Friday, March 31, 2006


Correction: Prayers Do Have an Impact

This morning we linked to a study of more than 1,800 patients who underwent heart bypass surgery that failed to show prayers specially organized for their recovery had any impact.

Now, as a good blogger must, we're back to report that we got it wrong. The prayers did have an impact:
... patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.

Sometimes it's even worse than we think.


A Report From the Trenches

Here's what high school science teachers are facing. From the LA Times:

Two decades of political and legal maneuvering on evolution has spilled over into public schools, and biology teachers are struggling to respond. Loyal to the accounts they've learned in church, students are taking it upon themselves to wedge creationism into the classroom, sometimes with snide comments but also with sophisticated questions — and a fervent faith.

As sophomore Daniel Read put it: "I'm going to say as much about God as I can in
school, even if the teachers can't."

Such challenges have become so disruptive that some teachers dread the annual unit on evolution — or skip it altogether.

Times staff writer Stephanie Simon reports from a classroom in Liberty, Mo. on the reaction by students to veteran biology teacher Al Frisby as he presents the unit on evolution. Simon reports that at least half the students in his class don't believe what Frisby tells them.

What ever happened to the idea that kids went to school to learn?


Cherished Assumptions

When you compare this:
"If you see the Earth as just a humdrum planet among stars circling in a vast universe, then we're not significant, we're just part of a crowd," says Robert Sungenis, author of Galileo Was Wrong. "But if you believe everything revolves around Earth, it gives another picture - of purpose, a meaning of life."

To this:
Is Earth merely an insignificant speck in a vast and meaningless universe? On the contrary. The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery shows that this cherished assumption of materialism is dead wrong. Earth is a lot more significant than virtually anyone has realized. Contrary to the scientific orthodoxy, it is not an average planet around an ordinary star in an unremarkable part of the Milky Way.
You begin to ask, what is the difference, really, between geocentrism and intelligent design?


The (Imaginary) War on Christians

Rick Scarborough, president of Vision American, says the war on Christians is real, really, really, real. In a letter published yesterday in USAToday, Scarborough offers an number of examples, including this:

... in October 2004, a group of Christians was arrested in Philadelphia for peacefully witnessing at a city-sponsored gay pride event. The City of Brotherly Love tried to prosecute the group for a number of felonies for which they could have served years in prison if convicted.

Peacefully witnessing? You be the judge. Here's an excerpt from report on the incident from

... the "crime" the eleven were arrested for had nothing to do with Bible reading but everything to do with being disruptive of the peaceable assembly of others to the point that it looked like they were attempting to incite a riot.
Those who follow the link to will learn that this incident has been misrepresented by the radical religious right for years. According to police, the protesters acted in a disorderly manner at the gay pride event, blocked a public street, and disobeyed police orders.

So, if you deny "Christians" the right to harass gays -- which they see as a God-given -- you are waging war on Christians. Next thing you know, you won't be able to beat up gays when the urge strikes. What's this country coming to?


On a Wing and a Prayer

Reuters - "A study of more than 1,800 patients who underwent heart bypass surgery has failed to show that prayers specially organized for their recovery had any impact, researchers said on Thursday."


Stalking the Wily Pterodactyl

John Pendleton, a Christian missionary and self-titled creation scientist, heads an organization called the International Group of Creation Scientists. He believes that the Earth is about 6,000 years old and that human and dinosaurs roamed it together. He holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin which he offers as proof of his scientific credentials.

His goal to capture a live pterodactyl, which he believes can be found in Mexico, according to Melissa Ludwig a reporter from the San Antonio News Express.

He debated Jim Bower, a computational biology professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio before a crowd of 1,300 students and churchgoers in the the campus convocation center last night.


Report of Evolution's Death Greatly Exaggerated

"Evolutionary Biology Research Techniques Predict Cancer," reports Science Daily. Apparently, these scientists are unaware that the Discovery Institute has declared evolution a spectacular failure and pronounced it dead... daily for the last ten years.

"Simply put, we took ecology measures of species diversity and translated them into measures of cell diversity within tumors," says Carlo Maley, Ph.D., a researcher at The Wistar Institute. The reserchers found a striking correlation between increased diversity of tumor cells and progression to cancer. For every additional cell variety detected in a tumor, the patient was twice as likely to progress to cancer.


Oscillating Controversy

Edward Larson, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Summer for the Gods, a book about the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, told David L. Hudson Jr., a research attorney at the First Amendment Center, that "the future of the [intelligent design] controversy could depend on the outcome of the Selman case, which is currently before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals."

“'The Selman case is definitely worth watching, and also what happens in Kansas with the teaching standards,' Larson said."

"'These latest cases show that the controversy is not likely to die down and can resurface at any time,' he said. 'The controversy has tapped into a cultural divide. It is an oscillating controversy,' he added, referring to its cyclical nature. 'If history is any guide, then we’re in for heavy weather again.'”

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Spare Them Not

One of our readers has commented, anonymously, that, "... knowledge has increased, and mankind remains more ethically backward than ever. What was once unthinkable is now accepted, and scientists who build the weapons that could destroy us all are praised as heroes. Progress?"

Supporters of creationism and intelligent design often assert that modern science, particularly Darwin's theory of evolution, is responsible for all the ills of Western Civilization.

Is it really true, as anonymous asserts, that what was once unthinkable is now accepted. Perhaps the Bible's 1 Samuel 15:1-3 can help us shed some light on the question:

15:1 Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.

15:2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

In citing this Bible passage, RSR does not assert that the LORD's command to Saul that he "spare them not" demonstrates that Christianity, rather than science, is the root of the problem. Rather we suggest that many of the problems we face today are of long standing, and the causes a bit more complicated than our brothers and sisters in the creationism and intelligent design camps would like to admit.

By the way, we can't help noting that Saul was a practical man. He had no problem slaying both man and woman, infant and suckling. In the end, however, he couldn't quite bring himself to do the same to the livestock, which after all, were valuable.

Saul also got on the LORD's bad side by erecting a few statues of himself to commemorate his victories.


The Return of Geocentrism

RSR reader P. Edward Murray, a Catholic graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati and an amateur astronomer, was so moved by our post about Robert Sungenis, the man who has written a book proving scientifically that Galileo was wrong (about the earth rotating on its axis and orbiting the sun) that he sent him an e-mail to see if he was really serious.

Murray, perhaps knowing RSR's weakness for this sort of thing, has shared Sungenis' response in the form of a passage from his book, Galileo Was Wrong:
Thus, the message of modern man, enshrined as it is in the gospel of Nicolaus Copernicus, has literally, and figuratively, turned the world upside down. Copernicanism is the foundation stone for modern man’s independence from God, a connection that was recognized by none other than the editor of the world’s most prestigious scientific journal. When confronted in the late 1970s with the new model of cosmology invented by the well-known physicist George F. R. Ellis (a cosmology that proposed the Earth was in the center of the universe), Paul C. W. Davies, the editor of Nature, was forced to reply: “His new theory seems quite consistent with our astronomical observations, even though it clashes with the thought that we are godless and making it on our own."

In browsing through the comments on our original post, RSR noticed that many of our readers were dumbfounded that anyone, in this day and age, could seriously believe in geocentrism. Many assumed that Sungenis' website must be a satire.

But, what real difference is there between geocentrism, creationism, and intelligent design? All have their source in biblical literalism -- the unconvincing denials of the ID cult aside. All use the method of forcing round peg observations of the natural world into the square hole of religious belief. All would be acceptable under the re-definition of science proposed by ID proponents such as Michael Behe. Ravings about a supposed conspiracy by scientists to hide THE TRUTH from the public is a staple of the published writing of all three groups.

The Discovery Institute's Wedge Strategy wants to "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." During the Dover intelligent design trial the parents' attorneys displayed papers in which ID proponents said that "science since the Enlightenment is wrong and should be remade or intelligent design will have no chance."

Readers who still doubt the connection between geocentrism, creationism, and intelligent design should ponder the striking similarity of language between the Sungenis passage above and the Wedge Strategy cited in the previous paragraph.

The discoveries of Galileo, Coppernicus and others are among the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment. In their day, the idea that the earth was whirling through space was every bit as shocking to believers as Darwin's theory of evolution was to the faithful in the 19th century.


You've Got Questions, We've Got Answers

The ever helpful Answers In Genesis provides a comforting answer for Christians troubled by the fossil evidence:

Q: Are fossils millions of years old?

