Thursday, August 31, 2006
You may have seen reports about the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The big news to come out of it was that, asked whether conservative Christians have gone too far in trying to impose their religious values on the country, 49% of the respondents said "yes."
While definitely a good thing, it hardly amounts to a major shift, up only 4 percentage points from last year in a poll with a 2.5 percentage point margin of error. Perhaps more importantly, the split is a stark one, with 43% answering "no" and only 8% "don't know." This would appear to be only a small shift in the lines in the culture war until you realize that 60% of Democrats and 65% of Independents think liberals have gone too far in keeping religion out of government. In fact, it may only be a brief pause in the total retreat of those who think the government is screwed up enough without theological help.
True to my nature, some of the less conspicuous results leapt out at me. For example, why do nearly half (48%) of people identified as "seculars" view the U.S. as a Christian nation?
And is there anything other than the obvious to be made about this:
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Fly Me To the . . .
I don't have much time tonight. I have to get up way early (yuck) to drive my first wife (ducks) to the airport.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute thinks Judge Jones violated the First Amendment by ruling out the theology of Intelligent Design.
Well, he didn't mean to say that, but you be the [cough] judge:
Luskin is over at Evolution News & Views going on about Judge Jones' supposed violation of the First Amendment because he found that:
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.According to Luskin:
Many people have the religious view that evolution "is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being." Yet Judge Jones promoted pro-evolution-only-theology by writing that this particular religious view is "utterly false."
Now, of course, what Luskin is really engaged in is some sleight of hand. Judge Jones was in no way saying that there are no believers who find evolution contrary to their religion. And he certainly wasn't calling their beliefs false. He takes some pains to say that he was not deciding the truth of ID, merely its status as science or non-science. The Judge was saying rather clearly that the "presupposition . . . that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general" is not true. He was summing up in that section and stating the well-known fact that many believers have no trouble reconciling evolution and their faith in a divine creator. Even Luskin's own complaint admits that fact: If many people find evolution antithetical to their beliefs, that necessarily means others do not find it so.
It was the denial of that fact that Jones called "utterly false." And he was utterly right.
The Biggest Bouncer
Jim Chen of Jurisdynamics has been introduced to the wonders of the blogoshere. His comment about Justice Scalia was picked up by Jonathan Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy and the net version of a fist fight broke out there instead of at Jurisdynamics.
Well, nothing is all bad. Professor Chen has now decided to:
... undertake an extended series on evolution, natural history, and naturalism as a source of inspiration, even religious satisfaction, for a world all too ready to rip itself apart over minute, offensively irrelevant theological differences. In a spirit no less playful than Seinfeld, I'll call the series Genesis for the Rest of Us.
Monday, August 28, 2006
There is a relatively new "theme" blog out there that I learned of through Pat Hayes' excellent blog, Red State Rabble, that may be of interest to those involved in the defense of evolutionary theory from creationist claptrap.
Anyway, one interesting post brought to light an otherwise obscure decision of the Supreme Court. The case, Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education v. Freiler, has a somewhat tangled history.
The school board in the euphonious Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana created a "disclaimer" to be read in class as follows:
Whenever, in classes of elementary or high school, the scientific theory of evolution is to be presented, whether from textbook, workbook, pamphlet, other written material, or oral presentation the following statement shall be quoted immediately before the unit of study begins as a disclaimer from endorsement of such theory.
It is hereby recognized by the Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, that the lesson to be presented, regarding the origin of life and matter, is known as the Scientific Theory of Evolution and should be presented to inform students of the scientific concept and not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept.
It is further recognized by the Board of Education that it is the basic right and privilege of each student to form his/her own opinion or maintain beliefs taught by parents on this very important matter of the origin of life and matter. Students are urged to exercise critical thinking and gather all information possible and closely examine each alternative toward forming an opinion.
As Jim Chen, an Associate Dean and the James L. Krusemark Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, points out, Justice Scalia:
. . . took extreme pains to dissent from this decision. He derided the appeals court’s reasoning -- and, by extension, that of his colleagues who voted to deny further review -- as "quite simply absurd." He found no reasonable prospect of treating the school board’s "reference to . . . a reality of religious literature" as an unconstitutional "establishment of religion." After expressing seeming disapproval of Epperson and Edwards, Justice Scalia berated his colleagues for advancing further "the much beloved secular legend of the Monkey Trial."Professor Chen goes on to say:
Seen in the light of creationism’s slow but persistent growth into what Stephen Jay Gould has called a potentially "powerful champion (sic) of darkness," Justice Scalia’s gratuitous swipe at evolutionary biology in Tangipahoa Parish may be the most scientifically irresponsible passage in United States Reports. For sheer stupidity and public recklessness, Justice Scalia’s sarcastic reference to legal efforts to keep evolution in public school classrooms as a "secular legend" may actually eclipse Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s eugenicist epithet in Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 207 (1927), "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."I'm not as sure as the good Professor that Justice Scalia has plumbed the depths of the stupidity that the Court can bring to bear on evolutionary theory. Certainly the Circuit Court can match Justice Scalia in ignorance, if not in sarcasm. The dissent in the Circuit Court had this rather stunning howler:
Contrary to the panel's interpretation, the disclaimer expressly encourages examination of "each alternative" concept for life's origin, including evolution, the Biblical version, and others that are not identified. Moreover, the panel erroneously assumes that all alternatives to evolution are religious in nature, ignoring the existence of non-religious theories, such as the "Big Bang" and panspermia (reproductive bodies of living organisms exist throughout the universe and develop wherever the environment is favorable).I, for one, am rather surprised to learn that the Big Bang is an alternative concept to evolution of life's origin. Here I thought that evolution was the scientific study of the history and development of life after its origin in some simple form and that the Big Bang had to do with the origin of matter and the large-scale structure of the universe as a whole. Needless to say, panspermia was nothing more than a science-fictiony concept flirted with by some somewhat eccentric scientists, including Francis Crick and Fred Hoyle, back in the 1980s, that has gone nowhere as science but remains among the near-infinite array of possibilities that cannot be ruled out by science.
