Saturday, June 30, 2007


Bed Fellows

Everyone, it seems, is puzzling over the question of why intelligent design guru William Dembski believes the jailing of the rabid anti-Semite, Dr. Johannes Lerle, for violating German laws against neo-Nazism and Holocaust denial, to be an attack on intelligent design.

Dembski's defense of Lerle has raised widespread commentary -- even as far away as England.

As far as anyone can tell, Lerle's zeal is confined primarily to justification of Nazi persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, anti-Semitic conspiracy ravings, and fanatical opposition to abortion rights for women. To date, no one has been able to track down any public statement by Lerle supporting intelligent design.

In a post on the Panda's Thumb blog, PZ Myers sums up the confusion of many Dembski watchers by taking note of his "oddly convoluted leap of logic:"
Are we to assume that if a religious loon hates Jews and considers abortion and birth control to be anti-Christian conspiracies that will allow the hordes of Islam to overrun the country, he must also be a fellow traveler with the Intelligent Design creationists?

Such an assumption would not be without some justification. The Discovery Institute recently co-sponsored the World Congress of Families which featured a veritable Who's Who of notorious far-right, ultra-nationalist, anti-Semites and homophobes on its speakers list.

Moreover, Discovery numbers among its fellows George Gilder, famous for his opposition to women's rights. Discovery board member and chief financier, Howard Ahmanson, is a follower of Rousas Rushdooney -- a Reconstructionist theologian noted for his justifications of American slavery and Holocaust denial.

Still, that doesn't exactly tell us why Dembski -- leader of a movement whose avowed strategy includes drawing specious links between evolutionary theory and the Nazis -- wants to pull a jailed Holocaust denier into his charmed circle of like-minded ID theorists.

In October 2005, Discovery sponsored a "Darwin and Design" conference in Prague. No list of participants has ever been released, but Discovery did report that the audience, said to number some 700, hailed "from the Czech Republic and neighboring countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and Poland."

Some of them were "interested in setting up organizations to promote ID in their homelands."

Suppose Lerle was among the illustrious participants at Discovery's "Darwin and Design" conference? Perhaps they met him at the World Congress of Families.

In this country, creationism is rooted in the fertile soil of the Old South. It's in the core curriculum of the private Christian academies that grew rapidly following the desegregation of public schools. Is it possible that ID has found a foothold in secular Europe among those who look fondly back to the days when followers of Islam were confined to the Middle East and gays and Jews to concentration camps?


Truly Ecumenical

Red State Rabble is hearing talk that a non-believer might be included among this year's contributors to the Kansas City Star's "FaithWalk" column. If true, this would be progress indeed.


The Efficacy of Prayer

In a comment to a post we published yesterday, the good, right Rev. BigDumbChimp called our attention to the sentencing of Jo Hovind. She got a year and a day for her conviction on 45 counts of evading bank-reporting requirements.

Jo Hovind, as all connoisseurs of the papier mache dinosaur industry will be aware, is the wife of creationist theme park impresario Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, aka Prisoner No. 06452-017, who is currently serving 10 years for his conviction on 58 federal counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes, at the federal prison camp at Edgefield, S.C.

Noting that "the prayers of a righteous man availeth much," supporters of the creationist couple hoped to reduce her sentence through intercessionary prayer.

All that praying seems to have had little effect. If, as her supporters claim, she's innocent, a year and a day seems a bit harsher than a loving God -- who notes the fall of every sparrow -- would allow.

Friday, June 29, 2007


No Way Out

"I had expected to be as irritated by Michael Behe’s second book as by his first," writes Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi chair for the public understanding of science at Oxford. "I had not expected to feel sorry for him. The first — “Darwin’s Black Box” (1996), which purported to make the scientific case for “intelligent design” — was enlivened by a spark of conviction, however misguided. The second is the book of a man who has given up. Trapped along a false path of his own rather unintelligent design, Behe has left himself no escape."

As Dawkins observes, the weight of evidence has forced Behe, however grudgingly, since writing "Darwin's Black Box" to accept both natural selection and common descent -- both anathema to biblical literalists and intelligent design activists.

In "The Edge of Evolution" Behe hangs his hat on the slender hook that random mutation is incapable of producing the wide range of life forms we observe on the planet. As you might imagine, Dawkins makes short work of that -- as have Ken Miller and Jerry Coyne.

Like Dover, the verdict for "The Edge of Evolution" is now in.

As you might imagine, the Discovery Institute's Logan Gage doesn't like Dawkin's review (they don't like Miller or Coyne's either). In a long howl of anguish posted on the Evolution News and Views blog, Gage denies that Behe has stepped back, but never bothers to mention Behe's acceptance of natural selection and common descent.

The shill tone of Gage's response is an solid indication there isn't enough oxygen in Behe's last, little gap to support a whole belief tank and all its out-of-work fellows.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Statistical Abuse

Via the National Center for Science Education: In Ken Miller's Nature (sub req.) review of Michael Behe's Edge of Evolution he writes "at the heart of his anti-darwinian calculus are numbers not merely incorrect, but so spectacularly wrong that this badly designed argument collapses under its own weight ... It would be difficult to imagine a more breathtaking abuse of statistical genetics. ... A mistake of this magnitude anywhere in a book on science is bad enough, but Behe has built his entire thesis on this error."


Blog Against Theocracy

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is calling for a “Blog Against Theocracy” blogswarm from July 1-4. A blogswarm is a coordinated effort by bloggers who agree to post on the same topic at the same time. The theme of this 4th of July blogswarm is “the separation of church and state is patriotic.”

Red State Rabble thinks separation of church and state is not only essential to our democracy, but that it also reflects the original intent of the framers of the Constitution. In short, it's patriotic. RSR will be participating, and we hope readers who have blogs of their own will too.

Learn more here.


Quote Mine Contest: We Don't Need No Stinking Ellipses

I'm afraid that most Red State Rabble readers just don't have what it takes to be a creation "scientist" or intelligent design "theorist." Nearly all the entries we've received so far use ellipses to indicate the omission of quoted material.

That may be how real scientists and academics do it, but in the world of creationism using ellipses is, well, like wearing a plaid shirt with striped pants. It's just not done.

Here's how it is done. Here's the original:

There is certainly no consensus among evolutionary biologists, but development, ecology, genetics and paleontology all provide new perspectives on how evolution operates, and how we should study it. None of these concerns provide a scintilla of hope for creationists, as scientific investigations are already providing new insights into these issues. The foundations for a paradigm shift may be in place, but it may be some time before we see whether a truly novel perspective develops or these tensions are accommodated within an expanded modern synthesis.

Here's the quote mined version:

The world of Darwinism was rocked yesterday by a New York Times article that calls into question everything you've ever read about evolution. There's "no consensus among evolutionary biologists, writes Douglas H. Erwin, a senior scientist at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution, "on how evolution operates, and how we should study it."

"These concerns provide hope for creationists," Erwin goes on to say, "as scientific investigations are already providing new insights into these issues. The foundations for a paradigm shift may be in place."

That's how it's done. Now get busy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Red State Rabble's Great American Quote Mine Contest

Yesterday, we posted a link to a New York Times story by Douglas H. Erwin that reported "there are growing calls among some evolutionary biologists" to revise what has come to be called the modern synthesis of Darwin's theory of evolution.

Erwin notes that "none of these concerns provide a scintilla of hope for creationists," nevertheless, we predicted this story would provide fertile soil for creationist and intelligent design quote mining.

One reader, Gerry L. suggested, "Maybe we should beat them to the punch (read: mock them) and start pulling out bits and pieces from the NYT collection to show how it's done."

That's a great idea.

So, here's the challenge for Red State Rabble readers: Take the text of Erwin's article, "Darwin Still Rules, but Some Biologists Dream of a Paradigm Shift," rip parts of it out of context in creative, amusing, and outrageous ways. Distort the clearly stated intentions of the scientists cited beyond recognition. Connect widely spaced and generally unrelated parts of the story so as to make up sentences that seem to support creationist notions. In short, have your way with the text.