A: All over the world we find fossils-these are the buried remains of creatures that are preserved in rocks. Many Christians say that they believe the fossil record must be millions of years old. After all, that's what most scientists are saying. But not all scientists believe this. And, even more importantly, the Bible tells us that death of man and animals did not occur until after the first man, Adam, sinned (Romans 5:12). So there couldn't have been animal or human fossils before sin.

More importantly, the Bible tells us...

Yes, you read it right, the collected mythology of a people who didn't know the existence of the Americas, Australia, or Antarctica, who had neither a telescope nor a microscope, who couldn't build a clock or a bicycle, much less a car or a plane, who believed the sun revolved around the earth, trumps the greatest accomplishments of our species -- the accumulated knowledge of the past 2,000 years.

Funny, we don't find that very comforting...


Age Appropriate

Over at the Florida Citizens for Science blog, Brandon Haught has the lowdown on that state's new Creation Museum and Science Resource Center. The museum, according to Haught, is a product of the fertile imagination of Tom DeRosa, a former science teacher in Broward County who found God in 1978.

DeRosa, it seems, used to be the kind of guy who woke up in the morning fuming about the insidious influence of "secular" museums, then he decided to light a candle rather than curse the darkness, and the Creation Museum was born.

Haught's post reports that the museum seems "benign and sciency," and perhaps more important, it's age appropriate for its expected creationist audience, kind of "like a kindergarten classroom."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Asking Difficult Questions

The Columbia Missourian, which has had consistently good coverage on the intelligent design craze, reports that four term Columbia (Missouri) School Board member Elton Fay has seen more public scrutiny after a remark he made last summer:
“If the teacher is teaching macro evolution as a fact, rather than a theory, then they need to ask them some of the difficult questions that evolutionists cannot answer,” Fay said in the report. “I think those are the questions that kids ought to be taught, that there is no real explanation, other than God.”

Asked about that statement on Marcy 8, Fay reportedly responded:
“God has been around a lot longer than I have been or you have been,” Fay responded. He concluded his answer by saying, “You want to have a very unsuccessful school? Take God out of that school and see where it goes.”

Have we mentioned there's a school board election coming up in Columbia?


Embarrassed for His Species

When skeptic Frederick Crews, the now retired chair of the UC Berkeley English Department, broke with psychoanalysis, "he set out to study various public enthusiasms, from the recovered memory craze, Rorschach tests, and belief in alien abductions to theosophy and 'intelligent design' creationism" reports Jake Fuchs in the Berkeley Daily Planet.

Crews’ latest book, Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays, will be published next week by Shoemaker & Hoard.

"Many of my fellow skeptics are Utopians who look forward to a heaven-on-earth from which all illusions have been banished," says Crews. "My hunch, on the contrary, is that we’re heading into a world of economic and demographic dislocations, strife over dwindling natural resources, increased superstition and sectarian conflict, and vulnerability to horrendous catastrophes, some of which will be our own fault. I’m embarrassed for my species, which has made a great mess but can’t seem to take responsibility for the enormous destruction that’s already well under way. But while I’m still here, I’d like to continue to speak up for values that I regard as universally human and 'planetary.'”

Red State Rabble has been a long-time fan of Crews' writing which we've followed in the New York Review of Books for many years. Crew's is an example of how squishy humanities types can -- and we think, must -- work with scientists to oppose superstition.


Take Back Kansas Rally Scheduled for Hays

On Wednesday, April 19th, the Kansas Alliance for Education will sponsor a 7:00 pm rally "Take Back Kansas: How We Can Move Kansas Back to the Middle, and Why It Matters," at the Hays High School Lecture Hall.
The rally is also sponsored by Kansas Families United for Public Education, and MAINstream Coalition.


Missouri Candidates Quizzed on ID

Columbia, the home of the University of Missouri, is having a school board election. Two candidates, Steve Calloway and Michael Tan, were quizzed about their views on intelligent design at a candidate forum held Monday night at St. Luke United Methodist Church.

Both candidates said they believe intelligent design "has not been adequately researched and tested enough to be considered a valid enough theory to be included as part of the district’s science curriculum," according to the Columbia Missourian.

“Intelligent design is synonymous with creationism, and is a disguise for teaching a biblical explanation for how the universe is created,” Calloway said.


No Thanks, I'm Trying to Quit

Biologist and nationally known evolution advocate Kenneth Miller says that when he spoke to science teachers from across the country recently, he found that 35 percent say they skip over the chapter on evolution to avoid the hassle from angry parents.


Maryland Bills Would Permit Teaching ID

"Fundamentalist Christians who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible have every right to their beliefs — but they do not have the right to force their views into public schools, where they will be foisted upon kids who don’t hold the same religious views," writes Ben McIlwain an astronomy major at the University of Maryland. "Religious instruction should remain in churches and secular private schools and should not interfere with the teaching of real science in public schools and universities. When we allow religion to pre-empt science we all lose."

Why are people in Maryland concerned about an issue that, until now, only affected people in places like Kansas, Ohio, and Pensylvania, okay and Georgia, and, oh yeah, California and Michigan?

"Last month," reports McIlwain, "two bills were introduced in the Maryland General Assembly attacking the teaching of evolution and other scientific theories in public schools and universities... and permitting the teaching of Intelligent Design Creationism."



Hearts and Minds

Karl Giberson, editor of Science & Theology News, says that Dover, like Scopes and other big legal battles between science and creationism, "give the impression that important battles are being won and lost, they are really nothing more than highly visible skirmishes while the real battle — the one for hearts and minds, not stickers and textbooks — continues unabated."


E.O. Wilson: The Creation

Reportedly, E.O. Wilson's new book, The Creation, due out in September will "call for an alliance between science and religion to save 'the creation'—biodiversity—which is going down the tubes rapidly."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Bible Proves Galileo Wrong, Earth is Center of Universe

Robert Sungenis has just completed a 1,000-page book titled, Galileo Was Wrong.

All that nonsense about the earth rotating around the sun... It's wrong. You see, the entire universe revolves around us. The Bible says so.

Just as Behe, Dembski, Wells, Meyer and the rest have their own website, Sungenis has his own website-- Catholic Apologetics International -- that once offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could disprove geocentrism and prove instead that the earth orbits the sun instead of the other way around. (Nobody could.)

You may think Sungenis is some sort of religious nut, but -- again, just like the intelligent design theorists who doubt Darwin -- he has an advanced degree and a background in science. According to the Sun Herald:
Sungenis' background is in both theology and science. He said he was a physics major at George Washington University but received his bachelor's degree in religious studies from GW, and a master's in the same from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. His religious studies doctorate came this year from Calamus International University, which identifies itself on its Web site as a "nontraditional institution."
Nontraditional? Not surprising.

Where's the proof? Well, here's the explanation geocentrism theorist Marshall Hall -- he's been researching it since 1980 -- has posted on his website (Yeah, he's got one too) You can learn all about Copernican and Darwinian Myths there:
You want to travel from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco. If the Earth is turning, why not just hover in a helicopter? Wait a few hours above the East Coast and eventually the West Coast will be underneath you.
Want more proof?
The Earth is not rotating...nor is it going around the sun. The universe is not one ten trillionth the size we are told. Today’s cosmology fulfills an anti-Bible religious plan disguised as "science". The whole scheme from Copernicanism to Big Bangism is a factless lie. Those lies have planted the Truth-killing virus of evolutionism in every aspect of man’s "knowledge" about the Universe, the Earth, and Himself.
See how silly it is to believe the Coppernican myth that the earth is rotating?

It's all about the science. Polls show that upwards of 20 percent of the population believe the sun orbits the earth. Can it be long before geocentrism becomes part of the Kansas science curriculum?

The modern, science based geocentric movement, according to Sungenis, is growing "both nationally and internationally."

By the way, Sungenis doesn't like it when people classify geocentrists with Flat Earthers. "We don't believe that at all," he says.

RSR is very impressed with the science backing up geocentrism, but we have some advice for movement activists. We think Sungenis made big mistake by not naming his book Galileo's Black Box. Also, you've got to drop the Bible and Catholic Apologetics stuff. Try something more appealing, say, The Center for Science and Civilization.

You've got to start talking about how heliocentrism is destroying traditional moral values in the West, too. Oh yeah, drop the stuff about teaching geocentrism. You've got to start talking about teaching the controversy over heliocentrism -- even better -- teaching the scientific criticisms of heliocentrism. It's all about critical thinking, see?