While the case itself and the resultant decisions are interesting on their own and I recommend that anyone with the time should read them, nothing much lasting came out of it in the way of precedent. Furthermore, the disclaimer was certainly borderline in its violation, if any, of the Constitution.
What is of real importance is the continuing antipathy of Justice Scalia to the Lemon test and the Establishment Clause in general. With the recent changes in the Court, Lemon may be on its way out and the alternative might be much more friendly to creationism being taught at public expense. If nothing else, the dissent in the Circuit court shows that the religious right may have already made great headway in its attempts to install a judiciary favorable to its agenda and antagonistic to the traditional reading of the separation of church and state.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Water Over the Gate
John Dean (yes, that John Dean) has an article at FindLaw that is a useful summary of the danger posed by the Christian Nationalists, also known as Dominionists and/or Reconstructionists.* Go read it! It is important if you think freedom (and I don't mean just religious freedom) is a good thing and should be preserved in the United States.
But I want to just take a side trip to a case Dean mentions but does not elaborate on. Katherine Harris (yes, that Katherine Harris) may be running a Senate race in Florida that is, as Gov. Jeb Bush called it, "futile," but she is leading in the Republican primary in a four-way contest. And candidates declared dead by their own party have risen anew in spite of such judgments, as recently witnessed in Connecticut.
Reviewing and summarizing Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism (which I have blogged about before, one, two, three times) Dean notes:
Katherine Harris, President Bush's favorite Florida election official and now a Republican candidate for the Senate, recently provided a good example of Christian nationalist thinking, when asked what role people of faith should play in politics and government. She responded as a Christian nationalist might, including advice on how to evade the law that prohibits using tax free funds for political purposes.
[W]e have to have the faithful in government and over time, that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state, people have internalized, thinking that they needed to avoid politics and that is so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers. And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women and if people aren’t involved in helping godly men in getting elected than we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our founding fathers intended and that’s certainly isn’t what God intended. So it’s really important that members of the church know people’s stands. It’s really important that they get involved in campaigns. I said I’m going to run a campaign of integrity. I’m not going to run it like all of the campaigns that I’ve seen before…. And you know, it’s hard to find people that are gonna behave that way in a campaign and be honorable that way in a campaign. But that’s why we need the faithful and we need to take back this country. It’s time that the churches get involved. Pastors, from the pulpit, can invite people to speak, not on politics, but of their faith. But they can discern, they can ask those people running for election, in the pulpit, what is your position on gay marriage? What is your position on abortion? That is totally permissible in 5013C organizations. They simply cannot endorse from the pulpit. And that’s why I’ve gone to churches and I’ve spoken in four churches, five churches a day on Sunday and people line up afterwards because it’s so important that they know. And if we don’t get involved as Christians then how could we possibly take this back?
If you ain't scared, you ain't paying attention.
* The Reconstructionists claim there is a difference between them and the Dominionists, though I can't, for the life of me, see it. Still, like earthworms, they must be able to tell which end is up.
If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin.The clarification is mostly a paean to her support of Israel. So, she'll apparently let Jews into the legislative club (though I bet she'd have some reservations about Chuck Schumer, if she had her druthers) but you still have to wonder if Muslims, Buddhists, etc. are welcome in Harris' idea of government under the Constitution. You know those nasty sin-legislatin' agnostics and atheists are out.
Anyway, as to the rest of the flap as to whether separation of church and state is a "lie," the clarification say only:
In a recent article published in the Florida Baptist Witness, Congresswoman Katherine Harris was asked to comment on the interplay of faith and politics in the public square. In the interview, Harris was speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government. Addressing this Christian publication, Harris provided a statement that explains her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values.
It wasn't my intent to section out Christians at all. My passion is to make sure that people participate in the process. Everyone should vote. Everyone should be engaged, but the problem is a lot of Christians believe they should not participate because of the separation of church and state.Funny, that's not what the Christian right says when they take a moment from the twisted arms and remind everyone just who it was that elected Dubya and the Republican Congress.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Did Halloween come early this year? There is some very spooky thinking (and I use the term advisedly, to say the least) going around the Net.
First up, we have the good folks over at the Institute for Creation Research discussing the then pending question of whether Pluto should qualify as a planet. According to Frank Sherwin of the ICR, the problem is:
. . . is accentuated by the discovery of a larger object/planet (dubbed Xena) that is beyond Pluto, but has a circumference 112 kilometers (70 miles) longer than Pluto. If Pluto is considered a planet, should not also Xena? Should this be a tenth planet?
Notice that additional scientific research has up-ended current planetary thought. Will there ever be a time when neo-Darwinism will be held up to such scrutiny due to new scientific discoveries? ...
Even spookier is the following from a woman who once was in the Defense Department. After rehearsing a number of lame defenses for D. James Kennedy's dishonest "documentary," Darwin's Deadly Legacy," she comes up with this out of the blue:
One thing: To fit Darwin’s theory, you would think that evolutionists would be totally pro-life in order for the most fit to survive. So you would conclude Darwinists would want as many born as possible to ensure the human species will survive and improve. This is not proven out by the adherence of extreme evolutionists to humanism, to abortion, to eugenics.First of all, this commits what is commonly known as the Naturalistic Fallacy. It confuses what is true about nature with what ought to be. Even assuming that such a course would "ensure the human species will survive and improve," that does not mean any one individual or society as a whole should follow it. It might well improve the species in some sense to eliminate the clumsy who are also too stupid to stay away from cliff edges. But we'll go on installing guard rails at the overlooks at the Grand Canyon anyway. As a social species, our interrelationships are too complex for such simplistic "analysis" to capture.