Then e-mail your clever little quote mine to Red State Rabble -- you can find my e-mail address in the sidebar under contact -- and I'll post the wittiest and most ingenious.

Best yet, there are prizes for the top four entries. Each of RSR's favorite entries will win one of the Red State Rabble mouse pads shown below:

If the prizes aren't incentive enough, remember this: You don't want to be bested by the posts that are bound to show up over the next couple of days at Discovery's Evolution News and Views or William Dembski's Uncommon Descent. You can be sure the Casey Luskins, Michael Egnors and DaveScots of the world are pouring over the NYT article and eyeing each other like Humphey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Huston after they found the treasure of Sierra Madre.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Pardigm Shift?

Today's special section on Evolution in the New York Times (see links to other articles below) reports "there are growing calls among some evolutionary biologists" to revise the theory of evolution. Does this mean we're on the leading edge of an accommodation to intelligent design?

Well, no.

You see, intelligent design "theorists" don't understand the mechanics of evolution well enough to even take part in the discussion. They are irrelevant.

That's not to say they won't fold, spindle, mutilate, or otherwise quote-mine the debate for the benefit of their own benighted followers.


DNA: "The Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution"

Whatever else you do today, don't fail to watch the New York Times video of Sean Carroll discussing the science of evolution and the field of evo-devo.


Objective Facts, Anecdotal Stories, Flimsy Arguments

WorldNetDaily columnist Tom Snyder writes that "Michael Moore's new feebleminded documentary, 'Sicko,' relies on few objective facts. It is mostly an emotional defense, filled with anecdotal stories and flimsy arguments of a single-payer, national healthcare system run by the government."

Hmm. Few objective facts, filled with anecdotal stories, and flimsy arguments, if we didn't know better we'd say he was talking about the Bible.

Despite that lone, pathetically deranged review, Red State Rabble is looking forward to the release of "Sicko" in Kansas. RSR's uncle and aunt were at the world premiere in Moore's hometown of Traverse City, Michigan. They loved it.

Don't take my word for it though. Watch the trailer, then go see the film.


Kansas vs. Darwin

Jeff Tamblyn reports that the response to the screening of his documentary "Kansas vs. Darwin" last Monday "was much, much better than I could have hoped for. The audience was very vocal during the film, they gave us a standing ovation, and mobbed us afterward with positive feedback and good wishes."

"Kansas vs. Darwin" takes you inside the 2005 Kansas science hearings "to meet the characters who captured the world's attention: school board members who believe their literal interpretation of the Bible trumps modern scientific evidence, and members of the Intelligent Design Network who believe mainstream science is conspiring to suppress evidence that would overturn evolution. You'll also get face to face with an organization of Kansas scientists, educators, and citizens that organizes a worldwide response to put an end to what they see as a religiously-motivated kangaroo court."

Tamblyn expects to edit the film a bit more over the summer before entering it in several film festivals this fall. He also plans to hold screenings in areas that have recently experienced a challenge to teaching evolution, in order to combine these with discussions, action-planning sessions, and many other connected events.

You can watch the "Kansas vs. Darwin" trailer here.


Pipe Dreams

At the Huffington Post, Matthew Chapman examines Sam Brownback's recent New York Times apologia for creationism. Not surprisingly, he finds it wanting.


EU Creationism Vote Called Off

Gilbert Reilhac reports in Scientific American that the Council of Europe cancelled a scheduled vote on banning creationist and intelligent design views from school science classes yesterday, saying the proposed resolution was one-sided.


Rewriting History

Cheri Yecke, K-12 chancellor for Florida’s Department of Education, may be finding that ID activist William Dembski is right about one, if only one, thing: "ID is the intellectual elite’s equivalent of leprosy."

When Yecke was Minnesota Commissioner of Education in 2003 she gave the go-ahead to schools in that state to incorporate “intelligent design” into the science curriculum there.

Now, perhaps having thought better of it, she wants to erase all memory of the event, and she's hired ReputationDefender to search the Internet for information about her and challenge the items she disputes.

Wildlife biologist and evolution defender Wesley Elsberry recently received an e-mail from the organization asking him to remove or modify a quote he has on his personal website about Yecke.

You can read all about Yecke's lame attempt to rewrite history at Florida Citizens for Science.



Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary believes people help others because they think God wants them to. She rejects the idea that altruistic behavior may be a product of evolution. That mothers who risk their lives to protect their children or men who sacrifice themselves to protect the tribe may end up passing their genes along more often than those who save themselves seems an utter fantasy to her.

If belief in God is the explanation for altruistic behavior, however, how do we explain the bird whose cry warns the flock of the presence of a predator, but also calls the attention of the predator to the bird that utters the warning cry? How do we explain the protective behavior of other animals -- who surely can't be thought to be practicing Christians -- toward their young?

Don't like the animal analogies?

How do we explain altruistic behavior in the many peoples of the world who follow a religion that doesn't worship a supernatural being who is concerned with human moral behavior?


NYT on Evo Devo

Just how did the diversity of plant and animal form we see around us arise out of the random genetic mutations of evolution? And, how in the world could a wing sprout where none had grown before, or flowers blossom in what had been a flowerless world?

Carol Kaesuk Yoon writes about these seemingly intractable questions and the fascinating answers coming out of the new science of Evo Devo in today's New York Times.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Institutionalizing Religion

Via American's United: In a 5-4 ruling today, the U.S. Supreme court "rejected a case challenging Bush administration spending to promote the "faith-based” initiative using money from a White House discretionary fund. The court majority ruled in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation that taxpayers have no right to challenge discretionary spending by the executive branch."

Most church-state litigation won't be affected, says AU.


Intelligent Design?

Tilt your head to the left when viewing this rock formation on a lake in Myanmar. Can you see the praying figures, said to be a mother and child? Madonna and child?

Now, here's the question: Is this rock formation a product of the natural forces of erosion, or a product -- like Mt. Rushmore -- of intelligent design?

The answer may surprise you. Without question -- remember, this is RSR telling you -- it's intelligently designed.

Go here to see why.



Trainee Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins called an end to his OJT when adults took back the state school board last November. The new pro-science, pro-education majority quickly ended the American Idol-like auditions for professional positions at the state's Education Dept. and set out to find experienced, tested, qualified candidates to replace him.

We're happy to report that they found a highly qualified candidate.

Alexa Posny is On The Job as of today.


Dig It!

Our friends, the creationists, will tell you there's no evidence for evolution. Red State Rabble suspects that's because they never poke their noses out of the Bible long enough to see any. Nevertheless, out in Wyoming's Morrison Formation, 150-million-year-old dinosaur fossils are "everywhere, like dandelions."

Hiding in plain sight. No wonder the creationists can't see it.

Don Hopey, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has written an engaging feature on the University of Pittsburgh's new 4,700 acre Allen L. Cook Spring Creek Preserve. Although well known, it's never been fully explored. There's also an audio slideshow of scientists and students prospecting for dinosaur bones at the Cook Preserve in Wyoming.

A good read.



AP: "Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and faith started being used to drive us apart," the Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said in a 30-minute speech before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ.

"Faith got hijacked, partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, all too eager to exploit what divides us," the Illinois senator said.

"At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design," according to an advance copy of his speech.

"There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich," Obama said. "I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jibe with my version."


Back to the Future

Want to know what Christian fundamentalists see when they look to the future? It's not hard. All you have to do is look at the past. That's what the Guardian does when it looks back to life for gays in Great Britain before decriminalisation of homosexuality.

One of the things Red State Rabble loves most about our fundamentalist friends. As they criminalize human behavior, strip gays and others of their rights, throw them in prison, or force them into grotesque conversion therapy programs, they'll lecture the rest of us incessantly about the supposed Nazi connection to evolution.


Seeing is Believing

Creationists like to say they believe in micro but not macro evolution. By that they mean that dogs can evolve into Chihuahuas or Great Danes, but fish can't evolve into land animals, dinosaurs into birds, or hoofed mammals into whales.

Their argument? They ignore the incremental evidence of speciation left to us by the fossil record, claiming no one's ever seen it happen.