And don't forget to hammer home the fact that heliocentrism has become a religious dogma, and that many geocentrists in the universities are afraid to speak out because of the repressive climate in academe.


ID's War on Christians

We often hear creationist and intelligent design spin doctors bemoan what they describe as a war against Christians waged by sinister secular forces.

But what about this unprovoked attack on Unitarians from intelligent design blogger DaveScot, who writes on William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog:

Jack Krebs is crowing about a class on Darwinian dogma put on in conjunction with the Unitarian Universalist “Church”. He plans on preaching to the choir...

You can believe anything or nothing in this so-called “church”. What a coup for Jack Krebs and Kansas Citizens for Science to have the backing of a local UUC congregation. We should start worrying now I guess...

DaveScot's disdain for members of the Unitarian Church reveals the dark underbelly of the radical religious right and its creationist and intelligent design projects.

They'll let you know who the real Christians are.

They're so sensitive to slights against their own beliefs, but when it comes to others, anything goes.

It gets better in the comments:

If people like DaveScot were in charge, do you imagine they would grant the respect they demand for themselves to other "so-called Churches?" Forget about respect, how about the freedom to practice their beliefs?


Jack Wempe to Challenge Willard

Democrat Jack Wempe, former chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, legislator, and school superintendent has announced he will run for the Kansas Board of Education seat now held by Ken Willard, an ultra-right Republican who represents District 7 in 20 south central Kansas.

Wempe says he's “disappointed” by the state board’s push to de- emphasize the teaching of evolution.

Right-wingers on the State Board of Education who are up for re-election this year-- Ken Willard, John Bacon, and Connie Morris -- now face opponents in both the primary and general elections.

Read more here.


Blasphemy at Discovery Institute

Red State Rabble reveres the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That's why we are so deeply disturbed by the blasphemous attitude displayed by non-believers such as Robert Crowther of the Discovery Institute.

"It's too bad that they'll get attention for this sort of drivel when we have a robust scientific research program that the media doesn't seem to want to write much about," Discovery Institute spokesman Robert Crowther said of the noodly appendage in an e-mail interview with USAToday.

Being perhaps a bit over-tolerant, RSR is willing to overlook Crowther's impiety, but we urge him to reflect on the possibility that any media attention redirected from the Flying Spaghetti Monster to the DI's "robust scientific research program" might have the unintended effect of exposing it for the sham it is.

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a bargain at $13.95, comes out this week. Now that we pastafarians have our own bible, we'd like equal time in the public schools. Let's really teach the controversy. Can I get a Ramen? (Amazon/BN)


Dazzle Them With Science

WorldNetDaily, RSR's own personal go-to source for news of the weird, displays the charming feature of publishing writers who don't, apparently, bother to read their own words before rushing them into print. Want an example? Of course you do.

Here's Lynn Barton writing on why intelligent design is purely science-driven enterprise:
First, what I.D. theory is not: It is not creationism. Full disclosure here: I am a creationist. As a Christian, I believe God is the author of life. But I.D. theory is a science-driven enterprise. It is not a deduction from Scripture but an inference from observation. It says that the intricate design found in living things and in the universe itself is best explained by an intelligent cause.
So, why would a self-confessed creationist be at all interested in the "science" of intelligent design? Barton tells us that ID gives hope for the future:
Perhaps closest to Christian hearts, I.D. theory will help our children develop a thoroughly Christian worldview.

Not to mention the added benefit of putting homosexuals in their place:
But intelligent design is on the move, and this is a great gift to everyone, especially Christians...

For example, conservatives and Christians are having a difficult time making the case against homosexual marriage. Thousands of years of exclusively heterosexual marriage mean nothing to those with a Darwinist worldview. Why, they are far more evolved than those benighted cultures in the misty past. To them, tradition is oppressive; destroying it is progress. Why shouldn't people be able to "love" whomever they want? How will it hurt your marriage?

How indeed.


Georgia: The Tyranny of the Majority

Of Pandas and People, the intelligent design textbook, is so five minutes ago. The Georgia legislature is set to require the Department of Education there to teach the history and literature of the Bible.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Bible bill "has overwhelmingly passed both chambers, but needs a final vote on a minor House change. The vote is expected as early as Monday. If it passes, the state's Department of Education has a year to establish Bible elective courses in the curriculum.

"The Bible is already being used as a course study in as many as 1,000 American high schools, according to the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools in Greensboro, N.C. The US Supreme Court allows it as long as it's presented objectively, and not taught as fact. But the Georgia legislature's unprecedented decision to wade into what is usually a school district initiative has created concerns."

Monday, March 27, 2006


Deborah Owens Fink, Then and Now

In an interview published today in the Akron Beacon Journal, Deborah Owens Fink, an associate professor of marketing at Akron State University and the member of the Ohio State School Board who has pushed hardest for intelligent design, says:

"My goal has always been and will continue to be to focus on allowing students to openly discuss the strengths and weaknesses of evolution and not censor that in the classroom... "

Later in the interview, in response to a question about Dover, Owens Fink says:

"... Dover mandated intelligent design, Ohio does not. No place in the Ohio
lesson is intelligent design or any religious reference made... the Dover board
sent a letter to districts residents denigrating evolution and advocating
intelligent design. Ohio did no such thing."

Owens Fink has not always sung from "teach the controversy" hymnbook though. According to Charu Gupta of the Free Times:


Thank God for Dawkins?

If you've been following the Dennett-Ruse imbroglio like we have, you might want to take a look at an article in The Guardian by Madeleine Bunting, "Why the intelligent design lobby thanks God for Richard Dawkins." Bunting makes the case that anti-religious Darwinists, such as Dennett and Dawkins, are promulgating a false dichotomy between faith and science that gives succour to creationists.

Bunting writes that "the nub of Ruse's argument is that Darwinism does not lead ineluctably to atheism, and to claim that it does (as Dawkins does) provides the intelligent-design lobby with a legal loophole: 'If Darwinism equals atheism then it can't be taught in US schools because of the constitutional separation of church and state. It gives the creationists a legal case. Dawkins and Dennett are handing these people a major tool.'"

Interesting reading.


Last Refuge

Samuel Johnson, the great English writer, once observed that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Johnson's wise aphorism, which until now has stood up quite well to the test of time, may now, at last, need to be revised.

In this, the age of public piety and corruption on a grand scale, it may now be more accurate to say that fundamentalist Christianity has become the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Consider Katherine Harris, the Florida Secretary of State who helped George Bush steal the 2000 presidential election. Following that election, Harris was rewarded with buckets of Republican money which helped her win election to Congress. Now, she is running for the Senate.

Harris' campaign ran into trouble lately when defense contractor Mitchell J. Wade admitted that he illegally influenced Defense Department contracting officials and bribed Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, since sentenced to eight years four months in prison, with $1 million in cash, a Rolls Royce, a boat, and an antique Louis Phillipe period commode, among other gifts.

Wade has now plead guilty to four criminal charges stemming from his role in the Cunningham probe. He admits giving Harris illegal campaign contributions.

Although Harris has been urged to withdraw from the senate race, she's so far refused.

According to yesterday's St. Petersburg Times, Harris' "rocky Senate campaign" is taking an "increasingly evangelical Christian bent."

Friends and advisers say Harris has been deeply religious all her life, but religion recently has become a central part of her campaign. Campaign staffers warily describe Harris as leading a "Christian crusade."

"It was always part of the background, but it was never an integral part of the campaign. It never engulfed her," said former campaign manager Jim Dornan, who quit the campaign in November but keeps in touch with staffers. "She's grasping for a pillar she thinks this campaign can be raised on."

... Harris has been aggressively campaigning for support among religious conservatives, hitting large churches and headlining a "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference in Broward County last weekend. She told hundreds of attendees she was "doing God's work" with her campaign.


Buckinham Spills the Beans: Discovery Encouraged Dover Board

Bill Buckingham, the creationist Dover school board member who quit the board and moved to North Carolina just before the trial, is back in town, and he's talking.

Spotted at the lecture given by creationist Kent Hovind last week, Buckingham talked about about the trial, the legal strategy pursued by the Thomas More Law Center, and the behind-the-scenes role played by the Discovery Institute.

Buckingham is bitter about being painted as an Oxycontin addict by defense attorney's from the Thomas More Law Center.