Which brings us to the second mistake: evolution is not about "progress." It is about "differentially better reproductive success within the local and often changing environment." What is "rewarded" by evolution is the ability of you and your descendants to out-compete any rivals for the resources that you need to make more of your descendants. That process can include becoming stupider, smaller, weaker and less complex. It can even include preventing the birth of some fetuses.
Next, the simple fact is that the number of medical abortions is very small compared to spontaneous abortions, which terminate approximately 50% of all fertilized zygotes. The increased number of artificial abortions (especially considering the likely lowered rate of spontaneous ones due to modern nutrition and medical care) is likely to be statistically insignificant, even before you take into account the benefits abortions may have, such as better-cared-for offspring with a concomitant better outlook for their own reproductive success. Also, most (if not all) selection occurs at the level of the individual organism. It might well be best for the species if we let the circumstances of the individual decide whether or not to take any particular conceptus to term.
It is not, of course, a moral failing to be ignorant of what evolutionary theory proposes. But the only objective of Kennedy's exercise is to claim the moral high ground. However, to disingenuously attack something that you resolutely refuse to learn about and understand displays an utter disregard for the truth that negates any such claim.
The All New DogMatic
The race in Ohio for the state Board of Education between former Congressman and former Akron Mayor Tom Sawyer and incumbent Deborah Owens Fink is getting national attention as another test for Intelligent Design Creationism.
Owens Fink is beginning to sound just a bit desperate:
Owens Fink sent out an e-mail to supporters this week criticizing Sawyer and calling members of the Ohio Academy of Science and National Academy of Sciences "so-called scientists." She labeled [Patricia] Princehouse and [Steve] Rissing [members of the advisory board of Help Ohio Public Education] as the "liberal left."
Owens Fink calls Princehouse, Krauss and other scientists supportive of Sawyer "members of the dogmatic scientific community" who want to stifle discussion about "the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory."
And, of course, being in favor of reality makes you a "liberal" only in the delusional politics of extremists who can only respond to logic and evidence with slogans and ... well ... dogma that is definitely not of the cute kind.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Not Enough . . . Not By a Long Shot!
Ann Coulter is stunned!
No, Tasers don't explain those books of hers . . . it seems that she is shocked . . . shocked, I say . . . that she could go through 12 years of public school, then college and law school, and still not know that it was Charles Darwin's theory of evolution that fueled Hitler's ovens.
But I have the answer to her confusion! Despite her 12 years of public school, then college, then law school and then years more learning how much money she can earn by intellectually pickpocketing the mouth-breathing set, she has still not been told THE TRUTH!
Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence fueled Hitler's ovens!
Think about it! Without the Declaration of Independence and the encouragement its Enlightenment rationalism gave to the French Revolution, there never would have been a Terror. The Terror was the first systematic attempt to use the power of the state, through mass murder, to reduce human politics to a mechanistic science of behaviorism through intimidation. As Madison Smartt Bell wrote in his book, Lavoisier In the Year One:
The pseudoscientific, pseudo-algebraic methodology of the Terror ... injects its banality into evil during the Nazi regime, by allowing men like Eichmann to practice genocide ...
Some people, such as Ellis Weiner, claim Jesus caused the Holocaust.
But he shows that he is just a conspiracy nut by trying to blame Ann Coulter on Jesus too. Some things nobody can swallow!
Don't forget to thank D. James Kennedy as often as you can on the web for bringing the important truth to light that America caused the Holocaust. After all, without him I never would have stumbled across this amazing fact!
You can just go ahead and give him all the credit and leave my name out of it.
Kennedy's Et Cetera
The Christian Post is reporting that Francis Collins and Coral Ridge Ministries have reached agreement concerning the disputed use of an interview of Collins in the Ministries' "documentary," Darwin's Deadly Legacy, which attempts to lay blame for the Holocaust on Darwin's theory. According to the report, although Collins complained that Coral Ridge was wrongfully using him as part of its twisted documentary:
Coral Ridge, however, stated that Collins was informed that he was being interviewed for a program that would address the adverse social consequences of Darwin and that he was asked specifically about the Darwin-Hitler connection. Collins had responded during the interview that he did not agree with that view. Additionally, Collins also signed a Talent Release giving the ministry the right to use his interview "without limitation in all perpetuity.".Nevertheless, both parties reached an understanding and agreed to remove Collins from all future airings of the documentary.
See, all you have to do to get certain "men of God" to do the right thing is put up with the kicking and screaming while they are being dragged.
Andrew Arensburger at Ooblog (via Pharangula) is reporting the email response he got from Michael Behe (author of Darwin's Black Box) to his inquiry into Behe's advertised involvement in D. James Kennedy's exercise in dissembling, Darwin’s Deadly Legacy. Kennedy had apparently spliced some footage of an interview with Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, concerning Collins' book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, into this pseudo-documentary so that he could promote Collins as one of the "experts" supporting the contention that Darwin was responsible for the Holocaust.