Robert Pringle, an evolutionary ecologist at Stanford University, and Paul Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford and author of The Process of Evolution and The Population Bomb have provided a ready answer for that know-nothing claim in the Sacramento Bee:

"No person has ever seen a giant redwood tree grow from a seed. But one can find redwood trees of all sizes and observe their incremental growth within years."


Who Knew?

Over at the Uncommon Descent blog, Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary has compiled a "useful" compendium of recent ID articles, including one by someone names Mike Adams arguing "that popular Darwinism is supported mainly as a way of avoiding responsibility for sexual choices."

Who knew Ted Haggard was a Darwinist?

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Handful of Notions

In 2004, ID activist Paul Nelson created something of a stir when he presented an accurate assessment of the state of intelligent design:

Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’-but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.
That statement was accurate then. It's still accurate today. It will remain accurate ten years from now.

In a post published yesterday on William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog, Nelson again made a comment, this time about science, that goes against the grain of the conventional thinking so common among intelligent design activists. After crowing, in a mild mannered sort of way, about the difficulty scientists -- real scientists -- are having in understanding the origin of life, Nelson observes:

... scientists don’t listen to federal judges (thank goodness) or the pronunciamentos of national science organizations. Rather, they alight on any interesting question, kick it around, and let the results fall where they may.
Leave aside the bit about judges and pronunciamentos and you're left with a fairly accurate portrayal of the scientific process. And one that surely undercuts from within all the ID propaganda about science as religious dogma, scientists with closed minds who want to censor ideas, and Darwinbots.

Friday, June 22, 2007


The Old Double Standard

PBS pulled an episode of the children's show "Postcards From Buster," because he visited a Vermont family that had two moms. In refusing to distribute the program to affiliates, PBS CEO Pat Mitchell expressed "strong and very serious concerns" about the program.

PBS doesn't seem to have any concerns at all about distributing a right-wing Christian pseudo-documentary attacking the concept of church-state separation by Brian Godawa however.

PBS ombudsman, Michael Getler, admits the "interviews in the film, in terms of time on screen and numbers, seemed to me to tilt clearly in favor of those who see a danger in the "wall of separation" metaphor used by Jefferson...."

And Getler doesn't deny that the film's narrator "time and again, conveys the theme of this film - that God is the necessary foundation of society's law and government."

He even calls the treatment a "heavy-handed hammering away by the narrator."

Of course, the film will be distributed anyway.

"At a bare minimum," writes Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, "PBS should label Godawa's program as viewpoint and let stations and viewers know the radical religious-political perspective he's pushing."


Senate to Give Green Light to Religious Discrimination?

Should the U.S. Department of Education force the nation’s educational accrediting agencies to grant accreditation to universities with histories of religiously based discrimination, such as Bob Jones University?

The U.S. Senate, under intense pressure from religious colleges, is considering just such a measure.

A letter opposing the change from Americans United for Separation of Church and State notes that “the nation has a long and shameful history of colleges and universities that have discriminated against faculty and students.”

AU's letter observes that Bob Jones University had actively pushed policies barring admission of African-Americans and prohibited students from interracial dating. The university’s founder also attacked the Catholic Church as a “satanic cult” and claimed that gay alumni could not return to campus.

Read more here.


Support Declines

A Pew Research poll finds that public support for banning books "with dangerous ideas" from public school libraries has declined from 55 percent to 46 percent since 1999.

Public support for banning books is now at its lowest point in the last 20 years.


AiG: The Soap Opera

NCSE: "Answers in Genesis in legal turmoil." A nice guide to all the juicy details.


Scene of the Crime

Disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez will visit Seattle next week. Guess who's sponsoring his visit?

Just before Gonzalez testified to Congress, Seattle-based U.S. Attorney John McKay, one of the victims of the Justice Dept. purge, was warned to keep quiet about his firing. How did the McKay feel about his Sopranos moment? You can hear him tell you below via Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo.


Willard Will

The National Association of State Boards of Education have a problem. One of the group's two candidates for president withdrew unexpectedly leaving them stuck with Ken Willard, a Kansas creationist who serves on the state school board, as the only candidate and probable next leader.

Some scientists and educators have urged state groups to write in the name of another candidate. However, the association’s bylaws make no provision for write-in votes, and W. Bradley Bryant, president of the association and parliamentarian of the Georgia state board, has told The New York Times he believes that Robert’s Rules of Order would advise treating a write-in “as a vote that was never cast.”

In a letter to board members, officers of the organization announced a review of election procedures, however, that won't be completed before balloting ends next month. The Association's officers expect to recommend changes at the group's annual meeting in October, according to the Times.

In 2005, the National Association of State Boards of Education withdrew from the selection process for Kansas education commissioner after social conservatives, who then held a majority on the board, subverted the process. After NASBE withdrew, the board appointed Bob Corkins, an anti-tax lobbyist with no previous education experience.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


An Injury to One

What with the Discovery Institute leading the charge for academic freedom with their vigorous defense of ID stargazer Guillermo Gonzalez -- recently denied tenure at Iowa State University -- don't you find it odd that we don't hear much from Evolution News and Views about this man?


Truth in Advertising

From his bunker at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, intelligent design activist William Dembski has issued a dark warning that the Council of Europe -- that well-known radical atheist cabal -- is poised to make ID advocacy a “hate crime" in Europe.

In a post on his Uncommon Descent blog, the increasingly cranky Dembski, rails about "the European Council for the Advancement of Atheism," which he claims is about to brand those who "believe in a God who acts in the world (aka theism)" as religious extremists.

Of course, the Council of Europe is set to do no such thing. As Reuters reports, the council, Europe's main human-rights body, "will vote on a proposal next week to defend the teaching of evolution" and to keep creationism and intelligent design "out of science class in state schools in its 47 member countries."

Think of this, not as an attack on theists, after all many theists, perhaps even most, (this is Europe after all) have absolutely no problem with evolution. In fact, many theists are alarmed at the inroads their fundamentalist brethern are making in the U.S. Only some theists, it should be remembered, believe God is active in the world in the sense that biblical literalists do.

Think instead of the Council of Europe as issuing regulations on truth in advertising.

No one would be bothered if, for example, the council restricted the advertising of medicines to claims for which there is good scientific evidence. Who, after all, would think it's okay for pharmaceutical companies to make false or unproven claims for the drugs they market.

Not long ago, a Kansas City pharmacist was sent to prison for selling diluted chemotherapy drugs to cancer patients. No one was sad to see him go even though the extravagant prices he received for the ineffective drugs that killed his patients underwrote lavish contributions to his church building fund.

Why should the council allow fundamentalist Christians to conceal faith's clerical collar by pulling the lab coat of science around their shoulders? No one is stopping them from thundering to the heavens about their odd beliefs. Moreover, they're completely free to make any theological claim they wish no matter how outlandish. After all, they own a seemingly endless number of cable television channels to get their message out.

All we ask is that they be honest about their scientific claims in taxpayer funded public schools.


Summer Solstice

The latest edition of the Skeptics' Circle is up.


Then and Now

Discovery's Robert Crowther in August 2005 -- "It doesn't hurt to have the leader of the free world asked what he thinks of your research. The recent comments by President Bush about teaching evolution have made 'intelligent design' all but a household phrase."

Discovery's Logan Gage today -- Commenting on the uproar after three Republican candidates for president raised their hands to say they don't believe in evolution: "What does Being President Have To Do With Evolution?"

My how times change.


Water into Wine

Over at the SciAm Observations blog, Christine Soares has found you can get some amazing things from the Home Science Tools catalog.

Their "Gateway to Discovery" catalog includes what you'd expect, but in addition to the microscopes, telescopes, molecule models you can also lay your hands on the "Planet Earth Kit," which covers Earth's history, including the Flood.

And don't forget about the "Apologia Advanced Physics" kit.


Hierarchy and the Well-dressed ID Activist

"The universe is hierarchical," Discovery Institute fellow George Gilder has told The Jerusalem Post, "And hierarchy points to a summit. The summit remains enclosed in fog, but this doesn't exclude the possibility that behind the fog is a divinity that we, through our faith, might worship."