In ruling on the Dover case, Judge John Jones said it was “ironic” that individuals who “proudly touted their religious convictions in public” would “lie” under oath. Shortly after the decision, U.S. Middle District Attorney Thomas A. Marino announced that he would investigate charges that Buckingham and fellow school board member Alan Bonsell lied under oath at the trial.

Buckingham still denies talking about creationism at public school board meetings -- although those remarks were reported by two separate reporters from two different newspapers. He calls those reporters liars, but has a harder time denying similar remarks caught on video tape by Fox News.

"We never got a fair shake," he says.

What's really interesting though, is what Buckingham now has to say about the role of the Discovery Institute in L'Affair Dover.

RSR readers will remember that not long before the case went to trial, the Discovery Institute backed away from the the Dover school board intelligent design policy calling it "incoherent" and "misguided." They now maintain that they opposed the policy from the beginning:
"When we first read about the Dover policy, we publicly criticized it because according to published reports the intent was to mandate the teaching of intelligent design,” explained West. “Although we think discussion of intelligent design should not be prohibited, we don't think intelligent design should be required in public schools.
That's not, however, what Buckingham says.

Here's what he told the York Daily Record in an article published yesterday:

At one point - he doesn't remember when - he was contacted by Seth Cooper, an attorney with the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute.

While the Discovery Institute's opposition to Dover's curriculum policy has been widely reported, Buckingham said at first Cooper was enthusiastic and supportive. Cooper offered to send him materials about intelligent design.

"He'd call me to see if we were going to go forward," Buckingham said.

But gradually, as the publicity continued, the attorney began to suggest that the board should not move forward on the curriculum change because it could lead to a lawsuit.

"He was afraid we were going to lose the case," Buckingham said. "And he thought, if we did lose the case, it was going to set intelligent design back for years.

"He just didn't think we were the proper people to be pushing this at this time," Buckingham said.

The day after the school board voted in October 2004 to include intelligent design in its biology curriculum, Discovery Institute posted a news release saying it didn't support the school board.

Discovery now says it never believed, nor advocated, teaching ID in public schools. Notice also, that Discovery suggests that it was not in contact with the Dover board -- it criticized the board's intelligent design policy immediately after reading "published reports." It also says now, rather unconvincingly, that the Dover decision wasn't a big setback. It's just a decision by an activist judge, likely to be overturned, that applies only to Pennsylvania. But, that's not what they told Buckingham way back when.

Should we take what Discovery says now at face value? Perhaps, if we number ourselves among those patriots who believe Ann Coulter knows what's best for the institution of marriage. Certainly, if we are among that small band of loyal Americans who totally understand that Tinky Winky and SpongeBob SquarePants are part of the liberal plot to lure kids into the gay lifestyle.

RSR will grant that Bill Buckingham may not be the most reliable witness in the world, but he's in a position to know, what he says fits the facts as we know them, and it has the ring of truth. What we see here is the ID equivalent of a falling out among thieves.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


The Tired Old Cupboard of Biblical Literalism

Ecclesiastes once said there is nothing new under the sun, and that, apparently, applies to the intelligent design theorists, as well. Those on the religious right, the ones pushing intelligent design "theory" -- among other snake-oil cures for what ails us -- often claim they are doing something utterly new and unrelated to biblical literalism's problematic past.

That's why its so interesting to look back at how this issue was viewed in the past.

In a recent column Joe Blackstock, writing from Southern California, in the Daily Bulletin, took a look back at what local ministers had to say about the Scopes "Monkey" Trial some 81 years ago.

ID proponents, it appears, have taken a page from a sermon delivered by Dr. F.F. Abbott, in a speech to the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Ontario, California in 1925. Blackstock reports that Abbott, like our latter day theorists, "maintained evolution was an unproven theory that some had elevated into a type of religion."

Other ministers, atheists no doubt, took a different view. Here's what Dr. Charles F. Seitter of Ontario's First Methodist Church said in a sermon reprinted by the Ontario Daily Report on July 29, 1925

"If God created man evolution then that was His way of working," said Seitter. "It is a question of method, and God had a right to choose the method that best suited his purpose."

Seitter suggested embracing evolution didn't mean one rejected the stories and lessons of the Bible.

"It is not necessary or wise or intelligent to drop your faith when you become an evolutionist. If you get it right it will give you a nobler conception of God."

The debate then was the same as the debate now, the arguments are identical, the only thing new is that intelligent design has tried to cover the tired old cupboard of biblical literalism with a thin veneer of pseudoscience.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Threats of Violence Against Dover Judge Prompt US Marshalls Office to Provide Protection

In the weeks after Judge John Jones issued his ruling that teaching intelligent design in Pennsylvania public schools is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state, proponents of creationism and intelligent design bombarded his office with threatening e-mails.

The nature of the threats made in many of those e-mails concerned the U.S. Marshalls Office enough that in the week before Christmas, marshals were assigned to watch over Jones and his family, according to the York Daily Record.

Jones spoke out publicly about threats made against him and his family, after death threats were made against of Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O'Connor, and John Paul Stevens. Jones said:

"There is an element here that is acting like it is open season on judges," Jones said.

"It saddens me that it's come to the point, where we're talking about what ought to be an honest disagreement, then you heighten it to something that is darker and much more disturbing."

After Jones issued his decision, the Discovery Institute dubbed him "an activist judge." The intelligent design think-tank just published a book Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision in a further attempt to use right-wing code words to brand Jones as an activist judge, and his decision as illegitimate.

How long will it be before the intemperate language employed by the Discovery Institute and other right-wing zealots succeeds in producing the creationist or intelligent design movement's very own Eric Rudolph or Timothy McVeigh?

The York Daily Record article, a must read, in our opinion, is here. A New York Times report from Sunday of a speech by Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the death threats can be found here.



Red State Rabble, being somewhat frail and elderly -- having once expected not to live to 30, we now find ourselves pushing nearly twice that -- we go early to bed, because we are early to rise.

Because we retire early, we have to Tivo the Daily Show and watch it the following day. So, it wasn't until last night that we watched the now famous video of President Bush being asked whether or not a belief in a coming Armageddon led to his decision to invade Iraq.

Like other residents of the reality based universe, we were highly amused by the president's bumbling avoidance of answering the question. Then we began thinking about what Bush's embarrassment revealed.

Like many others, we always thought it impolite to discuss religion, which we were brought up to think of as a private matter, in public. Until recently, it would have never crossed our minds to criticize the religious beliefs of others, no matter how bizarre we found them.

That all changed for us when fundamentalists took their religious beliefs out of the churches and thrust them into the political arena in order to write them into our laws.

The fact is, fundamentalists have counted on our discomfort at challenging their beliefs in public. And, in a cold, calculating sort of way, they've used that discomfort to advance their narrow political agenda.

Phillip Johnson, the father of intelligent design, has said quite openly that the movement's strategy has been to change the subject, or to:
Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters. That means concentrating on, "Do you need a Creator to do the creating, or can nature do it on its own?" and refusing to get sidetracked onto other issues, which people are always trying to do."

Many well-intentioned scientists and educators have fallen into this trap by trying to defend science without pushing creationists and intelligent design propagandists to defend the bizarre ideas that lie hidden behind their "teach the controversy" and "critical analysis" rhetoric.

As Kevin Phillip, the author of American Theocracy, points out, rapture, end-times, and Armageddon "are difficult for politicians to acknowledge—and they are especially tricky to discuss publicly."

Bush's discomfort at answering the Armageddon question in Cleveland shows just how tricky it can be. That's why the defense of science education and separation of church and state demands that we relentlessly point the spotlight at the beliefs the radical religious right wishes to keep out of sight.

Rapture, end times, and Armageddon are the crazy aunt creationists and intelligent design proponents have hidden in the attic. It's time to set her free.


Lancaster Adopts ID Inspired Criticisms of Evolution

An RSR reader whose children are in the Lancaster School District in California writes to say, "I normally do not get involved with politics but this situation is different because my children are involved."

Lancaster, as has already been widely reported elsewhere, recently voted to offer an intelligent design inspired philosophy of science class that encourages students to question the theory of evolution. The class is not so intelligently designed to encourage science teachers to insert pseudoscientific critiques of the long-standing and widely accepted scientific theory into the curriculum.

As has been the case since the Dover setback, the religious motivations of those involved have been deeply hidden behind a veil of scientific rhetoric. This is not creationism in a cheap tuxedo. This is creationism outfitted in Harry Potter's invisibility cloak.

