Monday, August 13, 2007


Horrible News for Trolls

I have some horrible news for the handful of trolls who infest Red State Rabble.

After posting daily for more than two-and-a-half years, RSR will now be updated on a more periodic basis due to the press of personal and professional commitments.

I urge my trolls not to do anything rash. There is counseling. A number of very effective medications are now available which you can turn to in order to get through the immediate crisis. Long term, I strongly recommend the benefits of moving out of your mothers' basements, getting a job, meeting people. I assure you, there is a world out there.

To my readers, I want to say thank you. When I started RSR in the dark days after Christian fundamentalists took the Kansas board of education I never imagined the readership of this blog would grow as large as it has. At the time, I wouldn't have believed that people outside Kansas would be interested in what I had to say. Over the time I've been writing RSR I have a chance to meet, correspond, and become friends with many of you.

You, the people who defend science education and the separation of church and state, give me confidence that the aims of the religious right will ultimately be frustrated. The willingness of people to step forward and be counted convinces me we won't see this country turned into another Nazi Germany, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, or Iraq.

I've been particularly impressed by the quality of leadership I've seen in the state Citizens for Science groups. Here in Kansas, Harry McDonald, Jack Krebs, Steve Case, Liz Craig and many others -- especially moderate school board members Janet Waugh, Bill Wagnon, Carol Rupe, Sue Gamble, Sally Cauble, and Jana Shaver -- have fought both wisely and well to defend science education. Many others, too numerous to mention, have made enormous contributions to the cause.

The National Center for Science Education led by Eugenie Scott, and her remarkable staff including Nick Matzke and Glen Branch, have played an invaluable role in turning back the tide of creationism and intelligent design. Scientists and philosophers such as Ken Miller, Kevin Padian, Rob Pennock, Barbara Forrest, and Michael Ruse have provided their considerable intellectual heft to the defense of science in the courtroom and public square.

Attorneys Eric Rothschild, Stephen G. Harvey, Joseph M. Farber, Benjamin M. Mather and Thomas B. Schmidt of law firm Pepper Hamilton; Witold J. Walczak and Paula K. Knudsen of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; and Ayesha Khan, Richard Katskee and Alex J. Luchenitser of Americans United won an impressive victory in Dover. Here in Kansas, Pedro Irigonegaray's withering cross examinations exposed the ID fraud for what it is -- stealth creationism of the crudest sort.

The network of science bloggers including PZ Myers, Phil Plait, Ed Brayton, Wes Elsberry, the crew at Panda's Thumb, and many others have been very generous to Red State Rabble. I want to thank them all and urge my readers to go to them on days when nothing new has been posted here. You can find links in the sidebar. Josh Rosenau, who started his Thoughts from Kansas blog about the same time as RSR is going on to bigger and better things (though I hear he has some big shoes to fill) Congratulations!

In the time since I started publishing RSR -- though I take no credit for it -- scientists, educators, and citizens have won a number of important victories in the battle against creationism and intelligent design here in Kansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and elsewhere. Many more battles will no doubt be fought in the future, but, I believe, each time the religious right tries to write its own sectarian theology into the laws and curriculum, wise Americans will step forward to oppose them.

For those who miss daily posts on RSR and now don't know what to do with your extra time, I strongly urge you to join or form a state citizens for science group, or write a check to the NCSE to support ongoing efforts to defend science education.

Red State Rabble won't be going away entirely. Over the next few months, I expect to post when prompted by larger events, and I want to do some longer analytical posts based on more extensive research than the pressure of daily blogging now allows. I will also remain an active member of Kansas Citizens for Science. And, when creationism and intelligent design once again rears its ugly head in Kansas -- particularly if the religious right runs candidates for state school board in the next election -- RSR will resume daily posting.

Be warned.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


On Topic

Intelligent design guru William Dembski, it seems, don't get no respect. He often writes on his blog, Uncommon Descent, about the lack of collegiality from those scientists, journalists, and educators he and his movement brand as Neo-Darwinists.

If he would like to be treated with respect, however, perhaps he should resolve to treat others with respect as well. Isn't that the Golden Rule that Christians of Dembski's fundamentalist stripe claim they hold so dear?