So, Gilder, the far-sighted tech guru -- a fierce opponent of women's rights and supporter of supply-side economics whose late embrace of telecom stocks during run up of the late 90s not only bankrupted him, but thousands of the readers of his Gilder Technology Report when the bubble burst -- looks backward to the medieval notion of scala naturae or the great chain of being.

At the top of the medieval world's great chain of being were God and the angels and below them man. In this hierarchy, men were above women, the king and the noble class above the artisan and peasant. Man stood above the animals and animals above plants. There was even a hierarchy among the animals -- the lion being the king of beasts.

This hierarchy was enforced in England by sumptuary laws which regulated the clothing people could wear:

None shall wear in his apparel: Any silk of the color of purple, cloth of gold tissued, nor fur of sables, but only the King, Queen, King's other, children, brethren, and sisters, uncles and aunts; and except dukes, marquises, and earls, who may wear the same in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose; and those of the Garter, purple in mantles only.

Cloth of gold, silver, tinseled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with any gold or silver: except all degrees above viscounts, and viscounts, barons, and other persons of like degree, in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose.

Woolen cloth made out of the realm, but in caps only; velvet, crimson, or scarlet; furs, black genets, lucernes; embroidery or tailor's work having gold or silver or pearl therein: except dukes, marquises, earls, and their children, viscounts, barons, and knights being companions of the Garter, or any person being of the Privy Council.

Velvet in gowns, coats, or other uttermost garments; fur of leopards; embroidery with any silk: except men of the degrees above mentioned, barons' sons, knights and gentlemen in ordinary office attendant upon her majesty's person, and such as have been employed in embassages to foreign princes.

Caps, hats, hatbands, capbands, garters, or boothose trimmed with gold or silver or pearl; silk netherstocks; enameled chains, buttons, aglets: except men of the degrees above mentioned, the gentlemen attending upon the Queen's person in her highness's Privy chamber or in the office of cupbearer, carver, sewer [server], esquire for the body, gentlemen ushers, or esquires of the stable.

And so on. Violators of the sumptuary laws were subject to legal penalties up to and including death. Eventually, democracy did away with medieval hierarchy.

This is the forward looking thinking of those who inhabit the Discovery Institute.

You may want to think of science and reasons as fog lights that penetrate the mists surrounding Gilder's own personal Olympus.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Egnoramus Grandis

Proving yet again that ID activist Michael Egnor hasn't got a clue when he asserts the practice of medicine owes nothing to the theory of evolution.


Natural Selection

Are Darwinists more likely to survive and pass on their genes to the next generation because they tend not to live in tornado magnets?

According to an Angus Reid poll, as reported by The Globe and Mail, Canadians who are younger than 34, have an income of more than $50,000 a year or are university-educated are significantly more likely to believe in evolution."

More poll results here.


In the Rush to Obscurantism: Applying the Brakes

Antony Black answers the frequently heard creationist claim that there's no evidence for evolution with a handy -- and highly persuasive -- list.


Shielding the Young

By law, military recruiters have full access to the high schools and our children. And you can be sure they'll use their all their persuasive powers to whisk them off to Iraq in order to provide fresh IED fodder so the president won't have to face the humiliation of admitting his war is a failure.

But for God's sake, we must prevent them from being exposed to this.



Could it be that ID is a bigger tent than any of us ever imagined, or does this and that merely represent the yin and yang of intelligent design guru William Dembski's unique interests?


The Overwhelming Evidence for Design

Doc Bill's summary of the evidence adduced for design was just too good to leave buried in the comments:

"Malaria and a bacteria's butt were designed. Out of all of Nature, out of all the billions and billions of bits and pieces, he's nailed down two. A disease and a butt."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Optimism Abounds

William Dembski: "ID is the intellectual elite’s equivalent of leprosy." Reality, it would seem, can't be kept at bay forever.


Monkeys Uncle

As many reviewers have noted, ID activist Michael Behe's new book, Edge of Evolution, makes a number of large, and in some respects surprising, concessions to evolutionary theory. None larger than his admission that he accepts the evidence for common descent.

As one who listened as Discovery's "expert" witnesses were cross examined by Pedro Irigonegaray at the Kansas Science hearings in Topeka two years ago, I'm well aware that common descent does not go down well with ID activists. The transcripts go far in confirming the witnesses' nearly universal disbelief in common descent, but can in no way convey the deep contempt in their voices for the idea that they might somehow be related to a chimpanzee, much less a flatworm.

And, if a visceral distaste for the notion of common descent predominates among the so-called "experts," you can just imagine how difficult it must be for the biblical literalists who predominate amongst the ranks to swallow.

That's why Discovery, while flogging the book on its Evolution News and Views blog, has also had to undertake some damage control among the faithful.

Today, for example, they've posted an excerpt on common descent from "an enlightening 13 part Q&A [the hand of Luskin!? -- RSR] in which he clarifies his position on a number of issues related to the debate over evolution and intelligent design."

And there's not much there ID's field generals or ranks will find appetizing.
... in judging the likelihood of common descent, I discount problems that could be classified as "how did that get here?" Instead, I give much more weight to the "mistakes" or "useless features" arguments. If some peculiar feature is shared between two species which, as far as we can tell, has no particular function, and which in other contexts we would likely call a genetic accident, then I count that as rather strong evidence for common descent. So, if one looks at the data in the way that I do, then one can say simultaneously that: 1) CD is very well supported; 2) grand Darwinian claims are falsified; 3) ID is confirmed; 4) design extends very deeply into biology.

We agree with Behe that common descent is very well supported. As for falsifying grand Darwinian claims or confirming ID, well as Behe told the court in Dover, it helps if you believe the designer is the God of the Bible.


Blunt Instruments

Mark Colvin interviewed philosopher Michael Ruse about creationism, intelligent design, science, and religion on "PM" which is broadcast in Australia. You can listen to the interview here. Here's an excerpt:
MARK COLVIN: But creationism is a fairly blunt instrument. You would also, debated the intelligent design people, who will come out with arguments about micro-organisms that basically are so complicated that they're like a little outboard motor. How do you explain those things without being …

MICHAEL RUSE: Well, you know, we philosophers have a term, and I guess I'm not allowed to use the philosophical term on the radio, but let's just say it's BS, and it's BS baffles brains. I mean, the point is the intelligent design arguments are just as primitive as they ever were...


ID in Scotland?

A brief item in Scotland's Daily Record reports that a Scottish Qualifications Authority spokesman has said they are considering adding "intelligent design" to the science curriculum there.


Up North

During RSR's formative years, many Americans fled north to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam. RSR, though an antiwar activist, chose to enlist instead.

Could it be that Canada will once again become the destination of choice for those fleeing this nation's budding anti-science theocracy?

According to a public opinion survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies, despite the recent opening of the Big Valley Creation Science Museum, 59 percent of Canadian respondents think human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years. A mere 22 percent believe God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

Canada: a rationalist's heaven on earth?


Living in a Material World

"It’s clear that ideas share no properties with matter," writes ID proponent Michael Egnor in a post published yesterday on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog. "Ideas have no mass, or length, or temperature, or location. They’re immaterial. Clearly, under ordinary circumstances the brain is necessary for our ideas to exist, but, because matter and ideas share no properties, it’s hard to see how the brain is sufficient for ideas to exist."

It is far from clear to RSR that ideas share no properties with matter. We don't know what it means -- and as always, Egnor does not bother to explain how this might be nor does he offer evidence of any kind to support his view -- to say that the brain is necessary, but somehow insufficient, for ideas to exist.

Let's do a thought experiment on ideas and the brain. Let's say for example that a small tribe of people in the Brazilian rain forest dies out, or through contact with the dominant culture loses its language. The language is spoken rather than written. No recordings of it were ever made. No missionary ever wrote it down. All the elders who once spoke this language are now dead. None of the young can speak it. Does this language still exist? If somehow it does, as Egnor believes, how might this language be reconstructed?

How about this: Two men are driving in a car. As they drive, they talk. They share ideas and observations. A little later, both are killed in a car accident. What happens to their conversation? Is the knowledge of what they discussed, the positions each took on the ideas in discussion, their various perceptions of the conversation preserved? Are they still floating around somewhere? Can we get a hold of them somehow?