Collins, with great vehemence, has denied any such involvement. With less vehemence but no less certainty, Behe has also stated that Kennedy hijacked his name for this dishonest project. Asked to comment on his association with the program in light of Collins' statements, Behe replied:
I'm "associated" with it only in the sense that a clip of my appearance on a TV show of Dr. Kennedy's from years ago apparently is used in the film. I didn't know this program was in the works, have had no conversations with anyone from Coral Ridge about it, and had no input into it.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Uh . . . Panda, Not Pandering
Pat Hayes over at Red State Rabble has found, through one of his readers, an interesting brochure from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, William Dembski's academic home for the moment. In listing its sizeable endowments, it includes the following:
Institute for Cultural Engagement ($6,000,000) Biblically-based principles like Intelligent Design will shine the light of truth into our culture through world-class professors who both teach and sponsor public and academic forums.Dembski, given his location, should know that actions have consequences.
A new play, "Darwin in Malibu" by Crispin Whittell had its American premier at Long Island's Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor the other night and is scheduled to run through September 3rd.
Starring Hal Linden (of "Barney Miller" fame among the geezers), the plot revolves around a supposed reunion of Darwin, Thomas Huxley and Bishop Samuel ("Soapy Sam") Wilberforce to rehash the famous Oxford debate between Huxley and Wilberforce, ending in the perhaps apocryphal exchange where Wilberforce asked Huxley if he was descended from an ape on his grandmother's or his grandfather's side and Huxley reportedly replied that he would rather have an ape than a bishop for an ancestor, if the bishop was going to inject ridicule into a serious scientific debate.
I don't really have anything to say about the play but I wanted all the science geeks out there to know that you can too have beautiful women fawning over you . . . once you're dead 120 years or so.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
A Zombie Ain't Just a Drink
D. James Kennedy and his Coral Ridge Ministries are fighting back in the only way that they know how: with dissembling and an utter lack of conscience. Kennedy and his cronies have responded to the Anti Defamation League's scalding attack on their disingenuous "documentary," Darwin’s Deadly Legacy, with a press release calling the criticism "harsh" and "unfounded" and noting that ADL National Director Abe Foxman, "has not viewed our television program."
But Kennedy's own press releases, including this one, are more than sufficient to demonstrate the dishonesty that will be on display. There may be no need to even go into the details of the claims Kennedy makes about Darwin to understand Kennedy's utter lack of morality. This alleged response to the ADL's statement, which prominently featured the justified complaint of Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, that Kennedy was using his name without authorization to promote this piece of trash, completely ignores Collins' complaint. There is no attempt to justify this hijacking of Collins' reputation, no guarantee that Collins' words and image won't be used against his permission and, most tellingly for a supposed "man of God," not a single word of apology.
It is hardly surprising, then, that Kennedy's own "talking point" in favor of his claim that "the historical fact [is] that Adolf Hitler was an evolutionist" is a blatant bait-and-switch. Citing the ever-popular unnamed "historians" to the effect that "there’s really not much debate about whether or not Hitler was a social Darwinist," Kennedy hopes that his target audience among the scientifically and historically illiterate won't notice the difference between evolutionary theory and the various social practices that have been labeled as social Darwinism and which invariably had nothing to do with Darwin's science.
As Roger Bannister pointed out in his 1979 book, Social Darwinism: Science and Myth in Anglo-American Social Thought (Temple University Press), "social Darwinism" has been used to describe such contradictory ideas as laissez faire economics, opposition to aid to the poor, exploitation of workers, militarism, imperialism, racism, eugenics, nationalism, collectivism, industrial regulation, social reform and just about anything else that the person wielding the term didn't like. In other words, "social Darwinism" is a term of abuse used to describe what the speaker opposes. And who or what is more hated than Hitler and Nazism? Given the history of the term, it was inevitable that some historians would call Hitler a social Darwinist and, given Kennedy's lack of morals, it was inevitable that he would try to take advantage of the confusion this chameleon term could sow among the uninformed.
Further evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of the program, to go along with its moral bankruptcy, is Kennedy's quote mining of Niles Eldredge. Without giving us a cite for this quote (either in the press release or at Kennedy's website page about the program) it cannot immediately be said what Eldredge intended. But it is clear that Kennedy is again trying to exploit any confusion he can between the type of "social Darwinism" Eldredge rightly deplores and evolutionary theory.
Similarly, Kennedy quote mines Sir Arthur Keith. Sir Arthur may well have been a good scientist of his day but he also had some ideas that were, to say the least, outside the mainstream of evolutionary theory. Indeed, Keith describes his thesis in the book Kennedy wrenches the snippet from, Evolution and Ethics (which is online here and here), as follows:
Most of my colleagues regard a nation as a political unit, with which anthropologists have no concern; whereas I regard a nation as an "evolutionary unit," with which anthropologists ought to be greatly concerned. The only live races in Europe today are its nations. (p. vi)It is in this idiosyncratic sense of "evolution" that Keith calls Hitler an "evolutionist" and it is this idea that nations are evolving that Keith says Hitler was consciously following. Needless to say, this is a very different idea than Darwin proposed and resembles, if anything, the hyper-Americanism of the religious right more than scientific theory. Kennedy and the so-called "experts" who abetted him in this travesty could easily have found this out . . . if they were interested in the truth rather than propaganda.
If it wasn't for the fact that lies like Kennedy's sometimes have more staying power than the truth, it would be most appropriate to invoke Godwin's Law, accept creationism's admission of defeat and tiptoe away from the corpse. Unfortunately, this dead thing keeps feeding on the brains of the living.
Labels: Quote Mining
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
I'm feeling so . . . uh . . . seerish. I predicted we would be hearing more about the television "documentary," Darwin’s Deadly Legacy, produced by D. James Kennedy, of Coral Ridge Ministries, and the apparent attempt by Kennedy to hijack the reputation of Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project, in support of this bit of cardboard history. Further, I predicted that this special would be best suited for simpletons unable to see through misdirection and outright lies.