To give you an idea of just how hidden, consider this: Alex Branning, a 22-year-old entrepreneur who owns a Web design and marketing firm who proposed the policy says, ""We owe it to our students to give them a world-class science education that prepares them as scientifically literate citizens and members of the work force in the 21st century. Our proposed policy is designed to do just that."

Read a rundown of the whole mess here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Kansas: The Next Battlefield

In baseball, you get three strikes and then you have to sit down. That's not true, however, for the right-wing majority of the Kansas School Board. They've swung and missed three times now, and instead of taking the bench, they're still standing wild-eyed at the plate swinging at anything that comes in range.

The first strike came last October when the board appointed anti-tax activist Bob Corkins, a man with no schools experience, as the state's Education Commissioner.

To John Vratil, a Leawood Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee the Corkins' appointment seemed "sort of like making Saddam Hussein president of the United States."

The following month, they swung again, and missed by a country mile, when they voted to re-define science in order to open the door to the supernatural.

At the science curriculum hearings in May, board chair Steve Abrams said it was all about "empirical science — what is observable, measurable, testable, repeatable and falsifiable.”

But, then he gave the game away telling a church group, “At some point in time, if you compare evolution and the Bible, you have to decide which one you believe,” Abrams said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Last week, the board wiffed again. The wingnut majority made it harder for Kansas students to get objective information about preventing pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease by approving a policy that parents must request in writing that their children attend sex education classes.

Even that was not enough for Kathy Martin, the board's own Madame Defarge, who hinted darkly that we "need to send the correct message." She proposed that schools lose state accreditation if they don't offer at least nine weeks instruction on "abstinence until marriage" between sixth and ninth grade.

There are fresh indications, however, that before the board takes on an abstinence only curriculum, it will turn its attention to the problem of pornography in the Blue Valley school district.

This is of particular interest to Red State Rabble, because both of our daughters attend school in the Blue Valley district, which for years has been ranked one of the best in the nation.

At last week's board meeting, right-winger John Bacon allowed as how he’d read some of the books on the Blue Valley reading list, which includes “Beloved” by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison and “Black Boy” by Richard Wright.

“I’m thinking, ‘Who in their right mind would want to force this on a child?’” Bacon said. “To me, it screams sexual harassment. ... I think it’s important that we at least try to see if we can get some more information.”

We'd already had a preview of this coming attraction a couple of months back when Abrams accused the Blue Valley district of “promulgating pornography as ”literature.”

There are other ominious sign of what lies ahead, as well. An article by April Shenandoah in the lunatic fringe publication, Sierra Times, titled "Communist Rules for Revolution in America Include X-rated Education" shows that the right is beginning to mobilize far-right opinion in advance of the impending battle against the Blue Valley reading list – a battle that until now, they’ve lost repeatedly within the district.

Picking up the know-nothing drumbeat, an article on the WorldNetDaily website by Ron Strom titled, " X-rated 'Children's' Books Outrage Students' Parents," claims that the Blue Valley reading list features "books, some of them required reading, that include sexual issues and obscenity many believe are inappropriate for school children."

When you read the distorted right-wing version, which claims that outraged parents have organized to protest the inclusion of obscene books on children's assigned reading lists in the Blue Valley School District there are certain things, things called facts, that you will not learn.

You will not learn, for example, that Janet Harmon the leader of the protests has home-schooled five of her children. Only one of whom attends public schools.

You will not learn that most of those involved in the protests against the Blue Valley reading list are not, in fact, parents, but members of Harmon's church, where she circulated a petition.

For years, educators have been concerned about the under-representation of black and women writers on secondary and post-secondary reading lists. A disproportionate number of the books opposed by these parents are by black and women writers – a fact that lead to protests from the NAACP and the ACLU.

You will not learn from the decency police that the books in question have been defended at countless board meetings by parents, student, teachers, and administrators who consistently outnumber the censors. In fact, a group of Blue Valley students has been active in defending the district's reading list.

Right-wing opponents, authoritarian to the core, respond that students should have no voice at all in district policies.

You will not be told that in the last election all but one of the candidates who ran on a platform of banning these award-winning books were defeated by moderates.

You will also be prevented from learning that the district has a review policy that includes parents, students, teachers, and administrators in the selection of books on the reading list. Harmon and other parents opposed to the reading list have been involved in this process and failed to convince others of their position.

You will not be told that many of these books are for students who are enrolled in advanced placement courses – that is, college level courses.

You will not be able to learn that there is an opt-out policy for parents who want their children to read something else.

None of this will matter of course, as the right-wing fanatics who control the board swing wildly away breaking every piece of china within their reach.

We all like to think we can reason with anyone, but experience has shown there’s no reasoning with these people. The only answer is to vote them out next November.


Arkansas: Avoiding the Controversy

The Arkansas science curriculum calls for students to examine "the development of the theory of biological evolution,” and then specifies seven ways that’s supposed to happen. For eighth-grade science, the framework calls for students to “compare the theory of evolution to the characteristics of a scientific theory,” “identify basic ideas related to biological evolution,” “explain that the fossil record provides evidence of life forms’ appearance, diversification and extinction,” and “explain the process of natural selection.”

So, why isn't it happening? Read more here.


Unfortunate or Lazy

An editorial in the Tahlequah Daily Press asks if Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern can read.
Either literacy is a problem for her, or she has simply chosen to ignore the ruling handed down by a U.S. district judge appointed by George W. Bush.Late last year, Judge John E. Jones barred a Pennsylvania public school district from imposing an “intelligent design” curriculum in biology classes. Based on the evidence, Jones determined that school board members in the Dover district were trying to slip creationism in through the back door, and further, that a couple of the so-called “Christian” board members intent on imposing their own beliefs upon students had also lied under oath.

Promoting her particular brand of religion in the classroom seems to be on the agenda of Kern, a Republican member of the Oklahoma House representing a segment of Oklahoma City residents who are either unfortunate or lazy.



Ben Currier, a student in the Cobb County, Georgia school district where evolution disclaimer stickers were placed inside the front cover of Biology textbooks, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that, "Cobb schools have become an embarrassment in a state that is already an embarrassment nationally, based on test scores. It is disheartening that we are the laughingstock of the laughingstock.

"Cobb County is one of the best testing counties in the state, yet the debate over these stickers makes us seem so unintelligent. By high school, students know that evolution may or may not be true...

"When students look to our school board, we think, "Is this really the best we can do?" Overall, I am ashamed of being a Cobb County student."


Rothschild, Dennett at Duke

Eric Rothschild, the co-lead attorney for plaintiffs in the first-ever lawsuit challenging the teaching of “intelligent design,” will speak at Duke University March 30. The talk, titled “Intelligent Design Meets the First Amendment,” begins at 5 p.m. in the Love Auditorium at LevineScienceResearchCenter. It is free and open to the public.

Daniel Dennett, director of the Tufts University’s Center for Cognitive Studies and the author of “Breaking the Spell: Religion as Natural Phenomenon,” “Freedom Evolves” and “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” will be the next speaker in the lecture series. Dennett will speak April 6 about “Darwin, Meaning and Truth.”

More information here.


American Theocracy: Recipe for Disaster

NPR has posted a long excerpt from Kevin Phillips new book American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century in which he argues that argues that the Republican Party -- and the country -- are headed for disaster.

Here's a sample from NPR's excerpt from chapter four, "Radicalized Religion, As American as Apple Pie."
The evangelical, fundamentalist, sectarian, and radical threads of American religion are being proclaimed openly and analyzed widely, even though bluntness is frequently muted by a pseudo-tolerance, the polite reluctance to criticize another's religion. However given the wider thrust of religion's claims on public life, this hesitance falls somewhere between unfortunate and dangerous. Charles Kimball, a North Carolina Baptist and professor of religion, speaks very much to the point: "Although many of us have been taught it is not polite to discuss religion and politics in public, we must quickly unlearn that lesson. Our collective failure to challenge presuppositions, think anew, and openly debate central religious concerns affecting society is a recipe for disaster."
You can also listen to Phillips' interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.


Huge Crowds Extend Darwin Exhibit

AFP: "A monumental Charles Darwin exhibition in New York has been extended by five months amid an overwhelming public response to what was touted as a scholarly rebuke to opponents of teaching evolution in US schools.

"The American Museum of Natural History said Wednesday that nearly 200,000 people had visited "Darwin" since it opened three months ago.