If, as Egnor believes, ideas are immaterial. Not rooted in the human brain. What is the nature of their existence? As they say on the new SAT written essay: Explain.

Monday, June 18, 2007


The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

"These are good days for theocracy," writes Todd Babiak in the Edmonton Times. Shiites are blowing up Sunni shrines. Sunnis are blowing up Shiite holy sites. Both execute followers of the other as fast as they can. Hammas has taken control of Gaza. And, "the world's greatest enabler of theocracy in the Middle East, the United States, is led by a man who receives policy advice from God."

But it's a good time for atheism, too.

There's been a flood -- perhaps not of biblical proportions, but significant nonetheless -- of new books: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel Dennett, The End of Faith by Sam Harris, and now, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens.

Then there are the new destinations for atheist amusement: Ken Ham's Creation museum in Kentucky and Harry Nibourg's new creation museum in Big Valley, Alberta.

An Epicurean's delight. Places to go and summer reading, too. It doesn't get any better than that.


Has Beens

The misleading movie or book blurb is famous by now. Take this for example:
The blurb: "Benjamin Kunkel has succeeded in crafting a voice of singular originality."

The review by Gilbert Cruz in Entertainment Weekly: "Benjamin Kunkel has succeeded in crafting a voice of singular originality — one that you want to punch in the mouth."
The misleading blurb is a skill, one of the few perhaps, to which ID activists with their penchant for quote mining are uniquely suited.

Take DaveScot (please) over at William Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog:

Here's what he blurbs from Michael Ruse's review of Michael Behe's Edge of Evolution: "IDT has been remarkably successful. George W. Bush is one among many who have stated flatly that it should be taught in schools alongside evolutionary biology. Although it is illegal to do so - another court case in Dover, Penn., in 2005 ruled that it, too, violates the separation of church and state - estimates are that at least 20 per cent of American schools already teach it. One suspects that it is not entirely unknown in biology classes north of the border, either."

But it seems "has been" are the operative words. Here's what dear, dear Dave left out: "I am afraid, though, that The Edge of Evolution is a bit of a sad sack. Nothing very much new, old arguments repeated, opposition ignored or dismissed without argument. What does surprise me is how emphatic Behe now is in putting a distance between himself and the older Creationists... "

And, "... with so many important issues waiting for attention in our society, I am just a bit depressed that anyone would think that something like IDT is worth pushing or that it gains so much attention others have to spend time refuting it."

Here's a link to Ruse's review.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Influx of One

Bill Dembski thinks it will be "interesting" to see how the National Center for Science Education deals with the growing number of non-religious ID proponents.

The folks at the National Center for Science Education are far too nice and way too professional to take notice of such things, but pro-science bloggers seem to be dealing with it by laughing themselves sick. See for example RSR's old friend across the state line Afarensis, paralepsis, Stranger Fruit, or Pharyngula.

The international coalition of non-religious ID proponents of which Dr. Dembski speaks is made up in its entirety by Canadian William Brookfield who describes himself, in a website since pulled down, as an ID Pleasurian:

a non-religious amalgam of ID science and Hefnerian Playboy philosophy. It serves as a strategically unified and archetypal counter proposal to orthodox ascetic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. It is also somewhat resonant with Wiccan and "mother nature”- based pagan cults (in the west) and Tantric Buddhism (in the east). Pleasurian-ism is an earthy, sensuous and physically celebratory form of “monistic idealism” or infocognitive monism.” Pleasurian science is naturally driven by the "pleasure of finding things out."
It seems to RSR that the NCSE will have no problem at all "dealing" with ID's influx of one. How will the super uptight Southern Baptists, Holy Rollers, and Reconstructionists that Dembski hangs with deal? We suspect it may put a big, bad bind in their tighty-whiteys.

Pleasure on, Dudes.

Update: Don't miss Kristine's conversion to ID Pleasurianism at Amused Muse. Via Duae Quartunciae: Mike Argento was there a year ago and maybe did it best.

Late Update: As of Monday morning, Dembski's Uncommon Descent readers are still congratulating themselves on this latest, perhaps decisive, blow to science. How long until they actually follow the links and Dembski pulls the plug post? The funniest stuff may be the self-congratulatory comments at UD.


Oh, the Unfairness of it All

Next time you hear an intelligent design activist complain they aren't being treated in a professional, collegial manner, or accorded the respect they deserve, or the evidence in their oh-so-scientific arguments is obfuscated, misrepresented, ignored, or subjected to ad hominem attacks by Darwinists, you might want to call this to mind.

Friday, June 15, 2007


What's the Matter?

Sometimes, when poor, old RSR reads something that passes for thought over at Evolution News and Views it leaves us not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

A case in point: Michael Egnor, the ID activist who's made it his life's work to prove that brain surgery need not be rocket science, asks "What does it mean to say that altruism is located in the brain?"
If altruism is located in the brain, then some changes in location of the brain must, to use a mathematical term, 'map' to changes in altruism. That is, if you move your brain, you move your altruism in some discernable (sic) way. And ‘moving’ altruism means changing its properties. It won’t do to say that moving altruism changes its property of ‘location,’ because ‘location’ of altruism is the issue. That begs the question.

Let's say I take a gallon of milk from the fridge and place it on the counter. I've surely changed its location. I may even have stirred up the molecules inside the jug.

Have I changed its "properties" by moving it?

Altruism, indeed any thought, is a product of the electrical and chemical impulses passing across the synapses of the brain. Moreover, it must be expressed in action. Water, rocks, the air we breathe, even plants do not exhibit the attributes of altruism -- except to those who practice some primitive animist religions, and perhaps Pat Robertson, who usually sees not altruism, but retribution in the insentient forces of nature.

In fact, researchers at Emory University have used functional MRI scans to observe the operation of altruistic behavior in the brain. They reported their findings in the July 18 issue of the journal Neuron. You can read a report of their study in Science Daily.

According to Science Daily, researchers "used fMRI to scan the brains of 36 women while they played the 'Prisoner's Dilemma Game,' a decades-old model for cooperation based on reciprocal altruism." The scans revealed revealed different patterns of neural activation depending on whether the subject's playing partner was identified as a human or a computer.

"Mutual cooperation was the most common outcome in games played with presumed human partners" reports Science Daily. In these cases, researchers were able to observe increased neural activity in the nucleus accumbens, the caudate nucleus, ventromedial frontal/orbitofrontal cortex and rostral anterior cingulate cortex when altruistic interactions occurred.

All of this, quite naturally, goes unexamined in Egnor's post on the matter.

Egnor goes on the write: "Matter and ideas share no properties. Ideas like altruism aren’t material, so they can’t have a location."

In other words, if we were to remove a test subject's nucleus accumbens, caudate nucleus, ventromedial frontal/orbitofrontal cortex and rostral anterior cingulate cortex from their brain, their ability to express altruism would be utterly unaffected.

Altruism is unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Selflessness or altruism is a property of human beings, and some animals. When a person dies, even though their body remains, they no longer exhibit the attribute of altruism.

It would be pointless to speak of the existence of altruism in the period of earth's history before life evolved. It will likewise be meaningless to speak of altruism -- indeed there will be no one to think the thought or to speak the word -- after the planet has ceased to be.

Egnor maintains that ideas such as altruism have no basis in the material world, but he doesn't bother -- just as the ID activists never bother with operation of design -- to elaborate on their nature.

If altruism is not a property of human beings, then what is it? Where does it come from. How does it operate.

To the ID adept, this absence of explanation is not troubling. They intuitively know the answer to these questions just as they know it can't be openly stated: altruism is a property of the god-given immortal soul.

How do they know? The Bible told them so.


The Fine Art of...

Thought experiment as unconcious self-parody... imagine that.


Evidence Abounds

No animatronic dinosaurs, no Adam and Eve, not even a Noah's ark, but there are hundreds of artifacts, photographs, fossils, films and interactive displays.