Lo and behold, Wingnut (opps, WorldNet) Daily has rushed in to let us know that not only was Collins absolutely correct when he denied any involvement in the program (and that Kennedy is absolutely unrepentant for his dishonesty) but that the show is going to be full of logical errors and untruths.
According to the story:
John Aman, a spokesman for Coral Ridge, said Collins' comments weren't sought in an advocacy role.
"Dr. Francis Collins has, apparently, disassociated himself with the special," Aman said. "He is not presented as an advocate of the Darwin-Hitler thesis, but in our science section, he is presented as an evolutionist who addresses the question of God and creation."
The program features 14 scholars, scientists, and authors who outline the grim consequences of Darwin’s theory of evolution and show how his theory fueled Hitler’s ovens.
The article goes on at great length about how PZ Myers at Pharyngula was "offering stinging criticism of those on the show," including Collins but that, once "Collins explained that he had been interviewed by Coral Ridge about his book, and the taping was inserted into the program without his advance knowledge," PZ only offered "a half-hearted apology." I'll leave it to the reader to go to PZ's site and determine how "hearted" his apology was (PZ hardly needs me to defend him and, anyway, everyone can use the improvement that comes from perusing his excellent blog). What is conspicuously absent from the WorldNet article is any mention of the complete lack of an apology (half-hearted or otherwise) from Kennedy to Collins for dishonestly dragging his name into this dishonest project.
And what a project it is! Here are some quotes from the article which presumably represent the very best of the arguments the program can muster:
Jerry Newcomb, producer of the program, "said before Darwin, the basic concept was that man was made in the image of God, and was therefore valuable. But Darwin changed all that." I suppose, if you count those Southern Baptists and other Christians who thought other human beings were so "valuable" that they set up a little trade in them, while spouting justifications for slavery from their Bibles, you could say that. But it takes a special kind of chutzpah to say it with a straight face.
Coulter is quoted as saying that Hitler simply was taking Darwinism from the theoretical to the practical:
He thought the Aryans were the fittest and he was just hurrying natural selection along.
Nor is it true that "Darwin led to eugenics, which led directly to Hitler" as Newcomb asserts. That is simpleton history of the "A happened and B happened, therefore A caused B" variety that is justly recognized as a logical fallacy. Much of the time that German militarism, the real fuel the Nazi movement, was developing came during the "Eclipse of Darwinism." The same can also be said of the rise of negative eugenics.
Finally, trying to take advantage of the Columbine tragedy shows the real moral center of Kennedy, which is in the gutter. Troubled teenagers are hardly a phenomenon that only arose after Darwin. That those particular tormented youths chose selection as the metaphor for their angst is more chance than anything.
They might just as well have adopted "Kill them all, God will know his own."
This is an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust. Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Trivializing the Holocaust comes from either ignorance at best or, at worst, a mendacious attempt to score political points in the culture war on the backs of six million Jewish victims and others who died at the hands of the Nazis.
. . . absolutely appalled by what Coral Ridge Ministries is doing. I had NO knowledge that Coral Ridge Ministries was planning a TV special on Darwin and Hitler, and I find the thesis of Dr. Kennedy's program utterly misguided and inflammatory.
And they claim that Darwin is bad for children's morals! More on this can be found at Pharyngula.
Monday, August 21, 2006
The War of the Words
Mesa County commissioner Janet Rowland has just been tapped to run for Lieutenant Governor of Colorado. Hefting some considerable baggage, her candidacy promises to touch off heavy skirmishes in the culture wars. Some of her prior statements:
Re separation of church and state:
It’s not in the Constitution. We should have the freedom OF religion, not the freedom FROM religion.Well, actually, that is more correctly "We have the freedom OF religion because we have the freedom FROM religion imposed by government."
Re teaching creationism or evolution:
Either both or neither. All religions are welcomed in the schools except Christianity. This is wrong.
And more generally:
I know of no one trying to stop her from practicing her religion but I don't doubt that there are many who want to stop her using taxpayer money to do so. And she's right that mere offense is not enough to stop her from practicing her religion as she sees fit. People are, however, free to stop her from violating the Constitution.Rowland said Friday that attacks on religious expression take on special venom when they’re directed against Christianity.
The Constitutional directive that Congress make no law respecting the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof "means I have the freedom to practice my religion."
It also means there is no right someone else can claim against not being offended by her beliefs.
"I’m offended by things I hear every day," she said, "but there is no freedom not to have to hear those types of things."
But most worrying for the citizens of Colorado might be the signs she is suffering from paranoia. Certainly anyone who thinks that, in a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian and where Christians feel free to tell a Jewish family that "If you want people to stop calling your son 'Jew boy' you tell him to give his heart to Jesus!," it follows that Christians are somehow the victims of "special venom," is so out of touch with reality that they should be in state institutions rather than running them.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
You may have seen (if you frequent Wingnut Daily) the "news" that D. James Kennedy, head of the megachurch Coral Ridge Ministries and budding theocrat through his support of Dominionist theology, has produced a television "documentary," Darwin’s Deadly Legacy, that reprises the tired allegation that Darwin caused Nazism. As Kennedy himself, loaded down with unintended irony, said "[t]o put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler." The program will no doubt be fully appropriate for simpletons, given its lineup of "experts" who are well schooled in playing to the ignorazzi, including Ann Coulter, Lee Strobel, Jonathan Wells and Phillip Johnson.
What surprised everyone was that Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project, had apparently lent his name and time to the project. While Collins is an evangelical Christian and has been much in the news of late, as a result of his newly-released book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, he has always staunchly defended evolutionary theory from creationist attacks. That he would support charges that Darwin's theory somehow contributed to the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust, did not seem in character.