"Originally slated to close at the end of this month, the exhibition will now run through August 20, said museum spokesman Joshua Schnakenberg."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


The Religous Right: Where Are We Headed?

A bit more than a year ago we launched Red State Rabble after the fundamentalist majority on the Kansas Board of Education made plain their intention to use the Trojan horse of intelligent design to write creationism into the state's science curriculum.

One of the very first posts we wrote was about our growing concern over the danger of mixing religion with politics. In that post, we called attention to a speech by Fritz Stern, a refugee from Hitler's Germany and scholar of European history, who's devoted a lifetime to analyzing how the Nazi barbarity became possible.

In his acceptance speech on receiving the Leo Baeck Medal Stern said:

"We who were born at the end of the Weimar Republic and who witnessed the rise of National Socialism—left with that all-consuming, complex question: how could this horror have seized a nation and corrupted so much of Europe?

..."Hitler himself, a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany’s savior, that he was the instrument of Providence, a leader who was charged with executing a divine mission. God had been drafted into national politics before, but Hitler’s success in fusing racial dogma with a Germanic Christianity was an immensely powerful element in his electoral campaigns. Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas."

In the time since we wrote that post, the religious right in this country has demonstrated time and again that the lessons of Germany -- and Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Rawanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Sudan -- are utterly lost on them.

While RSR is deeply concerned about the growing political power of the religious right, we remain convinced that the country's moderate majority has it within its power to prevent the worst from happening -- if we take the threat seriously and organize actively and effectively to counter the threat.

Moreover, we see reason for optimism in the rulings by Judge Cooper in the Cobb County textbook sticker case and Judge Jones in the Dover Intelligent Design case. We see it in the school board election in Dover where voters threw out the entire school board and elected a moderate, pro-science board in their place. In the vote by the Ohio school board to remove intelligent design inspired "critical analysis" language from the curriculum. And in the decision of the El Tejon school board to end a class that proselytized school children for creationism and intelligent design.

Here in Kansas, we are beginning to sense that the ultra-right's dominance of the state school board may come to an end with the November election.

Public figures such as former President Jimmy Carter and former Missouri Senator John Danforth -- both well-known for their religious beliefs -- have written and spoken publicly about the growing danger of mixing religion with politics.

The popularity of President George Bush, who has said that God told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, is at an all-time low. Political professionals expect that the Republican Party, increasingly identified as the party of religious fundamentalists, will pay a political price for the failure to find WMD in Iraq, the steady drift toward civil war in that country, the incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina, the Medicare Drug Plan mess, the Dubai Ports deal, the culture of corruption gripping the party, the outing of Valerie Plame, the... well, you get it.

This week, Kevin Phillips' new book, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century went on sale, and it's being widely discussed all around the blogosphere. Phillips writes that "some 45 percent of American Christians (especially evangelicals and fundamentalists) believe that we are heading for Armageddon. This undoubtedly translates into 50 to 60 percent of Republicans, which helps to explain why so many GOP voters in 2003 favored a 'good versus evil' invasion of Iraq."

Opinion on the book ranges from the pessimistic view expressed by Michelle Goldberg, who writes that the book provides "a historical framework to think about the looming, ambient sense of crisis and breakdown that seems to pervade everything these days. Things in America certainly seem very bad to me, but it can be hard to grapple with the extent of our peril without falling into the secular version of Left Behind apocalypticism."

At the other end of the spectrum, Kevin Drum says that he can't make up his mind "whether Kevin Phillips was a visionary with an important wakeup call or a once-brilliant analyst who had let Bush hatred turn him into an obsessive crank."

Red State Rabble must admit that these are the very questions that have preoccupied us over the past year as we followed the controversy over science education. At various times, and in various moods, we've succumbed to each of these views in turn.

That's why we'd like to open this discussion to our readers. We'd like to know what you think. Is the danger of the religious right overblown or underestimated? Can a minority that believes that Armageddon is just around the corner really take over the largest, most powerful democracy in the world? If the religious right is a danger, what must be done to prevent them from seizing the reins of government. If moderates unite and take action, can we prevent the worst from happening, or is it already too late?

We can't help but think the decisions the American people make in the coming months will be crucial. Our nation has worked diligently to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. Will we now, out of lethargy, turn the world's largest nuclear arsenal over to people who believe that the sight mushroom clouds blooming in the atmosphere above the world's cities is a welcome harbinger of the coming rapture?

Many in Fritz Stern's generation spent their lives pondering how the Nazi horror could have been allowed to happen. Will ours end up doing the same?


Dodos Flock to the Big Apple

"Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus," will be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's the schedule:

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Oklahoma: Where ID Bills Go to Die

Enid News: "The [Oklahoma] House was divided on measures that would authorize the teaching of alternative theories to evolution in public school science classes and allow students to leave school for one hour each week for religious instruction. Both measures passed and were sent to the Senate, where opponents say they expect them to die."


A Victim On Every Corner

Beleaguered Christians will gather next week to discuss every -- and we do mean every --aspect of the "War on Christians," including -- Hollywood, the news media, the courts, the gay agenda, and groups like the ACLU and Anti-Defamation League.

In a bold and surprising move, they will not meet at an undisclosed secure location, but at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Nor will they will not cower before their oppressors by meeting in secret. Instead, they have issued a news release letting all the world know their plans.

Courageous conservative leaders like Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Sen. John Cornyn, Phyllis Schlafly, Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Tom DeLay, will risk the all-consuming wrath of Barbara Streisand and Al Franken, not to mention the wild-eyed radicalism of the Supreme Court, by coming out of hiding to lead "timely and informative panel discussions" at the Vision America War On Christians Conference.

When delegates to the conference aren't trading personal safety tips, they'll attend panel discussions on:


New Mexico: Rio Rancho to Revisit ID Policy

The Rio Rancho Public Schools' science policy will come before the board for a second time on April 10. The board promised to revisit the policy, which opens the door to teaching of creationism and intelligent design, after voting 3-2 on Aug. 23 to approve it.

According to the Rio Rancho Observer, its possible the board will overturn the policy at its next meeting.


Archbishop of Canterbury Opposes Creationism

AFP: The Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, said in an interview that he did not believe creationism -- the Bible-based account of the origins of the world -- should be taught in schools.

"I think creationism is... a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories... if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there has just been a jarring of categories," Dr Rowan Williams told The Guardian newspaper.

"My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it," the most senior clergyman in the Church of England added.


Surrender Baby

"... to abandon the creation account as “unfactual and unreliable, as mere mythology, as a doctored-up copy of the Babylonian creation epic, as totally unacceptable to modern science” is to surrender to Satan."


Bowling for Evolution

The Daily Times Call reports on a talk, “Evolution, Intelligent Design Creationism and Physics,” by Jamie Nagle, an associate professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Nagle said supporters of intelligent design often demean evolution as “just a theory,” but this disregards the scientific process that goes into developing a theory.

He said no one would tell Einstein his Theory of Relativity was “just” a theory.
Science is “more than words,” he said.

To demonstrate his point, Nagle took a bowling ball suspended from the ceiling and held it to his face. He then let the ball fall away and then swing back toward him, flinching ever so slightly as the ball nearly brushed the tip of his nose.

Nagle said he had confidence that the bowling ball would not smack him in the face because of tried and true laws of physics.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Brad Patzer: The Condom on Bananas Conundrum

Last Thursday, when Red State Rabble first broke the story that Republican Brad Patzer, a recently announced State Board of Education candidate from Southeast Kansas, was Iris Van Meter's son-in-law, we said we'd withhold judgement until we heard from him on the issues.

Well, the waiting is over.

Unlike his mother-in-law, who is not seeking re-election, Patzer will not run as a stealth candidate. He will, however, carry on the family tradition of ultra-right lunacy.

In today's Pittsburg Morning Sun (reg. req.), Patzer expresses concern over sex education:
"I like the idea of knowing when somebody is going to be teaching my son or daughter how to put a condom on a banana," Patzer said. "That's something that is a little bit controversial. I think that's something that should be left up to the parents."

Patzer, who very recently moved to Kansas from northern Idaho where he was teaching at the Falls Christian Academy, is excited by the current board's direction and envisions big doings once he's a part of the theocratic majority:
"I'm very interested in what's happening here in Kansas and being a part of the policy changes that are taking place," Patzer said. "I just felt like it was time to go beyond my smaller world and try to make a difference at a little bit bigger level."

Moderate Republican Jana Shaver will face Patzer in the primary. The winner will face Kent Runyan, a Pittsburg State education professor, in the general election.