Over at Dembski's blog right now is a post titled "Kevin Padian is Archie Bunker!" (Garrison Keillor says that Minnesotans have never found a food that doesn't taste better covered with cheese. We would say that creationists have never written a sentence they think couldn't be improved by adding an exclamation point, or two.)

The post features a flash animation that morphs Padian, the UC-Berkeley biologist whose expert testimony at the Dover intelligent design trial blew ID criticism of so-called fossil gaps out of the water, into Archie Bunker.

Read the post for yourself and ask how the headline and the photo are at all relevant to anything written in the post. Ask yourself how they're tied to any event that might be called news.

See if you don't agree that the headline and photo are nothing more than a school yard taunt. And like badly done pornography, totally gratuitous. Like the voice-over fart noises Dembski did for an animation on the Dover ruling and his likening of Jerry Coyne to Herman Munster this latest attempt at adolescent humor focuses not on any issue in dispute but on the physical attributes of his political opponents.

This sort of "You're ugly, so there!!!" was a feature of fifth grade, as I remember it, and it undoubtedly goes down well with the Uncommon Descent target audience, but to adults it's much more revealing of Dembski's character, or lack of it, than anything else.

This baseless attack leaves one with the impression that Dembski lies awake nights thinking about the man whose testimony did so much to expose ID's empty rhetoric. Dembski, we suspect, replays the trial in his head every night. In his mind, Dembski isn't AWOL as he was at Dover. He isn't hiding behind Discovery's lawyers. He's out there, sword in hand, slaying the dragons of Neo-Darwinism and going mano a mano with Padian.

Is there any evidence to support this view? Well, this isn't Dembski's first utterly baseless attack on the Padian.

In May 2006 Dembski charged that Padian made racist statements in a speech at Berkeley. His facts hopelessly wrong, as always, Dembski was forced to publicly retract his false charge.

In retracting, Dembski wrote: "In any case, I should not have engaged in ad hominems against Kevin Padian and apologize to him for doing so. Perhaps this incident will help persuade both sides in this debate to stay on topic and focus on the issues."

That lesson is, apparently, already forgotten.


What Goes Around...

Cast your mind all the way back to May when Time published its "list of the 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example" were said to be transforming the world. Included among those notables was scientist, author, outspoken critic of creationism, and fiery atheist, Richard Dawkins.

The author of the Time 100 profile? None other than intelligent design activist Michael Behe.

At the time, many thought Behe an unusual choice to profile Dawkins. The two were, after all, on opposite sides of a fierce debate over the nature of science and the role of religion. Some said Behe could hardly be an objective observer.

The Discovery Institute, as they so often do, took a contrary point of view. They raised no objections about the fairness of the Dawkins' profile and, in fact, published two posts defending Behe -- including one by Behe himself -- on their Evolution News and Views blog.

So, how do you suppose these principled ID scientists reacted to Richard Dawkins' recent New York Times review of Michael Behe’s new book, The Edge of Evolution?

Discovery President Bruce Chapman writes that he just threw up his hands when he learned that Dawkins had been handed the review. In an Evolution News and Views post Chapman asks, "Who Picks Reviewers at the New York Times?"

"The Times is having its problems," notes Chapman. "As a lover of print media, I hate to see it."

Like so much else that intelligent design activists say and write we may do well not take this statement at face value. After all, Evolution News and Views has had a long-running feud with the news media in general and the Times in particular. Indeed, the declared mission of Discovery's Evolution News and Views is to counter the alleged "misreporting of the evolution issue" which they characterize as "sloppy, inaccurate, and in some cases, overtly biased."

One measure of objectivity is consistency. We might ask ourselves just how objective Discovery is when they laud a profile of Dawkins by Behe and deplore a review of Behe by Dawkins.

Perhaps the media haven't got it so wrong after all.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


A good introduction to radiometric dating that demonstrates the earth is more than 6,000 years old. You can find more from the same video producers here.


Global Warming Survey

For many years, Red State Rabble has been an avid backpacker. In recent years, I've hiked the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe.