PZ Myers at Pharyngula is now reporting that Collins has replied to the news release and was, in an email, "unambiguous in stating that he was interviewed about his book, and that was then inserted into the video without his knowledge."
While we will no doubt be hearing more about this, I, for one, would hardly be surprised if Kennedy is guilty as charged of venal dealings with Dr. Collins. After all, if you set out to dishonestly blacken the name of a dead scientist, why blanch at disingenuously hijacking the reputation of a living one?
The really funny part is that Kennedy and his ilk had better hope they are wrong about the existence and nature of God. By some reports (as in Blake's illustration of Dante above) He takes a dim view of falsifiers.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Stalking the Wild Epigram
Well, some people want to call it the "quotation meme" but I think "epigram diving" is a better term.
To play, go here and look through random quotes until you find 5 that you think reflect who you are or what you believe.
Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. - Oscar Wilde
It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them. - Alfred Adler
Anything not worth doing is worth not doing well. - Elias Schwartz
We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. - Plato
Egotism is the anesthetic given by a kindly nature to relieve the pain of being a damned fool. - Bellamy Brooks
Cindy Duckett, the famed Prophet of Kansas, has produced another prognostication for our edification. In the recent primaries for the Kansas Board of Education, conservative candidates Ken Willard, of Hutchinson, and John Bacon, of Olathe, survived, while their compatriots, Connie Morris and Brad Patzer, went down in defeat to moderate Republicans.
In the general election, Willard will be facing Jack Wempe and Bacon will be up against Don Weiss. both Democrats. According to Cindy: "I think John and Ken are really secure." Of course, Cindy said this about the primaries:
"I don’t think we’re going to lose any seats," she said. "As we’ve seen before, I think conservative voters are motivated; moderates aren’t."
And why is that?
"Where do conservatives gather?" Duckett said. "They gather in church. They meet, they talk, they get motivated. Now, where do moderates meet?"
"That’s just it," Duckett said. "They don’t. They may go to church, but they’re not motivated by church."
Seriously, though, as Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble has pointed out, it would be an important victory for good education if these two races could also be won. With an 8-2 majority for the idea that public education is not a subdivision of the local church, another reversal of direction in the board as a result of the 2008 elections would be prevented.
And that's something else Cindy is predicting ("The pendulum will swing in two years.") and we wouldn't want her to ruin her record, now would we? Besides:
[Duckett] said the GOP primary didn’t represent an anti-conservative swing.
Morris was weakened by charges of exorbitant travel expenses, while Van Meter’s district had no incumbent, she said.
"I’m not sure it is a backlash against conservatives. The primary elections were really about competence," she said.
If, over the next few months and not just in Kansas but in Ohio and Florida too, the intrusion of sectarian religion into public education policy can be shown to be a political "third rail" that results in defeat at the polls, it will be a signal well sent to the professional politicians to steer clear.
If you live in those places, vote! And get like-minded friends and neighbors to vote. If you don't live there, think of contributing to candidates who will support science and oppose taxpayer-financed religious instruction.
Get more information here:
Kansas Citizens for Science
Help Ohio Public Education
Florida Citizens for Science
Or generally see Red State Rabble.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Michael L. Queen, a member of the board and a leader in the effort to resist the removal of the picture, said:Before 4 a.m. Thursday, a suspect broke a window to a technology lab in the back of the school and headed straight for the portrait. The suspect covered his face when near security cameras and made off with the picture, school officials said. The suspect apparently didn't disturb or steal anything else.
The suspect left behind the wooden frame and the portrait's backing, said schools Superintendent Carl Friebel. The suspect also left some fingerprints on the window frame, and images were caught by three security cameras.
I can assure the ACLU that when we recover it, it will go back up. Or there will be maybe a picture similar to it that will go back up.On the other hand, "[s]pokespersons for both the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said they were appalled by the theft and the matter would have been better handled in court."
P.S. Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars again.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Bill Footed . . . Target Practice Commences
I've posted twice before, here and here, about the Harrison County West Virginia Board of Education being sued for the display of a reproduction of a rather smarmy painting of Jesus that is hanging outside the Principal's Office at the district's Bridgeport High School. It seems that the local community has raised $150,000 that they can't think of better things to do with than to throw it down a legal rathole. With that and the promise of free representation by one of "eight national groups with expertise in constitutional law that have offered legal help," the school board has decided to fight the suit by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union.
Ignoring the ancient maxim that legal advice is worth exactly what you pay for it and the example of the Dover School Board, it is still hard to see how this can end any way but badly for the school and the children, unless they luck out and the religious right finally runs across a real "activist judge" who will overturn at least 65 years of Supreme Court precedent to rule in the board's favor.
It seems this is a bit of community chest-thumping more than a well-thought-out skirmish in the cultural wars. As the euphoniously named Mayf Nutter put it:
I feel proud to be a West Virginian and an American today because of what these people did here. They said they would not be pushed off their own porch.
The ACLU is saying they have the right to come in and find a few people who disagree with the majority and use them to overtake the majority. All we're saying is, 'not without a fight.'
A tip o' the hat to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars for this.
A Mine is a Terrible Thing . . .
[This is another proposed entry in the Quote Mine Project that I am parking here to aid in editing. If you have any suggestions, corrections or additions, please feel free to leave them in the Comments. Who knows, you may get lucky and I'll even read them . . . ]
[Experiments would disprove evolutionary theory.]
"I can envision observations and experiments that would disprove any evolutionary theory I know." - Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory," Discover 2(5):34-37 (1981).
A more accessible citation for this article would be: Gould, Stephen Jay 1983. "Evolution as Fact and Theory" in Hens Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., p. 258-260.
Representative quote miners: These Quotes Reveal The Credulity Of Evolutionists; Evolution Is Dead and Intelligent Design Evolution Awareness, Tri-Cities, WA: The Book of Quotes.