American Theocracy

Red State Rabble made a special trip to the bookstore Saturday to buy Kevin Phillips new book, American Theocracy, which is getting a lot of play just now. Unfortunately, it won't be on the shelves for about a week.

Phillips, once a political strategist for the Republican Party, is best known for his 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority. In the years since, Phillips has remained an important voice in American political life while moving away from the Republican party.

Since we can't report on the book ourselves, we'll rely, for now, on a couple of reviews that appeared in the New York Times this weekend.

Here's Alan Brinkley:
On the far right is a still obscure but, Phillips says, rapidly growing group of "Christian Reconstructionists" who believe in a "Taliban-like" reversal of women's rights, who describe the separation of church and state as a "myth" and who call openly for a theocratic government shaped by Christian doctrine. A much larger group of Protestants, perhaps as many as a third of the population, claims to believe in the supposed biblical prophecies of an imminent "rapture" — the return of Jesus to the world and the elevation of believers to heaven.

Here's Michiko Kakutani:
Mr. Phillips adds that "the 30 to 40 percent of the electorate caught up in Scripture" has exerted a strong pull on the current White House and the Republican party, driving the country toward what he calls "a national Disenlightenment" in which science — "notably biotechnology, climate studies and straight-talking petroleum geology," which warns of dwindling oil reserves and the need to find oil substitutes — is questioned, even defied.

As Mr. Phillips sees it, "the Southernization of American governance and religion" is "abetting far-reaching ideological change and eroding the separation of powers between church and state," while moving the Republican party toward "a new incarnation as an ecumenical religious party, claiming loyalties from hard-shell Baptists and Mormons, as well as Eastern Rite Catholics and Hasidic Jews," who all define themselves against the common enemy of secular liberalism.


We Believe, Oh Yes We Do

Dr. Alexa Posny, the deputy commissioner at the Kansas State Department of Education, who was passed over for the job of state education commissioner, for anti-tax lobbyist Bob Corkins, has announced she will be leaving to take a job at the U.S. Department of Education.

Dr. Posny said the board's decision to hire Corkins was not a factor in her decision.

And, if you believe that, you probably believe intelligent design has something to do with science, too.


Dodos Redux

On Friday, we ran a report by reader DR on the screening of Randy Olson’s “Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus” at Kansas State University and the panel discussion that followed it. DR was critical of Olson's film, writing that science that will lose if we allow ID proponents to define the turf and make us play by the rules of Madison Avenue or Hollywood.

Today, we're running a response to DR by reader SC. The sections in italics are from DR's report. By the way, we'd like to hear your thoughts on how scientists, educators, and supporters of civil liberties can most effectively communicate our message to the public. Leave a comment or drop us a line to let us know what you think.

"A very well-funded, full-time PR machine, the Democratic Party, lost that fight."

Because they were almost as clueless as the rest of the left and, for this topic, scientists. I already have written a short analysis of the "Swift Boat Ad" brouhaha that clearly illustrates, on a level much more fundamental than I've seen discussed anywhere, how inept the Kerry campaign was about psychomarketing. Really inept.

Press reports have the Democratic party still split 50/50 over whether the next election cycle should be about "framing" or "programs and policies". That's a hopelessly moronic and ignorant debate to be having at this late date, which indicates to me this party is at least a decade behind. I'd bet two decades or more.

"And science will lose it too, if we allow them to define the turf and make us play by the rules of Madison Avenue or Hollywood".

You're completely missing the point. Scientists can't allow or disallow them -- they'll just do it TO science. The point is, HOW to stop them doing that. See the Zimmer post on "Madison Avenue or Hollywood". I don't mince words.

"So we need to be very clear that this is not a consumer product battle. It is a choice between truth and fiction. That may be a consumer choice when buying a book to read on the airplane, but it is not a choice in science."

"Clarity" can only be defined in terms of the arena where the battle is being fought. Scientist can be as clear and steadfast as they want, but if no one is listening, it becomes a form of masturbation. The entire issue is absolutely, 100 percent a "consumer product battle" ROYALE. You miss seeing that because you haven't defined your terms correctly.

1. Electoral control of the nation.

2. Funding control of science -- scientific research, science education [at all levels], academic postions, and the career streams feeding into science. In a choice between political control of the country versus long-term health of U.S. science, the people in control will always pick control. Scientists who don't believe that can happen have been spending way too much time at the bench or in the field.

"This also helps explain the perception that scientists, including the ones in the movie as well as this one, seem angry and defensive. ID is anti-intellectualism, it is well funded, and it is fueled by lies."

Of course its fueled by lies. Off course its anti-intellectualism. Now, turn your attention to national politics. All three branches of the federal government all controlled by a political group that, 40 years ago, was a tiny, ineffectual part of the Republican party. These people also now have control of most of the state governments. Their ENTIRE success is FOUNDED on lies and anti-intellectualism and truckloads of money dispensed over those 40 years.

The real world, which in the U.S. has evolved into one gigantic, never-ending "consumer product battle" is intruding, barging, into the world of science. With the power to kick some serious butt. It's imperative that scientists get over their defensiveness and anger so they can START THINKING. Again, see my Zimmer comments.

"Scientists are intellectuals by nature, always scrambling... winnowing... search of factual truth factual truth."

Not in this case. I argue in Zimmer that scientists are actually trying to avoid the truth of their situation. It seems abundantly clear to me.

My educational and much of my professional background is written communication. But I've been an avid lover of science since the 3rd grade. Over the last 6 months, and beginning less intensely almost a year ago, I've watched with increasing dismay scientists join the environmental movement, the Democratic Party, and everybody to the left of the radical right in their WILLFUL REFUSAL to comprehend and then accept the way mass decision making works in the U.S. today. Politics is consumerism.

How's that working for you in Kansas these days?


Opting Out of Opt Out

The Manhattan-Ogden school district has already opted out of the state board's inane, intelligent design inspired science curriculum. Other districts are being encouraged to do the same.

Now comes word that the Lawrence school district may opt out of the state board's newly enacted sex education opt-out policy.

Lawrence schools Supt. Randy Weseman says the district is unlikely to change its own policy in response to the board’s recent vote to require parental permission before students take sex education courses, according to the Lawrence Journal World.

“The arguments they’re making are just voices in the dark,” Weseman said. “They’re just not issues.”

Word is that the state board doesn't plan to rest on its laurels. Now that they've merged science with theology and moved sex education out of the schools and into the the back seats of cars where it belongs, they plan to take up the problem of pornography in literature classes.
Conservative board member Bacon said he’d read some of the texts on the Blue Valley reading list. The list includes “Beloved” by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison and “Black Boy” by Richard Wright.

“I’m thinking, ‘Who in their right mind would want to force this on a child?’” Bacon said. “To me, it screams sexual harassment... "


Goin' Hollywood

Hey, we can't believe we're quoting Variety, but here goes...

Paramount Pictures has set The Pianist screenwriter Ronald Harwood to write a feature about last fall's Dover, Pa., courtroom decision in which a federal judge denied a school board the right to force educators to teach intelligent design instead of evolution.

Lynda Obst will produce.Obst and Harwood say the trial had the level of emotional drama present in the 1925 Scopes Monkey trial, the subject of the 1960 film Inherit the Wind, which was based on the 1955 Broadway play.

"Our aspiration is to make a film that powerful," Harwood said. "We have a highly emotional case that divided a town right down the middle, and a judge whose summary was spectacular."

Oscar-winning Harwood, who most recently scripted New Line's Love in the Time of Cholera and Focus Features' The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, will start writing as soon as he completes a rewrite of Baz Luhrmann's untitled film for Fox, which shoots later this year with Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman starring.


ID: Where This Could Lead

"I'm a Christian and I'm a conservative, but I don't want a biology teacher teaching religion in biology class," says Al Simpson who voted against a proposal to add intelligent design inspired "critical analysis" language to the curriculum at his first South Carolina Board of Education meeting. "Do I think there's a place for it? Absolutely, but not in a science classroom," Simpson said. "I'm very uncomfortable about where this could lead."


Flying Into Night

"Yesterday’s time at the museum [the American Museum of Natural History's exhibition on the life and work of Charles Darwin], a temple of science in which evidence and honest inquiry rule, was inspiring. But today I will board a plane back toward my neighboring state, Kansas, where the proponents of 'intelligent design' are on the march."

"And I have the sense of flying home toward darkness … of flying into night."