The New Gays

WorldNetDaily -- the right wing online paper that features an ad for the book "Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self Defense" which asks the question, "Should Christians be armed?" -- reports that "White House spokesman Tony Snow ran into a little more than he perhaps was expecting when he appeared on "The Laura Ingraham Show" as she relentlessly asked the American public's No. 1 question: What is the U.S. government doing to stop the invasion from Mexico?

Actually, illegal immigration isn't the American public's No. 1 question. It isn't even close. The issue ranks well below preventing future terrorist attacks, improving the economy, strengthening public education, improving the job situation, making Social Security and Medicare financially sound, and protecting the environment. In fact, immigration isn't even in the top 10 among the issues that most concern Americans today.

Moreover, a majority of Americans want to provide a path to citizenship for those undocumented workers who are already in the country.

What does the constant drumbeat of anti-immigration propaganda from those who promote the "ultimate biblical exploration of self-defense" mean?

Only that immigrants are the ultra-right's new gays.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Stepping In It

USAToday: "Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, have been explaining their positions ever since they and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo first indicated in a May 3 debate that they do not believe in evolution."

Could it be the last seven years given credulity a bad name?


The Power of Denial

It's a bit easier to understand why biblical literalists are so convinced there's a wealth of scientific evidence for creationism once you understand they also believe a rush of best-selling books debunking religion -- The God Delusion, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and God is Not Great -- are proof they have skeptics on the run.


ID, Alzheimers Link?

More than 70 Wright City, Missouri school teachers have written a letter blasting school board member Martin Craft's statement that Hitler's success and the shootings at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School are the result of teaching evolution.

"He indicated that he believes that teachers are responsible for Hitler, Nazi Germany and the death of 200 million people since evolution has been taught," the teachers wrote. "He called us adults living in a fairy tale (science) and added that we go in our classrooms and teach evolution like little gods."

According to the Warrenton Journal, the debate began during at an April 19 meeting where the board discussed adding a statement to the science curriculum that evolution be taught as a theory. The motion failed 4-3.

"While [Craft's] accusations are so absurd that they really don't deserve comment, we feel the need to address his statement since he is a member of our school board and should be supporting public school teachers, not insulting them with ridiculous accusations," the teachers wrote. "The teachers of the Wright City School District and teachers everywhere devote their lives to helping children become productive citizens. We are their teachers, defenders, mentors and warriors against ignorance."

"I am nearly 75 years of age," Craft wrote in response. "I fail to communicate in the most appropriate manner."


Three Amigos



New Scientist: "The idea of loss in evolution is not new. We know that snakes lost their legs, as did whales, and that our own ancestors lost body hair. However, the latest evidence suggests that the extent of loss might have been seriously underestimated. Some evolutionary biologists now suggest that loss - at every level, from genes and types of cells to whole anatomical features and life stages - is the key to understanding evolution and the relatedness of living things."


Intellectual Molestation

Evolutionary biologist Gene Kritsky took a look at Ken Ham's Creation Museum the other day. "It's bait-and-switch," he tells Cincinnati's City Beat. "Get them in with dinosaurs, then let the message morph. Adam sins, Noah's ark arrives."

"The dinosaurs?" Kritsky says, "they're eye candy for kids. A lot of kids get into science because of dinosaurs. I did. For me it was Frito Corn Chips. Seven years old and little dinosaurs were in Frito's. I asked my mom what was that, and she said, 'A dinosaur.' So they're using dinosaurs as an eye candy... it's almost like intellectual molestation."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Darwin Exhibition to Open in Chicago

The traveling Darwin Exhibition opens Friday at the Field Museum in Chicago.


Extinction Event?

"The great American natural history museum could be headed for the vulnerable species list, alongside the polar bear and the redwood tree," writes Mike Boehm of the Los Angeles Times.

According to Boehm, the bottom line has been sinking into the red by $300,000 on average and some leading institutions have winnowed their staffs as a result. The staff has shrunk almost a third at the Smithsonian Institution's natural history museum in Washington, D.C., since 2000, for example.

Boehm stresses the negative impact such cutbacks are having on research, an important function of natural history museums, but he also notes that during the same time art museums have outperformed them.

Natural history museums need to look for ways to appeal to audiences brought up on the Internet, cell phones, and IPods. The same dated, dusty old exhibits will no longer do the job.

Research is important, but the other great aim of natural history museums, public education, is particularly crucial just now. The popular Darwin exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History is an example of what can be done.

Designing exhibitions that educate and entertain can draw large crowds back into the nation's natural history museums. That will increase revenues, and those new revenues will support research.


Conservative Cul-de-sac

Former Arkansas Gov., ordained Baptist preacher, creationist, and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argues that social conservatives are on the brink of becoming irrelevant in this election cycle unless they "get back into the game."

Red State Rabble hates to pour cold water on Huckabee's presidential aspirations, but we think social conservatives may have made themselves irrelevant no matter what they do. Here's why:

"There are millions of people that don’t believe in the theory of evolution, and there are many more millions, myself included," writes Eleanor Clift in her Newsweek "Capitol Letter" column, "who wouldn’t want a creationist to become president. After the Bush years, voters should be wary of anybody with strongly held beliefs that could take precedence over facts and reality, whether it has to do with Iraq, global warming or, yes, evolution."


End of an Error

A new Gallup Poll finds that Republicans who say they don't believe in evolution outnumber those who do by more than two to one. Some 68 percent of Republicans polled doubt that evolution occurred while only 30 percent find the scientific evidence convincing.

On the other hand, Democrats who believe in evolution outnumber those who don't by 57 to 40 percent. Independents also support evolution by a wide margin, some 61 to 37 percent.

The convergence of opinion between Democrats and independents on this issue and others, such as public support for the war in Iraq, mean that the long reign of error in the country may be coming, at long last, to an end.


Red State Update: Night at the Creation Museum

Travis and Johnathan spend a night at the Creation Museum. Hat tip to JT who says it's kind of lame, but makes you smile anyway.


Lucy Comes to America

The original, 3.2-million-year-old hominid fossil known as Lucy will be on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science beginning Aug. 31. Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia will be on display for the first time outside of Ethiopia. (Photo: Business Wire)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007



Is the Bush administration test driving new restrictions on civil liberties in the nation's prison system? First habeas corpus, next illegal wiretaps, now censorship.

Is there anything, anything at all, that can't be justified by the "War on Terror."


Creationist Framing

You can't really grasp the wonder that is Ken Ham's Creation Museum unless you're in the proper frame of mind. The advice given to visitors at the start of their museum tour is the same as that given to people who send their life savings to a Nigerian maildrop.

“Don’t think, just listen and believe."

Read about the excellent adventure BlueGrassRoots and his two heretical friends had at The Fred and Wilma Flintstone Memorial Museum here.


Religious Absolutism

USA TODAY columnist DeWayne Wickham writes that Republican Mike Huckabee bristled at being asked about his position on the origins of life at one of the candidate debates.

"I'm not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I'm asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States," he said.

"But with that job comes significant influence over public education,"Wickham quite correctly notes, "as we have seen with the Bush administration's imposition of teaching standards. The Oval Office job also plays a role in defining the nation's response to harmful atmospheric changes that many scientists say are man-made, and in determining government's response to calls for expanded stem cell research, which could alter lives afflicted with disease.

"Putting a religious absolutist in the White House might sharply reduce the role of science in our national life — and distance the next president from the thinking of a lot of Americans."


Buyer Beware

"Discovery Institute strongly supports teaching evolution and isn’t trying to remove any scientific viewpoint from the classroom."

Monday, June 11, 2007


Trick Questions

In a Boston Globe Op-Ed David K. DeWolf, a professor of law at Gonzaga and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, is angry because Republican presidential candidates have been asked whether or not they believe in evolution.

When Wolf Blitzer asked John McCain, for example, if the thought creationism should be taught in public schools, DeWolf saw it as a "trick question" because, "no serious advocate wants to teach 'creationism.'"


The problem for DeWolf and the Discovery Institute is that nobody really wants intelligent design. Everyone, and I mean everyone, sees it for what it is: a poor substitute for Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood.

