yeah, they won't give coverage to the Discovery Institute or intelligent design, either. The media conspirators kept Anthony Flew's earth-shattering conversion from atheism off the front page of the New York Times. It wasn't even the lead story on the NBC nightly news.

Now that's power.


It's Young, Really Young

Nepotism first, age of the earth second. Kent Hovind before the orange jumpsuit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


The Mount Rushmore School of Design

"If some astronauts from Earth discovered figures of persons similar to Mt. Rushmore on an uninhabited planet there would be no way to scientifically prove the carved figures originated by design or by chance processes of erosion," writes Babu G. Ranganathan, who has bachelor's degree from his college's "theology/biology" department.


Signs of the Apocalypse

A news alert from WorldNetDaily notes, "Organized social and political activists have invaded America's newsrooms, subverting long-established guidelines and ethics codes calling for accuracy, fairness, balance and the avoidance of conflict of interest in journalism... "

We'd surprised the folks at WND are just now learning about Faux News. We assumed they were part of the demographic.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Illinois Censorship Case

In one Illinois school district, a failed effort to ban nine books from the classrooms there has set up a bitter battle for control of the board. Phylis Schlafly, who doesn't live in the district, has endorsed two candidates -- even though they say they didn't ask her to.

What does the opposition to the book banning say?

"People on the ultra-right -- the radical right -- have made this a cause celebre," Arlen Gould, campaign chairman for incumbents Bill Dussling, Alva Kreutzer and Robert Zimmanck tells The Chicago Sun Times. "They want to impose their religious beliefs in the public school arena."


Looking at Evidence for a Change

Answers in Genesis asks: "Have you ever noticed that evolutionists are so sure that they have the answers to how everything began and that the Bible has to be wrong-yet every time a new discovery is made, it's the evolutionists who have to change their theories! The only true thing about their evolutionary theories is that whatever they believe to be truth today, seems to change tomorrow!

"But God's Word NEVER changes. It's NOT subject to modification every couple of years when a new discovery is made about the universe. If you really want to have the absolute, unchanging account of everything, go to the book of Genesis."

Yes, what Answers in Genesis says is quite true God's word never, ever changes, even when new evidence is discovered that contradicts what the Bible says:

So, maybe it's a good thing that scientists change their minds when new evidence is discovered. Perhaps that's a problem with a literal reading of, and unquestioning belief in, the myths recorded by a primitive Middle Eastern people.

They're talking about this on the Internet Infidels Discussion Board now.


At It Again?

We thought the last Kansas school board election settled the issue. Could we have been wrong?

Then again, maybe it's just an example of those odd annual phenomena that occur early in April.



WorldNetDaily, the online news source for far-right religious kooks, took a break today from peddling loony charges by intelligent design activist Jack Cashill linking Darwin and evolution to the Nazis, communists, capitalists, eugenicists, abortionists, atheists, materialists, satanists, gays, flag burners, and militant J-walkers, to relive some of its past glory.

In a "This Day in WND History" feature under the title "Forget? No way, says southern heritage group" they link to an April 2001 story reporting favorably on a white power group that seeks reparations for "people of historic Southern ancestry."

These "people of historic Southern ancestry," reacting to a demand by African Americans to be compensated for the enslavement of their ancestors, want to dip into the public till themselves to make up for the "barbaric dispossession and destruction of the Southern people and their way of life" during, you guessed it, the Civil War.

"The private property of non-combatants was ravaged, burned, stolen and destroyed as a deliberate policy of an unconstitutional war of invasion, conquest and occupation," sniffs Dr. Michael Hill, president of the League of the South, which describes itself as a Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic.

When they speak of dispossession of their property, do you suppose they mean this?


150 149

Regent University School of Law, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, brags that 150 of its alumni were hired by federal government since President Bush took office in 2001.

At Regent, they like to say they combine quality education with biblical teachings to "produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world."

Of course their number has been reduced by one now that Monica Goodling, a former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, has resigned from the Justice Department after asserting her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination for her role in the firing of eight US attorneys.

Do you suppose Goodling skipped the Regents class on thou shalt not lie?

You can read the Boston Globe story "Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school" here.

Or Dahlia Lithwick's piece in the Washington Post about how Gonzales' predecessor, Pentecostalist John Ashcroft fired or forced out career professionals in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to make room for conservative Christians with no civil rights experience.

Our friend Mousie Cat, who writes the Evolving in Kansas blog, also has a post on our truth-challenged morality police.


Oh, That Explains It

DaveScot, the chief cook and bottle washer over at William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog, has been on something of global warming denial tear lately.

He was especially elated by the cold snap that hit the country over the Easter weekend because, "nary a mention of global warming can be found in the news. Talk about putting a cold damper on Friday’s release of the 2007 IPCC report on so-called global warming, the timing couldn’t have been better."

April is, as T.S. Eliot wrote, the cruelest month, but did the cold snap really drive global warming news off of television screens and front pages as DaveScot suggests? We weren't so sure.

A Google news search conducted this morning for the terms global, warming, climate, and change returns this:

Adding "IPCC" to the search terms listed above returned a total of 2,202 news articles

Perhaps DaveScot's inability to discover news about global warming should give the rest of us some insight into his corresponding incapacity to detect any evidence for evolution in the natural world.

We've updated our YouTube Video of the Day in the sidebar with a "Listen to the Scientists" on Global Warming and the IPCC featuring Dr. Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute.

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