Kansas City Star columnist Charles Gusewelle.


Evo Devo

Gene expression: how small changes yield dramatic effects. Explained.


North Carolina's Unconventional Wisdom

North Carolina may well be, as Sen. Elizabeth Dole would have it, "the buckle on the Bible Belt." Even so, the state once represented by Jesse Helms has not proven itself particularly hospitable to the social agenda of the religious right.

During the the 1920s Darwin's theory of evolution was banned in Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee, site of the famous Scopes trial, but not in North Carolina.

To find out why North Carolinians remain cool to the charms of creationism and intelligent design to this day, look here.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Posny Resigns

When the theocratic majority of the Kansas Board of Education appointed the woeful Bob "Brownie" Corkins Education Commissioner last October, Red State Rabble predicted that professional staff at the Kansas State Department of Education would resign or be forced out. We wrote then that we wouldn't be surprised if Dr. Alexa Posny was one of the first to go.

Now, Dr. Posny, deputy commissioner at the Kansas State Department of Education, who was passed over for the job of state education commissioner, has announced she will be leaving to take a job at the U.S. Department of Education.

Posny, diplomatic as always, said her departure had nothing to do with the hiring of Corkins.

“This opportunity came out of the blue,” she said.

It's hard to believe, however, that if she'd been appointed Education Commissioner instead of Corkins that she'd be leaving now.

“Her expertise and knowledge regarding No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is exceeded by no one in this state. Dr. Posny’s leadership in school improvement has been significant and will be missed,” Dale Dennis, deputy commissioner of education, told the Lawrence Journal World.

Kansans shouldn't worry too much about the brain drain at the Department of Education. There are plenty more under-employed right-wing political operatives like Corkins lying out in the weeds. Word on the street is that to a man, all of them are more than ready to give up railing against government bureaucrats in order to become one.

And, as the Corkins appointment demonstrates, having no qualifications is no problem.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Litigious Larry's Silence

As has already been widely reported both in the MSM and the blogosphere, a federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Litigious Larry Caldwell, against a University of California -- Berkeley website Understanding Evolution.

The suit was filed last October with great fanfare. At the time, Caldwell called the Berkeley website a "stunning example of hypocrisy, the same people who so loudly proclaim that they oppose discussion of religion in science classes are clamoring for public school teachers to expressly use theology in order to convince students to support evolution."

The Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views and the right-wing Christian World Net Daily both beat the drums loudly for Litigious Larry's lawsuit.

Now, guess which sites on the web have been utterly silent about the dismissal of this frivolous lawsuit? Here's a bonus question, why is it that those on the right who bray so loudly for tort reform seem to be the ones who also back nuisance suits like Caldwell's?


Missouri: Critical Analysis Endorsed by House Education Panel

AP: A Missouri House education panel endorsed legislation Thursday that calls for a critical analysis of scientific theories, with the bill sponsor saying he doesn't want students to just accept evolution as scientific fact.

Rep. Wayne Cooper, R-Camdenton, the bill's sponsor, said part of the bill's intent is to protect teachers who want to engage students in a discussion of the controversy surrounding the concept of evolution.

In other words, the bill is designed to empower creationists to teach what the want.


Dodos at K-State

Randy Olson’s “Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus” was screened at Kansas State University last yesterday. Red State Rabble was not able to attend, but we’ve received a report on the film showing and subsequent panel discussion from reader DR.

Olson’s film is designed to provoke discussion, and from DR’s report, it succeeded admirably. We’re passing along DR’s report on the meeting in the hope that it will provoke even more discussion among defenders of science education. In the end, that will help scientists, educators, and laypeople to fight this battle more effectively.

Here’s DR’s report, lightly edited by RSR:

The panel discussion afterward was quite revealing, in many ways. The participants were John Staver, a KSU education professor who was co-chair of the 1999 science standards writing committee, Srini Khambhampati, a KSU entomology professor who also teaches in our new non-science majors “origins” course, filmmaker Randy Olson, and Jack Cashill, who appears in the film and is billed as a “conservative author”.

Also in the audience were Steve Case, chair of the current science standards writing committee, and Sue Gamble, a Kansas board of education member. More about her later.

The premises of the discussion were established by moderator Bruce Glymour, a member of the KSU Philosophy Department, who wanted to restrict the discussion to “how science and scientists can communicate better”.

This is definitely Olson’s major premise, that science is not currently communicated to the public at all well, that scientists have not adapted to the realities of modern communication and the sound-bite culture, and that we are losing the battle with the ID/Creationist folks precisely because of those problems.

These restrictions on the questions caused immediate problems for the first questioner, who wanted to know who started the big bang, and how it all began, etc.

When Bruce told him that was not what we were here to discuss, he left the room, along with about 20-25 high school students who were apparently under his control. He did reappear later; the students did not.

The next few questions revolved around exactly why scientists are perceived to be so bad at communicating science, and included the usual suspects: lack of conciseness, lack of training in sound-bite theory, or film-making, and the inability to understand the level of understanding of their audience.

I then asked what I thought was a simple question, “How are scientists, who are by necessity constrained to stick to the truth, supposed to compete effectively against folks who consistently lie?”

I mentioned two of the lies that were repeated in the movie, one old chestnut by Connie Martin (“there are no transitional fossils”) and a real whopper which I hadn’t heard before, by Cashill: “the discovery of DNA really threw a monkey wrench into the study of evolution.”

It appeared that the panel didn’t understand the question. After a few ineffectual pronouncements, I bluntly/rudely repeated my assertion that it is difficult if not impossible to compete against well-funded liars.

Bruce rephrased that and asked this question of the panelists: “Is it OK to lie to make your point?” Both of the KSU academics answered that it is not OK to lie; the two more media-savvy panelists (Cashill and Olson) never answered that question outright.

Make whatever you want to from that observation... Additional questions danced around the edges of what scientists and other academics are doing wrong, and Olson’s constant refrain was that it is a new communication age, things are moving very fast, and the old ways of doing things just aren’t working for science and academics in general.

Both he and Cashill opined that scientists seemed angry and defensive, and that such perceptions hurt their case with the public, especially compared to congenial folks like Connie Martin and John Calvert.

Then Cashill said something in passing about the campaign that led up to Sue Gamble’s election to the KSBOE in 1998. Ms. Gamble marched up to the front of the room and waited patiently for the microphone.

When she got it, she reamed Cashill out and told him that he was lying about the history, and proceeded to set the record straight about how she was not supported by the Republican party hierarchy in the primary, not supported by any political powers, but merely elected by voters who ignored the party oligarchy, and who thought as she did.

Cashill turned on the charm and said something like “Here’s a media tip for you, Sue. Don’t call your opponent a liar.” My immediate blurted response was “Then just quit lying”, and Ms. Gamble gave that remark a thumbs-up as she went back up the aisle to take her seat.

Which brings me to my major problem with this movie, and the approach of Mr. Olson, sincere though it may be.

He seems to have bought into one of the major snow jobs of the ID folks, that this is somehow a choice between two equal perspectives (products). In order to do that, the DI sells ID like a product, and we are all acting like consumers. Some of Olson’s statements: “my heart is still with the evolutionist side,” as well as some of the audience comments: “I am a consumer and you need to convince me” would indicate that the tactic has worked.

But ID, as a product, is anti-intellectualism. Those selling the product are well funded, and the ad campaign is fueled by lies. The Discovery Institute hired the same ad agency that produced the “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth”. A very well-funded, full-time PR machine, the Democratic Party, lost that fight.

And science will lose it too, if we allow them to define the turf and make us play by the rules of Madison Avenue or Hollywood.

So we need to be very clear that this is not a consumer product battle. It is a choice between truth and fiction. That may be a consumer choice when buying a book to read on the airplane, but it is not a choice in science.

This also helps explain the perception that scientists, including the ones in the movie as well as this one, seem angry and defensive. ID is anti-intellectualism, it is well funded, and it is fueled by lies. Scientists are intellectuals by nature, always scrambling for funding, and are constantly winnowing through lots of information in search of factual truth.

In this state, where the legislature is planning to ignore a Supreme Court decision telling them to just do their job and fund K-12 education adequately, anti-intellectualism seems to be the current and future reality. Lies have always been a part of the political system, alas.

So perhaps scientists do need to be more media-savvy in an environment where politics and consumerism rule. But truth and fiction are not equal products in science, and they should not be viewed as equal contenders in science education.

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