It was once thought that the ID legal strategy might successfully open the door to creationism. After Dover, even that pipe dream has gone by the boards.

The other big problem for DeWolf and Discovery is that only three of the nine Republican presidential candidates at the first debate -- Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo -- were foolish enough to hold up their hands when asked whether or not they believe in evolution.

In the weeks since, two of them -- Brownback and Huckabee -- have "clarified" their positions.

Despite a certain confusion in recent polls about what Americans believe about evolution and creationism, even Republican candidates who must win over their party's socially conservative base find they can't run a credible campaign if they're on record in opposition to teaching evolution in public schools.

That's bad news for Discovery and their allies.


Brownback's Care and Feeding of the Base

Not long ago, we linked to Blogs4Brownback whose author, Sisyphus, believes heliocentrism to be an atheist conspiracy. To put that in perspective -- many initially thought it was a hoax -- he also believes we've turned the corner in Iraq.

Sen. Sam, who once found this sort of nonsense so congenial, finds he now must distance himself from those in his base gripped by extreme anti-science lunacy. Seems he can't get taken seriously by Republican money men unless he does.

Stung by the derision that came his way when he raised his hand to say he doubts evolution at the first Republican presidential candidate debate he walked that back, ever so slightly, in a New York Times Op-Ed.

Now he's crushed the hearts of the flat earthers among his supporters by writing to Sisyphus (see comment 865):

From the Office of Senator Sam Brownback:

Dear loyal supporters,

I must thank you all for your kind support and words, however I feel it is my duty to inform you that it is my belief that heliocentrism is the correct viewpoint on how we exist in God’s wonderful universe.

Unlike evolution, which has yet to be proven, I have discussed the idea of heliocentrism with my Senate colleague, John Glenn (D-Ohio), who, as you will no doubt know, was the first American to orbit the Earth aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962.

Senator Glenn’s career as a NASA astronaut, his time in the Senate and life as a true American patriot leave me in no doubt that his view on the Earth orbiting our Sun is true and correct. As he has seen this glorious sight with his own eyes, I must agree with him on this point and humbly bow to his superior knowledge.

At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question about our lives in God’s own universe. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. It is with this faith that I trust my colleague, Senator Glenn, on this subject.

Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart. NASA is a proud American agency, helping us seek the answers we require in order to survive and learn. Let us, my fellow Americans, use this knowledge to move forward, and not remain in the past with the geocentric model.

Those aspects of astronomy compatible with this heliocentric truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as a creationist fundamentalist Protestant viewpoint, as well as literary treatments within alternate history of science fiction posing as science.

Sam Brownback is a Republican senator from Kansas.

Sam Brownback
202) 224-6521

Sisyphus, of course, believes the response must be from an impostor. He responds (in part) to another comment this way:
“The whole universe is in motion.”

Why do you hate America?

“The Earth moves, as does the sun and as does Antares.”

Why do you hate Jesus?


Real Christians

Republicans are really, really unhappy about the dismal prospects of the current crop of candidates who seek the party's nomination. That's why there's a lot of excitement about the announcement that actor Fred Thompson will formally announce his candidacy next month.

There's just one problem,

Is Thompson Christian (fundamentalist) enough to get the Republican nomination? First James Dobson of Focus on the Family said Thompson wasn't a "real Christian."

Now Professor Mark Elrod of Harding University says he doubts Thompson is "filling out an attendance card at a Church of Christ on Sundays," according to WorldNetDaily.

The good professor has issued an Internet challenge to anyone who can come up with evidence that Thompson is active in the Church of Christ.


The Creationist Mind

The other day, we commented on a USAToday/Gallup poll that found some 66 percent of American adults say creationism, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years is true. About 31 percent disagree.

So whose fault is it that so many Americans are miseducated and confused? According to ID activist Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary it's "Darwinists" fault.

That's right, don't blame the people, like O'Leary, who write books that misrepresent the facts of evolution. Don't blame the folks, like O'Leary and Co., who talk incessantly about the "immoral" nature of Darwin's theory. Don't blame the fundamentalist Christian apologists, like O'Leary and her blogging buddy William Dembski, who work day and night to undermine science.

It's all the "Darwinist's" fault. In fact, it may all be part of a dark plot by scientists to bilk more money from the public to pay for for science education.

That doesn't explain, of course, why a majority of Americans, 53 percent, also believe that evolution, the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, is true.

Those kind contradictions are just a little too complex for a creationist mind such as O'Leary's to grasp. Like all the evidence for evolution, they go unremarked in her writing.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Grant Money Was a Factor in Tenure Denial

Okay, RSR has been on the road. Admittedly we've been out of touch and we're still catching up. So forgive us if this is old news, but The Des Moines Register reported June 1 that ID activist Guillermo Gonzalez brought in only $22,661 in outside grant money since 2001.

In contrast, Gonzalez's peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure, according to The Des Moines Register.

Perhaps his failure to secure grant money played a larger role in his rejection for tenure than his loony ideas about intelligent design.



The final installment of the J.K. Rowling's enchanting Harry Potter series -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- is due out on July 21. The latest Potter movie will be screened on July 13.

If, like RSR and family, you're eagerly awaiting both events, you might want to take a moment to think about library censorship and what you can do to prevent it.

Fears of "witchcraft" have made the Harry Potter books a popular target of the religious right in recent years. However, Americans United for Separation of Church and State notes that most censorship efforts collapse in the face of counter mobilization by concerned community members.

They've put together a handy guide for citizen action here. Why not take a look, take their advice, and then get busy defending freedom of the press. That'd be a great way to celebrate publication of the seventh and last Potter volume.


The Show That Never Ends

Ken Ham's absurd Creation Museum has provoked a number of my fellow skeptics to put finger to keyboard. You can laugh along with them at Polite Company where the latest edition of the Skeptic's Circle is now on view.



If you're like RSR, you simply can't get enough of the self-righteous hypocrisy that is the religious right. We've stumbled on a web site where even the most glutinous among you can throw caution to the wind and binge on the latest example of holier-than-thou hypocricy until you can binge no more.

It's an Australian blog, Duae Quartunciae, which for the Latin challenged translates as "My Two Cents." The author describes himself as "an atheist, but not particularly concerned to wipe out religion." He writes about evolution, cosmology, math, religion and unbelief.

Oh yeah, he has a post up just now that recounts in loving detail the lawsuit that grew out of a split between Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis, the proud owners of a shiny new creation museum in Kentucky, and its former Australian-based parent group Creation Ministries International.

Though he calls it peripheral to the main story line, Duae Quartunciae takes a thoroughly satisfying side trip though John McKay's (unfounded) accusations that Creation Science Foundation staffer Margarent Buchanan engaged in witchcraft, Satanism, and necrophilia with her dead husband.

The real battle, of course, is over money. Isn't it always?

The fight between Ken Ham's American-based organization AiG and Carl Weiland now heading up CMI in Australia is over two very profitable assets: the AiG website and two journals, both produced in Australia, but distributed in other countries.

In these business dealings, in Duae Quartunciae's opinion, "the Australians have been royally screwed by the Americans."

We won't try to tell the whole story here. Go to Duae Quartunciae and wallow in the details, the links to legal documents filed in the case, the summary of blog reactions from around the world, and the spin from both sides. It's all there and more.

It's a guilty pleasure, so wallow in it. Just don't go bulimic on me.

Update: The link is fixed.

Friday, June 08, 2007


The Philosopher's Revenge

Back in April, we reported that creationist chemistry teacher Jim Garretson planned to teach a "Physics 2990: Creation Science" course at McCook Community College in Nebraska.

A few days after that announcement we learned that the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education decided to "change the prefix of the course to philosophy to better reflect the nature of the subject matter."

Naturally the shouts of joy from the McCook Science Dept. were nearly drowned out by the agonized screams coming from the philosophy faculty.

Whatever department ended up taking one for the team, the course was to have included:

Now, however, Glen Branch of the National Center for Science Education has told us that he's seen an e-mail from the president of McCook Community College saying that the proposed creation science course "was removed from our course offerings on May 10, 2007."