This is a spectacular case of dishonesty or a spectacular case of a failure of reading comprehension. Here is the context:
"Scientific creationism" is a self-contradictory, nonsense phrase precisely because it cannot be falsified. I can envision observations and experiments that would disprove any evolutionary theory I know, but I cannot imagine what potential data could lead creationists to abandon their beliefs. Unbeatable systems are dogma, not science. Lest I seem harsh or rhetorical, I quote creationism's leading intellectual, Duane Gish, Ph.D. from his recent (1978) book, Evolution? The Fossils Say No! "By creation we mean the bringing into being by a supernatural Creator of the basic kinds of plants and animals by the process of sudden, or fiat, creation. We do not know how the Creator created, what process He used, for He used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe [Gish's italics]. This is why we refer to creation as special creation. We cannot discover by scientific investigations anything about the creative processes used by the Creator." Pray tell, Dr. Gish, in the light of your last sentence, what then is scientific creationism?
Note that all of the above sites present the quote with a period at the end that does not appear in the text. This avoids tipping the reader off to the very significant phrase that follows the quoted bit.
But, beyond that, there is a clear attempt to confuse "disprovable" with "disproved" and represent this snippet as an admission of problems in evolution. Gould's statement is, instead, a strong argument for the health of evolutionary theory and against creationism masquerading as science, making this one of the worst examples of quote mining in our collection.
- John (catshark) Pieret
Labels: Quote Mining
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Gimme a J . . .
Buttars, best-known as the sponsor of a failed bill questioning classroom instruction of evolution, apparently has decided to take on the U.S. Constitution and Utah Constitution simultaneously.
The conservative West Jordan Republican has asked state attorneys to draft a bill defining the separation of church and state outlined by America's and the state's founding documents. At the same time, he is proposing legislation to require state judges to face legislators in a second confirmation hearing after their first term in office. Critics say such a law would undermine the sacrosanct division between the branches of government.
Send a message to judges that they serve only at the pleasure of the most motivated legislators and, in the absence of any hoopla occasioned by high profile cases, the normal political process will insure that "God-friendly" legislation will follow the path of least resistance into law.
Welcome to the next phase of the cultural wars.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
John Sugg has an article at AlterNet that Edvard Munch could have used to put his models in the mood. Entitled "Public Stoning: Not Just for the Taliban Anymore," Shugg recounts his visit to the American Vision's "Worldview Super Conference 2006," and, in particular, two of the leading lights at the conference, Herb Titus and Gary North. They are leaders in the Christian Reconstructionist movement, though, at least as far as the organization of the acknowledged founder of that movement, the late R. J. Rushdoony, they do not necessarily represent the thinking of the 'mainstream' of the movement. I suppose the nuances of the taxonomy of right-wing nuts may be lost while in the midst of them and nervously looking over your shoulder on a regular basis.
You may not have heard of these two but maybe you have heard of some of the people they know well. Titus, for example, was the dean of televangelist Pat Robertson's Regent University law school and represented former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was removed from office for refusing to abide by a decision by the Federal Courts to remove a representation of the 10 Commandments he had privately installed in the state judicial building's rotunda.
North is best known to Internet users for his prolific auguring that a Y2K computer bug would cause the calamitous end of civilization. In the days prior to the advent of this millennium, North urged subscribers to his delusional economic newsletters to go survivalist and prepare for the end. Many did so, dumping investments and life savings, a big oops.
"I lost a million and a half dollars when I sold off real estate," one of North's fans, a home-schooling advocate from Florida, told me during a lunch break between lectures touting creationism and damning secular humanism. But my lunch companion still anted more than pocket change to hear North make more prophesies in Toccoa. "I believe Gary North on Bible issues," he explained. ...
"I don't want to capture their (mainstream Americans') system. I want to replace it," fumed North to a cheering audience. North has called for the stoning of gays and nonbelievers (rocks are cheap and plentiful, he has observed). Both friends and foes label him "Scary Gary."
I don’t recall ever gleaning this concept of theocracy in any systematic way. Clarkson is referring more to the sensationalism of Dr. Gary North (a.k.a. "Scary Gary") rather than any single book. North admitted to using inflammatory rhetoric intentionally as a means of drawing critics out into a direct debate with Christian Reconstructionists. It is not my intent to defend the work of Gary North, but one need only refer to the long-standing division between North and Rushdoony to understand that there is hardly a monolithic agreement between Reconstructionists. ...
Without reading the full breadth of Reconstructionist literature, such isolated citations lose their context. For example, when Gary North questions the rightness of the Constitution, he is in no way organizing a coup to overturn it. More often than not, he believes it will be a very long time before Americans would ever return to a national covenant as modeled by the early American Puritans. What is central to understand about North’s perspective is that any constitutional or institutional transition is contingent upon the vast majority of Americans embracing a Reconstructionist theology.
... What do secularists mean when they say "democracy"? ...
If by democracy the secularists mean supporting gay marriage and public schools and that politicians cannot vote their faith, then yes, we theocrats would be opposed to that hijacked version of democracy. But that is not democracy -- democracy is not socialism. ...
Secularists will often engage in revisionism by suggesting that early American morality was shaped more by the Enlightenment and Greco-Roman social theory than Biblical law. ...
Why then did all states codify sodomy laws? They did it because of the direct influence of Biblical law on early America. ... The Supreme Court is only empowered to adjudicate in cases involving public leaders, maritime jurisdiction, and controversies between the states or between citizens of each state (Article III, Section 1). These are all matters of procedural law. These are all constitutional matters.