In 1970 I first hiked the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier and did it again a couple of years ago with my hiking companion, sister, and brother-in-law. One of the things that really stuck out to me this time around was how much the Rainier's glaciers had retreated in the years since I'd last been there.

That's why I was interested in a survey of Backpacker magazine subscribers that found 29 percent of its readers said they'd witnessed changes brought about by global warming while hiking in the backcountry.

In an ominous sign of the increasing isolation of global warming deniers, such as those die-hard fundamentalists in the intelligent design movement, only 10 percent of Backpacker readers believe that global warming is a hoax.

Fully 90 percent of those responding to the survey have seen the evidence with their own eyes or believe changes are happening now or will become evident in the future.

Take a look at the magazine where you can see a map of changes to the environment in this country that are happening right now.


Not Now Kato

Under the breathless headline "NRC Admits Mutation Not Sufficient Explanation for Evolution," Uncommon Descent blogger, dacook, exhibits that amazing combination of ignorance and arrogance so characteristic of a certain French police inspector and dacook's fellow intelligent design bloggers. He writes that he believes the "admission that mutation is an insufficient mechanism [for evolution] is significant."

This damning admission is especially meaningful for our would-be Clousseau, because it appears in "a mainstream publication."

The smoking gun, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, is found in a report by the Space Studies Board and the Board on Life Sciences titled, "The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems." The report, dedicated to "non-human-like life forms, wherever they are" is designed to guide extraterrestrial exploration and direct the search for life forms "based on molecular structures substantially different" from those found on Earth.

Our bumbling ID inspector plucks his "admission" from a section of the report that asks, "Is Evolution an Essential Feature of Life?" Unsurprisingly, though you'll find no mention of it in our inspectors dossier, the authors conclude that:

Natural selection is the key to evolution and the main reason that Darwinian evolution persists as a characteristic of many definitions of life.

The report's authors do say, as the inimitable dacook indictment triumphantly reports, that “[n]atural selection based solely on mutation is probably not an adequate mechanism for evolving complexity.”

It says this in the context of dicussing lateral gene transfer, a well-documented process that occurs when an organism transfers genetic material to another cell that is not its offspring.

If our inspector had not already had all the evidence he needed before his investigation got under way he might have consulted some esoteric scientific source, say the Wiki entry for Horizontal or Lateral Gene Tranfer, where he would have learned that gene transfer "has played a major role in bacterial evolution and is fairly common in certain unicellular eukaryotes. However, the prevalence and importance of HGT in the evolution of multicellular eukaryotes remain unclear."

So the question we must ask of our intrepid dacook is this: Has he misrepresented the report's conclusions because:

Ignorant, stupid, or dishonest, is no way to go through life.

As the inimitable Clousseau once said, "There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Modus Operandi

I've been gone on vacation for a little more than a week, so naturally there's a lot of catching up on the wackiness of the religious right, particularly its intelligent design outpost.

Back on July 19, William Dembski wrote a post on Uncommon Descent charging that remarks at the most recent Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference in London, in which Richard Dawkins accused Lewis Wolpert of being a creationist and Wolpert responded that sometimes he wished he were a creationist, were deleted from the online audio.

Dembski, with his keen eye for Darwinist duplicity, chortled that "If it's been edited out, it didn't happen?!" (Someone really needs to study the unseemly attraction of intelligent design theorists to exclamation points.)

Well, of course the remarks weren't edited out, as Dembski has now been forced to confess. They're there in the recording. It's just that Dembski, as he so often does, relied on an unnamed "friend who attended the meeting" and he's "been having difficulty downloading the file in question."

It's simply amazing how many times Dembski's false charges turn out, upon investigation, to be based on some anonymous informant. The volumes of evidence for evolution are never enough for Dembski, it seems, but his army of unnamed informants, no matter how often wrong, are taken at face value with no effort to made to check the facts.

This, of course, is the intelligent design modus operandi in a nutshell.

Of course, lying cheek by jowl at Uncommon Descent with Dembski's confession that he didn't bother to check before making his latest false charge are these headlines: "Myths about science and religion: A little research saves a lot of apology" and "Environmental Journalists: Prosecutor, Judge & Jury?"