That's too bad. I was looking forward to driving up to Nebraska, perhaps with Les Lane riding shotgun, to hear about dinosaurs in the present.


Defenders of the Faith

"ID is every bit as biblically based as the creationism that preceded it," writes Barbara Forrest in a new Center for Inquiry position paper. "The movement’s leaders have defined ID in overtly religious terms, identifying the intelligent designer as the God of the Bible and referring to themselves as creationists."

However, in order to avoid divisive arguments with their young earth creationist allies over issues concerning, for example, the age of the earth:
ID proponents do not use Genesis as the basis for ID. They appeal instead to the New Testament Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. / The same was in the beginning with God. / All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. / . . . He was in the world, and the world was made by him, . . .” (John 1:1-3, 10, KJV)

"They consider promoting ID to be their duty as Christian apologists who must defend the faith against what they perceive as attacks emanating from science."

Via National Center for Science Education.


Mooney and Nisbet

When Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet came to the Stowers Institute in Kansas City to talk about how scientists might be more effective at connecting to audiences without sacrificing accuracy, RSR was unable to attend. Fortunately, Josh Rosenau who publishes the Thoughts from Kansas blog was there. He's posted this report.


Reconciling Science and Religion

A USAToday/Gallup poll of 1,007 adults conducted June 1-3, finds that a majority of Americans, 53 percent, believe that evolution, the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, is true. Some 44 percent of respondents find it false.

On the other hand, 66 percent of those same respondents say creationism, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years is true. About 31 percent disagree.

Geoffrey Layman, a politics and religion expert at the University of Maryland cited by USAToday, says the contradictory poll results indicate people are trying to reconcile science and religion.

"They might believe the science, or they might see the science as hard to dismiss, and they don't necessarily take Genesis to be literal," he says. "But they do think that God played some role in directing this evolutionary process."

To put all this in perspective, it may be useful to keep in mind that 31 percent of the American people still believe George Bush is doing a good job in Iraq.


Sticks and Stones

The Discovery Institute, you know, they guys who say scientists and science teachers should be held responsible for socialism, communism, fascism, capitalism, eugenics, the Nazis, one world government, black helicopters, abortion, cloning, gay marriage, race-mixing, illegal immigration, flag burning, school shootings, terrorism, multiculturalism, and post-modern malaise?

Well, they're a little upset at "Darwinist" name calling and finger pointing.

A post published yesterday on Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog by Casey Luskin exposes "Darwinist" perfidy in The Panda's Black Box, a new book on intelligent design.

As examples Luskin cites Nathaniel C. Comfort who writes that:

The list of grievances goes on and on. Seems as though some of the other contributors to Panda's Black Box find ID supporters "ignorant" as well.

Harsh man, way harsh.

Update: ID activist William Dembski often decries "Darwinist's" disrespect for intelligent design proponents. Dembski, if he is to be believed, would prefer a more collegial relationship. Yesterday his associate, DaveScot, posted this on Dembski's Uncommon Descent blog: "UD Subscriber Magnan pinches his nose closed long enough to fisk Mark Chu-Carrol’s vitriolic spittle strewn imbecilic diatribe “review” of Michael Behe’s new book The Edge of Evolution... "


Eats, Shoots & Leaves

At Ken Ham's Creation Museum an animatronic dinosaur displays a set of choppers intelligently designed for its vegan lifestyle in the Garden of Eden.


Subtlety and Nuance Abounds

It's one thing to stand in front of the yahoos and profess your undying belief in young earth creationism. It's quite another thing, apparently, to do it in front of a national television audience. Especially when you want, more than anything in the whole wide world, to be elected president of the United States of America.

At the first Republican presidential candidate debate, Kansas' own Sen. Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Rep. Tom Tancredo all raised their hands to say they don't believe in evolution.

In the uproar that ensued, Brownback was the first to clarify his views. Now, it seems, Mike Huckabee want to add a little subtlety and nuance to his own position, as well:
I believe there is a God who was active in the creation process. Now, how did he do it, and when did he do it, and how long did he take? I don't honestly know, and I don't think knowing that would make me a better or a worse president.

Red State Rabble can't help thinking that knowing something ought to be a prerequisite for presidential wannabes -- even when they're Republicans.

Update: According to USAToday, Huckabee told reporters at a lunch Wednesday he embraces Scripture, but "to me, it's not a conflict with science."



Ed Brayton, who publishes the Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog, has posted a devastating rebuttal by Peter Irons, the author of God on Trial: Dispatches from America’s Religious Battlefields, to attacks on the Dover decision and character of trial judge John Jones made by Discovery Institute flaks Casey Luskin, John West, and David Dewolf in a Montana Law Review symposium.

It's well worth reading in its entirety.


Poorly Conceived, Readily Dispatched

In his new book, The Edge of Evolution, ID activist Michael Behe "makes a new set of explicit claims about the limits of Darwinian evolution, claims that are so poorly conceived and readily dispatched that he has unwittingly done his critics a great favor in stating them," writes Sean Carroll in a Science review.

Carroll is the author of Endless Forms Most Beautiful and The Making of the Fittest. He is at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Wisconsin.


Ken Ham's Adam a Porn Star

In Ken Ham's Garden of Eden, the lion lays down with the lamb (and the dinosaur), but his Adam, Eric Linden, it seems, lays down with everything in sight. According to the Associated Press, Linden owns a pornographic web site called BedroomAcrobat.

Linden appears as Adam in one of 55 videos featured on visitor tours at Ham's newly opened Kentucky Creation Museum.

Maybe it's the video where they take to heart God's injunction to be fruitful and multiply.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Well, I'm back.

I was gone just five short days, but so much has happened in my absence. Ken Ham's Creation Museum had just opened and already the holier-than-thou Ham is being sued by his creationist friends down under.

According to The Australian, "Brisbane-based Creation Ministries International has filed a lawsuit in Queensland's Supreme Court against Mr. Ham and his Kentucky-based Answers in Genesis ministry seeking damages and accusing him of deceptive conduct in his dealings with the Australian organisation."

Red State Rabble readers will be fascinated to know that The Australian coverage of the suit mentions that a report of Ham's shady business practices includes this little tidbit: "John Mackay, a former associate of Mr. Ham in Queensland... was excommunicated in the 1980s after making allegations of witchcraft and necrophilia against a fellow member of the ministry."

The devastating cultural impact of evolution, it would seem, is found everywhere. Even among the most fervent creationists.

While we were off the grid, mousetrap man Michael Behe published a new book, Edge of Evolution. Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education has already demonstrated that the man is clueless. That fact, however, won't have any impact on sales. The book is aimed at the utterly credulous.

Speaking of books, the Discovery Institute is also touting Explore Evolution. I haven't read it yet and can't really say anything about it. I will offer this hypothesis: Explore Evolution will contribute little science or evolution, but reveal much about the Terra Incognita of the intelligent design brain.

Lest you doubt the truly scientific nature of the Explore Evolution enterprise, Discovery is quick to assure potential readers that the publisher specializes in science and nature books of "exceptional quality."
In addition to Explore Evolution, its books include The Concise Atlas of Butterflies of the World (2001), The Birds of Asia, vol. 7 (1992), The Mammals of Australia, vol 2 (2002), and World Butterflies (2006). A publishing partner of the Natural History Museum in London, Hill House has been awarded an exclusive license by the museum to produce authentic facsimiles of priceless and rare antiquarian books, prints and maps from the world-famous libraries of that institution.

Perhaps Explore Evolution is part of the publisher's line of priceless and rare antiquarian -- did they mean antediluvian? -- reprints. Discovery, hilariously, recommends it as a "stimulating capstone" for AP Biology classes -- but not before the test.

Oh yes, the five short days I was gone seemed to fly by, but there was still time enough for Evolution News and Views to publish nine posts about Iowa State University's denial of tenure to ID activist Guillermo Gonzales.

Although Discovery, apparently, was able to use what remains of its influence to dilute a negative review by Publisher's Weekly of Behe's "over the edge" book with a series of glowing testimonials from the usual suspects on the book's Amazon page, they had less impact on tenure process at ISU.

Gonzalez' appeal was denied.

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