Sodomy laws are not procedural -- or constitutional -- matters. These are issues of substantive moral law that are derived from other sources than the Constitution. In most cases, the moral laws of individual states were based upon Biblical law.
Moral civil laws can certainly change, but only by the decision of the citizens of each state and their representative leadership. The cultural battle is an ethical conflict, not a constitutional conflict. Christians have every right to elect leaders that will rule in terms of Biblical law. Secularists have equal right to elect leaders that will seek to overturn Biblically reflective laws. That is the democratic process. That is what’s being denied to contemporary conservative Christians. Any involvement in the political process to push forward a Christian moral agenda is labeled as "dominionist" and a push toward theocracy.
And above and beyond all the slippery logic, are they simply lying through their teeth? North isn't the only one saying scary things:
George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote in his book The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action:
Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.
We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less...
Monday, August 14, 2006
Shaken to the Bedrock
The Guardian is reporting on a new survey showing that over 30% of students in the UK believe in creationism or its doppelganger, Intelligent Design.
Opinionpanel Research's survey of more than 1,000 students found a third of those who said they were Muslims and more than a quarter of those who said they were Christians supported creationism. Nearly a third of Christians and 10% of those with no particular religion favoured intelligent design. Women were more likely to choose spiritual explanations: less than half chose evolution, with 14% preferring creationism and 22% intelligent design.
While three years of learning how to weigh evidence appears to make students slightly more inclined towards evolution, with 57% of third-years choosing it compared with 54% of first-years, it does not appear to put them off belief in God. As many third-years as first-years believed in creationism, although slightly fewer supported intelligent design.
On the other hand, Roger Downie, professor of zoological education at Glasgow University, says:
But how surprising is that considering the following:
What was extremely worrying for students embarking on evidence- and science-based disciplines was that they were perfectly prepared to say they had rejected it not on the basis of evidence but on the basis of their religious beliefs.
In the Opinionpanel survey, nearly 20% said they had been taught creationism as fact by their main school. Most thought it would be best to teach a range of theories, but nearly 30% of those who supported creationism felt that pupils should learn about creationism alone.
. . . blames the influence of Christian fundamentalists in America and political correctness among teachers [in the UK] who, he says, feel they have to give a reasonable hearing to beliefs held by people from other cultures, particularly Muslims.
The best thing we can do is what universities should be doing anyway - producing bright, intelligent young minds with the confidence to be advocates for science.
The only problem with this approach may be that the article opens with the opinions of Chris Parker, a final-year English student, Kim Nicholas, who is studying to be a primary school teacher and Annie Nawaz, a second-year law student, all seemingly in positions to make rational judgments, who nonetheless chose creationism.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
No Infidels Need Apply
Kentucky lawmakers have just woken up to the fact that there is a state law still on the books that mandates that "no book or other publication of a sectarian, infidel or immoral character, or that reflects on any religious denomination, shall be used or distributed in any common school." While the provision was included in the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act, it dates at least as far back as 1905.
As this article notes:
The legal definition of infidel is unclear. It may be defined as an unbeliever or as someone who rejects the majority's religious faith.
The law doesn't apply to the Christian and Hebrew Scriptures. The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that the Bible is not a sectarian book.
"There's nobody that wants to get on record saying 'I'm against God and Christianity,'" said state Sen. David Karem, D-Louisville.
Such a vote could cost incumbents their seats and give challengers an issue to run on, he said.
"Why would a legislator want to give someone ammunition by repealing a law nobody knows is there,"* he said. ...
"There's a strong conservative religious tone to the Kentucky General Assembly. The legislature would be adverse to changing the statute to allow those types of publications in our schools." said state Rep. Stephen R. Nunn, R-Glasgow.
State Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington says "Democrats are scared silly (about) every moral and social issue that's come down the pike" in recent years.
The book ban is fine with him.
"It was put there for a purpose, and if one of the purposes is to keep immoral books out of the schools, then I'm all for that," he said.
It's 2006, for heaven's sake. ... We look like a bunch of Jim-Jones-drinking-Kool-Aid kind of folks. I think it makes it look like we're not quite in the 21st century.Actually, it makes Kentucky look like it even missed the 18th century. Consider this, for instance, from Thomas Jefferson, writing in his Autobiography about the Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom:
[A] singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
There is more to be learned about the campaign for the Ohio Board of Education that I touched on before. The main focus is on the anticipated match up between one incumbent, Deborah Owens Fink, and Tom Sawyer.
Ms, Fink was one of the leaders of the faction of Board members that first sought to overtly inject Intelligent Design into the state's public schools but then settled for the "critical analysis" ploy to disingenuously cast doubt on the science of evolution and get ID in through the back door.
But, as noted here:
In February, the board voted 11-4 to delete a state standard and corresponding lesson plan that encouraged students to seek evidence for and against evolution. Critics said the lesson echoed arguments from proponents of intelligent design. ...
The board's decision came after a federal judge in December banned a local school board in Dover, Pa., from teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in high school biology classes because it would violate the separation of church and state. The judge called intelligent design religion masquerading as science.
"They got what they wanted," said Owens Fink, who voted to keep the standard. "I don't understand why they are even engaged on the topic. Ohio isn't Kansas."
Owens Fink said she supported altering the state standards to require students to critically analyze more aspects of science, such as physics and chemistry, rather than singling out evolution.
There is another reason to work to oust this woman from a position of responsibility for the education of children. As noted in this article:
Sawyer has been drafted to run by a group called Help Ohio Public Education, whose 13-member board is weighted with scientists primarily from Case Western Reserve University and Ohio State University. One board member is the Rev. George Poyne of the Vatican Observatory in Rome.
I find it odd that (Sawyer) would run at the behest of radical, liberal scientists from Cleveland.