Evidence Smevidence

Over at Uncommon Descent, PaV is waxing indignant because the scientific community doesn't believe ID is scientific since "it doesn’t have evidence to support its theory."

How unfair.

Next thing you know, the unreasonable bastards will be demanding evidence before you can cart someone off to jail.


The Legion of the Credulous

The Weekly World News, which bills itself as "the world's only reliable newspaper," will cease publication Aug. 27. When you navigate your shopping cart through the checkout lane at your local supermarket, you'll no longer be tantalized by Weekly World headlines such as: "Gramps, 82, Arrested for Twitching! Cops Thought he was Picking up a Hooker,'' "Spirit-chasing Priest Saves Girl Possessed by Space Creature,'' and our personal favorite, "Frog Baby Born in Kansas."

Weekly World News will maintain a web presence, but we fear it will have a difficult time competing against that stalwart of Christian fundamentalism, and right-wing wackiness, WorldNetDaily.

WND supplements its coverage of the latest developments in Creation science and intelligent design theory with such stories as: "Christian Mayor Rejects 'Gay' Flag on Town Hall" (he's aware the decision isn't popular, but must abide by biblical convictions), "NAFTA Superhighway Traffic Tied to Minn. Bridge Collapse (there's no issue that can't be tied to immigration), and "The 30-minute Diabetes Cure?! "(Why spend a lifetime on insulin or metformin?).

Is there really room on the web for Bigfoot and biblical dinosaurs, alien abduction and science destruction, miracle cures and miraculous creations?

Well, of course there is. The credulous are legion.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Skeptic's Circle

The 66th edition of The Skeptic's Circle is up at the Denialism Blog. Check it out.


Discovery's Chapman Backs Iraq War

It's finally happened. The creationists, of the intelligent design variety, have finally, conclusively demonstrated that whatever grip they may once have had on reality has finally slipped away.

I know. I know. Many of you are asking what I'm talking about. What grip on reality? How can anyone who:

ever have been thought to have even the most tenuous grip on reality?

How, you are asking, could the motley rabble of HIV, Holocaust, and global warming deniers who populate the the intelligent design advocacy movement possibly separate themselves from the ranks of the sane more than they already have.

Only by coming out, as Discovery's Bruce Chapman now has, for continuing the war in Iraq.

Rest assured, Chapman hasn't volunteered to serve in Iraq himself. None of the chicken hawks is that crazy. But he does say, in a Seattle Times opinion piece, that "[w]ithdrawal now is really a euphemism for surrender." Those who recommend getting out of Iraq, Chapman suggests, are doing the terrorists work for them.

Even Chapman, reality-challenged as he is, can't quite bring himself to recall Dubbya's WMD as the reason for the invasion, but he's all over the Al Quaida angle. And, as you might expect, you'll hear precious little about the civil war raging between Shiitte and Sunni and nothing at all about what our soldiers might do to stop it.

As the the intelligent design project has foundered in the wake of the Dover ruling, the Discovery institute and intelligent design advocates such as William Dembski have adopted a series of political positions, such as opposition to addressing the issue of global warming, that reveal their movement for what it is.

The old notion that ID was a movement of dissident scientists and intellectuals has been abandoned by the ID theorists themselves as they abandon the center they once sought to win and bind themselves tighter to their far-right, fundamentalist religious base.

ID advocates' late embrace of the Iraq war, now that the vast majority of the American people have made it plain they're unwilling to sacrifice more young soldiers simply to save the president from admitting that he was wrong, is at once an undeniable demonstration of the political nature of the ID movement and a sign of just how narrow the base of support for the war has become.


Turning Up the Heat

Saturday, we were in the Twin Cities, where the temperature barely broke 60 degrees. The Red State Rabbles, on our way home from northern Minnesota, were sadly contemplating the end of our vacation "Up North." A week on the lake listening to the loons instead of arguing with them on RSR.

Yesterday we drove the rest of the way home to Kansas City, where the thermometer read 98 degrees and the humidity was, well, what can I say, it's August in Kansas City.

It's hot as Hell here, and over the next couple of days, a relaxed and refreshed Red State Rabble will be turning up the heat on creationism in all its forms.

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